"what a beautiful color."
as a girl, i was always complimented on the color of my hair. somewhere between the red of an irish, spring lass and a barbie blond; it is pigeonholed as strawberry blond.
brought up in an etiquette-infused household, my knee-jerk reaction was always to say "thank you" when complimented. not until i mired through the angst high school bestowed, was i able to recognize i couldn't take credit for it. i had to return all the compliments.
i hadn't worked for it.
ah, irony, that wily wench, then sapped me of my ability to accept a compliment. when one landed, i would swiftly dodge it with the two-step, hangin' head shuffle...
even when i conquered math. my achilles heal, that throbbing, pulsating wound that dragged me into the unfamiliar territory of 50%. even when i divided a numerical nightmare into infinite success by scoring a 95%; the chirping praise from my teacher sent my eyes downcast, investigating the latest initialed heart knifed into my desktop...
even when this wannabe theatre star ("i only do theatre") inked an agency contract with the most solicited, coveted agent in toronto and her assistant crowed, "i haven't seen p this excited about anyone in 3 years"...
even when this californian transplant auditioned for a top casting director and she bull horned her to near deafness, "how come i don't know about you? you are my new favorite actress."...
even when a homestead visitor inspected our cocoon and exclaimed, "this is fabulous! did you hire and interior designer?"...
and then came a seismic shift that rattled this certified water whore right out of the pond and onto a rubber deck. puffing and hunched like an emphysemic crone, she agonizingly cantered away into a full blown run.
5 miles a day.
"your cholesterol is excellent. are you taking any medication for it?"...
11 words. compliment = empowerment.
i felt my veins infuse, my biceps bulge and my chest puff out bigger than a porn star's.
buckets of coal had been tossed over my shoulder for school, for career, for my home, but a fire was now lit...
wheeled in for an ultrasound. the technician scans the chart. "so you had your transplant in 1998?"
"wow. that's amazing."
"and what was my creatinine?"
breath withheld. chest ablaze. her digits twitching faster than a piper's fingers.
technicolor cartoon eyes spring from head as body half faints.
rehab md, formerly known as dr. cuckoo, now known as one cool dude, closes her binder with a satisfying click. he looks her straight in the eyes.
"it has taken me 15 years to see a binder like that. you are recovering amazingly."
the bearable lightness of being floats me out the door.
pure joy. and then. pure agony.
crumpled complex rises up from the deep...
to think. you nearly drowned it all.
but this water whore never lost the ability to tread water. and she rises to the surface, gasping for air a little and then remembering what she really wants.
to stay away from her kryptonite by swimming breast stroke again...
and that you can't take diplomas, career, possessions with you...
when i love my mind, body and spirit...i'll love my self.
and finally be able to accept a compliment.