Bully

High school.  Senior year.  Everything was set.  Friend groups, cliques, who was cool, who was not.  The order of things was already in place.

I trusted you.  With my friendship, with my secrets, with my heart.  That must have made it so easy.

No warning; complete blindside.  One morning: silence.  From all three of you, simultaneously.  I was invisible.  I was not even worthy of an explanation.  I was now outside the circle.  I had no idea why.

I had to cover; save face.  I couldn’t react, not in public.  I cried in private instead.  I kept my head up.  Came to school every day.  Pretended I could cope.  Eventually, found a new order of things to exist in.

Little did I know you weren’t done yet; the silence was only the beginning.  Then came the side glances followed by whispers and laughter.  The prank calls.  The crude writing on the side of my car — at my work.  Eventually, it stopped.  But not until you’d left your mark.

It was one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me.  Damaged me then, damaged me later.

To this day, I still don’t know the reason why you did it.  I do know that I don’t trust women easily, even now.  I can count on one hand the number of female friends I have actually let in.  I am cautious with my heart, with my secrets, with my friendship.  I learned.

I learned to protect myself.  I learned to keep my head up.  I learned to rely solely on my own power of will that I could make it through the next hour.  The next day.  The next week.  I learned to be strong.

You did not break me.  You did not win.

I Will

I have disappeared.  It was not sudden.

Today in the shower it hit me like a boulder.  I have spent 20 years of my life trying to be someone I am not.

Eight of those with a boy-man who did not deserve my love, yet I threw it at him as if my life depended on it.  I started the journey with him so head-strong, confident (sarcastically so).  I ended it not knowing if I was worth being loved.  He broke me down to my most insecure parts.  Why?  I don’t think it was intentional.  He was unfaithful, but parts of him cared for me.  I stayed through it all.  I lost my spine.  I convinced myself that my only salvation was for him to love me.  I shut off all the pieces of myself that made me true.

I spent a couple of years after that relationship bobbing in a sea of numbness.  Uncertainty.  Edging towards healing.  I did not give myself enough time nor credit.

I spent fifteen more years with a man who loved me dearly.  He had a good heart.  He was a good father.  But I was still an imposter in my own head.  I tried (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to be a good wife, a good step-mother.  I don’t regret the children and family I loved then.  I do not regret the lessons I learned.  I regret least of all the beautiful gift of a daughter we made together.  I DO regret that I was still so lost, so far from myself.  Towards the end of the relationship, I started to find myself again; oddly, with chronic pain as the catalyst.  I had no more room for pretense, for hiding, for glossing over.  I became raw, and ran towards my damaged parts to cover and protect them.  I broke his heart, unintentionally.  He broke mine, unintentionally.  I pulled the trigger to end it, because he never would.  I made the decision to save us both.

I am now foggy.  I still haven’t found my way back to my soul.  It is hovering below the surface, protecting itself from – well, from what I don’t know.  I am still healing.  I am still learning.  I am working my way back up.  The mountain is sometimes so tall.

I will get there, I think.  I will not get there, I fear.  I will put one foot in front of the other.  Every god damn day.

If Only

If OnlyIt started with the birthday gift from my Mother and Stepfather.  A Spiderman backpack complete with flashing lights, and a Spiderman lunchbox, with a faux-ribbed “six-pack” etched into the design.  They were, to be fair, pretty cool.  But they were a bit young.  My daughter decided on-the-spot to exchange them for something a little more befitting her 9-year-old self, which was easy enough to do since my Mother had kindly enclosed the receipt as well.  We did so that same weekend, getting a really smart looking gray-patterned back pack with lots of neat pockets and zippers.  Only when I sent the picture to my Mother so she could see what the “new” gift was, the text I received back was, “That is a big girl backpack!”, as if she were surprised by it.  Odd.

