Bruises and bread embody my 2016 milestones; meanwhile, brides and babies pepper Twitter and Facebook. It is a juxtaposition of expectation, one I often battle. The tedious process of getting better has helped me focus on the incremental, little moments, the kind that don’t warrant life events or photo albums. Like cooking gluten-free chickpea pasta and not obsessing over the mess level in my kitchen.
Like wearing my new short-sleeved shirt despite the bruises on my right wrist. Their colors tell time, fading from red to purple to yellow, appointments and bills blurring into a macabre badge of honor. I look at my wrist. It reminds me that healing is ugly and unpredictable but in that colorful, “Wanna see my badass IV bruise?” way.
In embracing my own pace of healing — complete with that moment of, “Wait, I can’t eat Mustards sugar biscuits anymore … Damn it!” — I’m embracing my own pace of existing. I’m taking time off from a few regular volunteer obligations, organizations and boards. The newfound healing time scares me, almost. Time to cook and read and ruminate and inevitably, cry.
I’ve cried a lot this year. When the doctor called to confirm my celiac diagnosis. When I realized the reality of my tendency to fall for commitment-wary older men. When I found out I’d need six weeks of IV iron therapy.
When the nurse inserted the first IV needle, and flower petals simultaneously fluttered from the tree outside the infusion room to the pavement below — crying with me.
I’ve felt reduced to tangible objects and sounds this year: the shelves of forbidden food in my kitchen, stacks of medical bills, units of blood and Benadryl and venofer, the beep-beep-beep of my IV machine.
“Let me take your vitals.” It is almost comforting to be reminded of my own aliveness every Monday. A reminder that I have shit to do, trashy pop to dance to, people to mentor, words to write, places to be. And so on.
Time has slowed and evaporated this year, all at once. I stare at the smug drip, drip, drip of my IV for two hours, then watch the workday vanish in a Benadrylled blur of Monday catch-up. I can’t reconcile it; I’m still trying to.
One of my doctors this year asked if I wanted someone to hold my hand during a biopsy; I said “hell no.” I’ve been saying, “hell no,” to a lot of things since: overbooking myself, hastily packing lunch in the morning, apologizing for asking the server a million questions before every meal out, feeling guilty for being the designated restaurant picker.
Here I sit; it’s week four. I’m wearing short sleeves without my usual cardigan for the first time on an IV Monday. My arm is battered. I’m running out of adjectives to describe the colors. I trace the boundaries of each bruise with my thumb; it feels like an act of rebellion, an ultimate refusal to leave them uncovered, ugly.
Another little moment; another important “hell no.”