Quickie: “Have To” vs. “Get To”


This is gonna be quick. I hope. Famous last words. Ok, I’ll get to it.

I have a friend who is now, gratefully, in her sixth year of remission from cancer.

She is younger than I am by a couple years.

She is beautiful, graceful, intelligent, funny, a woman, a human . . .  y’know, it doesn’t matter. She’s a person.

We were on the phone one afternoon a few years ago. I was a little tired, it was late in the day and there’s a three-hour difference in our time zones. She heard me lamenting the following day’s errands and that:

  • I had to get gas for the car.
  • I had to make dinner.
  • I had to take the dog to the vets.
  • I had to shop.
  • I had to drive to soccer practice.

I was looking for some company for my misery.

The phone went silent.

She had heard enough.

She was nine months post-treatment at the time.

She said very slowly and very quietly, “You listening, Mol?”

“Yyyesss,” I said with a dash of pepper.

“Good. I never want to hear you say you ‘have to’ do anything ever again; as if it is a chore, or a huge burden. I want to hear you say, ‘I GET to go to the bank’ or ‘I GET to sit in traffic.’ or ‘I GET to pay my taxes.’ Do you HEAR me? I was staring at a life sentence. I was staring at cancer in my 30s. I was staring at death. And nothing, NOTHING makes you wish to live to long enough to sit waiting at the DMV like wondering and praying and hoping that your treatments will work,” she said.

I sat there on the line humbled.

“Mmmmokay. Yer right,” I murmured.

She changed my outlook forever that day; despite my blahs and blues, I’ve never been more happy to have them after she read me the truth.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

6 responses »

    • oui. i have lived a charmed life despite my stuff. i have been amazingly healthy and strong. sometimes i wonder when i’ll get sick (i mean, *sick* sick) but i can’t live that way; that’s not living.

    • 🙂 thanks! yeah, it’s important and easy to do. it’s like changing superlatives and empiricals (“always late / always intense,” “must be / must get done,” “never” “worst” “best” “should”) into the conditionals: “might be” “can be” “tends to be” “could”) … check out the posts i wrote about perfect apologies or incongruent messaging. we are a fascinating species… 🙂 -molly

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