I wrote it off as quirky, but forgot about it amongst the myriad of other things I pushed aside, as this week was the start of the school year and crazy busy.  That is, until we received the birthday box from my Father and Stepmother, as well.  My daughter was opening it in the living room as I was in the kitchen with breakfast and other morning busyness.  All of a sudden I hear an annoyed cry of, “Minnie Mouse, seriously??”  I went in to see the offending material, only to find a box filled with curly ribbon, little Minnie Mouse party glasses, tiny Minnie Mouse girl rings, and a variety of other small pink bracelets and candy.  It was a birthday box lovingly prepared for a granddaughter; only, it was not for my girl.  Almost nothing in there was remotely HER in any way, with the exception of the Target gift card (which had been my suggestion and that she did, in fact, love).

As I stood there looking at her scowling at the items in the box (mainly because they were pink – a complete offense nowadays to little miss tomboy – and they were geared towards a child more along the age of, say five), it hit me.  Like a tidal wave of sorrow, it hit. That’s how they see her, isn’t it?  My family still sees her as this small little creature; a grandbaby not quite yet grown.  And how else could they see her?  I am anchored across the country from them, in a world so foreign.  And I have done little to help them know her; I mean really know her.  Connect with her in a way that makes up for all that ugly geographic distance.  The fault, I feel, is entirely mine.

You see, she has long outgrown the Minnie Mouse trappings and blinky-lighted backpacks of her younger years.  Today’s interests are more along the lines of boy-styled roller blades and tween-approved backpacks.  Sure, she is greatly enamored with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman, but not the gimmicky ones of the younger crowd; she wants the older, cool-styled ones of the Marvel-type universe.  The ones that have explosions in their movies, and superpowers that stealth through the back door.  If only you could hear the excitement in her voice as she talks about the latest character she and her friends are arguing about; who could outwit who, which one they would rather be.  You would fall in love with the glimmer in her eye and the loud full laugh from her chest.

This girl has moved far beyond pink and frills and bows.  She is now fully ensconced in all things blue; boy colors and styles are her preference and boys, in general, are her playmates.  She has a couple of go-to best girlfriends; she hasn’t abandoned them completely.  But she prefers the boys, I think, because of a lack of drama; and she coolly tries to pattern herself like them (especially when she needs a self-confidence booster).  If only you could see her run and laugh as she plays dodge-ball with the boys after school; keeping up with the best of them, just one of the pack.  You would be amazed at her tenacity, and proud of her spirit.

Far and away are activities akin to tea parties and dress-up (although a good spa-day at home will sometimes tempt her, though she’s hard-pressed to admit it).  Now long days are filled with roller skating or scooter-ing down the block, dog in tow as her ponytail flies behind her.  That, or climbing trees, or splitting rocks.  Did you know that she loves to hammer on and split rocks open just to see what’s inside?  It’s one of her favorites.  If only you could be here to kneel down next to her and investigate the different colors she finds.  You would be awed by her inquisitiveness, and could marvel at them together.

And she’s grown; oh, how she’s grown.  No longer does she have the slightly stubby fingers or legs of a toddler or child.  She is long, and lean.  She reminds me of a colt; all muscle and leg and speed and sinew.  She comes all the way up to my collarbone now, she’s so tall.  I sometimes steal opportunities just to stare at her when she’s unaware; when she’s all serious and concentrating, or when she’s just calm and serene.  The “little girl-ness” of her is almost completely gone; she’s really starting to take on her newer, more mature frame in face and body.  It’s really a sight to behold; it breaks my heart and fills me with joy all at once; a feeling I know you would recognize.  If only we could gaze at her together, then look at each other; we would not need words to understand that you have for so long felt what I now know.

But, you see, there weren’t supposed to be all these if only‘s.  Long ago, when I imagined my future and my family and my children, I always pictured you near.  Weaving you in and out of our lives; holding you close for all the milestones and important events and even all the little mundane ones, too.  You were supposed to know all of this, already.  You were supposed to have held her close, at every turn, in every year; feeling the differences in all her growing selves, knowing all the changing versions of her.  But decision and circumstance have kept me so far away for so very long, and like a thief I have stolen all of this from you.  From her.  From me.  And the reality is that you don’t know.  And you have missed so much.  If only I could change that; if only I were home.

