Wanting the slack

Written in May 2016

Writer’s note: I like this piece because it’s raw. It reminds me of the small things that people did and how much they affected me during a time when everything felt infinitely fragile. It reminds me of how a simple inconvenience turned into a big problem because I felt like I couldn’t ask for help. It reminds me that in the thick of tragedy, it’s hard to be vulnerable and honest about what you need. And it reminds me that we never know what others are struggling with.

My dad forgot to pay my student bill.

I’m incredibly blessed. My parents can pay for my college — all of it — and as I watch my friends cripple under the intense amounts of student debt they have to pay, I am blissfully moving forward without an ounce of financial stress.

But my dad forgot to pay my student bill — which is understandable considering he is three months into Chemo and still works mostly full time and runs 5ks and eats out and travels to treatment. It slipped, and that’s OK.

I couldn’t enroll in a class two days before school let out because my bill hadn’t been paid. So I asked if they would lift the delinquent status for 10 minutes so I could just enroll. I was waiting to ask my parents to pay until the weekend. I didn’t want to bother my dad on a Thursday — the day he’s in Nashville getting treatment and wishing he wasn’t.

But they wouldn’t lift the delinquent status for me. And I didn’t want them to give me special treatment — but as I sat in that office, close to tears, while they asked me to just call my parents and ask them to pay the balance like it was simple and easy, I wanted to scream and yell and shake them.

You don’t know.

You don’t know that my dad probably only has months left before he dies and that every Thursday I can barely breathe while I think about the toxins being injected into his body and that it kills me to ask any favors of my parents because they have so much on their plates and I just needed to go home and talk to them about it.

And I can’t be mad at them — because they simply don’t know. And that’s not their fault. I just hate playing what my mom and I call “the cancer card” because I’m a privileged white woman whose parents are paying for her college.

But sometimes I just want a little slack. I want people to understand and give me grace and let me breathe and allow me to live without being triggered by something so insignificant.

The problem is, I’m really bad at asking for it. But that’s not my fault — it’s just a typical challenge people face when they’re going through something hard or grieving or dealing with loss.

And what I’ve realized is sometimes that’s the best gift we can give people: Loving them. Helping them. Giving them slack. And better yet — doing so without needing to know why. Because the truth of the matter is, you don’t know if their dad is getting toxins injected into his body that day so he can maybe have a few more months with his family — but you might just be the reason they don’t have to worry about it for a few seconds.

4 thoughts on “Wanting the slack

  1. Giving others slack. Having compassion. The lesson learned by all who are touched by cancer. Jesus taught us this through the story of “The Good Samaritan.” Vanessa, YOU are a cancer survivor. So is your mom. Telling your story, your survivor story, shows compassion to others who suffer pain and loss. Keep the faith and keep sharing the love that has been poured out for all of us. Love always wins.

  2. Very passionate and real. So hard. Only through the grace of God do we get through it. Great article.

  3. Vanessa,
    This resonates so deeply for me. I actually had a very similar thing happy at my college. I remember the shame, frustration and pain of the experience, similarly not knowing how to ask for grace. I remember I channeled that emotion into anger and indignation, because just feeling the hurt was really difficult. Praying that God would give you opportunities to both receive and offer grace in the coming weeks.


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