Not What Was Intended

Only when the sense of the pain of others begins does man begin.

~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

I sat down this afternoon to write a post titled “Dinner with Nietzsche”. I planned on weaving philosophy and wit into a humorous tale about my attempt to convince my daughters to finish their parmesan rice last night for dinner by reading to them from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. “When you’re done eating, I’ll quit reading!” I told them, and then droned on and on over their deafening squeals of protest. It would have been a great post . . .

But I decided to clear out my Reader first.

Courtesy of derfina, I learned of a fellow blogger named Lisa who is in the final hours of a long battle with cancer.

I don’t know this woman. And, unfortunately, unless something truly miraculous happens, I’ll never have the chance to interact with her, to exchange emails with her or read any new updates about her life, about motherhood, about being a survivor.

And she’ll never be a Tweaker. I’ll never see her name pop up in my comments, offering her own unique hue of wisdom and compassion.

Though told by the author of the most recent post that Lisa is heavily sedated and will probably never get to read the comments left by her readers, I left one anyway . . .

I am new here. Never read this blog before. But a fellow blogger mentioned this situation today, and I wanted to drop in and leave a note. She’ll never see it, but that’s ok; it’s not for her. It’s for all of you, the ones who have taken the time to show that you care by being here for her, our fellow blogger.

This is the soul of what we do. For some, it’s about numbers. A paycheck. A zillion hits. But for others, it’s about the friends we make and the impact we have on one another. During the times when I’ve been down, and posted about it, it never fails that someone leaves a comment and lifts me up. I cherish the thoughts, the words, the wind it all puts in my sails.

This is why we are here. And why I keep doing it.

Peace to you, the friend I never met. Your star is shining, and we’ll keep it alive . . .

You, dear Tweaker, are cherished more than I’ll ever be able to completely articulate. In so many ways, small and large, you move me. I write for me, share it with my little corner of Blogland, and you swing by on your way to wherever for a quick chat. To say hello. To encourage me. To set me straight. To interact. And for each of you – even the ones who never say anything at all – I am grateful. You probably get sick of hearing me say it. But I mean it. Every time . . .

[photo credit]

24 thoughts on “Not What Was Intended

  1. I’m sitting here – about to get up and walk away – so my napping daughter doesn’t hear my gulping cries and wake up.

    I went to lisa’s site and read her last post. I cannot imagine in any reality being so close to my death and going forth with living until that last second.

    I can’t believe by the time I hit send on this post someone whose words are still alive will be silent forever.

    And I can’t believe I’m crying so hard for someone I never met until 3 minutes ago.

    I’m speechless.

  2. DAMMIT. I thought I was done sobbing for the day, yet here I sit again…

    She made a difference. That is all any of us can aspire to.

  3. here is the post i wrote today.

    i am glad that you chose to write what you did today.
    it really touches my heart.

  4. I don’t believe for a second that your blog is 33% evil.
    You’re a pussycat cupcake.

  5. With all due respect— is it ***cold*** of me to say I am tired of seeing cancer romanticized? Does the distant observation of someone else’s suffering create benevolence? What if I told you I knew a man who died of cancer who was a real a-hole, and while I cried on realizing the extent of his suffering, I myself would most likely be dead if he had not passed on when he did? Because he was trying to force my own family into a lifestyle that promotes sickness and cancer, with no regard for the consequences of the suffering of others until death was upon him?

    How can I fully convey to you the infernal frustration of watching this man— his resolve in becoming terminally ill, and arrogant refusal to take the necessary steps towards healing as though he was not needed by his loved ones? I live with regret every passing day for failing to convey to him the extent of my frustration in watching him repine for what was there all along, right before him— if only he would see it…

    I would rather see people celebrate life and triumph over sickness, than to see them glorify cancer. I would rather see people fight for **preventative** measures than to see them relinquish their sense of morality to some defeatist glorification of stupidity and suffering.

    Sorry if I seem callous— but when we consider to what extent the cancer rates are increasing when this disease was virtually unheard of half a century ago— do we not stop to reconsider our approach on this issue?!! Or will we selfishly bemoan our mortality to the drum roll of ever-encroaching sickness, and leave this encroaching tide of disease for our grandchildren to clean up long after such a task is has passed manageable proportions?

    With tears of frustration, I ask you all to forgive my bitterness!

    1. Thank you for your comment. You have a way with words that I admire, and I sense the carefulness with which you drafted your thoughts.

      I’ve been doing this for almost a year, and yours was the first legitimate comment (read: NOT spam) I’ve ever considered not approving, for the simple reason that I don’t want the comments on this post to disintegrate into a shouting match or flame session. For you must admit . . . read with no care for discernment or careful interpretation, your comment comes across as rather heartless.

      But then I read it again. And again. If I understand what you’ve written correctly, you seem to be saying that:

      1) We should work daily to maintain a lifestyle marked by healthy discipline so that the chances of developing terminal diseases/illnesses are minimized.

