Posted in mindset, vulnerability

Don’t ask the question unless…

…you actually want the answer.

This is a thing that makes me a little crazy.

If you ask for an opinion, you need to be able to receive the opinion.

If you ask to hear someone’s experience, you need to be open to hearing their experience.

So often, we ask a question and are open to one of the potential answers, and that’s all.

And, if possible, ask the question that you’re wanting the answer to.

There’s the stereotypical “Does this dress make me look fat?”

What does she really want to know?

Most likely, is this dress flattering to me? Regardless your size or shape, some styles are going to look better than others. Different colors look better with certain skin tones and hair colors. Some patterns suit your personality better than others.

Beyond that, the question is viewed as a trap, and for good reason.

Too often, she doesn’t actually want any answer; she wants the right answer.

(This example is a woman asking, but there are plenty of man-based examples as well. Don’t let yourself off the hook, gentlemen.)

If you are just looking for reassurance and a yes-man, tell your audience that you’re feeling a little bit uncomfortable in your skin and need some reassurance. It’s vulnerable, but it’s real.

(If you’ve never had a conversation that went anything like that, the first one might not go ideally, depending on who you’re having it with. Process it and try again.)

And if the answer is an honest, “That dress doesn’t make you look your best,” say thank you and get changed!

But in any case, don’t ask a question and then get mad that the question wasn’t answered the way you wanted.

Hurt maybe, sad maybe, happy maybe, mad at the circumstance perhaps, but mad at them for answering? No, please.

Worse than that, in my opinion, is asking someone their experience, and then telling them they’re wrong.

Whether you perceived it the same way or not, it’s their experience. Ask yourself what you have to lose by believing that it did happen to them that way.

So. If you want the answer—any answer (or any you can reasonably predict)—ask the question. Otherwise, shush.

Posted in meandering

Ah, baseball

We went to a baseball game tonight. Diamondbacks were playing the Giants.

I like baseball, but I completely understand why anyone would not like baseball.

As with most games, there were some plays with a lot of hustle and some plays without. (I have no patience for them being lazy or playing without hustle. The Tall Daddy laughs when I start anything with, “When I own a baseball team…”)

Regardless, there are many things that one doesn’t necessarily see (some rarer than others), and by that metric, tonight’s game was a good one. (Also, we won, which makes the evening a little happier.)

Quite a few double plays. All in favor of the visitors, so I hate to see them in that respect, but I do enjoy a well-turned double play. Even if one is off a bunt.

A few doubles, both regular and ground rule. A triple or two. A home run.

Bases loaded with one out; no runs scored. (That one in favor of the home team!)

Stolen base! (That’s the hustle I’m talking about!)

An ejection! (Sadly, we were already on our way home—way past The Kid’s bedtime—when this happened. Heard it on the radio.)

And, not particular to baseball, the wave went around the stadium three times! Weak on the first round, but solid on the second. Third go-round was interrupted by a broken bat RBI.

The Kid is not necessarily interested in watching the game (though he says he likes going to them), but whenever people cheer, he wants to know what happened. So I explained some of the rules—as many as he had patience for—and explained things as they were happening. Interested, but not captivated.

I hope baseball becomes a thing we can share and both enjoy as he gets older.

Regardless of any of that, it was a gorgeous evening. The roof was open on the stadium—in May! The perfect evening to sit in the cheap seats and watch some baseball.

Posted in cancer, connections, mental health, physical health, vulnerability

It’s not you, and you can’t fix it

I wrote yesterday about things that people said to me during my cancer journey and in the time since (though one could argue that it’s all the same journey).

I wanted to talk about it a little more.

I don’t think people are intentionally being mean or dismissive or any other unpleasant thing.

I think people are trying to protect themselves, to give order to events where there is none, to relieve themselves of guilt for it not happening to them, to relieve themselves of the discomfort of “what the hell do you say to someone who was just diagnosed with cancer?”

(I can help answer that last one. Will get to that but not going on that tangent yet. Also, all of this applies to all sorts of sudden life unpleasantries, not just a cancer diagnosis.)

Our brains’ mission in life is to keep everything predictable which makes us comfortable. This is why people who are miserable with their lives don’t change—they’re comfortable in their misery. Change is scary, and what if it’s worse on the other side? The demon you know versus the one you don’t kind of situation.

So when we’re handed something that immediately provokes change, we don’t like it. So we resist (consciously or not). And offer platitudes to the person/people who are at ground zero so we can feel better about ourselves and our position in life and shrug off how close it came to being us.

Is there a growing number of people who “need” cancer to learn a lesson, or to grow, or to change? No, I don’t think so.

Are there plenty of people who go through it and come out the other side without having learned any positive lessons, without having grown, without having changed for the better? Yes, there are.

