I don’t ‘do’ idle chit-chat, anymore. I shiver when exchanging pleasantries. If you ask me a question or initiate small talk, be prepared for an unexpected answer.
It’s not that I don’t have time. I have discovered that I have much more time than I ever thought I would have at my disposal. In fact, I have 24 hours. Everyday. 24 hours to use as I choose. It’s in my choosing that the content has shifted. Which includes small talk. I find myself wanting every last moment to have meaning. I want walk away from each encounter having exchanged something that leaves an impression. If that is not possible, if I don’t have the energy, I will keep my trap closed. Yes. This talkaholic has curbed her tongue.
At the beginning of January, I went back to school. For now, I am doing damage control. I spent three quarters at one of our local community colleges, 23 years ago. I tanked it. I walked away with a GPA of 1.19. Yet, I was well on my way to obtaining my Mrs. degree. (That’s a story for another time.) Today, I am pursuing my BSN (Bachelor of Science & Nursing), which is a very competitive program. I am in the process of repeating everything I took 23 years ago. It’s been the perfect exercise in learning to be a student. It’s also been an invaluable lesson for my OffSpring. Go to college when you are ready. When you do go, get serious.
These first few classes are my first real foray into ‘society’ since Gregory’s diagnosis in February of 2009. I contribute to class discussions and answer questions. Yet, I keep to myself. When I do share something about why I am in class or what my goal is……. that’s when I start to feel a little weird. I haven’t discovered the least awkward way to offer the story that I have to tell. I’ve started to refer to it as ‘ripping off the band-aid’. I blurt out the highlights in a torrent of words: “InJuneof2009myyoungestwasdiagnosedwithcancer. Heisthreeandahalfyearspostbonemarrowtransplant. Heiscurrently7andahalfyearsold. Iwanttoworkwithfamilieslikeoursinahospitalsetting.” I watch for the response. I gauge where the conversation needs to go from there.
No matter what I do or where I go, I feel different. Other. I feel like I see life through completely different lenses than anyone else. I’m not yet comfortable with this feeling. Life spins and whirls around me and a very large portion of it I don’t even give it a second thought. I could care less what clothes are in fashion. It does not matter to me what TV shows are hot. Talking about the weather is not going to change it.
My family is surviving childhood cancer. We are trying to thrive. I am trying to live a life of conscious mindfulness. Every little thing that I do, has an effect on everything and everyone. Man, that’s too much pressure, sometimes.
Today at the grocery store, the check-out clerk started in with the small talk. ‘How’s your day going today?’ As is my current modus operandi, I paused, looked him straight in the eye and told him how grateful I was to be grocery shopping. It set him back a moment. Yet, he took the moment and asked me: ‘Why?’ So I told him. My son is a childhood cancer survivor and I ‘get’ to enjoy grocery shopping. That’s when the conversation truly shifted and he had a chance to spread some of his burden. A year ago, his mom was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma. She lives on the other side of the state. So far she is surviving. He didn’t need to say the words, but this kid is scared for his mom. Just below the exterior of his still pimple-faced smile, he is scared. Our short interaction allowed a bit of that fear to escape.
We all have stories that need to be heard. Vowing to be better about sharing my stories.
Tell me yours.
Always, with boundless love.