By Stacey Philpot
I’ve long since considered myself defective. I picture my body as something purchased from the bottom of a clearance bin at your local Dollar Store. Somewhat like the twenty-five-cent toy you buy your child as a form of bribery to get them quietly through the check-out line, knowing full well it will break into a thousand tiny pieces before it’s fully out of the packaging.
Even worse, the clearance toy will surely have some sort of siren or alarm that goes off mysteriously at all times of the night for no reason, even after all of the batteries have been removed and it’s been crushed into tiny bits. Is it possessed? Quite possibly. Even after having been thrown away several times it keeps making its way back into the house.
I didn’t realize I viewed my body this way until a less than enjoyable run-in with a perfectly lovely ex-boyfriend a few months ago. I knew he lived in town. He’s married to a stunner. They have a lovely life. I’m married to a NASA all-star. I’d say we’ve both done pretty well. We don’t keep in touch, but I have nothing but positive feelings towards him.
On this particular morning, I was having a terrible RA flare and was only a couple of days post IVIG infusion. Thus, I looked and felt like death. My family and I rolled into the handicapped section, looking for a space closest to the door. Walking was excruciating and getting up the stairs and into the building would be arduous, to say the least.
My head was pounding and it was one of those “throw some dry shampoo in your hair and hope you don’t see anyone you know” days. Murphy’s Law dictates you will see everyone you have ever known on these days, which was, of course, the case.
There he was, fully functional, exiting his non-handicapped vehicle. A shot of shame a mile wide flew through my heart. I realized he’d never seen “this me.” Had he heard I was defective now? Did he kiss his wife at night and tell her how glad he was she wasn’t defective? He glanced over at me, recognition washing over his face. Neither of us offered a greeting as I struggled up the stairs.
I then proceeded to enter a bathroom stall and let hot tears wash my face. “I used to be beautiful,” I thought.
I processed the events of that day for weeks, the pain of coming face to face for the first time with people who knew you “before.” Beneath that, I wrestled with the fear my husband might feel he’d gotten a raw deal. While this other man has dodged the bullet, he’s gotten stuck with me. I pondered this deeply.
One night while I was harassing my husband to bring food and prescriptions I said, “I’m sorry I’m such a pain in the arse.” He turned and looked at me intently, the corners of his eyes wet and said, “You are never a pain in the arse. It is my joy to serve you.” I gave a little push back because the moment was too tender.
Once he’d left to retrieve sustenance and medications, I lay across the bed and wailed. In that moment it became clear to me, love is fabulous and blind. Never once had my husband looked at me and seen me as defective. In his eyes, I was a prize. Chronic illness, rare disease, they didn’t make him want to take my batteries out or throw me out with the rubbish.
“So this is what love is,” I thought. What magical, healing powers it has. Now, I see myself through his eyes. Not defective, but different. Not defective, but defiant.
May we all be loved so well. And if you find any good deals in the clearance bin, would you let me know?
Stacey is an author, goofball and avid reader. You can find her blog at chronicallywhole.com where she endeavors to encourage other warriors like herself along in their journey of battling for health and discovering wholeness. She is mom to Hayden and Avery, stepmom to Julie and wife to Ryan (a smarty pants who works at NASA and logs their whole life on spreadsheets and pie charts, true story!) She has a strange affinity for eating whole meals in bed (don’t tell anyone) and is convinced smelling old books will make her smarter.