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[cancer] Updates, lessons and the nature of anger - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-05-29 08:01
Subject: [cancer] Updates, lessons and the nature of anger
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, health, personal
Slept over nine hours last night, thanks to the Lorazepam tango. Dreams were sort of a PowerPoint format about how to organize my life and life issues in little boxes with connecting lines and flow charts. Sort of metadreams. Was I examining the structure of my undermind, or was I simply working too hard this last week at the Day Jobbe?

Fatigue continues its reign of terror. I become slowly harder of thinking, to the point where I let myself get drawn into one of those no-win Internet tempests yesterday. I won't bother with any linkage, but suffice to say that a statement on my part that I felt unsafe in a certain situation was met with angry jeering, abuse and obscenity. The self-fulfilling irony of this was apparent only to me, it seems.

To be fair, a few folks engaged directly, one of them kindly and carefully, though another was mostly showing off their rhetorical snark skills. (Yes, a college education is a wonderful thing, I have one, too.) So call it a net loss for me, which I knew before I ever opened my mouth. My one regret was that this fubar took place in the comments section of an innocent bystander. The end score was about 50% nasty cheap shots, 25% smug patronization and 25% actual constructive engagement. Which is actually a pretty good ratio for an Internet comment slugfest.

I know how satisfying it is to have a cause, to pounce on the wicked, the unrighteous and the foolish. I was once young and angry all the time, too. Now I'm middle aged and angry sometimes. But somewhere along the way I decided that justice tempered with peace was a lot more important to me that being completely, absolutely right all the time. (I've been down that road. I know people with permanent addresses on that road.)

The cancer experience has only deepened that realization. I can't count the number of times people have said to me some version of: "Man, this really stupid thing happened — oh, never mind. You have cancer." It can't be about cancer all the time. Everybody's problems are as big as they are. I don't mean to equate "where's my next meal coming from" with "where do I invest the next million from my trust fund" — to name theoretical extremes — but if I spent all my time being outraged about my cancer and insisting it was the most important thing there is, there'd be no room left for understanding, compassion, friendship and love. Or listening to what other people have to say, whether I agree with them or not.

At least there's no debate about cancer, nobody arguing (or pretending that I'm arguing) in favor of it. Issues of social and economic justice, gender and race, family and life are so much more dimensional and complex, and so influenced by the experience and eye of the beholder. But I'm finding more and more that a little compassion and a little peace help me think about this stuff in a much more nuanced way than screaming anger does. And that in turn makes me a lot more patient and accepting of the screaming anger that others direct at me.

Cancer's an odd teacher, imparting odd lessons. One of which is that life's too short to be angry all the time. I'd rather communicate. With myself, and with the world.

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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-05-29 15:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One big thing I took away from my own cancer experience(s) is that life does not take the shape of stories, no matter how much you expect it to. The virtuous get randomly punished and rewarded; the sinful likewise. It's true that how we behave affects our relationships with other people, but I don't believe it controls our relationship with the universe, our health, random chance, etc. I don't think cause and effect is that subtle.

That being the case, I drew the further conclusion that there is no implicit mandate that I'll be able to persuade others to my point of view on any given topic, no matter how righteous I feel. Right doesn't necessarily win over ignorance. And sometimes, right isn't as right as it thinks, and ignorance has, if not always valid points, then at least a valid framework within which it grew as a reasonable response.

As the years pass, I find myself more and more interested in understanding other people, in listening, and not in winning arguments. This is a big, chaotic, complicated world, and most ideological theories oversimplify it. Most of us just want to be heard, and a little respect goes a long way.

Life's what it is, not what it should be.
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kynn
User: kynn
Date: 2010-05-29 21:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
i do hope your fight against the cancer goes well. as i might have mentioned before, my father lost his battle to metastasized colon cancer this year, so i am pretty sympathetic to your medical problems

... though another was mostly showing off their rhetorical snark skills. (Yes, a college education is a wonderful thing, I have one, too.)

i hope you don't mean me here, because i don't have a college degree :)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-29 21:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am sorry to hear about your father. This is a journey I know far too well. I was lucky, my met was caught early enough that had it been a primary cancer, it would have been stage I.

i hope you don't mean me here, because i don't have a college degree :)

No, that was over at the other LJ where this kerfuffle (re)started, where the thread was apparently later deleted.
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kynn
User: kynn
Date: 2010-05-29 21:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
oops, i somehow replied to you and not to jay, apologies
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-05-29 22:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No biggie. :)
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2010-05-29 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Someone I've known for 25 years recently defriended me because I expressed an opinion he didn't like. I don't think it would have happened face-to-face, because we could have discussed it. The internet is a horridly imbalancing place sometimes and a very unthinking one. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I'm sorry you've had that experience, and that I'm underwhelmed by the kind of behaviour that flares up all too often.
And I am so with you on communication, rather than anger.
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User: brownkitty
Date: 2010-05-29 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't remember who said this, but I saw a quote once that I agree with. It was more or less this: "It's amazing how much mature wisdom resembles being too tired."

There are a lot of days I wish I'd been either too tired, or more wise.

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Peter
User: kilks401
Date: 2010-05-29 18:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I tend to lurk because in many ways I am young and angry, especially when it comes to the politics. I figure its better for me to listen than to talk, most of the time.

Hopefully with time I will be able to engage in constructive debates online better.
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2010-05-29 19:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
middle aged and angry sometimes

I prefer Curmudgeonly.
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User: littlebbob
Date: 2010-05-30 00:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You don't know me, Jay, there's no reason you ever should. But I'm with you. I saw what happened, and it was just as you saw it, and as any rational person would have seen it. You are not alone -- in fact, they are alone, their cries merely make them sound a multitude.
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T. Rev
User: st_rev
Date: 2010-05-30 14:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Seconded.
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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
User: annafdd
Date: 2010-05-30 16:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, a lot of people used the "he's got CANCER, you can't say that to him" argument. I don't think that's appropriate. Cancer or not, nobody deserved to be mocked or hurt. Especially for what I take to be (I am too late to actually see the kerfuffle) a really mild, sad comment. But, I would say, at all. You have my solidarity and you'd have it even if you were completely and rudely healthy.

I've been through the phase where I had a cutting tongue and knew how to use it, so I understand the pull of the snark. And I have been on the part of the one trying to engage and being told off for it, so I know that bitterness too.

What can I say? I am as sorry as you are. A lot of the people that can make me queasy were, and often still are, my friends. And I love their passion for righteousness just as much as I wish that they could temper it with compassion and a wish to engage.

Maybe we can go back to that con both of us when our respective wounds are healed and find a way to connect anyway. Maybe we were feeling too safe and too smug before, anyway.

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