Saturday, September 18, 2010

Have You Ever Heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons.

Have you ever really noodled over a concept, a philosophy, a theory, and upon the crystallization of an idea, realized you are a huge dummy because your ideas are not at all new or unique, and in fact have likely been featured in fortune cookies? I have!

Let me explain.

In the continuing aftermath of my mother's cancers, I have pondered. Oh, how deeply I have pondered Very Important Shit. (I stole that from Zadie Smith. See? Me and the originality, we are not as one.) The end result of all of this pondering? EXACTLY the things I have been taught since I was two. I guess I'm a slow learner. Nah, it's just that I didn't have the life experience to understand these truisms and take them to heart. Which (a) shows you that experience is the best teacher, and (b) well, that experience is the best teacher. I guess I'm just trying to emphasize that whole experience thing.

Since I know you are wildly curious, here's the V.I.S. that I have learned during my mother's pas de deux with Small Cell Lung Cancer that has metastasized in the brain:
  1. Don't be a douche. See? I told you these were not going to earn an A+ for originality. But the sentiment stands. Just don't be a douche in life. I don't think I need to enumerate the whys and wherefores of this one. Christ put it a little differently, of course, but I think most would appreciate my 21st-century-ization of the Golden Rule.
  2. Don't live in isolation. There's strength in them thar numbers. Sounds corny, I know. But humans are social beings, and oh my LORD, does Mom perk up when she has visitors. But if you don't know anyone well enough that they'll come visit you in the hospital or in your convalescence, well, you won't exactly have a network of support, will ya? (For a clear illustration of how it's important for people to have friends, see the 1995 cinematic meh-sterpiece, The Net.).
  3. Be close to those you love. Physically close, I mean. If circumstances prevent you from living close by, have a lifestyle that affords you the ability to drop everything and be with them. I would have lost my ever-loving mind if I couldn't be with my parents through this. Just ask my sister who lives in England. Phone calls are great, but can't ever, ever replace the realities of being there when your mother needs someone to help her go to the bathroom, but her mind is so far gone she doesn't know where she is, and the only faces she recognizes are those of her husband and children. If you have kids, you have probably felt this when you take them to the doctor for shots or something. You know that they have no idea what's going on, but your presence is a comfort to them. Now, imagine handing that unpleasant task off to someone else. Your kid has no idea what's going on, AND he has no one to turn to for reassurance and hugs.
  4. Let people in. I'm still working this one through... Obviously this idea relates strongly to the whole not living-in-isolation thing. Whereas that one was just about enjoying some one's company, though, this one is about accepting help. I'll be the first to admit that I struggle with this because I am fiercely independent. Asking for or accepting help is an indicator that I can't handle my bidness, right? I mean, I get frustrated when IKEA recommends a "team lift" for certain packages. HOW DARE THEY? The truth is, though, there's grace in accepting help from someone. People like to feel needed. I'm not just talking about someone helping by doing grunt work like laundry or scrubbing toilets, though that's appreciated. It's also about inviting people over because you need their company, to confide in them.
That's all that I really have for now. This all sounds really selfish, I know. Like the only reason to be nice to people is that you'll need something from them. The reason that you should be nice to people is that, given the choice, wouldn't you rather live in a world where people are kind to each other? But an awesome side effect of all of that kindness is that people will be willing to help you when you are in your time of need. No matter what, you WILL have a time of need. I'm not Mistress Doom and Gloom here, but that's something you can bank on. Even if you've buttoned up your life circumstances pretty neatly and are healthy, and moneyed, and have 5-year-plans, life STILL has a way of kicking you between the eyes once in awhile.

I guess you can tell that all of this...well, it's been too much for a white girl to handle. My cup runneth over with awfulness. And if people hadn't come out of the woodwork asking what they could do, how they could help, I don't know what I would have done. I had to accept the help, and I'm all the better for it. The help comes in various shapes and sizes... Calling my parents to check in on them...  Taking dinners over to them so that they don't have to cook... Listening to me babble on about it so that I don't have to pay a therapist (yet)...

I don't mean to imply that I have sole ownership of my mother's care. Not at all; not even close.  Please, please don't perceive that.  My six siblings and their spouses have all been contorting their schedules to help my parents. No one of us individually could do it; it takes all of us, really, and I'm so grateful not to be going through this alone.  That's so important, especially since we are all grieving and enduring this prolonged panic.