Perhaps it’s just because, with the disappearance of the Christmas Project, there’s a new and discernible gap in the list of things to occupy our minds. And perhaps the subsequent result is allowing each tiny, put-it-off-til-after-the-decorations-are-packed-away concern to gradually become a disproportionately bigger anxiety, turning the inevitable introspection of the new calendar year into a whole new excuse to analyse and reanalyse and, aw what the heck, go back and analyse some more. And so, for someone for whom self-examination is less hobby than habit, it can turn January – and its accompanying obsession with resolution-making – into the kind of contemplative catastrophe that’ll drive you sobbing into the self-help section.
It’s on more than one occasion, then, that I’ve had a quietly challenging opening week to the new year, but none I can remember has been quite so difficult as the one that’s just passed. It was perfectly predictable, of course, what with a round of chemo mere days in (now altered, thanks to a new schedule, to require two trips to the hospital on consecutive days), and the subsequent shitness that came with it; shitness which, I think, P and I are fast learning to manage on the physical front, but still struggling with on the emotional front. And so, when you foolishly throw into that debilitating (albeit temporary) depression a nutty necessity to make pledges about what you’d like to do differently in the coming year – and then not just find yourself satisfied at having drawn up a list, but actively squirreling away on Resolution #1 beneath a slanket at 5am on January 4th… well, you’re just asking for trouble, ain’tcha?
But what, you might ask, could be such an urgent resolution that it must be completed under such pressing circumstances? Surely it’d have to be something exciting or ambitious or positive or, at the very least, key to the success of the ensuing few months? Well, hm. Not exactly. Not unless you count entitling a document ‘The Last Will and Testament of Lisa Lynch’ as a particularly exhilarating assignment. So, yes. No bloody wonder the first week of 2012 has been something on the tricky side – as much for my husband as it has for me.
All that said, despite the pressure under which we both put ourselves at this time of year, it’s got to be said that, when we’re serious about a resolution, P and I are pretty darn good at getting it done. Hence when last year we vowed to rid ourselves of debt by the end of 2011, we doggedly knuckled down, tightened the purse strings and had it done it by April. Not to be outdone, then, I figured that – with my post-chemo steroids keeping me not just moodily moon-faced and fumingly fluid-retentive but also wide awake at many an unsociable hour – I might as well make the most of my crabby sleeplessness by turning irritability into action, saving P a job and me a nagging session by commencing the document that neither of us wanted to begin.
So yes, I – we – have now made a will. And while I was at it, I also made a living will: an advance directive outlining the ways in which I’d like to be treated (or, y’know, not treated) in the event that my illness causes me to be unable to capably make decisions or experience an acceptable quality of life. Outlined too are my preferences for how and where I’d like to be for The End, as well as my wishes for what happens afterwards. (Hm, and a very happy new year to you too.) But morbid as that may appear (though let’s level with each other here: it’s also morbidly good sense), my defence is that completing these documents was simply the last thing that needed doing on my get-your-house-in-order list. Well, that and swapping our car for something more accessible and with a more wheelchair-friendly boot, but that’s Resolution #2 and already well on the way to being completed.
There’s rather more to all of this, though, than just my penchant for completing a to-do list. Because much as the will-writing, car-changing, instruction-making things must be done, they’re actually just a bit of a means to an end; a way of drawing a line through pressing concerns in order for me to move onto a far bigger resolution altogether… one which must – for the sake of my health, my sanity and my relationships – be dispatched equally as calculatedly and deliberately. Because this year, dear reader, something’s got to change. And fast.
It goes without saying that making up much of my past few months of 2011 were (as I think has now become the accepted technical term) the bollocking motherfucker of cuntshitting days sent from Satan himself. This, however, is a reality I have come to accept. I accept that it is incredibly, insufferably sad that I have terminal cancer. I accept that it is equally devastating for those I love as it is for me. I accept that my world has been forced to change in ways that I’d rather it hadn’t. I accept that the treatment to prolong my life won’t always make me feel especially well, but that it’s what must be done. I accept that I probably won’t be able to make it to another Glastonbury; I accept that I probably won’t reach my 40th birthday; and I accept that you’ll probably be terribly sad when I have gone because I’m just so damn ruddy awesome.
