Thursday, October 6, 2016

That Perfect Road Trip

This perfect road trip hasn't actually happened yet. But I've learned that the reality you want in life doesn't ever come unless you dream it first. And so I am dreaming.

The window buzzes quietly as it glides down into its slender compartment in the car door and settles down in there with a gentle thump. 

I wonder how many trees there are in these stretches of pine that seem to roll on and on for miles. From above, I’ve seen that the seemingly vast forests surrounding these roads actually only just line them, maybe only ten or twenty jaggedy rows deep. I was disappointed the first time I flew in an airplane and saw that. Can wild animals live in such a shallow arboreal home? I can’t imagine anything interesting living in a fake forest. Why do we even have these? Who plants them? Maybe they were actual forests once upon a time and have been pruned this close to the roads to make room for farmland plots. I think this is probably the case. But I pretend anyway that I am in a deep piney jungle, and a feeling of childlike safety envelops me.

My hair whips my neck over and over with each wind gust I have quietly invited into my car through the open window. It’s amazing how bugs smack and bleed on the windshield without sneaking in through the side window, like a giant mouth open wide. I’m thankful for that. I hate getting a bug in my hair. Or worse, my mouth.

It is a comfortable tumult, this air whirling through the car all around me, though I know there is probably poison from the pollution it carries out on this highway from all the behemoth rigs growling down the road, which bully all the rest of us in our person-carrying cars, and from the refineries in the distance, and the burning piles of trash in rural yards scattered on the landscape here and there, but which only seem to exist down here in the deep south on these lonesome highways. Do people burn trash everywhere? Or just in the nearly empty southern non-cities where there’s nowhere else for it to go and no one who will pick it up and take it any place else? At least fire is cheap, I suppose. Landfills aren’t. At least morally.

Anyway, aren’t so many things that fill us with joy actually killing us slowly? Killing us slowly is better than killing us quickly. We all have an expiration date, ultimately. I wish I could know mine but am also grateful I cannot know. And I wish wishes could stop time. Could freeze moments. Ones like this. Where the wind hugs me, where a stunningly shadowy voice calling through the speakers in a private duet with a gentle guitar burrows straight into my heart and wakes up my belly with a welcome pang, and the road lays itself out before me – calling me and gifting me with a safe path to anywhere I want to go.

I am leaving the window down. I take a swig of still warm coffee, pull my sweater into my lap, and flip on the seat heater to warm me as the cool front begins to settle in. It’s a wilder wind now that plays with my hair more aggressively as it becomes colder. And it stings my cheeks and makes my nose run a little. Harsh, but in the most beautiful way.

I settle into my seat, feeling it against my body, aware mostly of the vibrations of this car flying along on the pavement. It is supporting me, and I feel it there under me, but it doesn’t hurt. My right foot is gently pressing the gas pedal as I pass the car that just merged into the right-hand lane after clogging up the left-hand lane before it finally got over, and my left foot is just resting, knee bent freely, leaning against the comforting interior wall of the car door. I remember when cold air like this would make my muscles scream. But right now, my muscles feel lazy despite the chill. And I am grateful.

I should buy some beef jerky next time I stop. It hurts my jaw if I chew too much of it, but my sentimental nostalgia yearns for it here on the open highway. And it will probably make my stomach hurt. I probably won’t care.

I never thought I would get to do this again.

They ripped open my hips. That’s when I really fell from grace. Or fell from life but found grace in the end. Twice on the left side, and once on the right side. I paid good money for them to slice into me. I was so broken. I used to drive a twelve minute surface street route home from work and was certain I was dying this time, so many times, on that otherwise repetitive drive. I pulled over more days than I want to admit, succumbing to the dizziness that was overtaking my brain as it tried its best to shut out the pain filling my body, like a hot liquid lava spreading and leaving burned and cracking surfaces, but inside me, in its wake. I suppose the passing out from pain phenomenon is an evolutionary mechanism we have developed so that our brains don’t fry like an overheated motherboard while trying to survive intense pain. I wonder if animals other than humans experience this sensation.