And of course, there are plenty of people who don’t come out the other side.

It’s nearly guaranteed that you’re going to be at the center of a horrible little universe one day. Whether a medical diagnosis, the death of someone close, financial ruin, something, someday is going to knock your legs out from under you and kick you while you’re down.

While I don’t advocate for worrying about it, I also don’t advocate for blowing off other people’s pain to help you ignore the possibility of it showing up at your door.

For another day, you’re not at ground zero. It’s not you.

Is it awkward and uncomfortable to be with someone in that space? Yes. Yes, it is.

Do it anyway.

Your people need you. Step up. Be brave—just by showing up.

You can’t fix the problem.

Once more:

You can’t fix the problem.

You’re not going to say something that magically makes them feel better about their situation. But you can make them feel better for this moment. Be present. Be real.

What do you say? I’m sorry. That sucks. When do you want/need company? What meal can I bring you or your family? (Or, if you already know what would be welcome, What day can I bring you xyz?) When do you need me to watch your kids? Give me your grocery list and let me take care of it for you. Let me come over and vacuum (or dust or clean bathrooms or do laundry) so you don’t have to worry about it. I know it feels weird to get help with things you’re used to doing, but please let me help you so you can take care of you. I can’t kill tumors but I can wash socks and watch kids.

Depending on the person, maybe they’d just like to have conversations about other things. Maybe living with this and talking about it as much as is necessary is enough, and they’d like a bit of time back in normal life. Maybe they’d like to play a game. Cards, or a board game for few players.

Find something to help them pass time when they’re alone. Puzzles, magazines, a subscription (Netflix or similar) if they don’t already have one (even I would have watched TV through chemo). Books if they can read (I love reading but couldn’t get through a paragraph of a book because: chemo brain). A journal and a nice pen. Tools for a skill maybe they’ve been wanting to learn: knitting, crocheting, playing an instrument, drawing, painting, etc.

And then—a few months later, when most people have fallen off (because life events are longer than attention spans)—check in again (if you haven’t been all along). Same offers. New offer. Whatever. And then again.

Any questions?


Posted in about me, cancer, know better do better, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Cancer is not a gift

12 years ago, I began the process of sorting through symptoms and getting tests done that led to a cancer diagnosis.

In that 12 years, people have said some really stupid and/or hurtful things. (Not intentionally. But still.)

My cancer wasn’t some sort of gift.

It wasn’t given to me so I could learn a lesson or grow in some specific way.

It wasn’t a necessary prerequisite for a path I needed to walk.

It wasn’t a test of strength or character, nor was it a deliberate means to acquire strength or character.

It was a thing that happened, and that’s all.

It sucked.

It sucked way less than many other people’s cancer experiences. It sucked way more than many other people’s cancer experiences.

As a result of that experience, my lenses focus a little differently. I learned things I otherwise might not have. I met people and experienced places I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Many of those side effects have been positive, but certainly not all.

I have no guarantees that I won’t do it all again. Very unlikely for the same cancer. Odds aren’t great for certain other cancers.

In the mean time… today, I am alive.

Today, I take care of my body in a way that ties in with a culture that resists self-care.

Today, I offer support to others who are at the beginning of their terrible journey. Or are at the end of their treatment, still shell-shocked, and wondering, “What now?” as everyone tosses confetti and walks away.

Today, I get to be me for another day. Everything I have lived through—not just cancer—has shaped who I am, for better or for worse.

I have no gratitude for going through nine months of medical testing and procedures to diagnose and treat a large malignant tumor in my chest.

I have much gratitude for some of the “consolation prizes.”

But please. Stop telling people horrible things like “It’s God’s will” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Everything happens for a reason.”

It’s not a gift.


Posted in connections, vulnerability

“You are often unaware of the effect you have on others”

I came across a video the other day. It’s a few years old but, aside from the event that she references, it’s timeless.

I have no connection to the site, to the woman, to the organization, to any of the people.

She just has a good message.

The past handful of years, I’ve been trying to do better, tell people that they’re important to me, that I love them, that I’m grateful for them. Tell them especially when they did something that maybe didn’t even feel like a big deal to them but meant the world to me. (Those little things mean so much, don’t they? I got teary just typing that sentence.)

I’m not great at it yet, but I’m getting better.

I think we all can do better.

Watch it here.

There are lots of ways to do it. Cards. Texts. Emails. Phone calls. Face to face. And so many ways within those categories, both straightforward and creative. A message. A poem. A song. A picture (drawn, purchased, photograph) with a caption.

Let yourself be vulnerable. You’ll be better for it. So will they.


I don’t remember where I saved this from, but I’ve sent it to a good number of people.