I have, in my life, been privileged to have met and befriended some pretty amazing and bad ass women. From writers to ambassadors to grocery store cashiers – these women inspire me to step up – to be more.
…to remember that I have been and can again be a bad ass myself.
I got my first tattoo when I was 25 while living in Mauritius. I went with my friend Shirley, a bad ass woman who taught me to embrace the beauty of…well…embracing my beauty.
“Eat, Debby,” she said.
And I did as she said. Because she’s a bad ass.
Through the years I’ve eaten and I’ve not eaten. Anorexia is a conniving bitch.
I got my second tattoo in early April of this year.
I have new friends now. Many of whom are bad ass Autism moms.
And believe me, you don’t get much more bad ass than an Autism mom.
Candice is a mom of four. She has battled breast cancer and, as you would expect, she kicked its ass. Her youngest child has Autism. He and EB are in the same class at school. I knew her before that though, because us Autism moms, we are a small bad-assed army.
She had talked about getting another tattoo for a while. She asked me to go with her – and I was honored. It’s a big event, a bonding event, getting a tattoo.
We finally got our bad ass selves on the calendar for an appointment and I was so excited to be with my friend, to be part of this experience. She had designed a tattoo, a puzzle piece with her and her children’s favorite colors, to commemorate the impact that Autism has had on their lives.
Autism seems such a small thing to focus on, what with all my beloved friend has encountered in her short life. Sometimes I sit here and think just Autism would be enough – it would be more than enough of a challenge – if that were all we faced.
It’s never just Autism though. Never. Four years ago Candice beat breast cancer. She wears a streak of pink in her hair to remember, or perhaps to remind the world, that you can and will be a bad ass.
She fought cancer and Autism at the same time.
And then this January she became a single mom.
Because Autism isn’t enough.
But she found a way to smile, even if she forced it sometimes, and as things crumbled around her she still took the time to check up on me.
“Eat, Debby,” she said.
And I tried. I really tried.
So in April, we finally got around to getting to the tattoo shop.
A few days before the appointment I thought to myself, it’s time for another tattoo.
But of what?
“Eat, Debby.” I heard. The voice growing louder and louder and more and more persistent.
Eating disorders are seldom about weight. They are about power, control, and a deficit of self-love.
I took an appointment just after Candice. She got her tattoo on the inside of her wrist. I hurt for her. But she’s a bad ass, so she barely winced.
Then I got mine. It says “Eat, Debby”. Except it doesn’t, ’cause that would be awkward to explain. It’s the National Eating Disorder Association symbol. It’s widely used to represent recovery – or in my case, the life long journey towards it.
I got it on my foot so that it was discreet, but so it was never so far away that I couldn’t find it.
Neither one of us had any idea that just over a month later Candice would be admitted to the hospital, her pericardium full of fluid, a large cancerous tumor pushing on her heart, and several other smaller tumors detected as well.
“Don’t be mad. The cancer is back.” She said to me through Facebook.
But I was mad. I was so incredibly mad that I cursed Cancer and Autism and being a single parent to four school-aged children. I cursed everything that made Candice have to be the bad ass that she so amazingly is.
And I cursed the god that I am fairly certain must not exist, for letting this happen, for not taking care of his child.
A friend and I went to see her in the hospital. I shook as I walked towards the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I didn’t want to be there. I’d thought of 100 excuses why I shouldn’t be there. But I knew that Candice didn’t want to be there more than me – so I channeled her amazing strength and I walked in.
And she smiled.
And I thought, how can she smile?
Where does this grace come from?
Maybe from the god I don’t believe in? Maybe from within?
Maybe from years of kicking ass. Yes, I do believe it’s mostly that last one.
She’s home now. Doing outpatient radiation. What the future holds we don’t know. All of that future stuff is moot right now, because right now all she can focus on is kicking Cancer’s ass – again.
In a moment of lapsed lucidity I signed up to bring dinner for Candice and her family. Anorexics aren’t big cooks you can imagine. And while I know how to, I rarely have the ingredients or time or want.
I made spaghetti. Okay, actually EB’s therapist Cassandra mostly made the spaghetti for me while I had a plan meeting.
I had signed up to bring spaghetti, a salad and garlic bread. But since it’s never just Autism I only had the spaghetti and my car battery died every few times I stopped the car so I couldn’t get to the grocery store.
I loaded up the spaghetti, held my breath while the car started, and I drove to Hardee’s.
“Um hi, twelve plain biscuits please.” I spoke into the speaker.
“Twelve what?” the voice replied?
“Um…do you sell biscuits? I need twelve of them. Like a dozen? That’s a dozen right?” My experience with Hardee’s is limited to the knowledge that they have Coke Zero and my cousin worked there after high school.
“Yes we have biscuits. Pull forward please.”
You wouldn’t believe how long I sat, not turning off my car, waiting for those biscuits. When they brought them to me in the “park and wait for your convoluted order spot” the employee told me they’d never had anyone ask for twelve biscuits before.
And I thought…of course you haven’t, cause I’m a bad ass Autism Mommy.
I brought the food to my beautiful bad ass friend. She was smiling. We sat and talked and her dad rigged my battery with an old beer can he’d found. We just hung out like old times. Cause cancer can’t change that.
We talked about our next tattoos, our kids, and how we both wish we had time for some wine.
And when I left I apologized for the Hardee’s/spaghetti/saladless meal and Candice said that it looked great.
And I hugged her and I said…
“Go eat, Candice.”