Perhaps the title is a little inept. It shows only a fraction of what I wish to convey. Living with one chronic illness, you don’t suddenly want to be told that you have yet another, potentially very serious thing wrong with you. Yet that’s what I’ve been facing these last few months. But this post is not about the condition itself, it’s about courage, about living as the best self you can be whilst you deal with and interpret on a daily basis, all the crap that’s flying about.
To begin with it’s like wading through quicksand. And the quicksand comes out of nowhere. Just a second ago there was a footpath, a little overgrown in parts perhaps, but all it required was a gentle hacking. (An oxymoron?) Perhaps. But there was something some way fast beneath your feet.
With it gone, how to prevent the descent?
I flailed. I cursed fear into a corner. And then, one day, all of a sudden I stopped my cursing. Why? Some small voice inside pleaded with me to try another way. So I did that beckoning thing, with my index finger, opened my eyes as wide as I could manage and I invited fear in, told it to sit down and take a seat in the corner, thank you very much.
Then I tried out a discussion. In the first instance it was like conversing in a foreign language. It was brittle, static talk. It gave me a thumping headache. It took a long, long while for the brittle to became just a wee bit sticky, for there to be some kind of small, sweet give to it that I recognised as possible progress.
I turned to music, the language of any dancer. I played music I loved and music I learned to love until everything was ground down to just above disintegration. There, right there, was sound and motion. Motion was good. Motion was hope in a bottle. And music became both my past, as a dancer, and my future, when I wasn’t sure I still had one.
I researched binaural beats, the premise of which, as a dancer, I intrinsically understood. I played isochronic sounds to fix the unfixable.
Then came the jewels. First yellow citrine, then blue kyanite and jade kindly bought for me by my partner. I wore them as bracelets on my wrists, offerings to the god of health.
I wrote down the names of my four great-grandmothers on a piece of paper and carried it about with me in my pocket. I’d never met any of these women but I knew a little of their life stories and just how strong they were. That was the degree of female strength I sought, so they went everywhere with me, in and out of consulting rooms, into pre-op rooms and they came to rest softly under my pillow when I slept.
As a writer I had a vast internal landscape and I called upon it. I flitted in and out of imagination. I wove together some sort of tapestry from scraps I could lay my mind upon, from stories I’d read as a child, from characters I’d invented. Then there were the dances I’d danced and the muscular memory of how they’d felt to perform.
I tried not to pine for the healthy, supple body I’d once had. But that was hard, oh so hard with my body failing me all over again.
Hate, I didn’t want. It breeds a kind of meanness about the mouth. If not love for my body, then maybe some degree of tolerance? Some respect for the dancer I’d once been?
I was more than my body.
Was I really?
Yes, I was.
I was everything that had come before, my lineage, my own personal beginnings. For sure I was a bit more broken, but I still had music.
And words. More words. Small and soft at first.
Plus I had stories yet to write….
I’m by no means through all of this yet. I’m still finding my way, but that process of finding has energy inside of it.
And energy is life.
So I’m still living and digging.