Thursday, May 04, 2006

Journal: On the job

Last night, my friend L who has lymphoma came over for dinner. A few months ago, L came back to town after an absence of a couple years, during which time she'd undergone two autologous stem cell transplants. L picked up her car (which had been rusting in our driveway), signed a lease, went back to her job, and in her spare time, started training for a triathlon that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. She looks like a million bucks, and her hair's coming back nicely into an unkempt salt-and-peppery bird's nest.

The triathlon is this weekend. L won't be running, owing to a fracture in her leg, but she'll be donning a wet suit and swimming whatever ridiculous distance it is that triathletes swim. She also managed to get roped into agreeing to deliver some kind of motivational speech to participants the night before the event. Last night, over peach pie, L and my wife and I puzzled over what she should say.

I went to bed sorta early, and I'm not sure whether a speech got written or not. But at one point, L was wondering whether there's any way to explain what it was like to go through her treatment, whether it would be motivational for her to give the excruciating narrative, when she came up with a perfect metaphor for having a serious illness: it's like having a crappy job.

It's like having a crappy job, which you hate, but you continue to show up for work every day, because you don't have any choice, and so you sit in your cubicle under the florescent lights and work, and when you have a moment, maybe you think about how it would be nice if you got a better job, and maybe you even sneak in a little work on your resume, but nobody calls you back, and so you keep on showing up for work, because what else could you do? And maybe every now and then, you think to yourself, Fuck it, I'm just going home to watch TV, you can just fire me, but then your phone rings and it's your boss, or your boss's secretary, and the secretary asks you an incredibly stupid question, and then you're back at it again, working, because what else can you do?

L said she's met people who told her that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them. I find it hard to believe that somebody who is still sick, who's still stuck in that crappy job, could ever say that.

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