The woman was in the mirror again. Wearing the same bulky gray sweater, her hair dishevelled. I know she is young, but her tired eyes reflect a soul much older. Letting her reading glasses slide halfway down her nose, she gives up trying to focus on her book. I close my eyes and send her away.
Ten years ago, I used to lie to her and say, “When you feel better you'll be able to go back to university.” “As soon as you recover from surgery, you will get the public relations internship you've always wanted.” “When you are in remission, you won't have to miss out on life's opportunities.” “When you are back to being yourself, he’ll remember why he fell in love with you.” The future shone so brightly with promise, even from far away. Of course, back then, I didn't know they were lies.
It used to seem like my life hung suspended. Ready and waiting for me to come grab hold of it and hit the ground running. Now each day feels like life is being sucked away. Time is whizzing by and I can't stop it. I'm trying to grasp moments to prolong them but I'm Alice falling down the rabbit hole with clocks and chairs and friends and events all a blur and then - thud! A decade of my life is gone and I'm alone on the floor with no way of climbing back up and no keys to any of the doors in front of me.
Weren't my 20s supposed to have given me something?! Adventure, culture, tortured romance, experience, an education, a flying leap into a successful career, a man-of-my-dreams turned husband? Instead, I’m trapped inside the girl in the mirror.
Life is loud, fluid, exciting, terrifying, and passionate all around me. Everyone is someone: mother, wife, sister, aunt, lover, best friend. No matter the titles I have had, it’s been tarnished with an X, and marked in bright red -‘SICK’. Not mother. Not wife. Not employee. Not friend. I want to be counted on. I want to be able to be able to support the people who never waiver the love they give or in being here for me.
Why does it hurt so much?! People all over the world wake up daily and go live their lives. Such a task is gargantuan to me. Taking a shower leaves me ragged and sweating, my knees chattering from the weakness of holding myself up. My apartment needs to be dusted. There are dishes in the sink. Why does it have to be so difficult? I tell myself it’s easy. But my muscles ache, there is a dagger in my lower abdomen searing with a pain so red and so loud I can hear it. I drift in and out of a medicated sleep but never feel rested. I’m tired. I’m tired deep down to my bones. Tired of fighting for the possession of my own body, to do with it what I please and be the person who I want to be. This is not how I want to live!
But that’s just the thing isn't it?
I’m not living at all. Not really.
Strength is a word I hear a lot. Everyone tells me over and over again, ‘You are so strong.’ I want to be strong. I want to live a success story. I want mine to be a story of triumph. It hurts more than any agony I've suffered knowing that I’m thirty and I haven’t accomplished any of the goals I planned for my life. I want so badly to be something else.
I want someone to ask me to describe myself in few words to smile and chirp the words ‘Soccer Mom!’ ‘Writer!’ ‘Sugar Addict.’
Some day, this will all be ‘an experience.’ I will be sitting in a lawn chair at my summer retreat facing the Muskoka lakes. I will share homemade ice tea with my 9 year old granddaughter and tell her how things were so different for me when I was her age. When people who rent cottages for the summer ask around the area's shops, they will say, “Does Jane Spring, the author, really have a home near here?” No one will ever ask how I’m feeling, or how this surgery went, or how long I’d been in the hospital.
I look in the mirror to the woman with her pale pallor skin sunken in and try hard to hold on to the hopes of someday. Someday when cheeks are rosy and limbs are strong. She’ll no longer have a face that causes people to take pause and ask, “Are you ok?” or “How are you feeling?”
Someday, when they see her, they won’t have a reason to ask any of those things at all.