You’re either a person who cancels, or a person who commits and comes through with your pre-spoken words… right? Well, that’s how I saw it for a LONG time. People who cancelled plans, cancelled appointments, made last-minute changes, and didn’t come through on what they had promised were all part of one big category for me – the unreliable and scatterbrained ones were the ‘cancellers.’
It was awfully inefficient to cancel on someone. I didn’t really notice how much it bugged me, but every so often when a fellow friend would say “sorry, my kid is sick,” or a meeting was stuffed up on the other end, or someone arrived at my house an hour past the expected time while I twiddled my thumbs staring at the clock, it kind of grated on my nerves. I mean, I was a Mum. I had a child. I worked, I kept the house (somewhat) clean and in a state of organised mess. I cooked. I saw my parents. I wrote as much as I damn well could. I shopped a fair bit, with caffeine inserted in the blank spaces in-between. So if I could get my shit together and not cancel on someone, and always come through on what I had promised somebody, well what was their excuse?
I wouldn’t get upset or anything. You know the normal “no, that’s ok!” response you do when someone is profusely apologising to you, smiling through your teeth. That’s ok, I love my plans being turned upside down. Mums LOVE unpredictability, it reminds them of how fun it is to have a toddler. (No really, I’m being sarcastic). I’d move on, a bit peeved, but I’d move on. I was not a canceller. I was efficient, and despite some of the hardest of times, I tried my damn-dest to succeed at following through on my plans. You know that quote from Jerry Maguire, where the father of the sports kid that Jerry is chasing to represent, says to Jerry “My word is stronger than oak!” (Before completely doing a 180 on him in a following scene and proving that his word was actually more flimsy like tissue paper). Well that was me. My word was oak. Strong and solid, like the first scene, not the second.
Cancelling isn’t only annoying when plans don’t go ahead… it’s an inconvenience. I am so busy, and not only that, I’m in a regular routine especially with a toddler in tow who also depends heavily on it, that it takes much effort and faith to just schedule time in for someone, and then to have that person go ahead and make other plans last second. Even if they are sick, a little part of me is thinking ‘hypochondriac… toughen up.’
A little while back, (not my last cold but a previous cold) all of a sudden, out of the blue, I got sick. Not runny nose, sore throat, sneezing like Snow White’s dwarf sick. I woke up and vomited. And then vomited. And vomited. And not much was being kept down. I had camomile tea, I had black coffee, and I had plain bread. And I still vomited. It was like the deepest depths of my stomach were being unearthed to unseen archaeologists digging away at it, throwing up bits of food as they went.
And what happened? I became the ‘canceller.’
I hated it. I called one person to cancel an appointment I’d had for baby girl. It was literally an hour before I had to go, and I cancelled on her, practically last second. Then the following day, when I was still getting over my stomach heaving, and getting used to that constant feeling of intense nausea, I had a friend message me:
“Still good for lunch today?”
Crap. We were meant to be meeting for lunch at work, and here I was at home, feeling sorry for myself on the couch.
Toughen up, hypochondriac.
Oh God, not another one. With remorse I messaged her back telling her I was sick and was actually at home. She replied this:
“Oh sweetheart. That’s terrible. Hope you feel better soon.”
She went on to say what other days suited her for a lunch date, but those first few lines stayed in my head. What she had written had shocked me. They shocked me, because I had felt them to be genuine. For all I know she could have been doing the typical “oh no! That’s ok!” line I used to do, but I didn’t believe it to be so. This felt real, and all I remember thinking is ‘She cares about me, more than our plans.’
That realisation really hit me. I had been so concerned about life and things running to schedule, that I’d forgotten that life often throws us things and puts us off track. It can sometimes take a while to jump back on. But with the help and support of loved ones, it’s often done faster than if you have people jeering you from the sidelines calling you a hypochondriac. I was also touched by how Hubbie took over and did everything for baby girl and I in those days that I was incapacitated. Hypochondriac, I know. But I’m always doing EVERYTHING, so for me to just lie there and whisper repeatedly “I can’t,” he knew something serious was up. He came through for us all and had me saying “thank you” like a very broken record.
I had a great opportunity to test my new found realisation of ‘shit happens, people matter more than plans’ discovery very soon after. The following night, Hubbie grew increasingly ill and took to the couch complaining of nausea, 3 hours before we were meant to go out for my bestie’s birthday. He had caught what I’d had.
Now the old me, would have been a little shitty. The old me would have been like ‘are you sure you’re sick? Come on, put on this shirt.’ The old me would have been upset at the sight of Hubbie lying on the couch while I imagined all my friends together at a rooftop bar. The old me would have been, slightly resentful, just at the situation, and how shit the timing was.
Bu I’d had a few days to think. Going through my head were these thoughts:
1. Remember, people are more important than plans.
2. Hubbie looked after me days ago.
3. He’s only sick because he caught what I had.
I was soon running off to the pharmacy for late night medications and messaging bestie a ‘sorry’ message on the way.
Being sick had taught me many things.
We’re all human.
People are more important.
Don’t lose sight of that.
I used to fight against reality, pretend to be superhuman, and get upset when other people didn’t try to be a superhero too. But, we aren’t in an episode of Angel (unfortunately). I can’t stay up fighting demons all night and then expect to be cheery the next day and ready to tackle my Mum duties with a hop, skip and a jump.
Don’t get me wrong, I won’t become a ‘canceller’ over this, and I will be slightly wary whenever anyone changes plans on me… but I will be softer about it, and when I say “no, that’s ok,” I might just half mean it.