Sometimes being late to something shows you how badly you want it. I have a weird relationship with this word ‘late’ and the connotations it brings with it. Maybe many of us do, to be late is seen as shameful or rude and all our mamas taught us better than that. Mine did, or surely she tried, but recently I’ve been having these battles with what it means to be late, and the concept of time in general, and I’ve decided to cut myself some slack. The way I see it lately (no pun intended), if I am late to something and still find myself following through on it, that is one of the most honest forms of follow through I can possibly give, at least right now at this time in my life, in the space I have in my heart at this moment. I may be late but I stand proud to have made it at all.
See, I feel as if I am still fighting my way back, not to the person I was before my illness, but to the person I have always been meant to be, and the illness has been helping me get to her. For years and yeeeaaarrs I felt like I was in the dark, not knowing what I was suffering from, only knowing I was suffering from something, perhaps many things. These were the years of my teens when I first started to truly feel sick, but never being able to find out what it was. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I was certain that I was close to finding the answers, and so these became my years in the grey. The trusting myself to know something wasn’t right, even when everyone else was telling me otherwise. Then came the year of naming my illness, and what a name it was Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, (still have to spell check that one). A name for what was wrong, ME, the thing I so longed for, and the thing I thought would bring me into the light. But, this is also a part of the grey.
The grey, the middle, the messiness, that’s where a lot more pain has been discovered, but it is also where I have been able to get honest with myself. It’s a long process, and sometimes it leaves me feeling as exhausted as this illness does. But it’s worth the work. I’m worth the wait. I have come lightyears from where I first started breaking apart. The breaking apart is necessary to be able to pull yourself back together, deciding what to keep, what to fix, what to frame, what to aspire to be, and what to let go of. I figured all of this out, I made peace with it. What I wasn’t expecting was that you may have to break apart many times before you reach the truth. The person you want to be. The realization of this almost hit me harder than when I first shattered. The weirdest thing is that I didn’t have a major relapse or crash or physical breakdown. I felt content, and then came physical pain, and emotional pain of sorrow, anger, anxiety, worry, anguish. I felt startled and paralyzed. I hadn’t felt any of these in so so long.
But just as I did before, I moved through it. I began picking up pieces again, this time there weren’t as many. This time I felt like I already knew where the pieces went and in what order. Sometimes I have to go slower with the heavy bits, sometimes a piece moves back almost as if it went on it’s own. I don’t feel as scared anymore. I feel a lot more present in the putting back together part. Each time a piece falls back in place I feel a slight emotional release, I feel as calm as I ever felt for a few glorious moments. If you ever need a crash course in staying present, try falling apart every so often. It’s made me even more grateful somehow. It gives intention such importance in my life.
I still have days where it almost feels as though I have gone back to the darkness of where I first started, I still feel heaviness and depression sometimes in my mind. My body still aches nearly everyday, somedays it’s so sensitive that the weight of my layered clothing feels as if each piece is made of led. My nerves are so inflamed it feels like they are actually on fire. The tiredness gets the best of me, I can’t form sentences, I can’t hold myself up, it’s as if poison is coursing through my bloodstream and shutting down my systems randomly. Yet, none of this can been seen and all I can manage to get out of my mouth is “I don’t feel well”.
This is a part of my life. This is what I work so diligently towards preventing, but this is also what I have been so diligently working towards accepting. This illness is with me, and although I don’t let it define who I am, it is a part of who I am. So I may be late on things like my first meeting with my English professor, but instead of giving up and feeling defeating (nearly went back to my car to cry) I found his office, I apologized for being late and we went about our meeting. I ended up with my first A in my first college course this semester.
I may be late on things like my Christmas cards this year, but I made a real effort to get addresses from friends and family and have them all in one safe spot (it’s this magical thing called an address book) instead of scribbled in a million different places. Now I can be intentional about staying connected on holidays and birthdays and just when I feel the need to write them.
I may be late on things like updating my payment information on my website’s hosting, which led to it all being deleted, but as it turns out that was just the thing I needed to care about posting again. It made me realize that I missed writing, but the reason I hadn’t in so long is that it felt forced at times. I had expectations of myself that weren’t doing me any good, and certainly weren’t conducive to feeling creative and inspired.
I don’t think that I can just show up late, or whenever the hell I want. I don’t think that scheduling things is pointless, all I mean is that being late doesn’t have to stop you. Being late isn’t a sin, it isn’t the worst thing you could do. Challenging myself to show up anyway, go anyway, do it anyway has made me realize that to be late sometimes is just one more flaw of being human. Flaws can help us. They teach us about ourselves and about each other.
As for where I am with my illness, with myself and with life, I’m still in the grey now, maybe the grey just gets a little lighter every now and then.