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.