But I can’t; and I’m not.  Not yet, anyway.  Though I still hope to be, someday.  But until then, I will try to do better.  For you, and for her, and for me.  I will try to make sure that you know her more; and often.  So that our world is less distanced; so that we have less if only‘s.

Today

school_busToday my baby girl started Third Grade.  You’d think the summer had barely passed us by the way she hopped her way to the bus stop, new backpack on her shoulders, as if it was old-hat by now.  I was at my designated spot in the car across the street, an “acceptable” distance away so I can still ensure she’s safe, but not too close that she appear uncool to have mom trailing around.  I watched her with her friends, laughing, reconnecting.  Smiling as she got on the bus, grinning while she made silly faces at me when it passed by my car on its way off the block.  I managed to keep the tears at bay until she was out of sight, though it was harder to ignore the desire follow the bus the way I did her first day of Kindergarten.  I was almost as emotional today as I was that first school day four years ago, though for completely different reasons.  Such different feelings, such different milestones.

Today we documented this milestone, with pictures and hugs (too many, by her account).  Third Grade is a big deal, you know.  But a bigger deal is my hope for her this year, as she heads back into that school that she knows so well.  We’ve had some really big struggles over the past couple of years; some we’re still facing.  And she’s working so hard to overcome them; we all are.  So today, as I managed my tears while I went on to start my own morning, I thought of all of the anticipation this school year brings – good and bad – and all that goes along with it.  Not the least of which was the simple hope that this first day go well for her; there seemed to be so much riding on first impressions today, for some reason.

Today I was relieved to talk to her, and get a good report.  She was happy to see her friends, really liked her teacher, loved her new room (they have two ceiling fans, and they have carpet!), and had a great time at after-care.  She was in a fantastic mood for the rest of the night as a result; which doesn’t always happen.  It was the best possible outcome.

Today we read her favorite book before bed, and the main character (also grade-school age) mentioned how embarrassing it was to find notes from her mother in her lunchbox.  I occasionally did this last year for her during times that she was struggling, or seemed to need an extra pick-me-up.  I asked her what she would think about me doing that again this year, whether that would be okay.  She looked at me sideways and said, “So NOT cool, Mom.  But you CAN say ‘Peace out, YO!’, that would be cool.”  The way she said it was so smooth and full of bravado, all I could do was laugh.  Then Daddy laughed, then she laughed too.  It was a great happy moment.

Today I put her to bed without incident, and listened to her bubble and chatter and tell me about her favorite parts of her day.  Then after she fell asleep I snuck back up to watch her slumber a while, like I do every so often, just to soak in the silent serenity that is the beauty of my daughter.  All eight years full.

Today my baby girl had a GREAT first day of Third Grade.  And tonight I breathe a little easier and am grateful.

Goodness Shines Through

Violence. It’s everywhere lately, isn’t it? On the news, television shows, the papers; you can find it without even having to look for it. It’s so prevalent, we almost get used to it, I feel. Reports of fights, murder, abuse, rape. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t encounter some sort of story on at least one of these items somewhere. What a world, right?

Even television; violence seems to be a central plot-point to the most popular shows today. How many “CSI” series are running concurrently now, anyway? And can you have a Crime Scene Investigation without first there being a crime? Well, no, you can’t. And it seems to be worsening; many of the shows that came out last year were pushing the envelope way more than just your run-of-the-mill ‘CSI’. I’m talking about things like ‘Hannibal’ and ‘The Following’. Sure, great drama; but if you’ve checked any of them out, they’re extremely heavy on the graphic from a violence perspective. And they’re not alone. Thing is, they’re huge hits. Which makes me wonder, why the desire for more?

