Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Lost Button

This fall will mark 15 years since I first got sick with pancreatitis. I was only 23 years old; a young woman with the sun at her back, rising at the dawn of her professional, adult life. In my mind’s eye, I am still that 23 year old girl. The years spent on feeding tubes and oxygen, having surgery after surgery have felt like a suspended reality. Just when I feel well enough to stand up on my own, another wave knocks me down, and I'm left struggling in the foamy water where the surf crashes, one wave upon another.

In my mind's eye, I see the people I used to have as friends. I see the kids I used to babysit. I see my baby brother all grown up with kids. I see how far everyone has come, and I am broken-hearted because it truly speaks to how much life I’ve lost.  All those years I thought I’d be pursuing my career, getting married, having kids; all those years are gone. And all those people I once knew have all lived these past years, and I am emotionally and physically so far apart from them that it takes my breath away.

In so many ways, I still feel 23, and yet at the same time, I feel like I’m 90. I feel like I’ve lived lifetimes in these 15 years; lifetimes that very few care to or are able to understand. Yet, I also have the memory of the 23 year old that had a whole world at her footsteps when all her hopes came crashing down. I can’t recoup those years, and I struggle with that truth every day of my life. I can go forward, though. I can do that, and I WILL do that with gratitude in my heart.

As a child, I remember the book “A Pocket for Corderoy” about a teddy bear that was left untouched on a store shelf because he was missing a button. No one wanted a bear that was imperfect. I loved that book, and at 37 it means more than it did when I was five.  When I see my former friends and acquaintances that have all gone on with life, I feel sort of like Corderoy who has been put on a shelf for all my imperfections.

Those who left me behind, or perhaps who my illness left behind are merely protecting themselves. Illness is not pleasant to watch, nor is suffering.  Life is too busy to slow down for a Corderoy, and Corderoy is too slow to keep up with much of life. It is a frustrating riddle.  As for now, I am left with the most loving family and a few true friends who don’t mind my missing button. As much as it hurts them, they love me nonetheless.