He had something in his eye, so I brushed it away.
It fell onto his cheek. And so, I removed it.
Then I thought… is this something I am allowed to do? Should I be doing this? Is this my place anymore?
My head reeled. My heart ached. There was no “home” in feeling certain anymore. No safety there.
Change is uncomfortable at best. At worst, it is painful as hell. Sometimes we might even find comfort in our discomfort, because even in all that pain, there is familiarity. There is safety in what is already known. And to venture out into the unknown, to move beyond what is comfortable and safe, takes a massive channeling of will and courage.
I had to put on many skins as a caregiver. I had to learn how to be many things, that I had never been before. After TBI, I could no longer simply be a girlfriend and lover to Patrick, though that was all I knew and all that what was comfortable to me. I needed to put on the new skin of a mother. I had to put on the skin of an advocate. Of a teacher. Physical therapist. Accountant. Chef. Counselor. Chauffeur. Life coach. Warden. Nurse. Sitter. Personal Assistant. Aide. The titles grew and grew, year by year.
I learned to wear these skins with as much grace as I could muster, but they became very heavy as the years went on. The original skin of who I was, (before this happened) struggled to breathe. Suffocation was an ongoing fear for me, so I took gasps of air wherever I could find them.
The love provided the oxygen. It saturated my lungs. It filled me up.
Months after we had broken up, nothing had changed. I was afraid of the process of undoing it. I was afraid of shedding these skins. I could not find the courage to disrobe myself of who I had been for so long, and to let myself (and Patrick and I) become something new.
Now the shedding of skins has started, and it’s as uncomfortable as I knew it would be. These are roles that I still cling to; their fragrance and fabric like a trusty blanket. These are roles that Patrick clings to also; the fragrance of trust, and the fabric of safety. But these are not roles that are continuing to allow us to grow as people. So shed them, we must.
When a mother has a child, and the child grows up, I am sure that it must be hard to let them go. They always see their child as an extension of who they are, and to some extent they always see them as children. I imagine the desire to shield them from pain is as fierce at 18 years old… as it is at 8 months old. And when they are grown and about to leave for college, how hard must it be for a mother to still not fix their wrinkled shirt, or straighten their tie, brush their hair from their brow, or…wipe something from their eye?
He had something in his eye, and I brushed it away. It fell onto his cheek. And so, I removed it.
He was never my child, but he is still somehow like my 18-year old, ready to go off to school. I guess I knew him as something like a child. And in a strange way, I watched him grow up.
So when he has something in his eye, I want to be the one to remove it.
That will forever be the hardest skin for me to shed.
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