I’m not innocent, here. I watch my fair share of crime shows; though I stay away from the graphic ones. I can stomach them, but I choose not to. They simply turn me off. But I also see violence in shows and movies that don’t necessarily have that as their central theme. Sometimes, it’s part of the purpose of telling a story, so I get it. It’s part of life. And as I mentioned, it’s everywhere lately. So you can imagine my surprise when it hit me in the face last night when I watched a movie and was completely caught off guard…

It was a great movie; lots of themes about fathers and sons, responsibility, etc. It was a quick scene about two high school acquaintances coming to blows, only one got the upper hand and really took it out on the other. I mean really went at him. The other one was badly injured, wound up in the hospital; it was rough. Even rougher on me was the fact that this type of violence has touched my life in the past, and this particular scene hit way too close to home. The age of the actors, the sounds of the fighting, the boy lying on the ground. I was instantly transported back to another time entirely, unsuspectingly; and what would have just been some random violence in a movie took on a whole different feel.

I remembered vividly the phone call about the attack; though this one wasn’t from classmates, it was unprovoked and unexplained from strangers, and more violent. I remembered feeling helpless, with nothing I could do until being allowed to come to the hospital. Desperately wanting to go there as fast as I could while simultaneously wanting to avoid it at all costs because I was terrified at what I would see. Once I did arrive, using every bit of strength I had to conceal my fear and worry so as to appear calm when he saw me so I didn’t upset him more. Gathering in that small room with rows of chairs and solemn faces while strangers with scalpels and sutures put him back together. Waiting to find out if it would all be okay, if HE would be okay, all the while knowing that no matter what magic they worked in that operating room, nothing would ever make it OKAY.

All of this rushed over me in a matter of minutes while I sat on the couch, movie paused, remote in my hand, tears running down my face. It’s been years since all of this took place; and yet it came back so quickly, like only yesterday. Since then I’ve seen someone I love break in more ways than just bones and body. Violence has a way of permeating everything it touches like a virus and spreading outward; like a dark cancer. Untreated, it will consume your whole being.

I would guess that’s partly why I struggle, at times, with being the overprotective mother to my now 8-year-old daughter. It’s difficult, as she grows, to let her have the wings she needs; to not hover so much. To let her ride her bicycle with her group of friends down the block as they laugh without a care; let her run through the backyards of sprinklers and games of ‘tag’ so freely. Because I know what lurks when you don’t watch closely enough; I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s an image you can never remove.

But you can fight it. You can be vigilant. You can attack that cancer with light and goodness and send it back to its hole where it belongs. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen that broken boy heal. I’ve seen him overcome demons in ways I never would have imagined, and some he is still fighting. Is he unchanged? Not even close; nor are we. Violence leaves scars on everyone it touches. But if we let it keep us down, then it wins; the cancer keeps spreading. Only when we fight back – even when it seems hopeless – only when we dig out of the darkest pit and move forward past the broken places, that’s when the healing becomes the victor. That’s when the goodness shines through.

Not So Solitary

hawksLast week we took a much needed couple of days away at some family property in the country.  As we drove up the gravel road, two birds flew low above the car.  We originally thought they were owls; brown and tan in coloring, large wings.  It was majestic the way they flew and soared through the air.  I watched them go, then was distracted by the fact that I had to stop the car so as not to run into the house; you know, the little things.

We unpacked, got settled, and came out to take stock of things on the deck.  It was then that my husband noticed the birds again, this time alighted in a large tree about 100 yards off.  This particular tree, unlike the rest of the forested area, happened to have no foliage on it for some reason, so they were markedly easy to spot.  Not owls, we now realized, but two hawks of some sort.  My husband pulled out his spotting scopes and mounted them on the deck table so we could all take a really close look, which ended up being a fantastic idea.  They were beautiful, and amazing to watch.

What was most interesting was how fascinated I was with them even though they didn’t do much of anything.  They sat a lot, looked around a lot, one flew off with a loud cry while the other stayed.  But I was completely transfixed.  They seemed almost magical, for some reason.  So serene, so unaffected in their quietness.  It was like a meditation just to observe them.

The second one eventually flew off on a mission, so we took its cue and went off on one of our own, exploring for a while as well.  But later, as dusk settled in, so again did the hawks.  Same tree.

Before, they had been apart from each other, in different parts of the tree entirely.  But this time was interesting; they were on the same branch, quite close in proximity, almost like they were sitting together intentionally.  They stayed like that for quite some time, very still, not really even scanning around them.  It made me so curious; were they family?  Companions?  Mates?  Communicating in some way?

