To Be a Girl.

I must admit, I really love being a girl. I’m not sure most people would know that considering a few things. I’m not overwhelmingly feminine. I don’t officially dress the part that often. And my manners slip up a lot. Maybe I’m thinking more about what it is to be a Southern Girl, but I love being that too, even though I know I don’t always do the South proud. Still, it’s in me. And I like that it is.

A disappointing factor in being sick is that my wardrobe has taken quite a hit. I used to work 5 or 6 days a week, and I enjoyed putting together my little corporate outfits each day. It always felt like a part I was playing anyway, so I took time for the appropriate costume. There’s pride in getting dressed for work each day. Even if it was a crappy day– bad weather or crappy co-workers–whatever it was, there was still some amusement in dressing each day. Looking my best. It was some part of the job that I could control. And I indulged in looking good and smelling good and hearing my heels click on the gallery floor. There was some identity, among pride, in the ritual of all of that.

Now I don’t have somewhere to be 5 out of the 7 days a week. I don’t have to wake up at some ridiculous hour–which let me be clear, I don’t miss in the least. And while I don’t miss hitting the snooze button 6 times before forcing myself out of bed and dragging myself to the shower, I do miss the ritual of working. The wardrobe it required. The pride in looking good and knowing your purpose and getting a paycheck every two weeks. Clear parameters. Certain expectations. Consistent and adequate wages. I realize that while you’re working it’s not uncommon to be fantasizing about not working, because that grind–it’s a lot. Every day. All day. The same people. The same setting. It can be overwhelming in its sameness.

While I did enjoy the ritual of working, I knew I couldn’t stay there forever, mostly because it didn’t do a lot for my soul. The work was not a challenge creatively in the least. I told myself that I could work full-time and do my creative work on the side. I could write and draw at night or on the weekends, but I was so dead at the end of each day, so spent by the weekends, I always spent them half-conscious in sweats watching mindless television or attempting to write but tiring out quickly. Maybe some could do it, but it was certain I could not. One day I would have to leave that job if I wanted to explore the more creative life, but I never thought it would be involuntary. It was–due to my health. I wonder how long I would have stayed there had it not been.

Anyway, now I am sort of living the creative life. I follow my inner-self a lot which is a privilege, I admit. I’ve learned songs on my dads guitar. I paint watercolors when I’m bored. I watch French movies to brush up on my French. I write. I read. I rest. Repeat. I think it would be easy to look at my life from the outside and say it looks easy. And to an extent it’s certainly easier than my scheduled life I used to lead. There’s no calling in sick or feeling guilty about not performing well. But also, there’s no paycheck. No official schedule to follow or tasks to complete. But I have a feeling those things will come again.

It’d be easy to fall down the black hole of daytime TV or something more depressing. I work hard to keep things moving. To strike when the creativity is hot. To find newness in each day. I consciously work to keep my life from going to stagnant–that’s where a girl could get into trouble.

Since my new life doesn’t require any certain wardrobe, I often joke about the clothes I wear and my general appearance. Not to mention, the whole showering and routine that follows deal totally exhausts me, so it’s often a matter of energy reserves. I used to be so polished. Now I leave my hair curly and wild and am wearing a stretch cotton tank top with a cat wearing sunglasses on it. This of course is acceptable, as I don’t really have visitors or male suitors. Haha. But still, as much as I have to strive to keep my life moving, I think I need to remember that I am a girl and I can look pretty when I try. And I really enjoy smelling good. I don’t have official reasons to make those things happen anymore, but maybe just being a girl is reason enough.

Like last night, I painted my nails this bright red. And it really thrilled me. Red nails! The thrills of being a girl!

Glamour on a Tuesday.
Glamour on a Tuesday.

Laughably I take pride in being able to give myself a manicure comparable to the professional ones. Since I’m broke I can’t afford those things, but I can do them myself and so I do. I also bought this knock-off gold watch for $20 dollars which I really enjoy wearing. The best part is it fit perfectly, I didn’t have to remove any links. It makes me feel glamorous, with these red nails and lipstick too. Sometimes when I’m feeling good, I take really long bubble baths, I spend a long time doing my hair, I put on full makeup, and I spray myself in perfume. And then I go nowhere. I strut around my house like an idiot, just like it used to be–a girl playing dress up. Or I pretend to go somewhere and take photos like these:

Here's Monty and Me and the Eiffle!
Here’s Monty and Me at the Eiffle!
And here we are at the Aquarium!
And here we are at the Aquarium!

Monty gets nervous because it’s gotten to the point where if I put on pants he knows I am probably leaving. But I don’t leave. I clean the house. I indulge in the mirror. And still, even though I have nowhere to go or no one to see– I revel in being a girl. If even just to remind myself that when I try, I can still be one. One day I will have places to be and people to meet and parties to attend, so I’m just making sure I still know how. How to be polished. How to walk with poise in heels. How to look the part. How to be a girl.

Health, Happiness, Remembering.

Cutest Passport Photo in the History of Time?

...
The Mona Lisa of Passport Photos.

Sometimes when I’m sad or frustrated or just looking for something to make smile, I look at this picture: It’s the passport photo of my 1-year-old niece, Olive. It’s funny how just an image can cheer us up or change our energy. Any photo of my nieces tend to brighten me up, but this one in particular makes me happy. Cutest passport in the history of time? I think so.  Some things are too cute, words will only spoil them. So I’ll leave this one alone.

