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A positive greeting

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Dealing with cancer I find it a challenge every time someone asks me: ‘How are you?’ (Especially when they come sad-eyed and full of genuine concern). A struggle with my integrity turns me into a stunned mullet. I can’t in all honesty say a glib: ‘Fine thanks’. Nor do I want to nail them to the floor for an hour with the finer details. While I was out walking recently a friendly local rode past me on her bicycle and threw this very question over her shoulder. ‘Wretched thanks’ I answered  but the reply was clearly lost on the wind because she never turned back! What I want to say in response to this common greeting is: ‘Can’t you ask me an easier question?’ Writing my feelings out has cleared my mind and led me to framing as honest a response as I can muster so I am ready for the next ‘How are you?’ In future I will say: ‘I’m travelling well thanks’. This is true. There is a long way to go yet but I intend to do it all as well as possible. I tried this out at a local gathering last Saturday. I was singing with the Rhythms of the Reef women’s barbershop chorus in the village hall. Many of the audience were solicitous. My positive answer to the inevitable ‘how are you’s, delivered with a smile, evinced clear relief in my enquirers; so it served both as a positive reinforcement for myself and a gift to them.

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About pipsky

A creative, generous 64 year old with a PhD in Performance Studies trying to grow old disgracefully while working like mad in regional Queensland, squeezing the juice out of every day & still trying to find the balance that will maintain the quiet mind that makes her useful to others and nice to live with.

8 responses »

  1. how are you…what’s up…how is the day…all well intentioned questions and sometimes so difficult to answer, and you have figured it out Jude! how are you travelling has time embedded in it doesn’t it, so is a perfect response…at this time i am walking, at this time i am becoming.
    i have been wondering how things are going, and what it is like on your path to recovery. i love the fact that you are writing and walking.
    thinking of you…warmest

    Reply
  2. I stumbled upon your blog thru abc.net and as I have two family members currently receiving chemo I was interested in how you are dealing with “Jimmy Dancer” as we have come to call it “the monkey on your back” as well as a few other choice phrases! Thank you for your honesty and your beautiful writing style – I am hooked. take care and be kind to yourself.

    Reply
    • HI Julia great to tune into you I love the ‘Jimmy Dancer’ title and it has given me the idea of finding the right name for my travelling companion! I see the family in a week or two and I wil get them working on it as well!

      Reply
  3. Jude,
    ‘how are you’ is actually an old old ancient AngloSaxon phrase that translates as ‘I love you profoundly, admire you greatly, but beside your brilliance my little light doesn’t shine so I am too shy to say all this to your face personally, and so,.h r y ?….’ Its true meaning has been lost in the annals of time.
    I keep seeing you in the deep Halls of the Goddess retrieving lost parts of your soul Self and having a really interesting journey.
    Love

    Reply
  4. I have been reading your blog for weeks, so pardon my tardiness in contributing. Perhaps I feel as stunned as that mullet in your blog …how do I respond?

    My reactions have been festering. Initially, there was the shock of your diagnosis. The ‘C’ word! Then we held our breath when your operation (so radical, so severe …) was happening. Next came some relief after the operation – the physical healing could begin. Surgery, stitches, various -ectomies: these we can deal with. We’ve all had something surgically removed. We know the routine: offending appendage is identified, removed and then a period of mending. A bit of hospital hospitality, jelly and ice-cream and you’re home before you know it …

    But this a different critter, isn’t it? It takes some getting rid of. It doesn’t always play by the rules. And I hate it.

    I hate what it has done to you and how it has invaded your lives.
    I hate it and want it gone.
    I hate it for insinuating itself into your plans, your work and your pleasures.
    I hate it for stopping you in your tracks and making demands.
    I hate it for turning up uninvited and undeserved.
    I hate that it wants to be bargained with and placated.
    I hate that it throws a tremor through everyone’s lives and makes us all into armchair philosophers or rationalists or poets.

    I wish you strength and calmness as you “travel well” over the next few months. I worry that you may approach this dutifully, with your usual heightened sense of responsibility, commitment and energy. This is not a test. You cannot fail. You will not be judged on your performance or your outcomes.

    Get well, sister. Be kind to your self. Our thoughts for you are as tender as your wounds …

    – Paul

    Reply
  5. I have been reading your blog for weeks, so pardon my tardiness in contributing. Perhaps I feel as stunned as that mullet in your blog …how do I respond?

    My reactions have been festering. Initially, there was the shock of your diagnosis. The ‘C’ word! Then we held our breath when your operation (so radical, so severe …) was happening. Next came some relief after the operation – the physical healing could begin. Surgery, stitches, various -ectomies: these we can deal with. We’ve all had something surgically removed. We know the routine: offending appendage is identified, removed and then a period of mending. A bit of hospital hospitality, jelly and ice-cream and you’re home before you know it …

    But this a different critter, isn’t it? It takes some getting rid of. It doesn’t always play by the rules. And I hate it.

    I hate what it has done to you and how it has invaded your lives.
    I hate it and want it gone.
    I hate it for insinuating itself into your plans, your work and your pleasures.
    I hate it for stopping you in your tracks and making demands.
    I hate it for turning up uninvited and undeserved.
    I hate that it wants to be bargained with and placated.
    I hate that it throws a tremor through everyone’s lives and makes us all into armchair philosophers or rationalists or poets.

    I wish you strength and calmness as you “travel well” over the next few months. I worry that you may approach this dutifully, with your usual heightened sense of responsibility, commitment and energy. This is not a test. You cannot fail. You will not be judged on your performance or your outcomes.

    Get well, sister. Be kind to your self. Our thoughts for you are as tender as your wounds …

    Reply
    • Ah Pips so good to hear your brotherly, writerly voice! It means a lot to be in touch with how the whole thing has impacted on you – I bet the rest of the family would concur but not be able to articulate it as clearly. I think the fact that this is a ‘different critter’ is the issue for me – I have to live with the fact that I now have cancer and can only ever really say I am in remission. I was reminded recently when the doctor spoke about putting in the ‘port’ for receiving the chemo (it goes inside the chest wall) – ‘we leave it in for 2 years’ she said ‘as that is the most likely time for a reccurance and once we have used that vein we cannot use it again’. It is an invasion and I am changed forever by it. I know in my heart though that nothing will be achieved by my hating it – I feel the only way forward is through embrace and reframing my world view. I guess I will inevitably play it like the big sister I am and your tenderness will be one of the things that sees me through.

      Reply
  6. To the traveller in you …

    You know, in Bali (and probably elsewhere in Indonesia, maybe Malaysia too) a common greeting is not ‘How are you?’ but ‘Where are you going?’ Not meant in an existential sense, necessarily, just expressing the need to understand where you fit, right now, in the rhythm of things, and also a bit of an ice-breaker. And with Aboriginal people, the two things everyone wants to know, sometime early in a conversation with a stranger: where are you from, who’s your family? Not so much, How are you? as a solo unit, more Where do you fit? Where do you belong? and With whom do you belong? as a social and spiritual being. The meaning of the Dreaming, as they say, is Abidingness.

    Reply

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