I looked in the mirror the other day -close on the heels of my last blog post, and my public declaration of love for musical theatre – and I wondered, with sadness, where I’d gone.
Huge, dark circles accentuated my tired, opaque eyes. Ashen skin, dull colorless hair. Just a walking declaration of fatigue, and life kicking my butt. Not only life knocking me around, but succumbing to it. I looked and felt completely beaten down, defeated and … forlorn? I’m struggling to find precisely the right word and failing -so I will settle for ‘forlorn.’
I will obviously not deny that this has been quite a challenging year thus far. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up very much. I thought last year was bad … but I think this one triumphs in that department. In the beginning I tried valiantly to be positive and upbeat – focusing on healthy eating, and living normally with MS. Plus, I got married this year, and that was a beautiful, incredibly special day.
And then I broke my foot.
And MS started to take my life away.
And work became unbearable on so many different levels.
And suddenly, I had lost any drive or desire to find the positive, do anything or go anywhere. Walking was challenging, seeing was challenging … everything felt like an insurmountable obstacle. I was ready to give up.
I don’t mean this to be ‘oh woe is me’ or ‘please pity me.’ It sounds that way, and there is a part of my soul that yearns for comfort, for soft words and sympathy to make this easier – less unbearably difficult. But another part of me – the one I got from my mother, and Jennie J, and all the tough ladies whose DNA I share – says I will not be beaten. I will not lie down and give up. And becoming a broken human constantly in need of fixing isn’t okay.
Many years ago I made a mistake. I’ve been paying for it ever since, in icy cold words begrudgingly directed in my general direction, in subtle jabs at who I am, where I am from and the choices I have made. Fifteen years hasn’t eased the apparent injustice I caused, or the color of my character in certain people’s eyes. (Black, in case you were wondering. Although it should have been sort of obvious).
That moment, so many years ago, when I made what felt like a fairly innocent, naive mistake, changed my life. Not just the course of it, but the damage the aftermath did to my character, my confidence and my very being. I started living my life trying to make up for the terrible, horrible “crimes” I committed against others.
The manner in which I reacted to the criticism of my very being has morphed over time. I am not sure I should still be apologizing — and I certainly should NEVER have apologized for certain aspects of my actions (or more specifically, myself). But the consequences of how it affected me continue to be far-reaching.
So how does this all tie together?
I don’t know. I think it all came to a head about a week ago. I got some news from my brother (now far away in Texas starting a new life), I wrote that blog post marking an important moment for me, I received another lovely email from a family member, and work nearly broke me.
When I looked in the mirror and saw that sad reflection staring back at me with emotionless eyes, I felt overwhelming sad … I didn’t know who that woman was – I didn’t recognize myself. I was tired of feeling so terrible, so broken, so angry, so slighted, so unheard. I was tired of the pain in my body from stress, disuse and anxiety. I was tired of seeing myself in the mirror and not knowing myself anymore.
I’m also a little tired of apologizing. So pardon me while I have a small, much-needed moment.
I’m an American, and I’m proud of being an American. I’m proud of my country and the noble men and women who strived to make it a better place to live than where they were born. It is a great, magnificent country full of people with big personalities, pride in their heritage and pride in their country. Anyone who has only spent a day or two here, or a week long vacation, doesn’t have any idea of the greatness that still exists in this nation. We are not Hollywood, we are not a stereotype, and we are certainly not less than any other country in the world.
I have made mistakes. And I have let them define me for far too long. Here’s the truth – we all make mistakes. We all make wrong choices, say the wrong thing, pick the wrong person to marry. Shit happens. It happens every day, and it happens to most people, and a lot of times, it happens more than once. Holding any person accountable for a mistake, or a misunderstanding without any real knowledge of who that person is – is absolutely ridiculous. Especially for fifteen years. And you can tell me I need to let it go, or tell me that it’s ‘just how it is’. But here’s the thing – I have tried to let it go. I’m not the one still taking shots at me – all I’ve ever done is apologize and try to be polite and the picture of contrition. And I’m done now. It’s eating away at my soul.
Life is effing hard. And the people that we all choose to surround ourselves with should lift us up. They should be the kind of people you can break down in front of, who hear you and who love you without judgement. They should encourage you to chase your dreams, and make you laugh until your face hurts. Those are the people worth fighting for.
Today, after overcoming my paralyzing fear of going new places (which has compounded with walking & eyesight problems) i went to the gym and I swam. I swam for forty minutes and my arms ached and I could barely breath ~ but memories came flooding back of swim practices and high school and pushing myself even when I felt like I couldn’t go anymore. It felt like a relief. And in the water, my legs don’t fail me the way they do on the ground ~ and my vision (despite working out) is crystal clear.
I stood in the bathroom today, and my skin had a little more color, and my hair was shiny at the roots, and I didn’t feel so weighed down. Exercise is a miraculous thing. I believe in it with as much conviction as I believe in vegetables, green juice and smoothies. I believe these things are the rungs on the wall that will help me climb out of the despair I’ve found myself in. I am clinging to that, and the phenomenal way I felt (and out of shape, if we’re being totally honest) in the pool today. And to the idea that I’m done apologizing for who I am. I’m really not that bad.