I learned my left hip was dislocating every, single, fucking time I sat. At least that explained it. I’m not overreacting. Or exaggerating. The surgeon explicitly told me that after he’d sealed me back up after the first hip surgery and left me with three scars littering the front of my thigh where he had sliced into me. He was shocked it was so bad and unstable in there. The doctor drew an exclamation mark after he wrote the word “Instability” on the drawing he had made of my hip to show what he had found during surgery. I wasn’t surprised at all. But I was relieved there was a legitimate reason I had become so incapable of even performing the mere act of sitting, which meant I also couldn’t do the higher level things I’ve been trained to do, and had gotten so good at over the years, either. And yet I welcomed the concrete news that the cause was mechanical and not me losing my mind.

After many months of physical therapy and slow, slow healing after surgery – slower than the slowest molasses dripping, slower than the laziest snail – my left hip stopped dislocating. But then I had to allow them to cut into me again, not too many months later, this time to repair a tear in my right hip that happened when I was forced to over-rely on my right leg when my left one had become so fully and entirely dilapidated. So I got a brand new matching set of three scars scattered on the front of my right thigh when they sliced into that one as well.

But then, despite a year of hip surgeries and recoveries from those operations, after having already endured many tortuous months of diagnosing and conservative hip treatment (after four previous shoulder surgeries I won’t even let my mind acknowledge right now), I still couldn’t sit. Although I could stand again without feeling like my torso would slide off of my pelvis, a miraculous development to be sure, the intense pain and feeling of needing to pass out just from sitting did not leave me. My pelvis felt like it was ripping itself apart. Turns out it was. My doctor looked me in the eye and said it isn’t cancer, but what most people won’t understand is that what you’re going through is kind of like that. This is big, he said. Fuck, I thought.

After more months of tests, manipulations, oohs and ahs from interns and residents watching intently but with a cold astuteness as I lay on tables while doctors manipulated my leg around in the air in various positions as they examined my dysfunction, and waiting for a surgery date, I underwent a femoral derorational osteotomy on my left side. Much bigger scar this time. A big slice was made through my muscles in the back of my hip. Through this incision, my femur was sawed all the way through, and the top of it was rotated about twenty degrees from where it had been my whole life, and then reattached to the rest of the bone – its other half – with a titanium rifle-barrel-like rod shoved into it and now running the entire length of my thigh, with screws at my knee and hip to hold the rod in place. I’m told I shouldn’t set off metal detectors. I was also told I was lucky they know how to fix this problem nowadays. People with my hip rotational problem used to have back surgeries, knee surgeries, and hip replacements after their hips imposed far-reaching destruction on distant body parts, and a lifetime of pain pills. At least I have a shot at avoiding that.

All the muscles that attach to my pelvis and femur finally stopped feeling like they were a wrap dress tangled and being pulled with immense and wrong tension while strung up on a hanger, hampering and hindering my movement and making me want to just sleep and drug away the pain. Even though I used to be the girl who refused to even take ibuprofen. I hate taking drugs. I cannot count how many days I lost. How much of myself I lost. But, after the osteotomy, a peace settled into my muscles that had been at war for years. But they were so weak after the long, invisible battle. Shaky and fragile. And there was so much strengthening to be done. And my own body scared me to my core. The thing holding my very soul and all my potential, and with it, my identity, the very thing tying my me to this earthly world and those I love, threatened to be my unraveling on the deepest level. Deeper than any heartbreak I’d ever felt, deeper than any other fear that had ever shaken me. And surgery to repair such physical brokenness, even when it works (and sometimes, it doesn’t), does not erase the fear that builds up over years of bodily failure once it embeds into your psyche. Not quickly anyway.

But I slowly gained strength. After the bleeding, the limping, the swelling, the dizzying drugs, the endless hours not being able to sit or roll over or, at first, to get up at all to even pee… after entirely too many empty moments, tears of frustration, and hours of physical therapy yet again, I began to make progress. I ate calcium tablets with the pain pills, wishing the bone to heal. I was warmed by love letters, calls, and trinkets from friends. Please, please let it be soon. I need a miracle.

I tried not to ask Why Me? But I did sometimes. That never helped. When I did, I just resented my disabilities more and more, while I knew I needed to just be with it and let it exist. Fighting it only hurt me more. I consciously tried to slow my breath and my heart, a lot. Tried to grab calm from the air and swallow it whole. But that was a skill that I took years to learn. And I still forget it sometimes when I need it most. I can be really fucking bull-headed sometimes. I love efficiency too much. And achievement too much. But less now. Out of necessity.

