In a 1967 movie called Wait Until Dark, Audrey Hepburn plays a recently blinded woman “terrorized by a trio of thugs,” according to the press release. I saw it in the theater, and it was very suspenseful and she beats the bad guys in the end, hurray for her. The part of the movie that has stuck with me, though, is at the beginning before the bad guys show up. Her character, Susy Hendrix, and her husband, Sam (played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) have an interaction in which he is insisting that she do everything for herself and learn to cope with her blindness. They have the following exchange:
Susy Hendrix: Do I have to be the world champion blind lady?
Sam Hendrix: Yes!
Susy Hendrix: [turns around] Then I will be.
That concept of “World Champion Blind Lady” has haunted me for 40+ years–what’s up with that? As I have been going through the experience of having cancer and surgery for it, I think I finally understand the chord it strikes with me.
In my family of origin, expressing or even having feelings was frowned upon. We were expected to be brave little soldiers in every circumstance: self-sufficient, plucky and have a smile on our faces. And one of the most powerful injunctions was against sharing negative feelings with others: “Nobody wants to hear your troubles.” I bought it and lived it for most of my life. There were difficult times in my life that I tried to paste a smile over, and in my mind at least, nobody knew I was having problems. Later I found out that people who cared about me could tell, but I wasn’t letting anyone in far enough to share my pain. By golly, I was determined to be the World Champion Blind Lady!
But on some hidden level, I knew there was a terrible disconnect with that concept. The movie never showed Susy being sad or mad or scared about being blind. And I have learned the cost of ignoring the animal brain through bitter experience; it WILL have its say, however it has to communicate.
So, I’ve been very busy being the World Champion Cancer Patient, staying focused on the positives of it being caught early and not needing anything but surgery, imagining that sharing my experiences may help another woman who finds herself in this situation, and being a healing superstar after surgery. Those are absolutely valid and legitimate, and I celebrate my ability to see the positive side of anything.
If I want this chronicle to be complete, though, I have to share my “other” emotions, too. The words that open the door to how I FEEL about this are, “I wish I didn’t have cancer.” I feel a wave of sadness wash over me that I had to have parts of my body removed. I am furious at the people who did the tests that turned up the cancer. I try to put a rational spin on it by saying they communicated badly, but the fact is, I HATE them for telling me I was broken in a way that I didn’t even know. I resent how the pain of surgery keeps me from being close with my boyfriend.
The very fact of acknowledging and sharing negative emotions takes their power away and lets them move through me, thus releasing emotional energy that was being used in trying to suppress them. Blocked energy is harmful; as long as it’s moving, even if it hurts, it’s healthy.
I wish I didn’t have cancer.