Living Masters

Finally, yesterday, the teeniest tiniest flicker of relief. I felt it. Though incrementally small, it was the spark suggestive of an end, or at least of an improvement. It’s been a very sick few days. But yesterdays glimmer of improvement brought me to the surface where I could breath again. It wasn’t major, but it was enough. Today, another slight improvement. I actually left the house and went to the pharmacy. That’s what we call progress people.

I don’t know what exactly caused this crash. The travel, new Miami germs my body couldn’t handle, the woman with the wet cough on the plane? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter I guess. I could feel something in the works throughout the trip. I felt rough most of the time, but, I still enjoyed my stay. Miami is nice and my family rocks. My brother Nick is another mentor of mine and always encourages my creative endeavors. He’s someone who materializes ideas instead of just writing them in a notebook, which is what I do. I envy his work ethic and it was nice to be around artists at work. I worked through some writing problems and we’ve begun a side project which I think will be great. It was nice. Look, I even caught a fish.

40 pounder
Unfortunately I think my brother later used this fish as bait.

Huge right? Of course I sort of declined at the end of that day and into the last few days, until I returned home Thursday. By that night I crawled into bed and as I pulled up the covers, the invisible monster went to work. I could feel it creeping over me, up through my limbs and under my fingernails. When I woke Friday morning it had swallowed me whole. I was submerged. The next three days were spent in bed in a dream state with intermittent stints of wakefulness. I’d awake for brief periods, feed Monty, feed myself, then dissolve into dream world again. Unfortunately I could feel the pain on both sides. In my dreams I’m looking for pills and can’t find them. Or I can’t get their lid open. That happens in real life too.

It can be disorienting when you spend more of your time in dreams than awake. Every time I awoke I  had to readjust to the surroundings, remind myself where I was. Everything was hazy and I felt weak and sedated. My body was out of juice; every move I made felt enormous and taxing. It’s a strange condition to be in, but that’s how it goes in a crash. All you can do is rest and wait for your body to come back. Luckily, Monty barely left my side the whole time. Each time my eyes blinked open, I’d spot him sleeping in some ridiculous position. As soon as I stir he’s on all fours, ready to go. I hate not being able to play with him more, but he sticks by. Sleeps when I sleep, eats when I eat. His loyalty astounds me, especially when I’m sick. On Saturday night I had a nightmare that I couldn’t wake out of. When I finally came to, Monty was on his feet, panting next to the bed. I could tell he’d done something, made some noise maybe that woke me up, though I don’t know what. He is my hero. For reals.

By Sunday I was overwhelmed. Everything hurt, every movement was laborious, and any sound above a medium hum felt like a knife through my ear. Just taking a deep breath was hard. Tears poured down my face and I couldn’t say why exactly, except that my thoughts were racing and I felt like I was sinking. My emotions often get erratic during a crash for some reason. I think parts of my brain get overwhelmed. It felt like synapses were firing at rapid rates but were incomplete. Thoughts would come fast but unfinished. I could barely talk straight. I didn’t know what I needed, but I needed help. Enter my mom.

Through the tears I tell her I think I need to eat. OK, she says, and just her voice begins to calm everything down. One thing at a time, she says. Start with the apple. I try to let go and redirect my focus on what’s in front of me: an apple on a plate with almond butter. All I have to do is eat it. I can do that. Cool. The tears come and go. I tell her I’m afraid and my health feels out of control. She listens and validates my discouragement, but doesn’t let me wallow too long into despair. Ever so gently she leads me out of the dark of my own mind and encourages me to keep going. I find myself clinging to those words, scribbling them on paper and my dry erase board. So I try, even though my insides are yelling Stop. Press restart. We’ve got a faulty body here. I sleep at their house on the couch because I’m too exhausted to walk back to mine. I’m thirty years old and my mom ‘tucked me in.’ It’s official: I’m growing up in reverse. Monty sleeps on the love seat next to me. The next day is still sick, but somehow better. I don’t feel buried by it now. My mom has worked her magic again.

