New skin

When she was three, she sang her ABCs to me in a husky voice made for a 40-something burlesque singer. Years have passed now, and her body and brain still bear the scars of the ravaging of illness, and there are no ABC songs. We talk about this - talent and proclivities lost in the quicksand of a fight for a life - and we talk also about finding new strengths. Her name means hard working, and she shoulders tasks meant for children twice her age with remarkable aplomb and tenacity.

There is a curious sort of freedom in loosing oneself from expectations and floating free on a breeze of everything possible, finding fresh capacities and discovering new gifts.

I used to be a perfectionist, a gifted scholar, an organized housekeeper, a leader of small groups and Bible studies, a woman with an answer to every question. I was ravaged by a different firestorm - the invisible kind that attacks your mind, your faith, your confidence. I woke up from my dark night to a world full of strangers and - perhaps worse - enemies who wore the faces of friends. I gave in to tremors of anxiety and earthquakes of panic, paralyzing fear of whom I would meet out in public and drowning under an impenetrable sludge of suffocating depression.

Like dry brush in a hot summer wind, my expectations went up in smoke as I read about freedom in Christ:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:1 & 7a)
Old life, old ways, they go up in flames 30 feet high, a towering tornado of twisted expectations and torturous presumptions of who I was, who I am, who I will be.

A year ago, I wasn't to be trusted in public, a crumbling edifice of what used to be with a hollow core not yet built into the person I was meant to be all along. Fragile as chipped china, I tiptoed around town, avoiding familiar places and familiar faces for fear of breaking down in front of other eyes.
Everything I had imagined about myself had disappeared...I felt myself splitting in two. There was the woman I was before and the one I was now, my old life sitting on the surface of me like a bruise. The real me was beneath that, pulsing under all the things I used to think I knew. Will you take me as I am? (from Wild, Cheryl Strayed)
Today is different. I am brave. I am me. I am unapologetic. I have shed the fa├žade and come alive in my own skin. I am on the second leg of a return trip to being myself. I think I like who I am becoming.

The kids and I, we leap off into public spaces, parks and stores and streets and churches. Our small band of blood wards off ghosts of lives past, but most of all we are just jumping in with both feet, smiling at people who stare at us, laughing when strangers who used to know us gawk at the way we are now. No longer do my nerves start to jangle when I spot someone from my old life. Instead, I feel my soul expanding like the wings of a giant bird on a jet stream high above terra firma, because I soar on a different plane now, unmoored completely from The Way I Should Be.

If it is a day for dancing, I shall dance.

A day for singing, I belt it at the top of my lungs.

A time for sorrow, who cares who sees my tears?

If the joy is worth the mess, then I could care less about the mess.
"…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)
Linked to Joy