Last night, as I was out walking the dogs, a woman approached me on the street. She looked vaguely familiar, I think she lives in my building. I smiled hello and she said: I heard about what you did. What a wonderful thing. Your brother is very lucky. And then she walked away.
Over the past 6 months, I've been fascinated at how people have reacted to this kidney journey. People I barely know how come out of the shadows, treating me almost reverently for doing this. People I know well have been acting differently, as if I've morphed into a deeper, more thoughtful person than I was before.
These reactions aren't about me, they're about what I've done. Donating a kidney is just about the most selfless thing someone can do. As my brother said when as I was dropping him off at the hospital, most people stare down surgery for their own reasons but how many choose to do it entirely for someone else?
Kidney donors do.
I'm touched and grateful for this outpouring of support. As I (slowly) recover and find my center again, the karma that's bouncing back at me is easing the way.
On the other hand there are many in my life who have yet to say a word, glancing away as I walk by, choosing not to acknowledge that I'm even there. Some are people I don't know well. Others I consider among my close friends. Perhaps such an altruistic act makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they don't know what to say, how to act. Who knows.
Its hard not to let myself fall into a dark place when confronting the obvious disinterest of those I thought I could count on.
And then, there's family.
I had a falling out with my father soon after my brother asked me to be tested. There was a day of escalating emails, of accusations and anger, fingers pointed and insults hurled that ended with his wife calling me a self-involved loser, a crazy fucking bitch and my father asking that I never be in touch with them again.
We haven't spoken since.
We went through this entire process without him.
Knowing how deeply his wife has always resented me, it's not a surprise. But still.
I was lying in bed at 4am and it hit me, that to him I'm not worth fighting for. Having a relationship with me causes a huge rift in his marriage and it's turned out, after all these years, to be easier to cut me off rather than fight for me. Even when two of your children are grappling with illness, uncertainty, endless testing and frustration and fear, she wins.
But, as I'm writing this I'm realizing it's not about me. Not me personally.
It's him. It's her. Their stuff, not mine. All I can do is be myself and that isn't going to work for everyone.
Years ago someone once told me (and she meant it as an insult) I should be a cruise director, as that would address my obsessive need to be liked. Perhaps one of my lessons in all this is to let go of that too.
Living by how others judge me only leads to self-doubt and insecurity. What I need to work on is owning who I am.
And who I am just did a remarkable, brave, life-changing thing.