Health, Happiness, and Indecently Cute Passport Photos

The Only Gift to Give

(me)
(me)

For as long as I can remember, my mother has never been one for presents. Specifically cutesy presents like mugs that say # 1 Mom! or trinket-type gifts like the kind from the Hallmark store. I guess at her age and after four children, she’s accumulated enough “stuff” to last until her end. She gets it. She’s the worlds greatest mom. Enough with the mugs already! It’s not that she isn’t sentimental, because she is. It’s more that now, those $20 items from the mall just seem gratuitous. She will always say “Thank You” to a gift but I know she’d rather we save our money or donated it to someone or something that really needs it. It seems like free, homemade gifts have always been her favorite. Since I’m living under her roof and on her dime, it wouldn’t make sense to buy her a gift anyway. It’d be with her money! I’m like the little drummer boy but all I have to give are words. “I have no gift to bring Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum!” Anyway, I guess every mom just likes to know they were thought of in a meaningful way. I’m not a parent so I couldn’t know, but I’ve heard it’s both the hardest and the most rewarding job on the planet. Most of the time your efforts go unnoticed, or under-appreciated, or unrealized until decades later, and it’s good to set aside a day to let them know: We noticed the work you did– and thank them for it because it’s a job well done. Here is my totally affordable thank you to a mom very deserving.

I want to say that whether you knew it or not, I’ve been taking notes from you. Because more than someone who performs countless motherly duties each day, a mother is also simply a model human being for her children. Everything you were doing as an adult, were things I observed and learned from.  Watching you navigate through dark times. Noticing your courage and grace when things fell to pieces. Watching you keep going when it would have been easier to give up. Those are all things I will carry with me–forever. I never felt too young to take on the lessons you were learning yourself. If I am ever a mother I will hope to pass those things down to my own kids. But as a singular human being, I will keep them with me and they will guide me long after you’re gone.

Perhaps the best thing a kid can tell their mom is that they’re happy. The last few years have been extremely difficult for me. And I know that as a mom, having to watch your child suffer is even more painful. So often she told me she wished she could go through the experience for me, and save me from the pain. I think most parents would agree. They’d prefer to take on the hardships themselves then have to watch their child go through it. But as much as parents want to protect their children, hide them from the pain and perversions of the world, they also have to trust that they have instilled enough love, value, self-esteem, and wisdom in us so that we may not run from the hardships, but that we may find our way through them, and come out of the other side intact–wiser and stronger, not bitter and broken. I want to tell my mom that even though life has been at difficult, sometimes unbearably difficult, and I’ve wondered how I’d get through, that I would reflect on her life and remember all of the hardships that she had emerged from. The memory would remind me that I could do the same. I’ve always known that at the root of everything, I am loved. Unquestionably. Unconditionally. Consistently. I have always known that. And that knowledge makes a difference to a kid. Whether we’re 3 or 30. I wonder what the world would be like if every child knew that. In times where I didn’t feel like I could keep going for me, I knew that I was loved enough that I would keep going for her, for them. And that guided me. That kept me going.

I know that  watching a child in pain is almost unbearable for a parent. I could see it in her eyes when I was sick and incapable of many things last year. It hurt her too. But I also know that there are few greater feelings than a parent watching their child experience joy, find happiness, emerging out of the other side of darkness. I want to tell my mom that I am happy. That I’m OK. And no matter how hard my life gets, I will always be OK. Because look what we’ve already made it through! It used to frighten me, remembering how hard life can get. But now it strengthens me. It’s a choice; I can think of either the rough times and be afraid or remember that we made it out of them and be reassured. I know that being a mother and worrying go hand-in-hand, but I want to tell you not to worry. I am OK and I will always be OK.

I think in the end it doesn’t come down to how many shirts or mugs or magnets you have in your drawer of trinket gifts. Those are things and things are temporary. The love and the lessons you handed down are what is forever. The love you gave through happy times and sad times. The wisdom you exuded when it felt like the world had turned its back on us. Crying when you need to. Laughing when you need to. But never turning bitter, never giving up. All of these learned responses are what you handed down. They are what we will hand down. And the next generation will hand down. And that’s the thread of life being sewn across the world. Nothing temporary about it.

I guess all of this is to say, job well done. Your work will live beyond your life.

Love,

Mary (and Monty)

P.S. Since your other children are out of state, they each wanted to draw you a picture for today. In case you forgot their age judging by the quality of their art, I’ve included them for you.

Health and Happiness and Happy Mothers Day!

This is from your oldest son Doug. He is 35 years old.
This is from your oldest son Doug. He is 35 years old.
This is from your son Nick. He is IV league educated.
This is from your son Nick. He is IV league educated.
This is from your daughter Amelie. She's a designer. (Age 32)
This is from your daughter Amelie. She’s a designer. (Age 32)

Life In My Parents Pool House

So if I die I want that to be the name of my memoir. Isn’t is perfect? It’s funny yet sadly true. A sick girl-turned-woman living in her parents pool house and on their dime. With a dog. Wait am I a girl or a woman? Now I know how Britney Spears felt when she sang that song. In any case, it sounds like a Fairytale to me. I wonder how this one ends.

What I’m really getting at is that life in my parent’s pool house is great and I recommend that all 28 year olds or young adults in general try it. I had my first night in my new place three days ago. Waking up the next morning in my bed, in my own house was basically spectacular. You have to understand it’s been 2.3 years since I’ve been able to wake up under those parameters and having to wait so long and go through what I did has made the moment even sweeter. If felt like finally exhaling after a ridiculously long tunnel. I laid in bed for the next hour with a pure feeling of gratitude, and that’s all I can really do in these instances. Breath, reflect, take it in and give thanks. If you don’t they pass you by, and you find yourself years later realizing how good you had it only in retrospect. I realize how lucky I am to live in a beautiful house, to call it my own, to have a pool, and to be given help and time to heal, when my givers know I can’t really pay it back. I guess that’s what you call love isn’t it. Did I mention Monty loves it too? He’s also deathly afraid of the polaris but not enough to stay out of the pool.

Woo!
Evil Polaris EVIL POLARIS

Moving into a house when you’re a sickly takes a very long time. Also having this month-long headache still isn’t helping, but who’s counting? I was overeager in the beginning. I wanted to set up every room and unpack every box and start painting walls all on the first day. It took a little overdoing and paying the price later to realize OK, this needs to happen one room at a time. Sometimes one piece of furniture at a time. And mostly one drawer at a time. It’s ridiculous to me how many times I have to learn that lesson. That overdoing it will be costly and painful, and yet I continue to overdo it and pay the price. And the funny thing is, most people I speak to with this illness (like my mom and everyone at the support group) say they do it constantly. You’d think we’d learn after all these years. We’re a bunch of stubborn dum dums!

