It a bit of serendipity, just before all this broke I had been offered a professional project by an organization in Holland for which I had done some previous research. You see, while I love being a flight attendant, it is sort of my “day job”. It is great (most of the time), but it does lack some of the cerebral challenge that I crave. I have often planned to leave flying, but the lifestyle is addictive and the flight benefits invaluable to my family (esp. given that I live so far away), so I prefer to work in my other passions when I can, rather than abandoning one for the other completely. This contract job fell squarely into just such a category. The organization and I had made arrangements for me to fit the work into my flying schedule. It was a lot of writing and I could telecommute.
A couple of days before I had met Dr. Awesome (what I will now call my onco Dr. Neven) I went to the offices in the Hague to have the first working day in collaboration with my colleague and good friend Ilse. I was not yet too concerned (so I thought) although I had given it serious thought and knew that the responsible thing for me to do would be to inform them about the medical situation, in case I would be unable to fulfill my deadline promises.
The day started fine enough. I went to the offices, said hello to my old colleagues, made Ilse and I some coffee, made small talk and settled into an empty office to work. I had mentioned to her in a passing conversation that I would need to speak to her about something that may affect the job. When I said that it was casual enough, but I felt a catch in my throat that I cleared away like a bit of phlegm. About an hour later when it was finally just the two of us, I told her the news.
Ilse, I have discovered on multiple occasions, is one of two friends I have that will make me cry every time intensely personal subjects come up. In this way, something about her makes me feel very exposed. As a general rule this is uncomfortable for me, yet it is not wholly unwelcome. I don’t like it, but I think it’s good for me. I am not sure why she has the effect she does, though I have a pop-psychology theory that it has to do with two things: one is that I was working in this office when my mother died. I was around these colleagues during the most raw days I had ever seen. I was automatically more exposed than usual, and once someone has seen this side of you, it seems one can only patch it back up. Sort of like water damage on a wall, the plaster in that spot always crumbles more easily than spots that have never been exposed to the moisture.
The second thing about Ilse is that she is Dutch, and one thing I both love and find challenging about the Dutch people is their terrible honesty. They are not prone to saying your new haircut looks great if it doesn’t. Furthermore, they often won’t chose to say nothing; they will come right out and tell you that it doesn’t look great. Some people hate this about the Dutch; I love it. You always know where you stand with them, and you are free to repond in a similarly uncensored fashion. But in return, I find it difficult to lie to them. They’re like some strange alien culture in which lies don’t (feel like they) exist. So even when I can lie to myself about how deeply something affects me, I cannot lie to Ilse. Even if I am 90% okay and 10% privately bothered (naturally), the bodily function to keep the private part private gets overridden and out comes Katy Crypants.
So, needless to say, Ms. Me, who had not once cried about all this, still feeling lucky I was looking at lumpectomy and rads, suddenly had the snotty nose and runny mascara. But however uncomfortable it makes me on the surface, I kind of love Ilse for having the magic power to make my body acknowledge things that it would prefer not to simply because they are difficult. I think emotion is incredibly healthy, and I think it is a healer, as much as I am a latecomer in life to this opinion and still struggle to embrace it. Thank goodness for those freaky Dutch.