      2) We should do so because our lifestyle choices influence those around us, people who care about us and want us (need us?) to live long, healthy lives.

      3) Vicariously participating in the suffering of others without doing all that we can to combat/prevent the suffering, for that particular person or for others, is sometimes nothing more than haughtiness in disguise, a pious pity that helps no one in the end.

      Valid points? Yes. Applicable to this situation? I don’t believe so. Here’s why . . .

      There is nothing romantic about the way Lisa has discussed her cancer on her blog. I’ve spent some time reading through many of her posts today, and in none of them does she “romanticize” her illness. She never asks us to do anything other than meet her where she is, hear her often gut-wrenching spilling of the details, and walk away informed and updated. Is there a risk someone will see her pain as our pleasure? I’m sure there are those who do find joy in her suffering, but they are not commenting, nor are they doing anything to help her.

      I believe there is a benefit to hearing Lisa’s story; in hearing that story, I was moved to share her story with my readers. Is that benevolence? Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I hope that my readers will visit her blog – be moved, as I was – and leave a kind word for her family. They have done it for me, and I know they’ll do it for her.

      Is that an act of kindness? By any definition.

      And perhaps, those who visit will take a moment to click on her Ovarian Cancer page and make a donation to one of the many organizations listed there. If nothing else, they’ll learn the warning signs of ovarian cancer, perhaps recognize those symptoms in either themselves or someone they care about, and take action. Before it’s too late.

      Is that an act of kindness? By any definition.

      Is it the best any one can do? Perhaps not. But there are many ways to be kind. And how one uses their resources to combat the suffering of another should never be judged by dollar amounts or end results.

      You’ve shared a small piece of your story. That was very courageous and not easy for you, I imagine. I wish things could have turned out better for you. For this man who turned his back on you and allowed himself to wither away without fighting to live. I assure you, this is not the case with Lisa. She’s been battling this disease for a very long time, and her battle has taken a toll. But to the end, she loved her family and fought to be with them. Take the time to read her blog and you’ll see the difference between Lisa and the asshole you so intensely despise.

      1. I cannot tell you how sad it is that you saw fit to take it personally what I wrote. I simply read what was here before me, and I responded to it. I spend so much time creating advocacy for preventative lifestyle issues and sound family living that if I devoted time to every link I saw I would no longer have time to eat or sleep— and then I would be of use to nobody.

        Thank-you for your thoughtful reaction. Do understand that so long as we see much needed questions as an attack— we as a society will continue to defend this plague as though it were a simple matter-of-course. All of it is due to human error, selfishness and make no mistake, it is an holocaust.

        I send healing wishes and serenity to all who care to hear my plea for sanity in all this madness and waste of human life!

        God bless you for caring, and for having the strength to release my comments however painful they may seem at the outset. You will find that, like any deep truth, this anger will grow into a renewed conviction and love of life. You have my solemn word on that.

  6. I’ve been reading Lisa for awhile, unfortunately not until after she encountered this final recurrence. I’m glad she has someone who can let us know when the end comes and maybe how the family’s doing when things get a little further down the road.

    As a student of thanatology, I think it’s beautiful and important for people to share their stories and experiences in every phase of life and death. Lisa was always honest with us all. Death is something we will all partake in, just like birth. Those are two things we will all do at one point, and there is nothing any amount of “healthy living” will do to stop it. Healthy living is about trying to add life to your years, but indeed, all our days are numbered.

    Peace – D

    1. I seem to remember a post of yours where you pondered about what would happen to our blogs if we suddenly weren’t around to maintain them due to some accident or debilitating illness. If you linked to Lisa then, I am sad that I missed the opportunity . . .

  7. If only it were as simple as choosing which method of suffering and death we might succumb to, when it is actually all about having the freedom to have a decent quality of life. That’s all I ever fought for— to have the freedom to choose a better quality of life without defeatists making those decisions for me. To have children in clean air, who are able to swim in our waterways without the fear of some sightless retribution— the horrors of some unseen conscience to poison them at every turn!

    I know you see my meaning. Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts. If only the victims of this plague can teach us to care more for one another’s suffering, we are already halfway there.

  8. I’m not going to try to recreate or reinterpret anyones comments here because I think you’ve all been pretty succinct. Instead I just want to jot my reaction, perhaps for my own sake (surely, not just perhaps).

    I think onlyjustwords comments take out of context may be construed as harsh but I kind of get it. The deeper meaning as I understand it is sort of the holy glorification of it vs addressing it’s root cause.

    The ribbons, and bracelets, and awareness crusades, folks beribboning themselves, their kitchen aid appliances yet not taking real action. Like discussing bioengineered food or trying to uncover how the disease developed vs. just laying down and saying “oh the cancer took her”

    Yes, there is a segment of the population who reads Oprah books in order to feel. Who bath in pathos to feel alive. Who like vicarious pain. Who wear a million ribbons but dont do more the that. And those people you want to shake. And that type of person might faux cry and post “Im crying as I read this” and be percieved as either dramatic or histronic.

