Don’t tell me you’ll be there for me. Don’t say I can depend on you. Out of the numerous family and friends who have made that statement, I can count on one hand those who actually mean it. So don’t say it…and I won’t be let down when I realize you don’t really mean it.
It is often said that living with a life threatening illness is an interesting dichotomy. On one side, you have those people who have said they would show up for you and really do. The other, not so much. For those of us living this life, we understand that for everyone, life goes on. We all have our priorities and our own challenges to deal with. I know I do not begrudge anyone for living their lives as they choose just as I choose to live my life my way. The rub is that I am consciously aware of my mortality, all of the time. My challenges are life and death, pain and well-being, fear and peace.
I wish my biggest worries were money, job headaches, and weight gain.
As stressful as those things can be, I now reflect on those trials with a fond innocence. Oh to be worried about bills and nothing else, how cute I was. I do not place the level of importance on them that used to consume me. When staring your mortality in the face, you realize with all certainty that the only important thing is your relationships with people. That being said, when those relationships fail you, it is all the more deeply felt.
Expectation is the root of disappointment.
In my heart and my perspective, I have never had the ideal relationship with my family. I love them. I know on some level that they love me. Some I am closer to than others and some I have sporadic contact with, at best. And some, well, some seem to go out of their way to make my life harder or more dramatic than it already is.
I learned a long time ago that you cannot expect anyone, especially family, to treat you the way you treat them. To love you as you love them. Or even to place the importance of your relationship with them on the same level that you do. Because of that, I have found myself retreating from some of these relationships as a kind of defense mechanism. If I don’t expect you to be there for me, it won’t hurt as much when you aren’t.
I Cannot, Will Not, Do it Anymore
Have you ever had someone in your life that acts like tragedy is a competition? My illness is worse than yours. I know you have cancer, but this headache, back ache, knee ache just won’t go away. If you have experienced this, then you know how exhausting it can be when you are already exhausted from the universe having its way with you. I can’t do it anymore. I made the choice a while back that unless someone is adding something positive to my life, then stay away from me. I will not go down that rabbit hole of someone else’s desperate attempt at martyrdom.
How about the people who get mad at you for irrational or petty reasons? All I can say to that is bye, Felicia. These are not the people who genuinely care for you. These are the people who crave attention. Narcissists who have no logical reason to try to cause you distress other than their own irrational need for controversy. Be mad at me, I really do not care anymore, because if you were really in my corner? Petty issues that upset you would be discussed, not lashed out at. I would not have to see passive aggressive attempts to get my attention for a contrived slight. I know I’m not perfect and I make mistakes as much as anyone. I own my errors and would be happy to have a rational discussion about it, especially with someone to whom there was mutual love and respect. But four years after a terminal cancer diagnosis and I am a no- drama-llama all day.
Never Enough Time
We are all here on this Earth for a very short time. A blink in the eye of the universe. Whether you are facing a life-threatening illness or not, at the end there is never enough time. I, and most other metastatic cancer patients, understand this on a fundamental level. We have gotten used to the people who disappear from our lives. Personally, I am okay with it. I respect that life goes on and I respect their choice not to make my issues a priority in theirs. Go on your way with love and fondness. But, please, do not pretend, do not make promises, and do not give me hope to expect something more from you than you are capable of giving.
Life can be hard for all of us. We all have struggles, challenges, and fears. I do not choose to live my life in that zone. I choose to live in hope, positivity, and action. I choose happiness over sadness and peace over distress. My life and my circle of friends and family have SHOWN UP. They said they would and they did, they do, every time. I am content and my peace of mind is my sanctuary, my home. Do not come into my home and disrupt that. I am real, I am ME, and I am not changing. I love the woman I have grown to be and everything that has gotten me to this point…even cancer.
You do not have to. And, I won’t expect you to. We will not disappoint each other.
To my friends, my true family, those of you that I’d swim through shark infested water for (well, maybe those sharks that don’t have teeth, but you know…), I appreciate every day that you are THERE. Whether we met two years ago on the internet or have known each other most of our lives, you have taught me what it means to be loved and respected unconditionally. I take that lesson to heart and put it back out into the universe, to you. Never underestimate the importance of your relationships. At the end of your life, that is what you’ll be thinking of, that is what matters.
And to my beautiful boy…Colin, if you are reading this, I love you more than all of the stars in the sky. You are my favorite everything, but please, please stop playing Fortnite.