Being Real

I always hesitate to write things about my own life online. Maybe it won’t be professional. Maybe people will think I’m doing it just for attention. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
So, I usually don’t. But I have a friend who does. And every time I read one of her posts, it makes me remember when I felt real and raw the way she is. It makes me want to share a bit more of my realness. The only thing is, my “realness” lately has been a lot more of a struggle. But I wrote this today without intention of sharing. I’ve had a lot of people asking how I am lately so this is my answer. “I’m fine. I have been fine. I will be fine.” But if you really want to know, here’s the rest of that story:
Everywhere I go lately, I’ve been greeted with some version of, “There you are! Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while!”
I love living in a town where people notice if I’m not out and about for a week. It’s such a different contrast to my first few weeks living alone here where I realized if I fell and broke my leg or something, the only person I had any hope of realizing it was a piano student. And that seemed a bit traumatic on both ends. But it’s also sad because my mouth answers, “Oh out of town. Catching up on work. Finishing the formatting, teaching piano, painting the greenhouse…” All the things I’ve been doing. But my mind is going, “I don’t know.”
Because I feel like ‘me’ is missing. The me that shined last year, that hit the floor early most mornings, that dressed up to sign papers for my own business, that worked on manuscripts, called and emailed, wrote thank you notes, popped through the same doors I did yesterday with a smile and cheery words. That me… is gone. And the other me is back.
The me from high school where waking up is greeted with pain and thoughts of “I don’t know if I can do this.” Where my brain ticks along in a roller coaster of “life is exciting, let’s do this” and my body says, “You got to be kidding.” And then I finally get myself up, dressed, fed and ready to start work and my thoughts fizzle out mid-sentence. But the internal dialogue has changed and that’s how I know it’s not the same “me” rising up from my past.
Because then I didn’t know what the illness was. And even once test after test after test finally landed me at a specialist who didn’t run a test because she said, “Oh. I know what’s wrong with you. You have fibromyalgia. And chronic fatigue.”
And they were terrifying words because I didn’t know what they meant. I still don’t know exactly what they are. Fibromyalgia is a fancy word for, “Yes, there is real pain. No, it’s not in your head. And I’m sorry. We’re still researching what causes it.” Chronic fatigue means we don’t sleep the same way as other people and we don’t stay in REM sleep as long as our bodies require to complete the repairing and healing process. So on nights like last night where I stay up after 11:00, and mornings like this morning when I wake at 7:00, then 8:00, then find myself staring at the wall at 9:00 knowing the later I sleep, the less my brain is going to function, but I’m just so dang tired; I should have gotten plenty of sleep. Maybe too much sleep. And yet I continue to stare at the chalk words on my walls. Words that say things like, “You are stronger than your challenge” and “Day by day in every way, I am becoming more successful,” and my play off of Les Mis’s with “One Page More” that presides over my desk, and I wonder “what the heck happened?”
I know some of it from years of experimenting when the medications backfired. I’m consuming way too much dairy which triggers the inflammation. I’m not drinking enough water which causes the fatigue. I got vitamins but they keep getting lodged in my throat for a long time, so I quit taking them. And I spent last weekend leaping rafters, scooping up wooden shingles from the floor of our attic, sweeping up bits of newspapers from the 1930s, and squatting, squirming and maneuvering beneath a sloped roof with the vacuum hose like a hunchbacked hobbit.
I’m not scared like I was in high school because I know what’s wrong and I know it won’t kill me. I even know it won’t last. It will retreat, to hum in the background while I move on with life and we co-exist in a truce. In a way, I suppose I could see it as a friend going, “Hey! You’re not taking care of yourself!”
I’m not scared. I’m overwhelmed. Because I’m not a high schooler anymore. I can’t take a break from homework to crash for an hour. I don’t have another family member who is in the kitchen cooking or cleaning any of the meals. I don’t have my sister coming in to wake me up and insist I go out into the sun and go for a walk with her. It really irritated me then, but looking back, I felt really loved.
I’m not a high schooler. I’m an entrepreneur. My organizer on my desk still has receipts to record, letters to return, bills to pay. Piano students come to the door (thank goodness, because they make me laugh) and lessons still need the printer hooked up so I can print out music, recital pieces chosen, lessons prepared. Meals have to be made and cleaned up and the only ones in the house to volunteer are small and furry. It’s extremely hard to live dairy-free without making everything from scratch.
I have two books that need to be pushed beyond the realm of Facebook friends and whoever may stumble on my blog. I have another book with sixteen chapters to go waiting for revision. And I’m glad. Because I love my piano kids. I love watching them get excited about music or hurry in declaring they learned their piece or tell me that they have an audition or performance. When I write, watching ink fade on paper, or words pile on the screen, when I bring a scene alive like I’m watching a movie in my head, I feel I’m doing exactly what I was created to do. When I walk into a place and people greet me by name, I’m glad to see them, to chat a while, to share lives.
So for now, I’m left with the answer, “I’m fine.”
I am fine. I’m just overwhelmed. And too tired and aching to smile.

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