The illness continues to teach me humility and gratitude. To find grace through the crappiest of times. It’s still difficult to admit when I need help, but I do. And I’m lucky to have people who provide it. My step-dad bought me groceries, and threw the stick for Monty when I wasn’t able to. I get emails from people who are sick with this and other chronic illnesses but their families don’t believe them or don’t understand, and they’re left to fight it on their own. Reading it is heartbreaking. I don’t know how anyone could survive this illness alone. Some of them say the blog has helped their families understand what they’re going through, and I always told myself if this even helped one person, it was worth the work. I hope I can do more. I wish I could make them know they’re not alone, or crazy, or inferior; all things you feel when you’re sick this way. I know we’re strangers, but we’re human beings and sharing something similar, so if you’re reading this, you’re not alone brother! But sometimes it feels that way and life gets heavy. I get it.

I am trying to be careful about my writing. I always hesitate when sharing an account like this because I don’t want to get stuck in a narrative of how hard life is without going further. Life is hard, but people don’t need that reminder. Life is harder when you stop at the pain. I try to look at the pain as the beginning of something better, not an end. Because life is also amazing, even in times of turmoil, but you have to dig deep, past the muck. It’s so basic, so cliché, but I have to examine both sides or I’ll turn into a blogging version of that Kathy cartoon. Oh God, the horror. It’s a fragile dichotomy, writing this blog. Half of me is sharing what feels like death, but the other half is screaming I’m OK! Everything is fine! Because I am OK. I’m here in my favorite V-neck shirt writing at my desk. But the schism is there and I have to be conscious of both sides. Writing isn’t a way out of it, it’s just a better way through it, if I do it right. I write better when I get creative with my circumstances, until I eventually outgrow them. Otherwise the conditions take over and despair takes the wheel. And that’s a lot of what this whole project is about; becoming more than a person to whom things happen. The poet/writer Paulo Coelho wrote this in The Alchemist,

We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.” 

I love this idea and believe it wholly. A lot of things are at work that we don’t always have access to. It’s just easy to forget when shit hits the fan. Well here’s our reminder. 

In other news, it finally happened: I dropped my phone in the pool. Idiot! I watched it fall in slow motion, with that split second of heat on your neck where you think you can reverse time and take it back, but you blink and there it is; Submerged. It’s now drying out in a ziplock bag with rice, so I’m off the grid! I’ll try to use the 48 hours wisely. I’ll keep resting and reading and writing. And hopefully by Christmas I’ll be better and I’ll have found the answer to life. Seems doable.

Anyway, this post is for my mom, who dug me out of the depths once again. She is my mentor and not only guides me out of the darkness but nudges me to be better, to grow stronger from struggle and not be defeated by it. It’s true, if I weren’t sick we wouldn’t be living so close, and I would’ve missed out on a lot of important wisdom that I’ll keep forever. All for free! Thank you for carrying me when I need it but also challenging me to become more than what’s happened. You’re a master and it’s made all the difference.

Health, Happiness, Masters

The Plague.

I feel the need to begin here by expressing my deep gratitude for the response to my last post. As usual, my decision to publish a raw and somewhat sad update was not without hesitation on my part. My preference is always to write in a happy and funny and optimistic tone, even if the words I am writing are happier, funnier and more positive than I actually am. In some ways it’s therapeutic, and in others it’s a challenge in creativity and authenticity. As much as I’d like my writing to point towards the fun and the funny, life is not always that way, is it? Sometimes it’s overwhelming and can feel too heavy to bear. I resist putting words out there like that for maybe the same reason I never liked to cry in public or ask for help when I needed it. It means, gasp, I’m not perfect. And that’s what the ego fears a lot. 

Over these last few years, the pride that held tears back and forced a facade that was untrue began to crumble. This writing project entered the picture when those superficial layers were starting to shed, and consequently this blog has some really vulnerable things in it, which can leave me uneasy. At the same time, I can feel that my most honest posts are the ones that connect most with strangers. (Duh) And that doesn’t mean they have to be in the tone of “True Life: I’m Sick All the Time.” Humor can be just as much genuine and communal. It’s the one I prefer, it’s just not the one that always is.

Anyway, it’s a battle inwardly and materially, but I just really need to extend my thank you to everyone who received my words and reciprocated with such loving support and encouragement. How can we lose faith in humanity when across the world, people sit down at a desk to uplift and strengthen a stranger with words? It’s a two-way street yall! I’ve been reflecting on so many responses from people I will never know, and that alone is healing. On a form level, it makes me trust in the direction that the blog is taking–one I did not design. On the formless level, it had me feeling so much better despite being so sick. That transaction served such a greater purpose than “You should try eating more JuJu Beans!” And I attribute that to all of us. This doesn’t feel like a solitary project anymore. So thank you. That’s all I’m saying, THANK YA VERY MUCH.

