I crave it in connection and communication with others. Envy it when I see it in big doses in others. It escapes from me like a tiny hole in a pool raft when I write, when I love, when I connect. I feels so awful and then so good.
Vulnerability and authenticity. I am a bug and they are the light I can't get close enough to. Yet, somehow, it still feels like the place from which I run. The place that holds the dark. The place that if you saw, if you knew me, you would see how incredibly flawed I am. How hard it is sometimes to show up in the world feeling so freaking exposed.
Where does this come from? Is this the 9 year old girl who had to go on a high dose of prednisone to stay alive? I was in the hospital for 5 weeks and 3 days, I remember a priest in my room, performing the sacrament- the Anointing of the Sick. This Catholic sacrament is administered to bring spiritual and even physical strength during an illness, especially near the time of death. It is most likely one of the last sacraments one will receive. I had to have surgery to have a biopsy of my lung taken so they could send it to other hospitals, hoping for help in diagnosing the super sick little girl.
What are the odds of her surviving the surgery? My Mom asked my Doctor during rounds.
Let's step into the hall and talk, the Doctor responded.
And that's when I thought I was going to die. I very well could have, and that's what my Mom was told in the echoing hallway. My heart pounded in my chest. I couldn't breathe, not just from the anxiety, but literally- it was so hard to breathe. I had been sick for a year. In and out of my pediatrician's office. On constant antibiotic after antibiotic.
They finally found a diagnosis, the second ever pediatric case of Desquamative Interstitial Pneumonitis, a disease almost exclusively reserved for smokers and ex coal miners. I was on a high dose of steroids to stay alive for several years. I remember going home from the hospital. Signs scattered throughout my neighborhood, welcoming me home. All the neighbors waiting as my car pulled up.
I was hideous. That's what I told myself every time I looked in the mirror. My body was so tiny, weak from being sick for so long. My face was huge and swollen- a side effect of the medicine. Everyone looked so tan and healthy- flushed with August heat and the glow of swimming pools and Summer. I was sickly pale, having spent my Summer in a stale hospital room with glowing florescent lights and a tiny box TV hung from the ceiling.
I remember telling my mom I was so ugly and so fat. She said it was the medication, and without it, I wouldn't be alive. I told her then I wish I wasn't alive. I hated that weak, sickly girl I saw in the mirror.
Next, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. (Unrelated.) I had to wear a back brace during pre and teenage years. I would go to school early so I could hide my brace in my locker. I felt like such a freak. I learned how to use humor and made fun of myself so I could beat others to the punch. I had an eating disorder my Junior year of high school. I still only saw the chubby, prednisone full 9 year old kid. But now with a back brace.
These things- the things that you think you are over, are sometimes buried so deep in your bones. I am crying as I type this, realizing just how much sadness is still in there. Tears rolling down my face. So much imposter syndrome. So much- not skinny enough, too sickly, too weak. You weren't supposed to talk it out then- it was, Suck it up buttercup. You are lucky to be alive.
But we go on living- right? We try our damndest to learn what we are supposed to learn. We move on. We learn to love ourself- or at least we try. But sometimes, it's so freaking hard. Sometimes I still see the sick, chubby, pale girl in the mirror. I know I can't always trust my eyes, or my perspective. It's triggered when I'm sick or hurt and don't know why. It's triggered by my skin in the Summer- I have vitiligo, (a condition in which the skin loses its pigment, which results in discolored patches in different areas of the body). Sometimes I want to cover my body and hide. That's hard when it's 110 degrees out. It's triggered when I feel like the only different in a room full of sames. It's triggered sometimes by social media- a place that sometimes feels so hard to navigate while imposter syndrome and a need to be liked is so much bigger than I know what to do with.
I was laughing to myself this morning as I put on self tanner. Me: I want to be completely authentic and fully myself. But also, self tan, whiten my teeth, and get Botox. Ya know?!
I was recently interviewed for my friend Wendy's podcast called, What I Meant to Say. Regarding being inclusive of those with Disabilities, I said,
“I think it starts with really bringing our own differences to light and examining them because we can’t love and accept differences if we carry shame for our own differences.”
And I believe that, so I do the work. We are on week 2 of fostering two sweet puppies. It's hard, but getting easier as we establish our routine. It's also achingly beautiful. This experience is here to teach me, and I am ready to learn.
Momma Laney has been an incredible Teacher for me. I had never seen a nursing pup before, and she came to us with sagging nipples and hanging skin. (I just googled, Do Dogs have Boobs? because I didn't know what to call them.) Oh mylanta. At first I was wide eyed and shocked. Ewwww, I don't want to touch them by mistake. Why are they so...hanging?!* I wondered. And then I saw the magic of nature. I saw Momma nursing her baby. I pet Laney without worry that I would touch her tummy by mistake. I realized how freaking beautiful she is, and how beautiful nursing is. I remembered that we are so much more than a feature that is different. Loving her, has helped me love myself. I'm serious.
Self-acceptance. So that's the work I'm doing right now, with you here. It feels awful. The tears have stopped flowing and I feel better. Lighter. Knowing that the uncomfortable is where we really grow and change. I love you, just the way you are, and I am working to love myself just the same.
* OK, fine mine were like that after nursing, and that's why I still wear a bra to bed.