A few months ago I had to put a writing project on pause.
It was going to be an essay about my first year with an undiagnosed pain and fatigue disease. In my head I had named it the year everything almost fell apart. Everything was in tatters, held together with the barest of threads. I felt like, in our little family, that I held all of our lives in my arms, while my body felt like it was literally being ripped limb from limb. My boys were just four and one, and on the heels of the recession my husband was traveling internationally almost every week-making sure to do everything that was asked of him so he could never be seen as expendable.
I paused my writing because I suddenly didn’t have the distance I needed to delve back into that year. A new undiagnosed problem began taking over, and emotionally I didn’t think I could relive “The Year Everything Almost Fell Apart” in real time and in retrospect all at once. I am still undiagnosed, but thankfully have started to be able to manage the problem so that I can get back to normal life.
And the story has started knocking on my door again. It won’t leave me be. The year, the whole year, wants to have its story told. Every time I try to divert my attention to something lighter, something fun or frivolous or at least shinier and less tattered, the year comes back. It looks at me the way my oldest son did at the time, wide eyes, furrowed brow, sadness that shouldn’t weigh down such tiny shoulders, asking me to make sense of everything. To please put life back in order, to explain why and how things went wrong and how to fix them. I couldn’t for him then, but the year is asking me to please do so now, to make amends for failing him.
These are my notebooks from that year. Each post-it note is flagging a journal entry with a clue to my illness. The pages in-between are my journal entries describing the different colors suffering took for each of us, the way thirty-year-olds and four-year-olds and one-year-olds process fear and uncertainty and sadness and anger. It’s time to read them again. It is time to try to tell the story of a year in a few thousand words, so that it can be put on a shelf, ordered and meaningful and done. This will take time, but what choice do I have? The year won’t let me be.