Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me."

I woke up this morning feeling much better than when I went to bed last night. Sleep is like that, you know. Some whirring mechanism of peace takes our pains and puts them into perspective, relating them to other events, stories and literature we have encountered. This morning, I woke and walked into my daughter's room, saw the pile of clothes to be discarded, and rather than anger or sadness, there was peace. (Again, the hardest part is the decision to let it go.) The dawn in me this morning came in the form of a story that popped into my mind as I looked upon the wreckage of yesterday's emotional crisis.

When I was seven or eight years old, I was traveling home from a friend's house on some ridiculous 90s contraption that consisted of a triangle seat, 3 tiny wheels, and a set of handlebars. As I rolled over a crack in the sidewalk, the tiny front wheel caught, and the seat launched me, face first, into the concrete. I barely made it home for the nausea, and for years, the splattered drops of blood that poured from my nose onto the sidewalk remained visible. (I remember looking for them each day on my walk home from the bus stop.) Many years later, I would look back and realize that I had most likely broken my nose rather badly, but at the time, I lacked the perspective to recognize the injury for what it was.

From that time until I was 16 years old, I was frequently ill with chronic sinus problems. Often, I would experience a separate sinus infection every 2-3 weeks. I probably spent half my teen years on prescription antibiotics. Finally, after 2 weeks out of school for a sinus infection that had spread to my tonsils and my throat (and after being told by an orthodontist that braces would do me no good if I didn't fix my breathing issues), I saw an ENT and made the decision to undergo a septoplasty--a surgery to repair my very deviated septum.

Modern septoplasties tend to go very well. Mine did not. As it turns out, my nose was substantially worse than my doctor had anticipated, and he ended up re-breaking my nose in two places. It was the only course of action he had to straighten things out and finally give me a chance to breathe. For weeks, I was swollen and bruised. I had one black eye, and a nose twice the size of normal. My face was a bloated, weepy mess of tenderized meat. What's more, when the swelling finally came down and the splints were removed, I had an entirely different centerpiece to my face, one that is certainly not aligned to any standards of traditional beauty. I often jokingly refer to my surgery as my "nose job" because I enjoy seeing the reactions of people as they wonder how awful my schnoz must have been before, for me to pay to have it look like it does now. Beyond the weeks of bruising and the more prominent proboscis, I also suffered years of increased sensitivity. Thanks to my clumsiness (demonstrated by the original incident causing the nasal mishap), I often experienced intense, shocking pain to my face from any number of small accidents that would never have bothered me previously.  However, in spite of this somewhat unsettling change, one remarkable difference was all that mattered: I could breathe. The infections stopped, I slept more soundly, and I spent more time being myself, unencumbered by the fatigue that had long accompanied me. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned to love my face, even if it isn't the one I had always expected to have. I can look in the mirror and see beauty outside of what the magazines tell me the boundary is.

This morning, I realized that I am journeying through a similar, though more emotional, exercise. Somewhere along the way, my sense of what I need has become "broken." I ran face first into the lies society has been serving me, and though there have been signs and symptoms showing me that I was not well, I never recognized them for what they were until I was too sick to even breathe.

Now, slowly, I am breaking things back down. A simple attempt to clear out my home has revealed that things are far worse than I could have anticipated. This, in many places along the road, may be more painful than I thought. And the result will not conform to what society deems worthy of its praises. My life will not be beautiful to outsiders who have no knowledge of the life before. In fact, even after this transformation, I imagine there will be accidents, steps backward and shocks of pain as I struggle to heal the severed ties to my previous ideals. But to me, there will be that one great accomplishment: I will be able to breathe. I will be able to look around my home and see peace and space and freedom from my belongings.

And it will be beautiful, even if I'm the only one who sees it that way.

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