Anyway I think the most exceptional part about living by yourself is the amount of time you can spend without pants. Like that first day, after I spent the hour of gratitude in bed, I got dressed and began unpacking and organizing and having these grand fantasies in my head like “And in this room I’ll have scrabble tournaments and in this room I’ll serve afternoon tea.” All of which will probably never happen. After a while my pants were really beginning to bother me. Don’t ask why–sometimes it’s noises and sometimes it’s clothing. And then it struck me that I could take my pants off and keep unpacking because THIS WAS MY HOUSE and at my house PANTS ARE NOT REQUIRED. So I took them off and unpacked in my underwear and soaked up the amazing feeling of being able to do what I want in my own place because I make the rules now. Yeah! Other rules include:

  1. No Bill O’Reilly (Not even an option because I’m poor and don’t have cable but still)
  2. Peeing in the Pool Is Actually Allowed. I know you’re going to do it anyway and come on, we use strong chemicals in there.
  3. No guns.
  4. All dogs allowed! In fact, no humans without dogs.
  5. What happens at the pool house stays at the pool house. Like swimming. And scrabble.

So basically, there are no rules. I just want it to be a happy place and an open door to the people I love. I can’t guarantee I’ll be wearing pants, but hey the world has bigger fish to fry. This other cool thing happened while I was touching up paint the first day. I found my ipod from like 5 years ago and thought I’d play songs on random and be entertained from my 5-year-old playlists. The first song that came on was “Let It Be” by The Beatles and I totally stopped what I was doing and belted that song as loud as I could. I’ve heard it so many times before, but suddenly all the words felt like they were being sung just to me and my life. The lyric that really spoke to me was There Will Be An Answer. Because there will be. One day. Maybe not for many many years, maybe not even in this life on earth, but we will see what our lives mean in the grander scheme of things and we will get an answer to our pain and sorrow. I dream about that moment of clarity and revelation all the time. In the meantime, we just have to hang on. Pick up the pieces. Keep going.

Anyway, I played that song about 6 more times really really loudly and sang it really really loudly because that’s another rule: You can sing as loud as you want. Standing in the kitchen. In your underwear. In fact I recommend that’s how you do it. So below is the song Let It Be and I suggest you play it and belt it and let those words remind you that everything is OK. Even though, I know it’s not. My life is a mess. The world is a mess. I watch the news and I see it. I see war and poverty and violence and corruption and it all makes me feel very small. Very powerless. All I am is a sick kid who calls it a success if I take a shower frequently enough. But it reminds me of a quote from Joseph Campbell. He says:

“When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

It’s not the most romantic theory about life, but it can be reassuring. When I think about what the world has evolved from, (think even from the Civil Rights Movement to present day) it gives me hope that we will continue to grow. It’s all going to be OK. We’re here. We’re awakening. We’ve survived this much, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

Health, Happiness, Pants.

Back To New Orleans.

Excuse the drabness of this post, I’m on day 10 of a headache and sometimes it makes the words come out funny. Or boring. But the show must go on! Anyway, I have some news. I’m pregnant. Just kidding. I just keep dreaming that I am. It’s pretty stressful. Because in the dreams I’m like wait, I take waaay too many pills to effectively grow a fetus inside of me. The rest of the dream is spent in panic mode wondering how to be this sick and how also to care for a child. Sick girl fairy tales! So, the real news.

First, I’m back in New Orleans. Monty and I both are. In fact I’m writing from a courtyard at a friend’s apartment in the French Quarter now. It’s weird to think I’ve been gone for nearly nine months. I don’t know if that’s a thing about the South or a thing about Home, but it never truly feels you’ve been away for as long as you have. As soon as the humidity grabs you at Louis Armstrong Airport, you pick up right wherever you left off. Changed or unchanged.

My original plan was to just spend the spring here. New Orleans has about the shittiest climate of any American city, but April and October are magic. It’s perfect. And when you’re here on a day like today, you wonder why anyone would ever ever leave the place. Plenty of artists have depicted the perfection of this city a million ways better than and before me, so I hesitate to try. I can only describe it as magic on days like this. Of course outside those couple of months, is a city ill-equipped for a few weeks of penetrating cold, followed by relentlessly rainy or relentlessly hot or relentlessly both. In those times it’s easy to see why people would leave. And yet few seem to. The roots here are deep, and I love how many love stories there are between person and place. I’ve lived in different cities over the years and have more than one place to call home, but there is reserved a very special spot for New Orleans. It’s like that boyfriend you never quite get over.

The original plan was to come for my friend’s wedding and spend a month reacquainting myself with the city I’ve been missing. But in February my parents made me an offer. They knew how hard it had been for me to give up having my own place two years ago. Beyond not having the money to afford my own place, I don’t really have the health to live on my own either. It’s a chunk out of the ego to come to terms with things like that. My mom was constantly driving over to pick me up and bring me home. It’s long been a difficult truth for me to accept that I can’t live on my own. I have always loved solitude, and basically since moving out of my apartment that March a few years ago, I haven’t been able to really find it. That all changed in February when my parents told me they were willing to let me and Monty move into their pool house. Because that’s what all mature 28 year olds do; they live in their parents pool house. My mom explained that this way, at times when I’m too sick to be on my own, they’ll be on the property to help. And for the rest of the time, I’ll have a place to call all mine. 

