I creep down the stairs from my tiny bedroom to the first floor. As I clutch the railing, I tell myself, Don’t fall, girl; if you break your neck it will be weeks before someone thinks to check on you. I shake my head as a litany of names scrolls across the invisible screen, starting with my sister, the woman for whom I work, the lady who manages the kiosk in the park. I cross two feet to the stove and start the kettle.
Later I pull on a pair of slacks. My eyebrows raise. They seem tighter than last winter. So I’m finally a size large, I mutter. I knew that I had gained weight but had no idea how much. But since the garment now fits well, I wonder what brand it is; perhaps I can find another pair. I look at the tag and grunt in surprise. Size Small. Small. Not large — small. I allow myself a brief, tight smile.
On the phone last evening, I heard a question posed by my sister about my day off as an attack on my worth. That mantra has reverberated in my skull for years. You don’t do enough; you don’t work hard; you failed at everything you ever tried. Whose voice? So many. I blurt out, I’ve lots to do tomorrow! I might not be going to work-work, in the office, but I have so much else on my plate! My sister tells me she didn’t mean to sound critical; she just wanted me to have a good Friday. I know that; I recognize that she, of all people, understands my efforts to succeed. We talk through my defensive disclosure. She stays with me until we can talk easy again.
I once finished dressing for a date, only to have my waiting companion say, Is that what you plan to wear? I looked down at my outfit and admitted that it was. Do you have anything else? he asked. I gestured to my closet and replied, Yes, but it all pretty much looks like this. I spent the evening studying the other women at the cocktail party, wondering why my attire fell short. Years later, I still question my clothing choices. My closet has shrunk from a ten-foot walk-in to a twenty-one inch cubby, but it still pretty much all looks the same: apparently not quite right. When I get dressed in the morning, I tell myself it does not really matter.
I stretch my fingers out above the keyboard of my laptop. My knuckles seem larger. I don’t have arthritis, but the spasticity in my hands has taken its toll. I see the same brown spots that my mother bore in her later years. I study my broken nails. The inner voice whispers, those look terrible; good grief, woman, don’t you own a file? I probably do; but I have never been one for such tasks. Nobody looks at my hands anyway, do they?
My heart flutters. After a long, pandemic-driven hiatus, I’m visiting the cardiologist next week. His nurse will do an EKG. They will ask me how I’ve been feeling. They will patiently wait for my response. I will look out the window for a long, steady moment. Then I will tell them, I’m fine.
It’s the twelfth day of the ninety-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Thanks for this, especially as I wade through some uncertain waters in my professional and personal life. The voices in our head can sometimes be so loud and so confusing that we shut off our other senses. I am reminding myself to SEE in all directions and to SMELL the season we are in and to FEEL the different fabrics on my skin as the temperatures drop.
I appreciate your insights and your willingness to share the voices in your head. I wish I knew you better. I often wish we could sit together and have a cup of coffee.
We will have that cup if coffee one day. Hang in there, in the mean time! Sending love and light.