They call it "shrugging off" and in preparing for ministry, we are taught to be aware of others doing it, so that we may help people to move out of it, and be more authentic.
It's when we act as if something big is a mere trifle. "Mary," we say to the woman who has suffered a heart attack, "How ARE you?"
"Oh, it's really no big deal," Mary says with a shrug. "Just need to eat better and get more exercise."
Of course, being taught this doesn't mean that we necessarily model authenticity. Ministers are perhaps the worst -- "Oh, I'm fine," we say. "I'll be back in the pulpit next week."
It is a teeter-totter for me. On one hand, I don't want Little Warrior's cancer to define her, or define me. And it is a conversation-stopper, I can tell you. And life goes on. It is not something that guides all that we do. It was a normal part of her life, for us.
"It's not like it was the worst thing to happen in my life," I think to myself as I type this. And I stop.
Of course it was.
And even if we wanted to just shrug it off, pretend it was just a couple of blips, reality intrudes.
Little Warrior goes in for scans this Thursday. It's always hard, always. This one, a little more so. Because this is the appointment -- 1 scan shy of the 2 year marker -- where she relapsed. I still remember going down for scans, eating a salad while she had them done, telling The Husband that I would be surprised if anything showed up. Fool me twice ...
I spoke to a mentor recently about being gentle with herself. It's advice I've given before. And when I'm talking about another person, I truly believe in it, and understand it. But I'm not really sure what being gentle with myself means.
Maybe it means indulging in a little bit of navel-gazing on my blog. And not shrugging it off when a friend says, "I'll pray for LW." And being honest when someone asks me about it.
"So, you had no idea, the last time," a friend asked. That's right, I tell her. With the recurrence, there were no symptoms, the only sign was a dark spot on an MRI.
"I don't know how you and The Husband do it," she says. "How you live with the fear."
And this time, I don't shrug it off. "It's damned hard," I say.
"But we're the lucky ones," I add, my thoughts going to those who have something much harder, impossible to shrug off.