I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
– Sylvia Plath
One of the most disappointing things about real life is that it isn’t structured like a movie. Nothing ever resolves the way it’s supposed to, more loose ends are left dangling than you could ever count, and there are no truly good or bad people – only people in varying shades of grey. (Another disappointing thing is the first time you realize that you, too, are grey – but that’s a topic for a different time.)
I probably talk too much about adjusting to the “new normal” that comes with a diagnosis of chronic illness. There are really so many other things that can drastically change your perception of what is normal – either permanently or for a very, very long time. When I picked up last year’s yearbook this morning and read Soorya’s memorial page in the back, I again felt the finality of his absence settle on my shoulders like a heavy cloak. And on a lighter note (I suppose), I live away from my family, in Texas, and that’s a new normal too.
The credits to my life didn’t roll after I walked out of my high school for the last time. They didn’t roll on my first day of college, and they won’t roll on my last, or after I get married, or after the birth of my first child. Life doesn’t pause after something wonderfully good or terribly bad happens so you can sigh contentedly, throw away your popcorn bag, and walk out of the theater to your car. Life just keeps flowing on, and there’s something comforting about that, but something terrifying, too.
Yesterday, I started crying for no reason that I could readily explain. I was among people I didn’t know, too, people I really wanted to impress, so I couldn’t very well explain that I just cry sometimes, as if I were a bruised pear and someone had dug their thumbnail into me, letting the juice squeeze out. I cry when I am tired, I cry when I am sick, I cry when I am scared, and as I sat in the bathroom, hugging my knees and trying to calm my stomach, I thought, I’ve ruined it all again.
But crying, unlike death and unlike certain illnesses, is not a chronic state of affairs. I stopped after a while, even though no one had come after me, and looked down at my bare feet on the bathroom tile, and tried to believe that I hadn’t ruined everything after all.
(Of course, I hadn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.)
I’ve long ago learned to stop expecting people to care if I tell them I am sad or I am lonely. Dependable happiness, after all, starts inside. As I sit here, at 11:55 AM, with my chemistry books in front of me and a bag of generic cough drops by my hip, I’m not exactly sure what happiness is, except that for me it starts with releasing my sadness into the flow of time.
When I was little, my grandparents used to live in Florida, and every time we visited them I would always beg to go to the beach. We’d spend all day out there, eating McDonald’s and hunting for seashells, and when I got into bed that night I could still feel the rocking of the ocean inside my bones. When I close my eyes, especially on difficult days like this, I swear I can feel that movement, picture the waves ebbing out to sea. We move forward. That’s all we can ever do.