Now, onto the plague. I’ve been puking my guts out. But that’s not the plague I’m talking about.

My siblings with their partners and children rented a beach house in the Florida Keys last week. It happened to be the same weekend as the wedding of a long-time good friend. For two months I went back and forth. Beach house or wedding weekend? (Assuming I could move) I could always go to the beach and fly home for Saturday night and make it to the wedding just in time for the festivities, right!? But with the way I’ve been feeling, my unsteady ability to sustain, my mom didn’t even have to tell me with her eyes this time. I knew I couldn’t do both. Or maybe I could, but the price would be big, and these days the price of choices like that are not just gargantuan but scarily long lasting. Crash days have turned into crash months, and the basic goal is, Don’t do things that could set you back so far. 

Back and forth I went, and it was tortuous. It always is; I do this all the time.  Both choices seemed correct and incorrect simultaneously. My indecisiveness is one of my largest sources of anxiety. I won’t get into the details of why one choice was better than another, there were many pros and cons to both. But often when it comes to my immediate family, they’re the default decision. I don’t get to see them a lot and they’re my lifesavers after all. They’re my blood bro! After my brother called me a few days before the trip, started describing the waves and the weather and a hammock outside, I booked the ticket and felt confident momentarily that now I didn’t have to suffer. The decision was made and now I could relax. I guess.

“Indecisive Girl” by Carli Ihde

…Until I saw my friend who’s wedding I would miss and then saw all my old friends who I rarely see that would be there. And all the shit they gave me, it was more torture. What have I done?! I blew it! At the same time the trip was booked- let it go. You get to hang with your family on the beach. That rocks. That’s true. I got to the beach. I held my nieces and laughed with family around the dinner table eating fish my brothers caught that day. And then on day 2, I awoke at 5 am and had that feeling in my gut that something wasn’t right. And then at 5:30 I started puking up all those “not rights” I was feeling.  I had caught the stomach bug that half of my family had experienced the week before. My sister was up with the baby conveniently and she held my hair and that was nice. An hour later with my face pressed against the cold tile in between cycles of puke bursts, I moaned and tossed: “Shoulda gone to the wedding. Shoulda gone to the wedding. BLLLLURGGGH”  (puke sound)

I’m still recovering from that evil stomach bug and it’s a bummer. But the bug isn’t the issue here and I know that. I’m the problem. Shit happens that you can’t foresee or plan for. Regret and hesitation are such hinderers of the present. And we all know that the present is where peace lies. Happy is in the here and now. A lot of my unhappiness, and perhaps unhappiness in general, is being here and wishing to be there. I could easily have gone to the wedding and convinced myself I was missing a beach trip of a lifetime. I could have tried to breakdance and broken my butt. (That almost happened once) So while I lie here sick on an air mattress, in the living room, on vacation, (once again) I’m trying simply to just be here. I’m looking for the lesson. I’m trying to focus and trust in the experience I’m having instead of the one I did not. Thoughts like that are like swimming up-current–they consume and exhaust me even more. It’s just another battle that’s no use fighting.

I don’t know how long I’ve been plagued with indecisiveness like this. Though I remember even in middle school spending far too long picking out deodorant at Target, never certain I would choose the right scent. It’s been a long time. As always the first step to breaking a habit is awareness–creating a space between the routine reaction and a healthier one. Maybe it starts with knowing myself more. Trusting myself more. But maybe it’s simpler than that. In stillness the answer points to this idea; be where you are. Wherever that is.

I be sick in Miami! And it’s fine! Whatever!

Here’s something Tolle says: If you resist what happens, you are at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness. …To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship of inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but to let it be.

Pretty good no? I’m marinading on that one. Ew, marinade. I’m still queazy.

Health, Happiness, Plagues.

Artwork: Indecisive Girl from Carli Ihde

Blasts From the Pasts

Most people have at least one box filled with kept remnants from their past. A lot of mine is in a brown moving box that says “Mary’s Stuff” on it, and for whatever reason my mom gave it to me out of the blue the other day. Maybe she was spring cleaning, or maybe just trying to downsize on 4 kids worth of crap in her house, especially considering that we’re all fully grown. Anyway, the box was in my hands now and last week during the indoor weather, I started rummaging.

