THE NEW NORMAL #30 – SORRY NOT SORRY

I’m not convinced Elton John is English. Anyone who can write a song called ‘Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word’ just doesn’t come across as a true-blue, dyed in the wool Englishman considering how ingrained apologising is in the culture to which I was born. I raise this, largely, for the reason that I find myself apologising (or wanting to apologise) a lot at the moment but I have remembered something that a colleague once told me and so I wanted to give it a go. The premise is that instead of saying ‘sorry’ to somebody, you should try saying ‘thank you’ instead with the aim of finding the positivity in every situation. We’ve all seen the memes about over apologising for things we had no control over, and I bet everyone reading this has said ‘sorry’ in the last week for something that either wasn’t your fault or, indeed, didn’t actually happen. Today alone, I have apologised to a lady who I held the door open for and said ‘sorry’ to someone who phoned me by mistake (Sorry you can’t dial a number properly!?!? Madness).

So, rather than issuing a big fat apology for the chaos caused by all my various health issues, which is what I want to do, I am going to say thank you. Now, if that feels far too un-English for you then this is your last chance to go and have a cup of tea with a incomprehensibly tasteless biscuit on the side (yes, Rich Tea, I’m looking at you) while this whole thing blows over.

The first thank you has to go to you, dear reader. Dear friend, indeed. Normally, I would apologise for dragging you in to my misery and all that it entails but today I am, instead, going to thank you for coming along for the ride. The number of people that awkwardly tell me how much they ‘enjoy’ reading my blog makes my heart swell and knowing that you’re all out there, rooting for us, really does make a difference. I also love that I get to make people laugh, cry and just generally feel stuff that they otherwise might ignore in favour of Love Island or Gogglebox so I’m grateful for that. One reader got in touch recently to say that they felt that reading the blog was simultaneously intimate and invisible, like watching someone’s every move through a mirrored window without ever letting them know about your presence. So, thanks for watching, you weirdos.

Next up, I want to say thank you to my family – in blood and in law. I’ve put you through the mill over the past few years and, normally, I would apologise for that burden and emotional turmoil. Not today. Thank you for adapting to all the challenges, for finding new ways to help me and for not getting angry when things don’t go as planned or hoped for. I’ve always said I would go through this ordeal 100 times over than have to watch someone I cared for deal with cancer so I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been, but you’ve all met the challenge with kindness and good humour. If things go south I’ll be coming to you asking for a pancreas donation if you’re compatible though so just keep yourselves healthy so I can harvest your organs, yeah?

Talking of family, I should say a special thank you to my three stepchildren. Not only did they not ask to have me in their lives (note, they’ve never actually said this to me so I’m doing something right) but the disruption that repeated hospital visits and fluctuations of health causes can only have added to the traumas of being in your pre-teen and teenage years. I’m not going to apologise, however, but instead say thank you for just getting on with it, never complaining and for stepping up every time the chips are down to support your mum and keep things going. I’ll take this chance to play the cancer card, however, and say put your bloody shoes away! Guilt, it’s the classy way to be a stepparent.

Work is always an area for a heavy sense of guilt and the temptation to apologise for being sick or just generally lacking in one department or another is strong. Not today, though, sunshine. No, today I thank colleagues and bosses not only for their understanding and empathy but for having the courage to talk to me about what’s going on health wise and for being human enough to have a laugh with me about the absurdity of it all. There have been times when I have felt like I am hiding behind ill-health and I have hated that so I push myself harder and when I inevitably fall off the metaphorical bike you’ve always been there to pick the bike up and either pedal it on yourself or help me back on. It has genuinely been a privilege to work with such a wonderful bunch of human beings; than you for that. That said, if you could see your way clear to getting me a set of stabilisers that would be peachy.

One of the people I want to say sorry to the most but never do is my five-year-old son, Jake. As I’m having an apology amnesty, however, I will just say thank you. Thank you for never getting upset when you visit me in hospital, thank you for seeing the fun side of eating in the hospital canteen, thank you for so excitedly wanting to inject me with insulin and thank you breaking any morose or tense moods with a simple fart or singing the theme tune to your favourite cartoon (currently ‘The Day My Butt Went Psycho’, if you’re interested). Above all else, thank you for taking this all in your tiny stride and giving me the best reason to stay in the game – I doubt (and hope) you’ll ever really understand how much your spirit has helped me through the last few years but I know that at the very least this experience will give you enormous empathy and patience which are great qualities to have.

Last but not least (the furthest possible place from least, in fact), I want to thank my wife. You didn’t sign up for this, you’re a sunshine girl with the lightest, most beautiful spirit and every consultation, hospital visit and ‘bad day’ does it’s best to strip that away. But it doesn’t win. In what is likely to be the weirdest compliment a man has ever paid his wife; you are like a lighthouse. I don’t mean that you’re remote, lonely and hard to arrange furniture in, no, you’re just a shining beacon of light that always keeps me on the right course towards positivity. So, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for never letting that light go out and for, even in your lowest moments, always being the one person I want right by my side – even when you are gleefully injecting me with blood thinners of a morning!

Now, those of you that come here to wallow in my medical mire might be feeling a little discombobulated by all this but it’s something that’s been rattling around my noggin for a while so I wanted to get it out. In a week when I’ve ripped the front off my car, had the garden tap inexplicably explode at 8.00am on a Tuesday and have been trying to get back in to work it feels good, nay necessary, to focus on the positive that is all around me. We’re all going through our own battles in one way or another, from one day to the next but feeling like you have to apologise all the time isn’t going to make that journey any easier to be thankful for what you have and if you don’t have anything to be thankful for then just be grateful that you’re not Boris Johnson or a turkey being fattened up for Christmas – somebody always has it worse.

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