“You’re normal”


Fragility is humbling and frightening


By Caitlin Kelly

It’s been a rough week, slowly recovering from my last radiation treatment — October 15 — and still fighting its cumulative fatigue and insane itchiness on my left breast. I was at my wits’ end, crying in public, (I almost never cry anywhere), just done.

I had a follow-up meeting with the radiation doctor, to be told I’d gained (!?) 10 pounds in six weeks and now needed blood tests to see why. This despite seeing my clothes fit more loosely and gaining compliments on my apparent weight loss.

Our GP, thankfully, saw us an hour later and did the tests; (I’m fine.)

But I started crying in his office, weary of all of it.

I apologized for being a big blubbering baby, ashamed and embarrassed by my inability to control my emotions.

“You’re normal,” he said, calmly and compassionately.

Jose, my husband, sat in the room with us, listening as I absorbed this pretty basic fact.

What, I’m not made of steel?



Kelly’s tend to be (cough) ambitious and driven; three of us won major national awards in the same month, when I was 41, my younger half-brothers then 31 and 18; I for my writing, they for business skills and for a key scientific discovery, (yes, the youngest!)

We tend to aim high, compete ferociously for as long as it takes, (each of my books, later published by major NYC houses, were rejected 25 times), and usually win, dammit!

We keep our emotions very close to the vest and keep small, tight circles of intimates. I don’t really do acquaintance.


Being weak, scared, in pain, exhausted and, even worse, letting others see us in this condition?



I’m slowly getting used to it.

Compassion for my fragility is my new oxygen, as much for myself as the gratitude I feel for that shown to me.



13 thoughts on ““You’re normal”

  1. Roma

    I know that feeling I too find it difficult to allow my vulnerable side to surface – a control freak I feel safer to share it only with me
    Thank you for sharing

  2. I let my heart be wounded. I think of my feelings as signs of life, as expressions of who and what I am. My love, compassion and desire to be kind run deep. I want to give them freely and the most I want from that is to have set a good example. I weep openly whenever I witness the joy or the suffering of others, or when I think of my grandfather’s deep humanity when he spoke with respect of the men he killed in the war, men who did their duty just like he did his .All of which, I guess, makes me seem like a real swell guy (I really am) until you get to the anger. My anger is tightly focused on those people and conditions that have earned it. I have never raised my hand to another human being in my entire adult life but that doesn’t but doesn’t make my anger weak or ineffectual. It’s terrible and unrelenting. Generally, after I let someone have it (Which, thankfully, doesn’t happen often), I feel kind of sick, but never as sick as I do when I stuff down that piece of my mind, knowing I’m going to end up chewing on it like a piece of rotten meat while that other person blithely walks away. Cathy wants me to be the bigger person and I search myself, working toward that end. This searching always leads to one question, not only this one, but always this one: If you are being mauled by a big mean dog and you have a brick in your hand, are you going to pet the dog and speak soft words to it because it’s mean to smack a dog in the head with a brick?
    So I guess I’m a pretty emotional person. I don’t make any apologies for it. You rarely have to guess what I’m thinking and, unless I say something that’s dripping with sarcasm, you can count on my sincerity.
    Whew! I need a sandwich after all that. Later.

  3. If you are trained to sit on/hide/deny your feelings, they can feel completely overwhelming if/when you finally acknowledge them and let them out. Scares the hell out of people accustomed to the polite version.

  4. To know how to frame fragility is a gift, as are you. Sorry to have been gone so long from your page. Have been holding quiet space for you in the desert as I do my morning readings and rush on avoiding my own fragilities until I can’t anymore. Your reminder came at a good time. All we have is this moment, regardless of how the moment shows up. Hugs Caitlin.

  5. i know it to be one of the hardest things for me to do as well. with time and circumstances, sometimes we find we have no choice and also find that it is okay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s