By Lauren Randall
I spend most of my time dreaming. The most gratifying vision I have is of life on pause. I dream of the world completely stopping for everyone other than me. What will I do in this static world?
Sleep. I will sleep. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I dream that this sleep will take away everything: the fatigue, pain, neurological damage and every ‘red herring’ that cannot be quantified by the medical community.
I will wake to my ‘old body,’ my teenage body, the one I so shamelessly took for granted. The body I binged and purged from out of hate, the body surreptitiously stuck on the other side of the glass.
I didn’t think much about chronically ill people back then. I never wondered about their nostalgia for health, that intense pining their imagination could make so palpable.
For them, life could be this immensely beautiful view through a cracked and clouded windshield; every day spent futilely trying to clean it off from the inside. Despite the irrefutable knowledge that all that shit is just out of reach, the thought of doing nothing from the other side of the glass likely felt even more deceptively tragic.
I do that a lot. I refer to ‘them’ without including myself. I try to clean the glass from the inside knowing it will never fully penetrate the brown decrepit haze. I am enlightened enough to know that real acceptance –seeing beauty within the cracks and dirt– is where true healing and happiness will lie for me. But I cannot escape the fight, the quest to see the entire scene. Sometimes that makes me feel beautifully hopeful, sometimes that makes me feel like I am wasting what is left.
So maybe my life is just one big hopeful pause. At least that’s how eight years of treatment feels sometimes, living amidst the extreme pain and lunacy of my own body defying me from every angle. The only thing that keeps me going is the idea that one day it will stop, and I don’t know if that means gasping my last breath or my first.
Between the yoga, meditation, alternative medicine, food cleanses, traditional medications, homeopathic drops, a whole-food ‘life-style,’ (drinking green algae while my friends took shots in our college house), taking barium during lectures for CAT scans between classes –you’d think somewhere in there I would have found some sort of constant Zen–.
But, I’m still mad as hell. I still feel as if I somehow have a right to a healthy life for all the time and energy I’ve put into that dream. Hands red, calloused and tingling, I can’t stop trying to clean this fucking windshield.
Upon proper diagnosis, treatment began as a 24-hour job, all-hands-on-deck. Gradually, year over year, I began to insert life into the picture. I lost the ability to read for a while, but slowly I integrated writing and books into my day.
Here I am, eight years later, almost passable as a human being. But to me, it’s not clear enough; it’s not what I wanted.
Pills start at 3 a.m., my boyfriend wakes me up to make sure I take them. Every hour on the hour I take another couple, until the alarm sounds for work. I put on my French make-up, J-crew pencil skirt, cheetah-print Italian heels and a white Ralph Lauren Oxford. I look like something right out of the catalogue, complete with my black nerd glasses and French bun.
I drive through Innovation Drive, climbing the elevator to the top, security key-card in hand, saluting the receptionist as I head into the “Sales Pit.”
“Own It,” “Push Yourself,” “Never Give Up,” plaques covering the wall on the way to my 4×5 cubicle. After topping the sales chart consistently for the past 12 months, I’d say I embody the company’s vision.
For years I dreamt about being here, being this person, the put-together professional woman. I dreamed of moving from my parents’ home, being able to assist in all the medical bills, finding a way to dig myself out of the student debt and finally graduate.
Here I am, on the other side, making $80,000 in an entry-level position. So why can’t I help but feel like the cold, sticky, burnt remnants of day-old coffee in my company cup?
I cannot help but feel like an imposter, a seemingly loyal appendage to the logo that is already betrothed to another.
That’s when the dreams flood in again. The sleep. If I just lie down, if I rest, if I do this cleanse, if I do this diet, if I pay this $700 to this specialist, if I just…push…pause.
But I can’t, I can’t find that space, that time. I cannot be the sick girl, the professional girl, the dedicated health guru; time and life doesn’t allow for it all to exist on the same plane. They all want something from me, my disease wants to keep holding me hostage, my mind wants me to put everything into getting better and my job wants my complete and utter dedication to the company goal.
But, stop it… I’m lucky, right? I can pay the bills, see the doctors I couldn’t afford, buy the medication I used to toss onto my financially struggling parents. “I’m lucky!” I say, as I sit in my cubicle watching the trees blow by… watching the trees beyond this spotless UV penetrating corporate glass.
I am lucky. But I am still in here, while life is out there. I’m still cleaning this glass, this fucking partitioning spot-filled glass… and I can’t seem to give up on the idea that it will all somehow come clean.
Lauren Randall is a journalism-major-turned-sales-rep and a relentless pursuer of beauty.