I remember when Simon was first diagnosed with cancer and we had to let people know what was going on, they often didn’t know how to react.
I had many many conversations that went something like:
Friend: “So I heard Simon was sick, I hope he’s feeling better”.
Me: “Um no, he has lymphoma. It’s a form of cancer. He’s probably going to die”.
Friend: blank look, stare, look of horror or something similar.
Then I would spend the rest of the conversation comforting them and helping them through the shock of the news. Simon and I both did it on an almost daily basis for ages. It was hard. I didn’t want to NOT talk about Simon’s cancer with people, but everyone got so upset about what they had just heard. It didn’t occur to them to ask how I was doing. The conversation was always all about the cancer – what kind, where, treatment etc. etc.
It might sound self centered, but I often just wanted people to ask how I was. Not Simon, not the cancer, not the chemo, but ME.
One day, someone greeted me with, “Hi, good to see you, how is Simon?”, and I responded by saying, “I don’t know how he is, but I’M not doing so great!”. Every time after that, they asked how I was.
So, I’ve been away for a few days in Wellington and Auckland, meeting with lots of different people. They ask, “Where are you from?”, and I’d reply, “Christchurch”. And the response is similar to the one I’d had with Simon’s cancer.
I’d either get blank stares followed by an “OH” and an uncomfortable silence, or they’d want to talk about broken buildings and cost of repair and isn’t it just terrible.
I’m not criticising – I know people are just dealing with the situation as they know how, but I was just struck by how similar the reactions and conversations have been.
From my point of view, every time I leave Christchurch I am pulled out of the strange reality we live in here, and realise the rest of the country now has a different (shinier, normal) reality. It can be quite disorienting. I’m reminded of what I’ve lost. And then I have these strange conversations.
Sometimes I just really want things back the way they were.