I have often wished I was one of those people who doesn't care. One of those people who doesn't read into things, or analyze a phrase or a moment in time to its bitter end. I am not. I am the person who thinks everything means something. This can be a good or a bad thing. Mostly it just gets me into trouble.
This is my issue with having Bell's Palsy. When I smile or laugh, only half of my face is smiling or laughing. It is a shock to me every time it happens. I am starting to feel like a pirate, as it looks like I am snarling when I laugh, and it looks like I am giving a sarcastic look when I smile.
This might sound ridiculous, but I really had no idea how much I relied on my face to convey my personality. I don't think I appreciated it enough, now that I don't have it. Now, when I smile or laugh, I look down or cover my mouth. It's like I'm in junior high again, embarrassed of my braces, and trying to keep all the food caught between them my own little secret.
It is a bit of a nightmare that on top of this painful and slightly embarrassing illness, I am also not in control of my ability to drink, eat, drool, yawn, or whistle. I already have a problem with drooling, actually, but I think that is just a matter of focus.
My doctor and nurse told me that mine is only a very slight case, which frankly scares the crap out of me. I would hate to have it come back where the entire right side of my face droops and I can't keep anything in my mouth at all. Also, the pain. It is as if someone has been hitting me in the head with the claw end of a hammer all around my right ear. Thankfully that didn't last too long. Just a week or so.
That it happened in May is the most frightening aspect of this horrible virus. May is my anniversary month. I was so sad this month about my break up that I got a virus that keeps me from looking truly happy. Not too hard to find a hidden meaning that, is it?
My body, for whatever else it does, keeps me honest. I was trying to distract myself this month from the pain I was feeling around the loss of my relationship, but my body literally kept me from my distraction by creating a situation so painful and strangely comedic that there was no way I could really be in denial any longer about this sadness.
I am just going to have to feel it. And hope that in the future I don't try and distract myself to the extent that my body reminds me that no matter what, it's in my best interest to feel my feelings.
I have been laying low for a bit. The pain in my head, hot flashes, pulsing at the back corners of my skull, has kept me in bed. I thought it was a head cold coming on, but nothing came, really.
The weakness that has set into my bones is familiar and it comes with a frustration that I have to manage in order to get well. Yesterday I went back to my garden for a bit. All of my herbs and vegetables seemed to have grown almost out of control in just a few days. I have done no tending, no watering, nothing. It all just keeps on growing.
I wish I were like that, beyond the physical. But growth, the personal kind, takes work. That might be why I find gardening so satisfying. It's simple; you prepare the soil, you put stuff in it, and with very little work, things grow. Especially with the kind of weather we have been having in Beeham. So my garden, now that it has been planted, is growing faster than I could have hoped for.
But personal growth is different. The more I do, the harder it seems to get. The deeper truths I discover about myself, the darker the depths I reach, the further I can see into my darkness, the more my pain expands. I think back to the time I was trying to lose five/ten/twenty pounds, and while it was frustrating, it was much easier to think about than how awful I can be, how jealous, how petty. Extra weight is nothing compared to how horrible I sometimes feel about myself. There are many days I would much rather look at the numbers on a scale than into a mirror.
When I was writing about body positive stuff, that was always the meaning of my writings; that it is so easy to be distracted by what we look like. We are taught in our culture to suppress our weaknesses, hide our imperfections, and strive for an ideal that is so unattainable that at worst, it steals our happiness, and at best, distracts from the harder, more terribly painful work.
But the one thing I have when I am sick is time. Time to watch how my mind works, time to watch my fears slowly take over until I am battling non-existent demons that I have perfected over the many years I have carried my heartbreak. They grow like the plants in my garden if I do not tend to them. So I do what I can to put my heartbreak aside and forgive those who have caused it.
I try to plant other things now; hope, compassion, humor, anything that brings a lightness back in. Anything else that might grow and create enough shade so the other will eventually wither away and die. Enough so that when my mind starts to create the demons in the emptiness, I have something else on which to cling.
So that's how it is for now, for me; trying to keep my demons from getting too big and unmanageable while planting small seeds of joy in the hopes that some day that is the only thing that grows in my garden.
Today I woke up and remembered the smell of things. I looked outside and decided to say good-bye, again, to the lilacs for one more year. As I walked among them this morning I thanked them for every lilac memory they brought back to me, for every soft purple experience I threw myself into.
Love is like this. As I say good-bye to this relationship, I also say good-bye to so many others. I measure this loss against the others in my life and this one feels like it has instructed me on how to handle it when grief arrives at my doorstep. This loss, in all its brutality, has shown a light onto what I can still hold, and what I must let go.
As I carry the grief with me from this loss, I also carry the lessons, the growth, and the grueling breakthroughs that always happen when you are with someone who challenges you to be yourself.
It occurred to me after my walk that I barely remember the details of my marriage or my wasband; as if that whole series of events took place in another life to another person, and I could feel the relief of it wash over me as I realized that relationship was the one that almost put me to sleep; endless hours in front of the TV, smoking pot, eating ice cream, and avoiding any real conversation that might lead to intimacy.
It is a comfort to know that I did not spend this last relationship sleeping. Though it was challenging, it was a constant call to myself, a song in my bones reminding me every morning and every night who I wanted to be. There was so much effort towards acceptance in the relationship. So much about appreciating the present and examining my role in it.