Sometimes I pretend to smoke an imaginary cigarette, and by some miracle, I am able to force more air, with a strange ease, into my lungs. Funny how such a poisonous habit from my youth, abandoned so many years ago, helps me now when I feel too anxious to consciously breathe properly.

And I thought so many times that I would never drive again. Not alone anyway. I’ve been stuck before. I’ve thought I was at my end too many times. I developed a deep-seated fear of a thing I once loved. In my youth, I adored road trips. Three to four, or even more, hours of my time in a car seemed a luxury – a music-filled, daydream-wrapped journey to somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere I longed to visit. I always loved the drive. But as my stamina left me, in my thirties no less, my love of the road became tortuous. What if I got stranded somewhere because I couldn’t go on and my body finally decided to try to give all the way out in some unpredictable place? Who would save me? Or would it just be the end? I don’t want to end with a whimper, but I was certain sometimes I just would.

But here I am. Wheels spinning, comfortably hitting seventy. Humming along. Flocks of birds changing direction in a symmetrical dance in the vast sky above me.

And, of course, I notice the bored, road-weary expressions on the faces of all the other drivers I pass who appear to lack the capacity to fathom how special, how wonderful, how amazing it is to drive anywhere you fucking want. I cry just a little, feeling sorry for myself for all the years I couldn’t do this. Swells of emotion always make me cry. Always have. Maybe it’s raining somewhere now because of it. I missed feeling like this, this free, for so long. I dreamed of taking road trips again. I wished on stars for the ability to just go anywhere while not wondering if I would make it there.

And here I am driving. Reveling. Relishing. Just breathing instead of hurting. Not even having to pretend to smoke or to convince myself I’ll survive this moment, too. I already know I will.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

That Perfect Ennui

I remember my sophomore year of high school being assigned the task of drafting an essay on a word. I was to write a paper detailing the etymology of a single word. What I don't recall is how I decided upon the term on which I would write, but I do recall being given the freedom to choose any word I liked. The word I chose was this:


Webster's defines it as lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest; a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that it was derived in the 1660's as a French word in English and was nativized in1758 from French ennui, from Old French enui, or "annoyance" (13c.). And Google concurs that it arrived mid-18th century to French, from Latin mihi in odio est "it is hateful to me." 

I can tell you this. High-School-Sophomore-Me had no inkling of how apropos that word choice would be as it floats to and bobs on the surface of my mind, arising from my depths, in recent days and very much so today.

Those of you who know me -- I mean really know me -- would never question that I possess as strong of a spirit as there is.  I persist beyond comprehension at tasks and goals, frequently confounding even the hardest workers I know.  I dream every night -- vividly.  I create all the time.  I write, I read, I draw.  I love learning and discovering and reaching deep down more than anything.  I love achieving new things; learning and mastering new skills; reaching new heights; connecting with kindred spirits; finding new things to smile about; discovering what stirs my soul and opens my eyes afresh.  I love digging in and conquering whatever it is to which I set my mind. And I am so grateful for the love and gifts I have had throughout my entire life.

But I feel the deepest dissatisfaction, the most dreaded lack of spirit -- a perfect sort of ennui -- stemming from these cracks in my body, my vessel, that undermine my plans, that inject chaos into my dreams, and that lead people to leave me in insufferable silence entirely too frequently for simply a lack of knowing what to say to me as my body fails the me they (and I) expect me to be.

I have so far endured six surgeries. I like to think that number should have been three rather than six but for an incompetent surgeon masquerading as an esteemed professional who first operated on my left shoulder. Not knowing better, I let him re-repair it when I should have moved on to a different surgeon (which I ultimately did).  But that is neither here nor there.  To date, the number is six.  Four surgeries on my left shoulder. One on my left hip. One on my right hip.  All "minimally invasive" arthroscopic surgeries. And years and years of physical therapy.

I should be on my way now. I should be on the up and up now. I should be highly successful by now. I should be able to walk down the street by now. I should be able to sit in a regular chair by now. But I'm not.  And I can't.  I have worked so damn hard to get where I am, and my body is spoiling it. People have been so patient, hoping for the best, but I can feel the weight of the disappointment that I'm not better yet from everyone as the years pass and I am not at my peak, as expected. Worse yet, I can feel that disappointment coming from within. 

