I can’t be specific in this post because the thing I’m posting about is a Christmas thing and the person I’m making the something for reads this blog so I can only talk in general terms about it and I shouldn’t talk about it at all but I’m just so ding dang frustrated by the whole project and not because it is going BADLY but because I thought it was going REALLY GOOD and then suddenly the thing that I thought was just something it was doing that it would stop doing …. Well it has kept on doing it.
Let me explain …
I’m making a … well let’s say pork chop. It’s not a pork chop but for the sake of argument and not spoiling Christmas, let’s say it is. And the pork chop takes a long time to make. You can’t make it all at once, you have to make it in stages. So I guess it really isn’t like a pork chop. It’s like a … Lasagna maybe. Like it’s made in stages. So I’m making the Christmas lasagna and it is all going well until the end. Which isn’t exactly right because you do kind of make lasagna all at once so it isnt’ really like that … it’s more like something that takes a long time to make. Sort of like that rainbow layered Jell-O dessert my cousin makes sometimes. That’s a better example. So for the sake of argument we’ll say I’m making the Gay Pride Jell-O for someone for Christmas. Now, I’ve never made this exact recipe before although I’ve made Jell-O, as it were, before but it was a long time ago and actually it was someone else who made it and I just sort of helped. So I never really made it start to finish. I just .. um .. to follow the example, sort of like put the ice cubes in at the right time and maybe held the mold. Wow. This analogy is working out better than I hoped. So for the first time I’m actually making the so-called Jell-O from start to finish. From the J to O as it were and well something didn’t seem to be right … like the Jell-O started doing something it shouldn’t. Like, oh I don’t know … let’s say it started growing hair. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, no, that’s not right. Jell-O doesn’t have hair. And you are right. It doesn’t and of course I saw that right away but let’s just say the hair is growing so evenly that you think well maybe the hair grows but later falls out or something. Because I’ve never made it completely so how do I know? And so instead of stopping at the beginning when the hair started growing I just sort of assumed there is some sort of step toward the end where I would shave the Jell-O.
I take it back, this analogy really isn’t so much working like I hoped. But I’m sticking with it.
So I keep making the Jell-O. And I do step after step after step and add all the colors of the rainbow to the Jell-O and the Jell-O keeps doing that thing … the hair growing … but I’m not deterred because why would it be going so well if it were wrong? I mean going well except for the hair. Okay so then I get the Jell-O all done. And I do the step .. you know the step where I shave it and I know to do this step because I have a Jell-O for Dummys book. And it tells you how important this step is. And so I do it. I get out the razor and the shave gel and carefully follow each suggestion. And then I leave the Jell-O overnight. Because that’s what it says to do. This step isn’t easy for me by the way. Mostly because this step is very detailed … but I do it. I do it because who wants hairy Jell-O and I’ve worked so hard so far. So I shave. And if you think it is easy to shave Jell-O then you’ve never taken a razor to my upper thighs. But I do it. And I leave it. And I come back the next day.
AND THE JELLO HAS HAIR AGAIN!
And that’s when I look up “Shaving Gay Pride Jell-O” on the internet and find a freaking AskGoogle entry that says exactly this “Although you can [shave] many types of [Jell-O], the very nature of the [Gay Pride Jell-O] is to [grow hair] and it really cannot be avoided and [shaving] won’t do much good. The only way to avoid it [growing hair] is to [DO A BUNCH OF STUFF WHILE YOU’RE MAKING IT AND NOT AFTERWARDS].”
I can’t express how upset I am. Because the Jell-O is already made!!! I CAN’T unmake it! And now someone is going to have to go around with hairy Jell-O for Christmas because I’ll be Bill Cosbyed if I’m going to start over.
Thanks for listening.
I talk to my mom almost every day. I talk to my sister a lot too. If we ever go too long without talking one of them lays a guilt trip on me. That's fair ... it is most likely me that is not holding up my end of the bargain. I’m the weak link in the answering the phone chain and so comes the “gee we haven’t talked to you in a loooooooooooooong time” trip. It’s okay. I deserve it. The truth is they call and I don’t answer. They make the effort and I don’t respond. It’s a thing I do. Not as a punishment. It’s just that sometimes I’m not ready to talk – I mean at that moment when the phone is ringing. I’m not ready or willing and so I don’t answer. This is a very self-centered attitude, I know, because maybe they are calling to talk about THEM and not me. And maybe just because I’m not ready or willing to talk I could and should be ready and willing to listen. So really, how hard is it to pick up the phone when it rings?