I don’t consider myself a pack rat at all, but I also don’t know any actual pack-rats who do… But for whatever reason, starting in 6th grade…I started saving notes passed between me and friends, boyfriends, siblings, all of it. I kept them in a K-swiss shoebox. And this ridiculously faded, clumsily folded note that said “Mary” in terrible handwriting was one of the first I saw in the box, and as I started unfolding it immediately I knew what it was: A note from my 6th grade love, Kyle B.

Dear Mary...

Dear Mary,

Hi!! This is the “big surprise.” Well all I wanted to know is will you go out with me? Don’t worry about saying no, I don’t care. Well I do care, but, well uuhhmmmm You know what I mean. 

Ms. Snifferjohn is a loser.

I like The Land Before Time it is like my favorite movie. Besides about a million others but that’s not the point.

Love,
Kyle B (Baseball Cursive signature)

*To begin, Ms. Snifferjohn was our substitute teacher and her actual name was Ms. Schneiderjohn but Kyle had nicknames for all the teachers. Especially subs.

The truth is Kyle had been my on-again off-again boyfriend since Kindergarten. It was all completely a matter of semantics. We were best friends and every now and then the title would change, and that was it. I liked him because he was weird and hilarious and made fun of everything. In 6th grade we finally hit first base and held hands at the roller rink. As we skated hand in hand to the cascading neon lights and what I can only imagine to be Jewel or Sarah Mclachlan or Chumbawamba playing, my best friend Brittny skated up to us with urgency. “You’re doing it wrong! Your fingers are so supposed to cross!” We were holding hands the old school way; the way you do when walking a child across the street. We fixed our technique and skated a few laps and then I don’t know what–got a sugar high from sour straws and Dr. Pepper probably.

The next thing I found was my retainer box from 7th grade with my retainer still in it. And yes, I tried it on. You have to!  It only half fit. I never wore that thing, and lied to the orthodontist at every appointment. “Wearing it day and night?” “All the time!” Altogether I probably wore it 10 solid hours. But I didn’t get bad feedback from the doc so I felt OK about it. The best part? It’s a translucent baby blue retainer with a little earth icon in the middle and two little rainbows. I make terrible decisions under pressure.

One of my favorite finds? These pictures of my mom. I never see myself in my family even though people tell me we look alike. But when I saw one of these pictures, for a split second I glimpsed my face in my moms. Finally I could see it–I have her exact chin, the shape of her mouth, her nose and her “good-sized” head and big thick hair. Of course she is incredibly more glamorous and I love how youthful and in love she looks in these. (She was, this was a few months before marrying my dad) But it finally clicked. I am that woman’s daughter.

IMG_8731 IMG_8730

IMG_8732 IMG_8733

Next is a signed post-card from Dominique Moceanu. She was my second favorite gymnast after Shannon Miller. But I’m pretty sure she divorced her parents after they tried to take her money or something, right? Anyway, still got the card.

Then came a lot of stuff from high school, which only solidified my memory of how excessively terrible high school actually was. For example, take this note from my friend Meghan.

My grandma died. So how's things with Tyler?
My grandma died two days ago. So how are things with Tyler?

Can you believe it? This poor girls grandma died and all we talk about is my going to lunch with Tyler. I found about 6 other notes on this very topic. Then came notes about whether we had gone on a date yet and then whether or not we’d kissed. Reading the notes brought back my exact feelings from those four years; that I took none of it seriously. The boys..the scene..class..any of it. I tried. I wanted to be cool and sometimes I succeeded, but mostly I felt lost and everything felt really forced. I was so glad when it was over. That’s the best part about high school. There’s a true end to it. Soon it all fits in a box that you get to make fun of later.

Next is an essay test from my AP Literature class where we had to use  principles from Machiavelli’s The Prince to analyze characters and events from Shakespeare’s Richard III. I remember nothing from either of these, but I scored a high B on the test which for me and for the class, was very good. This must have been my last empirical display of effort on my part that year, because by the end I’d basically given up. I actually ended up failing Literature! And really for no good reason. I stopped caring and also I just sort of hated school. I guess that’s why I kept the test. To prove I was literate. (All evidence to the contrary given the content of some of these notes)

It’s funny that I write about these little treasures from the past today, because I also just found out that today is my dads birthday. He would have been…old, I don’t know. But I found old pictures of him and us together and it’s always good to see those and to remember. So many years go by and your life changes in so many ways. New memories stack on top of old ones and pretty soon you’re having to struggle to remember the sound of their voice and the things that used to be fresh. I don’t feel sad looking at them– I like to see proof of our happiness when he was around. I ache more out of a fear that I’m forgetting him. But maybe by him just being a dad, I’ll never really forget. He’s in me, and in all of us. Each member of the family carries a part of him with their own memories and I guess that’s the stuff that lives on longer than the person.