I started to fear that I might forget him, forget us after a number of years the way I have forgotten my wasband, but I know this is not possible, because though the relationship could not go on, it did prepare me to move forward into a life I could not have imagined before hand. This relationship has been pivotal in that it showed me who I am, and more importantly, who I might one day be.
The pace of my life has been rapid. It has been a heartbeat, a half-breath, a quickened pulse of a rhythm that I have been keeping. And it has worn me out.
So I have decided to slow. Now, I rest. I consider. I walk in my big rubber boots in a thoughtful rhythm, mindful of the birds around me, singing their way through the day, keeping their own time while I keep mine. It is something I am not yet good at, this pace. I have to focus on noticing. It is the only way to go slow.
If I take the time to notice the smell of the flowers on the air, the sound of the bees in their work, the look of the clouds gathering in the blue, I can do it. I can slow down and take a measured approach to my life. But when my days are filled with "should's and "have to"s, accidents happen, and I miss a lot of what I have come to enjoy about my life.
But there is more. I have learned a new way to be around people. I have recently noticed that I am not reacting to people's behaviors because it is such a fast rhythm, reaction. It happens so fast I often make mistakes and hurt people, and in extension, myself. The slow way is to consider. The slow way is to think what future me wants to have, and how she wants to feel. This takes a while because I don't know her yet.
But when someone does something that is inconsiderate, or does something that hurts me, instead of reacting to that incident, I go about thinking how to move forward without resentment; how to live my life so this behavior no longer bothers me. It is a process. It is not an in-the-moment thing, so I don't rush. I give myself the time to go forward so I don't subject myself to the behavior that causes me pain. Instead of arguing over what someone did or didn't do that hurt me, I just alter my behavior so I no longer put myself in those situations. Additionally, the pain from the original event dissipates because I am not focusing on what hurt me, or what they did, but on how I can ensure that I won't be hurt again.
It isn't my responsibility to correct the behavior of others. It is my responsibility to go through my life in love, in joy, and in the knowledge that I have control over how I can feel about things, I just need to be methodical and somewhat reserved in what I share of my emotions.
This has been a bit shocking. I suddenly feel an increased sense of comfort around people because I have realized I don't have to trust them, I have to trust myself to do the right thing so I don't end up saying or doing something that is hurtful. I must trust myself to take good care of my heart while not damaging the hearts of others. This is a slow and careful thing to do, but it is one of the most important things I have been able to change.
I look back on my life and see how I have hurt people, and how badly that has always made me feel about myself. I have decided I don't want to carry that with me anymore. It is too much of a load, and I have been the one packing the heavy bags.
After I practiced this a few times, with a couple different people, I felt transformed. I have struggled with feeling taken care of, feeling loved, all my life. It seems obvious now, but I was putting the responsibility on other people when I should have been the one taking the wheel. I have come to see that most people aren't really all that good at taking care of themselves, so expecting them to take good care of me, well...it isn't really logical.
And all of this because I decide to go slow. I know it will be a while before I can do this without thinking, before it is second nature, but the fact that I am able to do it at all feels a little bit like a miracle. It's almost embarrassing to admit that I am past mid-life and I have just discovered how to really take care of myself.
All I have to do is go slow.
There is so much in endings. So much that feels like death and sounds like doors slamming shut. The life, now in the body of death, hums to a close and everything that began, everything that was fresh surprise ceases to be. The future that I thought I saw in the hills of the city has crumbled to dust and everything has fallen through the fabric of what I was expecting would be.
These were the racing, mewling thoughts I tried to manage as I came upon the art work I had made more than twenty years ago. Evidently, the lot of it, about ten pieces in all, had been in storage in some back room of my old school, and in that time, had become the property of that institution, even as it planned to shut its doors for good. Forever. I came to the school's final sale hoping to buy a piece of OCAC (Oregon College of Art and Craft). I wasn't planning on coming across these old pieces of who I used to be.
I picked up a piece from one of the tables I used to wait on when I worked in the school's beloved Hands On Cafe. A smooth, shiny black and purple sphere with the words, "shake it baby" on it, I shook, and the thin rattle that came from within the ball reminded me of the person I was in art school, or maybe, the person I was trying to be. That me seems lifetimes old, but I can still feel her in my bones. She was bold. Maybe too bold. Maybe too mean. She said things without thinking, sometimes triggering tears, arguments, or inconvenient relationships. She tried so hard to shake her demons, so hard to rise above the rage in her veins. She never could quite do it, and she never stopped trying.
I'm still trying. I look at the work I used to make and I can see what I was hoping to become. I don't want to be her anymore, that person. So much has shifted within me, so much of what I used to suppress is now the stuff I celebrate. I love how stiff my old work is, how safe. It is easy work. Functional art that is attractive, but in the end, unsatisfying. I couldn't bring myself to buy one. I couldn't bring myself to buy the person I was trying to be.
There is a heartbreak in my old work. Even in its safety, there is a striving, a yearning to be loved, to be accepted, to be seen that feels so familiar and so desperate. I see how obvious it is now, but then I thought I was being secretive. I thought my ardent desire to be loved was well-concealed and only whispered on my long bike rides to or from school. I never considered that it was so obvious.
I wonder what I will think of the work I am making now in twenty years. Will I see my heartbreak? Will I see something that I am blind to now? Will I even be around to see it? What I will be making in twenty years? Will I still be struggling with my desperate need to both grasp at and push away love? Will I still be trying to rise above my rage, or will something happen between then and now that will save me from it?
These are the things I have come to, after being confronted with my old work and another anchor diminished.
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