Since that morning, even the thought of their offer has brought me ease. One of the hardest feelings in the world is, in a word: stuck. Stuck with somebody. With something. In someones house. Stuck in a crap situation. One where you don’t see an out. I have confronted this feeling many times and it can feel crushing. It’s often just the wrong set of eyes to be looking at a situation. Many times when we feel stuck we’re not always seeing the whole picture, or the truth of what we’re surrounded with. But I must admit, the feeling has pervaded over and over and I think it stems from a lack of options and a lack of power on my part. When you don’t have health and you don’t have money, you’re not left with much to offer the world. You’re sort of just relying on the pure heart of people around you, because if I’m honest, for everything they do for me, I have little to offer in return. And that has been the truth of my situation for a few years now. So many times–relying on the goodness of people to do things for me, knowing full well I most likely won’t be able to pay back the favor, or the funds, or a house. It’s been a lesson in humility to say the least. How does that quote go? The true character of a man can be measured by how he treats someone who can do him no good. Something like that. I think of those words all the time. I watch people endlessly help to make sure my needs are met, and all I can do is go to bed at night with an immense sense of gratitude and no certainty that I’ll ever be capable of repaying the favor. I promise myself and the universe, if I’m ever well again and if I ever have money, I will use them both graciously for good.

Tomorrow I’ll start the move into my new place and fantasize about all the wonderful things that may happen to me and my life when I’m in it. Maybe it’s the house where I get better. Where all my wildest dreams come true. Where I find my happy ending. Maybe it’ll just be a nice place to write and lay around and be sick. Go my own pace. Either way, it has a pool, so Monty will be happy, and that will make me happy. I also really enjoy being under water, so there’s that too. I’ve got some projects in mind to begin working on now that I have some space to carry them out in, so at least there will be time and room for all the ideas I’ve been scribbling around in my library of notebooks. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a few photographs of the magic city in Springtime. Everyone needs a pretty day in New Orleans. It does the soul some good.

Health, Happiness, Home.

Nothing beats a New Orleans Wedding.
New Orleans Wedding.
Nola Windows. They're the best.
Nola Windows. They’re the best.
photo-68
Life In Color.
Eating crawfish. Once you know, you know.
Eating crawfish. Once you know, you know.

What Happens In Vegas Goes On the Blog

What’s up party people? I took my first week vacation away from the blog and I really missed it like it was some kind of boyfriend I took space from. I’d have moments observing something or participating in a conversation and think “Aww, the blog would really love this.” Then I’d try to store things in my brain to access later but most of it drifted away like cotton candy. Anyway,  I have some items on the agenda to address beginning with something that might seem a little hard to believe, but believe it baby. I just returned from a bachelorette party in LAS VEGAS and I had the time of my life. Let it be known that I had no intention of attending this party weekend for obvious reasons. I have no money and no health. And yet it happened anyway.

Movie Poster for "Sick Girl at the Window"
Movie Poster for “Sick Girl at the Window”

I had three roommates throughout my tenure at LSU and we were kind of just our own family. We all studied abroad the same semester so we could meet up in Europe together. We tackled the angst of our early twenties together. When one of us went through a breakup we all felt it in a weird way, as sappy as that sounds. We were tight knit, and those years in college were the best of my life. Inevitably, it became difficult to maintain such closeness after college, as much as we all wanted to think it would never change. Geography, jobs, marriages, and ailing health took their toll on the crew and slowly those days of casual conversations on the porch about nothing became fewer and further between. Admittedly, I am absolutely terrible at maintaining and keeping up friendships in the sense that I rarely answer my phone or fill people in on “What’s new in your life?” I am for sure the worst in our crew. But with those girls it always felt like I could go a long time without seeing them and pick up where we left off. That’s the way to define a best friend isn’t it? Very, little, maintenance.

I remember after getting my full-time job at the gallery after college thinking “Hmm, how does one go about making friends after college?” I was the youngest person at the gallery but aside from age, I felt a real void not having that crew along for the ride. I wasn’t proactive about making friends, especially since most of my weekends were spent in bed recuperating my body anyway. I was nostalgic for the ease in which those three girls and I were friends together.

The first one in our crew was married in 2011 and in true female form, we all screamed and freaked out about it for a while. It really drove home the point that college was over and we were getting older. Last year we got a similar photo text of Tiffany wearing an engagement ring and now the second one of us was “biting the dust.” Once again in true female form, we all screamed and freaked out about it as we begged for details and said all those incredibly female things like Oh my god!! How cute!!! So romantic!! When it came to my attention that Tiffany’s bachelorette  party was going to be held in Las Vegas, I felt a pit in my stomach. I’ve become pretty accustomed to missing out on things due to my lack of health and funds. But this one stung more. I have desperately missed my friends over the last two years. Especially the last few months. I feel like I’ve been a third wheel to other couples and their respective social groups for a while now, and I’ve missed the comfort and lack of effort being with your own great friends affords. I was sad to see the party would be in Las Vegas because there was just no way I was going to be able to make it and I resigned myself to the fact that it would be just one more thing I would have to miss.

But a month ago they informed me that whether I wanted to or not, I was coming on this bachelorette party. “We’re buying you your plane ticket and you’re coming,” Emily told me. Of course my ego and pride always protest a little when people volunteer to buy things for me or help me out, because a part of it just feels wrong. I want to be able to pay my own way. I don’t want to be a burden. But they insisted and I once again learned a lesson in gratitude and humility.  Sometimes you need to rest that “Oh I couldn’t possibly!” reaction, and just accept with grace the gifts that are offered to you. But there was still another problem; even if they bought my plane ticket, how in the hell would I survive Las Vegas? A month ago I was barely walking! My mom and sister insisted that for my flight out there I use a wheelchair in the airport and then get a wheelchair at our hotel and let my friends take turns wheeling me around. This was once again, going to stir up things in my pride. I don’t want to use a wheelchair, I want to use my own two legs to walk. But I also know that every time I fly, I crash the next day, sometimes for like a week. I know if I walk for more than 10 minutes some days, I pay for it for days at a time. So we were proactive early on. We made a plan.

I would use a wheelchair the day I travelled, and I would also use one at the hotel and try to stay horizontal or sitting as much as possible. I had been reading that some people with CFS have found relief using adderall so I brought some with me to take at night so I could stay awake for dinner and everything after. I began praying constantly, whenever I thought of it, for strength and energy and for things to go smoothly while I was there. I had nightmares of me sleeping the entire trip away in a dark hotel room. But honestly, I thought, even if I don’t make it out after, it would be worth it me to go there and have dinner with my friends. It had just been so long since I had done something purely recreational like this. I knew my soul needed it. So we prepared as much as we could and I left the rest up to the Gods of partying and drunken debauchery.

