Not gonna lie, I’ve always loved listicles. I don’t love or hate, oh I don’t know, let’s say: pickles. But if I run across an article or even TV show listing top 10 brands for pickles, I would just HAVE to see what made it to number 1. And as a self-professed pop culture addict (movies and music, mostly), those year end lists of best bands/albums/movies generally have me riveted.
Of course, the downside began when I started to get older and drifted away from current music—this was in the early 2000s. But since I was diagnosed in 2010, I even began to disconnect from movies as well. (2005-2012, I worked in film distribution, so I was especially plugged in to year end best in film stuff, it was occupational hazard.)
Now it is 2020 so for the past few weeks those “decade definers” types of articles were in my face and it has been…a strange experience.
(Pause for special note: yeah, I know there is an argument that 2021 is the REAL beginning of the next decade—hey I remember everyone arguing about when the 21st century actual began and just the exhausting nonsense of Y2K. I have no opinion on that, and the endless bickering did not erase those year end listicles from my feeds or emails.)
I know lots of patients say things like “cancer doesn’t define me” or “I’m not a survivor, I’m a person who had/battled breast cancer.” I’ve written a little about this in past blog posts but haven’t really gone into depth about how I feel about this “what defines me” mess. I did not like to identify as a “survivor” in the past, but I do now out of necessity. Being an advocate and political activist with a specialty in health care issues, I found that self-identifying this way gives my words a bit more gravitas (although I could go into a whole thing about that too, but some other blog day).
Reading all these year end and decade things left me with a profound feeling of disconnect. Or if not that, a bizarre connection. The weekend Obama sent Navy Seals to kill Bin Laden, I was recovering from my lumpectomy. I remember reading those damn moving crawls on the bottom of news programs and getting dizzy and sick (I don’t do so well recovering from anesthesia it turned out).
I was totally disconnected from contemporary music in 2010-2012. I only remember using my cancer card to listen to hip-hop all the time as my mother—who dislikes hip hop—drove me to treatments. And even then I listened to old school. I tried to get current as this decade ended, but I confess I don’t listen to music as much as I once did, spending my time to podcasts, because well, remember: political activist now. I barely know any of the artists on the year end and decade lists; I used to know all of them. All my music memories now are tied to my cancer experience: what I listened to then, and the things I delved into in order to deal with post-treatment depression.
I used to be so plugged in to the “awards season” pertaining to films—again occupational hazard. But I guess all those years only liking “prestigious” film finally got to me. Unless it is a big budget Marvel or “Star Wars” movie, I find it useless to spend time and money at the theater. One can only see so many “gritty”, no-budget, artworks before it gets tiresome. There are a few films I’d like see these days. But, I dare not go to a movie starting at 7—I’m so unlikely to stay awake through the whole thing! Better to stream it in bits and pieces later. I know that is not how the filmmakers think their work should be experienced—but, hey—reality!
I did not expect all the year end think pieces and listicles to smack me in the head like this. It saddens me that the pleasure I used to take in pop culture got dimmed by life, aging, and especially cancer. I know some would say that I LET that happen. But coping mechanisms like escaping to a world via a movie, or listening to music, are bound to get a little tied into the very thing that required the coping in the first place. The fact I remember so vividly listening to hip-hop so much during drives to treatment is precisely because I needed to listen to something I enjoyed, but of course those things got tied in my mind. I remember very clearly seeing “True Grit” on Christmas Day 2010, because so many people thought “Black Swan” would be too much for my recently-diagnosed depressed state of mind. Except, guess what? All the meds caused me to have vivid terrifying nightmares, one featuring snakes. The snake scene in “True Grit” nearly sent me over the edge. I generally can watch Coen Brothers films repeatedly—but I’ll never watch that one again.
I’d like to say some sort of “good riddance to the 2010s” or end-of-decade-the-new-decade-will-be-MY-TIME, but you KNOW that’s not my style.
I will just keep plugging away, doing the work that needs to be done, whether that be in political health activism or my continued efforts here in CancerLand, toward healing or trying to create some Cancer Culture change.
Wow, the cliché is true: time really does march on!