    So I think I share some of the sentiment. The frustration when people glorify something so they can rally to support it.

    BUT – Let’s say too that some people feel a sense of genuine sorrow and loss not for the cause, but because it, in itself, is sad.Whether by folly, accident, design – a death is an ending. Me? I’m crying not for “heroism”, for cancer, for “bravery” (?) – I’m crying solely because a woman essentially wrote her own eulogy, and I’m turning 40, and I had my daughter too late and someday Im going to die and leave her and if I die to soon, we’ll all have lost out. I’m crying because a life has been extinguished and I don’t really care why, I just know that someone is about to lose a wife, a mother, and that’s sad. And although preventable perhaps, sad nonetheless. And btw way, even when abject assholes die, I still feel bad. Because a life was wasted.

    onlyjust – I don’t think you seem bitter. You’re indignant. And passionate. And conversations are meant to be had. And it’s brave to state unpopular opinions. I don’t agree with everything you said, and you are making a few assumptions, but what else can you do in a vacuum, in a comment section of a blogpost. Were we to talk at length, we’d likely find a common meeting ground.

  9. holy crap. I’m speechless- AGAIN.

  10. Interesting comments. Seems to me some of the respondents are still in the anger stage of healing. I fully get what both sides are trying to say. The thing is we can apply this way of thinking to all “our” illnesses. The truth is we all live dysfunctionally in some way. I think first and foremost we need to “Heal” our own sickness before we can legitimately heal others.

  11. I came to terms with my mortality many years ago, and I no longer see death on those terms. Death is merely a release, and, yes, it awaits us all. Glorifying it is senseless.

    I no longer repine for lost time, but instead, choose to make the absolute most of our daily quality of living. The anger I express is legitimate, and only in expressing legitimate feelings of anger towards those who would rob us of our right to experience life on our own terms will we ever overcome these thieves— whether they be in government, or in the education system, or in corporations, or in the house next door. Whether they be knowingly thieves, or simply sad individuals who have lost their way, and who would take the rest of us with them on some woe-begotten Hell-ride.

    Only in acknowledging the important fight, and in carefully choosing our battles, shall we find the courage to win a better way of life that does not embrace suffering as an escape from drudgery. Suffering has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, and if people feel anything but anger in opening their eyes and seeing this, they are not adults, but children who cry out for guidance.

  12. Death is merely a release, and, yes, it awaits us all. (OJW)

    A release from what? I view death more as another process of life, just different. Just because life involves pain doesnt mean we need a release from it. And as far as people “robbing you” of your rights, my momma told me this.

    “Son, nobody can walk on you, unless you lie down”

    My favourite quote sums it up perfectly

    “In life pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”

  13. Pain. Suffering. Nothing but interchangeable synonyms.

  14. KJoon

    Not really. Pain is when my nervous system is affected in a certain way.(pleasure/pain). Suffering is when I go, Ouch, that freaking hurts, over and over again. 😉

    1. I tend to agree. Pain is generally a sensation related to something physical, and rather immediate in nature, whereas suffering can occur with no physical presence of pain, tending to last long past the perception.

    2. Suffering: To feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment.

      Pain: Physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness.

      Synonym: A word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or other words in a language.

      Interchangable: capable of being put or used in the place of each other: interchangeable symbols.


  15. Good post and once again I see another reason to take the time and dip into other people’s lives by reading their blogs. I think that we sometimes get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to pay more attention to life’s ebb and flow all around us.

    Most of us see death as a bad thing but there is one small good thing we can all take from Lisa’s impending end and that is that life is short and we are all going to die, so pay attention to your life and “be here now”.

  16. KJoon

    Thanks for the definitions, so precise. The thing is you know they werent intended to be used as such. I get where youre coming from, I like causing sheit sometimes too. 😉

  17. Lovely good vibes Brian. I didn’t read all the comments, looks meaty, so I hope I’m not being redundant: the little things matter and I agree that on the surface, your post was for you, not for her. But, still. Under it all it is for her, you, and all of us. See if you can find chapter 50 of the Tao Te Ching. Let me know if you can’t.

    [I’m feeling like the universe is speaking to me today. Your post resonates with another by Old Soul Ink and yesterday I learned that a close colleague is fighting a recurrence of her cancer. The tests aren’t back yet, so hopefully she’ll get some good news.)

  18. what a thoughtful post — thank you for sharing this. i’m going to go check her blog out now.

  19. I was so immersed in reading the comments you’ve stirred up, that I almost forgot what you were writing about.
    I hate to see anyone or anything suffer pain. It upsets me to see a little squirrel lying in the road. I can’t for a minute imagine how it must feel to die in pain, but I wouldn’t wish it for anyone.
    All I can do is try to be the best I can, to really wring every drop of joy from every minute I have in this life.
    And you mean a lot to me too, my brother in spirit. Your love for your fellow man shines through.

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