Tuesday, July 8, 2014
My 20th high school reunion was this past weekend. Alumni ride a float in the July 4th parade, there's a family picnic, an evening for food and drinks. When I found my voice in college and shed a lot of my insecurities, when I graduated and moved to D.C. and started a stimulating career, when I found a man I thought I would marry, have kids with and live happily ever after with, I envisioned myself going to that reunion and showing everyone the amazing woman I had become. I looked forward to showing my peers the TRUE me, she who was too shy to shine in high school.
And then I got sick, I had to give up my independence physically and emotionally. My body became my worst enemy. Love went by the wayside as I lost the ability to do anything but take care of myself. I spent as much time in the hospital as I did at home. The pain that ravaged me left me exhausted and weak. And then the prospect of my reunion became a ominous cloud in the future.
As last weekend approached, I started to get nervous about seeing a classmate out and about. As shy as I was in high school, I was at least cute. I wasn't single, overweight, pale as hell and on oxygen. The last thing I wanted to do was to run into an old crush with my oxygen canula in my nose and the tank on my back. And the thought of going to the reunion by myself terrified me. By some weird twist of fate, my health rescued me from that possibility. A bowel obstruction landed me in the hospital, but I was able to see pictures of the reunion on Facebook. The photos took me back to the same types of insecurities I experienced in high school. The feelings annoyed me. I needed to reflect.
When I look at myself, I need to stop looking at the past, and instead see the reflection of myself in the present. I need to train my eyes to see not the oxygen canula in my nose, but rather the courage and strength it takes to face the world while wearing it. The oxygen tank on my back isn't weakness but my will to live despite my body's shortcomings. I'm proud of the strength of my spirit. I love the perspective my illness has given me in life. I've endured more than I could ever have imagined, and I'm closer to God than I could ever have dreamed.
There are no comparisons. I am not that girl from high school. And I am not that young woman from college and those early years that followed. The truth is that those girls have passed. The sadness I feel when I think about where I am in life is largely due the fact that I haven't let them go, and holding on to them tugs at my heart. They are gone like the loves I've lost and the son that died in my womb. It's time to put them to all to rest.
In her place is a totally new woman whose strength amazes me as sure as it comes from within. She has ambition and hope more than either of my previous selves ever did. She loves life, and loves love and wants nothing more than to find ways to express it. There is a torrent of birth in place of all the loss. There is no way to recoup the past, no way to undo the pain. But there's a new path ahead that simply needs footsteps to define it.
Now I've come full circle. I missed my reunion not because I was in the hospital, but because I was in the past. Next time around, perhaps I'll go as myself and see what happens. Those people didn't know me then, and don't know me now. Perhaps this post may change that. I need to spend some time with this new woman inside, too. I suppose this blog is my INNER reunion. Thank you for taking this journey with me!