Eventually, one flew off, but the other remained.  I watched it for as long as the light would allow; it was still there, the last we checked.  My husband pondered if that was perhaps their roost.  For some reason I would have thought they would roost somewhere more sheltered (as if I have any kind of intimate hawk knowledge).  But maybe?  For some reason I have always thought of hawks as a solitary bird.  Maybe it’s because whenever I see them, I only ever see just one.  But our sighting certainly changed that theory.  These two clearly were a pair, and it was so beautiful to have had the opportunity to watch them together.

As the light finally faded, I found myself hoping that tree really was their roost, and they would be there again the next day.  Only dawn would tell…

Put Away Your Scalpels

Tonight I went walking with my daughter.  It was great to be outside; strolling in the sun and the breeze.  It’s been some time since I’ve felt myself really move, felt alive, watched her laugh and live beside me.  I would have missed out on today as well, if not for a little white lie.

This morning I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  Just a regular checkup, though it seems like my checkups are never really “regular”.  I am blessed on my father’s side with a large Irish bloodline.  This also means I am somewhat un-blessed with very fair Irish skin; pale, burns easily, lots of moles.  I very frequently have irregular moles removed.  Almost always, they end up benign, and we’re good to go.  This past April, however, was my 3-year cancerversary.  Having a melanoma removed from your thigh at 37 is an experience, let me tell you.  So I take my checkups seriously, and when my doc sees something he thinks should go, I listen.  But today was different.

The reason?  I have just come out of the other side of one hell of a migraine cycle.  It was basically an entire month of pain, grouchy wife/momma, weekends trying to rest, meds, early evenings, rinse, repeat.  It happens; you take it a day at a time and get through it until it fades.  But while you’re in it, it’s crap.  There’s no way to sugarcoat it; it just plain sucks.  Not only for me, but also for my family.  It’s draining on all of us.  My husband carries the extra weight, my daughter (age 7) has to give up her Momma to this mystery ailment she can’t see or fight against, and I just try to endure while my body depletes until I feel like there’s nothing left for anyone let alone me.

Since I’ve rebounded, the last several days have felt like a cloud has finally lifted.  My energy has started to return, I’ve been able to exercise again, I’ve been enjoying time with my girl and my family, I’ve just been able to breathe.  So today when my doc said he wanted to remove another mole (from the top of my foot, no less, inhibiting my mobility for a couple of weeks to heal), I was surprised how my logic voice of ‘probably a good idea’ was so loudly drowned out by my inner spirit screaming out “NO CUTTING!!”  All I could think was ‘not today; not now; I need more time to feel good, more time to breathe, more time in between hurting and being the Mom who can’t play on Saturday because she’s trying to heal, more time to be human and whole and just….ME‘.

Thing is, I didn’t think I could explain that to my doc without sounding like a raving loon.  And at that point, he was already readying the scalpel and lidocaine; I didn’t have a lot of time.  So I blurted out the only other thing that came to mind.  “Uh, I have a wedding to attend this Saturday, and I think there will be dancing.  Is your concern level pretty high on this one?”  Not very smooth; but it worked.  He said it was only a minor concern, and that as long as I had it taken care of within 4-8 weeks, we’d be fine.  He then said it was probably better to enjoy the dancing and nice shoes without the foot incision, and to have fun.  That smarted a little more than the cut probably would have, but don’t fool yourself thinking I spent a lot of time dwelling…I hightailed it out of there as fast as my mole-covered legs would take me.  (After responsibly scheduling my return appointment for 4 weeks out; I’m not completely throwing caution to the wind here, people.)

I will say I fully enjoyed my walk this evening.  Guilt free, headache free, even if it wasn’t mole-free.  I’ll hold on to this one for a little while longer.

