I watched as Nikki slowly pushed Marty up the hall to brush her teeth. The feeling started slowly, but surely and quickly I felt a real sense of sadness fall over me and grip my mind as I watched them walk by while I loaded the dishwasher. It took a tick of the clock for me to recognize the feeling and just a few ticks longer to understand why it hit me so suddenly.
I see Marty differently on different days , at different times and different situations. Sometimes that seeing, that vision is filled with joy; sometimes that vision is filled with a tangible sadness and regret.
There are days when I see the new Marty, the Marty of the strokes, juxtaposed with the old Marty, the psychologist, wise-cracking do anything and everything Marty.
There are times when I see her and immediately remember what was, what she was, what has been lost. There are moments when I see Marty staring blankly as she is ushered from one room to another and I am flooded with how contrary to her nature this simple act of being moved was to her overall personality.
It makes me think how the old Marty would have hated, literally hated, being moved from place to place, unless she was directing the movement. There are times when I see a flash of old Marty, especially when she asks someone to do something like “scratch”, as in her back. But for the most part, the new Marty is very quiet and agreeable to anything without complaint.
Marty was not a quiet person, she was not compliant; she was not what most objective people would call cooperative. She was maybe the world’s lousiest patient. She didn’t listen to nurses, doctors, friends or husband. I take that back, she listened, impatiently, and then did what she damn well wanted to do in the first place. She was not directed, she was not ushered, she marched to her own beat and pace and more often than not, that beat and pace was contrary to conventional thought and wisdom.
I’m not sure why I would ever be sad at this? As a compulsive people pleaser and obsessive rule-follower Marty’s contrarian persona drove me nuts. I was the one pushing for compliance; she was the one saying, “No, not me, you can do it that way if you feel like you have to.” When I am confronted with what used to be, sometimes it hurts my heart; sometimes it fills me with regret, sometimes I can literally feel the sadness grip my body like a tight glove.
Most days I see Marty as she is today. Most times I watch as Marty is pushed down the hall and I see her “new normal”. I see a woman who is alive, I see a woman who has survived the unsurvivable. Most moments I marvel at the woman Marty has become and how she has adapted to her new world and new life, I see a woman who has accepted her new life with grace and courage and as much dignity one can have when you have lost all of your privacy.
Those times when I see Marty not as yesterday’s Marty, but today’s Marty I feel happiness that we are still together, I feel pride in what we have weathered and confidence in our immediate future. When I see Marty for who she is, not for what I remember she was, I am able to find contentment in our new life.
This contentment may seem a bit incongruent, but it is reality and in a funny way it makes sense. When any of us accept our changing lives, our natural evolution, it makes life better.
Marty is not the only one who has changed, Marty is not the only one who has adapted to her new normal, our new life. I’ve changed too, a lot, and frankly, mostly for the good. On the whole I’ve grown, I’ve become more accepting, I live more and enjoy life more in the moment, I’m much more tolerant (okay, NOT).
It just goes to show you that change is all around all of us and that part of our change, part of our path to contentment, is to try and influence those changes and then accept and adapt to them in a way that allows us to continue to grow and mature. In the back of my mind I can still hear Marty saying we have to live, love and embrace change and growth. In her own way she is saying those more powerfully than ever.