The Thing About Feelings

The thing about feelings is there is only one way out of them – and that’s going through them. Now the happy, easy feelings, we don’t want them to end, but the uncomfortable ones, that’s a different story.

So goes the problem with staying positive. I can be black and white about it all and forget that feelings have to be felt. It reminds me of when I was in labor. As you moms out there know, it really hurts! But there is no turning back, no matter how much you wish you can, when the labor pains begin. I felt the same way when I found out I had cancer, except there was no beautiful baby to look forward to. I had to go through it to get through it. And I’m still doing it now.

Several people have told me lately I’m brave or that I’m a hero. I really don’t get it; and I’m not being falsely modest. What choice do I have, really? Before I had stage IV cancer, I remember telling a friend going through it that I didn’t think I would be strong enough to face a diagnosis like she was. She told me I would be, and she was right. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “A woman is like a tea bag. She never knows how strong she is until she’s put in hot water.”

But what people really don’t realize is there is strength in feeling your feelings. And with my dire situation now, it’s not an easy thing. Sooner or later, they have to come out, which is what happened this weekend. I had a full-out pity party, and God and Mike were my only guests. It all started Saturday morning with a comment from our daughter about how she could see Mike and me as a cute, old couple. I don’t know if she was testing the waters with me, but I felt I must prepare her in some way. So I said, “I’m not sure I will make it to be an old lady, but we remain hopeful about this new trial and I’m doing everything I can to stick around as long as I can.”

A few hours later, I was sitting watching a funny movie on TV, trying to distract myself, as usual. I found myself pleading out loud to God. “Please help me! I can’t do this alone. Chrissy needs me; I need her and Mike! I love my life!” Then Mike came in, and the pity party ensued. I talked about how unfair this was – first a shitty childhood with a messed-up family, then I finally create a happy one of my own and this happens! All I wanted was to create a childhood for Chrissy that I didn’t have, and now here’s something I can’t control. Why me? I cried my eyes out, and Mike listened.

I felt immediately better after that and it has continued throughout the week. I haven’t had any more crying jags, and I’ve even had some peeks of hope. For some reason, dying is no longer in the forefront of my mind. I’ve been focusing on helping Chrissy hone in on a career path and planning our first college visit. I’ve been enjoying her company when I get the privilege to see her between her busy activities and homework. I even finished a book I was reading, and it had nothing to do with cancer. I’ve caught up with friends on the phone and online. I remind myself, once again, I’m living with cancer, and I’m not ready to throw in the towel anytime soon.

So maybe getting that pity party out of the way was a good thing. Who knows, I might have another one or two or more. But I’m not going to stay in that place all the time. I will move through them and move on with my life. I’m also giving myself a break from feeling like I have to be a strong woman who is always focused on helping others. I’ve learned I can sit and watch TV, and that’s OK. I can sit and read a book, and that’s OK, too. I can take a little walk with Mike or visit a friend. I don’t have to do anything earth-shaking, productive or heroic. I don’t have to try to make an impact by promoting my book or give talks right now. This is me time, and I’m going to be gentle with myself and allow myself to manage the best that I can.