"What age could you pass for?"
This little survey popped up in my social media news feed last night. Ignoring the fact that the question ended with a preposition (the bane of my grammar-queen existence),
"What the hell; why not?" I said out loud to myself.
Clicking through to the link, I was asked and answered questions like, "Do you like your body?" and other ridiculous queries that really had nothing to do with age.
When I was finished, the results were not-so astonishing. Okay, to be more honest, I would have been unfazed if the results were to do with how old I look, not as the result of unrelated questions (I was amused last week when I had two checkers at the market taking bets on how old I was; I was buying a bottle of wine).
The truth? I immediately thought about how I felt about my body when I was 21. I was taken back to the time and place where, on the grief-side of a miscarriage of my son, Dominick, life was so hard, and I was unhappy... and I really, really didn't like myself at all.
Recently I stopped at a filling station I used to frequent, but don't go often anymore since I am commuting for work. The gal at the counter was excited to see me, and after a quick hug she seemed to be taking me in.
"Wow! You look amazing; you've lost weight!"
I thanked her, feeling my ears grow hot with embarrassment from what was obviously a compliment. Only... I didn't thank her. As impulsive as her hug had been upon my arrival into the shop was the reply out of my mouth.
"It's not on purpose; I sort of have incurable blood cancer." I said. The look of shock on her face mirrored mine, I'm sure, as I was quite surprised at the words that hung thickly in the air between us, and in my own voice.
In my mind I separated from myself and stood in front of me, looking into my eyes before slapping myself clean in the face.
"What the Hell is the matter with you?" I asked of me; shouting, really. "Who the hell tells that kind of news in that way?"
As the weather warms and I pull out Summer clothes, something I used to hate because I would think, pulling on a pair of shorts or capris, "what am I too fat for this summer?" I am instead faced with pants that pull on without even having to unbutton them; shirts that have to be replaced because they hang loosely, instead of being on the cusp of feeling like an overstuffed sausage in them just last year.
Before, a fluctuation in my weight meant something different; usually over-indulgence, or hard work and self-starvation. Now, it means that, no matter how I try to hide it; no matter how few people I tell about where I am in my life now... that I am, in fact, not well.
Here is the redemption in this story; the 'meat' of the message, and the definite paradigm shift:
I know, right? "Live; what does that even mean???"
Just that. Live.
If you don't feel healthy. Change. If you are someone else's perception of unfit or overweight, and yet feel confident in who you are, just be. The perception of others bears no weight, nor should it, on who you are; only you know who you're meant to be; when so many other voices weigh in, listen to the still small voice inside. I just wish, so much, that I could have learned that when I was actually 21; how life would have been different.
I can only move forward from this moment on.
I will listen to doctors and go through treatments. I will trust medicine, while at the same time praying for a cure.
I will make as many memories with my son, my daughter, and my grandson as I can. leaving as much of an impression of love as is humanly possible with the time I have left.
I will speak out and for foster children and youth; I will speak out and against the system that fails, over and over, the children in care. I will make a difference that lives past me.
I will say 'no' to more things, and I will say 'yes' to more things that matter.
I will be kind.
I will be generous.
I will show grace.
I will lean into my God, my family, and my friends as I walk this journey into the unknown.
I will love more; I will assume less.
I will live.