As I stood in the crowded lobby of Caesars Palace on Friday night, over stimulated by the sounds and sights of Las Vegas, I saw out of the corner of my eye two girls pushing a wheelchair with huge smiles on their faces, headed in my direction. My heart wanted to explode. I was so unbelievably excited to be with them again, and to know that just like in the college, they were in my corner again and I was in theres. They would push me the entire weekend, even when I would say “Nah why don’t I just walk..” My friend Emily would put her foot down and insist I “wheel it.” I quickly got a small glimpse into the life of someone who is physically or mentally disabled because people stared at me in that chair. I thought of those who are physically handicapped or disfigured and how many of those stares they have to deal with on a daily basis. I wonder if they get used to it or if after years it still gets to them.

Besides being with friends again, one of the best parts of going on that trip was feeling like a WOMAN again. I wore dresses and high heels. I had my nails painted red, did my hair like celebrities and smelled sexy, because I could. I’ve been sick and wearing the respective sick costume so long, I needed to remind myself that if I really wanted or needed to, I could still take the time and emerge out of a hotel room with my heels clicking on the glossy floor, and make a man look twice. It’s just plain fun to play dress up. And even at age 28, I don’t feel any different than when I was five and I would clumsily walk around our kitchen in my moms high heels 6 sizes too big. All of life just feels like theatre to me now. Two years ago I was wearing the corporate girls costume in pinstriped skirts and last year I wore a sick girls costume and this weekend I was all dolled up at a club and no one knew the difference. I think I really needed to give my mind a rest from thinking about being sick all the time. It can be extremely consuming and I am always cautious not to let my “story” dictate who I am. It’s always been a fine line. But this weekend, for the most part, I was just Mary. A girl with her friends celebrating the upcoming marriage of one. I danced my heart out to terrible music in the VIP section at clubs. I drank gin and tonic and flirted with boys. I even kissed one, just to make sure I still knew how. Turns out I do. I had the time of my life and I think I needed it more than ever. How am I feeling now? Well, kind of crummy. It’s catching up to me. But at least this time, I’m paying for a great time I had, and it was well worth the price.

We Are Women Hear Us Roar
We Are Women Hear Us Roar

Thank you to my friends for insisting I go and helping pay the way. I needed it. I’ll pay you back when I’m a millionaire one day.

Health, Happiness, VEGAS

Home Is Where the Holiday Is

A funny thing happens after you leave your parents house and go off to college or out into the world to find whatever needs finding. You start making connections with people and places that aren’t familiar, that aren’t necessarily where you grew up and learned how to be you. Most people go through some sort of transition, often in their twenties, where home base may turn out to be far away from the original. Now more than ever, I don’t have a short answer for where home base is. When people ask me where I’m from, I have no idea where to start. “Well I was born in New Orleans, but I grew up in Colorado until we moved back to Louisiana when I was 16.” “Why did you move back?” “Oh well, my dad died when we were living in Colorado. But then my mom met and fell in love with someone in Louisiana so we moved back. But then THAT GUY died too. *Pause for uncomfortable silence and obligatory “Sorry to hear that.” “Oh my gosh I’m sorry to hear that!” “It’s cool. She ended up falling in love a third time and has remarried again! But lately they’ve been in Colorado, where my moms family is.” “So why are you in California?” “Oh, well I came out here to dog-sit for my sisters in-laws but then I became increasingly ill and have kinda just been living on their couch since September.” “Sick with what?” “How much time do you have?”

My life has never really had a lot of stability. Moving in the middle of high school from Colorado to Louisiana kind of threw everything off. I attended three different high schools and once in college, like most kids, we moved every year. I studied abroad one semester in France where my home was the tiniest room I’d ever lived in, but it was completely comfortable and adequate. I loved it. I spent summers in New York where my brother’s apartment on Lexington was home. After college I moved to New Orleans and got a grown-up job. I finally had an apartment I loved (huge windows) and I lived alone, which I really treasured. But I only had it for 6 months. Getting sick in January, riding in the backseat of my parents car after that day in the hospital, something told me I wouldn’t be in my own home for a long time. And that certainly turned out to be true. Since that night, nearly two years ago, I’ve been living in other people’s houses. I’m lucky I have so many people willing to host me. But truthfully, I dream of the day when I can have home base back. When I can have things the way I want them. When I’m not stepping on anyones toes or breaking whatever house guidelines there are. Living with people is tough at best. And that’s the case with most everyone. If I want the comfort of “home” I have to go inward. Feel who I am, believe in what I’m doing, and trust that I am where I’m supposed to be. Isn’t that the comfort of “home” after all? A place that knows and understands you, a constant among change, a softness where the world is hard.

I remember thinking the universe was playing a cruel joke on me. Finally after years of bouncing around, dealing with the work of roommates and compromise and “Who ate my burrito?!” texts, I had my own place. I was settled. Just me and Monty. I hung curtains and picked out an area rug and was finally living in a space I totally identified with. I remember picking out decorative pillows thinking, “Only an adult buys decorative pillows!” Maybe it’s a desire among the youngest in families, to finally feel like an adult. I don’t know, but I was on my own and that felt really really good. And then, it was gone. As much as I loved the independence, I had to let it go, because being sick didn’t allow me that self-sufficiency I had earned anymore. I would have to learn to rely on others, to ask for help, and to be appreciative even if I felt bitter. It’s been one of the harder lessons to learn among all this–Humbling at best. Turning bitterness into gratitude is like trying to fold a fitted sheet- I’ve heard it’s possible, but I’m rarely able to do it. They’re both art-forms I am still trying to master.