Trust me. It is Very. Very. Hard.
But most of the time, we talk often. More than often … we talk a lot. Daily. When we’re on a roll, it is more than daily. Let’s just say I’ve changed my phone plan many times and finally crossed into “unlimited” because it was the only plan that was going to keep T-Mobile from joining forces with the Columbia House Representative.... you know what I'm talking about. Those daily phone calls are awesome. Some are long. Some short … and even though we talk multiple times a day, there are many times when I hang up and immediately have to call back.
Because I forgot to tell her something.
When you talk everyday, you have a lot to say. Somehow everything ranks. Everything is significant.
The Hub’s family doesn’t talk often. That’s their pattern. Sometimes they’ll go long stretches without talking. Like long. For real. Not like the 6 hour stretches that my mom considers long … “I called you before lunch, on the way to lunch, after lunch and then later when I was thinking about what I had for lunch and you didn’t answer any of those times. What’s wrong?” but REAL LIFE long stretches. Weeks. Months even.
They aren’t angry at each other.
They enjoy conversating when they do talk.
It’s just the way it is.
And the thing I’ve noticed is that even though they will go a long time, their conversations are no longer than my multi-daily conversations with my family members. In fact, at times, it seems like they have less to talk about. It seems like the less often they talk, the less they have to say.
And I guess that makes some sense. I mean, after a while, it’s hard to know what to say. It seems weird to talk about trivial stuff when you haven’t talked for so long. Once you’ve gone a week or so without talking, it seems silly to talk about what you might or might not have done for the weekend. Two weeks and your latest minor successes at work tend to fall by the wayside. A month and the only things worth talking about are serious health issues, serious career issues or serious weather issues.
It all kind of, sort of HAS to be serious.
Not posting for a little while has the same effect. Missing a day is forgivable. Expected even. Two days and the reader might not even notice. But once we hit a week – we’re getting into dangerous territory. What I had for lunch doesn’t seem to be worth writing about – especially since we all know it was Chick-fil-a. Suddenly what I write about feels like it has to matter. Once 10 days pass without a post that funny thing that happened on the way to the tattoo shop is sort of not so funny in that you had to be there sort of way and after a full two weeks I feel like I have to write the comeback post of all times or I will be hung by the cord of my own mouse.
I hate it when bloggers apologize for not writing for days and days. “I’m sorry I haven’t posted! Gosh I’ve been so busy what with blah blah and yadda going on. I promise I’ll do better.” It seems so self-centered. Believe me, blog writer, I’ve survived just fine without knowing what art supplies you’ve run out of and without hearing all the details about your dog’s ear surgery.
Now I’m sounding cynical.
I guess what I’m saying is that there is a habit to communicating … a pattern. And when that habit is broken, it is difficult at best to retrain the habit into habitualness again. When I write each day, I find significance in most things – the way the ground sloshes when it is thoroughly soaked with snow reminds me of my own saturation point and how I too get noisy when I reach it. The snow and ice on the Chicago streets and the stain the salt leaves behind on the legs of my jeans hints at the unseen dangers of those "safety measures" that are laid down in my path. The slow, almost plodding walk of the yellow Lab that lives down the block warms my heart and reminds me of the slow pace of old farm dogs and old farmers I knew when I was growing up. And the difficultly getting a contractor to call me back reminds me that those guys are real sons of bitches. That’s not significant, that’s just fact.
But when I go without writing for a stretch, nothing seems to be important. Lessons lie unlearned. I hear only hollow honking when the geese fly by and see nothing significant about their presence in the middle of winter. When I run out of ink in my highlighter and have no pen in my purse and have to instead memorize the most significant things about an article on the plane I see it as a nuisance and not an opportunity. And when the small bright-faced group of teenagers bundled in scarves and puffy coats in the park hold up hand-made multi-colored signs that read “FREE HUGS” I see nothing beautiful and instead mutter “weirdos” under my breath.
And so I come back to writing.
Because I don’t want to be that girl.
I had a hard time when I went through chemo. I may have mentioned it once or twice. Chemo sucks – hugely. I’m beyond amazed when I talk to someone who didn’t struggle with their chemo. And by “beyond amazed” I mean I’m usually furious. In a real hey-good-for-you sort of way. Sometimes I talk to people who say things like, “Yeah chemo? It wasn’t bad at all.” Or “I went horseback riding on my days off.” Or “Well, I would just take a long lunch to take my chemo and then head back to work.” And I just want to go, “Oh come ON! You can’t be serious!” I mean how can something that completely wiped me out be like nothing at all to another person? It would be like watching someone get their fingernails pulled out giggle and then say, “Do it again do it again!” How is it possible that people can just shrug off chemo? Am I just a wimp? Did I accidentally get a double shot of chemo? I accidentally ordered a double shot of whiskey one time and I can tell you it DOES make a difference. Maybe that was the problem. Was I just extra sensitive? I know my nurses said that my chemo cocktail was exceptionally rough but is that really true or were they just saying it to make me feel better?
