I am the girl with the twisted spine. The girl with the chronic pain. The girl with the five spinal surgeries to her name.
Or at least I was in the past. When your body undergoes that sort of augmentation at a young age, it becomes a very defining part of you. Ironic, because you want to be anything but what everyone else says you are. You beat your fists on the ground and declare that you are so much more than just a walking medical disaster. Notice me. See that I am something else. But people don’t, because more often than not we are limited in how much information we can take in about other people. He has brown eyes and is a fan of the Mets. She loves red shoes and Eminem. Facts obtained; initiating mental image of person. She is the girl with the wonky spine. Image Obtained.
When I started going to the Chronic Pain Centre, it was as much about learning to master my pain as it was to find a way to define myself in a way that went beyond my pain. Who was I, if not the girl with the 17 inch scar? I don’t know if I ever figured it out, but I left those group therapy meetings realizing that for all the times I have been defined by others as the smarmy, sarcastic girl with severe scoliosis, I kept them at bay by throwing my love into something else.
I am the girl who games. I am the girl who sings. I am the girl who loves to read.
It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any room in their interpretations of me to know more. Others could, and can, know me as Sergeant Scoliosis, while I continued to craft a deeply personal and vivid image of myself as something, not other than that, but something along side that. Because there is not point in denying such a monumental part of yourself. You do not exist in spite of, or because of, but you simply exist, and that is just another aspect of yourself that you must content with on the both the good and bad days.
I guess I wasn’t content with that. I knew I was more than my health issues, but they have always overwhelmed all the other bits and pieces. But then the other day something amazing happened.
I finished editing.
I started writing The Code around the same time I was diagnosed with scoliosis. It was a means to distract myself, I suppose, or just to do something because suddenly I couldn’t do a lot of things I enjoyed. I could have stopped at any point, I’m sure, but I didn’t. As I grew up, the story grew with me, and somewhere along the way I stopped being just The Girl with That Spine to The Girl with That Spine Who Writes Way Too Much.
I loved it. I always had a notebook with me at every family occasion while my cousins and uncles pestered me about what I was writing. Explosions I would tell them, or Spies, because it seemed easier to sum it up with a single word than face the embarrassment of trying to explain how intricate my story was. It was something so very different from me, from the personality that had developed over the years. I didn’t want anyone to think poorly of me.
And two days ago I finished it.
It will never be done, not really. There are a half a dozen different things I would still change if I could, but two months ago I made up my mind that if I didn’t put a stop to it, I would never be done, never feel like I could move on to the next story, the next idea. I made a promise to myself that when I finished my giant list of edits, that would be it. It had to be it.
And I finished them.
It was crazy. In one day I went from 65 items to 0. I guess I was inspired. But here’s the problem. I feel like I’ve lost a piece of my identity all of a sudden, as if the last thirteen years I’ve spent writing, developing, crafting this one story are suddenly erased and I’m back to the Girl with that Spine, Holy Hell What is Wrong With Her?
Go to the next book, they said, keep writing. I can, I should. Now I’m sitting around for beta readers to get back to me and I feel like I’m lost. Yesterday I Lysol’d the entire condo because it hadn’t been done in weeks. I took out flip cards, made notes, tried to write, but I just wasn’t compelled to do it.
But I don’t want to go back to being That Problematic-Vertebrae Girl. I want to always be The Girl Who Wrote Too Much. I like that identity. It fits me so much better, especially these days. Maybe I just need some time off from The Code, from Natalia and her misadventures, her terrorists and bullets and agony. Or maybe it’s because somewhere in the midst of all this rewriting and editing I learned to deal with my own problems, with who I am. I no longer identify with the girl who started this project thirteen years ago. I suppose as I grow up, so much Natalia. The thing is, I know she’s a different person now, and I’m not sure which way she is heading.