In 2010 I bought one of those five year diaries. It’s pretty neat. Every calendar day there is a question or topic and there are spaces for
five years of answers. I started the book on New Year’s Day 2011, but my answers were sporadic at best. Journals filled with cheery questions aren’t always useful for a melancholic, but I’ve started writing in it in earnest this year. Saturday’s question asked “Where is your road leading?”
The question gave me pause. Where is my road leading? I suppose it’s going to the cemetery, but I added that I hoped the drive was pretty. I told a friend about this and her answer was “it’s like that for everyone. I could be hit by a bus at any time.” Rather than going into the minuscule statistical likelihood that she would be hit by a bus while sitting my office on the third floor of the art building, I finally confronted her about my situation. My friend loves me and doesn’t want me to die, so much so that she invalidates anything I do to try to comes to terms with my shitty prognosis. She was thrilled that I’m off chemo and suggested that the cancer might go away on its own. She insisted that my MBC doesn’t necessarily have to be fatal. That I thought about death too much. AND that everybody knows they will die and we all feel the same way about it. It was at this point that I called bullshit.
Knowing that you will eventually die because you are mortal is exceedingly different that knowing that you are sick with something that will kill you in the near future. We all might get hit by a bus, but with cancer we know the number of the bus and a window of time when it will kill us. To think otherwise is to invalidate the existential crisis terminal patients face in having to come to terms with ourselves as being in the world and soon the world continuing without us. Heidegger wrote of the distractions we give ourselves so we don’t have to face the terror of being in the world particularly by avoiding boredom or empty time that could be used to think.
I love my friend dearly and I think she finally understood that there is a different between the abstract concept of mortality and terminal illness. But it’s everywhere, both my psychiatrists have said the “we’re all gonna die” with the bus analogy and it hurts. It hurts because I’m trying to find a way to come to terms with my dying so I can enjoy the time I have that is still relatively healthy and strong. It’s harder to do when you are an atheist.
But I’m not going to die tomorrow, I have to teach my Asian art class.