I Need To Stop Looking At It
“Can we please just cancel?” I found myself asking him.
I just couldn’t go through with it.
I’ve been seeing this guy for a while now and there are still some family members of his that I haven’t met. The plan was for us to all go out to dinner on Saturday night, but as the day started to draw nearer, I found myself increasingly anxious about going at all.
Later that night as we chatted on the phone and he wondered aloud why I didn’t want to meet his family, I felt myself starting to emotionally shut down.
I didn’t want to tell him what I was thinking.
But when I could feel the conversation turning towards his own insecurities about why I was backing away from his family, I finally mustered up the courage to choke out what I was thinking.
“I’m not the kind of girl that families want to meet.”
He didn’t say anything for a minute, but even though we were talking over the phone, it was easy to sense his confusion and before I knew it my thoughts were falling out all over the place in a long winded ramble of emotions.
“I’m not who parents or siblings want their sons or brothers to date” I said. “I’m a single mom, I have two kids, my husband left me, I live under the poverty line, and I have no family of my own. On the surface, I am not who anyone would want their child or brother to be with, and that’s not what I want your family to learn about me first. If we go out to dinner, I’m trapped. There is nothing I can do but sit across the table from people who love you very much and want to protect you, and answer the questions that they ask me. I mean really, what else can we talk about except for all the typical get-to-know-you questions that people ask? And how am I supposed to answer them? If they ask me about my job, I can either tell them that I’m a writer (but not tell them what I write) or that I run a nonprofit for domestic violence victims (and hope they don’t ask me how I got into that line of work). Naturally they will want to know where my kids father went, and then how is it going to make me look when I tell them that he abandoned me? Was he crazy, or am I? Or should we talk about my family? Because I don’t have one. Or when I ask for a gluten free menu, maybe we can jump into my health history. I just don’t think I can go to this dinner, because I’m not sure what to say that is going to give them any perspective into who I am other than a big red flag.”
“Oh baby,” he sighed. “I didn’t know that you felt this way.”
But I do.
I feel like there are some things that define who I am, way more than I wish they did.
As much as we talk about my kid’s health on here, I tend to gloss over most of my own health issues because even though the genetic disorder we all share plays a huge role in my life, I refuse to let it become my life; I prefer not to be defined by it, so if I don’t want to be defined by it, then I can’t make it the focus of my life.
But that doesn’t mean that the disorder doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t have some serious implications in the way that it makes me feel.
Being married, my life was infinitely harder because of who my husband was, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that some things about being married were easier, like the simple fact that because he went to work while I stayed home, even if I had the kids with me, I could rest.
But then he left and even though he took a lot of the pain, tragedy, and sorrow with him, he left me alone while I wasn’t in the best of health. Suddenly he was gone and not only was I a sick mother to two young kids, but now I also needed to be a working mother to two small kids.
My body was betraying me, but with kids who were relying on me, I had no choice but to work; no matter how much it hurt.
Today, thanks to a treatment plan that is working very well, many of the health problems that I used to have are memories of the past, but the one consistent issue that I deal with on a 24/7, every minute, of every hour in the day basis, is the chronic joint pain that I get from being so hypermobile (overly flexible). And I’m not just talking about “Oh, my back hurts, I need to take an Advil” pain. I’m talking about the “I need to split my grocery shopping into two consecutive trips, just because I can’t push the cart if it gets too heavy” kind of pain. I’m talking about the “I wake up at least 5 times a night when my hip starts to slide out of the socket, I’ve dislocated my shoulder twice this week, and my back hurts so bad that I’ve been silently screaming since noon” kind of pain. It’s the pain that has me showing up to the chiropractor three times a week and begging the doctor to put my spine back in place kind of pain, and it’s an excruciating kind of pain caused by costochondritis, which causes crushing chest pain that doctors say feels exactly like having a heart attack, that I get to experience at least 3 times a month from a rib that keeps dislocating.
It’s the muscle spasms and thoracic subluxations that make my fingers go numb halfway through writing an article, and it’s the spinal instability that has me ringing my neighbor’s doorbell to see if they can help me get my groceries inside. It’s the little boy that I haven’t been able to consistently pick up since he was an infant, and it’s the handicap placard I have on my car for the days when the pain just gets to be too much. It’s the inconsistency in that some days I can run and dance, and some days it hurts to walk across my living room; it’s the chronic wondering of what the day will hold for me and how I will feel, in a disorder that not many people understand.
It’s that kind of pain; the pain that I try and hide on a daily basis because I do not want pain to become part of my identity.
I do not want this disorder to become more of me than it already is.
But I can’t ignore it, because it’s always there. It’s there when I take my kids to the zoo, and all I really want to do is stay home and snuggle with an ice pack. It’s there when I’m up all night writing, and I know that any other writer would have been able to work twice as fast if their neck had only been hurting half as much.
It’s the inescapable, every day feeling that something just isn’t quite right, and the constant yearning to just convince myself that it will all be OK.
