There’s a phrase I lean on all the time when things aren’t in my control and I’m stuck: it’s “who cares.” But it’s not the who cares you think it is—not the one that means “I don’t care.” This is a different one. I’ll explain.
It was Christmastime, about 3 or 4 years ago–and I was visiting my folks back east. I was in the kitchen of my next-door neighbor, Darlin–who was my godmother and neighbor for as long as I’d been a person in the world. I always loved to hang out at her house during the holidays and find out what all of her 6 kids, in-laws and her grandchildren were up to. I considered them all my extended family and so, on this afternoon before Christmas, I pulled up a kitchen barstool and listened in on the conversation.
Debbie was talking about her youngest son, Isaac, and she was telling everyone how naughty he was being lately. He was probably 6 or 7–the right age for being naughty–and she was saying how he’d done something he shouldn’t have, I don’t remember what. I’ll just pretend it was spilling milk for the sake of this blog. So she was saying “and he’s spilled his milk. And I said, Isaac, pick up the milk. And he didn’t. So I said, Isaac, really. Pick up the milk. It’s a mess. And it will smell if you don’t clean it up. ”
Then Debbie looks at us and says, “And you know what that little imp said to me? Who cares.”
Now I have to insert here that part of the adorableness of the story was Isaac’s Boston-like accent–which Debbie imitated. If you’re from that area you know what I’m tawkin-bout: our As are more like Es. Our Rs are non-existent. And we can make multi-syllables appear from nowhere in a word that has 4 letters.
So in this story, it’s the A in “cares” that I need to explain. It’s like the e in key. That’s the accent Debbie used when she imitated Isaac. “Who key-ahs.” “And then,” she finished up, “he just ran out to play.”
I took that story home with me and I thought about it all night long. At this point in my health, I had metastatic breast cancer in my lung. I kept rolling that story over in my mind and I transferred it over to me. In my situation, battling friggin cancer, to be able in the moments when I have no control and all seems lost in the doc’s office, to have a “who-key-ahs” attitude and just move through it. To be able to just let go of the angst and anger and keep moving… even if milk has spilled and I can’t pick it up. Wouldn’t that be a gift to let go and really feel like since I can’t do anything about it, forget it.
Almost 5 years later, I say “who key-ahs” all the time: especially now that I have breast cancer in my liver and my brain. And I use that phrase long after I’ve cried hard over something I can’t change. Ex: I can’t get my ass out of bed on Xeloda. Who cares. Ex: My hair may not ever grow back after whole brain radiation–I may be bald for life. Who cares. Ex: I can’t get to 6a.m. spin now that chemo is kicking my-ass. Who cares.
It’s not that I don’t care about this bullsh-t I’m battling: I sure as hell DO care. But when I can’t do a damn thing about something, and when the rest of the world would be angry and getting in a froth over it, I think– I’m not putting any more of my energy into something I can’t change. I can only move forward, and to hell with what’s not in my control.
So at this Christmastime, I raise a glass of un-spilled milk to my buddy and my little pal, Isaac–who now doubt has zero idea that a story told about him many Christmases ago is helping this cancer fighter through some of her worst moments ever in this long battle with the breast cancer beast.
Here’s to Isaac: my pint-sized therapist–who guides my steps and the steps of others I’ve shared this story with over these last years–as we traverse the scary, the unforseen and the frightening of our lives. So we don’t have ultimate control: so we don’t know our fates. And we may not really ever understand why bad thing happen to good people in this world. And we may never know why..
and who key-ahs..