We All Need To Be Rocked Sometime

lion-hugWhen I picked my daughter up this evening, she looked tired.  It was warm here today; her face was flushed, as if she was overheated.  She seemed a bit standoffish, not greeting me right away.  Then when she spoke, she was speaking in baby-talk.  Regressed syllables, clipped sentences.  It took me a bit of time to get her moving towards the car.  She wanted to be silly; not follow directions, play games, dawdle, etc.  I had a feeling I was in for a long evening.

My daughter is seven.  She is bright, beautiful, curious, empathic, and extremely loving.  She’s been facing more than her fair share of challenges lately, which leave her more often than not wounded and wondering.  Not much different from the rest of us, really, though we have the luxury of life and learning and how to bounce back better than a seven-year-old now, don’t we?  The regressive speak is a product of feeling vulnerable, and a yearning for being nurtured.  I also gather it’s related to spending time recently at her grandparent’s with her 18-month-old cousin; watching him being coddled and cared-for in a way reminiscent of what she feels she’s needing, when she is expected to be the “big girl” in the room must be especially frustrating for her at the moment.

The toddler-talk continued for the entirety of the car ride home.  I did my best to calmly tolerate it, while also reminding her to use better words.  When I could tell her frustration level was rising, I tried instead to shift topics or distract with music rather than continue to correct.  There’s a time and a place, and an over-tired child won’t soak in the message anyway, so why hammer it in?

When we got home I focused on minimizing her stimulation level (no television), and maximizing her comfort level (giving her my full attention).  I put on some music and we played a game together while Daddy cooked dinner.  As she continued with the tiny words, I tried a different approach.  I told her that I knew it might feel safe to pretend to be little sometimes, but think of all the things she would miss if she didn’t grow up?  Measuring how tall she was against my chest, riding the bigger slides at the water park, getting to go on overnights with her Girl Scout troop.  Those were pretty cool things that only big girls got to do, and she surely wouldn’t want to miss out on those, right?  She answered back in her normal seven-year-old cadence and added a few of her own achievements – getting tall enough to no longer use a car seat, riding the cooler roller coasters, and tackling me when she hugged me, which she then proceeded to do.  After the tackle, she got quiet, looked up at me, and said, “But what about rocking, what if I get too big for rocking?”

I pulled her onto my lap and held her close.  I told her, “You will never be too big for rocking, baby.  We all need to be rocked sometime, even big people like Mama.  I’ll always rock you, no matter how big you get.  Promise.”  Then she clung to me tightly for what seemed like a moment in between worlds – where baby and big girl and Mama all blended together in one swirly thought – and we just rocked there, together.

I don’t even remember who won the game…

I Am Not My Hair

Hair

Hair. Everyone has it. Short, long, straight, wavy, fine, thick, colored, grey. Some people have their “signature” style. Others are experimental, always switching it up. Often, it reflects a person’s personality. Or for some, it reflects inherited features (or a lack thereof).

For me, at forty, I guess you could say I have a certain style. (Well my sister, who owns her own salon, would say I have a boring style, but I digress…). I’m not one of the “switch-it-up” types, really; that’s not my personality. I’m used to how I wear and style it. I’m used to how thick it is, how long it takes to wash and dry. I’m used to how it feels when I run my hands through it, when I hold it in a pony altogether, and when I let it fall loosely against my bare shoulders.

What I’m NOT used to, however, is losing it.

It’s not uncommon for everyone to lose some hair every day. Particularly when washing, hair comes out. And when your hair is longer, as mine is, it’s noticeable at the bottom of the drain. But over the last month or so, the amount I’ve been losing has been steadily increasing. As you may have noticed by the photo with this post, the amount I’m losing as of now closely resembles a small forest animal. To say it’s unsettling is an understatement.

Causes of rapid hair loss run the gambit. For women, it can be anything from stress to thyroid issues to sudden dietary changes to bodily system trauma, and on. In my case, it is likely related to the shock to my body combined with the lack of nutrition experienced with my appendectomy/infection back in December (explained more fully here). Upon discussion with my med contacts, it’s the likely culprit. My naturopath actually likened it to the way animals react to severe sudden stress; they rapidly shed all their hair. Only they don’t freak out about it the way humans do, because it’s part of their normal cycle. It seems more acceptable when you think of it in those terms, though it’s still a little harder to accept for me, personally.

