First off, massive thanks to all the sistahs out there who commented, shared their stories, and provided excellent advice on my last post about lipotransfer. Once again, I am touched and profoundly grateful for the way that our cyber community steps up to help one another. Without this support, from the beginning of my own rocky road almost four years ago, I would surely have lost my sanity. This kind of validation and generosity is no less real for being delivered in bits and bytes.
And then there’s ‘real life.’ One thing that struck me as I was writing my last post is that it represents an internal process that has been going on, slowly, in fits and starts, in my daily life. I hesitate to say this too loudly, but sometimes, for an hour or two, I catch myself feeling almost, maybe, sort of — normal. I’m not sure I remember what the old normal was like. I’m not even sure I can describe this new normal. The fact that I take note of it means that it’s not normal. The old normal was something I scarcely noted, something I took for granted. This new thing is startling, unexpected. It feels something like having the sun pop out after weeks of endless rain and fog. It reminds me of when, at age thirteen, I found out I was nearsighted. I could see what was right under my nose, but I couldn’t bring into focus the details of people and things that were more than twenty-five feet away. When I put on my first pair of glasses, I discovered a new planet. I was the same person, and it was the same planet. But I now had a fresh invitation to participate.
Last night, I met an old friend in the big city. We had tickets to a concert. My idea, and I’d checked in with Amy a week before to remind us both of the date. It was a perfect, soft, sunny spring evening. We both found parking spaces near the concert hall, and walked to a French café for dinner. We’ve known each other for over fifteen years, worked together in the trenches of homecare. She was often the nurse case manager for the patients I saw for physical therapy. I watched her son and her daughter grow up, borrowed each of them now and then just for fun, been a kind of surrogate auntie. I’ve watched her struggle with her marriage, especially over the last few years. We’ve been through a lot together. We try to get together at least every few months.
While she drank pinot and I slurped French onion soup, we caught up. We kept an eye on the clock, but decided we just had enough time to share a heavenly dish of crème brûlée. We paid our bill and strolled back toward the concert hall. And while we walked, I tried to describe to her how I’d lately discovered these astonishing moments of feeling like myself again, like I’d been allowed to step out of a dark wood and stand in the light, freshened by a warm breeze, and see the world with a lighter heart. It didn’t last long, and the awareness of the dark wood never left. But the relief and peace of these moments was deeply nourishing.
Suddenly, Amy stopped and turned to me. There were tears in her eyes. She reached over and hugged me. “I feel like I’ve been a bad friend,” she said. “I can’t even imagine how hard this has all been for you. I wish I could have done more.”
“You’re not a bad friend,” I told her.
When we got to the concert hall, the lobby was dark and the doors were locked. Puzzled, I pulled the tickets out of my bag and checked the dates. The concert wasn’t going to happen for two more weeks! We looked at each other and laughed. “Brain fog,” I said. “Story of my life.”
“This is great!” Amy said. “This means we get to see each other again in a few weeks.”
We decided to take another stroll. We were looking for someplace that had a public restroom. We found an outdoor patio next to a swank hotel where a jazz singer was belting out some blues with her back-up band. We listened for a while. The beat was infectious. I even danced a little. We made our way around the patio and into the hotel lobby, where there was an art show on display. We found the restroom, then went back to look at all the photos. They were pictures of the city. The photographer had tried to capture the tall buildings caught in the angled light of dusk. We walked back outside to admire the real thing, gold bouncing and glinting off the rows of windows, sharpening the cornices and pediments. The real thing was better than the art show, even as it invited and challenged the artist in me to record it. I wished I’d brought my own camera as we found our way back to our cars.
“I love you, Kathi,” Amy said. “I’m so glad you’re my friend. You’ve been so patient with me, so good to me and to my kids all these years.”
“See you SOON!” I said. “Maybe I’ll remember to bring my camera.”
“As long as you remember the tickets,” she laughed.
Sometimes, these cherished bits of normal just happen. And sometimes now, I try to invite them and keep my fingers crossed that they’ll cooperate. But whenever they happen, I know what they’ve cost. I know they are not normal at all. Maybe they are a temporary reprieve. Maybe they are grace.