Thursday, September 11, 2014

Help arrives with dialing back the “Me” meter


I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm tired.

And it's not the type of tired taking a nap is going to help. Believe me, I'm good on naps.

But when I wake up, the things that are making me tired are all still there.

I still have cancer, obviously. But I actually think I can manage that. It is such a big thing that, maybe, my expectations of what I can do about it are pretty low. I can't really do anything about it... Expectations met!

When I was a lot younger, the Chinese Water Torture was all the rage. It was in movies, television, books, real life: water dripping onto a person's forehead, one drop at a time, until they can't take it any more and start screaming out what the torturers want to know. And the torturers didn't even have to be Chinese. In fact, they rarely were.

That's what the things that are sapping me feel like: one little thing after another until I just want to scream, but I don't really have the energy for that either. Besides, where I live... no one can hear you scream. Well, Sheri could. But when she's with me, the drip, drip, dripping seems more manageable, less scream inducing.

Can I give you examples? Sure. But if you have any idea what I'm talking about, you have your own examples: the car needs an oil change; the library books have to be returned; you need another prescription filled; your computer has a virus you can't get rid of; you've got emails or letters to answer; there are a couple of bills you have to sit down and pay; the lawn needs to be mowed; that basement light bulb that burned out in April still needs replaced; and on and on. Not a single one of them is worth much worry; put them all together... it's scream time.

And if you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, there aren't enough examples in the world to explain it to you.

So into this environment comes a truth so obvious, you would think it would have been one of the first things I would have thought of when I started to feel this way.

See, all of this comes from being self-absorbed. Me, me, me, all day, all night Marianne (calypso anyone?). My computer, my car, my light bulb, my cancer, my stomach problems and on and on. Each issue starts with “My” and ends in some semblance of despair.

I got an email from a man I don't know. He had just found out that his multiple myeloma had gone from a “pre-” state, to full blown. He had been reading my columns and wondered if I could give him a call so he could talk to me. The truth that I once thought I couldn't forget, but did, hit me like the laughter of my tenth grade health classmates when the teacher told the whole class that my answer to the question about the name of a poisonous snake common in swamps in the South was “Cottontail.”

When you're self-absorption meter is so out of whack it looks like an outtake from a Bugs Bunny cartoon complete with “BOINGGGGGGGG!!!!”, step back and see if you can help someone else. Duh. Would I ever have remembered that if I hadn't received the email? Like the answer to whether or not I would behave properly in a situation which called for bravery, I'd like to think yes, but more realistically it would be maybe.

Of course I called him and probably didn't offer much real help, which is one of my best things. He asked me some questions and I told him what I did, or would do, in similar situations. Mostly, he told me what he felt and how he was dealing with things and I told him he sounded great, which he did. One of the first things I said to him was that I wouldn't lie to him just to help him feel better, and it turned it he didn't need me to. He had a terrific grasp of what his situation was and what he needed to do. Good for him.

I asked about his wife and how she was managing with it, because it is surely a “we” disease, and again, it sounded like they were solid on things.

As irony would have it, though we talked for quite a while, I did have to cut it short because I had to go for my monthly visit/treatment at the cancer center. I said he could call me anytime and he said he would, and maybe he will.

I do hope I helped him because he did so much good for me. He got me to turn down the volume on the “me/my” meter, at least for a while. I was able to remind myself that so many of you who are reading this are also engaged in a battle of some sort involving your health, your family, your financial difficulties, your ability to simply keep going in a world that often seems preoccupied with giving you reasons not to.

But here's the thing: as broken, sad , fearful, lost, sick as we may be... as long as it's “We/Ours” and not “Me/Mine,” we're going to be okay. “We” gives us a pot to capture all those drips, one at a time. And , yeah, if WE have to, we can also set up a communal scream. That might actually be kinda cool!


There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”