November 11, 2014

The Center of the Universe

Me and the center of my universe
Last week, M and I decided to (finally) take the plunge, and start watching Breaking Bad. (This post might have a few spoilers if you've never heard about the show before, but nothing big.)

Neither of us are generally the sort of person to get caught up in a cultural hype, we geek out about what we geek out about, and there's a lot of overlap for us. But we both feel a bit uncomfortable when everybody we know and everybody they know and everybody else seems to be obsessed with something new. Especially when it comes to TV. We don't want much television, so when we do we sort of want it to count. Well, now that Breaking Bad is of the air, now that it's over and we've distanced ourselves from the popular obsession, we decided it might be fun to watch just an episode and see what we thought.

Of course, we quickly learned it's pretty much impossible to watch the first episode of Breaking Bad and not immediately put on the next.

There's a lot on the show that makes us uncomfortable. Not the murder and drugs and gruesome comedy of errors regarding those things. No, what makes us uncomfortable is scenes like this.

I get a visceral fury whenever Skylar, Walter's wife, talks to Walter about his treatment. It's not about what he wants. It's about what she needs. I understand where she's coming from, sure, but she's going about it all wrong.

She's made up her mind what's going to happen to Walt, and he's going to do what she says because the alternative is to die.

I understand that. I do, I profoundly do. I see myself in Skylar a lot. But where we fundamentally differ is in how we address those same fears and needs. For me, M's cancer was always about him. It has always been about him, and his life, and his needs. I refused to believe he would die, but I tried to make sure he was feeling good about life as he lived it.

Whenever Skylar tries to bully Walter into a different treatment, or into a different doctor, or simply into her way of thinking, it comes across to me as cruel. She doesn't care if Walter's happy, so long as he's alive. Whereas Walter doesn't care if he's alive, so long as he's happy. Or at least, so long as he feels he has some direction and control over his destiny.

M and I watch these scenes snuggled up together on the bed, our hands gripped together and our breath shallow. Because these are real conversations that people really have when they know what they're facing.

I wonder if Brittany Maynard was a Breaking Bad fan.

When Walt's hair fell out during chemo, I wanted to punch Skylar in the face. She couldn't speak. She cried when she saw him bald- exactly as he had predicted. I remembered how I locked down my own feelings when M's hair started falling out and stayed cool, calm, and as relaxed as I could, helping him shave the patchy growth left on his head.

Because, as it seems I forgot in my grief and rage over Ms. Maynard, it's only about one person.

When somebody you love is in pain, is truly ill, you get over yourself and remember who really matters.

It's like this wonderful graph from the LA Times article- "How Not To Say The Wrong Thing."

The idea is the sick person is in the middle, and nobody is allowed to complain them about how their illness affects anyone else. That person can complain, or not, to anybody. All you give, from the outside in, is support.

I might have worried that M would die and I would never see my Happily Ever After with my One True Love, but M never heard that from me. Never. Because it's unfair and unkind. What could he do about it? Stop being sick?

No, M, was the center of the universe. He had to be. His universe was terrifying and it was collapsing. You never put more burdens on the person holding together the center of all existence. You just don't.

Skylar turns it on its head. No matter what Walter tries to do, she is critical. Who the hell wants that kind of person for a support structure?

Watching the show has been fun, so far. Lots of humor, meth related violence, and people saying, "Bitch!" with wild and conflicting inflections.

But we were not expecting to turn into a medical drama. Not hardly. And it's the side of medical dramas we don't particularly want to see. While M was on chemo, we watched House and Scrubs fanatically. We spend a few colder nights of our honeymoon watching Grey's Anatomy. We like the doctor side of things- doctors having fights and drama, and somehow coming out in the end to either cure the patient or to fail.

Watching Walter fall apart as the chemo ruins his body and his family's poorly concealed despair... that's not so much fun.

That's everything we never wanted.

We're still watching the show. Of course we are, it's too damned addictive.

But I have a renewed sympathy for the Maynard family. Actually, I'd like to offer her and her family an apology, for every bit of anger I harbored about her decision.

Nobody has the right, not me, to question Brittany Maynard. For her, she was the center of the universe. I'm so far outside the circles of contact and support, I don't even exist.

Me and the center of the universe
That's what I think I need to remember.


  1. FWIW, the series gets a lot less medical as it goes on... though not necessarily any easier to watch.

  2. AMEN to THAT. It was HER life, HER center of existence and why can't we all just honor that? I don't get it one bit.

    I love how you described this, Lea. And although I have not been in such dire circumstances, I can only hope and pray that I would be just like you are to your hubs.

  3. Beautifully said!!! It is so hard to really know what anyone else is experiencing. xo

  4. This breaks my heart, Lea. I think what you say is so smart and so well said. I am in tears. Thanks for getting it. So many prayers, hugs and love.



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