At Least

It took me getting cancer to realize that America’s pastime isn’t baseball. It’s attempting to find silver linings no matter how dark the clouds are.

I can’t tell you how many people have tried to make…me? themselves? both? feel better about this whole cancer nonsense by pointing out things that aren’t horrible. They said “At least you have a nicely shaped head” when I went bald. Or “At least you have a good disability pension.” Or “At least you got to meet some new friends because of cancer.”

I did it too, to be honest. Until one day, when I was done with denial, I thought, “You know what? This situation sucks, why am I looking for the bright side in this as if that’s going to make it not suck? My nicely shaped head doesn’t change the fact that I have a terminal illness.”

Since then, “At least” has become my least favorite phrase. And it seems like Americans in particular use it ALL. THE. TIME. As in “At least more people weren’t killed in that 100 car pileup” or “At least 9/11 really brought Americans together in a spirit of community.”

Are you fucking kidding me? No. Just no.

Sometimes it worries me that we, as a culture, don’t seem to know what to do when people are struggling except to try to distract them from the thing that’s wrong. We tell people who experience racism that at least they aren’t living in the era of slavery. We tell people who are grieving the loss of a loved one in war that at least they died serving their country. We tell people who lost their job that at least they still have their health. It’s like we’re saying that if there’s anything in your life that isn’t shitty, that’s supposed to make it OK that something really bad happened.

I mean, look, I don’t think we should all just sit around moping and giving up all hope whenever something bad happens, and ignoring everything good that happens. But pretending like a shitty situation isn’t so bad because not every inch of it isn’t completely covered in manure? That’s dumb. And really dismissive to the person living with the poop.

Instead, how about we acknowledge that something is wrong and ask “How can I help?” How can I help the family of the police officer who was murdered? How can I help the person who is homeless? Why not take our American optimism and ingenuity and face the problem head-on and come up with solutions?

It seems like an umbrella is a lot more useful to someone caught in the rain than just pointing out that there’s a rainbow.

8 thoughts on “At Least

  1. The “at least” mentality is the same reason people often say “everything happens for a reason.” What kind of fucked up shitty ass reason is it, exactly, that explains why kids get sick and die? Why young mothers are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? Why teenagers die in car accidents?

    It’s a bunch of crap. We try to wrap it up and make it look pretty, but let’s be honest: a turd in a box with a lovely blue bow stinks the same as a turd in a brown paper bag …. it’s still just a piece of shit.

  2. Well, I’m not nearly in as tough a situation as you, but I’ve had years of people responding to my napping with “I wish ****I**** could just nap in the middle of the day whenever I want.” To which I reply, “Taking a leisurely nap is to napping-because-you can’t-function-otherwise as making sweet love is to being raped. Now go away I have to lie down.”

    I dunno. Maybe there’s something there you can use. You should not have to suffer fools gladly.
    Espy recently posted…Resolved 2015: Moms in Charge Instead of in Therapy!My Profile

  3. I’m going to start a crusade. I want to ban the use of the word “but”. Not ban butts, because I like me a fine ass. But using the word but. “Yeah, you have terminal cancer, but you have a nice head!” Fuck that.

    And it’s very simple to do. Simply replace the word “but” with the word “and”. “God it sucks you have terminal cancer. AND you have a nicely shaped head.” They can both co-exist.

    “Oh, you’re stuck in a downpour, that sucks. And there’s a rainbow!”

    Both shitty situations and good things can coexist at the same time. We just suck at letting them both be there because we want The Happy all the time. But if we had The Happy all the time, we wouldn’t be…well, happy. That whole “without darkness there can be no light thing.”

  4. Oh Beth, what a sad blog today….I don’t have a terminal illness, thank God, but there are a lot of people who have the Pollyanna Syndrome (my terminology). We know there are NO silver linings when it comes to a terminal illness but after People have helped, I imagine we’d say most anything to, as you said, try to make you/ourselves feel better. That’s why everyone was so happy that your hellish/nightmarish treatments have, at least, extended your life and the quality of your life. We do want you to find a thread of something that will give just a tad of hope.
    Look at all those people who just knew that the chemo was going to cure you. They didn’t know what a diagnosis like yours meant; all they knew was that some people who have had cancer have been cured. It takes those of us who have been there to really know…
    Forgive us our thoughtlessness but we really love you and what your last few decades (see, I’m doing it) to be many.

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