Friday, August 26, 2016

A Delightfully Defiant and Subversive Woman

The Delightfully Defiant and Subversive Woman (A True Story)
I have a friend. Her name is Kathy Osborne. She and I have been friends for a long time - since before I was a teenager. I'm a couple years younger than she is, but that's part of what made being friends when we were so much younger so cool for me. When a high schooler pays any attention to a middle schooler it means a whole lot to the middle schooler. But that was the thing - Kathy either didn't really know the age rules about not being friends with people younger than you are, or perhaps, and this is even more likely, she thought those rules were ridiculous.
Kathy has always thought a lot of things were ridiculous. But not in the snarky or bitter way people think things are ridiculous and then share it on Facebook trying to score some likes. Kathy didn't care about likes. She still doesn't. She found things to be ridiculous when someone got the short end of the stick, when someone got slighted, when injustice spread it venom. What Kathy has always found to be ridiculous are things that are, in fact, loaded with ridiculosity.
She could spot this kind of stuff a mile away. But what makes Kathy unique is the manner in which she responds to it. When most people find something to be ridiculous, they have a blustery outrage about it, they fume about it, they mock it into oblivion, or they rally a pompous superiority about the matter. Kathy doesn't do anything like that. I wonder whether she even knows how.
When Kathy finds something ridiculous, she becomes nice. Ok, she's already super nice. But she gets nicer. How nice? She's so nice it's like the air temperature changes a little when she walks in the room. Whatever the temperature was before she walked into the room, it got closer to that perfect temperature where it feels like there is no temperature at all. She is that kind of nice. Her defiant and subversive response to the ridiculous is niceness - creative niceness. It's innocent niceness. It is a crushing niceness that manages to subvert and defy the power of the ridiculous, no matter how massive it happens to be. It's an undoing kind of niceness that rather innocently drags the ridiculous out into the light, but not to shame it. No. Her niceness redeems it.
Wait. Nice? That's it? Nice isn't special, it's not defiant and it certainly isn't subversive. If that is what you are thinking right now, you don't know Kathy. You and I find would find her to be nice. That's because we are also nice. Not as nice as Kathy, but we see nice for what it is and we like it. But if you were evil and if you were horrible, you would find her niceness to be an assault, a barrage, an over the top aggressiveness that felt cruel. Her smile would be threatening. Her simple way of going about doing the right thing innocently and nicely, even though it may break the social, cultural, or theological rules, would feel to the evil version of yourself to be diabolical. If we were evil, we would be worried about Kathy because we would feel defenseless against her defiant and subversive weapons. We would wonder why no one else could see what she was up to. She just gets away with it - no accountability. Unrelenting, unmitigated, and irrepressible nice.
So when Kathy got cancer, it was ridiculous.
It doesn't make any sense. How does the delightfully defiant and subversive woman get cancer? It's not fair. It's not right. It's certainly not something to be nice about.
And yet...
She did it again. I have been following the reports that her husband Brett (the rarest of men who deserves the privilege to be married to the delightfully defiant and subversive woman) posts on Facebook. Kathy, in her subtle ways, even under the pressure and pain of tests, reports, more tests, chemo, radiation, and surgeries, still she finds a nice way to be defiant and subversive.
For the record, I am pretty sure if I had to run the course Kathy has been forced to run, I'd be cursing things, calling down fire from Heaven, and feeling justified for the wake of ruined things left behind what should be regretful words flung off into servers around the world for everyone to see.
Not Kathy. She's nice.
In one of Brett's updates, he reported that as part of her treatment for cancer, Kathy had a tube or some highly intrusive thing most of us never knew existed, stuck in her. A thing, an object - part of it inside of her and part of it outside of her. It's not right. It's not natural. It's ridiculous. People weren't made to have tubes sticking out of them.
So, what does Kathy do about this ridiculous tube? Complain? No, that would been my move. Rip it out? No, that would have been my dad's move. Does she engage the pity of the world? She could have and would have gotten it. No. So what does Kathy do?
She names it.
That's right. She named the tube. She named it Axel Larry Osborne. First, middle, and last names. Delightful. Defiant. Subversive. It was nice. She included the tube - into the family! It's an Osborne. She threatened the tube - with inclusion. It's ridiculous to have a tube sticking out of her body and she turns the tables and welcomes it into the family.
And it's not just about being nice to the tube. It's being nice about having a tube. If you were the nurse having to attend to that tube and your patient named it Axel Larry Osborne, wouldn't that be a story to go home and tell? Wouldn't that has made an otherwise difficult job a little more worth it? If you were the nurse, how many other patients had been so hard to deal with? Many of them, as you can imagine. It makes sense to be miserable when the condition of your body is so ridiculous. What makes sense to Kathy, in the middle of her own cancer treatment, is to do something that immediately makes everyone a better person. It's funny. It's innocent. It's so Kathy.
That's it. That's what makes Kathy's nice so diabolically nice. The beast explodes out of the woods and she paints a flower on its tusk.
This is Kathy throwing her fists into the air.
This is Kathy fighting like Hell against a monster.
This is full on Kathy at her very finest.
If I were fighting cancer for one thousand years I would never have come up with naming the tube. It's genius. It's brilliant. It is delightfully defiant and subversive. And nice - it's Kathy Osborne's native language.

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