Once a year, sometimes more, I get together with some of the women from my all-girl Catholic school in Trinidad. The SJC girls have a lot in common, and though we weren’t all friends back in the day (I don’t think I was close with any of them, in fact) we all realize that we have far too much history not to spend time together. Even better, as we’ve all matured, we’ve all learned to be less judgmental and more supportive.
I’m also fortunate to have a close knit group of work chums from my days at McGraw-Hill. Three of those women are my kids’ godmothers. All of them have seen me at my worst, and have stuck around to tell the tale. (Though they know I’d kill them if they did.)
In the friend department, I consider myself pretty lucky. And yet, this week, when it felt like things were falling apart again, I turned to none of them. I didn’t even turn to my husband who is known for giving excellent and well-tempered advice, or my mother whose reminders to turn to prayer usually calms me down. The reason is this: I always get over it. And I’m tired of giving in to the panic, even for a little while.
For the last couple of years I’ve been in a constant level-orange panic based on the assumption that anything can and will go wrong at any moment. Cancer taught me that. But experience has taught me that I’m pretty good at coming up with clever solutions. Nick-of-time turnarounds seem to be my thing…if I don’t let the panic get to me first. Still, panic has become my default setting. I’m like an old lady walking down the street with a cane. Someone passing by can bump into every other person on the street, and they would walk on, slightly annoyed, but perfectly fine, but the old lady drops on the sidewalk, broken hip, sprained wrist, crying out that she’s going to probably die right that second. And then after the ambulance comes, they send her home because she doesn’t actually have a broken bone or sprain. She’s fine. Ugh. Being like that old lady is getting on my last nerve.
The flip side of this is that cancer also taught me to smile no matter what level of panic I’m experiencing at any given moment. I have perfected the façade of calm. A work colleague yesterday called me “cool.” She didn’t know that I’d had to walk around the block a few times saying the Our Father and Hail Marys until I was calm enough to get back to work. (All that good Catholic school training.)
So why write this? Why reveal the panic to everyone when I would tell no one person in particular? I’m hoping that by being public (without getting too specific) I can, by electronic osmosis, rid myself of the orange-level panic which goes to panic-level red in a snap. Even if nothing is better today, I would like at the very least, to only be on panic level blue, the default setting of average moms. I beat cancer. And this panic feels like the last vestige of that time. It’s time to beat this too.