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my hip doctor along with a new hip doctor - a hip trauma specialist. My team is supposed to set in motion the plan for me, which I'm told will be what's called a femoral derotational osteotomy on my left hip.  Try saying that three times fast.  The surgery I'm advised is on the horizon, the femoral derotational osteotomy, will consist of intentionally breaking my femur and reattaching the top of it to realign the femoral head so that it actually, for once in my life, fits into my hip socket.  I'm told this will resolve my back pain, will allow me to walk normally again, and afford me the pleasure of sitting again.  (Don't ever take for granted the pure fucking joy of sitting.)  The surgery I had on it a year ago stopped my left hip from dislocating, which it was apparently doing every time I sat, and probably many other times, too.  The surgery stabilized the joint in many ways.  I can balance on my left leg now, even with my eyes closed, whereas before the surgery I felt like my torso would literally slide off of my pelvis if I even shifted weight to my left hip while standing if it weren't for the skin and other tissues fighting to keep me in one piece.  Before that surgery, I'd been told the minimally invasive procedure on that hip would bring my hip's grade up from a low F to a B or a C.  For someone who is still pissed about the three Bs she earned in undergrad that kept her from having all As, and who is still a little disappointed at graduating fourth in my law school class instead of first, a B or C grade for my hip sounded pretty great, all things considered.  It wouldn't be perfect, but we hoped it would be livable. 

But it isn't. 

Now my femur, being about twenty degrees rotated from where it should be (and it's likely always been this way, slowly wreaking havoc as I continue to move through my life) is yanking my pelvis out of alignment when I sit, and all the dysfunction is taxing my abdominal and back core muscles so much, I have trouble standing on top of the trouble I have sitting.  This new impending surgery is not minimally invasive like the others.  I am guessing (and will learn more tomorrow) that, rather than the puncture type scars that litter my left shoulder (thirteen, in all) and both thighs (three on each leg), I will have a long incision along my outer left hip somewhere so the surgeon can get to the femur he has to break and reattach.  I don't care so much about the scars anymore, I just want normal life back. Granted, normal used to be exceptional, so I may be asking too much. I probably am. But I have always asked for too much so that I could be at least satisfied with the returns I get, even if they aren't as high as I had hoped.

Only one month before my left hip surgery, when I could hardly stand, in June of 2015, I was awarded the Romina L. Mulloy-Bossio Achievement Award - Outstanding Young Bankruptcy Lawyer, awarded by the State Bar of Texas.  And it wasn't a pity award - hardly anyone knew I could barely stand (I hid it that well until I couldn't stand, or even drive myself home one day).  The past two years in a row I have been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star. I have taken my show on the road and have spoken at many conferences in Texas and Louisiana and have now published three law review articles. And all this after earning four degrees - two undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree, and a doctorate.  And while raising two amazing children.  And making artwork.  And being active with leadership roles in the arts community in Dallas.  I am so proud of what I have accomplished.  

But I did not get this far to only get this far.

That last line sounded like my usual optimism and gumption peeking through the ennui that has settled in today. I think I am just incredibly trepidatious about the surgical fate that tomorrow will officially set into motion. I cannot yet know precisely what the doctors will advise me tomorrow or what recovery from this surgery will be like.  However, I anticipate it will be rougher than the minimally invasive ones I've endured to date. Which were no walk in the park, of course.  It will test and strain everything.  Again.

I just hope that those in the legal and arts communities with whom I have close relationships will not give up on me. And I hope that my kids will get to have a Mom back who can run (or even walk) with them at the park again (it's a good thing I like drawing, reading, and board games so we can at least do those things together right now).  And I hope I can finally fucking stop disappointing those I love with all my frailty and struggles to get my vessel back in some semi-functional condition.

I want so deeply to have high hopes about the femoral derotational osteotomy.  It sounds like it should solve the mechanical dysfunction that keeps causing my body to feel like a wrap dress tangled up in itself, trying desperately to stay on its hanger. But I've been hopeful before and have been disappointed too many times to be naive now.  But I am not angry.  I was angry.  I was very angry some time ago. I wondered why I was so afflicted. I even wondered who had a voodoo doll of me somewhere and how I could possibly apologize for whatever it was I did so I could make all the pain stop and just get back to business. Maybe I secretly believed in karma. But I've grown past all that. I am calm. I acknowledge where and who I am. But just because I acknowledge my limitations, that doesn't make me accept less than I want from my self: this self that I have worked on so diligently for thirty-nine years.

