A couple of days ago I had a day surgery for an infected skin cyst. It was minor but very painful. I couldn’t help but think about another previous skin cyst surgery I had nine years ago (I don’t know why I keep having them but I won’t complain about a nine-year interval).
Back then, I was all alone. I had to do everything myself, including heading back to my temporary accommodation post-surgery while I was still recovering from all the pain I had felt. I remember being very drowsy from the strong pain killers that were dispensed to me, sleeping a lot, bleeding a lot, fumbling with my dressings a lot. I probably didn’t eat much – back then there wasn’t many food delivery options, and the place I stayed was not near food.
Nine years later, my partner accompanied me to all my appointments, waited for me outside during my surgery, comforted me when I came out of the room with blood drained from my face. I couldn’t stretch my hands much, so I had to stand there helplessly while she undressed me before my shower, listened to the doctor intently as she was taught how to change my dressing and apply paper stitches on my wound if they come off.
I thought about everything I had to do alone nine years ago, and everything I have her to do with me now. I am very much in support of singlehood because I am cynical and I think the probability of finding someone compatible is almost zero, and being with an incompatible partner is life-exhausting. I told my partner that if this doesn’t work out I’m just going to be with myself for the rest of my life. I am done with relationships – I consider myself unsuited for them and I prefer to live out every inch of my weirdness than to hope for someone to accommodate them.
But for now, I lucked out I guess. We are still a relatively young relationship at almost five years old so I won’t jinx it. Yet in life the magnitude of certain moments will cause them to be etched in our permanent consciousness no matter how short-lived. For the past couple of days, even if it is just for a short while, I felt like I wanted and needed nothing else from life. How precious it is to have someone willing to wipe pus off your skin and hold your hand while someone is trying to slice through your body. Someone whose tender care is something that one that can trust and relax into, instead of feeling bad that one has to be taken care of. A tender care that is truly warm and comforting, not strangely foreign and weight-inducing.
A well-intentioned friend mentioned that he wished I would still be doing what he thought I did best – design. He was probably thinking of the version of me that existed nine years ago. But my career did not make me feel life was worth living, in fact it probably exacerbated my suicidal impulses. I am tired of living life as though report cards and resumes are the only measurements that matter. I don’t enjoy being seen as a specimen that is deemed to be thriving or not because of the work I do or some signals I fail to emit.
I may be different tomorrow, next week, or next year, but right now I have everything I can possibly want: a quiet simple vacuum that I can exist in with my partner facilitated by the bond we have with each other. I marvel while she makes her art, we discuss what I write and learn, sometimes we just hold each other and enjoy each other’s presence, other times we act like kids and laugh, every now and then we grieve together about the state of the world.
I have learnt that that the capacity to truly behold what I have is actually a skill. It is a form of heightened awareness, that a lot of what seems mundane now is what I didn’t have nine years ago, that peace is not the default state of this world but rather it has to be fought for, that even if I live for thirty more years it is barely 10,000 more days. I am already in the process of grieving the people who will leave this world before me.
When I look back at my past 14,000+ days, there aren’t many good periods I can remember. I know there will be periods of intense grief in my future as everyone ages. I wish to have some good periods to pad that oncoming grief. That when I look back at my life, it wasn’t just full of stress, anxiety, deadlines, insomnia, migraines, eye pain, people’s expectations, emotional trauma, grief, sadness, numbness. I don’t even need laughter and joy. I just want more moments in my life like the moments I had post-surgery: the awareness that I have everything I need. What I felt then was better than joy or any spikes of positive feelings. It was a feeling of calm completeness.
I don’t need other people to know it or validate me. I just need my self to learn how to recognise it more.