Thursday, January 28, 2010

Red Car Syndrome

So you go to buy a new car. A red car. And as you're driving home, you notice all of the red cars around you. Surely there weren't that many before. Are you a trendsetter? Did they all know you were going to get one?

This is how I feel about suffering right now. There is SO MUCH suffering now, all around me. It numbs me. A local infant, shaken to death. One of my daughter's classmates just lost her dad to a hit and run. A close friend is watching her marriage of 20 years disintegrate. Metastatic cancer at 61. A local boy, having won against cancer once, now gets leukemia. And Haiti, devastated Haiti....I can't even listen to the news about it, let alone watch it. I made my Red Cross donation and turned it off. I can't process it.

Has this always been here? Why am I just seeing it now? Is this because of my suffering, or am I just the age that all this crap starts?

12 comments:

Snickollet said...

It's peaks and valleys for me. I'll be surrounded by tragedy, then I'll get a respite from it for a while. Well, a respite from the tragedy of others. The personal grief is always there, as you know.

Sorry there is so much suffering in general, and in your world in particular, right now.

Always sorry that Henry is gone.

SOCKS said...

Clever analogy, per usual. I think part of it is your age - bad things start happening to your own age group that were unlikely to happen when you were younger (although you are the unfortunate exception),

And, there is a raw, real awareness of your own mortality at your age, and what that means to your children.

We are fortunate if we can be with them for their ride to adulthood and parenthood. But our vulnerability builds.

Anonymous said...

Your words brought back last year for me. It started January 9th when my dad went into the hospital for the last time kept going strong until my grandma died just before Christmas. It was non-stop funerals, deaths, suffering. My MIL would gently remind me that these things happen in waves. When you're under them it feels like the suffering will never waver. But it does. Good things, happy times, respite will come your way. Hang in there.

rlbates said...

I think it's both, though I too have been much more aware of it this past year. {{{hugs}}}

Anonymous said...

Dr. Smak, I was reading this New Yorker article and thinking of you - http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/02/01/100201crat_atlarge_orourke

Pondering Practitioner said...

I think when your happy the suffering of others doesn't affect you so much, because it's easy to move on from it. Perhaps its only when you know what real suffering feels like that you can truly acknowledge the suffering of others?

Dr. Smak said...

Anon - thanks so much for the article reference. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll repost it as it got cut out of your comment.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/02/01/100201crat_atlarge_orourke?currentPage=1

PP - I think you're right.

Dr. Smak said...

OK, my reposting didn't work either. Got to new yorker and search for 0'Rourke, the article is titled "Good Grief".

WordDoc said...

Sometimes as I listen to all the stories in the exam room, I find those red cars bumper to bumper. Such a January time for so many.

winecat said...

Both I say. I think you're personal suffering makes you more aware of and vulnerable to other people's suffering.

radioactive girl said...

I love the way you described this because I have felt like this and had no words that I could think of to use to explain what I meant.

I have definitely been more aware of what is going on in other peoples lives since my diagnosis of cancer. I am also more empathetic than before. And for lack of a better word, more sad because I know and can now understand the horrible things people go through.

webhill said...

I agree with SOCKS. I don't know how old you are, but I am turning 40 in a couple of weeks. When I was 24, I went to my primary care doc and said "I need medication. I can't handle the pain. My friend, my dear dear friend, is dying. Help me." He said to me "Listen - if you really truly feel like you can't get through the day, I'm gonna help you out. But if you can manage, you should really try, because as you get older, it's just going to happen more often. Give it a try and call me if you need me." Bless his heart. He was right. My dear dear friend did die (cancer, age 24), and I survived. Now I'm turning 40. I just celebrated my youngest child's 5th birthday, and at the same time I watched her blow out the candles, my heart broke inside because she was born on the day of my good friend's 3 month old son's funeral (don't even ask how unbelievably awkward it is to start active labor at an infant's funeral. In my defense I can only say I was strongly in denial). SIDS, possibly long QT. about 5 years ago my dear sister-in-law lost a 21 week pregnancy for unknown reasons. Two years ago, my beloved boss and mentor, only 56 years old, died, leaving behind three kids, two still in high school. Just a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine lost a 36 week fetus for unknown reasons. Shortly after that my parents-in-law lost basically their only friend, who had recently been diagnosed with myelofibrosis (which struck me as odd because my own 4 yr old cat had a similar myelodysplastic syndrome. did I mention pets? i have had 3 cats under the age of 4 die of rare diseases) Last week my good friend's mom lost her battle with leukemia. Today, I learned a high school friend's wife has just had a bilateral mastectomy (and my friend? he's a heme/onc, who cared for my own mother when she had a multiple myeloma scare that thankfully turned out to be nothing. Oh, the irony.) It just keeps on coming, the shit. I am on the mitzvah corps at my synagogue. In that capacity I have befriended an older guy, about 65, who happens to be the step-uncle of an old friend of mine. I've been visiting him at lunchtime and trying to get him to eat, he has some type of brain cancer and has been very fatigued and disinterested in food. well, he's in the ICU as of this week, it's not looking good. It never ends. We live in a world of incredible beauty, incredible sweetness, incredible wonders, and incredible pain and tragedy, and we do not get to choose which we experience.

I remain, as always, so sorry about young Henry. So unfair.