Wide stretched wings and deep mud knees….

When those implants came out there came to me the freedom of a child,
a release from heaving false things around.
I had let a few close friends in, let them support me as I journeyed through,
and felt the warm touch of sunlight in a room I’d shut away.
Nourished and known, it felt like a freefall into something alive,
something for which I’d always hungered
but never knew how to feed it.
I reconnected with the part of myself that had once felt safe
being just as I am.

I even spoke to a few women’s groups, sharing the story and
some words that felt breathed right from the lungs
of a God who knew my name:
“those who look to him are radiant,
their faces never covered with shame,”
I had walked through this shamestorm clinging to that psalm
and dove headlong into the wonder,
exploring the possibility of doing life
without the heavy hidden shame I’d felt since long before I could remember.
Shame for what?  I couldn’t say,
but somehow it had always been a thing when I messed up.
And in my mind I’d messed up big by getting breast implants.
With them out
now there came a lightening. A little lilt.
For a season I felt footloose and free.

I prayed some reckless prayers in those days
and I’m grateful for times when my heart was soft enough to mean them.
For years I walked in that honest place inside myself
and then again we moved,
away from that cocoon of safety
where I’d struggled for and stretched out tender wings.
If my old environment had been a sleepy backroad where I could putter in peace,
this new season sparked a highway of colorful creatives and electrified energies
that both thrilled and intimidated me.
I was being accepted by these bright spirits whom I’d admired from a distance,
invited and somehow swept into the current,
and I felt exhilarated.
Like the blackbird,  it seemed that all my life had been a waiting for this moment to arise
and now my wobbly wings were growing strong.
In some ways I was starting to fly.

And then one day there came a tearing,
as if I’d flown too close to barbed wire and punctured the dream.
We’d started a family gardening business and now my already busy days
were stretched long with bone-wearying labor after my regular work hours at school.
I blamed the strange pain that developed in my right arm and chest on the hard stretch of a new season,
thinking my body just resented the intrusion and would eventually thrive as I got stronger.
I just need to be stronger;  that was the message I kept sending
the shudder in my chest wall when I’d squeeze closed the loppers again and again
as I pruned my way through gnarled tangles of debris.
We grew our business quickly by doing the jobs no one wanted to tackle
and threw myself into it,  body and soul.
In the past I’d get a little high out of this kind of push,
a sweet shot of adrenalin with the call to rise.
But this muddy, achy sick kept feeling sicker.

A worried friend suggested some body work and I made an appointment for my first ever massage.
The fatigue and flu-like symptoms I experienced just afterwards
were soon joined by a fever that I just couldn’t shake.
This couldn’t be one big hot mess of a detox, could it?
And after the massage the pain in my arm and chest became only more severe.
When I finally tagged in a doctor it was because I noticed a red streak running the ridge
from my right breast to my right armpit.
I was diagnosed with mastitis.
Mastitis? In a bewildered sounding voice one nurse actually asked me
how long since I’d stopped lactating.
“Almost 20 years,”  I sighed.
Yeah. So weird.

 The puzzled looks I got from the medical world over the next days
coaxed up insecurities long buried as I waited out the test results
and the gnarly side effects of a potent antibiotic.
I worried that another tumor had developed and was wrecking havoc.
Could I explain this to my new world?
When results were called in:  “The lymphatic system under your right arm is severely infected
because it’s completely filled and blocked by silicone,”
I felt shoved down a flight of stairs.
If I’d been suffering from something “normal” I would have reached for the phone,  calling out
for prayer and support.
I would have cried on some shoulders and held a few hands.
But this was odd in a way that came with a side of isolation,
and I went quiet, shuffling it into the dark.

Wait.
What about how costly these fine new wings?
What about the beauty of full frontal honesty?
What about how shame is the thief of intimacy,
about all those things you said?
What about being true?
What about defying the silence shame seems to require?
And why does this even feel so very, very shameful?
What’s even going on here?

My tired soul couldn’t rise to the questions.
And so I settled for a “true” that wasn’t honest
and hid away the parts too hard to explain.
The day before my surgery to remove the lymph nodes in my right arm,
I punched some old familiar numbers into the phone,
timidly reaching for a faraway friend.
As we caught up about kids and career and changes,  that old hiss to hush came haunting.
It felt good to connect around the sweet stuff.
To tell the triumphs and share the tears that could be shared.
Each time I grabbed at the courage to say the words,
that old longing to just be “okay” rose up and choked them back down.
As we talked, my dog Wally dashed onto the wooden deck where I was pacing on the phone
and began barking at something in the woods.
As I turned, lunging to sort out the chase,
my bare foot scraped up a rough section of the decking
and treated wood chunks splintered off, piercing deeply the ball of my foot.
This wasn’t just a cluster of splinters;
there was a gnarled chunk of wood embedded in my foot
When the Urgent Care directed me straight to the ER,
I explained I was having surgery already tomorrow.
Calls were made and my foot was added to the list of my parts
that needed some serious repair.

