Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I look like when I listen (a few reflections on my face)

An Eric Gillet photo from Cheryl's wedding rehersal

I like this picture.  I posted some of Eric's pictures of Cheryl and Miguel before their wedding (he took their engagment pictures, which were amazing, and his work is captivating, to say the least).  In chatting with him before the rehersal, I told him I have a special nack for ruining pictures, and he saw first hand after not realizing how serious I was, that I do have an uncanny ability to close my eyes and contort my face as a shutter closes.  The above photo, though, I like. 

My face was tired a lot that weekend and there is a fair amount of asymmetry in my face in other pictures, and now in general, even compared to earlier in my recovery.  I also discovered that I have no control over my 'lesser' neck muscles on my Bell's side.  I don't know if this is new or if I just didn't notice all this time.  They aren't muscles I think I need for anything.  But, by the way it feels to smile these days, there may be some other muscles that are either regressing or that did not heal the way I thought they did.

Most people would never know now by looking at me that I had Bell's.  It's visible in some photos, espcially when my face is tired or when I couldn't tell my Bell's side wasn't smiling, so I didn't correct it.  In this picture, though, it is hardly even visible to me.

I don't spend time thiking about it from the perspective of outright vanity, and interestingly that didn't even bother me a whole lot when I didn't know if I would heal.  Frankly, I care more when I occasionally get a zit in various ridiculous looking spots on my face.  I rarely spend time on my appearance.  I thought about it in terms of attractiveness to my husband, though, I guess, as I healed.   But not in the way you think about your hair or acne or crooked teeth when you're a teenager and you (truly, though not consciously) believe your value and acceptance are dependent on those things. 

It worried me more with my kids and with interpersonal communication.  People responded to me very, very differently when I couldn't smile.  Responses ranged from akwardness to outright hostility.  The differences in my face now impact interactions less, of course, but there are still subtle differences, both in my face and in the way I feel during conversations where subtle facial cues are important. 

This photo captures how I feel a lot of the time around people.  Not entirely sad, but someimes at least a little separate...working at connecting.

Like many major illnesses, Bell's leaves most of us a little wiser and more grateful than we were before, but also just unexplainably different.

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