I used to look in the mirror before I got in the shower, looking in quiet observation of the curves of my body. I would marvel at the strength I had put into the contours of the muscles. Strength that took time to build, strength that helped my internal self push harder and longer. I was fit and it showed and though I always had something to nit-pick at, I was proud of what I had fought for.
I don’t look in the mirror like that anymore, I avert my gaze as I throw my clothes limply to the ground. The glimpses I catch show me weakened muscles, the contour of my biceps having fallen to a straight line. I don’t look at myself anymore. Not in the same way. When I do look for a moment, I scrutinize the eye that doesn’t close as well and the smile that takes such extra effort. I stare hard at my nose and see small bits of CSF drip out and fear paralyzes me in the mirror.
I don’t look at myself in the mirror anymore. Not because I am worried I am not beautiful anymore, despite what I thought it would be it is not a vanity thing. I don’t look because I don’t know where I’ve landed yet, the person I see, though she is weakened and has tears streaming down one side, she doesn’t exist anymore. She doesn’t fit the image of myself I have in my ideal heart.
I just don’t look anymore.
That person we knew, she’s a ghost in the shadows, she’s just not here anymore.
A lot of you know I am suffering from a broken heart. The love of my life and I broke up a few months back after a series of unexpected events turned our plans sideways. There’s plenty of blame to go around but all I have now is mercy and forgiveness, that and a broken heart. But he’s still my best friend, and that’s something, though a complicated, difficult and often heart breaking something, and often a something that leaves me with a false hope for a return to a life that doesn’t exist anymore, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I have changed, fundamentally and wholly, and so have lots of circumstances. Though sometimes I miss the old me, because the old me got to hang out with my best friend all day long.
Because of all my love and I went through I never knew how to answer people when they asked me how I was doing. The answer was bad, but I like to be funny, and bad is often not funny.
Then I needed more surgery.
Then I needed more surgery than that.
Then I needed more surgery than that one too.
And I saw the days ticking by on the calendar as I sat listlessly in the hospital and the breath got stuck in my throat. Shit, how much of life will I miss?!
But then I realized, was I even living before?
I have been told by many that I should distract myself, to find things to shift my focus. That’s not so easy when your life is a list of times you last medicated and where you left your ice pack. I do okay by escaping into silly TV shows but I don’t want to distract myself really.
I want to feel what’s happening to me. I want to sit in the shit to figure out why the world would cover me in so much shit in the first place. And in so doing I learn who I am and I see what I can be grateful for.
So here’s a list:
Grateful for my mom who has essentially had a month and a half slumber party with me, bouncing from hospital room to hospital room without a complaint.
Grateful for my dad who despite a difficult year for us maintained my health as his priority and carries me in his heart with a genuine love.
Grateful for my big brother and our late night Modern Family parties and his thoughtful questions.
Grateful for my big sis for sitting in my bed with me and watching shows she is not caught up on so she has no idea what’s going on. That and the way she loves me.
Grateful for my other big sis who listens to me panic and calms my nerves with her soothing pediatrician voice. That and the way she understands me.
Grateful for my cousin who has cared for my like few people in my life have, he has been an unexpected best friend in all this.
Grateful for my niece and nephew who tell me I’m there best friend and joke with me.
Grateful for the brother in law who answers questions patiently and thoughtfully.
Grateful for the friends who show up with little gifts and conversation and love and light.
Grateful to that giant family of choice I have online and offline, to everyone who has been holding their breath asking me how I am doing.
And grateful to that man I love, for being my friend. With all that we have been through I am grateful for his patience and kindness and his love, even if that love has changed, even when it breaks my heart.
Most of all I am grateful for that mirror that calls me out, waiting for me to regain my strength, to fight back, to become the woman this journey is forcing me to become. I am grateful for the conflict I feel in my heart that draws me out of my comfort zone and leaves me firmly in a space of doubt and fear. Now I have a chance to discover myself. Now I have a chance to be who I was meant to be. Or maybe now I simply have a chance to live again.
So how am I doing?
Well I don’t know how to answer that.
I live a charmed life, I know that. I am blessed to have been able to get treated and have my life saved. Not just once but over and over again. And it may not be over and I have to make my peace with that so usually I tell people I am “hanging in there.” Whatever that means. But how am I, really?
My heart hurts sometimes and that makes me sad. But then sometimes I forget and I am okay. My head hurts a lot, but I take the pills and I am ok. My fear takes hold of me but then I cry and make a joke and laugh and laugh and it’s ok. I lose sight of myself sometimes but my family and friends hug me and I am ok. And in all of it I am surrounded by more love than I think any person should be able to ask for in life and that in and of itself is the most amazing gift. It’s a beautiful thing.
So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m doing ok.
And I’m working on good, and I hope that’s answer enough.
Peace and love,
PS I am thankful for my doggy, no one loves me quite like him!