But what I refuse to accept is a reality that – since the news about the secondary spread to my bones and brain – has been becoming not just patently obvious but increasingly fucking difficult to stomach: that simply because the ‘terminal’ label has now been plastered across my poor little cancer-ridden head, I must henceforth be treated as the kind of vulnerably piteous write-off who might cark it right into your lap at any moment. I’d apologise for the crass exaggeration but sometimes, I’m afraid, that really is how it feels… as though each Facebook-wall-posted ‘xoxo’ is more head-tilted than the last; as though nary a sentence can pass without one ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’ or ‘gorgeous’ too many; as though no compliment is valid unless it proclaims how brave or inspiring or remarkable I am; as though each hug or kiss or wave goodbye might be the final one; as though no text message could possibly go by without me being told how much I’m loved/thought about/prayed for.
And yes, yes, I know. It’s lovely. It’s genuinely, genuinely lovely. But you know what else? I don’t need to hear it. And not just because it’s yet another reminder of the shituation as it stands. But also because, more to the sodding point, it a) really doesn’t need to be said, b) really doesn’t make me feel any better and c) really can’t be all we’ve got to talk about… can it?
Much of a whinge as this must be coming across, the fault, I fear, is all mine. After all, you can’t expect to spend your life (hell, even make a living) writing about The Bullshit only for everyone else to shut the fuck up about it. I have, however, begun to worry whether keeping a blog has simply stopped working for me. There’s no arguing about the fact that, during the course of Alright Tit’s life, it’s become rather a different beast from which it was conceived. Where once there were pithy posts, now there is prolonged prose; where once it was a means of keeping focused, now it’s a means of keeping writing; where once it was a compulsion, now it’s more considered. What’s never changed, however, is how enjoyable I’ve found it, what an incredible catharsis it’s proved, or its effectiveness as a method of keeping everyone posted. Or perhaps I’m wrong on the latter point?
See, I’ve always seen my blog as a place in which I can talk about all the cancer stuff to save boring the arse off people about it elsewhere; somewhere I can pour all the answers to all the questions anyone might possibly have in order for us to move onto more worthwhile conversations, like Beyoncé’s baby or Coronation Street or lipstick. But, actually, it doesn’t really work like that any more. Because, demonstrably, with the change in my prognosis (or perhaps with the change in the way I blog, I don’t know) has come a change in the way people now react to me.
Take my Facebook page, for instance. Immediately after posting about the discovery of The Bullshit’s spread to my bones, I received 36 friend requests, all from people who’d read my news, found themselves shocked and, in many cases, wanted to leave a kind word on my wall. Add a brain tumour and that ‘months-and-not-years’ talk into the mix and my daft little corner of the social-media world had never seen so much of a buzz; a buzz about which I was – no, I remain – at once flattered and baffled and overwhelmed. And so what happened next, I suspect, is that I rather fell into the trap of assuming that, given both the seriousness of what had come to pass and the presence of a new and surprisingly concerned audience, all anybody could possibly want to hear from me – be it through tweets or status updates or whatever – were Bullshit bulletins… which, I imagine, did the exact opposite of rescuing people from having their arses bored off.
The resulting outcome, however (understandably, perhaps, during a time when my schedule had never been more cancer-crammed) was that The Bullshit then became king, turning me into its pity-party of a court jester; its foolishly omnipresent, sympathy-garnering voice. But accepting as I am of the privileged position from which I can rat out the realities of cancer, what I flatly refuse to accept is becoming a poster girl for the pitiable.
The thing is, shitty a state of affairs in which I find myself, I don’t recall anyone having called time on my game just yet. And though I appreciate that we’re a little way past me getting what I want, there are still things I want, thank you very much. I want to blog because I love blogging, not to set an example to some imagined cancer community of which I’ve never considered myself a part. I want to be free to tweet or Facebook-post about whatever’s going on in my life without it looking like I’m doing it to harvest concern. I want to get texts and phonecalls and emails filled with gossip instead of worry, and I want to write lists of new-year pledges (#3: finish writing my next book, #4: no, actually finish writing my next book, #5: somehow become Zooey Deschanel) because it’s no different to what I’d normally do – and not because I’m concerned I’m running out of time.
What I want more than all of that, though, is for you to make a resolution for me. See, I don’t believe I’m going anywhere just yet. I don’t believe that every move I make or text I send or kiss I offer might be my last. And nor do I want you to believe it either. So how’s this for a new-year agreement: instead of wasting 2012 mourning a loss that hasn’t yet come to pass, let’s instead just spend it enjoying the loveliness that is the meantime, shall we? And in return, when it comes to the self-scrutiny of January 2013, I’ll go a little easier on myself. Deal?