Kimberley calls and says, how are you girlfriend, and I say, “I’m still here.”
She says, We both are, and then a few seconds of silence pass before we continue talking.
It’s true; we both persist; we both push through; we both continue despite the challenges we face.
Night settles around Angel’s Haven. The week has been difficult. I’m trying to find a job, make friends, figure out what to do about the rest of my belongings in Kansas City, and power through a fierce loneliness. Some days I don’t dare answer the phone because I don’t trust myself to speak without sobbing.
Tonight I am remembering a lawsuit in which I served as local counsel years ago, a case involving many attorneys from towns across Missouri. At one point, a lawyer in St. Louis raged at me during a conference call. He shouted, “I’m filing a motion for sanctions against you, Ms. Corley!” I blasted back: Sir, I’ve been shot at, run over, raped, robbed, and nearly died. I think I can handle a motion for sanctions.
All of those trials occurred though technically, I was not “run over” by a car but, rather, struck on the left side by one. An old story, a told story, a story noteworthy only because I survived. And because it occurred on 09 February 1982 — thirty-six years ago today.
I feel lucky most of the time. Blessed, even. I drag myself out of bed, I stretch my aging bones, I wiggle my arthritic toes. When the kettle boils, I pour water over grounds and close my eyes, breathing the scent of the rich roasted beans. Even now, with a belly full of warm herb tea and a tiny lemon cookie, my senses tingle deliciously.
I’m still here.
I know I’m not a lot of things. Not pretty enough; not tall enough; not small enough; not rich enough; not sweet enough. I don’t say “thank you” often enough; I cry too easily; I groan too loud when I stumble on the stairs and drop the recycling or break a plate. Technology befuddles me. I can’t balance a budget. I obsess, overthink, forget birthdays, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to remain calm in the face of indifference. Men find me abrasive; women consider me cold. I don’t have a sweet nature and I have it on excellent authority that I’m not “nice”.
But I’m still here.
My mother came down to my apartment in St. Louis to help me during an illness once. I stood in the kitchen with tears on my face, in a rumpled nightgown, watching her clean my counters and put away dishes. She simmered soup and bagged laundry to take out to Jennings to wash in her basement. I buried my face in my hands, wailing about how much of a failure I felt myself to be.
She turned, gazing at me, holding a dish cloth in her hands. Finally she spoke. But you’re still alive, she reminded me. So there’s room for improvement.
Just so. Just so.
It’s the ninth day of the fiftieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.