It's hard to come so far and fear not getting as far as I dreamed.  It's hard to disappoint people who have come to rely on my skills and prowess.  It's hard to disappoint those I love. Again and again, despite every fiber of my being wishing wishing wishing to be better.  The confluence of all those disappointments, with a new surgery circling like a treacherous cyclone on my path ahead, creates a fog of ennui that sits heavy over most everything in this moment. Just like with fog on a highway, there are breaks in it, thankfully. But sometimes it's so thick you just have to pull over. I don't always feel like this. But today, I can't help but pull over for a while as I wait, and hope, for it to dissipate.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

That Perfect Wisdom

When I was a mere seventeen years old, I resided in the land of soul searching. I was as passionate and inspired as a young woman could possibly be. I wanted to try and learn everything I could. I was a seeker of wonder, a seeker of experience, a seeker of love.  I didn't want to miss a thing that would fill my mind with new perspectives and thoughts and envelop my body with new sensations and feelings. And, indeed, I found so much wonder, experience, and love on my journey. That woman amazes me to this day, and I am deeply pleased she is a part of the woman I have become.

But I could not have been so free and open to experience and learning, could not have been so passionate about finding myself and my place in the world, without my father.  He is, to this day, the wisest person I know.  It's perfectly fitting that it is he who gets to wear the black robe in the federal courthouse in my hometown these days.

That seventeen-year-old me wrote my Dad a letter.  Let that sink in.  That seventeen-year-old angst-filled, driven, passionate, artistic, independent, rebellious me wrote my Dad--who was then a well-respected lawyer like I am today--a letter.  Trust me when I say there was some serious angst or disagreement that drove the letter.  When I need to say the most important things, I frequently find I can't say them out loud.  I turn to writing to articulate with precision the things that matter most.  And I did then.  My memory of the letter I wrote isn't as clear as I wish it was, so I am not sure if it was about religion or my then-boyfriend or something else, but I do know we must have been in conflict about something that burned in my soul, and I felt I needed to communicate something momentous to him, or it would not have been in writing.  What I do remember is that in the letter, I made reference to a song by Tori Amos called Winter.  Here are the lyrics:

Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove
I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"
He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Boys get discovered as winter melts
Flowers competing for the sun
Years go by and I'm here still waiting
Withering where some snowman was
Mirror mirror where's the crystal palace
But I only can see myself
Skating around the truth who I am
But I know dad the ice is getting thin

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses have gone ahead
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change
My dear

I am now a parent.  I cannot imagine the head-to-head heartfelt disagreements I will surely one day have with my own children when they are seventeen and doing things of which I disapprove or which scare me.  But I know this.  I want to be like my father when that happens.  My father could have gotten angry, could have stood his ground, could have said I was wrong for whatever it was I was feeling or doing.  Though I had been a debater in high school, my father was a lawyer.  He could have bested me with his experience and inherent authority.  But the wisdom he embodies won out over all those possibilities.  Instead of anything hurtful or authoritarian in response to my letter, what he did was this.  He bought me a copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.  He wrote the following inscription inside:

And here's what page 54-55 says:

Instead of imposing any other view on mine, my Dad tenderly acknowledged my searching and encouraged me to find my truth.  My soul.  That's a hard message to gift to your child who is growing into adulthood and may be varying from a path you might choose for her if only you could. That, my friends, is love.  That, my friends, is wisdom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

