One of the most wonderful results of my being diagnosed w/cancer is the relationships that I have developed and/or intensified as a result. That result has often been indirect, almost incidental. Sometimes, it is nothing more than the couldn't-be-coincidental timing that reveals the cause/effect relationship.
I am much more ready to open up to people these days. Not that I was overly private before; sometimes being frank to a fault. Just that often times in the past, I didn't think that people cared enough about what I had to offer. Now, I don't make that decision a priori – I put my stuff out there and let it roll from there.
Many of my friendships are more intense. I tell many more people how much I love them every time we part or hang up or whenever. My exchanges with long-time friends from college, for instance, are at a depth that we've never shared before.
Just as my highs are higher, my lows are lower. My heart is bigger, more sensitive. I cry much more easily now. I actually carry a handkerchief with me to church. The love and pain that folks share during the prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of need just before the end of the service usually set me off. Deeper depths and lower lows are good things.
The beauty is that I don't think this would change in the least if I was suddenly assured that my mortality was no more in danger than anyone else. It's not a function of my potential "short-timerness". The equation has irrevocably changed. It is clear why that should be the case for me with everyone I know or meet. My change is universal in that sense. So, although I feel that intimacy from others, I can't say whether this intensity is rippling out into other exchanges. (As I wish it would.) Their experience might be more local – i.e., just with me.
On the other side of the coin, possibly the single saddest outcome of my diagnosis – other than the more real possibility that I might not be around to grow up with my babies – is the relationships that have not changed very much. The disappointment for me comes from wanting something more from important relationships in my life, appreciating that import in a new way, yet having that potential unrealized. As I've said before, there is no good reason why we shouldn't listen, love, trust and share more.
I do not suddenly expect to interact with everyone I meet with the gravity of a final exchange. But I do believe that we make false choices ourselves, apply outdated models that we've carried with us since childhood, and misinterpret the intentions of others regularly. All in the service of a perspective we refuse to relinquish. It's our safe place. I've had little choice myself but to let go of many of my safe places.
None of it has been coincidental for me. Letting go has been my blessing from God. Please join me in the laughter and the tears.