A few weeks ago, I was moaning about all of the horrible possibilities that could be the state of my health with my sister on the phone. On and on I went. And on and on. And on some more. When I finally finished, a little impressed that she’d let me go on so long, she paused before asking if I was done.
“Yessir! Thanks for listening.”
“I’m your sister, I will always listen to you while you’re in your pothole. But, just so you know, I wish for your sake that you would spend less time in your pothole.”
I got off the phone with her and thought about this image. A pothole: a temporary hole in the road ahead. Avoidable. Sometimes deep enough to puncture a tire, sometimes barely noticeable. Created any number of ways: when water seeps into a crack and then freezes, breaking apart the asphalt, or sometimes when a part of the road is not made well, and then worried to death by passing cars.
Ever since December 11, when I was told that my PET scan looked strange and the possibility remained that I still might have cancer, I have been running through my what-ifs, usually in this precise order:
1) I might still have cancer.
2) If I still have cancer, they’re going to want to give me stem cell treatment.
3) They’re going to want to start right away.
4) Which means that I won’t have time for the Lupron to wear off (my artificial menopause is currently due to wear off by Feb 28) before they want to begin.
5) Which means they won’t want to give me the time to try to harvest eggs again.
6) Because the first time failed, I have no eggs/embryos currently frozen.
7) Stem cell treatment is horrible in and of itself.
8) I would lose my hair again.
9) I would lose my body again.
10) I would probably completely lose my fertility.
11) Michael and I wouldn’t be able to have babies that look like us.
12) Unless we go a different route for treatment.
13) Nobody wants to talk about that.
Depending on how I’m feeling that particular day, I shut down at any point along this list and burst into tears. If I make it to 13, I shut down and burst into tears. And anything could trigger my walk down my list: “why are you having so many hot flashes, Lydia?” “Why are you having fewer hot flashes, Lydia?” “Why are you so tired?” “Why is your appetite so variable?” “Why did you just cough that weird way?” “Why did you just have to stop and catch your breath?” “Why did you get so little sleep last night?” “Why did you get so much?”
You get the point.
This is the list that I was walking down with my sister on the day she referred to my pothole (I hadn’t slept well, so of course my response was “well, I might still have…”). This is the list that, whenever I’m going through it with Michael, he gently puts his hand on me and says, “wait to worry.”
Potholes are avoidable. What ifs are avoidable. Worry is useless until there is something about which to worry (even then, I’ll admit, its usefulness is questionable).
Sitting in a pothole is bound to get me creamed by a tire. Sitting with my what ifs are bound to get me creamed by the emotional onslaught. Worrying before I know what I am actually dealing with is emotionally draining if not damaging.
Pothole. What If. Wait to Worry.
What If Pothole.
Now that I see a tire coming at me every time I think about running through my what ifs while sitting in my pothole, I find that I’m sitting there less. And driving myself crazy less.
Pithy words of wisdom have a very different impact and a lot more meaning now that I am in the middle of something actually really tough. Having a personal catch-phrase is incredibly useful; I literally catch myself before tumbling down my personal what-if chain-of-thought hell.
I’ve now got a name for the thing that I want to avoid because it hurts: the What If Pothole. Feel free to remind me of it when you see the tire coming for me.