Love Letter to the Crone I Am Becoming
It’s hard not to be totally preoccupied with my chronic medical problems. They can affect almost every aspect of my awake time and jolt me into consciousness in the middle of the night more often than I’d care to admit. My life wasn’t always like this. It’s only been this way for the past twenty years.
Creative pursuits informed my identity
My youth and early middle-age were spent in practical pursuit of low-paying jobs that allowed my off-time to be available for creative ones. I made sure to dream my artistic dreams of a more meaningful life focused inward on my imaginings, allowing them to inform my identity. Without going inward, I could only gain a distorted sense of my value, my identity, my Kim-ness. Secretary is a job, not a human sub-species, and certainly not an identity.
Power trumps imagination
I couldn’t let the mainstream convince me otherwise. Twenty years ago, just before my first attack of multiple sclerosis, one of my bosses told me I was not a secretary personality and said it with a sour look. I wasn’t sure what he meant then, but I could see it wasn’t a compliment. He meant I wasn’t a mother earth type. I sensed that I had failed him before that remark, and now I knew why. They wanted me to be an au pair, not a woman who was visibly struggling to show her value in all the wrong places. But I couldn’t very well explain these things to a business person. They want what they want. My heart wants what it wants. But power trumps imagination every time. My heart was so often broken by my invisibility that I had to do something drastic before scar tissue thickened and hardened around my hope, trapping me in a space too small to take a deep breath.
There is a meme that’s been in the national conversation for decades now: Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. It’s the title of a 1989 self-help book by Marsha Sinetar and an irresistible affirmation that I once tacked to my refrigerator, then transferred to my bathroom mirror. There are three words in the title that my gut instantly glommed onto as only a gut instinct can: Do, Love, Money.
A clarion call
Love and Do suggest that love is a verb, an idea I’ve always jumped at and silently thanked for appearing at the just the right moment. It rescues me from hopelessness, a kind of clarion call to self-advocacy, action, activism. Whenever my actions result in money changing hands — whether it’s being paid for an article or for my editing skills by a fiction writer needing a more experienced pair of eyes, I marvel at it in its literal image, a rectangle of green and white, proving that my gifts do indeed have both bartering and monetary value after all.
A newly-acquired superpower
But there’s something else that has informed my identity for a couple of years now, something that I couldn’t have anticipated in an earlier stage of life: I am becoming an old lady. Feared as the worst thing that can befall a woman, I’m experiencing it as anything but. First came invisibility. I can now run errands and nobody looks at me anymore. That fact does not touch my vanity. On the contrary, I have a newly-acquired superpower, slipping in and out of the grocery store, bank, and pharmacy looking like I haven’t bathed or done my hair in three days without anybody noticing. I wouldn't have had the guts to do that at 30. At 60, I'm together enough to not only do it but do it with a sincere twinkle in my eye and a bounce in my step. Not for others; they aren't looking. It's what happens when I feel truly liberated.
Living an authentic life
I’ll turn 61 in November; something changed in me a year ago when I turned 60 that is hard to explain. Little did I know that turning 60 would be like wandering into an ancient temple and accidentally triggering a mechanism that sets a chain reaction in motion. Similar to the temple in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but with a reverse outcome. Instead of getting skewered on a wall of spikes for daring to steal a religious relic, I felt a soft buzz in my head, a glimpse of timeless knowledge and more: an achievement, milestone, a passage to something so downplayed by the world I’ve lived in. Menopause is the final milestone for women to reach as acknowledged by convention, as though we drop off the edge of the earth after that. For many, that’s when an authentic life truly begins. My life is about what is important to me and no one else. By losing my babe-ness, my perceived desirability, I’m dying to that former self and being reborn. It sounds a little sad when I write it, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. It feels natural. What’s more, it feels like a lifetime achievement award just for hanging in there like I have, and for being lucky enough not to have been killed in traffic.
Age-related ills or MS?
Age also involves cell decay. At some point, the challenges of toting around a decaying bag of cells started catching up with the challenges of multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Nowadays when I think about what is plaguing me more, age-related ills or MS symptoms, I’m starting to have trouble distinguishing them. The remedies are often the same.
A love letter
This is my love letter to the crone I am becoming. Like an exquisite bottle of perfume, I am less about how I look, more about how my essence inhaled makes me feel lovely about myself, and my essence exhaled inspires others to experience me as a wonder of the world.
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?