The Importance of Strong Toes

My baby is almost a year old now and I’m still unstable. 

This statement confuses my family and friends because on the outside, I seem like myself again – I shower and wear make-up on a regular basis, my sense of humor is back and I’ve gone back to work. I’m functioning in my usual Type A manner.

On the inside, I feel like I’m walking a highwire. 

Some days, I wake up wobbly, but I have my balance pole handy. The elements still effect me – the sun can burn me, the rain can soak me, the cold can still enter my bones – but I manage. 

Other days, the pole is nowhere to be found, but my arms give me the balance I need. I feel surprisingly confident on the wire, so I get brave and do some bouncing. Before I know it, I’m levitating just a few feet above the rope. 

People start to notice and admire my lightness. Small crowds gather and I entertain them with my stunts. Above the rope, I’m free to do so many tricks I can’t do when bound to the rope. I’m having such fun that I flap my wings and, to my surprise, I start to fly! 

Flying is the best feeling on earth. I feel invincible. I feel like all things are possible. Things that used to frighten me I now laugh at.

So I keep flapping, flapping, flapping and going up, up, up.

The crowd turns on me. What they once found amusing they now perceive as bazaar and unpredictable. They think I can control my flight. They want me back above the wire doing tricks for them. 

Some sneer, others judge and many walk away. 

The rejection hurts my feelings, but I brush it off as jealousy and keep flapping my arms until I’m in the clouds. 

I fly up, up, up until the sky goes dark and it gets cold. I start to lose oxygen. I know I’ll die if I don’t get back to the wire, so I finally turn around.

The next few days I spend fighting gravity to get back down. Upon landing, I collapse from exhaustion. 

I sleep the clock ‘round. I wake up confused, not knowing if its AM or PM or February or July. I’m on the wire, but my arms are tied behind my back. 

And it’s been snowing. I slip on the frozen wire. I can’t get my footing.

Then a gust of wind knocks me down to the ground below. 

Thankfully, I haven’t lost all my baby weight yet, so there’s considerably more cushion than usual, but the fall still leaves some mighty purple bruises on my body. 

I don’t have the strength to get back to the wire, so I stay down on the ground awhile. The snow covers me like a blanket and even I forget where I am. 

Eventually a ladder drops and I climb back onto the wire, legs shaking all the way. 

I fear one of the falls will kill me. I fear I won’t be able to get back on the rope. I fear I’ll stay down forever. 

I’ve lost control over the balance pole. Some days it shows up, but there’s no rhyme or reason to its appearances. 

So I only have control over my toes.

My latest trick takes a ton of energy, but it’s the only one that seems to work. It’s a promise I’ve made to myself. To my husband. To my son. 

I grip with my toes as long and as hard as I can to stay on. 
I take a step forward. 
I get out of bed. 
I take another step. 
I take a shower. 
I grip the wire. 
I get dressed. 
I get in my car. 
I make commitments and try my best to keep them. 
Tighter still. 
I plan for the future. 
I hang on. 
I show up to therapy, to my 12-step meetings, to work. 
I stay on. 
I show up for my family, my friends, my life.
I live.

It’s hard. I’m exhausted. I feel defeated a lot. And overwhelmed. Very, very overwhelmed.

Most days holding on feels impossible, but today I’m using my strong and sore toes to grip the rope.

And when this is all over and I get my balance back, I’m going take my toes to the longest foot massage a girl can 

Because they’ve earned it.

Courtney Rundell
Writer, Advocate, Speaker
Twitter: @courtneyrundell

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