Anna sits at the kitchen table, a Wonder Woman coffee cup in hand. No sugar. She can’t have the taste of sweetness anymore. She swirls the coffee in the cup and observes the tiny whirlpool she’s created. The black coffee is bitter, like her mood.
Deep down in her core, hidden beneath all the positivity and strength she has shown, is a ball of frustration, threatening to erupt. Until now, she has refused to truly accept the gravity of her situation, but the window for denial is swiftly closing. She feels the unmistakable truth deep in her gut, and it stings.
Things will never be the same.
She hears her daughter’s lazy footsteps on the stairs and instinctively takes a huge gulp from her cup, preparing for the quiet of the early morning hours to cease. She sets the cup down, fighting hard to enjoy the bland taste, and catches a glimpse of the words printed on its side in bold yellow letters. Strongest Woman Alive. Yeah, right. She laughs to herself. If only.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” she chirps to her daughter, pushing herself up from the chair to greet her. And there it is–the familiar twinge of pain, as her back and left leg rebel against her. Muscles. Nerves. Everything is angry. She remembers when the simple act of standing wasn’t a battle.
The girl responds with a grunt and plops herself onto the couch, pulling her favorite blanket over her. The puppy jumps up to join ‘his’ girl, and they settle in to a morning cuddle session. Anna looks down at her first child, snuggled in with that pup, and her heart is full– full of love…and full of fear. What if she can’t be the same kind of mom now? What will these sweet babies have to give up because Mommy ‘can’t do’.
Disabled. The word looms over her.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?” the girl calls from her cocoon, a tinge of alarm on her seven year old face.
Anna curses her expressive face. Everything shows.
“Oh, nothing really.” Anna says, sitting beside her, teasing. “I just haven’t gotten a hug and a kiss from my favorite girl this morning.”
With a giggle, the girl’s arms reach around her mother’s neck in seconds. Anna holds her close, breathing in the scent of her hair, feeling her breath go in and out, missing the ability to lift her like before. She’s getting so big.
The girl pulls back, with a smile, ready to give her Mommy a big kiss, but the puppy wins the race. He licks Anna’s face repeatedly, a collection of slobbery puppy kisses, and they break into a chorus of laughter.
A door creaks open, and a sleepy little brother drags into the room, certainly not wanting to miss anything. He climbs up beside Anna and gently lays his head in her lap, aware of the need to be careful. She runs her fingers through his hair as he attempts to fully wake up. God, she loves these children. More than anything, she just wants to be there for them.
It doesn’t take long for the kids to make a plan of action and set off to the playroom for big adventures. The puppy follows closely, on their heels, hoping to get a bite of a stray toy, but they are on to him and his shenanigans. The door shuts in his face. Foiled again! He sits a moment, pouting, then makes his way back to Anna on the couch.
He hops up and settles onto the attached cushions on back, and Anna decides to lie down for a moment too. She positions a pillow and stretches out into a position her Physical Therapist showed her, to help relieve pain. The small pup, full of fluff, looks down at her, from his roost, his big eyes searching and trying to understand what she’s doing.
She laughs again, pats his head a few times, and he is appeased. He soon nods off, in his favorite spot for napping. Anna closes her eyes too. Her leg is numb, and the nerve pain pulses through it like electric shocks. She closes her eyes. Some days the nerve meds just don’t seem to help.
The internal turmoil circles in her mind, refusing to let her relax. So, she concedes defeat and returns to the table. Her back shrieks in disapproval, but she pushes through, like she has become accustomed to doing.
She examines the application before her, a form for acquiring a disability placard. She stomachs a swallow of the now-cold coffee and picks up a pen. The doctors have done their part, now she has to do hers. Time to accept reality for what it is.
For over a year, she has been telling herself that things would get back to the ‘normal’ she once knew.
If she just stayed positive…
If she just kept doing what she was supposed to…
If she was just strong enough…
Now, she understands that this is her normal. A new normal. A remodeling, of sorts. Not a demotion. Not a ‘less than’ version. Just something different.
Life. Will. Be. Different. Always.
But that is okay.
She makes an oath to herself to always remember that ‘different’ is not ‘bad’.
Stepping into the ‘unknown’, even being thrown there unexpectedly by powers beyond our control, is not ‘bad’.
Everything will be ok, just as it is. Time to adjust.
She will own this.