so, i'm working out tonight (last night now?), on the elliptical machine just doing my thing and watching monday night football, when i start to look around at all of the people surrounding me.
Monday night is the most intense night to go to the gym. everyone has restarted their promise to themselves to get in the gym and go hard. the fresh decisions made, the machines are packed, the weight room is packed, there are mad dudes playing basketball on the courts, everyone is giving it their best. by friday, there's no one there and it's easy to follow the trajectory of desire vs habit.
i see so many different kinds of people. beyond race, beyond sex, beyond physical descriptors, i see a huge variety of people. i see those who wear their discomfort with who they are on their faces. i see those who are trying so hard to have one area that they are fully in control of...damaging their bodies in order to be a master of at least some domain. i see those who are clearly happy in what they have sculpted, the ease with which they walk and smile and laugh and hit on others. and i see the truly miserable. those who feel that they are fat/ugly/not *whatever* enough/too *whatever*. they are so difficult to see.
and i realize that what i've been struggling to find is right in front of me.
you see, i've been looking for the art of being easy again.
i used to be easy. i used to be carefree. i used to be so much more able to just enjoy the journey instead of worrying about the steps along the way.
in that time, i was so comfortable in my own skin. i was not perfect...so far from it...but i was truly inspired in my life and happy for the most part. the things which were important to me...friends, live music, being able to go for walks in the park, travel, being good at what i did...i had pulled all those things close to me. i had filled my life with things and people that i enjoyed and loved. and i was able to appreciate the good in my life every day, because so rarely did the not good even enter in any longer. a huge accomplishment for someone whose early life had been full of the not good.
and then...then disease came. discomfort. struggle. the realization that my life wasn't this never-ending promise of tomorrows and that not every dream was going to come true. typing out medical directives and will & testaments. moving assets into other people's names. surgery/procedure/treatment/surgery/surgery/surgery/treatment/procedure. dis-ease.
when every day you have to think about how many you might have left, and every day you are faced with medicines which make you a different kind of sick to fight the sickness which threatens you so intensely, you become someone who loses touch with being easy.
on television and in the movies, they would have you believe that when we face life threatening illness and its treatment, and survive, that we arrive on the other side of that detour just happy to have arrived. that we lose ourselves in laughter and love and kindness and take every moment with a breezy whimsy which defies belief.
it isn't true. for a lot of us, arriving somewhere so far from our original destination...broke, physically altered, hyper aware of our mortality, reliant upon medications and doctors and tests, carrying within us the knowledge that we are now forever marked and possibly being stalked by a ravaging criminal which likes to return to the same host, having lost so much - friendships, time, the ability to reproduce, ease, a certain naivete, calcium, vitamins, youthful appearance - there is a struggle upon that arrival.
you want to be happy. just to be here. just to have arrived *somewhere*. but at the same time, you're so devastated by so much. and there is so much to reconcile now. and you go through so many phases...like adolescence all over again, almost.
imagine that you have lived your whole life inside a tire...25, 30, 50 years, and have created in that time period your ideas, your beliefs, your belongings, your friends, your knowledge base, your career...all that you hold dear, and all of these things are the air inside your tire-life. keeping it balanced and full and going.
now imagine that something horrible happens to your tire...but it isn't something which happens suddenly and it isn't something which you can fix or control. instead, it is a slow, steady leak, which you can only live in the center of as you run back and forth to every tire repair person that you can find and beg them to fix it, to save this tire because it's the only one you can have. once that air, and everything that it holds, is gone...there are no replacements.
and so, as this happening becomes a daily issue, and you watch moment by moment as the life which you have built seeps out into the ether, your life starts to fill up with all of the things which the experts are putting into the hole to try to salvage your tire. but, it isn't anything even remotely close to that which it is replacing. it is poison and last resorts and final straws, it is big words, it is debt, it is struggle, it is immeasurable and inexplainable pain, it is loneliness, it is heartache, it is despair, it is hope, it is not enough hope, it is too much hope, it is stress, it is fear...
and these things which have to go here in order to even have a fighting chance, they begin to displace some of the things which haven't been let out yet. friends, dreams, hopes, ideals, self-perception...they all begin to be moved aside so that you can deal with this crisis every day. you begin to and then continue to have to leave a little bit of the life which you have known behind in order to have a chance of the life which you hope for, until all of the little bits add up.
then suddenly, it is months or years later, and what you have struggled for is here. you survive. things settle down somewhat. and you have a chance to breathe again. and you look around, survey the landscape which you have arrived on, and realize that you have no fucking idea where you are, or even who you are, any longer.
you realize that this life that you have fought so hard to maintain isn't familiar at all any more. you realize that the people whom you thought were going to always be there have moved on. you realize that the career that you were building is actually just a noose. you realize that the body which you have come to know and rely upon and be comfortable in is a potential enemy. you realize that everything that you have saved and worked for is gone, and you are starting all over again. you realize that time is short and your pain tolerance is high, but that doesn't make any of it any easier.
mostly, you realize that you are new to the world all over again...that this suffering and fighting to get here has changed you irrevocably. and you look at those who have been still living their lives during this time period and hear them tell you of your strength and your fortune and your tenacity, and you realize that they don't get it.
