Breath & Shadow
Summer 2021 - Vol. 18, Issue 3
"Lost and Found"
I lost my teaching career. Teaching was more than my job; it was my passion. My identity. However, the pain and fatigue from my autoimmune disease (Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease) made it necessary for me to “retire due to a disability.”
I found my second career, as a writer. Since I was no longer teaching full-time, I could write full-time. Personal essays I submit to literary journals and anthologies. Blog posts for my personal website.
Assignments as a regularly contributing writer for a popular family-oriented website, Momsla.com.
I lost the convenience and nonchalance of yearly doctors’ appointments. When I saw my primary care physician for a general check-up. We exchanged pleasantries, commented on each other’s clogs, and I was on my way.
I found the busyness and the time-intensive drain that comes from seeing multiple doctors, multiple times, throughout the year. But I also found writing material. Because while I’m sitting in a reception area or waiting in an exam room, I am observing. Sometimes, what I experience, what I notice, what I overhear, becomes material for my personal essays.
I lost the pleasure of gardening without worry. Without concern for how long I had been outside. Without fear that once I plop down onto the ground to pull weeds, I’ll have difficulty getting back up.
I found pleasure in gardening in smaller chunks. Smaller tasks in smaller bursts of time spread over the course of a few days. And then taking the time to enjoy my garden in a different way - by moving my patio chair into the sun, sitting, resting, and reading.
I lost a part of my wardrobe. Skirts, worn “just because” or to mark a special occasion. My skirts used to skim my knees, and I always wore panty hose to cover my veins and muscle biopsy scar. Now, pantyhose are too tight and too constrictive against my sensitive legs.
I found comfort in ankle-length skirts. A part of an outfit that can remain casual or be dressed-up. A long skirt that offers a degree of modesty, covering my scar and veins, without requiring panty hose.
I lost jeans. The all-purpose, goes-with-everything, clothing staple. The you-don’t-have-to-think-about-it piece of clothing. Dressed up or down. Roll the legs up in warmer weather, or tuck the legs into rain boots in wet weather. But the stiff fabric is unforgiving against my sensitive leg, and bootcut styles don’t offer enough space around my swollen calf.
I found drawstring-waist, linen pants. Comfy and cozy. Loose and flowy. Pants that are just as comfortable if I’m standing or sitting.
Pants I don’t dread putting on.
I lost fun socks. Socks with stripes. Or polka dots. Colorful socks to match a colorful top. But many socks have tight elastic and as the day goes on and my leg swells, I wind up
with an uncomfortable indentation circling my lower leg.
I found black socks. Simple and basic, yet comfortable enough to wear throughout the day without undue discomfort. And because they’re all the same, they’re easy to pair up when folding a load of laundry.
I lost my confidence and faith in the future. The belief that if I maintain my healthy habits (eating a well-rounded diet, drinking plenty of water, not skimping on my sleep, exercising on a regular basis) I was on the path to a lifetime of “good health.”
I found fear. Fear that never completely goes away. Fear from the uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with my chronic illness. Fear in recognizing and acknowledging there
really are no guarantees for anyone.
I lost unawareness. An ignorance born from inexperience to just how complicated the human body is. How challenging it can be for doctors, because really, there is still so much they just don’t know.
I found an increased understanding of medical vocabulary. I now comprehend words like “autoimmune,” “rheumatology,” and “sedimentation rate.”
I lost ingratitude. Of taking things for granted. Small things like bending and squatting to reach something on the bottom shelf, in the back of the refrigerator, without thinking twice about it. Bigger things like being able to take a walk by myself.
I found gratitude. Though it’s different, my body is still deserving of appreciation. I feel immeasurable gratitude for what my body can still do.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications and anthologies, both in print and online. She prefers sunflowers to roses and thinks chocolate is okay at any meal. You can read more from Wendy at www.wendykennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).