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Chasing Cinderella

“You never know what’s around the corner.” This has been the motto I’ve repeated relentlessly these last few months to help get me through events I haven’t had the heart to share here, emotions I’m still trying (and most days failing) to unpack. It’s like one sucker punch after another, and I’m desperately trying to hold it all together as I try so hard to be there for the people I care about, even as I struggle to take care of myself.

For a while, I was actually doing okay. That’s what happens when you focus all your energy on the external, I guess. Maybe that’s what happens when you bury your own emotions down. Even as most of these events have affected me directly, I’ve kept myself distracted through focusing my concern on everyone else, running on nothing more than pure adrenaline. I keep pushing forward, forward, forward because life doesn’t stop just because you want it to, just because you need a break, a chance to breathe. I’m old enough by now to learn life doesn’t work like that. No… These last few years have taught me that nothing stops, and these past few months have been no exception. So I keep going, putting all that pain in the rear view mirror even as more uncertainty, more struggle, more more more smacks me right in the face.

Please don’t get me wrong. I want to be there for everyone—for the people I love, for the strangers seeking guidance… That’s who I am and, besides, that’s what love is all about. If I can help ease someone’s burdens, then I won’t hesitate for a single second to be at that person’s side or to answer an email or to do whatever it takes to make sure someone doesn’t have to face their pain alone. I’m there for them. I’m there for you. I will always gladly be there for each and every one of you.

That’s not what this is about.

What this is about is the fact that I’m just so tired. And every once in a while, there’s a part of me that wishes someone else would pick up my broken pieces, walk around with them for a while so I don’t have to carry their weight, maybe even mend them so that when I take them back, I don’t have to fight so hard to put it all back together on my own again. That’s what I want. Just for a day. An hour. A minute.

I guess I give off the impression that I don’t need help. I guess that comes from having a fiercely independent streak, a deep desire of wanting to be able to do it on my own. I clung to that sense of independence when I first got sick not out of pride, but out of determination. I wouldn’t succumb to this illness. Isolated and without purpose now that I could barely work, feeling scared and very much alone, my independence was all I had left, and I would be damned if this disease took that from me, too.

It served me well, that resolve. It led me here, changed me into someone stronger, and I’m grateful for that. I am.

But I’m tired of being strong. I don’t want to do it anymore. At least not now, not in this minute, not tonight. There’s no more pretending. I don’t have it in me.

You have to understand something. I was never the kind of girl who believed in princesses at the ball. When I played dress up as Cinderella, I was always pre-glass slipper. I even remember asking my grandma if I could wash her floors, to everyone’s amusement. She quickly got me a mop and rags and some soap water, and I happily hummed along and scrubbed the floor like the adorable little lunatic I was.

No, I didn’t believe in princes then. In all honesty, I still don’t—and that’s not even a testament to my love life, though it probably should be. I think I knew then that no prince would come and whisk me away, that no fairy godmother would make all my wishes come true, that no glass slipper would lead me to my happily ever after. I think that’s when I began to form the belief that it was hard work and hard work alone that would someday pay off and let me create a life for myself.

And so I’ve worked hard. I’ve strived to create a life for myself. What’s more, I’ve tried to create a life that can be of service to others. Which is why when I’m feeling defeated like this, it’s like a slap in the face to realize that no amount of hard work can save you from the harsh reality of illness and the loss that comes with it. What’s worse: no one is going to step in and save you, either.

My doctors didn’t save me when I was dying. I did that by finding a diagnosis and reaching out to a specialist myself. My employers didn’t save me when I was too weak to make it to work. I fought for disability and FMLA and then fought again to keep my dignity when my character was questioned.

I saved myself when I needed welfare benefits, filling out application after application even when my brain was barely functioning. I saved myself when I found myself staring over the edge of a parking garage—believing I would no longer be a burden on others, that I could finally be at peace from this disease—and didn’t jump. I’m saving myself now, when I’m struggling to save my house—this last vestige of my independence—by trying to build up my business and create a sustainable future for myself.

I choose to save myself every single day by the actions I take and the decisions I make. And I’m tired.

But there is no choice. Life is not a fairytale.

Instead, I can call it a blessing. Because yes, I save myself time and time again. But I never do it alone.

When I was searching for a diagnosis, my parents were right there beside me, driving me to every doctor visit. And when my employers couldn’t understand my disease, I had friends who were willing to learn. And when I found myself stepping towards peace the only way I knew how to find it, it was those thoughts of everyone I love—everyone who loves me—that made me take that step back.

My life has been a mix of hardships and blessings, of deep despair and beautiful triumphs, and that’s what I want to share with others. That’s why I want to be there for them, as they are there for me, no matter the sacrifice. This is the reason I keep pushing forward, no matter how tired or defeated or broken I feel.

A fairytale? No. Not quite. But maybe someday it can be something better. “You never know what’s around the corner.”

Maybe in the future I’ll find someone who will be willing to carry these broken pieces for a while—just for a while. I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, bask in this weightlessness, this joy I haven’t felt for so long, and then I’ll hold out my hand and ask for those pieces back before turning them into something useful, something beautiful, just as I’ve always done. Just as I'll always do. Because don’t you know? Didn’t you learn by now? I’m not Cinderella in this story at all.

Bippity. Boppity. Boo.

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