c. 1300, “to regain consciousness,” from Anglo-French rekeverer (13c.), Old French recovrer “come back, return; regain health; procure, get again” (11c.)
This September, I underwent pacemaker replacement surgery, approximately my 10th replacement since I was 9 months old. While it is a routine procedure, it felt anything but routine. The surgery itself was only an hour, but the weeks before it were a lesson in recovering before recovery.
There are times I wonder what I’m doing when I’m not producing work. When I’m not publishing, writing, teaching, researching, running from one train to the next.
There are times I wonder who I am when I’m not a writer, arts educator, performer, freelancer, artist, running from one gig to the next.
What am I doing outside of these spaces, who am I outside of these identities?
A friend, a daughter, a sister, a confidante, a student, a woman, a person.
And even these identities have expectations, limitations, ideas of how I should be what I am. And of course, these identities intersect, overlap, interlay, informing each other and weaving themselves into a tangle of who I am. I know I am an artist even when I’m not producing work, and a writer even when I’m not writing.
But somehow I got swept away with the guilt I felt at not “being useful” (whatever that means!)
The narrative that we are only who we are when we are DOING something is one I had somehow internalised, and it wasn’t even my own. This realisation required me to question what I believe to be valuable in myself.
I was forced to slow down, to stop writing, teaching, moving, running and sit with the discomfort of not being in control of the circumstances (like all things in life). I had to observe how I would, time and time again, expect my experience of recovery to be like the ones before it. I had to observe how I would, time and time again, worry about how I would get back on my feet and still be relevant on the “scene”.
There were moments when I was able to laugh in the face of uncertainty and fear, not out of irreverence, but reverence itself. Laughing with my fear has become one way in to understanding my own story around pain and the avoidance of pain, and worth and the concept of being worthy.
It’s very easy and sometimes preferred to pretend that we’re brave and fearless, especially in an instagrammable world that values perfect squares of perfect lives. There are no squares big enough to encompass this experience.
I had the messy job of confronting my fear.
Confront, not conquer.
I had to show up *while* being afraid.
So now, having made it to the other side, and facing other fears, I have chosen to ask my heart what it needs. What it wants. What it deserves.
And while recovery can be a gentle, painful process, it can also burn through illusions, leaving us with only ashes to decipher.
So here I am, intact, albeit scorched and a little singed.
My scar may have healed, but I’m still choosing to recover.