I am engaged in reframing identity post morbidity. That’s the technical term for when you have to accept your sick self after a diagnosis. Getting used to the new you. I feel like illness has been gradually wrapping me up in a chrysalis, restricting my movement, constricting my experiences. But who I am is still there.
I think of that girl who defined herself by the things she did.
She danced, drank with abandon to usher in her dutch courage. She enjoyed philosophical discussions, standing around with other smokers, blowing out puffs of smoke with a thoughtful squint to her eyes. She was a good-times-girl with a tendency to sudden sadness, a seeker of fun and a girl on the run. A subversive rebel. A smarty pants with long blonde hair and an attitude.
She did other things too. Travelled, worked, studied, excelled.
I feel conceited writing that, even in the third person. But it is true, regardless of how awkward it feels to write it.
And all of the things I did were proof to me of who I was, what I stood for, my standards, my skills, my talents, my way of doing things. So what to do now? Now that I don’t do much of anything? Who am I now? Am I really still me, wrapped up in a chrysalis? Am I really constrained from being me? Does it change the sort of person I am?
Only the way I express it. Does it change my goals? Well, yes. It makes them further away. But it makes them simpler too.
These days, I can’t give myself over to latin rhythms anymore, spinning round the dance floor, part of an energy exchange, lost in the force of motion, moved by the music and the slightest touch of my partners hand. How do you dance without smiling? How do you smile, without dancing? I felt such freedom in that movement, my hair swinging out behind me, weightless and turning and pulling back into the hold. Such a beautiful feeling. Rhythm and connection. Music. I can still listen to that music and touch on the sweet-spot. My memories of dance. I can close my eyes and feel it again. The air, moving against my hair, my obliques, twisting and turning. My calves, taut and quick. Me, in heels, skirts and sexy strappy tops. The warmth of bodies moving beside mine. The slip of the dance floor under my feet. Can I use those memories to help me find myself again? Is it finding these words that takes me there?
Nor can I indulge in my professional passion of teaching. Preparing my classroom for the first day of school… the smell of brand new stationery and the energy of potential; just waiting to spring from the air into works of art, words of heart, thoughts and epiphanies. Kids finding their moment of understanding, seeing the possibilities and running with it. I can still look through those photos of my first classroom, my first ‘kids’. See the pock marked desks, the spelling lists and the self portraits, framed against a bright blue cardboard sky. The book boxes, chair bags. The smell of pencil shavings and old bananas, smelly shoes and whiteboard cleaner. The joy of my own desk, my own resources, everything to hand and in it’s place. The clear eyed faces I would know so well, gazing up at me, waiting to begin. Can I use the memory of teaching to help me learn something new about myself? Learning requires you to know that you don’t know it all yet, to question, to risk new ideas.
I can’t do things like I used to. It’s time for a new idea.
I am the person who did those things. That dancer; who let herself be moved by the rhythm. So I know how to bend and sway. How to roll with the ebbs and flows. I am the teacher; I know how to think, communicate, to ask questions.
My goals have not gone away, I just need to do things differently, find new ways to travel through time. I am flexible, I can work it out. Word it out. I am, who I am.
The chrysalis is falling away. I needed it to hold me tight so I could grow my wings for flight. Not dancing, not teaching, not doing. But winging my way into a new kind of being.
Ko te pae tawhiti whaia kia tata.
Ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tina -Tihei Mauriora