Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/01/29


BoxesHello, Blog Buddies and Friends!  I type this evening with a great view of a lovely sunset, the end of a really beautiful day here in Middle Tennessee.  This has been an extremely mild winter for us, a sharp contrast with the past two winters which plagued us with snow and ice and chilly temperatures and lots to complain about.  THIS winter, however, is the kind of winter I signed on for when I moved South in 1980.  It has been a balm for my nerves, especially today, when I am once again on a steroid high in preparation for chemo tomorrow. I hope all the proactive things we’re putting in place will make the coming week more tolerable than last time-don’t want to go through THAT again!  I’m also carrying in my heart concern and hopes for good outcomes for my friends and Blog Buddies, Gina and Pam, both of whom are having surgery tomorrow regarding their respective breast cancers.  It’s no secret that I’m no big fan of Lung Junk, but nor am I a fan of Junk of any kind.  I wrestle daily with my God, and how angry I am that so very many good people, men, women, and children, are afflicted by junk of so many types.  I cling to something I learned from Wonderful Therapist a while back:  we get angry with those with whom we have intimate relationships.  I am gratified that I do, indeed, have an intimate relationship with my God, but holy moly–I surely do get pissed off!  But you didn’t sign on to read about me being angry today.  Let’s get onto today’s topic:  Boxes.

Last Wednesday, I attended a meeting at my son’s high school for parents of those in the Junior Class and the College Guidance Counselors.  Bear in mind that I have two extraordinary daughters, older than my son.  Emily is a 2011 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Cell Molecular Biology, and working on getting into medical school now.  Taylor is a junior at Belmont University, majoring in Business/Marketing, and minoring in Classical Vocal Music Performance.  So, it’s safe to say that I know a little bit about getting kids off to college.  It’s also important to note that I have a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education, and a graduate degree in Social Work.  Because, I gotta be honest here, the meeting got reeeeeaaallly long for me.  Don’t get me wrong:  I have nothing but complete respect for the counselors and their college guidance systems, and I think Joey is the luckiest boy in the world for being at a high school that cares so very much about getting kids into the colleges that are the right fit for them.  Really I do!  But they went on for an hour about child development and good fits and making the kids drive the process.  I started to feel a little bit insulted, you know? And I can’t get that hour back!

What really got my goat, though, was when they started telling us about how they were going to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to our children.  Myers-Briggs is a personality test to help those who take it understand what kind of people they are and what types of people they will mesh well with or not do so well with.  It helps you know if you’re an introvert/leader, or a judgmental extrovert, and stuff like that.  I’ve known about Myers-Briggs for quite some time, and I will be honest:  I’ve never been a fan.  While learning about one’s personality type can be really helpful, and I do see the value for teenagers just putting their big toes in the Ocean Adulthood, I tense at any device that seeks to put individuals into boxes.  Which is what, I think, this test does.  And don’t we have enough boxes in our lives?

Think about it:  there are boxes everywhere in our society:  economic boxes, educational boxes, gender boxes, religion boxes, political boxes, age boxes, size and shape boxes, medical condition boxes, demographic boxes, automobile boxes, employment boxes, and athletic boxes.  And those are just the general ones.  Within each of the general ones, and yes, I know I whittled the list down a good bit, there are tons of sub-categories in which we make daily judgments about ourselves and our fellow humans.  This one only has a high school education, that one cannot run a mile.  This one is a haughty executive, and that one brags about speaking 5 languages.  This one drives a ratty old car, but he works with those less fortunate.  With each glance, each comment, we box both ourselves and each other.

It’s weird in the Land of Lung Junk what those boxes look like.  For a Flying Elephant, they look a lot like this:  What’s your prognosis?  Are you dying?  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  You never smoked?  Is your doctor good?  I mean, REALLY good?  You look so awesome!  It’s hard to believe that you’re so sick!  But you really seem to be just fine.  Are you sure you’ve gotten the right diagnosis?  You’re fine.  You’re gonna live a forever!

I’ve drawn a bit of a box of my own lately:  I think that when someone is diagnosed with cancer (or any other thing that one can be diagnosed with for that matter), we draw upon whatever knowledge we may have about the thing, and build a box to suit what we think we know.  We place that someone in that box, and then ask questions and investigate to prove or disprove that the dimensions of the box are sound.  I think it’s kind of human nature, our fragile selves feeling our frailty, and wanting both to not make something dire a truth for someone we care about, and to protect our own selves from whatever that dire truth may be.

Until I worked for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, I confess that I had some assumptions about those who are without homes in this country.  Sad confession, that I assumed those who were homeless were addicted n’er-do-wells who brought their plights onto themselves.  I am quite wrong about that, of course.  Anyone at anytime is at risk of being without a roof.  Many are one paycheck, one domestic violence situation, one dire diagnosis, one housing catastrophe, like a fire, away from the streets.

Until I was diagnosed with Lung Junk, I had some assumptions about lung cancer, too.  Like only people who smoked could get it.  Like if they got it, they brought it on themselves.  Like if someone got lung cancer, it was ALWAYS IMMEDIATELY FATAL.   I know now that anyone with lungs can get cancer in them.  I know that people who smoke increase their risk of mutating their cells and inviting them to become cancerous, but they do not deserve their disease.  If you get cancer, any kind of cancer, it’s really not right to place blame on you.  It’s just not right.  And MOSTLY, I learned that lung cancer is NOT ALWAYS IMMEDIATELY FATAL!  In fact, many people live a long time with lung cancer, even Stage IV Metastatic disease like I have, with mostly the side effects of treatment to contend with.  For me, I’m doin’ OK.  To look at me, you’d once again never know I have it, now that I have hair again and don’t look like my disease, that is.

So, OK, maybe it’s helpful for people to know about their personalities a bit.  But I just don’t think knowing that to the point of boxing themselves up and drawing boxes around others is a positive step in a good direction.  It’s how stigmas and stereotypes and xenophobia get borne.  And that just cannot be good for anyone.  We’re all different.  We’re all fashioned in the imagine of The Divine.  How ’bout instead of looking for a box, we look for that?  Wouldn’t that be something?  Looking for The Divine in everyone?

I leave you with something about boxes, but something with a little mirth as many of us begin a week of concern.  Laughter, I do believe, is such good medicine! Enjoy:

Bob Newhart sketch

I wish you a week of breaking out of the box,

Teri, the Flying Elephant in the Land of Lung Junk



  1. Terry I forgot how articulate you were! I’ve enjoyed reading some of your blog you are a very gifted writer and communicator. I’m sure you are an inspiration to many. I will enjoy following your blog for years to come and I honestly feel that. Keep up the fight against that ling junk


  2. Our prayers for a comfortable (if such can be) and successful therapy today!
    (Unboxed) Judity


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