Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lessons from the Westside Highway

I had an epiphany today.

Like many great moments in history, this one happened in the backseat of a Manhattan taxi cab. (As a sidenote, I'm convinced that cabs breed brilliance b/c of the "near death experience" nature of most intercity cab rides.) So anyway, I was sitting there -- hoping to avoid a collision and thankful that, just in case, I had already registered to become and organ and tissue donor -- and I had my epiphany. Because suddenly, in the midst of all the honking and the lane changing and the jaywalking pedestrians, I had this single, crystal clear thought:

Life would be so much easier if I could just stay seated all the time.

Seriously, that's what I thought. And no, don't worry, that wasn't the brilliant epiphany. Because immediately after having that one, singular thought, I started to remember how absurd, wrong, and well, just "un-Piperlike" that thought really was.

I grew up in Colorado. I spent my childhood hiking, biking, and skiing, when I wasn't busy swimming, riding my horse, and "galloping" around my backyard over hurdles in make-believe horse shows with my friends. Later on, in college, I volunteered my time at a day shelter for homeless youth, at which my primary job was to chase five year old children around and around the center's playground. In short, while I may never have been a super athlete, I have always been extremely active. And I certainly never in my life thought it would be "fun" to sit still.

For me, the hardest part of this whole process has been the feeling that I am slowly but surely "losing" parts of myself and my personality, if only temporarily. I no longer have the physical energy to do many of the things I love to do -- even small, silly stuff like dancing around my apartment or chasing the puppy. And I no longer have the mental energy to commit to certain other activities -- long conversations are sometimes tiring, and I find myself less likely to expend effort on being funny or outgoing. It's not like I'm not me anymore -- I definitely am. But I sometimes feel like a painting that's been left out in the sun too long. The picture's still there, with the artist's unique flair, but the colors are maybe just a little bit muted.

But, I promised you guys and epiphany, so here it is:

No matter how much CF takes from me right now, I will never allow it to cause me to lose sight of myself.

Okay, fine, I know that sounds a little bit cheesy, but you'd be surprised at how hard it is sometimes to say to yourself "okay, today I might only have the energy for the necessary things -- the treatments and the exercises and the appointments and the breathing -- but tonight I will make some time, even just a minute, to remember what it was like before those daily tasks took up all I had for the day, and to dream about plan the time when they won't again." It's not easy. In fact, sometimes it's painful to acknowledge that things are changing at all, but my revelation today was that in the acknowledgment -- in the understanding that while certain parts of me will always be present, others have necessarily taken a backseat lately to the simple task of staying alive and breathing -- there also comes a realization that this is not the only way for things to be. I don't have to accept these changes as permanent or even as a guaranteed part of my life right now. I can acknowledge them and then consciously choose when it's worth getting out of breath to do that silly nighttime rompus with Sampson. I can give myself the okay to focus my energy on the important stuff while still remembering that inside it all is a funny girl with a sarcastic sense of humor. I can give myself the freedom to take care of myself now, while still reserving just a little bit of precious energy to fight for the woman I was, am, and will be again.

And that, my friends, was an epiphany worthy of even the most terrifying taxi ride.


  1. great post!!!

    and this:
    and "galloping" around my backyard over hurdles in make-believe horse shows with my friend

    OMG I used to do that all the time at the farm! It was so much fun! We would even give out ribbons and once a year had a full on show with just us riders from the farm. We would dress in our show attire and all. It was a blast!

  2. you, i love.

    though the title made me think of that ani difrano song and i was a bit worried as i clicked to your blog....

    but alas, your epiphany-genius.

    a few weeks ago i had a vivid dream about swimming underwater like i did when i was a kid, or like you do when you first start a lap (i used to be a swimmer). it was such an amazing dream. now that is my go-to place for remember what it's like to feel free in my body and able to take in a deep breath and hold it, let it out slow, and propel.

    I will do that again!!!

  3. this is my favourite posting.
    totally how i am feeling as of late.
    "But I sometimes feel like a painting that's been left out in the sun too long. The picture's still there, with the artist's unique flair, but the colors are maybe just a little bit muted."

  4. totally true piper. i remember thinking a similar thing. after tx i noticed myself stooping down to pick a flower... or skipping.... or having a bounce back in my step... you'll get all the parts of your personality back. but it will be even better because of all the hardship you have been through you will be even that much more appreciative of just living life!