My neighbour is dying of cancer and you should see her smile. She’s making me think, she’s making me think about big things. You see I’m dying from living and smiling is sometimes hard. Though, to be honest, it depends who I’m with. But yesterday I felt I needed to tell her and her husband thank you, and I watched her light up. She doesn’t wear her pain as a crown of thorns. But I do. I’ll give her age and wisdom on her side, I still feel young and dumb save for the saggy boobs but still carry this sense of entitlement that life owes me a better hand for all the shit I feel I’ve been through, so I wear a frown.
I watched her, bald from chemo therapy, holding her granddaughters hand outside in the sun. And there she was smiling again. And it confuses my immature heart. Part of the problem is that it also induces shame, and that in itself is unhealthy because I should be more grateful right?
I could carry on about all the reasons why everything is so hard, and my friends remind me, that a year ago this time started one of the hardest years of my life. …And I keep waiting for it to get better. To feel better. For me to feel settled, for me to feel less insecure about existing. I’ve begun to think there are boogeymen behind every corner and a part of me worries that my fear is what actually conjures these boogeymen into existence.
You know that saying? About how life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it? It’s my only explanation for why this woman next door can still smile. I bet she cries too, I’m glad she has a supportive husband and kids and grandkids to fill her bucket. Because the bags under her eyes say her bucket is quite empty, but the light in her eyes says it is quite full. Unlike her, I imagine my eyes and the bags under them tell the same story that life is draining the life right out of me.
I think I’ll go and visit her today. To see her smile, maybe to try and look her in the eyes and ask her how she does it. To share with me her secret, about how she lives while she’s dying. It’s a secret I need to know, before I dig my own hole too deep.