“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
A lovely quote that always stops me. However, my last encounter a couple of weeks ago shifted something in me. Timing, I suppose. Living the past two years in my own sort of “depths of winter,” I’m realizing how much of an “invincible summer” is within me. I was too busy looking outward, watching things I had no control over, and not enough time looking inward, the place I have control.
However, it took all sorts of crashing and tumbling to remember that.
Pandemic aside, I’ve faced my own mortality and then my mother’s. It was an odd dance of illness and then death intertwined over the past two years.
For the most part, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been primarily healthy. But a tumble down some concrete stairs in 2020 created a kind of chain reaction in my life, forcing me to realize how stubborn I really am and how I do not use my resources wisely. Despite having health insurance, I hobbled around in pain, for months. Seven months, if you’re wondering. My doctor did. After having me repeat when I fell, he finally asked why I had waited so long to get my knee checked out.
I suppose that I’m just used to pulling up the boot straps, plus pandemic, that’s why.
Similar to my mom deciding that leaving things unspoken meant she wouldn’t have to deal with them, even as she went in and out of the hospital, I figured my pain would just go away.
Not a chance.
The doc found a slight fracture and bilateral meniscal tears, along with some jagged edges that needed smoothing out. That last one cracks me up–a lot of jagged edges that needed smoothing out. I just didn’t know it at the time. Why? Because I was doing fine. Everything was okay. My internal jaggedness hidden from sight like the jagged edges of my patella. I was managing things. My mother was not. (Feel free to roll your eyes 🙄, I have)
In the past, muscling through things had worked for me, at the expense of my intuition. Vastly underestimating and underutilizing my intuition has worked against me. That was the case of the strange lump behind my ear that I postponed getting checked out. When I finally did there was a one inch tumor in my parotid. I’m fortunate that it wasn’t cancer. Its removal, and the subsequent damage and slow repair, made me rethink basic things I’d been taking for granted.
Who ever thinks about puckering their lips or fully closing their eyes? I didn’t until I couldn’t. I remained that way for many months. It took even more months for my face to regain symmetry. It’s interesting when you don’t look “normal”–I’ve been there before with horrible eczema. People look and react differently to you. Also interesting is how much I dwelled on how awful I looked after the fact whereas pre-surgery I spent a lot of time trying not to think about how I looked.
I’m thankful that things are as back to normal, as normal they can be. I’m lucky, but it dredged up a bunch of old stuff about appearances (no surprise, that’s intertwined with my mother). It, once again, made me think and rethink the concept of “normal.”
I also faced (pun intended) my mother’s mortality and the aftermath that came with her passing. It confronted me with all sorts of stories, dynamics, and wounds buried over the years. Her slow demise and eventual passing was the storm that washed all the shit to shore. The passing itself was fairly peaceful, aside from the pain she was in. She was able to remain at home with her children helping her and “strangers” didn’t have to come help. It’s what she wanted, aside from the indignity of death itself. She resisted many things, but mostly she resisted planning for her death, and that resistance created a lot of problems.
I resisted the proverbial winter with being okay, but okay doesn’t always cut it. I tried not to feel, resisting with a kind of brute force okayness. It was the worst thing I could do. Even when I am, technically, okay. The morning I reread that quote, reflecting on the unnecessary pain I caused with my resistance, what really struck me was the warmth I felt in my chest. Intuition came calling, again. Silently thinking about my struggle to make heads or tails of what I’ve done with my manuscript among other things during this period of time, my intuition told me that summer was alive and well within me, I just needed to embrace the warmth.