Jump right in

Here’s a question: when it comes to bad news are you a ‘”I want to know everything” or a “Don’t tell me, I’d rather not know” kind of person?

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. It’s coming up to the first anniversary of Simon’s death, and it makes me remember back to his diagnosis, going through the process of finding out how sick he was, treatment, ending treatment, giving up.

One of the biggest factors in the ending of our relationship was that we handled the bad news so differently. His reaction to finding out he had lymphoma was to assume it would be fine and leave it at that. I wanted to know everything about it. I read everything I could about the cancer – causes, treatments, success rates, morbidity rates. Sometimes I had to stop when it got too scary (10% survival rates, no known successful treatment), but I always went back to do more research as we reached a new stage in the diagnosis-treatment process. It was a comfort to me.

Simon got his comfort from not knowing. He preferred to know as little as possible. He trusted his doctors to make the best decisions about his treatment, and he had no interest in discussing other options. He didn’t want to discuss death. It wasn’t going to happen. I heard him once telling someone on the phone that he had “mild cancer”.

So you can imagine it was difficult, for us both. Here’s me, busily becoming a lymphoma encyclopaedia and wanting to talk about it all, and Simon trying his hardest to pretend it wasn’t happening.

And how we each dealt with this devastating news reflected fairly accurately how we approached life in general. I’m an all-in kind of person. I like jumping in and worrying about how to do it later. Simon was a ‘slow and steady, read the manual before he opened the box’ kind of guy. We infuriated each other a lot because this. I’d be racing off to try some new thing, he’d be hanging back saying “can we just THINK about this for a minute”!?

I miss Simon a lot, and I think the thing that makes me saddest is that he didn’t accept the fact of his mortality, and so it was something we couldn’t share. I’d hope that, faced with the same situation, I’d handle it differently. How do you think you’d handle it?

Committed

I just finished a book by Elizabeth Gilbert (she of Eat Pray Love fame) called Committed. This autobiographical book is essentially an exploration of the idea of marriage that ends with Liz convincing herself that it’s okay for her to marry the love of her life. At the start of the book, having been married and divorced, Liz is adamant that she will never marry again. She even has a pact with her lover that they will never marry. In the end, she is married to him.

It’s a topic that’s been in my thoughts a lot lately. Why get married? I’ve been married. When my marriage ended in 1995 I decided that marriage really wasn’t for me, and that I’d never do it again. I still felt this way five years later when I met Simon. And he was fine with that. He didn’t want to marry me either. At this time in my life, I’d describe my feelings about marriage as ambivalent. I couldn’t see the point of it. I thought to myself, ‘Why get married at all when you can live with someone and have all the same rights as a married couple anyway?’

Then my life changed again. It happened in increments. Simon and I separated and I reevaluated some of my attitudes about life. I decided that I might like to get married someday, if the right man presented himself. I don’t even really know why this shift in thinking happened. Possibly as a reaction to the breakup. I was saddened at the ease with which we could extract ourselves from each other’s lives.

And then I met Stephen. Just before I met him (I’ve mentioned this before) I made a list of what I wanted in a man. One of those things was to be with someone who was open to the idea of marriage. I think it was probably on our 3rd or 4th date that Stephen said that he preferred to be married. It was one of the deal-sealers for me (along with numerous other things).

And now I find myself about to marry the man of my dreams. I try not to think about what it all means too much. Every now and again a stray thought creeps in …”why do I want to marry this (or any) person?” … “where did this desire to be married come from all of a sudden?” … “what if it doesn’t work out?”. I put them aside because I know they don’t matter. What matters is that what I’m doing feels right. Exactly right.

Friends and the Internet

I have a lot of friends that I know from the Internet. Some I’ve met IRL (in real life) and some I just know in an abstract way from Twitter, Facebook, and forums that I’ve been involved in. My Internet friends are a source of entertainment and amusement to me. I’ve spent many hours chatting away with people I will probably never meet, people who live all over the world, and yet whom I know a lot about.

In my travels I have met some of my Internet friends in person, and interestingly, I’ve found them to be pretty much the same as they are online. I wonder if the idea that people can be anything or anyone they choose online might be a bit of a myth. It seems to me that, given the chance to be anyone they want, most people end up just being themselves

And Internet friendship, just like any other relationships, are complicated. In many ways, some of my online friends know me better than those who live around me. Online, the space between me and them creates a distance that can be both a positive and a negative thing. For sure, there is a disconnection online that comes from a lack of physical proximity, but that lack of face-to-face, eye-to-eye has also meant that sometimes I have shared thoughts and feelings that I might not otherwise. It’s an interesting dynamic.

The thing about Internet friendships that surprises me the most is how easy it is to disengage with someone online. Decided you don’t like someone anymore? No problem. A few mouse-clicks later you never need to see or hear them again. I’ve done this myself to others, and others have done it to me. Sometimes it’s as hard emotionally as breaking up with a RL friend, and other times it really is just as simple as ‘you’re annoying me, goodbye’. Sometimes it makes me sad that it’s so easy.

But mostly I like the duality of my online-offline life. With the growing popularity of Facebook and Twitter, the boundaries of these are becoming more and more blurry. It used to be that I had online friends, and offline RL friends who were different sets of people. And now…you reading this might well be both!