Sep 6, 2011

Coffee, Coping and The Big C.

Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you need to step away from them and smell the coffee instead.  There are times when making lemonade or the SSG Manor house Bellini with life's lemons just isn't realistic and coffee is your more practical option.

Like this morning, at 7.43am when I was at the car service place waiting for a lift to the station.

And then again at 9.39am when you're now in the CBD with all the time in the world and a few good reads loaded on your Kindle.

No self respecting lady of leisure in a time of crisis ever takes her coffee on her own without an imposing hand bag as a surrogate BFF.  I chose to work it Jackie O style today with both large black sunglasses and a black boxy handbag.  My fashion accessories and I were rediscovering the wisdom and generally uplifting humour of Tina Fey's Bossypants.  We all sort of pretended it was Book Club in The Rocks which made it okay for me to be the only woman in the CBD on a weekday to be not wearing stiletto heels.  Book Club has always meant ballet flats to me.  But that could just be me....

I was marking time until Books Kinokuniya opened at 10.  By around day 5 after a major life event, I usually find myself drying my eyes, craving chocolate again and getting pressure areas from being on the sofa all that time.  My next step then involves reading as much as I can about whatever it that has happened.  I find reading helpful because it is both informative and absorbing.  It gets my mind off negative thoughts and gives me new perspective.  I usually buy three books in a crisis.  Two academic texts and a third more inspirational memoir type book.  The books don't necessarily have all the answers and they don't immediately make everything okay but there will invariably be a line or two that sticks in my mind that I can recall when I need to.

Image courtesy of
Another part of coping is context.  The ability to acknowledge that yes there has been bitter loss and disappointment but you cannot allow these feelings to define who you are and how you relate to the world for the rest of your life.  Because you may not have much life left to live.  That last bit is meant to be a clumsy segue into The Big C, not, I repeat, not how I'm feeling about me.

My dear friends, Willow and Phoenix sent me a DVD care package this week so that I could take full advantage of my down time and immerse myself in some good drama.  The Big C Season 1 was part of the gift.  Laura Linney stars as Cathy Jamison, a surburban mother and school teacher who has always lived an orderly life playing by the rules of the world in general and those of her self possessed estranged husband and teenaged son.

Then Cathy gets the diagnosis of terminal cancer.  At best, she has a year to live.  The Big C starts with Cathy trying her best to make the most of her life with the people she loves (and used to love) whilst not telling any of them of her diagnosis.  She forces her son to stay back from summer camp so that she can spend those precious weeks with him, she decides that her life really is better without her needy ex husband sharing the family home, she builds a mothering relationship with a wise cracking obese student at her school and also forges a relationship with a feisty elderly neighbour.  Cathy chooses to live her life on her terms and the shocked world around her slowly gets with the programme.

Well written drama really does sweep you away from your own little world.  Each tightly scripted half hour takes you deeper into a life that appears so foreign to your own yet similar in the themes of struggling with loss and change and the context of these both in your own life and the lives of those close to you.  Through the darkest times in life there will also be some of the most hilarious and also the most rewarding.  Yes, much of the pain is your own to bear but the personal growth and self honesty that this pain causes brings its own unexpected happiness.


  1. Kudos to you SSG for this post (and for that matter, many others). Positive thoughts from north of the border to you guys! Also, such a wonderful thought with the DVD care package!

  2. Glad you're doing better SSG- have been thinking of you.
    I love The Big C too- great show.

  3. I want to watch the Big c now! Grief sucks, it has it's own agenda and it's never an event it is a hardcore Journey. Grief made me really appreciate the small things in life. A tiny gesture of kindness got me through days of pain. Stay strong. Time doesn't heal, what you choose to do with the time does. I think you should come to Brisbane and visit All The Big Names xxxxxxxx

  4. Totally agree that grief has its own agenda. Some days you feel good, others it's s struggle to get out of bed. But every day is one step away from the pain, confusion and despair. And another step towards healing.

    K xx

  5. Glad you are feeling a tiny bit better (or at least a bit more yourself, better is probably a misnomer).

    I agree with FF - hop on a plane to Brisbane and see some friends and buy some sparkly shoes.


  6. Sweet SSG

    You have made us all feel better in your time of grief. Do you always have this effect?

    hugs to you.


  7. I need to go back and revisit The Big C - it started here just after I was diagnosed myself so I was on cancer overload and could not face it (although it looked brilliant)! Since that diagnosis I have had an amazing year in terms of realising what is important and what makes me happy. You are so right - pain can bring completely unexpected happiness!

  8. Ohhhh and I meant to say there was many an afternoon when I was recovering after chemo or waiting for yet another appointment, when your blog was one of the few I could read and immediately be cheered up and/or inspired - so thank you!!!

  9. Hello everyone

    Apologies for being so slack in replying to comments. It's all be about me this last week...

    Sean: thank you for your kind thoughts. The more parts of Australia involved, the better, I reckon!

    Aneets: definitely get into The Big C.

    FF: Brisbane sounds so good right now and thank you for your ongoing positivity and conviction that it will happen.

    Kitty: All I can say is that I will email you by the end of the week with what's been happening.

    AFW: I'm getting there and forcing the rest of the world to see it my way.

    deux: You're making me get all teary again. Thank you for reading and finding joy in the fallout from the drama. Take care.

    Denise: I am very honoured that the blog made the time after your diagnosis somewhat more bearable. I love The Big C because though cancer is hanging over Cathy's head, the series dwells more about her relationships and her evolving identity of herself. Think of it as watching a series where you just happen to have something in common with the main character and see how you go.

    SSG xxx

  10. I heard about the Big C quite some time ago, but haven't gotten around to watching it. You have renewed my interest.

    SSG, I must say, you are truly inspiring. Your positivity in such hard times is unrivalled.

    I'm with FF - you really must come to Brisbane to catch up with All The Big Names. I'm being quite liberal and including myself.

    TDM xxx

  11. Dear SSG, I do hope you are going along ok my dear. Your attitude and courage are admirable. I borrowed The Big C from our local library a few months ago and found it really thought provoking and at the same time funny, with a great script and great acting. xxx

  12. You are such a beautiful writer and have brilliant perspective. Thank you for giving me perspective, insight and wisdom through my difficult times too.


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