So now here I sit in Colorado, in the town I grew up in, at my grandmas house. It still has the familiar smells (somewhere between a library and church) and familiar sights (the picture of me from kindergarten on the great wall of grand children.) and the same rules (Everyone write your name on your cup and drink out of the same one!) Is this home? Or is it California? Or New Orleans? Well, for the next week or two, it’s here. Where my siblings and nieces will shuffle in from all over America and make lots of noise and pull lots of pranks and inevitably play a game of monopoly that may or may not turn ugly. Where we’ll eat big meals and fight over who my moms favorite is and sing songs off-key around my brother Doug playing piano. There will be dogs and babies and gifts that nobody needs. But the best part about love is, it doesn’t need a certain city or house to flourish. It can grow anywhere. I suppose that’s another art-form I’m attempting to master. And I guess where love grows, is where I’ll call home. This Christmas, it’s Colorado.

Health, Happiness, and Happy Holidays– Wherever Home Is.

For Some Reason, This Gem Is Still on the Wall.
I’m going to use this pose in all my pictures. .

“Home is where you can say whatever you want, because nobody listens to you anyway.” :)

-Joe Moore

My Post Election Facebook Prediction

 

 

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I’m going to briefly talk about two things I love to hate: Facebook and Politics. Bear with me.

Apparently, there’s an election going on. Like right now. You most likely knew that because you’re not an idiot. And you also probably knew that because if you’ve visited Facebook for even a millisecond in the last few months, you’ve seen it–the political outrage, the emotional pleading, angry outbursts, passionate opinions, and my favorite; quoting of the constitution. I have long thought that Facebook and politics go together about as well as pizza and peanut butter. But, we’re still figuring it out. This is the first generation of Facebookers. There’s no precedent. Which is why when Facebook opened the flood gates and allowed anyone to join, college kids ducked in horror as their parents and sometimes even grand-parents had access to a microscope highlighting all of their activity (legal and illegal) for the last year or so. They also laughed as Baby Boomers slowly learned what a poke meant and how to effectively comment on photos and walls. There’s no written etiquette for Facebook  We’re all just a bunch on neophytes figuring it out as we go and hoping not to ruin ourselves in the process. Undoubtedly, the consequences of Facebook activity can be huge, regardless of their intent. There have school expulsions, job firings, missed job opportunities, and countless breakups over this enigmatic social network. But hey, there are pros too. Keeping up with family members and long-lost friends, stalking your ex, knowing what your neighbor from grade school ate for breakfast this morning and that your high school boyfriend and his girlfriend are expecting a baby boy! But I’m getting off topic. There is an election going on. And if you spend any time on Facebook right now, you cannot escape that fact, opinions about that fact, and the ensuing written diatribes about that fact.

Sadly, I admit I have engaged in political debates on Facebook. They were miserable, dirty, and useless. No one walked away with their minds changed or cleared or any more informed than when they began. To be fair, verbal arguments can sometimes be just as messy and ineffective. But a verbal argument seems more tangible and more accountable. It’s much easier to write nasty things than to say it to someones face. There isn’t much accountability on the internet. Facebookers and bloggers have a lot power but not necessarily a lot of accountability.  It’s easy to type what you feel many times anonymously, without being liable for what you submit. On the Internet, we’re all just a bunch of small boxes with a face (or sometimes a picture of a car or a sonogram) and a name, but we seem to lose a large part of our humanness.

As miserable as Facebook political warfare is, we seem to be addicted to it. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut, (or your fingers idle) when you see someone post something you deem ridiculous. And truthfully, Facebook is where a lot of people make their voices heard. So it makes sense that it is on this platform where people express themselves politically. I don’t wonder why politics comes out on Facebook. It’s clear. I only wonder if it’s ever meaningful. It reminds me of a bumper sticker. It’s a tiny little snapshop of your views, but rarely does it encourage an intelligent dialogue or seem to persuade the other side. For all the engaging and speculating on Facebook I’ve done, I have never once witnessed a meaningful political conversation. Inevitably, someone will type something like “Hey screw you you dirty liberal!” or “You conservatives are a bunch of assclowns!” The people who agree with you are already convinced, and the people who don’t will tell you to go Eff yourself.  And then most likely send you a FB invite to their birthday party.

All that being said, my prediction is that we’ll see a large backlash on Facebook  November 7th, regardless of who wins the 2012 presidential election. (Duh) Democrats and Republicans alike are enthused, passionate, and each seem to use a disproportionate amount of explanation points. Here is my prediction:

IF OBAMA WINS:
(Warning of the apocalypse)

Everyone ready for the Socialist States of America?

God is good. God is great. Romney lost. We’ll suffer our fate!

Awesome! Another four more years of bullshit! Can’t wait!!!!

I’m moving to Canada. Eff you America!

Four more years of assclowns to run the White House. GREAT!

IF ROMNEY WINS:
(Emotional Depression Sweeps the Nation)

It’s a sad day for America. I really thought we had this one.

Wahhh. How will I afford my birth control?!?!

God is good. God is great. Obama lost. I wanna shoot myself in the head.

I can’t believe I won’t get healthcare and I’ll be in a binder!

Woah, Romney won. Does anyone wanna get frozen yogurt?

When you sign up for Facebook, you sign up to see and hear a lot of things about about your Facebook friends, which is mostly everyone you have ever known. Sometimes you’ll like it and sometimes you won’t. I always wonder how Facebook will evolve and how its users will change. Regardless of who wins, the world will keep on spinning, (according to most) and Facebook will keep on status-ing all over the place. Whether you like what you see or not, it is great to live in a country where you can say it all. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Most of my recent Facebook activity that deals with the election is linked to The Onion–a satirical newspaper. Because I don’t find that political views on Facebook do very much except attract those who disagree. Which is fine. Maybe that’s even the point. Ranting and bickering can be fun, I guess. But from my seat, it never seems to goes well or end well. If we are to examine our intent, what is it exactly? To change minds? To be heard? To inform? I wonder if Facebook is really the place to do it. I think there may actually be a place for politics on Facebook, somewhere. I just don’t think we’ve found it yet. It is however, the best place for pictures of cats and babies and suggestions for cold remedies. No question.

