Posted on April 19, 2015
I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. She apologised to me for “having a sook” to me about some very valid and heartbreaking issues in her own life. She went on to say that I was probably glad she had, as it would tickle my funny bone that anyone would basically dare to complain to me about anything.
The thing was, I WAS glad. But for a totally different reason. I was glad because maybe for a few minutes this friend remembered the Julia that I was before my whole personality seemed to become defined by cancer. Perhaps she remembered the friend from long ago, the one that would rather listen than talk, the one that would give you a hug, tell you it would be ok, somehow, and suggest tucking into 42 wines (with me of course), while putting the world to rights.
The thing is, people are frightened of me. Frightened of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, of having problems of their own, of having the audicity to voice them in the presence of the dying woman. If I had a dollar for everyone who has apologised to me in the last 15 months, as they have stopped themselves mid-sentence about something to do with their own lives, and said “oh but you don’t want to hear about that, it’s nothing compared to what you are going through!”
Here is the thing. I DO want to hear about that. If I loved you before, I love you now. If you were my friend before, you are my friend now. If you are a friend I have made since cancer, well, I’d like you to meet Julia, the one who is interested in your life, loves, what makes your heart sing, and what makes it break. If you are happy about something, I want to hear about it. No need for guilt because I have cancer, and some day I’ll die from it. Honestly.
And your problems? They do not cease to exist, or diminish, because mine are “bigger”. Sure, the outcome for me, one day, will be nothing short of tragic, but if you take the “end result” out of the picture, and it is something that I very much try to do at the moment, I’m still exactly the same as you.
Some of you might remember this girl:
Remember how you loved to have a long lunch, or a drink on the deck, or a really bloody long lunch that ended with a drink on the deck, and sometimes it didn’t end before midnight, with that person? Remember how we put the world to rights, and we whinged and bitched, and shared our frustrations and our funny moments? You weren’t scared of saying the “wrong thing” to me then, and I don’t want you to be now. This is ME folks. The very worst thing that could happen is you will say something REALLY stupid, and I will see your face freeze at the horror of it, and I will say “oh my god, did you really just SAY THAT?” And we’ll burst into fits of hysterical laughter and pour another glass of wine.
The very greatest gift you can give me at this stage of my life is yourselves. You very flawed, human, broken, funny, batshit insane selves. Because I am flawed and human and broken and funny and batshit insane myself. That’s why we’re friends.
So, pull up a chair, sit by me. Tell me how it is, for you. I’m sick of talking about me. Wine’s chillin’