The masks we wear to disguise ourselves..

17th November 2014: Sydney Australia

My eyes lock to a figure walking about fifty meters ahead. Instantly, the figure is identified, and I am able to work out from the leisurely pace that in approximately 20 seconds we would be crossing paths. Immediately, my first reaction is to stall, dropping back the pace to an almost creeping speed or looking at my surroundings to see if there is anything of interest to spend a few minutes focusing upon. Unfortunately, not many options are available on the daily walk from the beach with just my surfboard, so bending down to tie up my shoes is out of the question. Also, the unnecessary phone call to someone is unable to be made. I estimate the change of pace only lasted at most ten steps before my escape had to be aborted. So, off I went, again taking the walk at normal pace and making contact right on about 50 metres.

Why the thoughts of avoidance? Well, it’s simple, I knew from the very moment of working out the basic calculations of meeting the person at that time would eventuate in a line of questioning, consisting of: so how are you, you still taking chemo, good you still got your hair, etc. I can understand the questions are coming from both a caring and friendly place, and is probably the reason for deciding to opt with the neighbourly decision of remaining at such a pace to receive the bundle of expected questions. I also felt the conversation pushed me to act in a way aligned with my outlook on life, opposed to advocating the advantages of living in a friendly community yet actively behaving in such an opposing manner.

I am not sure if it was just the expected questions or whether thoughts of avoidance derived from the need to falsely put on a mask disguising my actual feelings, however, I think it is fairly accurate in hypothesising that the comments are coming from a good place, and the observation of me walking home from a surf would also provide an indication of me feeling well. I ponder the social laws governing these situations and how it would be scaled should a true portrayal of my feelings and thought process be provided? Maybe it is just me, and I should have just honestly explained that generally I am feeling very positive, however, I am actually not doing so well today. I also reflect on whether my resistance to honesty results from the desire of not wanting to burden others with my bouts of misery or just a plain discomfort in expressing my feelings? Alternatively, it could be the attempt to uphold a strong, positive and energetic outward showing of my ability at moving on from the Cancer. A strategy combatting the common perceived narrative about being a person who had or has Cancer, i.e. that poor guy, how sad it is to hear the news about him/her.

On all accounts, I think the right decision was made. My reasoning includes the fact and privilege of living in a community where people bump into each other to talk are some of the foundations of a cohesive and caring society. Finally, the choice of not delving into detail about how I was actually feeling was the correct decision. I believe there are certain people in our lives to share these certain feelings with, and a little less detailed story is more appropriate for others. Therefore, in summing up the points, it seems I may need to shop for some more masks for future days 🙂