Chronic pain. The forever companion you desperately want to get rid of and yet no amount of pleading will change the fact that this is it. Acceptance – of the isolation, of seeing your closest ally in front of you with a warm washcloth, or is a cold one today? and loving worried eyes that look upon you as if you are still the most beautiful thing they have ever seen, and yet you feel alone…stuck…inside a body that betrays you and yet you are still here, thank the dust of the stars you still breathe, in and out, focusing on the small moment in between the breaths, in between the days and the nights you try to make plans but are forced to cancel because you cannot stomach the pain, the accommodations that others have to make for you to just sit or walk or talk, through a clenched jaw…damn this throbbing. Where is it coming from now. The lights? The sounds? Or is it my friend explaining how she finally got that promotion? Oh no…I can sense it. I see the question forming in her mind. The inevitable question that burns a hole through my heart. “I know you are in pain, but can you just try to…” I AM. I AM. I AM. I scream it into the void. Force that smile on your face. You got this. Just one more hour and then you can retreat to your home, your cocoon of comfort…the bathtub where the weightlessness provides a relief until you have to ring a bell to be helped up out of it and do I still have any pride? Keep that head up, they say, as if posture is the issue. I try, and I try, but positivity can be hard to come by, but I’m here. I show up to my every day, perhaps not always with a smile, but with a strength that holds my dignity intact. I’m alive.