While Immense Personal Change rarely happens overnight, and while my own Immense Personal Change was afoot well in advance of my dramatic, blood-and-sweat-soaked Crohn's onset, it is convenient (not to mention pithy) to divvy things up in terms of pre- and post-Crohn's.Before Crohn's, when I was not only dancing as fast as I could but had become really, really proficient at it, I lived to please. Because if I knew one thing, it was that I was Not Enough. So naturally, I compensated by being (or at least aiming to be) the smartest, the fastest, the funniest. Or, in those areas where I was less naturally gifted (e.g. math, science, anything involving hand-eye coordination) the worst. There is, after all, a pride to be taken in staking out that territory as well. One strange side effect of my psychic orientation B.C. was an unsettling anxiety that would overtake me at the prospect of worlds colliding. When you are very busy making yourself be (or seem) all things to all people, the thought of those disparate parties coming together is very nervous-making. How to be the advertising wunderkind and the Lower East Side hipster and the aw-shucks, down-home Midwestern gal all at once? I'm deft, but not that deft.
So I kept my worlds apart. And if I lucked into a partner who had a wonderful network of loved ones already in place I just used his, and kept my own on maintenance contact only. Breakups were hellish, but really, when are they not?
But after the last big breakup, when, as usual (and let's face it, appropriate) he got the friends and family, I took stock of the situation and decided I'd had enough of it. Of all of it: losing the friends, yes, but really, of contorting myself to fit someone else's idea of ideal. The ROI on self-contortion had been pretty lousy, anyway, and I was older and more tired than I used to be.
Once I got sick, contorting myself was out of the question. I had no energy to spare, especially for such tomfoolery. And then, of course, my worlds started colliding with alarming frequency in my very own living room; unable to lift the laundry basket, much less carry it down two flights of stairs to the basement, I found myself happy to have them there, especially if they came bearing groceries or DVDs.
But the biggest shock came when I realized that the me that everyone was seeing, hapless, helpless, housebound and really, really unattractive, not only was enough, but was someone they treasured enough to go out of their way to do things for...without hope of anything in return save my return to health. And if all these good people thought I was enough, maybe I didn't have to be anything else. Maybe I could just be me.
An acting teacher once suggested that the things we think are super-fab about ourselves are the things our loved ones tolerate and that the quirks and missteps and imperfections we try to hide are what make us lovable. In large part, I now believe that to be true; "perfection" (or our simulacrum of it) is about as appealing as trying too hard.
I may never be the shining orb of perfection that I once longed to be. But I am pretty confident that from now until the end of my time on the planet, I will be me, all me, all of the time.
Only, hopefully, with age and experience, more so.