I still don’t recognize the normal person I see staring back at me when I look in the mirror. My eyes seem the same, yes. Flecks of uncertainty and fear will always swim within their depths. But, they shine differently now. Which is unfamiliar. Is it strength I see?
The crow’s feet and circles aren’t going away. In fact, they have become more defined as time marches on. And it would seem quite possible to plant swirly rows of corn in the lines that snake across my forehead when I raise my eyebrows a certain way. I laugh out loud at this funny, ridiculous thought.
And then it’s there. My smile. These days, it is bigger, and brighter. It spontaneously radiates from my face, and can’t be contained. It’s deep and knowing, too. Serene, even. I realize with a start that my smile is genuine. It’s a smile that doesn’t hide anything, and reveals only light.
The weight is gone. The challenge of remaining steadfast and true to myself is still there, exactly where it always will be, but I am no longer lugging around the weight of the world. My world is no longer laden with excess baggage. Gone are all those heavy feelings that clung to my hips and my thighs, my arms, my neck. The maintenance of my new habits will forever require motivation and daily self talk, but I kicked those damn pounds to the curb for good. This particular, reassuring truth is something I just seem to know.
My skin is different. It’s isn’t glowing with youth and vitality, but it’s hydrated. My once-upon-a-time bouncy, beach-girl hair is not “full” or “lush” but it’s stronger and a little more vibrant. Hydrated and vibrant are small, sweet, good things.
I like having smaller breasts. But along with smaller breasts comes a certain saggy, baggy, flatness that can only be described as a “bummer.” Life likes to dole out a few bummers, and this specific deflation is indeed one of them. But, guess what? I know my smaller breasts are just fine. In fact they are gloriously still present and perfectly imperfect. Little, drooping reminders of aging, and lessons learned, and self-inflicted chaos, but healthy nonetheless. Healthy is what matters.
My belly is essentially a squatting house guest. I could lose more weight and do Pilates from sun up to sun down, and still, my belly would remain. Like cockroaches after nuclear war, my belly would somehow stubbornly survive anything I put it through. It is what it is. My belly, the one I often grip and jiggle (and lament for several seconds), helps me to remember myself. It’s a reminder that perfect is not the goal. Reminders are small, sweet, good things, too.
My husband and my children do not subscribe to my pages upon pages of thoughts and poetry and observations. They are loving and supportive, and they most likely skim my wordy musings from time to time. I can only imagine that there are minor moments of clarity for them as they read, if they read. But they do not follow me and they do not comment. They do not like or share. I can only hope that their eye rolls and heavy sighs are minimal.
It is good they do not subscribe because otherwise there would be too many questions to answer. And sometimes a writer must write the truth raw and real and dripping blood without answering questions. The truth yearns to be splattered across blank pages, and a writer needs to bleed without explanation.
When I look into the mirror, I see an open book. This year, I’m desperately trying to write one. A finished book. With a beginning, a middle, and an end. The dream of all dreams.
Sometimes my thoughts are meaningful and transcendent, but mostly they are silly and uninspired. Today, as I write, I feel both empty and full. How can I possibly recognize myself when I feel both empty and full? And how (do let me know) am I going to complete an actual book when my pages upon pages are full, yet still so very empty?
What I can’t seem to embrace (when I am alone thinking my restless, scattered thoughts) is the flower of happiness that somehow blossomed within my spirit. I know the happy is real, though. What I have trouble celebrating each day is the not so small fact that I finally feel normal. And feeling normal is worth a damn party every time I stop to peer at myself, my vulnerable little, old self, in the mirror.
Because in the deep, honest recesses of my battered brain, I still wait for the ball to drop, for my earnest intentions to crumble. For all of my success to come crashing down. Will there be one minor stumble that leads to another, and then another? A vicious spiral of relapse that comes much too strong and fast? I continue to wait for my wicked, internal monster, presently lifeless, to stir and rise. To awaken with a thirst for vengeance. But these very thoughts channel my vigilance. I am at my best when I simply remember to “mind my normal,” to fiercely take care of it, in order to keep that monster from rearing its ugly head.
Minding my normal feels peaceful, and comfortable, but it has become a bit of a job. And it’s a fucking boring job most of the time. But I quietly punch my card because when my normal is corralled and protected, I can continue to fill my cup with all the sweet, good things that life has to offer.
As I put on my makeup and hoist my flap-jack breasts into my bra each morning, I know that I am just a person. Maybe I am a bit like you? Do you like to wear sleek, black clothes, and your hair in a ponytail most of the time too? Do you squint at your aging face, and poke at your belly, and muddle through a stretching string of lovely, normal, uneventful days?
And I am also just one woman. One weathered woman who rambled through hell and clawed her way back to the surface of life. Each day, when I do the work to keep myself in check, I have to somehow mindfully gather a few more poignant insights and a bit more resolve than I did the day before. It’s exhausting work, but, in both a real and surreal sense, minding my normal is my only job.
In my heart, I know that it was my own two healing hands that divinely intervened. They caressed and coaxed the manifestation of my true self. They guided my change. As though reaching down to pick up a crying, forlorn baby from a cold, desolate floor, the mother inside of me used her strength to lift and deliver my soul from the dark and perilous trenches of the futile war I waged against my body for so many years.
Today, my head is clear. My body is whole and strong. My aging eyes look for beauty everywhere, in everything. Like the steady, predictable sound of a ticking clock, my heart continues to beat. My small, sweet, good life is normal.
And minding my normal, in all its mundane nothingness, feels like God’s work.