When people ask me what I “did” before my accident, the quick version is that I was a photographer, graphic designer, dancer, artist. Faces drop and the conversation usually drifts to my recovery and how great I look.
I am rarely asked about who I was, and how my life, much less my outlook on my life, have changed since I became a prisoner to CRPS.
Here’s just a quick bulleted list of the types of things I did that represented who I used to be.
- I wore a funny outfit and marched (danced) down Broadway in New York City’s annual Dance Parade. I was thrilled to be chosen to carry the banner for my favorite pointe shoe maker (Grishko). This parade was about two weeks before my accident (This photo makes me cry. I stare at my right foot, pointed straight ahead, stomping with a confident, unsuspecting stride).
- I used to love going on long bike rides in the mountains. I only recently joined Strava to keep track of my activity. And so, all that remains of the routes of my days spent riding hundreds of miles are two screenshots of screenshots of one metric century ride I rode in Reno back in 2009. 101.5 km, 4379 ft. of climbing. This is just one blurry example, but I suppose it will have to be enough to get my point across.
- I used to take flying trapeze lessons. This is a video of the first time I did my one-handed take-off. I practiced first before executing it with a catcher.
For some reason, I can’t find any videos of my trapezing when I had a catcher. It happened though. See?
- I traveled to the Republic of Macedonia on a press trip. I secretly, but intentionally, followed steps taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1986 when he was invited to Struga’s annual poetry event. I went to Struga. I found his plaque.
I even found the cafe in Skopje where he, as legend has it, emphatically stood upon a table and recited his poetry. I talked to the owner of our tour company about the possibility of an exhibition in the cafe of my photographs that I had taken during my trip. He delighted in the possibility and we started planning. Less than nine months later, I had my accident.
- I used to jump and do acrobatic tricks at the beach. Yeah, no, really. It was a thing I did.
… … … … … … … …
I… I can’t.
I’ve been working on this post for almost a year. I can’t keep working on it. I can’t keep it any longer in my drafts folder. I could go on and on and on about all of the wonderfully happy and fun things I did in my every day life prior to CRPS. I can keep inserting photos from trips I went on. Videos of fun things I did. It would never end because every day of my life was an adventure. I was able to make choices. I was able to choose to find the means to pursue anything and everything that would make me happy.
But now (as I’m trying and trying and trying to simply fucking finish this stupid post), I can’t help but look back on such happiness, such freedom, and become overwhelmed by grief. I’m sobbing as I type this now (inclusive of guttural utterances and an uncontrollably oozing face).
I used to love my life. And it was all taken away from me. And I fight every day to cling to the tiniest scraps of what is left of myself.
And I guess that’s all I really need to tell you about it.
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again…
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in…
It is so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun…
Look, a new day has begun