Skin

Grief, loss, and scary illness make holes in you and I don’t think some of them ever close up. They get smaller, maybe, if you’re lucky.

I think I’ve been expecting and waiting for healing and wow, it’s slow. Maybe when there are too many holes all at once, it just takes longer. Or I try to work on closing one hole while another, neglected, hangs gaping, leaking.

If you injure yourself badly enough, a surgeon may call for a graft to cover up that opening and let it heal beneath. I think I’ve done that to a fault – covering up. I say to a fault like it’s a bad thing, but maybe it’s not?

So I lay a sheet of skin over this hole and then stretch it a little thinner to cover that hole. Maybe the skin is just getting up and going to work. Maybe it’s smiling when I only want to cry. Fixing grilled salmon for supper when I want to wallow in frozen pizza rolls and mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s deciding to be happy for someone else – just… deciding until sincerity takes hold. A happiness graft.

I have to be in a safe place for these grafts to work and those holes to heal. I frequently don’t feel strong enough to face others in my current reality. I back out of classes and commitments more than I did before I got sick. When I was sick, I backed out of EVERYTHING with zero guilt. Now… I’m feeling some guilt.

Riding my bike is the best thing for me, hands down, all around, short-term, long-term, mental and physical health, and competition inspires me to Get After It !  But training takes time, time away from kids and others I care about, time away from speaking & writing gigs, from helping Dad at the cabin, time away from studying and making art and housework and the yard and and and AND AND!

Just this moment I got a passive aggressive text from Noah’s dad. It says “he is fine.” You know why I got that? Because I didn’t call Noah yesterday. He’s with his Dad while I’ve been on a 1-day work trip to Texas (home at midnight but yes, of course I could have called from a Texas or Illinois airport) and will be with him this weekend as I head south for the Dirty Kanza. “He is fine” is his dad’s little jibe; we both know it. I’m sure Noah is fine. School got out less than a week ago. If he’s even up out of bed, he’s happily eating cereal and playing the latest PSwhatever game system and probably doesn’t remember he has a mother right now.

Sigh.

Biking is my safe place, though I suffer more than ever from imposter syndrome these days. I’m slow, I’m fat, I quit when it hurts too much, I’m scared of loose gravel and descents, I don’t deserve to be here! Other people feel this way, right?

Funny, I was thinking recently that I don’t need to feel like such a LLOOOOOOSERRRR because I am pretty damn good at something else, that I have this other place where I belong because I have some success at speechwriting and public speaking. I knew at Camp DK I had speech competitions coming up and would be, once again, with Toastmasters, among people I admire and respect who respect me too, a place I feel welcome and safe. Yes, there were a few individuals, one shiny bitch in particular, who seemed actively dedicated to doing me ill, but they were the exception, not the rule. But sometimes the communities that seem the most benign hide crocodiles under the water. I’m going to call it PTSD because a therapist did, though I shudder to compare myself to a combat soldier. PTSD for me means I find myself no longer emotionally safe and I freeze and panic and sweat, I lose sleep and cry and my mind goes blank. I was shocked and shaken to learn that’s become true in Toastmasters.

Listen, I know I’m not the person I used to be. I have lost too much, opened too many holes, and as I’m slapping skin over them and stuffing distractions or martinis and pizza rolls into them, you can raise your eyebrows all you want about “emotionally safe” and whether you think that’s a real thing. But I am telling you, I am trying to survive here. It’s terrible that a few people or a person ruins an experience that should be an open and welcoming place for all, but I am just not strong enough to take it. I’ll stay on with the club for awhile, but no way am I ripping open holes to return to district level anything. So there you go, I’m calling it: I won’t be competing for the World Championship in Paris in 2020. Y’all go get it.

So, biking it is. Biking gravel, where I’ve literally left skin in the game, er, on the ground. And speaking of that, I’m late for Emporia where I am more welcome and loved crossing that finish line DFL – Dead Fucking Last – than I am holding a first place trophy in Toastmasters.

And I can freaking call my kid on the drive.

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