I’ve never thought much about my age, probably because I never really acted my age.
As a child, I understood things a child shouldn’t understand.
At around 8 years old, I looked my father in his eyes and said, “Sometimes you don’t remember things when you drink.”
When I was 15, I spent all of my free time in the library researching melanoma and chemotherapy and radiation (this was pre-internet folks). I kept two notebooks and wrote down everything I learned. When my mom’s doctor told me the radiation would get rid of the cancer, I knew he was lying because I knew the radiation schedule she was on was only meant to make her life more comfortable.
In college, while my friends were out partying, I worked 3 jobs.
There was always something urgent. There was always some pressing situation that kept me running, kept me working towards a goal.
Until there wasn’t. Until I became the adult I always acted like and until I realized that all that running never really got me anywhere but older.
It wasn’t meaningless. I value all of the experiences of my life. I just wish I could have slowed down at the time and actually experienced them. Almost nothing was ever as urgent as I thought it was and what was urgent was never within my control.
I’ve become stagnant, not so much in life but in passion, in living. Without that sense of urgency, I’m lost. I’ve slowed down . . . something friends, family, and therapists have been telling me to do for years. But they never told me what to do once I slowed down . . . and I haven’t figured it out yet.
My 33rd birthday passed last week and it was the first time in my life that I didn’t want to celebrate – not because I think 33 is old . . . but because 33 is old for me.
I don’t always think about how my mom died when I was so young. The thought doesn’t dominate my life. But every so often something slaps me in the face and reminds me. My 33rd birthday was one of those somethings.
My mom was 33 when she laid on the couch at my aunt’s house on Easter, tired and in pain. She was 33 the next day when she went into the hospital and was told she had a compression fracture in her back. She was 33 two days later when the doctors told her that it wasn’t a compression fracture but that her cancer had come back. She was 33 that Friday when she held my hand and told me, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. I want to see my grandkids some day.” And she was 33 4 months later when she took her last breath.
This time of year is always tough. In another week, it will be the 17th anniversary of the day my mom died – of the day my world collapsed. Because more than anything else that has happened in my life, that experience is what has left me broken.
I was never as strong as they all thought I was. I just latched on to anything “urgent” – anything that could distract me from the pain. And now that I’ve slowed down, now that I’ve become stagnant, I have nothing to distract me.
But you can’t strip away 17 years of mourning overnight. I’ve been peeling that onion slowly over the years and I doubt I will ever reach the center. But sometimes . . . during those moments when I’m slapped in the face . . . I cut away entire chunks.