That Perfect Love

Despite the miles, they just know you need a little compassion on a rough day they didn't even consciously know was rough for you.  They wake you up with your coffee just the way you like it and even put it in one of your favorite mugs.  They remember the names of the first boys you ever had a crush on and the names of the few you actually loved.  They actually know you can (and love to) sing despite your modesty.  They know the little things mean Everything.  They look at weird bumps in your mouth or other places you can't see on your own very well... when you ask them to just to reassure you that you are okay.  They fix your friend's broken stuff.  They love how you nerd out.  Their happiness makes you happier than your own.  Watching them do what they do best thrills you.  They want to know what you think about things that they don't yet understand.  They knew it just by your laughter.  They tell you that you are the best Mom in the whole entire world, out of nowhere while playing a video game in which you thought they were one hundred percent absorbed -- apparently not.  They recognize where you belong.  They sit in the hospital with you.  They somehow believe that you're the awesome one when it's clear that they are the awesome one.  They demand that you don't give up just when you were thinking maybe you should.  They tell you they've been thinking about you and that you probably felt it.  They know your Pictionary drawing from a couple of lines.  They would rather sit by you than anyone else.  They see themselves in you.  You are the one they need to be with them at the funeral.  They are thinking the same thing as you and tell you so with just a look, and you both, and only you both, understand.  They know you never lie when it matters.  They answer your questions about what their favorite things are even when they don't want to, just to make you happy.  They appear in your dreams, and you wonder if you appeared in theirs the same night by some mysterious dream power.  They send inappropriate texts with reckless abandon and remember the best Cards Against Humanity jokes.  That damn song makes them cry, too.  They give you back scratches and play with your hair.  They give you something they love for you to keep.  They share their creations with you without fear of being criticized (never in a million years).  Seeing them love their children makes you feel warm inside.  They tell you that you have the right grey matter.  They make you breakfast when they don't give a flying fuck about eating breakfast themselves.  They include knowing undertones in their word choice when they write to you.  They hug you with words.  They give you nicknames.  Their Moms love you and believe in you.  They keep the art you made them hanging up in their house.  They want to know what song inspires you this week.  They already have some of the most important old favorite songs in common with you.  They can cry in front of you anytime for any reason, which will make you cry, too.  It wouldn't feel right if they didn't show up.  They read the book just because you loved it, which they know means they will love it, too.  They pee in front of you without thinking about it at all.  They sincerely believe you are amazing.  They already know where the forks and the extra toilet paper in your house are.  They send you surprise packages and letters telling you that you are their hero, and mean it.  They tell you that you are the best daughter on the planet.  They genuinely want you to have inescapable happiness.  They play with your kids but not because they usually like to play with kids.  They bring over donuts in their clothes from last night.  They tell you they'd do it all over again just to see you feel good.  They watch Girls with you (again).  They entrust you with the knowledge of their childhood traumas that have broken parts of them, and you love them even more for trusting you and for being honest and real with you.  They tell you that you are stronger than the ages, and you believe it.  They scratch the itchy spot you can't reach.  They laugh at all your jokes, and they inspire you to be funny even when stuff hurts.  They think of you when that song comes on.  They dream of traveling somewhere with you.  They aren't embarrassed to be seen with you when you have a walker.  They give you extra kisses.  They stay on the line when you really need them to.  They recognize what is so special about you -- you know, the stuff you secretly think is special about yourself but wait quietly for someone else to finally notice and appreciate.  They wonder what you are doing right now.  They like sitting in the same room with you even when no one is talking.  They always loved you, never forgot you, and in their youth, they had the world, because of you. They inspire you to be better.  They just know you miss them without you even saying it.  Better yet, they know you love them no matter what because they KNOW you. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

That Perfect God-Shaped Hole

I just finished reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  To be more precise, I just finished wiping away tears that fell helplessly down my face after reading God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.  I started it yesterday, had it running in the back of my mind all day at work today, and then could not put it down until I finished it just now.  I have a pit in my stomach--a glorious, gnawing pit in my stomach.  I complain frequently, mostly to myself, that I never meet people who are real enough, feel enough, appreciate enough, realize enough, dig deep enough or who see how those things are Everything to me.  With this book, I felt like I met people I have been longing to meet or to remember from my past, in this life or some other.  I might be forced to begin re-reading it really soon just to re-absorb the feelings it aroused in me, even though I think it did leave me with a God-shaped hole, or reminded me of one I already have.  Thank you, Tiffanie DeBartolo for letting such a beautiful story pour out of you.  Thank you for stirring up shards and loves and wisps inside of me that needed prodding.  Life is bigger and more glorious than we remember to give it credit for on most days, especially Wednesdays.  Who thinks to appreciate the really important subtle things on Wednesdays?  But this.  This book is memorable.  This particular Wednesday is now very special.  I want to scream to someone that they must read it.  Now.  But I won't scream it anywhere to anyone.  I'll just quietly put it here, where words are King.  And maybe those who should read it will read this and then they will.

