sal's birthday was yesterday.
9 months and four days after the accident.
emily sent me a link to a blog i've started following, and the back-story is that late last summer - almost the same time as the accident - she was in a plane wreck. her heart stopped twice on the life-flight to the hospital. she was burned on 83% of her body. she had four children under the age of 6, waiting for her to come home.
she is the same age as me.
there is the horror of the plane wreck, and the surviving of it, and the sudden awareness that life will never be the same again, that compels a person to want to stop and stare at a story like that. to read the dramatic tale of what exactly happened, and then push it as far away from your consciousness as possible to avoid having to watch her suffer through the aftermath.
but early on she makes it glaringly clear that she has no other option than to survive.
and so she survives, in such a heartfelt, delicate, magical kind of way that only we humans are capable of, that you can't push the story away.
there is a post - written only days ago - that i have read over and over and over again at this point. in the post, she writes about the time line between her and the accident as a gestation period, and if the plane wreck were conception, then she would be having her baby this month. the concept feels raw and a little bit painful to me, because as strange as it sounds, with the 9-month mark of sal's accident baring down on us, i had been thinking the same exact thing.
i don't mean to compare our stories. the personal suffering she has gone through is on such a higher - and different - level than mine. but i can relate. or at least take what she's written and apply the concept to my thoughts and feelings, which is what relating is, once you take away the word and are left with just an action.
so yesterday was sal's birthday.
it was a difficult day. mike and i didn't talk much. sometimes there aren't things to say. i thought even more about the 9-month concept, and i got angry because death is so completely opposite of birth, yet time passes the same between both of them.
your brain thinks strange thoughts when it doesn't know what else to do, and in this weird way that i can't really explain, even though i knew the 9-month mark would pass without much happening outside of our own heads, i still couldn't fathom how the gestation period could end without a birth - without the accident un-happening. without anything.
the only thing i could see that had grown and changed at all was my own little brain, and that didn't feel right either, because if that's what this pregnancy was, then it's not time for the birthing to happen yet - this mind isn't ready. this person hasn't fully formed. i don't like the shape that i am in. i want more time before i say that this is what we were waiting for me to become.
i reached a point recently where i was left with only one other option on my list of things i could do, and that was to "listen to the People who Know Better."
like clockwork this week, every late-afternoon as i'm driving home from where i've been, as i turn onto our street and head west, head up into the hills towards the house i now live in that - up until 9 months ago - had been sal's - i start crying. there are three and a half miles between that turn and the house, and it takes me the first mile to realize what is happening, and the second to come to terms with it. crying scares the shit out of people. it scares the shit out of me.
but the Person who Knows Better told me that the other things i've done all my life - denial, self-medicating, desperately covering things over with humor and perfect grades - are unhealthy. that leaves crying on the list of things that are ok.
so i've been letting it happen. in the way that it wants to. painful and helpless and mostly blind. when it's done, it's done, but for some reason, for those three and a half miles every day it exists in a very real way, and i'm trying really hard to just let it be, to not sweep up the gravel as it's laying the foundation. it's strange how uncomfortable it is to just cry.
we are told that we are responsible for our destiny, but when there's nothing left to do but cry... in a way, it's a little like admitting that sometimes that's not true.
there were 24 hours of yesterday, and we lived them.
i woke up this morning feeling emotionally hung-over. i wanted today to feel better than this. i know i'm not the only human who ever wakes up feeling that way.
i woke up late this morning, and i panicked my way through getting ready to leave the house. i had an appointment to meet with a new foot specialist, because the nerve-pain-when-walking has returned with a terrifying intensity.
we went through the routine that has become so familiar it's almost infuriating.
waiting. talking. rattling off medical records. listing medications, operations, and everything else that's been tried. getting more x-rays.
i was reading about melissa joan heart's post-pregnancy weight-loss program when the doctor came back in. that's because i wasn't nervous. that's because i had convinced myself that i would be hearing this:
"well, we're just going to start giving you the steroid shots again."
i can handle that. i mean, that's good news. there are big, terrifying needles, but after that it doesn't hurt to walk for at least a month. i feel like a real-live-20-something-human again. that's what i want.
but instead, he hung the new x-rays on the wall-mounted light-box, turned off the over-head, and said this:
"i don't want to have to tell you this. you're going to need more surgeries."
where as "another surgery" would indicate one, "more" and "ies" implies two, maybe three. and this time around we're sending me to a neurologist where we will hook wires up to my spine and my feet and everything in between, and run electrical currents through my body to watch my parts twitch and jump, to determine how severe the nerve damage was after that stupid, stupid car accident i was in almost a decade ago.
i left the doctor's office and i tried to cry for a minute, but then i realized that i just wanted to be angry. and i didn't want to be angry at home.
so i went to target.
i bought sun-block there, for the first time in my life. i don't go in the sun much, but i was feeling very mortal and i wanted to prevent something. prevent it. the mortality part.
then i texted something bitter and sarcastic to my brother, and he sent back this:
"we should have a party. a celebration. we'll celebrate that you don't need surgery on your hands."
which wasn't really the negative response i was looking for, so i texted p:
"is it normal to suddenly cry every day?"
she sent me this:
"it's a good thing. it means you haven't been feeling things as intensely for a while. you're just working through deeper layers."
but it doesn't feel like that most of the time. it doesn't feel like layers. it feels like walking into the same coffee table you bruised your shin on yesterday. and the day before. and the day before...
there's only so much negativity you can dump on your brother or your friend before they go to work though, so i stopped. i left target. i drove towards home.
just like clockwork, i turned off the main road onto our smaller street, and i started crying again.
and i started thinking this -
what if it's not always about moving forward? what if running towards tomorrow sometimes feels too scary and exhausting and huge? what if right now doesn't feel ok, and you're a little frustrated by the future as you see it? maybe sometimes - when done occasionally - there's no shame in going back to something that has brought you shelter in the past.
so i stopped crying, because that's too current diana, and i thought about being 17 again. 10 years ago, my problems seemed huge, but now, from the safety of the decade that's between us, they seem so childish and simple and easy to resolve.
i thought about this:
late afternoon. like just-out-of-school kind of late afternoon. i had some time before i had to be home for dinner, but nowhere to go. you know that feeling, right? 17, where everything is a confliction - where more than anything you want freedom, but more than anything else, you just need someone to show you the way.
so i pretended that's where i was - 17. with a few hours of free-time. wanting desperately to use it to the fullest, and having no idea what that means. maybe a little heart-broken over a stupid boy. maybe more than a little angry at my parents for trying to ruin my life by asking that i live by their rules.
it was strange how easily my brain slipped back into that time. and how safe - almost fun - it felt. to be heartbroken once again over a boy who i now laugh at myself for dating, and not the fact that yesterday was sal's first birthday he wasn't here for. to be angry at my parents for giving me curfews i hadn't lived by for a decade, and not the fact that my poor body is going to be cut open again. and again. and again.
i took a mini-vacation from Right Now, and i asked myself, "diana, how are we going to deal with this shit? we gotta do something..." and my 17-year-old self said, "you know what we should do? drive to that look-out spot in the foothills and then park at the top and listen to that new album..."
"i don't think that's a good idea," i told myself. "that album is really really stupid..."
"are you out of your mind?!?!" my 17-year-old self said, "that album is amazing! you're going to be listening to it ten years from now, and you're going to thank me."
"fine," i said, "whatever. but only because i don't want to think of something better."
so we drove to the end of the road, to the spot where you can look out over the whole city. and we listened to that stupid dashbord confessional album. and we sung along. loudly.
and then we started laughing, really really hard.