Thankfully this disorder is not going to kill me and I will forever be grateful for that, but that doesn’t mean that it hurts any less today.
Today it hurts, and tomorrow it is still going to hurt.
But you know what?
Like I said, tomorrow it will still hurt.
Yep, it’s true. It really doesn’t matter how much I would like to wish away the pain, I can’t, it’s not possible. It is always going to be with me and I can either lay down and give up my life to it, or I can find ways to live a life amongst it.
And since at 32 years old I’m not willing to give up my entire life, I make the conscious choice on a daily basis to find the happiness in the hand that I was dealt. It’s what I do on those days that I set down the ice pack and take the kids to the zoo, because I’m choosing to thrive on the joy I see in my kids smiling faces. It’s the effort that I put in when I show up every day to the gym, knowing that I’ll never be as strong as the other people that are there much less than I am, but thankful that I am able to do anything at all. It’s the happiness I feel when I run races with my friends, and even though I have to sit out for half of the obstacles, I’m thrilled that I showed up at all. It’s the choice that I make when I stay up all night writing, knowing that it took everyone else half as much time to get their work done, but still wanting to take pride in the job that I am going to finish.
As I was telling the guy I’m seeing the other day, I really can’t think of a moment when something doesn’t hurt. My body, it always hurts, but it’s up to me to work around it and find my own happiness, because the only thing that I can change is what I choose to focus my attention on.
If I don’t want my life to revolve around pain, then I can’t let my life revolve around pain.
It’s very much like the emotional wounds that I have from my rocky past; they will always be there and they will probably always hurt, but unless I want to relinquish myself to a life of pain, I need to find other things to focus on.
But lately that has become a bit hard to do.
It’s really hard not to focus on my past, when I have made it my all consuming present.
It is the reason that this blog has been a little bit quieter lately.
I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by trauma at the moment. Not because I’m sad or falling apart, but honestly because I’m trying so hard to focus on the positive and happy things in my life, that it sometimes feels a little emotionally draining to constantly have to talk about things that hurt.
Sometimes I just don’t want to feel hurt.
And thankfully, I’m not. In fact, I’ve been feeling really great lately! Things are going well and I have no real complaints. The Boy Child has been healthy and The Girl Child has been happy as can be with a few new friends at school. I know that the emotional pain from the scars her father caused will always linger, but at the moment I literally could not be any happier to see the yearning for her absent father take a back seat to the happiness that she is finding with her friends. The nonprofit is doing well and I am thrilled to see the dedication and hard work of my team spilling over into the women we are helping. And, as you may have noticed from the first paragraph of this blog, there is a special man in my life that I am excited to share with you soon.
But for now, for now I’m just happy. And do I hurt?
But I probably always will, and that is just not something that I want to focus on today. So because of that, the blog has been a bit quiet.
And I’m really, really, sorry. I can promise you that I’m not leaving you, that I will keep you all along for the journey, but please understand that this is also part of my journey. I’m walking that line right now between my past and my future, and I’m learning how to balance them both in the way that is the healthiest for me; which sometimes means that I just need to step out of the trauma head space for a while so that I can see the sunlight shining down around me and my future.
The demons aren’t gone, the pain is still there, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m just coming up for air at the moment while I’m learning how to be more than trauma, just like I’ve learned to be more than pain.
I am more than pain, and I am more than trauma, and if I want to really accept that, then I need to live that.
So yes, I will be meeting the family of the guy I’m seeing, but it will not be in a restaurant where the person that I am will be overshadowed by the stories of my past, because I am more than my past. I’m choosing to be more than my past, and that is what I want other people — including all of you — to see.
I want to live in the present and in order to do that, sometimes I need to turn around and stop looking at my past.
In life we will always have things that haunt us, follow us, and claw away at our souls while begging for attention. We will have things that to others, appear to define us, but it is us who gets to decide what defines who we are.
I’m looking forward to the future and everything else that is going to define who I am.
I cannot ignore my DNA just like I cannot undue the past that I have lived, but I don’t have to focus all of my attention on the things that hurt me.
If I want to find things that don’t hurt, then I need to be willing to turn my head and look for them, because constantly looking at my past is not allowing me to look forward to my future.
You are your present, and your present is based on your outlook.
If you want to view your spilled Starbucks and traffic jam on your way to work as the defining factors that ruined your day, then so be it, but it wasn’t the coffee and traffic that ruined your day, it was your acceptance that nothing else good was going to happen, because something bad already did.
But if you choose instead, to focus on everything that went right, well then your day just got a whole hell of a lot better.
In life things will go wrong and sometimes those things will hurt us. We can’t ignore those things, and we must — and should — deal with them, but when we choose to focus all our attention on the things that hurt us most, we stop allowing ourselves to look for anything that will make us feel better.
If you want to be happy, spend more time looking at the things that make you happy.
It really is as simple as that.
I’m not going anywhere, it has just been slow around here because I’m taking a little bit of time to focus on the things that make me happy.