I’m usually the one who doesn’t have cancer. I know what it’s like to be in your shoes. It’s hard trying to find the right words and the right time to say them. I know how scary it is to say something encouraging when the other person might not be feeling it. I know how hard it is to know when to admit how sad or scared you are hoping it doesn’t bring your friend down. Because what if in that moment she forgot she has cancer, or that she lost a baby or that her mom died or that her child has a birth defect or that her husband just lost his job. I know what it’s like to feel it so deeply that you can hardly stop crying and you have no idea how to connect with this person you’re grieving for fear you might screw it up.
I’ve been there a hundred times. Gosh, there’s a lot of pain in this world.
And now I’m the one who has no rules (or so it seems). I can say whatever I want, feel whatever I want, ask for whatever I want. I don’t have to weigh my words. I can laugh or cry or question or be at peace whenever I want.
Is that okay? The imbalance of rules. I get to say what I want while you question nearly everything you say? It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. I don’t have an answer.
This brings to mind a trend I noticed on the internets a few years ago which kinda got under my skin. All sorts of blog posts and articles with titles like, “20 Things You Should Never Say to a Homeschooler” or “15 Ways to Offend Single Women” or “7 Phrases You Should Absolutely Avoid If You Ever Want to Have Friends Who Don’t Hate You Behind Your Back.” I don’t know. Is it just me or did it make the already conscientious folks completely paranoid?
Can we all just chill out and absorb some well-intentioned goof ups? I can. I know I’ve said stupid offensive things to people I love. I want the people in my life to feel freedom, not fear. I want to validate that it’s hard to know what to say when someone you care about is experiencing something you’ve never personally been through. And if you happen to say something really dumb and I tell you, it’s only because I love you and we will be totally OK just like always. Cool? (And, really, you all are really doing a great job!! So don’t worry!)
While I’m on the subject, I want to address emotions and the expression thereof, because sometimes we don’t synchronize and then we’re all self conscious again. When we told our kids (individually, by the way) that I was diagnosed with cancer, we made this rule: Anyone can cry or not cry as needed. There’s no shame in tears. There’s no shame in no tears. This rule applies to anyone I talk to. I understand that we aren’t feeling things the same way at the same time. We don’t express the same ways. Some of us cry more than others. Some express through the written word. So don’t worry about doing that part wrong. We’re all feeling our way through this together. And hopefully we keep doing this with massive amounts of grace for one another.