Friday, March 18, 2016

That Perfect Me

How is it possible to be nothing but me and yet miss me so terribly?  Seven years and six shoulder and hip surgeries later, I only partly recognize myself.  The confident, independent woman I became through years of love, encouragement, support, and studying is still around... somewhere.  She must be.  But where did she go?  Maybe that old trunk I stuffed away in the attic but can't get to now because of all the damn stairs.  Maybe under the bed in that box of old journals and sketchbooks.  Maybe I left her tromping around in the greenness of Ireland.  Or on that daunting but dominated mountaintop in Big Bend National Park.  Or in one of many libraries I spent so many hours in.  Or in scattered pieces in each of the homes I've left behind.  Or in that first doctor's office when things started to go wrong.  Or in the office of the one doctor who botched a surgery and could not bring himself to admit it.  I was so strong.  Stronger than the ages, I was once told.  I reveled in my strength.  I never questioned it.  Until I did.  New moments have warped the steel girl I was.  That perfect me.  But does perfection consist solely of confidence, strength, and independence of body?  Dare I adjudicate my old self "perfect" for possessing those things I lack now?  For about five years, I think I believed that, at least when it came to how I saw myself.  I held myself to the highest standards, never failing, always exceeding expectations.  Never and Always.  As my body fell apart, it scared me to my core, and I incessantly grieved who I was becoming and who I was failing to be; struggling, ripping at the seams, to fight this decrepit yet young person into whom I was transforming against my will.  And then a couple of years ago, I stopped.  And remembered to breathe.  I changed.  I finally let myself be the person I am, scars and all.  Old and new.  I quit the me struggle and just focused on checking things off of lists in the hopes that when I check off enough of them, I'll escape the nightmare -- getting all the broken parts fixed, and fixed right by amazing doctors (check); letting myself rest when I need it (check (though this is way harder than I would have thought)); riding my stationary bike 30 minutes a day, five days a week (on the days I don't have physical therapy) (check); going to my office and putting in more hours than I intended when I left the house every time I go (check); remembering to thank my husband for the millions of tasks he helps with that I can't do, all the while trying to do more and more things for myself (check); being present for my children, playing with them, reading with them, asking them questions about what they think and how they feel, cuddling with them, being proud of them for each new thing they discover and become, and having my heart hurt for them every time they stub a toe or have their feelings hurt (check); remembering to reach out to far away people I love (check... sometimes, but I think about it often); reading and writing personal things again after so many years of reading and writing only legal documents, articles, books, court opinions, emails, and children's books (check).  I am endeavoring in every way I can think of to find me again, but she's not fully back yet.  I won't even judge her if she's not the perfect me anymore when I do find her.  How could she be?  But I hope she loves more dearly than ever; thinks as deeply and clearly as ever; continues to see beauty in unlikely places; is as open to experience as she ever was; appreciates the very many things to be grateful for each day; speaks her mind no matter what; and lifts up her children so they can be the best versions of themselves they can be.  In writing this, I am recognizing and understanding that I have, in fact, found pieces of her, or maybe they are just pieces of her that never left and have finally begun to be able to peek out from behind the pain curtain -- and I am thankful for that.  And in the process of lamenting the loss of former perfect me, of course I realize deep down that perfection is illusory, except the kind of perfection that lies in unique imperfection, which makes us lovable to others.  No, I don't think physical strength is the epitome of perfection, but I think it's my missing piece right now.  That thing that is keeping me from the perfection I had and want so badly to have back.  My body needs to heal and regain its power.  My spirit is ever strong and bubbling under the surface, so ready to emerge in full force as soon as my vessel is strong enough.  Thank God my spirit never quits.  And I couldn't care less anymore about my crooked tooth or my baby belly stretch marks or even all the surgical scars I've amassed.  And I love my curly hair, the color of my eyes, and the shape of my hands.  I just want to take a really long walk, or even a really long drive.  Alone.  Ever.  And enjoy it like I used to.  Not scared of lacking the strength to finish the task and being stuck somewhere.  I don't think that's too much to ask.  For now, my body is too tired to thoroughly consider whether this stream-of-consciousness bit of writing is even worth posting because I went to work today, rode my bike, spent time with my children while my body rested, and I have physical therapy in the morning.  Which all feels like a lot right now (though old, workaholic "perfect" me might have scoffed at that thought). Maybe I'll find another piece of me tomorrow.  Maybe it'll even be one I've never seen -- strength bigger than I've ever known in this much more challenging terrain.  Getting this perpetually injured body back to normal (whatever that is) is even harder than that time I literally climbed a mountain.  But I have to believe I'll arrive at my destination -- an older and wiser perfect me.  Maybe I already have, sort of.