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.