Friend Linda is still on my mind (see last week’s blog), so permit me a Chapter 2 in her story.
After publishing the post, I wrote Linda about it, saying I hoped I hadn’t negligently understated the situation she’s facing. Here’s the email she sent in reply:
Understated?—possibly. Maybe like me, your mind is running overtime to truly comprehend my reality, let alone really internalise this reframing business.
Maybe there is just too much going on, too many layers, too many unknowns floating out there waiting to land, regardless of our unbridled optimism for a scott-free future.
Maybe being “understated” is how we can move forward, putting one foot in front of the other, and hold our course, fears and all.
We can wax lyrical when the other side is safely trod.
I love that. All of it.
I try to put myself in Linda’s place. Have a think about what she’s dealing with:
First, there’s the surgery. Removing a breast is no small thing, especially when your breast is no small thing. When you hug me, you get enthusiasm but also some solid contact with ribcage and shoulder blade. When you hug Linda, as I did after the party on Saturday night, I could have hugged her cushiony self forever. Now, that’s a hug.
So what would it be like to remove an ample bosom that has played a major role, for better or for worse, in one’s life? They’re relatively impractical attachments but we have a lot of history with them. If you didn’t read Kate Llewellyn’s poem when I linked it to my post last week, read it now. Or just enjoy these excerpts:
As I lean over to write
one breast warm as a breast from the sun
hangs over as if to read what I’m writing
these breasts always want to know everything
sometimes exploring the inside curve of my elbow
sometimes measuring a man’s hand
these are my body’s curious fruit
wanting to know everything
always getting there first
strange as white beetroot
exotic as unicorns
useless as an out of order dishwasher
Granted that Kate is unapologetically personifying a piece of flesh that clings to the front of some of us—but her words capture the spirit of something about the way we women regard our breasts.
My own B-cup bosom rarely peaks into my armpit or gets hooked on the top rail of the fence, as Kate’s does, but I would still miss it if it were to be removed. Linda, like Kate, has lived with an assertive set of companions since she was a teenager. Imagine getting your head around losing them.
And that’s only one side of the scot-free equation for Linda. The other looming issue is what that lump inside has been doing, and what impact it might have on her coming months and years. There’s no point even going there until next Friday when the pathology results come in—but try not going there! Our heads don’t work that way.
This business that Linda describes as “our unbridled enthusiasm for a scot-free future”—what a species we are. You gotta love us human beings. We ache for that scot-free future, and then we try to ignore that ache, and that causes us more ache. Etc. Scot-free is not in the cards.
Nobody ever described our predicament more poignantly than Leunig, who always knows exactly what to say:
We saw Linda this afternoon, the day after her surgery. I had texted her first, wondering if it was too soon to drop in for “a five-minute visit”. She replied: come soon and be prepared to stay for a lot longer than five minutes.
Linda looked terrific. Perhaps it was the civility of modern-day anaesthetics, or more likely her own indomitable life-force, but she was in great shape (though admittedly a somewhat concave one). She talked about the surgery, pain (none), the hospital food (great), the prognosis (no point speculating til Friday), and her gardens (loving the rain)—and had a go at Tony Abbott, which is when I knew for sure she was doing all right.
Will Linda get away scot-free? Will any of us? Perhaps all we can do is face our issues as straight and courageously as Linda has done, and maybe “manage the symptoms” of the Leunig-style lifeache. Linda, please remind us one more time:
“…Maybe being understated is how we can move forward, putting one foot in front of the other, and hold our course, fears and all.”
If you’re something of an etymologist, don’t miss this description of the origin of the phrase “scot-free” (especially if you’re wondering whether it’s “scot” or “scott”, as I was).