Living and Learning (i). (continued from previous blog)

In the early part of this particular blog, we may well appear to be returning to ground previously covered in my earlier postings on coping with life-threatening illness; and to some extent that would be a valid conclusion to reach. However – and although it surely will do no harm to be reminded of what I think many would regard as the very basis of successful coping – the reason for such re-visitation will hopefully “unfold” in this and my next posting.

“I met my beautiful wife in the course of my work”, a man once told me. “I was an airline pilot and she a stewardess. We fell in love, decided to marry and found our ‘dream home’ in the country, less than half hour’s drive from the airport where we were both based. Between us, we could cope with a fairly hefty mortgage but were first required to undergo what we regarded as routine health screening. To our amazement and shock, my wife was shown to have a tumour which, following biopsy, turned out to be an unknown primary malignant tumour. Our house plans ‘bit the dust’ almost immediately and now she has been told that she has secondary tumour deposits in her liver. From, seemingly, having the world at our feet less than eighteen months ago, we now are, both of us, completely ‘shot apart’ and totally spent forces…what do you recommend?”

I must again confess that on more occasions than I care to remember, I have not only failed to know what to say in my next sentence, but even how to complete the one just begun. How does one respond when, care as one does and try as one might, words sound superficial, hollow and unconvincing and at times, yes, even irrelevant and profane? Clearly, there was no way in which I could respond to this man’s understandably sardonic and ‘acidic’ question in so many words, so I didn’t try. In fact, a little later, although unnecessary from my point of view, he apologized for what, as presumably he had reflected on things, he now described as his “very rude and uncooperative manner…before you had even opened your mouth”. I told him – and very genuinely so – that I should be happy to accept such abruptness many times over, were it somehow or in someway to actually ameliorate and assist him and his precious wife amid their justifiable anger, confusion and distress. However…” and that opened a door which, in the event, led the three of us on to more productive and I hope beneficial times ahead. But how does even the notion of coping enter our lives in the first place and begin to make an impact; so much so that slowly but surely, it prepares us for those more testing times ahead? Much of what eventually develops into our chosen and in some ways idiosyncratic “coping style” (if I might use that phrase) had its beginnings much earlier than we might at first think and certainly long before we consciously adopt and adapt them to suit and to fit to our personal and unique ways forward: more about this in my next blog. ©SB.

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