Last week I led my friend’s life. I stepped into her shoes, a different size than mine, and tried not to stumble. I remember organizing help, living communally, keeping people safe, sleeping little, balancing needs, opening to sorrow and joy, breathing in suspension, holding tight, and letting go. I cared for her special-needs child. She regularly does all these things, with grace. I did it for one week, clumsily, while she lived through other crises of life and death.
No longer did normal things matter, like whether I’d eaten, put on deodorant, or brushed my hair. I was happy to brush my teeth. To be honest, I had moments of self consciousness (“What did I smell like?!”), but mostly not. I was too tired and too focused to care. It was a gift, this sense of freedom. Freedom from my ego and my insecurities (well, mostly). I was also challenged. The line between things that didn’t matter and true needs blurred. I neglected to eat and then crashed. I didn’t take a break when I really needed one.
This experience was like a bubble: fragile, beautiful, sticky, and short-lived. After the crises passed, I slowly laced up my own sneakers. I began to process what I felt. I walked back to my life. My friend returned to her daily, daunting routine.
I write now, frantically, in my journal. I rage at an unfair world. I express thanks for my life’s blessings. I sit, numb. I try to write something else, something more coherent. The writing helps me decide what to keep from this experience and what to release. I know my friend keeps a journal. I hope that she finds the time to write.
--Stephanie W., for the Poplar Grove Muse