“It’s hard to get by just upon a smile” by Margot Beauchamp
There are lies we tell ourselves for a myriad of reasons. Personally, I’ve been living with certain lies for most of my life. I can pinpoint the beginning of my delusion to sometime around Valentine’s Day in 2002. I was sitting on my couch in my living room next to my sister. She was seven and I was ten. My parents sat across from us, obviously about to tell us something important, else we wouldn’t have been sitting.
For some reason, everyone thinks people have to be sitting down for bad news. Is this because we assume our legs will immediately give out when the words reach our ears? Is anyone actually concerned about the pain caused by falling down? The bad news hurts far more than any fall could.
When you are young, the word cancer isn’t terribly scary. It’s a word I had associated with older people, or young kids you see in commercials for St. Jude’s Hospital. The closest connection I ever personally felt was with a grandfather who died of esophageal cancer, but that somehow was justified due to a lifetime of excess liquor consumption and smoking.
The phrase, “I’m fine,” became one of the most used in my vocabulary. Later, I would start to admit the acronym F.I.N.E. (freaked-out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional) was unfortunately incredibly accurate. But as things go, time passed, chemo sucked, hair fell out, and the amount of pink in our house slowly exploded until I was living in a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. It became, for lack of better word, normal. Cancer was just another part of my life. There would be hard times, but a new drug would appear and the routine would continue.
Now, 13 years later, I find myself reconsidering the lies I’ve lived by for so long. Things took a messy turn after high school and things became less “normal.” Living in tarp shelters under constant supervision in a wilderness rehab program Utah for two months would be a solid example. I have finally accepted I don’t always have to be fine. I can have emotions, and I shouldn’t be ashamed.
These last few weeks have included numerous family Skype calls, excessive consumption of baked goods while watching Robin Williams films, and staring at homework, wondering if there is any point in finishing that Molière essay. When people ask, I want to say my mom is doing well and is as strong is ever. However, now she’s the one who is “fine.”
My description of my mom’s health as fine holds a separate meaning than that of my mental state of fine, which I clung to for so many years, but it’s really not all that different.
Denial is the most refined form of lying. The truth is, my mom is not fine. She hasn’t been fine for a long time. Sure, she’s beaten every statistic thrown her way, but this week I found out there are only two more chemo drugs left for her to take. That’s it. If they don’t work, there are not any other options.
Ideally, I get another 13 years to figure out that “fine” is not what I believed it to be. I’m not sure 13 more years are in the cards this time. Some way or another, I have to accept certain things I’ve pushed so far back in my brain that they are locked in crates behind trigonometry or writing in cursive.
I don’t think anyone can ever be ready for these kinds of things. Even when you have 13 years to prepare, it’s never easy. I hope I can come to some sort of acceptance, some truth, even if it takes the rest of my life.