The cruel thing about surprises is,
you can’t prepare for them.
There was no chance to
one last time
before they were
I used to do
cartwheels, round-offs, handstands,
walking on my hands
I scaled climbing walls,
bounced on the trampoline,
hung from monkey bars,
challenging myself to
whip the rope quickly enough
that I could get it around
in one jump.
I rode my bike
to school nearly every day,
loving that flying feeling
as I soared down hills,
feet momentarily freed
until I slammed them back on the pedals,
feeling the burn in my thighs,
my movements quick to keep up
with the speed my bike had caught.
I don’t remember the last time
I did any of those things,
because the last times
were in no way
They were not
because I had no way of knowing
that they were Lasts.
Cruel surprise #1:
I woke up one morning like any other,
not knowing that
the small sharpness in the side of my neck
would soon grow
into a fervent, fiery ache,
lying far deeper than anyone could see,
engulfing my neck,
Cruel surprise #2:
my hands weakening.
Then my arms,
Being unable to buckle my seatbelt
for the car ride to the hospital.
Feeling the doctor’s cold hands in mine,
but making my own fingers move
with my mind
proved to be as useless as making his fingers move
with my mind.
Cruel surprise #3:
there was no cure,
just treatments full of “maybes,”
despite my innocent certainty
that thirteen-year-olds couldn’t become disabled forever.
But my life isn’t some series of misfortune,
though this was, objectively, an unfortunate experience.
As it turns out,
bring unexpected beauty.
There was a beauty in regaining function,
even the seemingly smallest of tasks
wiggling a finger,
pressing a button on the TV remote,
washing my own hair.
Despite never fully recovering,
the joy of movement and
There was a beauty in uncovering
who I was beyond physical ability
and in discovering that I could
was not a
There was an unmatched empowerment
in the realization that I could still
largely live the life I wanted,
permanent physical disability
There was also a beauty in experiences
that would never have occurred,
friends I would never have met,
strengths I wouldn’t have known I possessed,
had it not been for Transverse Myelitis.
The cruelty of surprises,
it turns out,
is the complexity,
they are not exclusively
Maybe the most harrowing surprise
is how you can
so desperately wish something
be so grateful
that it did.