I started to wear my jeans again. For the past six months, due to the nature and location of my tumor, I have only been able to wear sweatpants and trousers with tie strings. But this week, I ventured into my closet, took out my most worn jeans, and cautiously put one leg in and then another. I took a breath and then buttoned them up. Not only did they fit (if anything, I expected them to be too big, which they were, but only slightly), but they didn’t hurt. They didn’t rub or compress or irritate or anything. There I stood, and then sat, just me in my jeans.
But really what I’m thinking about now is the power of symbolism. Without realizing it, that pair of jeans had taken on much more of a meaning than being just an old pair of pants. Those jeans had come to mean functionality, energy, being a part of the world around me, a great return. For the first time in months I could imagine feeling like a healthy person. Those faded yards of denim had transported me back to myself. I stood there looking in the mirror and I said, Hey – I remember you. I may have then made a faster-than-wanted dash to the bathroom, and then later a longer-than-anticipated nap, but nonetheless for the first time in months, I felt like me.
I hadn’t found much symbolism in illness. Yes, there have been lessons galore and experiences leading to understanding of life and what it means to be human. But those never did much to jolt awake my inner literature student. Recovery, on the other hand, has seemed like nothing but symbols. The opened door. The walk around the house leading to the walk down the road. Driving my car. Eating a slice of pizza. And now, wearing my jeans. Each of these symbolized the beginning of a return to life, indeed, the belief in life itself. Being able to wear my jeans means to me that I can walk out into the world once again and take part in it. CoVid be damned. Cancer be damned. There is still work I can do, impact I can make, fun to be had and new experiences to be discovered. Thank you, blue jeans, for being such a wonderful symbol, for doing what symbols are supposed to do — for helping me believe.