I assume that most people who make it to fifty, can look back over their years and feel as if they have lived more than one life. I am no longer the teenager who skipped school frequently and had low self-esteem. I no longer get into cars with other teens who have problems like mine and drive to Denny’s and drink coffee for hours never tipping the poor server who had to refill our cups and clean all the sugar packets off of the table.

I am no longer the young woman who is married but feels like she is playing house. Making meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes, and trying to find ways to cook venison that will get rid of the gamey flavor. Letting the laundry stack up to a huge pile so that it takes a whole day to do it, but I did it, along with scrubbing the small gray and pink bathroom and the pink and blue tiled kitchen.

I no longer make reservations to fly to Europe or Africa, or South America and then make the trip without cell phones or laptops and somehow miraculously make it to all these countries with layovers and plane changes and cancelations and somehow make it to my parents waiting to pick me up in a place I’ve never been.  And I wasn’t scared. And it all seemed normal. And I never knew that I had skills and was resourceful in ways that many people are not.

I still talk to most people I encounter in public at coffee shops, grocery stores, casinos, hotels, conferences, but I no longer invite them home with me to drink coffee or talk over a glass of wine or six-pack of beer. Where once I was fearless, I have become cautious, frightened, suspicious.

Where and what is the divide that separates one me from the other? It started with a hospital stay, but it didn’t happen clearly on discharge. The changes took years, many episodes of psychosis, hundreds of panic attacks. The changes were a slow erosion of independence, fearlessness, confidence and a carefree sense of adventure.

My mom who now has chronic pain in her back, says that a level of discomfort is her new normal. My new normal is something I am trying hard to get used to. I wave good-bye to a young woman that I never fully realized was talented, capable, and remarkable in so many ways. Before I ever got to appreciate her, she was gone, but not without leaving a memory that calls to me in a thousand ways every single day.