As adamant as I am that my identity is unshaken by the little c, I recognise that others see me through this prism now. Today I’ve seen lots of people for the first time since going public and the reaction has been a real mixed bag.
Some have apologised for not getting in touch – they’re too shocked.
Others chivvy me along in a brusque and matronly way.
Others look a bit sideways and downcast and either say out loud or with their expression: I don’t know how you’re coping.
Others look at me and cry.
Others have a form of Tourettes. “You look TERRIBLE! Mind you it’s not surprising.”
My preferred reaction is a heartfelt, strong hug followed by a simple statement like “Let me know what I can do.” or “I’m thinking of you and hope you’re staying strong.”
All of these generate an emotional response from me, ranging from wibbly lip to tears pricking.
I’ve also been the recipient of what I call ‘stealthy help’. A midweek dinner invite (I said “You do know I’m going to still be alive on the weekends for a while yet” before accepting gratefully). Playdate invites for the girls. Ducking out from my P&C secretary role and having the committee pick up the job of minuting. A lift to an appointment. Comments on this blog and loving emails. An encouraging Facebook message, for example Sue and her quotes of the day.
Today she cited David Foster Wallace and it describes these generous folks to a T:
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
The relentless, unsexy helpers are the ones who make me actually cry.