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Rebel, Rebel, You've Torn Your Dress...

I don’t do two posts in a weekend—NaBloPoMo, or no. I simply don’t have the time. But as a pot of lentil soup, one of chicken vegetable and another of butternut squash (ask me for the recipe from “The Savory Way,” by Greens chef Deborah Madison) simmers on the stove, I’ve been thinking about a quote I read on Jacqueline Skagg’s Rebel 1 in 8 blog:

"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect...for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence."—Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"

Along those lines, I read an article in Newsweek three, four months ago. It was by a guy who had cancer. The cover was white, and on it floated an image of a giant Lance Armstrong yellow rubber bracelet. The story, like the cover photo, was powerful in its clarity and simplicity. I’ve misplaced the magazine (of course), and I tried to Google it but couldn’t find it (of course). It was the most real, authentic, raw/gentle essay I’ve read to date about what it’s like to deal with cancer and its aftermath. (It is infuriating to me these days trying to locate things...)

The Newsweek author talks about his cancer and how he rebels against the notion that people generate their own cancer with their negative thoughts. He also talks about our society’s insistence upon grateful-only cancer patients and how infuriating and dehumanizing it is to live with that expectation. I vibrated to those sentences in the Newsweek article because I've felt those expectations, too. (postscript: anonymous found the story and posted a link in the comments section. Here it is: My Life with Cancer.)

I’m not a bitter woman. I often skinny-dip in a deep, dark lake of gratitude and appreciation. But what I refuse to undress for is the expectation that those of us who have or have had cancer must have off-the-rack emotions and responses instead of the varied and rational/irrational responses that we actually experience.

Quite honestly, I think that most people have good intentions and realistic expectations. But it would be truly empowering if people would allow those of us who have been touched by cancer the freedom to express real, authentic, individual, even negative emotion and response to a highly personal disease and its process. Because that response doesn’t usually come in a pair of shiny patent leather Mary Janes. Instead, it’s just plain, unpolished human emotion that is trying to resolve itself in last-season’s scuffed-up ballet flats.

I don’t, and I probably never will, consider myself a rebel. Women like Jacqueline have that market cornered. But what I share with them, I think, is the idea that being able to express myself openly, directly and truthfully not only means that I’m still here, it means that I’m fully alive.

In closing, while I'm not a rebel in the truest sense of the word, I usually speak my mind, I wear used Levi's, and I can cook three pots of soup at the same time.


Anonymous said…
is this is?
Good points. I'm sad I somehow missed that Dad gets Newsweek!

After cancer, I definitely became more outgoing and kinda said, this is dumb being quiet-there's no point :).

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've really enjoyed yours!
Jenster said…
Another fabulous post and one I can relate to. I know for a fact negativity didn't cause my cancer. I was never negative before BC. I've become more cynical and more emotional since the BC and I won't apologize for it. It is what it is.

lahdeedah said…
Anonymous: Hey, that's the article! I wish I knew who you were so I could thank you personally :)

Obsessed: I'm happy to hear you're not being quiet. In fact, judging by the smart and thoughtful output of your blog, you've totally found your voice!

Jen: It's weird, but I've become more cynical and more emotional, too. In fact, these days I feel like I have nothing but good angel/bad angel emotions: I'm more cynical, but I'm also have a higher opinion of humanity than I did before. I'm emotional, but I'm also sometimes remarkably flat (no pun intended). It's all so interesting (and boring, ha!) to me.

I think you rock, too, sister!
Sherry said…
Poignant and the graphic is fabulous.
You speak such a truth. I'm positive and upbeat but not every single moment of every single day. Someone might ask me in a less than stellar moment what I think of cancer and I'm going to give them the answer I give gave me a gift..but at what cost...and there are costs. We need to be able to speak our mind freely. We didn't have the flu. We live with this hanging over our heads 24/7 and so me days it's daunting and other days it's freeing. It's life. And I think what we have become through this is "whole".

And that quote is wonderful. I'm copying it down!
KT said…
Hi Jill, thanks for the rebel post. I enjoyed the Newsweek article, too, thanks to Anonymous.

As for negativity causing my cancer, I agree that is totally bogus! I've actually had people imply that it was my own carelessness that caused the cancer. (No, I didn't tell them off. I'm working on reducing the stress in my life. I try to let things slide now.)

I don't know that having cancer has made me much of a rebel, or more cynical, or even angry. I really don't feel any different. I think I had that kind of attitude/response you mentioned, the kind people like to hear from cancer patients.... "life is still good, I'm still here; God put me here for a reason, so I'm looking for the good in this...." I don't feel very different after all this, just grateful that I've made it through and in awe of how strong my body is! I am a little less tolerant of whiners, mainly my children!, and I definitely speak my mind. But I was pretty assertive before all this anyway....

I am definitely definitely definitely more emotional! Could it be the cancer experience, or the ovaries going AWOL? Plus I've been torturing myself lately, listening to sad sappy songs. Can't explain why!

Anyway, once again my comment is longer than most posts. Sorry about that. I love reading your blog because it makes me think, something I can't always do very well at 11:45pm!

Take care, Katie
Jacqueline said…
what a beautious post and image.
i like it around here! a lot.
lahdeedah said…
Sherry: I'd love one of your dirty martinis about now to discuss life and friendship and love and breast cancer and creativity... You tap into it all so freely. Thank you for continuing to come by here. I learn a lot from you.

Katie: Keep writing long comments. I love reading what's on your mind and in your heart. We seem to have some of the same CDs. Here are some CDs in my bathroom: Shawn Colvin (Steady On or These Four Walls), Alison Krauss (So Long, So Wrong; Forget About It; New Favorite); Johnny Cash (American V); Cat Stevens (Tea for the Tillerman--especially the song, On the Road to Find Out); Pink (you have this one...) I'll make you a CD :)

I was so happy to get an update from you on your blog. You sound good.

PS: Are you a dancer?
lahdeedah said…
Jacqueline: As I mentioned on your blog, your writing and your images leave me breathless. Makes me happy you took the time to read and comment on mine :)
Sherry said…
One of these days gf we will sit down over those dirty martinis and talk and talk and talk and talk...we are meant to. We are destined to. I truly believe that.
KT said…
Hi Jill, Katie/KT here. Was that PS to me? I do dance in my Thursday night class, but I'm not a dancer....not a good dancer at least! I take this adult jazz class at my daughters' ballet studio so that we "qualify" to dance together in the Mother-Daughter number in the June recital. But I do love this class. It got me through chemo last year, and I'm enjoying it this year too.

My dancing background before this consisted of decades of aerobics (mostly step) and some alcohol-induced hopping around on the dance floor!
lahdeedah said…
Katie, you'll have to post your first You Tube video of the June recital :) that is so cute. My Kate did ballet at 2 years old. She was the only one who wore a black tutu...did not want pink. And her recital was the sweetest thing I've ever seen. I love that you have four kids and are still doing the dance classes (and much more, I'm sure) even though you have plenty going on in your life...
SweetAnnee said…
So glad to have found your blog..I'll be back again and again..
smiles, Deena
lahdeedah said…
Sweetannee, any girl who likes "The Stand," "The Good Earth" and "Of Mice and Men" deserves a closer look :)It's late on Friday night, but I'd love to read your writing tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to connect. xoxo Jill

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