After doing not one, but two back-to-back yoga classes after a 2-week hiatus, I was feeling pretty good about myself, about life. An old friend joined me for both classes and we got to catch up a little outside class. I heard some good road tunes on the drive home–my endorphins were high and felt damn good. Nothing could touch me as I made my way to my apartment, to my husband, the shower, the bed.
And then I saw the sign in the elevator.
I belong to my apartment complex’s book club. The former property manager, who is a friend, started it and I thought it would be a good way to a) force myself to finish at least one book a month, b) get to know my neighbors, c) engage in intellectual conversation, d) drink wine on the complex’s dime.
We’ve read an array of books in the club, some I would have chosen myself, some I definitely wouldn’t have picked up without persuasion. I look forward to seeing what title is chosen each month, even if I don’t necessarily look forward to actually reading the book.
I learned that next month’s book is Jan’s Story. The Amazon review/synopsis posted on the flyer is as follows:
Imagine hearing these words: “She has Alzheimer’s.” Now imagine that “she” is vibrant, active, loving, healthy…and just 55. Acclaimed CBS News reporter Barry Petersen, writes about hearing the unimaginable: what it meant, what it still means, what he did–and didn’t do–and how this beautiful love story needs to be read by the thousands of families who have already heard that same devastating diagnosis…EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER’S. Jan’s Story is a full, rich story of two people–and thousands like them–for whom “forever” suddenly and terrifyingly has an expiration date. Barry Petersen is a long-time, award-winning TV journalist who has covered wars, the devastating Asian tsunami, the historic confrontation at Tiananmen Square, the unspeakable deaths in Rwanda, and so much more…but was not even slightly prepared for what happened to his darling wife, Jan.
To say the least, I was not prepared to see my life story posted on the elevator in my building. And just like that, those endorphins I worked so long to get moving quietly slipped out of my legs and I had to brace myself from crumbling right there on the 5×5 floor of that enclosed space and curl up in the fetal position.
In a stupid fit of rage and not thinking, I actually went straight to the door of the woman who is in charge of the book club to tell her I would not be participating in this meeting. Just 20 minutes later, I don’t even know why that was my reaction or why I thought running to her door at 10:30 p.m. even made the least bit of sense–what would she do, beyond feel guilty for something she a) has no control over b) would have no idea would affect me so deeply?
But sadness is a funny thing and sometimes it’s a thing that does not allow you to think rationally. Especially because I have talked to people, even in book club, about my mother and her illness. But it’s been an example when the topic has not totally focused on Alzheimer’s, or early onset Alzheimer’s, or how fucking devastating this disease is for the person and the families affected, for my mom and my family.
I have done my best to accept the fate that has been handed to my mother and essentially to me, but it is impossible to stop the hurt and pain of it from creeping up. Through this blog, through talking to the people in my life about it, by not making this something that people feel afraid to talk about with me or with other people, I feel like I am trying my best to work through this and come to terms with it. But I can tell you right now there is no way I could get through that book right now, and beyond that, there is no way I could have a conversation with a room full of practical strangers about the thing in my life that has caused me the most pain and heartbreak I have ever felt.
As my husband can tell you, I do not like to cry in front of other people. Anyone. Not even him. This is something he doesn’t understand and maybe something I don’t fully understand either, but it’s not too difficult for me to figure out: I didn’t like crying in front of my parents because I didn’t want to ever seem affected by something. I know it is not a right point of view, but I see crying in front of others as a sign of personal weakness (or, if they got me upset, as a sign of them “winning”?). I don’t view other people’s tears like that, but for whatever warped reason, I have set an expectation for myself to not emote like that for others to see. To me, crying is something I do when I am alone, when no one can hear my hiccup-y sobs, when no one can see the tears and snot run down my face. For all the others ways I like to make a silly spectacle of myself, that is definitely not one of them.
I also do not want to be the “expert” during the discussion or someone that everyone sensitively and sympathetically asks questions to. I think that’s a kind reaction, but it’s uncomfortable, and I know it will be terrible in that setting…
But even now, two paragraphs later, I’m torn as to whether or not it’s “good” for me to participate in this. After having my private cry fest and blog bitch, I feel better and feel like maybe this would be a “good” thing for me to attend; however, I also don’t know how I will feel in the moment or during the actual meeting. I guess I have time before I have to decide, but I just wish this wasn’t a decision I had to make at all…