November 9, 2009. November 9, 2015.
When you get diagnosed with cancer, you get a map. A cancer map has only two landmarks: an X marking beginning of the path (when you first find out) and another X marking wherever you are now. The map comes with a little flag, stapled onto a pointy stick. As you walk through time, you make an X and plant the flag into the ground now and then. You look around and announce the mark to yourself: "Welp, here I am. I've come this far since the first X." That's about all there is to say, except for the i hope-i hope-i hope voice that whines on and on in the background. I want to spotlight the melodious thank you thank you voice, but it does not, truth be told, tug on your sleeve nearly as insistently as the i hope part does. I really wish I could say otherwise.
In those moments when you've scratched a mark at now, you study the map once again, in case something has appeared that you didn't see before. But the map doesn't change; it's just got those two Xs. You can always see the beginning X nice and clearly, and all the other things that have happened on the trail seem foggy or washed out. Whatever lies ahead disappears as soon as you look at it. You are just hoping for a clear path, any clear path. Is that so much to ask?
In those moments, as you notice where you are, and notice that you are, you think, if you're me: "Do I deserve to be this lucky? This comfortable? How come I don't pull my weight in this world?"
Even if you want to toss the map and the raggedy flag aside -- because good lord, what use are they really? -- you can't seem to. You wonder if you are just lazy, because, if you're me, you have a hard time finding the path and you spend a lot of time thinking about just that. You're reluctant to pin yourself down to anything that's going to infringe on your freedom, and you feel awful about that.
You're better at helping other people see and follow their paths -- that's easy
. Figuring out your own path, if you're me, is a constant puzzle. You sit down a lot and study the worn, blank map. You try to make out your next destination, but there's no sign of the trail after today's X. All you can think is that you hope the trail you follow is long.
Laura's map is 3D, for chrissake. It's illustrated in detail and color and peppered with exciting landmarks. On those occasions when she needs a navigator, I step in effortlessly. Because her path -- her destiny -- is all so clear and obvious, like you've pulled the letters H, E, A, D, S, H, and I in Scrabble. In that order, and there's a P that's wide open on the board. Can't you see it? It's fun to support her -- the task is so clear: to believe in her and to be on the side of her success as a leader. To help her think things through, to notice her blindspots or errors in her form, but also to say "that's right. that's great. i'm so proud of you," which I am, especially when she does something courageous or brilliant. I'm like a coach that knows this kid can go all the way, a campaign manager that believes that her candidate can change the world.
I'm very glad to be here (just a sec while I scratch an X riiiight here) for this era, with Laura in a job where she can find her stride. It's not easy, what she's doing now, but she's finally at that sweet place where great ability meets great
Finding peace of mind is my great challenge, and, alas, I lack the great ability to meet it. The predominant distress, if you are me, arises from a sense that you are getting away with something, that you are not contributing enough to the world. But that feeling is counterbalanced -- just perfectly enough to hold everything together in a nice, taut tension -- by the me-ness of me...if you are me. All along my path, even before the first X, I recognize this need for freedom, tied in a knot to a chronic feeling of being a taker.
I take out the map, make another X, plant the flag, and study the map yet again. Welp, here I am.