i and my thunderstorm

my friends have recently (and vehemently) (and unanimously) informed me that i’m not an extrovert.

i sort of thought i was.  i take initiative.  i hold my own in conversation.  i have interesting things to say.  people (mostly) listen when i talk.  in high school, college, i raised my hand in class more often than most.  i say my piece in meetings with everyone from executives to neurosurgeons.  i let myself be known.  right?

apparently not.  apparently extroverts do catlike cartwheels on camera in crowded cemeteries.  about five people reading this will catch that specific reference, but you get the picture:  if that’s the kind of person i’m being compared to, then i’m definitely not an extrovert.

introverts, on the other hand, do things like clam up in social situations where they don’t know many people (check); avoid making eye contact with strangers (check); fiercely guard their privacy from their neighbors (check).

hmm.  so maybe i’m not as extroverted as i thought.  and maybe, just maybe, i don’t let myself be known as much as i thought, either.  am i an enigma?  are there parts of myself that i hide from other people?  and, if so, how much of that is a good thing?  i mean, everyone has to have some secrets, right?  keep some things close to their chest?  not air their dirty laundry to the world?

how much authenticity and vulnerability is the right amount?  for me?  at this time in my life?

i think the answer is more.

so far through this process, there have been very few people i’ve been truly authentic and vulnerable with.  i’ve sobbed uncontrollably with them.  i’ve thrown things across the room with them.  i’ve despaired with them.  i’ve talked about hopelessness and death and fear and anger and guilt and resentment and envy with them.

i’ve been consoled by them.

and in some cases (though not all), i’ve had to teach them how to console me.  i’ve had to tell this handful of trusted ones not to try to fix things, not to try to cheer me up, not to tell me everything will be ok, not to ask me to look on the bright side.

because i already know about the bright side.  and, believe me, i try my damndest to spend as much time on the bright side as i possibly can.  i like the bright side.  the bright side is good to me.

but then there’s the dark side.  the dark side sneaks up on me suddenly like a thunderstorm in the southwest.  take yesterday, for example, when i was blow-drying my hair and picturing my life in a few years — done with chemo, healthy, happy, vibrant, impassioned.  and then…BAM.  i die.  just like that.  or maybe it’s not quite so sudden.  maybe i lose more motor function and end up in a wheelchair.  maybe i lose my ability to speak, my cognitive reasoning, my memory.

and yeah, yeah, i know all the standard responses:  “it’s not worth dwelling on the what-ifs.”  “it’s about living life to the fullest while there’s still life to live.”  “any one of us could get hit by a car tomorrow while crossing the street.”  “life is inherently uncertain.”

i know all these things.  i do.

but what i want you to know about me is that sometimes i’m really, really sad.  sometimes i can’t stop crying.  sometimes it seems hopeless.  sometimes i want to give up.

so, in a small gesture of extroversion (and authenticity) (and vulnerability), i’m asking you, when i and my thunderstorm come to seek comfort, just to hug me.  and let me cry until i’m too tired to cry anymore.  and tell me that you know it’s hard.  and that you care.

because there’s nothing else to do.  i’m not going to be ok.  i have a chronic illness that will kill me unless something else does first — or they find a cure.  and most of the time i accept that and i’m ok with it.  but, sometimes, i don’t and i’m not.

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13 thoughts on “i and my thunderstorm

  1. Naomi, I am speechless. . I wish I had seen you on my last trip to LA. I will come visit you on my next trip, in either Sept or November. . May G-d give you the strength to get through this. Hugs and Kisses, Chanie

  2. Hi Naomi,

    I am your dad’s cousin Cindy and have been following you on your journey. I too have a cancer story but I was lucky enough to survive it. I can relate to the issues that you are working through. I think they are normal for anyone facing the potential of an early death. You have had so many things to work through at such a young age and you are doing that with grace and authencity. Know that I hold you in may heart and pray for God to shed his grace on you.

    Blessings, Cindy

  3. I think what is comforting is to also know that people you may not even think too much about on a daily basis think about you… I met you through a friend and thought to myself after the third time of meeting your smile that you leave that lasting impression. You are so brave, beautiful, strong, such a great writer, your soul shines.

    Katie

  4. Naomi – I was introduced to your blog by a friend of mine and a cousin of yours – Josh. I am a student of Marriage and Family Therapy here in Wichita, and am constantly amazed at how well you put into words what you are experiencing. Some of the people I work with struggle to do this at times, and I was wondering if you would mind if I shared pieces of your blog with them. I think it may be helpful to some of them to begin to have words to describe what they are experiencing and see that other individuals have similar questions, thoughts, and realizations. I can vision times that it would be useful to start conversations, or just request that someone stop and care for them (and with them).

    Thanks

    • Hi Eric. Thanks for your note. Please feel free to share my blog with anyone whom you feel could benefit from it. I started this blog with the hope of communicating my journey with those I know (family and friends). I am also eager to leverage my experiences to help anyone else dealing with painful life events. I have found that freely sharing my thoughts and feelings and communicating my needs with others has led to an outpouring of empathy and support. The more I’ve been able to let people know how they can help, the more I’ve felt helped and lifted up. That’s definitely a lesson worth sharing. Best of luck with finishing up school!

      N

  5. Dear Naomi, I am sitting in my kitchen in Stavanger, Norway – crying.
    You might not remember me, but I had the absolute pleasure of knowing you years ago in Albuquerqe. One time when I babysat you and Tim you were less than impressed with my diaper-changing skills and was not so certain that your little brother was in good hands:) I have such lovely memories of hanging out with you and your charming family – and my heart goes out to you – as do my hopes of strength and many good moments in the days days.
    Love, Anne Lise

  6. Hi love, I remember you saying recently that you’ve been updating your blog, and I’m so happy that I’m getting to read your updates now. You are such an incredible writer and have such a deep understanding of yourself. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts and musings with your loved ones and with the world. Thank you for your awe-inspiring words!

    Love,
    Ali

  7. Well said, Naomi. You put things into words so well. Though I cannot fathom the difficulty of your particular situation, I can relate to so much of what you said here. Thank you for sharing.

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