When I was younger and working towards the goal of graduating from college and getting my degree, I ran into so many obstacles. I had a funding issue, I had a work overload issue, I had the eye disease, I had parents that were glad I was out of the house (in a good riddance kind of way), and I felt like I struggled quietly and only a close few saw me loose my composure. Even then, I recall some people mistaking my dignity for pomposity and strength as “Not fully understanding my situation,” (a for real quote from a professor).
Every time I was kicked by circumstance and chance, I picked up whatever broke that time and clutched those pieces to my chest and kept going. I thought by doing this, I was accomplishing the ideals of being strong and dignified.
I’m not so sure I do that as well now. For one, it was very much a show, “What will people think if they find I am scared of going blind?”
“What if people knew I had a summer job to get through school but, found out the ‘poor hardworking mouse’ bit was only because I was ashamed of where I came from, not because I was especially industrious?”
Oh yes, all very dignified and strong indeed. I was so very good at trying to appear like the woman in this quote, so far as to actually laugh and joke without fear of my inevitable blindness.
Truly the prospect of little by little losing colors from the world, sharp edges and a blurring and a mixing of things, objects, until one day you can’t see through the fog of blurred dull shades; nothing standing out,nothing changing. A soup. Never seeing the faces of any of my children clearly, my wedding a literal blur, my husband’s face never growing old in my eyes. Red and white are not my colors, I never looked good with stripes and I don’t want to find a use for a cane.
Fear. I had fear. There was never a time I did not own that gaudy awkward accessory.
So I layered up what I thought dignity was, what I though strength would be. I dressed it up and wore it daily. I hid in it and luxuriated in the complements of my superimposed character. I became lazy and greedy with it.
“See how I struggle, is it not amazing at my age how fantastic I am handling things? Should you not praise me for my strength, my amazing character?”
Attention starved me, hit the mother load, one way to gain all the attention I craved when I was little. My parents started to pay attention to me, professors, friends… Ah what had I thought I gained. But as most superficial things, it went. People have lives to live and spending it coddling and cooing over you is not helping anyone. Spending your days saying “bless her heart,” is only interesting for so long.
All those extra people left and took their attention with them. I only had my longtime friends left, which considering my behavior, was very lucky. They certainly could have left too. Even now many of my friends balk at the idea of discussing any of my health problems.
“Something’s always wrong, Katherine.”
Indeed. Once you are alone with your self, you see how cheap the disguise was, how superficial your “I’m fine and accepting of my condition.”statements were. How I wished my pretense would have actually sunk in and I would still be thought of as the same.
That’s not how it works dearie.
So how does one gain, real bone deep dignity and strength and more importantly, the ability to laugh without fear of the future?
I think I’m on to something when I say one must have faith and belief.
I do not necessarily mean faith in God, though I like to think I am talking to Him and working though this in my own way. You need the ease of belief of something bigger than yourself. A cause, a group of people, spirits, an organization- and where you fit in into that “Something Bigger.”
There is a comfort to knowing to your bones what must be done, how you must function, how things must go down-that belief. It happens every second because it needs to. It’s something you must be, no one else.
Then I think having faith, not a blind sheep like faith, but an adapting understanding, that you can rise to the occasion. That you are a worthwhile person and loved and a brain tumor and vision loss doesn’t make you someone worth knowing. The struggles you endured are not how your worth is measured.
Your worth is how you understand that you will get better at living. Learning everyday that you are not going to always win, or know why, or be everyone’s everything; but having faith that you are important and necessary to life’s full equation. Without you in the equation, the answer would come out wrong every time. The world needs you or it will go very wrong.
Finding that balance between faith and belief gives you the ability to stop fearing the future. Oh the uncertain future.
To have faith and belief that the power of your yet realized future is something you are working towards. That future will cause great change from the person you are to who you will be. To accept this, and know that this will happen in whatever form; illness, death, life, family, tragedy, joys… (No some predetermined destiny but that choices abound and with those choices, change)
Then I think, if you can do these things, have a true understanding of these things, you will be to the core a person of strength and dignity. Then, the future will not cause trepidation, but cause anticipation.