Limp, limp…..limp, limp….my aching wings.
I felt as if they may never fly again.
(continued next post)

“I’m learning that there are some things
that can’t be taught in the space
of shortcuts, but rather must be
cultivated on the frontlines-
the long way, knee deep in
mud, fumbling in the dark, or
in the mess and when you are
daring to be beautifully – brave.”
– Tess Guinery

Big squeeze to Cathy Davis (my cousin!) for your name popping up in the drawing.
I’ll be sending you my book with big love.
Thanks for coming around and leaving your kind comments,  ya’ll:)
I’ll do another drawing from this post’s comments
and post the winner next time I show up.
Which will likely be sooner now that planting season
is settling into a slower gentler pace.

15 Comments

  1. Elephants Child on May 14, 2022 at 1:32 am

    Hugs.
    Your painful, hard fought for (and won) honesty ALWAYS inspires me.

    • Jennifer Richardson on May 17, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      Hard won honesty – those words inspire me so!
      Thank you. I think I’ve come to value honesty as a rare treasure in this world.
      So precious. So thank you for that affirmation – it strengthens my heart:)
      Always I appreciate,
      Jennifer

    • Party on May 22, 2022 at 5:53 pm

      Love you more everytime I read your lifestory. If that is possible. Your friend and “sister” always!
      Pad

      • jennifer on May 23, 2022 at 7:33 pm

        Thanks, Pad.
        Love you always,
        Jen Jen

  2. Julia on May 14, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    Hi dear Jennifer. I’m at a loss for words as I read your painful story. I’m sure you are not alone with the silent suffering of breast implants gone wrong.. Telling your story takes a lot of courage and must be painful but I hope it will bring healing.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Wishing you health and healing.
    Hugs,
    Julia

    • Jennifer Richardson on May 17, 2022 at 12:51 pm

      It does bring a release from the shadows, Julia – thank you.
      Also I feel as if it’s more widely my story about shame and honesty and
      the courage to throw off that heavy, heavy, heaviness:)
      Thanks for your kind words;
      always I appreciate,
      Jennifer

  3. jeanie on May 15, 2022 at 10:46 am

    Oh Jennifer, you are so strong. How you managed then? How you bravely relive it now. I hope the sharing of this story brings about a peace, a healing, a purging of the anxiety and pain and shame. There is no shame, my friend. We always know that when it’s too late.

    We will await the next chapter.

    • Jennifer Richardson on May 17, 2022 at 12:53 pm

      In the funny way that life has, Jeanie, I feel almost grateful for those grueling times now.
      I’m sure there was another way (likely an easier way!) but I wouldn’t take anything for the
      peeling away of layers of shame and the light-footed honesty that has settled in it’s place.
      It feels light and free in ways I may not even notice or appreciate otherwise.
      (Still, given the choice, I’d take a do-over in a heartbeat!)
      Thanks for your always kind and affirming words,
      Jennifer

  4. Susan on May 22, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    OuchOuchOuch, and that’s just for your foot! Your strength is so fierce yet so very gentle and it sure seems like you have grown to know yourself in a treasured and special way.

    xoxo

    • jennifer on May 23, 2022 at 7:33 pm

      I have loved the way the tough times get folded in with grace
      and bring a softening. They say a soft heart is stronger and
      I’d have to agree.
      Thanks so much for your kind words, Susan,
      Jennifer

  5. Susan Farris on May 22, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    It’s awfully hard sometimes to just be yourself isn’t it? 💕

    • jennifer on May 23, 2022 at 7:31 pm

      Awfully hard, Susan, awfully hard:)
      Such a sweet deal growing into your own skin and learning to be.
      I wouldn’t trade what these last years have brought
      for anything:)
      Thanks for coming by!
      – Jennifer

  6. Donna Donabella on June 7, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    Holding you close as you give us a deep look into your pain my friend. It is helpful and inspiring that we too can heal and feel the love within. Thank you!

    • jennifer on June 16, 2022 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks so much, friend. It’s helpful to weed this garden
      until I can sort out what’s growing and then have some field vision:)
      Always the weeds growing up with the good stuff!
      Thanks for sharing your kind words,
      Jennifer

  7. Eva on June 17, 2022 at 9:10 am

    wow…what a journey…a roller coaster…your bravery in speaking/writing these words is a lesson for all of us to speak our truths…be ourselves…reach out to others…listen for the love and acceptance…tend our own weeds and plant beautiful seeds as we continue to learn and grow.
    I love reading your heartfelt words. Thank you.

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