“I don’t understand why you can’t just be the way you used to be.”
I looked at this person who had survived a serious illness, tilted my head to the side, and smiled.
“Really?” I asked. “Because I am glad you’re not who you were before you became sick.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You almost lost your life. You suffered, but you fought. You overcame. People supported you, provided for you when you could not care for yourself. They showed compassion and kindness and love.”
I watched their eyes cutting through me, trying to decide whether or not I had just insulted them.
“Before you were timid. You were quiet, unsure of yourself, and you refused to trust anyone. You suspected them. You saw the worst and didn’t try to look for the best, because then you wouldn’t have to get close to anyone. Then you wouldn’t have to fear getting hurt. Abandonment. Rejection. Now you reach out to the community and raise awareness. You support and encourage others who are sick, who love someone who is sick. You speak up, you stand up. You trust in others because you saw when things were their absolute worst for you, those who loved you, who believed in you even as you couldn’t in them were there for you doing your laundry, helping you bath, running errands, and staying up all night when you were crying and scared of what you were facing. You became aware of your strength, your potential, and you learned that not everyone is going to hurt you. You learned to love your humanness. So, yeah, I’m glad you are not who you were before you were sick. Now you have value for your life, for others’ lives.”
They stayed silent for a moment before speaking. “Now I feel like a jerk.”
For all of you who have said these words to me, that you wish me to be in my pre-Kevin state, that you insist it is possible, please take this opportunity to stop speaking and listen. Just listen. Don’t comment. Don’t interrupt or interject with one more, “But I –“ or yet another, “Well if you really wanted –“ because it will fall on deaf ears. Blindness is not only a disease of the eyes, but even worse, also one of the heart. Just because you see something through your eyes – your limited perspective, skewed to your preconceived notions and values that you held long before you knew I existed – does not make it fact. It’s merely your version of fact. This alone doesn’t make it wrong, the fact you can’t see things through my eyes. It’s the deliberate, willful act of ignorance that makes you blind.
I have struggled trying to reconnect with so many people I knew before Kevin… even with those I knew well before my rock on this earth, my City Boy, my friend, and the only one who has ever successfully gotten to know the me that exists out of public view, my Kerwyn… and I have failed. At first I believed it was because something was broken in me, but now I see that we are different people, and because of the intense changes I have undergone, our beliefs, values, and preferences have become vastly divergent. For those who have accepted these changes without question, for those who have worked tirelessly to get to know me all over again even as I had to become re-acquainted with myself, for those who have stayed through what I know must have been a mountain of chaos, frustration, and madness to climb with what felt like futility to rival Sisyphus’ rock, for those who persevered with me and endured and supported me, I love you all.
For those of you devoid of compassion and mercy, if you choose to make an exit, I have a map, a picture that will point the way. I did not ask you to handle and carry the weight of the emotional pain I have had to battle – and sometimes still battle – I only asked you that you put in a fraction of the effort in the form of patience, in waiting out what I, even in my most urgent desire and fervent prayer, wish I could escape. Alas, I cannot discard this skin. It isn’t that I was not aware of how helpless you could be watching me go through something you couldn’t take away from me, but I didn’t want you to take it away from me. I just wanted you to let me become the person I have reaching to be without acting like you have no home-training, no decency, or respect.
I am happy beyond measure that I am no longer who I used to be. The old me only thought she could conquer the world. The new me knows I can. The old me wasn’t sure of who she was, couldn’t say she truly loved herself, and thought when others judged her that it was something she did. That she had failed. And she chased endlessly after approval that would never come. The new me had to struggle through pain and emptiness, the depths of severity of which you could never know, and I suspect never be able to handle if confronted with it, to be who she is today.
I love myself.
I am at peace with myself.
I trust in myself and have begun to trust in others.
I suspect what you don’t like is the fact that I don’t chase after your approval anymore. That things aren’t so easy for you. That you have to reciprocate the respect and kindness I give to others. Get used to it, because I don’t chase anymore. If you don’t like the work, maybe it’s time to seek employment elsewhere. Because my “care button” is busted.
So it isn’t that I have failed. It’s that your heart is blind to who I have become, because all you know is what you see with your eyes. You saw pictures of the bruises. You see the physical damage left behind. You see that I have suffered emotionally trying to navigate my way through this maze of trauma, destruction, salvage, and rebirth. But what you are so blind to is how strong I am, how courageous I am, and how much I must love and feel compassion for others that I constantly revisit these wounds, relate my stories, and impart lessons learned the hard way. You fail to see the perseverance. The kindness. The hope and faith where before there was none. You overlook the effort, the diligence, and the bravery it takes to get down on my knees in the muck of a ruined life, look the beast in the eyes, and pull myself back up despite waiting to disappear. Despite wishing it would go away. That I could will the days back to before I met my monster and make me myself again.
You fail to see that I now more myself than I ever was. That I am whole. How many can say they have the joy of a second time around to rebuild and become who they always wished they could? So what how it came about. So what that you don’t think it’s an acceptable reason for the change. I didn’t ask you, I told you.
You can accept it, or you can follow the arrow on out the door. I have been through too much struggling to keep negative, judgmental, unkind, rude people in my life. This is MY life. Figure out your own.