Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 682: LTYM Chicago Rehearsal

Today we had our first rehearsal for the Listen To Your Mother performance. I honestly loved every piece, and am more excited than ever to be a part of the show. You all need to stay tuned so you can be sure to buy tickets—soon, I promise—because this is going to be a tear-jerker for sure! And it will be funny too. Well, not my part so much, but no one who is still reading this will find that surprising. It’s interesting how you can see yourself in the pieces that other people write, even when the experiences they are referring to differ greatly from your life. I will admit that I didn’t cry upon hearing any of these, but then again, I never really cry, so it would have been more surprising, I suppose, if I had. I did laugh out loud, and I was still nervous before it was my turn, though not nearly as nervous as I was during the auditions. A few women talked about how they had been inspired by everyone else’s work, how hearing these pieces made them want to go home and hug their children, tell them how much they loved them.

That’s when I had another of those “is there something wrong with me?” moments. I came home and told Gabe about the rehearsal, let him know that the show really is going to kick ass. And then I said, here’s what bugs me sometimes about how I’ve dealt with cancer, epilepsy, car accidents, marriage, motherhood, what have you. I don’t think any of it has changed me. I don’t feel any different at all. Those epiphanies, they just aren’t happening to me.

I’ve written about this so much it almost doesn’t seem worth repeating. I know that cancer is supposed to make me grateful for the little things, grant me some perspective, enhance my sense of humor, make me more of a badass, or something. But I don’t think it has. I’ve always appreciated life and I’ve always been kind of a small, pissed off little pill of a person. After hearing all of these amazing stories today, rather than pondering the deeper things in life, I still thought, shit, how bad is traffic going to be getting home? And I was still glad that I got to spend the afternoon away from everyone. Even when stuck in the car, I could just crank up the stereo and jam.

No matter what, I still do strange things, like write a blog about this, rather than about yesterday, when the kids and Gabe went with me to volunteer on the Chicago river for ROW. Augie is the biggest cheerleader for the team, screaming “GO ROW!!!” at the top of his lungs so they could probably hear him on the south branch of the river (we were at North Avenue). After the kids had decidedly lost their shit and had enough of the temptation of wanting to jump into the putrid, fetid water (are there other words that could work here? Foul, abhorrent, disease-laden, I’m trying here…), we went to Lincoln Park Zoo, and then we found a little place to order some burgers and ate outside in the 80 degree weather. That was a little bit of domestic perfection, St. Patrick's Day 2012 was.

I just don’t feel like writing about it, though. It was an awesome day, and today was beautiful as well. It just seems like everyone’s beautiful surely must feel the same, right? I mean, what is there to say about it, about joy? There have always been beautiful days, though apparently none this warm in March in almost 150 years of record-keeping in Chicago. Living here means that weather will take you by surprise, and you will change your plans, and do things at the spur of the moment, and cancer doesn’t do a damn thing to change that. Cancer doesn’t change the weather, it doesn’t make you laugh harder or feel more deeply. It simply does its best to kill you (as others have noticed; a recent google search that led to my blog read “does triple negative breast cancer always kill you?” Boy I hope I didn’t lead that searcher down a path of depression and doom), and you can hope that you are doing your best not to let it and that in the end, the part of you that doesn’t have any tumors will win.

I just don’t think I’m going to find that moment when the new Katy Jacob please stands up. She’s just here, hanging out, a little more marked up, hair a little shorter, fuse a little shorter for that matter, than before. After getting home today, I decreed that we needed ice cream after dinner, so we went to Rainbow Cone and Augie wrecked havoc there as usual. And then after enjoying family time and laughing with the kids and Gabe, I decided I needed to take a walk, at 7:30, in the dark, rather than help give the kids baths. I got home in time to put Augie to bed, but I literally fled the house almost as soon as I got back in it after my afternoon away. I don’t feel guilty though. Beautiful weather like this doesn’t come around often enough, and I wanted to take a walk at night, and my husband seemed kind of sort of ok with it except for the part where he’d had enough of the kids (see, he didn’t have cancer, I guess he doesn’t have that larger perspective I’m supposed to have received at some point), so I went. And damn, was it a beautiful night. That air you can barely feel until the wind picks up for a minute, when your body almost shivers but then thinks better of it. I will admit for those 40 minutes, I didn't think about the kids at all. I was putting one foot in front of the other, moving fast, happy.

I just don’t feel like there’s anything that I’ve heard, or seen, that has changed me fundamentally, other than the general fact that living life changes everyone. I’m still the same as that little girl, the one who at Lenny’s age had never had a seizure, didn’t remember what it was like not to know how to walk, wasn’t yet aware of her own death, and yet…Wasn’t I the kid who grew up in a non-religious household and asked my mom if she cared if I prayed? She said sure, go ahead, and I gave it my best shot for a while, asking for important things like my family’s health and happiness, and world peace, and other things that didn’t seem selfish at the time. And then at one point I went back to my mom and said, hey, remember how I was trying to pray? Yes honey, I remember. Well, the thing is mom…I was just talking to myself, wasn’t I? I sighed, and went back to my room to play.

See, at six years old, I was the same—thinking too much, kind of droll, kind of pragmatic, and then on to the next thing. And even then, I loved a good story, almost more than I loved anything else. I’m still the same. So come out to see the show. It will be interesting—life just is.


  1. See, it's ok if you feel the way you feel. There isn't ONE RIGHT WAY to live life. It's a very private and individualized experience. We all try to "figure it out" but that's ridiculous: We can only live life as it comes and enjoy what we enjoy. I wouldn't question yourself.

    And your piece was lovely and wrenching and WILL, I guarantee you, inspire someone to hold their family a little bit closer to their hearts.

  2. I don't think that any experience--whether we're talking about a little ole' show or the Big C--affects each and every person in the same way, and it shouldn't.

    What I do know is that I think you're amazing and I'm so happy that you are a part of Listen To Your Mother Chicago. (and those pictures up there? AWESOME.)

  3. I think most people who haven't had cancer consider it a gift that changes you for the better, because the need to give it some higher purpose to be able to process someone they care about went through it.
    I think most people who go through cancer? Do not consider it a gift, do not have epiphanies because of it and do not completely change their life for the better and end up smiling and thanking cancer for that.
    (some do. I'm happy they get all of that out of it, but I think were you to poll cancer patients, you'd find it's a small minority).

    Anyway, all of that to say, I cried today. But I would have cried if today happened before-cancer. And so I get what you are saying about feeling like it's supposed to change you/make you better/make each good day brighter/every smile sweeter/ever laugh lovelier/etc. But for me and most people I know? That hasn't happened. And I think that's okay.

  4. There is nothing in the world wrong with being a pragmatist. Take it as it comes and give back as good as you get.

    You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think you're pretty damn special - and I'm willing to bet your husband and kids do, as well.