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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Be a thermostat, not a thermometer."

My boss said this today during a meeting. Everyone kind of smirked and giggled at the cheesiness of this phrase, myself included. But still, the comment lingered in my mind all day long, until the meaning really set in: Control the situation. Don't let it control you.

As of late, I've embraced the "Bah humbug" attitude of Ebineezer Scrooge. I've become unsympathetic, uncaring, and grumpy. A little has to do with the days getting shorter. A little has to do with work. A little has to do with the time of year. But today, what my boss said during his soap box monologue really got me thinking. Have I been letting life control me? Absolutely. It seems that lately I've been letting other people's words and actions, not to mention the season, dictate how I feel.

The holidays have never been a good time for me. I've come to associate Thanksgiving and Christmas with my husband's death. I try to stay positive during this time of year, but I can't help but feel a bit lonely when December rolls around. This week, in particular, is not a good one for me...tomorrow is the 3rd anniversary of DJ's death. So as you can imagine, he's been on my mind a bit lately. Now normally, when I think of him, I think of his smile, his laughter, his cheerful disposition. But he died a very long, hard, and painful death, just 2 days after his parents and I decorated the Christmas tree, and just 1 day after I finished addressing the last Christmas card to be mailed out to our friends and family. So it's really hard for me to not associate the hard parts of his life with Christmas trees, or Christmas ornaments, or Christmas cards. And as we all know, there's no escaping all the Christmas junk during this oh-so-cheerful time of year. (Please note sarcasm in the last part of that sentence.)

DJ had no control over his cancer. That was the one aspect of his life he could not change. But in essence, he still acted as the "thermostat" of his own life. He was never dying from cancer, but rather living with it. He never let the disease dictate what he could or could not do with his life. When the doctor told him, "If you have any plans for the summer, you should cancel them. You'll be dead by then." DJ replied, "Wanna bet? I'm gonna graduate from school and then get married. I'll send you an invitation to both ceremonies. Be there or be square." When the doctor said, "Your tumor has come back and I'm afraid that we've exhausted all of our options for treatment." DJ replied, "Then The Merry Wife and I will move to Texas and find a doctor at the biggest, baddest, cancer center in all the nation." When the brain tumor paralyzed the right side of DJ's body and he could no longer draw (he was an architect) he applied for graduate school to earn a degree in something that "doesn't require me to use my hands." And when he finally accepted his defeat with cancer, he turned to me and said, "Soon, you might not be able to see me, but I will always be here to take care of you."

So today, on the eve of DJ's death day (for lack of a better term,) when my boss said, "Be the thermostat, not a thermometer!" I took note. I didn't roll my eyes, like the rest of my coworkers did. I instead, wrote the quote down in my notebook and reflected on it throughout the day. And by the time I got around to writing an entry in this poor neglected blog of mine, I had decided that today will be the day that I become a thermostat. Today I will decorate my Christmas tree. Today I will start addressing my Christmas cards. Today I will sing Christmas carols, and bake Christmas cookies, and remember that even though it might be cold outside (yes, it's actually cold here today, in Houston -- 30 degrees tonight!!!) I have the power to turn on the heater, light up a fire in my fireplace, and keep myself warm.

posted by The Merry Widow at 2:40 PM |


Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

Beautiful story.

December 06, 2005 7:48 PM 
Commented by Blogger Lazy Lightning:

Wonderful outlook on such a sad memory. Enjoy your cookies.

December 06, 2005 8:24 PM 
Commented by Blogger Pissy Britches:

Now that MW was something I will NEVER forget.
You are an inspiration.
Thank you for reminding me of what I need to start doing. With my mom and everyone else being gone I often get grouchy and unbearable this time of year too.

December 06, 2005 8:28 PM 
Commented by Blogger Freebird:

Lovely post. I really hope The Merry Widow has one Merry Christmas.

December 06, 2005 9:07 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Nilla:

Yay! I agree- death stinks- to those left behind. You will NEVER forget him, there is no doubt. I don't know his religious beliefs, but most likely we can say he passed on to a better place. I'm sure you've heard that and so have I, but, I think it's true. You are right-- pick up the ornaments, write the Christmas cards, think of him, and be happy.

December 06, 2005 9:55 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

Oh Merry Widow,
You don't post often, but when you do, it is a doozy. Thank you for bringing your sweet husband to life for me today. I can just picture him--I'm sorry I didn't know him in real life. I admire you for choosing to live life positively today. I admire you for celebrating DJ's positive spirit and not giving in to the sometimes easier route to be sad, self-destructive and angry. I'll sing a chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High" tonight as I think of you decorating your tree.

Thinking of you (and DJ)


December 06, 2005 10:12 PM 
Commented by Blogger Toady Joe:

Simply, beautifully, wonderfully put. Thank you!

December 06, 2005 10:28 PM 
Commented by Blogger David:

hey - in addition to controlling the situation, you also shared it with others who may gain from their understanding these principles. you said it well, I thank you! take a few days off from the blog

December 07, 2005 12:39 AM 
Commented by Blogger Surfie:

MW, you are such an inspiration and so strong. I'm wiping tears from my eyes as I write this.

Merry Christmas, girl!!

December 07, 2005 8:18 AM 
Commented by Blogger Nessa:

truly an inspiration - Merry Christmas!

December 07, 2005 8:50 AM 
Commented by Anonymous debutaunt:

See woman. It's people like you that are helping me to be strong. Sayings and stuff like that were things I *used* to roll my eyes. Now they mean so much. I wish you would post more often. I hope that you really do have a great Christmas, and that 2006 is a fantastic year for you.

December 07, 2005 11:45 AM 
Commented by Blogger Tuesday Girl:

You are a strong woman. I admire you. I hope you have a great Christmas.

December 07, 2005 3:55 PM 
Commented by Blogger The Recovering Straight Girl:

very nice post MW. I'm glad you're making a decision to celebrate the holidays.

I heart you.

December 07, 2005 6:31 PM 
Commented by Blogger Big Heavy:

amen sister! he would want you to be happy always!

December 08, 2005 1:06 PM 
Commented by Anonymous torrie:

Someone very close to me has terminal cancer.
That was very inspiring.
Thank you.

December 09, 2005 9:11 AM 
Commented by Blogger Firefly:

I am always so down for some Merry Widow wisdom. Thank you so much for a wonderful post. It was especially meaningful as my mom was recently diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. Have a wonderful holiday- you deserve it.

December 10, 2005 1:20 AM 
Commented by Blogger JD's Rose:

That was so beautiful...

I have that glassy eyes, glug in throat feeling now.

Keep smiling...

December 11, 2005 8:52 PM 
Commented by Blogger SWF:

That's a neat saying. And a great outlook to have! You deserve to be happy and enjoy the holidays. Try to focus on the good times and the love that you and DJ continue to share. Best wishes to you, MW.

December 12, 2005 6:28 AM 
Commented by Anonymous Guy#3:

That's got to be the most inspirational thing ever said at that company, at least since the "If you don't like it here, get the hell out" oratory I've heard so much about. In any event, you're a good inspiration to people kid. Keep up the work. And by the way, I told DBG about the bet you and I made last night. She was amused.

December 13, 2005 1:05 AM 
Commented by Blogger Random and Odd:


now if you'll excuse me I am going to go blow my nose and wipe my eyes.

Thanks for the Christmas card...you have the best writing in the whole world.

December 19, 2005 11:35 PM 

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