When people ask me what I do (as in for a living or along those lines), lately I have a hard time answering them.
My friend Marissa is always on me about how much she eschews labels and categorizing ourselves, and I have always chided her about this and embraced the labels that I thought defined me: stay-at-home mother, feminist, activist, writer, stylist.
Right now, I feel like there are no labels that fit me. I mean, sure, to varying degrees, I am still all of the things I listed above, but I also struggle with at least one of these "labels" on a daily basis. Maybe Marissa has been right this whole time.
I like to be organized. You know, everything in its place and a place for everything. At this moment in my life, I don't know what my place is. I feel messy.
Leading into late 2016, and 2017, I had it all planned out. I knew we had to prepare for my knee joint replacement surgeries (and the surprise hip revision surgery) and we did, meticulously. What I didn't prepare for however, was the extended rehab that this heavy load of surgical procedures would require of me. I think I figured that the surgeries would fix me, and then POUF! I would be footloose and fancy/pain-free!
The reality is, I asked a lot of my body this past year and it was trying its very best to keep up with the demands of the surgeries and of life in general. Demands that in the end, where too much. I had to reassess everything I was doing at the end of last year and make some changes. It has taken me this long to come to the realization that this year may not be the year of me running, or jumping, or having a full-time career just yet. It is the year of me slowly retraining my body to work within it's new framework. It is the year of adjusting my expectations. It is the year of knowing that nothing is a quick fix, and the only way to reach a goal is through hard, often painful, and tedious work.
And while I may be primarily talking about my physicality, writing this down makes me realize that this strategy is really the only way to any goal. You'd think being a 46-year-old woman with more than half a lifetime of experience under by belt, I would know these things already. Yeah, well, let's just chalk this all up to me being a perpetual late-bloomer.
I've shifted my life and work so that I can focus on getting stronger and taking care of myself as best I can. And while I know I needed to make these changes, I didn't expect so many mixed feelings to come along with them. The feelings of selfishness and guilt (I should be working more, I should be doing more volunteer work, I should be writing, I should, I should, I should, etc...) and constantly questioning if I am making the right decisions. I wonder if I have the right to call myself a writer if I haven't written ANYTHING in almost five months. I wonder if I can call myself a stylist simply because I work extremely part-time at a fashion boutique. I wonder if I can call myself an activist, when I have not done anything to ACTIVELY fight systemic injustice lately. I don't expect these feelings to go away, and I know I have to be OK with being selfish and label-less right now. With saying NO to things I just really can't do - no matter how 'perfect' an opportunity or project or cause may be.
This pulling back is hard for me, because in my heart, I want to do ALL THE THINGS. Go to all the rallys, get involved with community and national groups, help people feel good about themselves, write all the think-pieces and get my voice out there, attend concerts and lectures, and you know..... MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
But my body and my psyche need different things right now. No matter how much I want to fit into my neat labeled categories, I can not. I need to be my own warrior. I need to focus all that energy I put into embracing my outward "labels" and direct it inwards for a time. And maybe this is what Marissa has been trying to tell me all along about these so-called labels and why she doesn't believe in them. Labels are for the outside world. What I need right now has nothing to do with the outside world and everything to do with me working internally to become a stronger human being both physically and emotionally.
So here I am, taking some advice from the old Biblical proverb that says,
"Physician, heal thyself."
P.S. Part of my healing will be to make a concerted effort to get back to the things that bring me joy - writing is one of those things and I've let it slide for far too long. It feels good to see my words on the page/screen once again.