On Friday it was seven years since I first became sick.
These are my reflections on the lessons I have learned.
Tell them all I know now
Shout it from the roof tops
Write it on the sky line
All we had is gone now
Tell them I was happy
And my heart is broken
All my scars are open
Tell them what I hoped would be
Maybe if I had stopped. If I had just taken a moment out of my day. I had thirteen years of them, after all. Perhaps if I had knelt at my bed and sent my thanks to my God of first assignments and awkwardly drawn eyeliner. I could have kept a journal, listed my faults methodically and apologetically, even if I never really meant them at the time. I could have been as convincing as the morning’s first sunshine, and all would trust in me, and me in them.
But I didn’t.
It’s been seven years now. I have stopped wishing for a cure.
I just wish that you could learn from me.
Learn from me before you tempt the God’s.
Maybe then you will never have to be like me.
Seven sins for seven deaths. Seven deaths for seven years, and seven years for seven sins. I committed them all, and in turn I was committed for an eternity. I plead my case, bargained and denied. They couldn’t do this to me, for I was just a child. But hell is without a children’s court, and I was without a God in mine. My hands are open, my bones laid bare, but it is too little too many years late.
I get it now. Finally, I understand.
But I know you don’t. And it is for you that I weep.
Too much strut and too little humility. Herein lies your first mistake. You are red to bull, flag to enemy and taunt to tiger. There was once a time that I too was lost in my own sense of accomplishment. I was blonde on brain and brain on legs. Both my pins and intellect seemed to stretch into forever, and I was acutely aware of both. My collarbones screamed of the knowledge that I was one of the beautiful people, and I fussed over makeup brushes just as others fussed over me.
I never stopped to imagine a world in which blonde can malt, brain can waste and leg can rot. It took a wheelchair to make me understand. The sense of self importance, the knowledge of superiority, vanity, it has no place when you are dying. Daddy always told me that there was no point in being the most famous man in the cemetery. Finally, I understood.
This is the green which sinks like stone in the pit of your belly. You feel heat upon your cheeks, and find fault in all those you should not. I thought I appreciated it, truly. The girls with breasts who featured later in the alphabet. The Ipods which held more memory than my own, the sibling who seemed to never be in trouble, and the trips to Paris which were not to be mine.
I thought I understood.
And then I couldn’t walk. And my Mummy had to bathe me. And my Daddy had to feed me. There was to be no walking, and there was to be no removing my own knickers. There would be no parties, no first kisses, no debutante, no watching my friends grow to be old and no cutting up my own dinner.
It is only now that I understand envy.
And sometimes I think I may just be the most envious person in the world.
Even young children understand the concept of anger. Red faces, short sentences, raised voices and cutting words. I understood it better than most; I was a thirteen year old girl after all. Few things were fair, and how I cried about them all.
And I know that you are the same. You shout when you are cut off in traffic, and cry when you are reprimanded in the office. Public transport is too slow, Centrelink cuts you off, your plane is delayed and your boyfriend left his towel on the bathroom floor again.
Now I am angry. Most of all, I am angry at you. I wonder if you kno; I wonder if you know what true anger is.
Anger is when you lose the use of your legs at fifteen. Anger is being told you are going to die at sixteen. Anger is when you lay haemoragghing on the toilet floor, while your Daddy tries to clean you up. Anger is when your little brother asks if you need to be put down, and anger is when you are watching your best friends dying in front of you as the government announces the latest health cuts.
Few things make me as angry as knowing that you have no idea what anger is.
I was too young to ever become aware of the powers of lust, the craving of the pleasures of the body. Boys were boys and girls were girls. But you are not too young; you understand. Men are men, and women are women. Men fuck, women fuck, each of you fuck. And yet rarely do you appreciate it as more than a high five to a mate, a love heart in the diary, another accomplishment of spittle to flesh. You screw and you cheat, you objectify and you arch in the heat.
Take a breath. Take a moment. Kiss. Meet lip to lip, and hip to hip. It doesn’t matter whether it be man and woman, man upon man, or woman within woman. This remains irrelevant. What matters is that it matters. Feel each breath, hear each whisper, pull your lover closer, and see that they are beautiful.
Take a moment to appreciate just how beautiful bodies can feel.
Because sometimes they can feel like mine.
