I've always been the fix-it gal. Since an early age, I thought that if I just said the right thing, did the right thing, talked and walked the right way, then I could control the people around me. Growing up, obviously the first two people I tried to fix were my parents.
If I could tread just lightly enough, maybe my father wouldn’t be so mad, and if I said the right soothing words, maybe my mom wouldn’t be so sad. If I could just fix their rage and depression, respectively, by somehow fixing me, then everything would be fine.
I also tried to make everything right for my sister, my only sibling, who was born when I was 16. As I had such a voiceless childhood, I made sure she could express her voice to me so that she didn’t feel as alone as I did growing up.
So this was how I identified my value--the service I could be to others, so at various times throughout my life, I played out these dramas over and over, with friends or with men who were either way too angry or way too needy.
Of course, I harbored those very emotions in myself, which I didn’t see, naturally. It would take me years to understand why I’d picked the men I had, realizing that my criticisms of them “loving” me out of need, not true emotion, were really my own faults being reflected back at me.
I certainly did my time on the therapeutic couch to sort out my complexities, and I must say, the friends I have in my life today are gifts from heaven. (Unfortunately, I've yet to find the right man.) I realize that we don't have to fix each other; we just have to bear witness to one another’s lives, be the moments good ones or bad, as the joy is found in the shared journey.
Yet somewhere deep inside, I can’t help but feel the fix-it gal still rearing her shaved head every now and then, still trying to fix the world around her, and I think I even do it to some extent with this blog, where I write not just to express myself, but in the hopes that I can somehow “fix” others in pain as well, so that we all can go on to live a happy existence. Surely that would make some sense out of all this agony, and by extension, make the world a much safer and more meaningful place for us all, particularly me.
Yet in my efforts to make my world safe and calm, I’ve somehow ended up in a life that is anything but. And in my last blog post, when I felt that I’d reached the end, that finally the pain had defeated me, it was proof once and for all that the world is filled with dark voids and treacherous turns that can never be predicted, never made safer by any amount of prayer, faith or fixing.
Perhaps the scariest realization I’ve come to is that for some, the old cliché of “this, too, shall pass” just isn’t true, nor are any of those other endearing chestnuts, like, “God doesn’t give you anything more than you can’t handle.” Wanna bet?
So it was such a disappointment for me to write that post, as I felt I’d failed not just me, but also everyone else.
But curiously, my words were not read that way at all, and some even found me brave, which took me by surprise. Out of the void of the unthinkable came voices from all over…from Open Salon, from Blogger, from strangers stumbling upon my site, from subscribers to my blog who I didn’t know existed.
Two people wrote of their own excruciating pain journeys. Another wrote about losing her 17-year-old daughter last year to brain cancer. Another, a friend, came over to say a prayer service with me, doing a unique Christian ritual practiced in Central America. And another pal called from Santa Barbara, which ended up in two-hour joyful conversation that “closed the place down,” as she said, as our marathon phone chat had completely depleted my battery.
And then there was the friend, another blog follower I didn’t know about, who worked with me about 25 years ago during our days as young newspaper reporters, saying sweet things about me that I had no idea were a part of my character back then. His words were kind, loving and open, and I was so moved by his attempt to make me feel just a little bit better (which he did).
I went back to re-read my post at one point, thinking that maybe it was more inspirational than I'd thought, but no--it was pretty damn bleak no matter how you read it, so I was more than startled that anyone found that post of any value whatsoever.
And then it occurred to me. To a woman who’s been fixing things all her life in order to feel worthy and safe, here was a situation where not only was I not fixing anything, I was actually dropping the ball, perhaps even permanently, yet somehow this seemed to help others, to my complete consternation.
I am SO programmed on some deep dark level to anticipate criticism, that when I hit the send button on that last post, I almost braced myself for the harsh words I was anticipating in return.
To have gotten responses so completely different on the one hand seems obvious (why would anyone be cruel to someone who was in so much pain that she was thinking of ending her life?), yet it shook my foundation, sandy one that it is. Clearly, after all that therapy, my dad’s voice in my head can still shout loud and clear in my most vulnerable moments.
And so I furrow my brow now in complete befuddlement, realizing that what humans really want from each other isn’t perfection, isn’t an answer, but an honest connection, so in that sense, my last post must have been far more sponge-worthy than I realized, ‘cause it surely doesn’t get much deeper or honest than that.
Our world is so polarized into extreme segments these days…politically, technologically and spiritually, that I suppose personal honesty is the one realm where we all can find common ground, no matter how muddy or dark that ground may be at the time.
Honesty. That’s all we ever really want or need. Of course, I want and need a pain-free face, too, but I may have to keep up my attempts at acceptance, realizing that maybe this is it and it’s the best it will ever be.
Hmmm--this is it. God, I hope not, but I vow to at least continue being honest about what this ordeal is doing to me, be it good or bad, for the connections I’ve made as a result of it are a blessing indeed, as are the lessons about love that are changing me at my core.
The Drawing Board
- Hoboken, New Jersey, USA
- January 18
- In 1999, at the very same time I was diagnosed with a serious blood clotting disorder (Essential Thrombocythemia), I also felt my face explode in a type of pain that no one could explain. After 13 months, I finally learned that it was osteonecrosis of the jaw (also known as NICO), a complication of the blood/bone marrow illness. I've had untold numbers of surgeries during this time, having spent most of it in pain. In 2004, the blood condition caused an internal massive hemmorhage during which I lost 70% of my blood volume, which in turn made the jaw infection much worse. This blog will detail my journey with chronic pain and all of its accompanying complications and emotions. I'll try to be as honest as possible without shooting myself.
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