Turning Point?


Diana has been working hard on herself.  Friends are "stopping by" with shopping bags full of books, most with Breast in the title.  As the news spreads, people we hardly know are calling.  She has touched many people, and it's gratifying to see how much they are reaching out to us.

I guess there are stages--denial, fear, anger, and now a calm determination to do what needs doing.  And she is taking good care of herself--gettiing sleep when she needs it, even pampering herself a bit.  This may not seem like much, but it's a big change, and a very healthy one, in my opinion.  When someone asks her to do something, her response is usually "yes", and often it is to stop in the middle of what she'd doing and "hop to it".  This has left her exhausted and with mildly spoiled kids.  She's caught on to this pattern, and, increasingly, is interrupting it.  That's good, if occasionally disruptive.

So tonight she lept up from the table before she'd finished eating, and I said "you don't have to jump up like that!  Relax and finish your dinner."  Instinctively she shot back "Well, do you want to do the dishes?"

I actually flinched, as much from the tone as the content.  But it touched a nerve.  After this comment sat there in the air between us for five seconds or so, she said "You never help me with the dishes!"  So I pointed out that several days ago she had seemed tired and I told her to go to bed and I did the dishes.  She had the grace to blush, although she was a bit peeved, I think, that I'd so successfully interrupted an incipient bitch session.

The fact is, I'm very tired when I get home from work.  And Diana has the dinner on the table when I arrive.  But after dinner, I need some sog time before doing anything useful.

When I lived alone, I rarely went to bed with any dishes dirty, but often did them right before turning in.  (Four people make a lot more dishes than one person, however, especially when two of the people are teenagers who seem to eat six meals a day.)  But it's true that Diana does 90% or so of the dishes now.

This conversation (which quickly turned funny, believe it or not) turned into a discussion of organization.  I pretty much am organized, and she pretty much isn't.  If she takes a pot out of the dishwasher, she opens cupboards until she finds enough space to put the pot in.  I am used to having a place for pots, and putting the pot back in its place.  This appears to be a concept that is so alien to her that our conversations on the topic leave me gasping.  Consequently, when I try to use her kitchen, it's pretty frustrating trying to assemble a meal.  

So I'm likely to be doing more of the cooking in the next few weeks.  And we ended up talking about how to organize the kitchen, and the kids, to make this work.  It was a pretty productive conversation.  I suspect we won't be eating up to her standards, but I think it will work.

Several readers have written me recently, and I most appreciate your good wishes for me and Diana.  One spoke of a theory that cancer is about unexpressed anger.  I've been trying to see if this could fit her history, and the it does, in part.  I think the reason the anger is unexpressed is more key than its merely being unexpressed.  In Diana's case, getting angry was a death sentence when she was little.  Her father was rigid and physically abusive, and things got done his way or else.  Her smart but weak first husband must have looked like heaven--he was so easygoing.  But it turned out that he had a PhD in passive aggressiveness, and convinced her that all the problems with the marriage, the house, and the kids were her fault, so why should he do anything to help solve them?  She was aware, very aware of her anger, especially after a bout of TMJ.  In the time I've known her, the anger has become less overwhelming, less irrational.  But it's still there.  Just more conscious.

In sum, I think her expressing more anger could help to mobilize her--watch this space for bullet holes, craters, and other fallout...

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2002 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.