Maybe it won’t always be that way. Like people, Facebook has continued to grow and change throughout the years. Most would probably not even recognize the user interface of Facebook 1.0. And it will be interesting to see what it will look like in the 2016 election and how people will interact then. My prediction: Still a lot of cats. Still a lot of political warfare.

The world spins on.

Health, Happiness, Politics.

What Type of Facebooker Are You?

1.The Advice Seeker of things that seem relatively obvious. Does anyone know where I can find groceries? I’m looking for things like broccoli, milk, poultry, cereal and juice. Looking for good prices but also quality food. Any suggestions?

Message me with any info. Thanks!

2. The incredibly angry but mostly uninformed Political Posting Tyrant. Taxes are such bullshit!! Why can’t everything just be free? I wish the morons running this country would ask themselves that. Now I’m going to quote the constitution for you. 

3. The Horrifically Offensive Facebooker that doesn’t seem to know it. Is it just me or are pregnant people gross and disgusting? 

4. The ball-busting Debbie Downer. (AKA, the person that ends every status with UGH!!!!)  Wow, after being stuck in traffic for 2 hours, I come home and step in dog shit. No, I don’t have a dog, my neighbors do. So I wrote them a letter explaining that I’d really appreciate it if they picked up after their dog, that is part of YOUR responsibility as a dog owner, not MINE as your neighbor. UGH!!!!!

5. The Emo Kid Facebooker, dense with cryptic statuses. Yes, I can forgive you, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget. 

6.  The Check In Everywhere You Go Facebooker. Mary was at Albertson’s with Who Gives a Shit

7. The Stay on Facebook MomYep, Tommy just shit in the toilet all on his own. Then he asked me to wipe his butt for him. I have never had so much fun wiping someones ass or been more proud to do it!! Just love him!!!! 

8. The judgmental Passive Spectator: Has very little facebook activity– mostly just sits back and watches the horror of facebook unfold while worrying about the state of the world.

We’re fucked.

9. The Workout Obsessed Facebooker. Feelin the burn!!! Gonna be so sore tomorrow!! Will write a status about it at that time!

10. The over-eager Bearer of Bad News Facebooker. Just saw a car that was filled with puppies tumble off the road and burst into flames. Will be thinking about them tonight. 

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Health, Happiness, Facebooooooook.

Sometimes You Gotta Say Yes.

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Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it hurts. When it would be not just easier or more convenient to say no, but less painful, less exhausting, perhaps even, the healthier option– even then, sometimes, you gotta say yes.

As my role as the “sick girl” has slowly developed over the past few years, I’ve noticed how often and how easily I’ve begun to say no to things. And that’s mostly for the sake of my livelihood. I don’t have the endurance to do the things I once did, nor do I have the resilience to bounce back if I overstep the boundary. There’s an invisible line with illnesses like this; one that not even the sick person can see, and it doesn’t make a sound when you overstep. Not until later, when it’s too late to take anything back. So, you pay for it. And you start to feel your way through it, constantly guessing whether you’ve gone too far or done too much. It’s about as easy as pin the tail on the donkey in the dark, with booze. But this solid body of mine, as broken as it is, it always lets me know if I’ve infringed on that boundary. Always.

The last few days have been crappy. Not Colorado crash crappy, but, crappy. There have been a few 26 and 27 pills a day, days. Which I’m learning how to be OK with. Even sick days, where the most you do is brush your teeth, are OK too. They have to be. It’s interesting what this illness turns you into; a spectator where you once a participant. I often feel the quick pace of the world spinning and everyone rushing by with their busy lives, and then there’s me…just kind of, standing lying there. I miss being busy. There’s something comfortable about always having something to do, someone to see; there’s an importance about it. I notice now how different my to-do lists are verses my to-do lists a few years ago. 1. Wash clothes. 2. Pick up prescriptions. 3. Buy new notebook!

I’ve begun examining my life a little closer lately, and am putting a lot of thought into how I spend my time. It’s really crazy to think that I can sort of do what I want given that I don’t have a full-time job or any REAL responsibility besides my health and my dog Monty. (Although I don’t know, one might call my constant correspondence with the Walgreens pharmacy a full-time job in and of itself. For real though.) The thing is, since I can’t hold a full-time job right now, I don’t have any income. So that’s the first damper on “Doing what I want.” The second damper is, duh, I’m incapacitated most of the time. If I had my way, I’d be going, and doing, and meeting, luncheoning, and painting and creating and…you get it. Saying YES a lot. I’d be one of those busy people with alphabetized spice racks and really organized DVD collections. And I’d run half marathons for fun! BLECH. Scuse me, I just puked thinking about running a half marathon. Anyway, that’s not my life. Most of the time I feel too exhausted for showers and everything I buy at this point is on someone else’s dime…so it’s really teaching me a lesson in humility, appreciation, and grace. Every night I pray that I will be able to pay back everyone who has been so gracious in taking care of me. And I solemnly believe that day will come. One day.

In the meantime, I have a lot of something that many people don’t: free time. And whether I’m sick or not, it’s up to me how I spend my time. I find myself feeling bad a lot about not having a full-time job and not being able to support myself. I was used to having  a job and independence define me. But, I think that’s pride and the ego getting the best of me and I constantly have to remind myself that if I could, I would. But right now, it’s not where I am. So how about instead of feeling shitty on top of feeling shitty, I try to make better use of my time. I decided I’m going to read as much as I can, write as much as I can, and start looking at this free time as a gift instead of something that “happened to me.” A lot of people would love time off from work, to be a spectator, to read for the sake of reading. To be honest, not having something to do is harder than you’d think. We’re kind of a culture that tends to define ourselves by our work. I guess I’m redefining both my purpose and the definition of that word. Is it still considered work if you’re not getting paid?

