Friday, October 25, 2013

Making Small Talk When Your Life is Upside-Down

It is day 4 after chemo (cycle 6), so I am pretty wiped out. My exciting outing for the day was a quick haircut at Great Clips, since we are going to have some family photos taken on Tuesday and I thought I should try to look decent. We have been meaning to get photos done since the girls were born (yes, over 2-1/2 years ago) and we are finally doing it.

I hadn't realized how complicated small talk with strangers can become when tackling a major health issue. My friendly stylist chatted away, as they always do, asking me what I was up to today.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Sleeping, recovering from chemo, trying to eat a lot of calories and keep my fluid intake up.

WHAT I SAID: Oh, I have had a pretty relaxed day. Just taking it easy.

Somehow the conversation came around to what I do, which is a weird topic of conversation for me now, because I am still in grad school, but only taking 1 class, and I am only working very part time. She asked what I was studying, I replied Theater for the Young, and of course she asked what sort of work I would do with that.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I used to know. I wanted to be a professor. I was going to develop arts integration curriculum, and write and direct shows for young people. But who knows now what I am going to do. My priorities have all shifted. The most important thing now is spending time with my family. 

WHAT I SAID: Oh, teaching, working with kids in the arts. Freelance stuff.

As we discussed my haircut, she mentioned that I was last there in March for a trim of my shoulder-length hair (I didn't realize they kept track of that stuff). I explained that I chopped my hair short this summer, and she asked what prompted the drastic move.

WHAT I THOUGHT & WHAT I SAID: Well, actually, I'm on chemo. I cut my hair short because I was expecting it to fall out. It has thinned a lot, but I still have a lot left.

I felt bad, this seemed like a lot to dump on my friendly stylist who just wanted to have a pleasant chat. But she took it in stride and we wrapped up the haircut.

It made me realize how differently I view things now. Life changes when you no longer assume you have an endless string of tomorrows. It's not that I mind talking about all this cancer stuff, it just seems to shake people up a lot and then I feel bad that I have upset them. No one likes my answer when I say the prognosis isn't good. I remain perpetually optimistic, but my situation has radically impacted my thinking. Sometimes I feel like I am in some alternate reality, where future plans are forever unstable and all that really matters is this present time.

And then, I think, this may be how life really works.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm glad you can talk about this stuff here.