do you call them steps? or stairs? i feel like just a few up to your front door are steps. but the whole flight, those are stairs. i dunno. my brain is in a weird mood right now. and i am feeling very . . . human. vulnerable. sensitive. overthinking. there is something rather unique about milestones. really, any milestone. but right now, i have just secured two years since my admission to an intensive care unit while battling an infectious disease. two years sometimes feels like a lifetime. and other times, it feels like a fresh memory. firmly fitted into my brain. and for whatever reason, my brain and body and heart and mind are not currently fully in sync. maybe it’s the trauma that is still cycling around. maybe it’s the trauma response. maybe it’s me. maybe it’s everyone else. who knows? but while i was sitting in therapy last week, my therapist commended me on my step. like taking the next step in my healing. in my grief journey. in unpacking the mountain of trauma. in setting boundaries. in allowing myself the massive space and grace that is required to heal from the storms that i have openly stood in, while rain downpoured around me. she commended me for making it to a new step. maybe it’s not the next one per say. but a new one nonetheless. and i am sure you’re dying to know what that next step is. and i am here to tell you that it’s that weird part of the grief process. the one where you supposedly make meaning out of whatever tragedy the universe dropped in your lap. i rarely make it to this place. in the times i have openly been in places of grief, i always skip this step. not intentionally or anything. i just can’t. can’t make meaning out of things that break my heart. and so much to my surprise, i really didn’t anticipate making it to the point where i was beginning to make meaning out of this whole mess. but here we are. and honestly, the making meaning thing isn’t as heartwarming and precious as it might sound. it’s awful. it’s literally unpacking my trauma minute by minute and grappling with the idea that it was meant for me, and me alone. that somewhere, the pieces all aligned just right. that in order to survive, i had to be tested. and that can just be an exhausting way to look at it.
and it often pushes me back to the first days in recovery after having an infectious disease. i was alone for a really long time. in full isolation from any human contact outside of intensive care nurses and infectious disease doctors in full hazmat. i spent most of my time in isolation crying. at first, crying from sheer agony and pain. then from fear. then as i planned my funeral and silently tried to figure out how the hell my husband would ever be able to access netflix since the password was changed. and that the car payment didn’t get paid. and how i might never actually see another human i loved. and the tears eventually became tears of gratitude. and tears of loneliness. forty two days is a long time to be alone with yourself. and for me, it’s too long to be alone with myself and my brain. and when isolation resumed at home for two more weeks after walking myself out to my car from the intensive care unit two years ago; it became a place where i was practically shoved into figuring out how to heal. how to make it all make sense. and i remember staring at the cards and letters from all the people who prayed for me day and night as i battled the virus. and it still didn’t make sense. why me? what purpose did it serve to take me down that road? people tell me often that my resilience and strength inspires them. that how i held myself in those moments, created an immense light for everyone around me. purpose. meaning. the why. is it about me? or is it about others? and there’s a bible verse that rings true for me. even though i don’t really spend my time all up in the bible. it’s from esther. ‘perhaps this is the moment for which you were created’. isn’t that wild? to think that there might be moments that exist or happen simply because of us? because of me? and sure, my pieces and moments could be arranged in dozens of ways. and i won’t know which ones made meaning. and i won’t always know who found a greater depth out of them either. but here i am. faced with the idea that maybe making meaning out of the last two years will bring me a bigger healing. a healing that i have finally earned. because right now, i am looking for meaning. i am scrambling to understand why i lived, while so many others haven’t. from both experiences- virus and cancer. to find meaning in burying friends who battled just as hard. to not feel vain about my victories. when others have fallen. to find meaning in the way my cards were dealt. to some it felt fair. to some it looked lucky. to me, it felt immense. to find meaning in my place here on earth. what my intentions are as time marches on. and i know, this all probably sounds like a crock of shit to you. and hey, maybe it is! but in reality, i don’t know why it was me. and a lot of the time, i absolutely hate that it was me. i absolutely loathe how much of myself i had to lose in order to save my own damn life. it’s a lot. no, it’s so much more than a lot. it’s everything and nothing at the same time. it’s pretending to not be bothered; when it’s shredding you apart. it’s watching people walk away from you while others lift you up. it’s trying to figure out who you are while also trying to properly say goodbye to the parts that don’t get to live on. it’s a deafening silence on most days. where the rest of the world hears nothing but applause. for a job well done. for a fight well fought. but on the inside, my heart is scotch taped together, my brain is rattling, my skin hurts, my whole chest is numb. because finding meaning is a lot. it’s digging through every part of yourself- past, present & future. to try to make sense of it all. to try to reflect and build on it all. to try to accept it and make peace with it.
to try to thoughtfully sift through the painful parts, the hard parts, the joyful parts, the ugly parts, the broken parts, the scarred parts- to thoughtfully sift through them and in turn, manifest this soil. to plant this new garden. one that makes sense. one that holds meaning. one that isn’t brown or burnt. one that holds hope and blooms brightly. one that turns towards the sun.
a garden made from meaning. what did it all mean? was it meant for me? was it meant for me because i could handle it? maybe. even though i didn’t handle it gracefully all the time. was it meant for me to avoid being meant for someone else? maybe. even if that doesn’t feel fair. and what does it mean for me now, in survivorship? i still don’t know. i just know that i guess i am meant to be here. hurting and healing and hustling. i am meant to be here. right now. just today. hurting and healing and planting. hurting and healing and longing for what was and for what is and for what will be.
and that’s okay. because everyone’s garden is different. and mine holds plants from before. and it holds what it can hold right now. and it’ll hold whatever it’s meant to hold. and the same goes for me. i will hold whatever i am meant to hold. i will bloom whenever i am meant to bloom. and the meaning will grow there too.
i promise to water it & find the sunshine when i can. xoxo.