As I mentioned, I’m used to my hair. I like my hair. I’m fond of how I look with my hair. I’ve been trying to accept that we’ve resolved the reason for it falling out, and I’m fairly okay with that. But it’s not slowing down. And while I can see some regrowth in it, it doesn’t regenerate nearly as fast as I’m losing it. And I’m concerned with what I may see in the mirror a month from now. When I sit with that thought too long, I’m most certainly NOT okay with that.

All emotion aside, there is no arguing the reality I can see in front of me every day. My body has changed significantly over the last two months; I am continuing to heal. It is a process; and my hair, or current lack thereof, is a strong reminder of that. I am also reminded that embracing change is much easier than fighting against it. Which is why today I visited the salon for a much needed cut and re-style. Instead of hanging on to the old damaged hair that is quickly losing ground, I opted instead to cut a lot of it off and work more closely with the newer hair coming in. I was surprised how much I like my shorter, cleaner bob; it actually looks more like “me” than my older style.

When I think about it, though, I’ve been sinking into this newer “me” for a while now. Newer, starker, thinner, more awake to life, less hair, more clarity, me. No, I am certainly not my hair; but there are similarities. Because in a lot of ways, I am also color and thickness and curl and length and growth. Sometimes, I lose myself and fall. But I always find my way back.

Reclaimed Self

ReclaimSudden loss of self.  I suppose that’s how I would describe it, though it’s not quite sufficient.  But I’m at a loss to explain, in any better capacity, the lack of identity I’ve been experiencing for close to a month, now.

Initially, I came down with the flu.  Two days later, I found myself in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  Only it wasn’t your textbook case of appendicitis; they found I also had an infection – my appendix were gangrene.  I was told that had it gone on much longer, the outcome could have been very different.  In other words, I very likely would not have been writing this today.  A slightly elongated (and entirely miserable) hospital stay followed the surgery, and I came home four long days later; shaken, weakened, in pain, and utterly changed.

Fear became my nemesis.  I was afraid to sleep, afraid to eat, afraid to move.  Afraid to fully face how tenuous and fragile life really was, perhaps.   I couldn’t help but feel I got lucky; I got a second chance, somehow.  Maybe I was afraid to really embrace what that meant.  In addition to the psychological delay, there was also a physical lag; my body simply did not respond the way I was used to.  The combination created quite the unexpected hurdle to climb as I stumbled through my recovery, bit by bit.  I slowly learned to check my expectations at the door, and start taking things one day at a time; a difficult thing to do when all I wanted was to feel even remotely like myself again.

Sometime later I went out in the world, literally, for the first time in three weeks.  I felt like an imposter in my own body.  Fifteen pounds lighter, not fully healed; my pants were too large, my rings loose, my frame moved differently.  I walked delicately, afraid to step wrongly, afraid to fall.  Fear rearing its head, again.  Sitting at a table in Panera, eating alone, I was exhausted.  I wanted nothing more than to be safe in the familiarity of my living room, on my couch, resting.  But that was my goal for the day, to venture.  To exist.  To be in the world.  Not only that, I had to start increasing my mobility.   So that day, my objective was to go out, even if it was only briefly.  Venture.  Be human.  Breathe air.  Move.  It required more effort than you might think…but I succeeded.

As I did the next day, and the day after that.  Although there have been small unexpected setbacks along the way to navigate through.  My body is still a bit of a foreigner to me.  It still looks different; my frame, and even my face, staring back at me in the mirror.  The woman I see is changed, sharper around the edges.  She is more cautious, less trusting, mostly of herself; not as brave.  Not yet fully reclaimed.

But she hasn’t given up; she is still moving forward.  Maybe she just needs a little more time to learn how to move in this new self; or maybe it’s more about learning who this new self really is.  I don’t think you can go through something like this and not really be changed by it, can you?  Maybe it’s less about reclaiming, and more about rediscovery.

I’m not sure yet, of the answer.  I’ll let you know when I figure it all out…but really, whoever does?