Sometimes I wonder if these chemo-superstars are pulling my leg. Perhaps it’s the same phenomenon that I see in new mothers when they are all like, this baby thing is the best thing ever! I’ve many times wondered if they were faking it. Especially when they say, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them while mopping baby poo off their forehead and trying to find a spitsy rag to wipe the puke off my new cashmere sweater. And it gets worse when every mom in the room nods and goes, “Oh yes! The best thing! The very very best thing!” It has always been in those moments when I want to go, Okay ladies, gig is up. Because seriously? I mean I know kids are awesome, you don’t have to convince me, but in that moment I mean really? Aren’t you exhausted? And really? Aren’t you a little olfactorily damaged and really? Don’t you need a drink?
But I don’t say a word because I know they wouldn’t admit it. Because wouldn’t they look silly being the only mom to say, “Holy crap I wish I could send this screaming ball of flesh back where it came from.”
So what else is there to say? Of COURSE you’re going to say it’s the best thing that’s every happened to you. Of course you are. And I could never really call a mom out because who knows? Maybe it IS the best thing. Maybe your body chemically changes when you engineer a child and things like poop on your forehead are actually appealing. Maybe your memory is altered and you can’t remember all the other things that rank higher in life than changing a diaper. Like lima beans. And dental cleanings. Since I’ve never given birth, I can’t with conviction call bullshit.
So I keep my mouth shut when someone says how great it is to have a new baby and I just soak up all the good things about a friend having a new baby – like the new baby smell and the fact that I can squeeze their fat new baby feet and say things like “ah ga ga ga ga!” And then give them back. But it is much harder with chemo. Much harder to believe someone else thinks it is okay. Much. Because I’ve been through chemo. And it sucks. So when someone else says it wasn’t so bad … I don’t know.
I just have a hard time with that.
There were times, going through treatment, when I thought it wasn’t worth it. Many times in fact. I know how that sounds. I know it seems unbelievable. But it is true. I shared a lot here. A lot about chemo and the difficulties. I didn’t share it all. And if you’ve read every chemo post that should scare you. It scares me. Still. Maybe the best evidence of how awful it was is how I feel about every having to go through treatment again. Maybe the best evidence is how terrified The Hub is to ever have to face treatment himself. Maybe the best is the memory of the moment when I was laying curled up and crying in bed last year when that darling husband of mine whispered, “Hold on … Thursday is coming … Thursdays are good days.” and I said, “I don’t think I can. It’s too far away.”
And it was Wednesday.
My father once told me that after his first surgery – the one that removed his spleen – he woke up and thought, “Well, that’s it. I’ll never bend over again.” And my mother told me after her first episiotomy she thought she’d never run again and I know what they meant. In those moments, those times of feeling the awful you just can’t see the light. You just can’t.
No matter what someone else says.
So you hold on. You look for little things that will keep you going. You can’t believe life will ever be normal or good again so you just hope it won’t suck. It’s too much to believe you’ll ever really feel good. That you’ll laugh with abandon, that you’ll run up and down stairs, that you’ll make dinner for company, that you’ll clean the tub just because you like the way it looks when it is shiny. So you simply hold on. What choice do you have?
Then one day you wake up and it’s done. You got through it. I got through it. Unexplainable.
People still ask me what they can say to loved ones or to themselves to keep them going when their chemo experience is similar to mine. They email me and ask me for advice. They wonder if I can remember anything that helped. Truth is, I can’t. I wish I knew the magic combination of words or prayers that would inspire or give someone the something they need to look forward to. How can I tell others what it is? I couldn’t even tell myself.
But … last week The Kid got her grades. She was really proud of them. I don’t need to tell you how much joy this kid already brings to me. But last night, when I was downloading the pictures from her and her father’s weekend in New Jersey I came across this video. And as I sat and watched, all I could think of was, if I could just go back in time and show this clip to “Chemo Jenne” I know it would be THE thing. The thing that I would look at and say….it will all be worth it.
With that, I give you Nena Fromm with the Report Card Song. Written, produced, directed, art directed and starring The Kid. Lead guitar by The Hub.