Friday, December 07, 2012

Sadness Sucks and Cancer Bites

I am not an extremely emotional person. It’s true. There have been times in my life when I have actually wondered privately, what is wrong with me? Am I emotionally stunted? Am I a freak? I don’t seem to experience the extreme high highs and low lows that others I know experience. I am often happy, but rarely giddy. I get sad on occasion, but I do not fall headfirst into the pit of despair. I rarely cry, with the exception of times when I forget to take my birth control pills, end up with my periods all out of whack and go through a phase of total PMS-induced bitchiness followed by a lengthy guilt ridden cry. Otherwise, when I am menstrually timely, I rarely if ever cry. I get angry, but I don’t hold grudges. I seem to be the poster child for “Get over it.” I am over it. It doesn’t affect me. Life goes on and reason dictates that things will change. There is no logical purpose to despair. I am probably best described as “content.” Maybe even “stoic.”

Is that normal? Is that right? My mom and my sister wear their emotions on their sleeves. Right out there in the open. Raw. Easily touched. Easily manipulated. Everything is overwhelming. Everything is a tragedy. Everything is most certainly the end of the world. Sometimes I envy them. Is this how we humans are meant to be? Fully emotional beings? Experiencing the complete breadth and depth of the human emotional experience at all times? Weren’t all of humankind’s greatest artists like this? Weren’t most of the greatest authors a tad emotionally unstable? Does emotionality breed creativity? Genius, even? I don’t know. I only know that it is uncomfortable for me. It makes me cringe. I avoid it whenever possible.

Imagine my surprise when I, the emotionally stunted, found myself caught completely off guard by an emotional outburst today. It has left me rattled, to say the very least.

My sister, Jennifer, called me at work to tell me that her friend, Lisa, lost her battle with cancer today. She passed away this morning. Jennifer was beside herself with grief, of course. I told her that everything was going to be okay. I offered to help in any way I could. I told her I loved her.

When I got off the phone with Jennifer, I called Ruanita right away to inform her of the news. As soon as I heard Ruanita’s voice, I immediately began to sob. Out of the blue. Sitting at my desk at work. I tried to stop, but it just kept coming. Snot and tears and sniffles. An ugly cry. No one said anything, but I am sure it was duly noted that Shannon was having a “spell” of some sort in her cubicle.

I don’t know what came over me. I really liked Lisa. I am incredibly sad that the world has lost her. She was an amazing person. However, she was not my best friend. I hadn’t seen her more than a handful of times in the last year. I was taken completely unawares by my reaction.

Now that I’ve had a little time to “process” it, I think I understand why I was so overcome.

My own dad died of cancer 29 years ago this week. Right before Christmas. My siblings and I were little kids, just like Lisa’s little boys. My sister, Jennifer, was six years old—the same age as my Sophie and Nicholas. To this day, she has almost no memory of my dad. I have an inkling that today's outburst was about him as much as it was about Lisa.

I was eleven years old when my dad died, and a complete daddy's girl. I had been a daddy's girl since birth. He was my moon and stars. I simply could not bring myself to say goodbye on that drab December day. I did not cry at his funeral. I tried to cry, but I couldn't. That was the first time I convinced myself that something was "wrong" with me. I have not been to his grave site since that day, either. Rarely in the last 29 years have I shed a tear over him. I still don't think I have properly said goodbye. I just don't want to. I don't know that I can.

So I am sad today. I am sad that two little boys have to go to bed without their mommy tonight and many night to come. I am sad that little boys and little girls are still losing their mommies and daddies to cancer 29 years after I lost my own. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. I am sad that Rory may have no memory of his mommy when he grows up. I am sad that Lisa knew this. I am sad that Lisa had to say goodbye to her babies. How in the world do you do that? I am sad that she will never know what her babies look like at ten years old. Or twelve. Or seventeen. Or forty. I am sad that she will never hold a grandchild. I am sad that my own dad never held a single one of his six beautiful grandchildren. I am sad that I never had an adult conversation with my dad. I am sad that Ruanita never met him. I am sad that my brother and sister have no recollection of him. I am sad that I have to resort to photos to remember his smile. I am sad that I have to go home and tell my own kids that their friends lost their mommy today. I am sad that they will most certainly be scared of losing me.

I am sad for Lisa. I am sad for her little boys. I am sad for my sister. I am sad for my own dad. I am sad for my mom who loved him so much. I am sad for my own kids. And I am sad for me.

It’s weird, this sadness thing. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpleasant. It’s ugly. Frankly, it sucks. And cancer bites.

I hate them both.


Barb said...

Oh Shannon. I am so sorry about all this. Being witness to something as life changing and complex as death can stir up so many emotions, even if it's a complete stranger. We all grieve in different ways and we all cope with grief and emotions in different ways. SO much of what you wrote in this post resonated with me. I am sorry for your family's loss and the whack-you-upside-your-head reminder of how beautiful and painful life can be. Cancer does bite (lost my dad when he was just 66) but it does give us such clarity about what in life is truly important. And sometimes that's not such a bad thing...especially this time of year. So sorry that you didn't have all the years you should have with your father, and I love that you are so brave to share all of that with us. Hugs.

Madgew said...

This is an honest post as always Shannon. I think it also might relate to you worrying about your own death or Ruanita's. When someone dies young it really shakes your world. When my best girlfriend got cancer and was dead within 5 months leaving a 6 and 9 year old, I have never gotten over it. I cry at almost every movie and books and TV shows. I think there is a happy medium between extremes. Obviously, something hit you today.

Sam said...

We are dealing with the same thing with some relatives in our family now. It is hard, especially when you're not an emotional person. I can relate. It sucks, and I am very sorry. I hate cancer.

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