Who was I, who do I hope to be, and who am I currently? These are the questions that I have wrestled with over the past few years. (No grand illusions here, no pollyana-glazed-over-sugar-coated-religiosity; it has taken me YEARS to grapple with this.)
The auto accident that I was in caused amnesia, the loss of my job, and the loss of relationships with some of the people who had been part of my every day reality. I had to relearn almost everything. I mean it. I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind me that it was time to use the bathroom…or I wouldn’t even be aware that I had not gone to the bathroom for 12 or more hours at a time. I read fashion magazines to see how to put outfits together, as I lost all ability to color coordinate without a color wheel’s assistance. My makeup application was only done by reading the numbered samples given out by a local makeup seller. “1. Apply foundation 2. Apply blush…” you get the idea. My eye shadow was always the quad that had the numbers on them, with directions about where to apply each numbered shade.
When James and I became engaged, he took me clothes shopping. It was very strange to walk into “Plato’s Closet” and have the helpful associate ask me what my style was. I simply gaped at her like a fish, and looked at James in confusion. He smiled, put his arm around me gently and explained, “She was a single mother for years and has lived off of hand-me-downs. If they fit, she wore them. She has amnesia from an auto accident, and is starting to rediscover what her style is, or even, what it will be.” I swallowed the panic that was rising in my throat, and timidly eyed the associate. “Will you help me figure it out?” She squealed, “Of course! This is going to be so fun! Let’s get started!” She took my hand and carefully steered me over to the clothing racks.
She was incredible! She patiently held up a dress, and said, “Do you like it?” I exclaimed that I did. Then she took me to the accessories where she rotated between belts until we discovered my preferences. It was so fun! We discovered that I tend to be vintage-punk with an unexpected beachy twist once in a while. We were there for HOURS trying on clothes and establishing my style, and I loved every second.
My opinion mattered, and it had value! It may sound like a minor deal, but to me, I had had no control over things for so long that it was truly liberating to say, “No, I don’t like that; but I DO like that!” I discovered not only my style, but I rediscovered my voice.
I also discovered that the styles I wear are merely an outward reflection of who I am inside. My identity as a child of God doesn’t change if I wear hand-me-downs or punk clothes. I learned this truth by reading verse after verse about identity; and stories of how others discovered their purpose in life.
It’s no secret that our miscarriage this last year rattled me. Grief does not allow one to wear a mask for long. The truth about our insecurities and fears are eventually revealed when we grieve. After we miscarried, James and I decided to look into adopting a toddler or preschooler. We were told that we need to be married a few years longer before we are approved. By then, most of our kids will be ready for high school, middle school, or even college.
My heart was so wounded by the reality that despite our desire to open our home and hearts again, we don’t fit into the formula for “acceptable” placements. I understand, but I don’t like the pain that it brings.
I was just starting to accept with gratefulness our current situation. I was prepared to simply invest in our children and those around us with openhearted compassion. Then, we received the news of our genetic disorder. I wrestled through to acceptance, and even thankfulness for the quality of life that we currently have, and the preparation for this moment in time.
Enter the latest physical ailments.
I developed a very serious infection, which I neglected to realize until it had progressed to the point of needing IV antibiotics, and a double run of oral antibiotics. The inflammation is finally showing signs of improvement, but the pain is subsiding only minimally.
My Dr. and I discussed….why can’t I write this? Hysterectomy. There. It’s out there.
My emotions are surprising me. My monthly cycle has become so painful that I literally have all the symptoms of pregnancy; morning sickness included, but I don’t get a baby to hold and parent when it’s over.
One would think that I would be ecstatic to finally see relief in the not-so-far-off future.
Instead, I am rather blindsided by my urge to cry over saying goodbye to a uterus which I finally “made friends” with, which I hold great admiration for as the place where my 5 children were cradled inside my love for them. Interestingly enough, though, loving my three bonus children has helped me to see that my children (all 8 of them) are cradled in my heart…and that isn’t going anywhere.
No surgical decisions are going to be made today (in a slightly-medicated, pain-filled disclosure), so I am confident that the next few weeks will hold emotional processing and more wrestling until we can see the plumbing issue clearly.
Today, though, in this moment when I am facing the possibility of saying goodbye to another part of me; I am content to simply be loved. I am standing with a surprisingly quivering lip, teary eyes, and arms outstretched…fully trusting that the following is as true today as it has been for every moment of my life:
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)