As I walk down the street to yet another doctor’s appointment, I notice a few things. Things I really haven’t noticed before, I notice the cracks in the sidewalk and the harsh downward slope from the building to the road. I notice my feet and how they more shuffle than stride. I notice people going around me because I don’t walk fast enough for them. I wonder why these things have never really crossed my mind before. The wind is blowing as I walk between two buildings and I feel like I’m in some sort of vortex, the buildings creating a wind tunnel around me. It seems I have to push through the wind to make it to where I’m going. My hands are in the pockets of my jacket and my head is down. Then it hits me, my head is down. I have never been one to walk with my head down, with my shoulders hunched. My head was always up, looking ahead, facing the world in front of me and whatever it threw my way. My hands were always at my side, swaying to the movements of my feet as I took strong confident steps, knowing that nobody or nothing could stop me. I used to be strong. I used to be confident. Now I am a shell of who I once was, a shadow of who I used to be.
On that short walk to the front door I must have picked my head up ten times trying to stand tall and confident, however, within moments I was hunched back down looking at the ground. I kept telling myself it was the wind, but I was lying to myself. The wind was annoying, but not strong enough to have to block my face from it.
“Stand up tall, look at the world,” I kept repeating in my head. I would change my posture, change my stride. I would pull my shoulders back and pick my chin up. I swung my arms like I was on some cat walk, trying to find some remanence of my former self. “One step at a time,” I thought. Then someone would walk by me and I would drop my eyes, ashamed of the person I was, ashamed of how little I had improved in the months since I had my lung transplant. I couldn’t stride, my body was weak and shaky still, making me wobble on the uneven sidewalk. I couldn’t look people in the eyes because I couldn’t look myself in the eyes.
I didn't know how to be that person anymore. I didn't feel like that person anymore. I had a lung transplant nearly a year ago, a whole fucking year. Yet, I don’t feel that much better. I knew how to work my old body and I say “old body” because everything about my body was different then. My body is skinny and awkward, while my face is chubby and hairy. I have to keep something on my head at all times because my hair has completely fallen out on the sides. Probably the back too, but I don’t waste my time trying to look and torture myself further. On any given day I look three to six months pregnant. I always have tremors, making me look like an alcoholic or some sort of drug addict. Well, I suppose I am, with all the medication I have to take every day, they cause all of the side effects. The medicine takes away as much as it gives. It gives me life while taking away who I was, who I am.
All of these things cross my mind in my ten minute walk. I’m embarrassed of the person I am. I’m jealous of the person I was. I feel selfish and unappreciative for the life I have. I know I am wrong for this, but I am emotionally and mentally spent. I have taken three steps forward and two to four steps backward for months and months. However, what I constantly remind myself is how far I’ve come. I try to forget how far I still have to go; I try to take it one day at a time. No one cared when I was the pretty, witty girl. No one told me how inspirational I was and how much they looked up to the body I worked so hard for, or the make-up I had done so flawlessly. No one cares when you’re confident if you’re beautiful. It’s something I hear quite often now, how strong I am. How inspirational I am. I feel like a fraud, I feel like I’m tricking people. I don’t feel strong and I certainly don’t feel inspirational. Especially not from the indentation I have made on my couch cushion. I feel like I was given this second chance at life and I don’t know what to do with it anymore. Someone died so I could live and I’m squandering it away.
I’ve made it to the elevator inside and I notice someone’s shoes and realize I’m looking down at the ground again. I notice my arms are hugging across my chest trying to protect myself and my fragile body. I am scrunched up trying to take up as little space as possible; I am trying to be unnoticed. I take a breath in and quietly release it. I pick my head up and uncross my arms; I straighten my back and shoulders. I look up at the man wearing the grey canvas shoes and I smile at him. “Good morning,” I say. “I like your shoes.” I keep my head up and look around as other people join us to wait; I make eye contact with all of those I can. I notice the ones looking down and I wonder why. They can feel me looking at them and glance up, I smile at them too. I started humming a nameless tune; I know I can do this. I just have to keep my face up to the journey out in front of me and stop tripping myself up with what’s below and forget about what’s behind.