It has been hard to find my voice this year. I don’t know if it was being without working legs for so long, or being tired of having not-working legs for so long. I don’t know if it was feeling like I didn’t stack up, like I’d never stacked up, and now, with these non-functioning legs as proof, I DEFINITELY didn’t stack up.

I don’t know. It could be that I still don’t know a lot about what is happening inside me these days, and I really, desperately want to show up in this the world from a place of knowing.

Since I’ve been injured, I have felt like my vulnerabilities are hovering around me like some sizable and rather obvious rain cloud that everyone can see. If I ever worried that I was different, well, on crutches for a year, I most certainly confirmed that point. If I ever tried to do it all alone, then moving with the aid of sticks for 395 days made it particularly obvious that another way was probably necessary. If I’d ever felt afraid to be unsure, or ashamed to be broken, then this year, my body decided it was time to endure with WITNESSES.

I did not want witnesses this year, guys. I wanted everything fixed and back to normal and all better. I wanted my life to look better than it felt, and I wanted my feelings to be easily washed away with a glass of wine or an ultra busy week of over-scheduling or taking on more than I physically could handle. I wanted no one to see me like this, because THIS was actually how I already saw myself. But, that was on the inside. And, I didn’t like living my insides out loud.

This year, the mailman, the cashier at Harris Teeter, every single one of my neighbors, the preschool teachers, ALL OF THE MOMS AND THEIR SQUADS, the teller at the bank, my mother, the kid who lives down the street, my ob gyn, my dentist, the kids’ dentist and EVERY OTHER HUMAN I INTERACTED WITH were MY WITNESSES.

I smiled through it, but god. On the inside, I was sandpaper on a chalkboard.

I had to ask for help, all the time. Every single time I needed help and did not ask, my body broke out into a crazed pain dance, and I became NAILED by my needs. Needs? I didn’t used to have those! This year, they were everywhere and they were MINE.

For a while, this revealed how many relationships I had built around never needing. It showed, right away, who knew how to help and show up. It revealed the people who could not sit with me in the shadows. It also gave me the gift of many people who could. Friends and family members who could sit beside me, heart to heart, and witness without weight. Who could abide my being a whole human. Who could nurture my insides all strewn about on the outside. When you’re hurt or sick or struggling, life drops the ones you need and the ones you don’t like plastic parachute army men all around, and it becomes obvious what is helping and what is hurting.

You have to make choices, and I have had to make mine. But, as my last form of resistance, I decided that I would make the choices, but I didn’t have to like them.

Until, I do like them. After wearing my insides on the outside for 395 days of my life, I now prefer this softer, slower, truer me. Small talk and pretend conversations now feel like sandpaper on a chalkboard, and I am not an always strong person who needs no one and stands alone on two legs for the world to see.

So often last year, I looked out at the world on two legs, and I didn’t measure up. Because I could no longer measure my self worth based on how I made my life look, or on how much I accomplished or achieved or could do. If I wanted to belong, then I had to belong to myself, first. Belonging to myself has meant embracing struggle, softness, slow going, doing nothing and not being in control. In fact, my crutches allowed me to stay true, and they helped me to be whole, even though true and whole have occasionally been terrifying to be.

In the end, I have had a hard time finding my voice, because the voice I’ve been looking for isn’t mine.

My voice is the one that cracks a little when she tells the truth. My voice sounds equally like someone I no longer am, and like someone I am becoming. It isn’t figured out. I don’t know.

I do know that I have to go slow. Listen to my body. Pay attention to pain. Be easy. Move forward with grace. And, stay true, even when it stabs me and scares me and takes my breath away.