I was so happy basking in love that I didn't notice that what feels like love to me is pain for the person I'm feeling it from. After we heard that I probably don't have stomach cancer, everyone was giddy for a while, then all the people closest to me collapsed, haggard and spent.
I'm allowed to mentally check out, to stop worrying, to be silly or even happy. That's called resilience. But the people who love me think that being happy means they're callous, so they guard against it. Even if worry wanted to leave them, they'd chase after it. I always have something to do, because being resilient is considered an accomplishment; the people who love me feel like they can only do things at the margins, by listening, bringing food, or hugs. And if the worst comes to pass, I'll be dead and done with it all, but they'll just have a gaping wound that won't go away. So they're haggard and spent.
We tease my mom, and tell her she's not tough, because she's not what we think of as stoic--you can see the weight pressing on her, her nerves are frayed, she can't sleep, she doesn't laugh, her hands knead whatever's in them, and sometimes she'll just start to cry. Of course, we tease her because we can't help her; we wish she'd be ok, but we can't make it happen.
But I realized something about worry when I was the only one who knew about the suspicious stomach cells: it's work that needs to be done. I don't understand why, and things about "feeling in control" don't quite hit the mark. Whyever it is, when something's wrong, it demands worry. When my mom didn't know about the stomach, she wasn't worrying about it, and I was. It's like an acid that won't be still inside you, slowly singeing as it goes. But as soon as I told her, she took on the worry, and I relaxed, consoling her, thinking of the best case rather than the worst. And I realized too that she's been doing the worrying for all of us, embodying the worst that can happen, so that we have some place to go to try to make it better. We consoled ourselves by consoling her, and let go our worry because we knew she wouldn't let it go unworried.
She bore the worry for all of us, and not just our worry, but her own maternal worry, and her own thoughts of my dad's cancer, and her own cancer from not so many years ago. So silly that we would tease her, when she was tougher than all of us. But we don't have good ways of saying "thanks for doing my worrying for me," even when we find out that it's one of the things to be most thankful for. Maybe teasing is just an acknowledgement, but such a paltry and twisted one. Another reason to live: to say "thank you"--to everyone, and to my mom.