Listening to NPR the other day, a man returned from deployment in Iraq was talking about an expression used in the military. There are plenty of them, some having made it into the civilian lexicon a generation ago, unbeknownst to most people who use them. A favorite of mine is snafu. Most of us have used this expression to describe a scenario in which things do not go as expected, or when an expected routine veers off course. I read somewhere that snafu was coined during WWII by soldiers, and that it's an acronym that means Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. I could be stating the obvious, forgive me if I'm the last person on earth to learn what snafu stands for. For soldiers fighting I am sure this is an apt description of any given moment, the default mode being a complete train wreck. In the novel I'm reading right now a young American soldier in Iraq describes fighting the war as the millisecond between the knowledge that your car is going to crash and the crash itself, but lasting for days at a time. I will not compare my situation to fighting a war, but I will say that during cancer treatment the heightened feelings and reality of physical chaos, emotional bewilderment, and panicked alarm made me think often of snafu.
Back to NPR last week. I have a new phrase that works so well for so much of cancer.
Embrace the Suck. When I worked on boats, the command "Suck it up and deal" was used by everyone to each other all the time. Basically, it's hard, sometimes unpleasant, chaotic and occasionally terrifying, but too bad. Deal with it. Again, I am not comparing this to fighting a war, as this situation was actually voluntary, an adventure, and often an extremely good time. Hearing the guy on the radio talking about "embrace the suck" made me smile, and the reader and amateur writer in me loved the distilling of the expression familiar to me into its essence by a few words.
"Embrace the suck," according to the radio story, is more involved than the bravado one summons to power through adversity. It is also about manning up in a negative way, not dealing with PTSD and
other issues facing soldiers coming home. He was saying that it is desirable in the military to ignore the feelings generated by the trauma of fighting and bearing witness to unspeakably horrible things. I think in the realm of cancer I have done both of these things and while the latter may have been a therapeutically unhealthy way of dealing, it is one of the ways in which I dealt, and have been able to get through it and spit out the other side (knock on wood). Perhaps at some point I will want to more directly address the fucking terror of it all. And I have no doubt that that would be a boon to my long term mental health, an investment into the future of my too logical brain, but for now, Embrace the Suck!