Sometimes I feel like I live in two different worlds. Maybe even 3. Anyone who is close to me (and these days, that’s not many) knows that I refer to my life in two parts: my new life, and my old life. Or, pre and post sick, if you will.
I could write about that for days. And I plan to.
But first, there is this other world. It’s the world that everyone around me is living in that I can’t quite seem to fit in to. I fit in to it in pieces sometimes, and it’s nice. It always leaves me wanting more. This being a particularly difficult week, that world seems farther away than usual, but I take a deep breath and try to remember I will get a piece of it again. But that is it, a piece.
The pieces can vary in length of time and different measures of normalcy. For example, a night in a class that takes two hours is a small piece. I sit there, take notes, smile at others, raise my hand to ask a question or make a point, and I must look so normal. I make sure to wear a cute outfit to overcompensate for how I am feeling, and I am usually sure to wear makeup, something I don’t really like to do and something I don’t normally do in my regular life, but something I find necessary to do in this world, so as to hide my undereye circles and uneven skin tone from a night that was lacking in sleep-God forbid anyone actually caught on that I was “sick” and I wasn’t one of them. I’ll sit there, sometimes in incredible pain, woozy from medication, and I look around and see people smiling at me. Classmates sitting near me engage in conversation and I make them laugh. Sometimes I watch them, I watch their faces as they laugh at something I said (not that I’m calling myself a comedian or anything) and I sincerely wish them nothing but that joy they are feeling in that moment, and I say a silent prayer that they will never have to cross over in to my world. Even on nights I am not feeling well, I think I fake it pretty well. In fact, I’ve gotten so well at faking, sometimes I actually believe myself. I watch myself speaking, smiling, laughing, keeping up with everyone else and a small part of myself actually wonders if I will be able to stay in their world a little while longer, if maybe I will find a way to cross back over, and maybe this simple conversation will one day be all that is happening in that moment..and not this storm inside my body. I watch people do things with such ease, it amazes me, and I feel like sort of an alien, an imposter, and I wonder if they know.
I watch people take a snack out and casually eat, not thinking to themselves what pill they have to take before they eat, and after they eat, and making sure they check the time they are eating so they can plan when they will eat again. I don’t see them curl their lips because they are nausceous, or take a few bites then put it down in case it might not sit right with them. Then, amazingly, between bites, I see them pick up their pens and right furiously with such ease. I see their fingers steadily hold the pen, they dash their eyes up quickly, take another bite of food, write quickly, and repeat. I watch them as if I am seeing something for the first time and trying to figure out how it’s done. How simple. Doesn’t that hurt?
I try to do what they do. I take out a snack I perfectly selected after many minutes of deliberating how I felt that day, what I thought I could tolerate, and what else I should bring in case that snack failed. I look at the clock. Debate whether to attempt to eat now or eat later when I have some medication due. Either way is a risk. These are the things I debate daily. Hourly.
Ok, let’s not think about the snack right now. Let’s take notes. I can hold my pen like you. And I can pretend my fingers aren’t aching. I can pretend my hands aren’t shaking, that I can completely feel my fingers, that they aren’t tingly and prickly. See, I can be like you. I can look like you. I am a little closer to being in your world.
The sad thing is, I was in their world once. Sometimes I can remember what it was like. Sometimes, I cannot, and those are the days that scare me. Because even if I can never have it back, remembering what it was like to be in that world gets me through..because there is always the hope that I will be back there again someday. That the person people see will be the person I actually am.
Sometimes the amount of time I’m allowed to spend in “their” world is even longer, and all the more devastating when it ends. I had a few days a while back when I was there. It seems so long ago, but it was only about a month ago. I still planned my snacks and times and analyzed how I was feeling. That is something that is so embedded in me, it would take a while to leave, if it ever would. But I found myself able to experience things more. I remember specifically I was meeting with my best friend to study for an exam we had, and walking to meet him, my feet felt different. I felt like I was walking lighter, I felt my body move in ways I hadn’t felt in months. It was moving and breathing and I was able to have only one thought at a time. I was able to listen to peoples words and hear only them. I was able to sit with my boyfriend and watch a movie and not squirm. In fact, that same week, Dave and I had two of our friends over in the pool, and we swam and played with the beach ball for total of 4 hours. I almost didn’t want to type that once I remembered it, because it hurts to remember. But as I am crying I am smiling as I remember their faces, our laughter, and the amazing feeling of being in exactly that moment. For that time, that was all there was. My God I will remember that forever. I wish I knew that was going to be one of the last good days for a while. I’m afraid to go to sleep on the good days, afraid I will wake up and it will be gone. I remember walking back down to our apartment from the pool, we were all talking about how exhausted we were, and for once, my exhaustion was the same as theirs. It was like I had moved to a foreign country a while ago and haven’t been able to speak the language well, but now I did. I heard their words and I knew what they meant and I spoke their language. I belonged with them. I was one of them. We were all tired in the same way. We were all sore in the same way. We ate pizza together and joked and I didn’t think about how it might hurt to eat..and even better..it didn’t hurt to eat. I was so in this world and this moment, I wasn’t even that worried that it would end. Gosh for a little while there, I thought I made it back to their world. I thought I would be able to stay for a while.
I want to go back, but I can’t seem to find the way. Sometimes I start to get there, but I get thrown back to the start again. I am not giving up though, let’s make that clear. I am not. I’ve been given pieces of that world and it’s too sweet and too amazing to give up on. I will get there. And when I say I’m tired, it will mean the same thing as the friend next to me. And when I look at the clock, I’ll smile to myself because I am looking at how quickly time has passed, and not when my next dose is. I will get teary eyed when I look in my closet at a dress I was wearing when I fell to my knees in pain, and I will put it on, with HEELS, and twirl around. Any soreness I feel the next day will be from dancing too much. Imagine that? Yes, imagine it. It will be real. I will live one of those days again. Which will turn into many days. It will. It will. It will.
And it will for you too.