you understand, fundamentally, that the healing feels as if it is going to kill you. in a very short time period, you have watched everything that you have designed and built and become be tossed out. and you get it...that the strength that it took to hold it together and tolerate the direction of those who are trying to save you was nothing compared to the strength that it is going to take to put everything back together again. to rebuild. to remaster. to replan. to reorganize.
and you wonder if you have the strength, or the courage, or even the desire, to set about on the path to 'getting there'. it took 30 years to get there before. it took courage and effort and, i believe, youth. in your youth, you are so willing to meet failure and start again, to be flexible, to learn lessons from heartache and keep going in the quest for the prize.
somehow, age changes our ability to tolerate uncertainty. it is how we all become our ancestors over and over again...how we start out so desirous of making change and end up another cog in the machine. it is how we start out liberal and dreaming and end up middle of the road and getting by.
so, when faced day by day with these dual emotions...the happiness at being here but the sheer terror at how fucked up here is, you go through all of these stages of processing everything. elation, uncertainty, fear, depression, anxiety, feeling as if it is truly impossible.
and tonight, i realized that we make it so hard for each other. we see each other through the veil of our experiences, our expectations...both reasonable and unreasonable, our desires, our over-reaching. and we see in those around us our own failures. our unhappiness. our shortcomings. and we place that perception onto them and then judge them almost as harshly as we judge ourselves.
i realized that i've been seeing the world around me and other people with this desperation and desire that i've been full of.
you see, i've been desperate to start actually living my life again. desperate to be out from under the monitoring eye of the health care practitioners, desperate to see and feel and know and do all of the things that i had ever hoped for...and quickly. before *it* comes back or any other unthinkable thing happens which ends this opportunity that i've been given to keep going. this desperation has incorporated so many desires...there are so many things that i've desired to have and do and experience.
because i don't have any other option, i've accepted that which has been taken away from me - the things that i can't do. i can't bear my own children. okay. i can't not take these medications. okay. i can't sleep through the night without hot flashes. okay. i can't go without bone scans and body scans and ultrasounds. okay. i can't ungray my hair or take the bone loss away. okay. i can't get that time back. okay. i can't undo the staggering loss or the heart wrenching realizations. okay.
and so, this has left the 'i cans'. what is there that i can do that i want to do? and there has been love...i can still love. knowledge...i can still pursue knowledge. knowledge of self. knowledge of the world around me. knowledge of others. knowledge of my place in the world. i can still try. i can still laugh. i can still dream. i can still seduce. i can still entice. i can still cook. i can still feel pleasure.
because i have felt that i am racing an unseen second hand on a giant universal clock, i have wanted everything that i can have and do NOW. i have wanted this love to be reciprocated as intensely as i can give it because 'what if?'. what if there isn't unlimited time to go patiently? i have wanted to reclaim those days when my life was made complete by books and music and not having a strict schedule because what if? what if this is my chance to be happy living for me instead of living for the idea of what i'm supposed to do and want and be? i have wanted to go everywhere and do everything and be everyone and livelivelive because what if? what if the answers are out there and not right here?
and tonight i realized that everyone is racing something. we're all struggling, not quite happy, not quite satisfied, not quite *whatever*. we're all trying to get as much in as possible. we're all trying to find our own happiness. we're all using our own coping mechanisms...even though they may not make sense to others. we're all coping...using sex or drugs or exercise or food or whatever it is to fill the voids that life is creating every day.
and being easy can be easy again. i just need to understand that 'being easy' has to be about me. i can't include everyone else in my expectations or my desires or my limits.
everyone needs room to be who they are. everyone needs clearance to find comfort in the things which give it to them. everyone needs love without expectation. everyone needs all of the things which i have found that i need. i'm not special...my sickness, my struggle, my setbacks, my suffering...none of these things make me any more special than anyone else, or any more deserving of my desires.
i need soft eyes and to reclaim what i knew for all those years...that being alone in the world doesn't limit me. that i can do and be and see anything i want to at any time, and that being alone means i don't need permission or to feel bad for following my heart's desires.
in order to survive, i had to surrender control for the first time in my life. i had to be told all of the time...what to eat, what to drink, what to indulge in, what to smoke, what medicines to take and when, when to get treatment, when to rest, when to cry, what doctors to see, what to hope for, what to expect, when not to get my expectations up, when not to push, when not to hold back, when to get undressed, when to let strangers touch me.
giving up control seemed like the most difficult thing that i would ever face. but i am learning that it is getting it back which is the challenge. learning that it is okay to set my own boundaries and my own guidelines again. learning that it wasn't my fault that i got sick. i've been scared to take control back...letting myself float out there in the world and hoping that someone would see me here, floundering and low on strength and terrified, and step in and take control. that someone would step up beside me and promise to be here with me and hold my hand to keep me steady and help me find my place in the world again.
but there isn't any ease in life like that. and you can't be easy when there's no ease. ease comes when we're being true to who and what we are, even when we aren't our best. for the first time in a very long time, i can see the path to ease again...which means that i'm once again on my own path. and i know that detours will happen, but if i can have patience with myself and the world around me, i can find my way back to where i need to be.