This week has been rough health wise, but today I was sick and tired of being sick and tired more than I was actually sick and tired. SO, I said, screw it. I took a bath, got dressed, and went to the park with Monty. Not because I felt like it, not because it felt good even, but because I needed to get out. Sometimes I do the things I would do if I weren’t sick, just for a little while. I can go outside. I can throw a ball for Monty and finish reading my book. I felt shitty the whole time, but mentally I needed it. Chances are, I’ll pay for it tomorrow. But it’s one of those weeks where I felt like I would be paying for something tomorrow whether or not I did anything today, so I went for it. Every once in a while, it’s nice to feel like things are on my terms. It’s my way of giving the illness the middle finger. And you know what? It felt good! Screw you sickness. Today, Mary Gelpi SAID YES.

So confident.

OK so maybe I am really over-glorifying my little trip to the park. But, I have to keep myself in check. It would be really easy for me to say no to anything that required leaving the house or socializing with people. I can feel the crotchety 80-year-old inside of me getting way too comfortable. I remind myself that I am 28. I need to stop being so opposed to meeting new people. (Dude, I hate meeting people. Also, I’m terrible at it.) I have to be OK with going places sometimes, because I think our souls like a change of scenery. I need to not automatically say no, even though my experience gives me that tendency. Sometimes I will pay for it, yes. But there’s a price to be paid for constantly saying no, too. So I’ve got to find the middle. I’m still young, and I need to start acting my age. Before I know it I’ll be drinking Ensure and wearing Oopse I Crapped My Pants. And then meeting people will be REALLY hard!

You know what else I did today? Bought a new notebook. That’s my favorite thing to buy. I’m very particular when it comes to notebooks. It takes me a while to pick one out and I sit there in front of the shelf of books running my fingers over pages, opening and closing it, taking measurements and looking like a crazy all the while, but I like to take my time. I can’t have things like paper texture or wide rule lines interfering with my writing. Anyway, I found a good one after going back and forth between two for 10 minutes. This is typically what I do when I buy anything. I’m very indecisive. So I’ll buy one, and then go home and think about the other. It’s terrible. Anyway, I’m trying to work on that. So I’m going to do some writing. And then some reading. And then I’ll do it again tomorrow I guess, in a park, and throw the stick for Monty. Because that’s what my life is right now, and it won’t always be that way. Maybe it’s not about  being important. Maybe it’s just about being.

Health, Happiness, Yes.

*To all my family and homies in New Orleans, my thoughts are with yall. Although I’m pretty sure most of you are drunk and having an OK time. Stay safe.

When I Thought About Adulthood, This Is Not What I Expected

In two days I turn 28 years old.

I’m thinking about that number 28. I’m thinking about the word “adulthood” and whether or not I’ve reached it. The number sounds like it belongs in that category, but my life doesn’t really feel that way. I don’t recall exactly what I thought life would be like at 28, but I know for sure, this is not what I expected. I always thought I’d be married with kids by now. (HAHAHA.) I expected adulthood to be so organized and grown-up and filled with smart people who had the answers and knew exactly what they were doing. But I see now, adults are often lost and they don’t have it all figured out yet either. They still get shit-faced and throw up sometimes. There are still social hierarchies and corresponding dramas. They still make mistakes and are learning their way through it. My mom still encourages me to eat vegetables. And I still fantasize about my wedding day and love Disney movies. There are a lot of things that I thought would be different, that aren’t. And there are a lot of things I didn’t expect to still be doing, that I am…

I didn’t still think I’d be…

*Eating at the kids table at Thanksgiving and other family events. I am wondering at what age I will graduate to the adult table. I’m going to celebrate so hard on that day.

*Sitting on a bathroom counter in my pajamas popping zits in the mirror, or what I think could be a possible zit one day and subsequently wrecking my face.

*Calling my mom with questions when I catch a cold…(which is now just me walking into her room, you know, cause I live with my parents now…)

“Wait do I need a decongestant or an expectorant?”

*…Living with my parents.

*Taking bubble baths. Still prefer them to showers…any day.

*Borrowing all my sisters clothes.

*Still getting excited as hell when Christmas comes around.

Yes.

*Turning off my bedroom light,  running lightning fast and jumping into bed so the man underneath it can’t cut my feet.

*Getting questioned about my outfits by my mom. “You’re sure you want to wear that to dinner?”

*Talking to girls about boys and boys about girls. It’s been the same conversation since high school: girls are kind of crazy, boys are kind of dumb.

*Watching The Little Mermaid and singing “Part of Your World” really loudly. Every time.

Part of your WORRLLD!

*Giggle when any of my friends say the word penis or talk about one. It’s shameful. I know.

*Be thoroughly entertained by bubbles. (Especially if Monty is around)

Did someone say bubbles?

*Having my grandma play with my hair.

*Wondering the meaning of my life. Thought I’d have it figured it out by now..

…None of these things did I expect to be still be partaking in and/or enjoying at 28. When I was in middle school, I remember telling a friend that I wanted to be married by age 22 and having my first child at 24…basically because it just sounded good. I was 12, and stupid. But truthfully, it was an arbitrary goal anyway.  When I was young, I thought that was the meaning of life: To grow up, find a husband, and have babies. And maybe it is. Those are still things I want. I hope to marry a best friend and not blow it and I’ve always dreamed of becoming a mother. But now I see there is more to life than that. I think. I actually have no idea. I just know that right now, in this moment, it’s not my time to be a wife and mother. It’s a time for me to get healthy and stronger, to find some certainty, get to know myself a little better, trust myself a little more, and become who I am meant to be. Joseph Campbell says that “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” and I think so many things in the last year really threw my identity around and left me slowly piecing it back together, which I will continue to do. I trust that the things I want will happen in time, but I am careful not to put aside happiness while I get where I’m going. I am right here, so right here is where I should be happy. I have high hopes for 28. I never expected that at this juncture of my life I would be where I am, and in truth, this is not what I would have chosen. But the fact that I didn’t choose this, I didn’t seek it out–makes me trust it more. I was headed in a completely opposite direction, and yet here I am. It tells me something else was at work.  I am done questioning it. I am done being mad at it. I’m ready for the next chapter. Bring it on, 28!

Health, Happiness, Twenty Eight.