Article by Sheila Terra, artwork by Cris Hogarth
My left side itches on the spot where I stuck my birth control patch. My first 12 hours of hormones changing, shuffling and relocating. For him. That’s what women do. We rearrange our bodies to protect men. We protect ourselves from an unplanned child or the heart break of abortion.
This is my body. Say thank you mother fucker because I am paying money to mess with my estrogens and progesterones so that you aren’t stuck with child support and so I can afford to travel to Europe instead of feed another mouth. No, I want more than a thank you. I want to be worshipped. This is my body. This is life. And this itch is my reminder of how I am now cheating life.
Early this morning, I biked through blissfully beautiful fog to my lovely and humble apartment where my cat and heart reside. My one bedroom castle of brick and photos where all my new memories from the past two years are hanging and dangling. I miss coming home to this beautiful place yet sometimes I can’t stand the stillness. It can be a daily tug-o-war of peace vs. loneliness, accentuated with the dubious language and depths of my illness. A roller-coaster maybe, but also my sanctuary. Depending on the day, I am either saved or suffocated by my aloneness and artwork. But the reality—the truth without these theatrics—is that I am so blessed to have my home, surrounded with photos of people who think I am worth loving. How lucky am I to love and be loved by my family.
Today, I worked hard to stay with myself, not to react or run. I did not demand a peace of mind that others cannot be responsible for. I leaned into him when I wanted to run. I tried to balance honesty with knowing when to stop talking. I don’t know if I succeeded. But, instead of running, at least I tried.
The precarious tight rope of dating terrifies me. The uncertainty of acceptance or rejection sprains my blood pumping heart. I am exhausted. My mind tires quickly. I try hard to stay kind and alert at work. I have many jobs to do other than attend to my own inner labyrinths. I can’t ignore the feelings but have to see past them. I have many roles and responsibilities, and want to succeed with fewer regrets and more personal bests.
This morning, the fog came from the movie screens, so surreal. I noticed islands on my river, never seen before. I saw mist moving over green fields and pedestrian bridges as I pedalled past my city’s wealthiest homes. And I breathed.
I reminded myself of the stunning beauty despite the sinking in my gut, despite my insecurities about the risks, blunders and vulnerabilities of new love. I breathed through the morning. I know I will always get through it. Small or big storms, I feel them, see them and talk myself down from them. They no longer whisk me away in a zombie smog that last for years. I am here. I want to be here. I am my best support through illness and stillness and misty dreamscapes. I will always make it, even imperfectly.
Sheila Terra has a day job in social services. She leaves her evenings and weekends for figuring out the next art project, surviving crushes, hanging with Greek Gods and making lots of mistakes.
Cris Hogarth is an up and coming comic book illustrator. Follow them on Twitter, @MsElectricFlame.