When I first got sick I fought to remain in work.
My hobbies had disappeared, evaporating like some rain puddle in spring. My social life took a plunge and my ridiculous pride at keeping a tidy home lay strewn across my kitchen floor.
Every label I had once allowed myself to own was lost. Every label bar one, Employee. And my gosh I fought to keep it, I fought for months.
This society of ours is constantly trying to mould us. There are adverts telling us the products we should buy, pictures showing us what we should look like and then there are the labels. Post its that define us. Wife, sister, runner, employee, home owner, an endless list of nouns supposed to prove who I am.
I clung to that last remaining label, employee, until my brain was floored, my body beyond broken and the tank beyond empty. I no longer had the choice to push and get sicker, I was done for. It was time to throw my hands up in defeat.
Doing so wasn’t easy. My husband and I have a mortgage to pay, we are in the middle of a recession but the biggest challenge I faced was losing that last label, my last link to my past. It was as if the world was suddenly throwing down its binoculars. I had nothing left to offer it. It was done with me.
The labels passed through life’s shredder. Everything was gone.
Yet, standing naked in front of my mirror of truth I realised this string of words I’d used to define me, could in fact be used to describe millions of people. The post its I’d spent my life accumulating meant nothing.
They were simply a string of random words my life had chanced upon, they weren’t me. They didn’t define me, they didn’t even try to describe who I am.
I knew the outside world looking in thought I was an ME patient, cut off from her past. But what did I think? After all, what everyone thinks really doesn’t matter. At the end of each day it’s me I lie beside in bed, it’s me who must confess and question “did I live today as me?”
So having ditched the labels I’ve since refused to be labelled. Sure the world can label me, they can call me as they wish but I don’t have to accept those labels. Just as I don’t buy into marketing campaigns or dress sizes or fad diets.
Living can be as complicated as we make it. Luckily I need simplicity in my life and so living to me is breathing.
Breathing in the sunlight, the birds, the trees, the fields. Watching the colours change as each season falls in. Smelling summer rain, touching winter snow, standing under budding trees of spring and watching autumn sunsets closing in.
We humans can be incredibly egotistical! To think I had to get sick to realise just how small of a paper clip I am in this vast, vast universe.
As for that question, who am I? I’m a woman in love with life, in love with people, in love with nature. I’m acutely aware of my tiny microscopic footprint, a print that will someday be left behind, hidden in the long grasses of this earth.