Narcissus, in greek mythology, is a god who falls in love with his reflection. Enthralled by his outer beauty, he sits by a bank of water and stares at his face in the water’s reflection, ignoring any hunger or thirst. He eventually dies right there, unable to meet his bodies needs because he was so obsessed with himself and his appearance.
Although we are no Narcissus, Topical Steroid Withdrawal can certainly leave us obsessed with our own outer appearance. We become fixated on the pain, the fact we feel like social pariah, and how we can’t recognize ourselves underneath the redness and flaking exterior.
I succumbed to that for a long time. Like Narcissus, I just stared, watching life go by. I was waiting for the pain to end. It never did. It dispersed in many ways, like a virus propagating in areas of my body that were trying to stay afloat.
It’s no way to live. I don’t want to die that way. To blank out and forget about the other things in life that feed us, nurture us.
So, I turn to my heroes. They are women who have endured their own trials and loss, departing from archaic, rote ideas in the face of fear.
The first is Erin Brockovich. She championed for the safety of families and didn’t take no for an answer. She was not qualified in the field and dressed out of the norm for a person in her position, but that never stopped her from striking gold. Her tenacity and will saved lives and brought comfort into the homes of the hurting.
The second is Elizabeth Gilbert. She went against every societal norm, of “running away” to find herself again after losing her marriage, loving a man who didn’t love her back, and suffering crippling depression. But it wasn’t running away. Her gut instinct told her to fight for her life in a way that seemed odd to others but made so much sense to herself. It turned out to be a beautiful blessing and inspiring journey towards the next chapter of her life.
The third is Cheryl Strayed. She felt completely lost, weighed down by her drug addiction and passing of her mother. In an attempt to shake her sleeping self, she impulsively set out on a footpath she had no business trekking. It was mind over matter. And even though shit went wrong, she dug her heels in and kept going anyway.
The last is Suleika Jaouad. I spoke about her in my last post — a cancer survivor and writer who turned her pain into purpose. She is now, once again, battling for her life. She’s done it with grace, curiosity, and vulnerability. Her verve to keep going through all the ups and downs is admirable.
All these women, these humans who deserve applause, live in my heart, rent-free. I feel a mixture of their character in my life. I feel the resilience of Suleika; the audacity of Erin; the moxie of Cheryl Strayed; and the courage of Elizabeth Gilbert.
And instead of admiring these women, I want to be these women. And to be, I must believe I can become — to keep leaning into the discomfort surrounding my life.
In college, I received a minor in anthrolopgy. I truly enjoyed the classes, how we as a species related to each other and the world around us. However, I never understood how that would translate in my life until now. That my own curiosity is my strength. That my insurmountable need to tell people’s stories is not a frivolous passion or possible side hobby, but a fervid pursuit at a means of a life.
I don’t want to live small. I tasted what Elizabeth experienced this past summer. I ate, I prayed, and I loved. I embarked on a trip like Sulieka, connecting with others who had embraced me at my weakest. I have zero clue most days of what I’m doing but that never stopped Erin and it’s not going to stop me. And like Cheryl, I will carry an oversized backpack trekking towards myself and learning that, even in the debt, and fear, and loneliness, there is a reason for this displacement.
The point is, lean in. Find your heroes, the ones that speak your language even when others can’t find the translation. Not everything is meant for others to understand. If it’s for you, then run towards it. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to anyone else. Run.