At first it was subtle, and hardly noticeable. But over the course of a couple weeks it became undeniable. Now I knew that my brain tumor was growing.

Defining Known

Mar 2, 2022

WRITTEN

KNOWN
ידוע

The word known has weight and color and form for me. It’s one that I carry with me everywhere I go – literally. The Hebrew word “yada”, which means intimately known, is tattooed on my neck. It lives like a guardian beneath a 5 inch scar that runs up the backside of my head, adjacent to the crescent scar above my left ear and its twin crescent above my right. This word, yada, is a reminder that in suffering, vulnerability, and pain I am seen and loved exactly as I am. 

I spent the first 21 years of my life hiding from being known. I was afraid that if others knew me, if they saw who I was in the marrow of my being, they would be disappointed. Or even worse, apathetic. So I learned to hide my true self away. To shift my interests, my humor, and the way I carried myself to fit the room I was in. This became so second nature that I forgot to unlock that door to my true self even when I was alone. It was easier, safer, to stay in character. And then, in time, I forgot that I was playing a role. 

But all of that changed in 2011. I was starting my junior year of college with my carefully devised character shining brighter than ever. That is, until I started noticing cracks in the facade. My usually tight and small handwriting started to get large and sloppy which, for someone who prides themselves on hardfought “perfect” linework, was aggravating. You know that feeling of trying to write in the car? That’s what it felt like all the time. I didn’t want to believe what I knew was happening, so I just didn’t acknowledge it – hoping that if I didn’t name it, then it couldn’t be true. But then came my sight. Double vision was creeping in slowly from the edges of my visual field. At first it was subtle, and hardly noticeable. But over the course of a couple weeks it became undeniable. Now I knew that my brain tumor was growing. Oh, I forgot to tell you I have a brain tumor? It’s probably because I was hiding that “flaw” from you. I’ve been known to do that.  

I was whisked away from my meticulously constructed existence where everyone saw what I wanted them to. I was forced to trade in a life safe from vulnerability for a life where I was exposed. One where my skull would be cracked open 5 times in 3 years and strangers saw what was inside. It should come as no surprise to you that I told hardly anyone why I left college. A had roommates that had to find out from other sources. Why? Because this was not part of my plan. The life I had projected for myself. The one I wanted people to know. 

It was laying in the hospital after my first brain surgery that I first encountered the idea of yada, of being intimately known. I was raw, exposed, and vulnerable. Laying naked under a paper sheet while detailed scans of my broken brain were passed around for all to see. I was unsure of what a future would look like – if I would ever be able to hold a conversation without a splitting headache, create art with steady hands again, or have a family of my own. I could viscerally feel the character I had forgotten I was playing being stripped away, layer by exposing layer. All of the identities I believed defined who I was were suddenly ripped away. The fog of anesthesia and drugs lifting just for a moment to allow clarity of thought to pose the question: Do I have value if this is all I am for the rest of my life? Helpless, a burden, broken, nothing. 

Suddenly I saw the phrase “I am ______”, as clearly as if it was written on the hospital ceiling. Then the identities I created flashed in the blank before being wiped away.

 “I am a good daughter”. 

The placeholder wipes clean. 

 “I am a loyal friend”. 

The placeholder wipes clean. 

 “I am a talented artist”. 

The placeholder wipes clean. 

 “I am a gifted athlete”. 

The placeholder wipes clean. 

Then finally something stuck: 

I am His”.

And in that moment, I felt fully known. I felt seen not for what I could contribute or do, but for who I was in the essence of my soul: created in the image of the Creator. It took stripping away the character I built to get to the core that I was hiding from others and even myself. To believe that I am worthy, wanted and wildly loved without needing to perform or pretend. 

“…then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known.”

– 1 Cor. 13:12

THE AUTHOR: Grace Casey

Grace Casey is the designer at the helm of Marrow, a creative studio crafting soul-deep brands for entrepreneurs ready to stand out and step up. She is a mother, wife, coffee enthusiast, plant addict, and adventure seeker that can (usually) be found in Houston, TX. Follow her design work or her visual journal.

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