[cancer] Closing in on the last session, a note on my heart

Slept uneasy last night. Don’t know if it was a continued grumpy hangover or what. Day Jobbery shortly, then (hopefully) a quiet afternoon followed by an early evening’s sleep. arrives tomorrow on her last drive up here. comes Thursday evening.

I’ve been thinking about two things: exercise and cussing.

I’m increasingly convinced that the reason I made it as far as I did through chemotherapy with any useful energy (such as it may be) is that I’ve exercised every damned day. I think I’ve missed perhaps two (non-pump) days in the last six months, plus when I’m on the pump it’s different anyway. Every morning I spend at least thirty minutes getting my heart rate up and making my body move. I do it when I first wake up, because whatever energy I do have for the day is at its maxima then. Early in chemo I’d collapse around 4 or 5. These days, if I make it til noon in full-on mode, I’m lucky. But without the exercise, I might have wound up bed-ridden or nearly so. A thing that drives my heart.

Another thing that drives my heart is my commitment to kindness. For example, in social matters, one way I evaluate a person (friend, date, whatever) is whether they’re nice to waitpeople. The “be kind to waiters” test tells you a lot about a person. Yesterday, my memory jogged as it occurred to me where I had first turned the inner corner on that. It was when I stopped cussing at other people while I drive. (Well, okay, it still happens on occasion, but far more rarely.) When I was younger, I’d scream my frustrations in the form of obscenities and nasty remarks at the people going too slow/too fast/where I wanted to in my way/cutting me off in the crosswalk/etc. I said a lot of things to rear windshields I’d never have dreamed, even then, of saying to people’s faces. Anonymity is mightily empowering to rage, and not much is more anonymous than an automobile in traffic. What I finally realized was that I was programming myself to respond to incidents with anger instead of thoughtfulness, to drive (and behave) more dangerously, and ultimately, some really crappy behavior modeling for my daughter when she came along. None of that was worth the momentary warm glow of righteous indignation brought on by telling off some idiot who really deserved it. (Not to mention how wrong I probably was about other people most of the time.)

These days when someone blows by me in the crosswalk, breaking the law and endangering my life for the sake of a fraction of a minute’s more progress down the road, I step out behind them with a big cheery smile and wave and shout “Thank you!” It’s fairly passive aggressive of me, but it beats the hell out of just being aggressive, amuses me, and often amuses other drivers and pedestrians. More to the point, if they actually notice me, I’m not retroactively justifying their misdeeds by flipping them off or something. Maybe they’ll even think about what just happened in some mode other than dismissive, defensive anger. I’m not quite so demonstrative behind the wheel, as frustration still leaks in and such broad communication is rarely possible (unless I have the top down), but I also try not to say or do anything I wouldn’t say or do to the other driver face to face, in public.

Exercise is good for my heart. Kindness is good for my heart. Both help me focus on what’s really important, including the battles that actually need fighting.

10 thoughts on “[cancer] Closing in on the last session, a note on my heart

  1. cate says:

    You are so right about the exercise! Just came across an article on CNN’s health website that the American College of Sports Medicine has issued new guidelines encouraging MORE exercise for chemo patients, which is the reverse of what doctors used to tell patients about “taking it easy.” Fortunately, they acknowledge that fatigue and other chemo side effects are going to impact ability and desire to exercise, but some is better than none.

  2. Jay, I love your kindness test. Taking it further, I would suggest being kind to anyone in a service job, whether the clerk at Wal-Mart, the cashier at Stop & Shop, or the guy who picks up the garbage. These are all jobs with little pay and little opportunity (if any), and I always wonder why anyone would choose that kind of work unless they had few other options.

    How noble of you to endeavor to be a more forgiving driver as well, especially to model wisdom behind the wheel for your daughter! I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt — maybe they’re stressed, distracted, inexperienced, sick, or grieving. Not that it always works. Sometimes I’m one of the above myself, and my emotions get the better of me.

    Glad to see you beating this cancer beast to the ground, and continuing to write! Loved this post!

    Michelle Quillin for Love Covers All

    1. Jay says:

      Well, surely true about your point regarding waiters, Wal-Mart clerks, etc. But the place where I’m mostly likely to see new acquaintances interact with the world is in restaurants and bars, which is why I picked that example. 😉

      I try to be very lenient of other drivers. I don’t know who just got let go from their job, or who is on their way to the hospital, or who’s just rocking out oblivious. I do occasionally encounter people who are simply, deliberately jerks, like the woman who ran the crosswalk light near my old house (pedestrian only, no vehicular cross-traffic), giving me a thin lipped smile and a shake of the head as I was stepping into the crosswalk. She was communicating quite clearly, I don’t have to stop for you. Given her minivan outmassed me about 20:1, she was right on the merits of the physics.

      So I gave her a cheery wave…

  3. Dude, but what of us who warn the waitstaff we’re going to abuse them in the most profane, glorious manner possible, and then do so, gleefully? And tip them ridiculously afterward?


    1. I realize you say that with a grin, but some rich folks really don’t realize that poorer people are not here to be abused, then paid off. Much better to treat them with the graciousness of spirit that makes you a fine human being, then tip them ridiculously because you are a fine human being.

      Apologies for going all serious on you early in the morning.

  4. I just noticed your blog via Michelle Quillin on Twitter. You touched my heart on so many different levels. You’re spirit and fight is inspirational.

    I agree you can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat waiters or other people giving service to you. It’s actually something that I’ve always taken note of myself.

    As for drivers who almost hit me or someone else with their car because they had to rush to the next red light is defenitly more of a challange for me! But I’m working on it.

    1. Jay says:

      Thank you. 🙂

  5. Kathryn says:

    I can forgive almost any kind of distracted driver; the speeder (just get out of their way), the slow poke (wait for the right moment, then go around), and the chucko coming out from the side oblivious to the flow of traffic, but I have a real problem with people who do not use their turn signals. If I was Christian I would buy a bumper sticker (Jesus would have used his turn signal.), but for now I just sigh and say, “That driver is not Jesus.”

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