My mom has had back pain for a long time. It’s caused by a horrible car accident years ago. Someone’s carelessness caused her pain. I know it hurts her each day, but she gets up, grits her teeth and goes on. You can’t discern that she is in pain, not really. Aside from a tense hand, or a momentary gritting of her teeth, she is a pillar of strength. I always thought that by being there with her or with my Dad I could stop their pain in the event they would ever experience it. I thought that pain was something you could see but you could not touch, something curable, something love could take away. But you can’t see pain. You can’t understand it. You can’t be a part of it. Pain is fleeting, it is easily masked, it is incurable in many ways. It’s hard to pin down, it’s hard to explain and most of all it is hard to endure.
I fear sleep because it ends in pain. I fear activity because it ends in pain. I fear sounds because they end in pain. I fear confrontation because it ends in pain. I fear brain surgery because it ends in pain. I fear everything because I fear pain. But despite my fear, physical and emotional, I endure. I endure pain. Under a veneer of a smile I endure. As my mother does, as my father has, as my siblings have, as my friends have. As you have. We’ve all endured some kind of pain afterall that’s life right? Under our appearances, our clothes, our cars, our jokes, and our jobs are the things we cover over, the emotions we blow by, the moments we can’t face. The demons we face when alone, naked in a mirror. (Or not naked, or metaphorically naked, whatever floats your boat). The point is, life is a series of successes and disappointments. Trials and celebrations. No one is immune, not even the fabulous. I would know, I consider myself fabulous. I have words on my wrist, meant to propel me forward, meant to guide my heart. Laughter flowing endlessly from my heart, being my cure. Fearlessness flowing endlessly into my heart. To be fearless does not to me mean to be without fear, but to be able to conquer it, to endure it. To stand in the face of it and say, “yes, I am scared shitless, I may even pee my pants, but I’ll still do this. I, an anxiety ridden, terrified baby, will do this, and to shove it in your face fear? I’ll do it well.” So when I wake up, hands shaking, soaked in sweat, the sheer physical pain overtaking me, I only cower for a moment, then I face it. I endure it. I have no choice but to face it. Giving up would be reckless at this point. Then, when the pain in my body becomes more manageable, I face the fear in my heart. The fear of going back to school, learning, reading, facing, explaining, conquering. I feel as though I am re-entering the world, with no visible scars to serve as my excuse, I must stand on my own two feet. I have to be me, 2.0, bionic woman with the steel screws in her head, ready for business. It should actually be pretty funny because I find reading a breakfast menu taxing at this point. I’ll do it though, and three weeks ahead of doctors orders… That’s right, I’m a fool, but I got this.
I watched so many people struggle with so much in this life, and I always took care of them in whatever way I could. In taking care of them I thought I had somehow built an immunity to what happens to so many. It couldn’t happen to me, right? Now, the tables have turned, the roles have shifted and I am totally uneasy accepting the love and care. I don’t know how. As one friend told me, I don’t forgive myself any weakness or allow room for mistakes. I sit with myself, present with my emotions, but I expect a degree of perfection from myself that I would never dream possible in others. I cut them slack, I forgive them, why can I not forgive myself? I don’t understand how to accept that this has happened to me. I don’t know how to accept that this is my life. Even when I yell, “this is our life now!” through my laughter as I shake my head side to side doing vestibular exercises in a grocery store I don’t see it as me, I’m watching it from far away, at least sometimes. I look in the mirror and I see me, but I see me before I knew, before I saw it, before I recognized a reality in myself that I didn’t understand. I resented being the girl with the brain tumor but is that not who I am? Is it not a part of me? I see my reflection and I forget, I see my face and I forget. I see surreal images of myself in the hospital, unconscious from the drugs and I think, “who is that? how did she get here?” How on earth? I just don’t get it. It’s the universe playing a joke on me and I am laughing in its face. I wonder when I will stop thinking of this, when will this stop being a part of my everyday? When will I have something more interesting to talk about? I mean frankly, I’m bored of it, if I’m being honest; yet, it consumes me. My pain won’t let me forget. Ughhh, are you confused yet? I am.
Tomorrow I start school. My professors and my program have been incredibly compassionate and understanding, even as I skirt deadlines and act totally lame. I couldn’t have been luckier with my situation going into this semester. I’m excited to go back, hoping a routine will let Herbert know that he didn’t win this round. I did. We did. My whole family, because I did not do this alone. My whole family did this and continues to do it. Whether it is my Dad shouting out that he loves me, or my mom, slowly walking alongside me in the freezing cold. Or my siblings taking on my complainy, crude, off color text messages. We did this, we continue to do this, just as we might with each struggle our family endures. We all endure. Under every smile are experiences, good and bad. Beneath my hair is a scar, beneath my skin, under this vessel of my body is a story, pain, hope, love, life, celebration, beauty, ugly – all in one. We did this, all of us, did all of this. And we’ll keep going, all of us, forward on our journeys.
I don’t think I make any sense tonight, but hey, at least I’m not Jodie Foster, at the Golden Globes, talking about privacy…on TV…
With that – peace and love –