Ripping Up an Imaginary Map

I have been through a serious illness as an adult. There was definitely a before and after in terms of my relationship with my body. During those first months home from the hospital I went to sleep every night fearing I wouldn’t wake. It was a slow healing process mentally, even though I ran a half marathon just six months later. A year later, another trip in an ambulance and doctors shrugging and saying we’ll keep an eye on it. Who knows.

I hear that I pushed too hard. Sometimes I believe it myself. But I am pretty sure that this is just the way of things. We don’t restore ourselves to shiny and new. We do maintenance.

Now after more than two years of whatever this was: this feels like a new before and after. A wilder storm. Almost as though previous experiences were just trial runs for this change. Sometimes it makes me fear what is coming. The future sneaks up on us from behind. Jump scares.

I think it’s interesting that our culture has used language to flip the truth. To flip our mindset from what should be obvious into a comforting illusion of control: the future is in front of us. I am wondering if this isn’t one of the most profound ways in which we deceive ourselves. As though we can prepare for the future in any meaningful way.

We can gather our nuts. But we are only guessing. Predicting. Projecting. Based on stories. And there are so many stories.

Maybe it is healthy to admit that what we see in front of us is the past, and the stories we manufacture from it. It’s an imaginary map. With monsters at the ends of the earth.

At 56 my body has undergone a sea change. Even the surface of my skin is a kind of “new”. I catch myself thinking I need to “get back” into shape. And I catch myself berating myself and maybe mourning the never-reached destinations on the imaginary map I’d been carrying around.

Sometimes now I think if I close my eyes I can relax and let the future come up behind me and wrap its arms around me and lift me along the path. While I will trip now and then, but also pluck what I like along the way. Like a bouquet of experiences. Of loves.

And maybe even allow myself a moment or two of schmaltz.

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