A few weeks ago, I was asked to take over the costumes for the school musical. By the time you’re reading this, two of four performances will be finished. And I know I’ll feel a tremendous sense of relief. And probably be crashing hard from last week.
Any work I do involving the kids always begins waaaaay more stressful than it ends. I noticed it yesterday, during our afternoon performance for their fellow students. After three and a half hours of steaming their costumes, and having more pain than I’d had in a long time, I wasn’t in the greatest mood. But then the kids started arriving and their excitement was palpable. It’s contagious! Oh, to have the excitement of a preteen about to sing and dance on stage, some for the first time. I remember that feeling from my own school days. In 8th grade, I was the narrator in “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” And, during my senior year in high school, I played the part of Oliver in “Oliver.” I remember it fondly. I remember all of it fondly. And that made me relax a bit. As our cast was on stage, my crew of students began dancing backstage to the 50’s music blaring from the speakers. “Come on Ms. Becky! You have to dance!” So dance we did. It was hilarious. At one point, our principal danced through. We had a blast.
I admire the courage of children. When we’re young, really young, we just join in at the playground. As we age, we start to lose that confidence, that freedom to be our most authentic selves. And insecurities fight their way to the surface. It’s no secret, we try to please others. Try to act a certain way, like certain things, in an effort to fit in. It takes so much energy and courage to put your truest self out there. It’s part of the reason I enjoy working with the young dancers at my school. They have so much talent. But they have to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, or their choreography can fall flat. When they really give themselves over to their work, it takes your breath away.
As someone with a chronic illness, I’ve had to adapt myself countless times, not to please others, but to get through every day. Early on, my overall pain was so out of control, but I did my best to hide it – not well, apparently – from those who know me best. But to anyone beyond my circle, I became a master of disguise. It’s something like living all nine lives of a cat that dresses as a chameleon. That is the most bizarre analogy I could come up with, but it fits.
I was Becky. Nurse Becky. Mommy. Beck. Sister. Daughter. Wife. Friend. Sick person. Sicker person. Invisible-sick-person. Hanging-by-a-thread-sick person. It was miserable. And yet, the outside world was so impressed that I did what I did, especially once they found out about my health. I served as PTA president for multiple terms. Class parent. Volunteer. I volunteered a lot, all to make up for the fact that my baby girl had a broken mommy. At least, that’s how I felt. Because that was my reality. My nine lives sideshow went on for long time. At some points along the way, however, I had to show my vulnerability. Multiple surgeries will do that to a person. Forcing myself to stop, assess and reinvent. It wasn’t impossible because I’d been reliving the pattern for over a decade. But it left scars on my facade.
And then suddenly things changed completely, just over a year ago. I lost my pump, the morphine, the cane…… and I was left with ME. I was back to basics. Back to only oral meds and a sense of figuring out who and what I was supposed to be. What role was this? How the heck would I play it out? Does that sound weird? Because it feels weird writing it.
I had to try and remember the courage of my younger days, not that I was a model for going out on too many limbs. (I already know what my mom’s response to that statement will be, but it’s TRUE!). Starting school again. Becoming a substitute teacher two years ago. Finishing up my 6th year as costumer for those young dancers. And being honest with the people I work with and for about my vulnerabilities. Every single time I attach my name to something new, I’m reminded that sick doesn’t mean done. That chronically sick means I have to chronically reinvent myself. And do it all with the courage to say, “I’m not finished. Not by a long shot.”
I’m good with that. I’ll just add some glitter, it’ll be fabulous.
Be kind to one another.
Peace & painlessness,