I am the type of person who experiences memory through music. I cannot always remember the vividness of color or feeling when revisiting in my mind, but one verse immerses me in the rich details of sense memories. Three right chords and I am reliving it.
A few days ago, as I was stepping into the shower, Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show came on. Immediately, I was in Portland, Oregon last July. I was going for a walk well past midnight, my Epipens in my dress pocket, clanging against my thigh with each step. The air was still warm, humid, but not cloying; just sort of close in the way summer sometimes is. I signed along to the song in ASL as I walked, an old habit from when I was learning.
Driving across the bridge into Portland was the culmination of surviving years of surgeries and shocks and lost pieces of myself. I felt amazing there, filled with this lightness, but also sad around the edges. This disease is so unpredictable. I loved it there so much and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there again.
Last week, I scheduled an appointment with my colorectal surgeon for January to discuss the removal of the end of my GI tract. It no longer has any function and causes me a fair amount of grief. That same day, I booked my flights to Colorado. I was not feeling great emotionally because frankly I’m tired of surgeries and procedures but physically I have been feeling much better. I am sleeping at night and not vomiting every day and don’t feel like a zombie all the time. Anything better than normal feels like such an improvement.
In the next three months, I am planning to visit Florida, Minnesota, California and potentially Hong Kong. It’s a lot of travel for anyone, let alone someone like me. That’s the thing about feeling better – it gives you this artificial bravery to do things you normally wouldn’t. It makes you feel like you can do things you know you can’t. What if I could, though? What if I could do all things I think I can?
I had one of those cries in the shower that night, when Wagon Wheel came on, the kind with wrenching, full body sobs. It had been building all week. Every morning that week I woke up feeling okay and all day I waited for it to get worse. I was afraid of how bad it would feel when this good went away. I was afraid I would remember that I can’t do all these things I want to do, and I was afraid that I would be right.
When I have a really good day, I tell people that I feel like I could fly, like I could touch the sky if I wanted to. Feeling good after not for so long does strange things to your mind. It makes it feel like you can bend the limits of your reality.
Standing in the water, I had an image in my mind of me touching the sky only to have it break apart under my hand. And on the other side of the sky, there was this other place, with no limits, and it terrified me.
When I feel good, part of me is afraid of feeling bad again. But I think there is also a part that is afraid for another reason. I think part of me has no idea how to function outside of these confines my disease has built for me. I think if I was healthy tomorrow, I wouldn’t even remember how to live anymore.