As I publish this, I’ll be celebrating my 44th birthday. I don’t obsess over age the way I used to. And certainly not in the way most would imagine.
When I met my husband in the summer of 1992, I was 19. Desperate to figure out who I was and what I should become, I was a bit lost. Somehow, I decided that I needed to be older before anyone would take me seriously. Before health and meds aged the heck out of me, people used to tell me that I looked “too young.” Too young to be a nurse. Too young to be a bride. And on and on. It was such an insult! My patients, professors and colleagues were constantly calling me “Little Miss,” “the little one,” (throwing digs at my age AND height as a two-for-one) and other fairly innocent teasing names. No one meant anything by it, but it infuriated me to no end. I wanted to grow up! Faster than real time would allow.
I remember telling my husband, “When I’m 21, people will have to take me seriously.” Ugh! When I think of all I DIDN’T know at 21! LOL. But it seemed to be a grown up age, at least from where I sat. Then it was 25. I thought, for sure, everyone would have to respect my opinion when I was 25! And it wasn’t even like people didn’t! But when you believe yourself to be inadequate, you imagine everyone else does too. So, 25 arrived and then everything changed.
I’d just graduated from NYU & my husband planned a trip to Disney. It was May. While we were in Florida, I began to experience swelling in my hands and overall fatigue. I thought I was just tired from the stress of graduating. I’d already found a job, things were going well. But physically, I felt….off.
My new job was a bit crazy but it was exciting. That July 4th, we decided at the last minute to go to Cape Cod. After snagging the last available room, we packed and set out for another adventure. One afternoon, we were sitting in front of a restaurant, waiting for our table when I felt a bug bite. I thought it was a mosquito. Turned out to be a tick, though I didn’t know it at the time.
Back at work the following week, I’d been in my boss’s office. I was leaving the room when she screamed and lunged at me, grabbing my arm. At first, I had NO idea what the heck she was going on about. But she dragged me to a mirror and showed me rings, starting at the elbow and working their way up and down my arm. A hard to see bullseye rash. Suddenly I was being placed in a car and taken to another office for treatment. It was bizarre. But I’m grateful. They caught the Lyme quickly enough to treat. Crazy though the whole event was.
But that was how 25 kicked off. And, gradually, my health didn’t get better. I had long periods of feeling fine. Then I’d hit patches of flaring that knocked the wind out of me. Finally, I saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with lupus. The meds made me feel better. She’d treat flares with prednisone. And I seemed to be ok.
Gradually, I stopped obsessing over my age. It was odd. Whenever the topic would come up, someone was wishing they were younger. I’d remark about the days when I wanted to be older. Everyone would look at me like I was crazy.
In the summer of 2003, I was injured. Heel spurs and then a misstep. Everything changed again. RSD. It’ll be 14 years this September, since my diagnosis. Spending all of this time dealing with meds, doctors, hospitals, procedures…. it all feels like life on a hamster wheel. Days and months started to blend and blur, practically indistinguishable from each other. I didn’t really do anything to change that view, mainly because I didn’t think it could change.
After the pump broke, I was very aware of time passing. Setting milestones that I was trying to reach without the morphine. Then, nearly a year ago, the pump was removed. Suddenly conscious of chances I wanted to take, opportunities I didn’t want to pass up on. And time. But not in a negative way.
Naturally, I thought about all of the years spent walking around my life in a way that felt safe. I was terrified of rocking the boat. Dealing with pain, procedures and medical stuff all the time, made me want to simply blend in with the background. I worried about falling, about any back pain had after the spine surgery. It was all on a constant loop in my head. I think I missed a few things, being so focused on NOT doing anything to further damage my health and well-being.
These days, I look at my life with gratitude. I still deal with medical stuff. Pain, stress, meds. But I embrace my life in a way that wasn’t possible before. Looking at life through the lens of motherhood, I’m watching my daughter contemplating her future. And it’s wonderful. As a student myself, I’m seeing the future in an entirely different way. And being able to work with young students as a substitute teacher and their costume designer….. that’s a blessing.
Time is passing regardless of how we’d like to slow or speed it up. Now I’m focused on not wasting any of it. I wish the same for you.
Be kind to one another.
Peace & painlessness,