And you will never make love the same again.
Wealth does not lie within the banks, nor your pocket or the piggy box that you have resting upon your bedside table. And yet you strive for it all the same. I wanted it too, of course I did. The $7 for the DVD I never needed to hire. The $70 for the Roxy school bag that I had to have, decidedly oblivious to the staircase of bills laying upon my parents chests. The $700 for the Christmas and Birthday gifts received expectantly, without much great appreciation.
And then there was the $7000 my parents have spent on my medications. The $700 for the MRI’s. The $70 for one script to keep me going a month longer. The $7 spent on coffee each day at the hospital, as my Mum and Dad take turns in shifts, passing ships in the night.
If we were to pile up each cushion from the couches, each splinter of wood from the dining table and every fabric from the clothing hanging in our cupboards, it wouldn’t be enough to stop the noose threatening to hang my own neck.
Money cannot buy miracles.
And now the seven million dollar question;
How much do you have to lose before you realise how rich you really are?
They tell me I was thirteen, to wipe away my tears, I did as much as I could have. But I could have done more. It’s only when it’s too late that we realise we always could have done more. Why did I laze away in front of the computer screen? Why didn’t I swim in just one more lake? Why did I never run along the earth’s edges? And why did I assume that I still had forever?
I dream of running. It is relentless, the cruellest of nightmares. For hours each evening I am free to be just like you. Left foot, right foot, left foot. I run into forever, and I am always running in the dark. I guess it’s no different to what I was doing all those years ago, running blindly and assuming that I would never trip.
And I wonder if you will tell me what it’s like to run.
To be content isn’t to resign yourself to something a little less. Dreams are not curbed, ambitions forgotten simply because you find your peace in what you already have. But of course we stretch for more than what we ever needed. It’s never going to be enough. All the money in the world will fail to make you rich, all the lovers will leave you unsatisfied and you will continue to demand more. You are deserving, it is your right, your entitlement.
I used to deserve more too. More attention, more pocket money, more clothes and more recognition. The world owed me, this I was sure of, and no matter what I was handed, I forever stretched out my hands demanding more.
The world owes me nothing. Health, life, independence, dignity and freedom are all without my name written upon them. You will be surprised to know that your names are not written upon there either.
Recently I was asked what I wanted for my twenty first birthday, and I told them nothing. They didn’t understand, they couldn’t. There is nothing more that I need.
I can walk most days. I can breathe on my own. I have my family and my pets. I can study part time. The rest of it doesn’t matter.
Finally, I have enough.
On Friday I marked my seventh year. Seven years of seven sins for seven deaths for seven sins. I did not weep, and I did not cry. I ran out of tears a long time ago. It was a week of more heart breaking scan results, more tablets, more prescriptions and more betrayals of my own flesh.
For the first time in my life on Friday, I attended Church. I smiled at the light dancing through painted windows, the smiles that I received from strangers and the smiles that I sent in return. I caught sight of grieving widows, women grieving lost limbs and men grieving childhoods lost in that very same church. I took some peace in knowing that I was not the only person left to reflect on the lessons they wished they had never learnt.
Finally, I listened as the white cloak instructed prayer for the sick.
And I smiled in the knowledge that I never needed to be prayed for.
Over seven years I have come to understand that which is referred to as the seven deadly sins. They are only deadly when you fail to appreciate their true meaning. Gluttony, greed, pride, envy, lust, anger, sloth; I understand them all now in a way I wish I never had to. They are sins only in the sense that I had failed to truly understand them.
But there is always good and evil, sickness and health, love and hate. And for each of these sins there are seven virtues, of which I am reminded every single day.
The faith in which I place in the doctors and nurses who continue to dedicate themselves to saving my life, and the beauty which they show me throughout. The charity which I have run to support teenage girls fighting serious illness, and the hours of which I dedicate to them knowing that good can always come from evil. The fortitude and strength which comes from tragedy, and which my family and friends remind me of with every breath. The justice which is my life, and the knowledge that nothing was ever meant to be fair. The temperance granted to me only when I lost all control. The prudence and caution that I have learnt to value, only once I appreciated the finiteness of life.
And finally, hope. The hope that I will continue to see the beauty in my life every single day, and the hope that I will never forget just how lucky I am.
Seven is the lucky number, after all.