Color and sound only really exist in relationships. Although light is all around us, we don’t actually see the colors in it until they are reflected off of an object. In a way, light needs to to be in relationship with something, to come together and reflect itself to another in order to be color. And sound-- the tiny vibrations of energy that we hear-- cannot exist in a vacuum, but only when it is traveling through matter, when it is moving through and bumping up against something other than itself.
I have been thinking lately about how we are the same. We need others to reflect back to us our light, our color, our voice, our song. Unless we have others to help show us who we are, to reflect back to us what they see and hear and experience, its tough to recognize our own selves, to know who and what we are.
What is difficult about chronic illness is not so much the physical aspects, but living life in a vacuum. We find our color and our tune as it bounces off of others, as we see it reflected in the world around us-- whether it be through our work or art or conversations or relationships or simply our presence. But when someone is sick, the hours and days and years of isolation seem to leave little to reflect back to them their light and energy. It is easy to forget who we are, to forget our vibrancy and song when we can’t see or hear it in others.
I have been sick for over two years now. I have energy for a few hours in a day-- sometimes more, sometimes less. I struggle with my memory, with keeping thoughts in my head, keeping up with conversations. Sometimes I can barely walk or hold a pen. It’s tough to get out of the house, and I never know how long I’ll last or if it will be safe to drive home. Almost every ounce of energy is spent trying to be present with my two little guys, and I admit that I don’t always do that well.
We have this little unwarranted bedroom in our garage, with low ceilings and one window facing our neighbor’s wall, four feet away. I spend most of my time lying in the incredible king-sized, down-comforted bed down there, listening to the sounds of life traveling through the floors and heater vents to where I am.
Our boys’ new favorite game is called “Blast Off Man” and consists of them wearing their baby blankets around their necks like capes, standing on the couch, counting down from five, screaming “Blast Off!” at the top of their lungs, and jumping as high and far as they can off of the furniture. It’s great.
I hear their muffled voices and feel the thud of their landing from our little room below and smile. Even though they make it impossible to sleep, their echoes and vibrancy still reach me, and its beautiful. It helps give me light and color and song (and plenty of sound) and I absorb it, but have little opportunity to reflect it.
So often when I do get out, I hear my own voice muffled, like the conversations I catch through the heater vent from down in my room below. The light I carry inside sometimes seems to have a strange tint, and I hardly recognize myself when I see it reflected around me. I am still there, still me, but the isolation, the vacuum that I so often find myself in has affected my color and my tune. I come home puzzled and often a bit embarrassed, wondering who that was that I saw reflected back to me. I ache to be around people, but when I am, I forget the words to my song.
I still hear it, though-- that tune that’s only mine-- and do my best to plunk it out on the keys, even when its awkward, even when it’s ugly. It’s better than going silent and forgetting altogether. And I see it, too, reflected back in my husband’s eyes, in the ways that my boys look at me. They can sift through the noise and the fog and can find me, as can my gracious friends and family who are patient enough to sit and listen. And when I am still, I hear a familiar voice: “I see you. I know you. I made you.”
Color is about absorbing and reflecting light, and sound is about energy (vibrations) on a journey through matter. Absorbing and reflecting; energy on a journey. I get a lot of time to listen, to absorb, to hold on, in the silence and in the dark, what I have seen and heard and felt in other times. And although the journey is slow-- so slow that at times I feel trapped-- when I allow stillness inside, I can feel that there has been forward movement. It doesn’t come easily-- I fight for every inch-- but it does come: the song, the color, the vibrancy, the richness and beauty. I fight, I slip, I struggle, clumsy and awkward, and I do my best to keep moving forward, to reflect the very best of what I am.