Yesterday I finally succumbed to the mounting pain in my locked-up shoulder and stiff neck, and actually kept my physical therapy appointment. I grumbled for days beforehand, and all the way there, that it was keeping me from having a full and productive workday. Over the last year and a half, I’ve found myself using Covid as an excuse to completely embrace my tendency to cocoon within the walls of my cozy home. There are weeks I don’t even leave the house, depending on my Ben to do the grocery shopping and pick up prescriptions, or go to Petsmart for dog needs. When I do go somewhere, I’ve allowed myself to get so immobile, that the smallest excursion exhausts me.
However, I’m glad that I went to the appointment because despite the pain, I truly enjoyed talking to my physical therapist. Though I was only there for my neck and shoulder, she soon realized and exclaimed over how stiff and sore my entire body is. She said she was shocked because when she saw me come in, she thought she was getting a semi-young and healthy patient. Obviously, the mask helps hide my true age, and because I’m on the tall and sort-of-slender side and was dressed in yoga pants and sneakers, my appearance can be deceiving.
The clinic was amazingly high-tech, spotless, and so busy! I saw at least a dozen employees in their sharp black shirts and khaki pants, most of them fairly young men with big muscles and a confidant swagger. I told Ann, my therapist, that I was relieved I didn’t get one of the young, hot guys because they make me awkward. She threw her head back and laughed, then assured me they were only assistants, and didn’t do first visits/evaluations and set up the patient’s plans.
As she walked me through multiple strength tests that I failed at miserably (I have the hand/arm strength of a much older human) we talked. Her two sons have settled far from her and we discussed how strange it feels to have your children out of your immediate range, almost like you’re constantly missing something important that you usually have on you at all times, but can’t put your finger on it.
She asked about who I am, and I felt it was a much deeper question than the three words imply, and I hesitated.
I wondered, which me should I tell her about? The me that was born in the Midwest but lived in more than two dozen different homes from coast to coast before I landed in the South? Or the me that survived a marriage full of strife and abuse, but then found my soul mate and began a journey to a happily ever after? I considered regaling her with the tales of our move to China and the work I did there in the orphanage, with children in situations most can’t even dream up. But that always leads me to deep melancholy that I’m not always in a strong enough place to go to.
I thought about describing to her how I started out with no extended education and after I got my first office job, I rose through the ranks of Human Resources in different companies, finally becoming an executive assistant to the president of the company. There are a lot of stories within those jobs because office politics and big egos were the main ingredient of many of my places of employment, with the stress of them leading me to the beginning of a lot of my medical problems. No one wants to hear that stuff, but it was a big part of my life.
Or would it impress her that I’m a novelist who has written two dozen novels, sold more than a million books, and has built a solid reader base? I usually ease into that gently, if at all.
If I expounded on my work in dog rescue, would she see me as a different sort of patient or would she consider me a bit on the crazy side? I could tell her about my two adult daughters, my bonus son, and our eight combined grandchildren. Would I describe how they see me or how I see myself? There’s a lot of pain and growth from the mom I was, to the grandmother I strive to be, and I assure you that it’s a learning process that I still haven’t mastered.
I know that I’m a daughter who doesn’t live up to her own expectations, a sister who wishes she and her siblings were closer, a wife who doesn’t do enough for the husband she probably doesn’t deserve, and a dog mom to three doggos who think I’m the best human in the world. I’m a woman who wants to be fit and do yoga, and eat healthy, but usually fails in all of that. I’m the writer who wants to create work that resonates with others and will be a legacy to those who come after me and wonder who I am. I’m a workaholic who holds herself to too high of a standard and doesn’t relent. I am someone who can sometimes dip into depression but other days is the counsel to others who have it much worse than she. I’m a mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, dog mom, novelist and advocate for the less fortunate.
I am all of the above.
The conclusion is that we are not one single person or role in our life and each and every part we play creates a different version of who we are. I can be a wonderful child advocate and productive dog rescuer, and also be a mother who struggles to be there when needed, but not in an overwhelming, helicopter way. I can be the successful novelist with a wide platform and yet be the woman who doesn’t want to leave her house and feels guilty when she doesn’t plan her day well enough to cook a meal for her husband. I can be, and am, all those things. Each day I try to balance all of them to be able to live a good and productive life, and I strive to learn from all my life’s lessons.
Between you and I, though…. some days I wish I was simply a hummingbird—one creature with one role, flitting around looking beautiful and bringing joy in it’s endeavor to simply survive.