It also had me wondering if I’ll have a daughter one day who will look through her box of childhood leftovers. Maybe she’ll too see a photo of me and realize our connection. Maybe she’ll read this blog and wonder about my sanity. More likely? I’ll read this blog in 15 years and think OMG I was so stupid! Maybe that’s just how it works. You get older and grow and laugh at your old ways. Life has been hard but it’s been incredible too, and I guess I’m glad I’ll have these words to look back on–remember these years I was sick with nothing to do, but document my days of doing a lot of nothing.

Health, Happiness, Childhood in a Box

Even When It’s Bad It’s Good

The Holidays rock. They just do. I feel worlds away when I talk to someone who doesn’t like Christmas. Or Christmas music. Or trees. Or gift-giving. Or ELF. (On repeat!)

Is it excessive? Sometimes. I can admit that. And has Christmas in our country become overly commercialized and sensationalized with the meaning lost in mall crowds, and could we have a long discussion about that over the dinner table? Yeah, we could. But I don’t like going there. I’ve never engaged in the War On Christmas propaganda that inevitably resurfaces each year. And it’s not in the name of denial, but because every year, for a small fleeting time, regardless of my health or where I am personally, the Holidays are a small but hopeful light at the end of a year–where I see more good in the world than bad. Often it’s a reason to become softer, reflective, and thankful. Or do something kind you wouldn’t normally do. If for no other reason than “Well, since it’s Christmas.” I love hearing those words. And I love the simple reasoning behind them.

For my immediate family, Christmas is always the time we give to ourselves to be a family. There are four kids in four states. There are grand-children and extended family and friends who might as well be. But I like that it’s been our staple. Usually it’s not a question of who will be attending Gelpi Christmas but where we’ll be making the noise. And we do, make a hell of a lot of noise. When it’s not me making it, I sometimes plug my ears. :) Life is busy. The work for all of us is different but tiring in its own way. It’s easy to get distracted and let time go by without realizing how many months have passed since we’ve had any genuine interaction. It’s easy for face time to turn into FaceTime and phone calls into text messages and those to turn into Facebook and Facebook to turn into emojis. I mean really, instead of writing this blog post I basically could have just put…photo-7

But emojis can’t replace real emotion in writing, just like emails aren’t as personal as phone calls and text messages will never compare to feeling the weight of a hug from someone you love. Admittedly, as the technology advances, it does help increase the amount of contact time between all of us.  And thank God for it, because as secluded as my life sometimes gets, sometimes my iphone feels like my only window into the outside world. Technically I met my youngest niece Harlow over FaceTime and spent some virtual “feedings” with her. And I’m extremely impressed and grateful by what can be accomplished over a 2 x3 screen on my phone. It truly is, extraordinary. But still, holding her for the first time beat out those “virtual hangouts” by a long shot. Nothing like the smell of an infant, or getting her to smile.  Or watching my niece Olive dance in circles to music or watching my parents enjoy grandchildren or playing cards with my grandma or my siblings annoy the hell out of each other. In a good way, of course! This year my 87-year-old grandma surprised us and came to California for A Very Gelpi Christmas. Show an old woman the capabilities of the iphone and try not to marvel at how far we’ve come and what we’re capable of. It’s a new world, and it’s changing all the time.

Every year at Christmas I always reflect on the previous Christmas. Where was I at this time last year? What has changed? Are things better or worse? And where can I do better? That’s the novelty of an upcoming new year. As they say, It’s never too late to live the life you want to live, and I am always striving to live better. To be a better me. Last year at this time, I was struggling immensely in my health. I had improved from the bed-ridden state but was still feeling awful day-to-day. It was a struggle not to be permanently supine. I found socializing exhausting and far from any fun. It was not one of my better Christmases, but I still enjoyed the tradition of it all, like always. Right after Christmas I relapsed again. I was stuck in Colorado, in and out of bed and freezing my ass off in their record Winter. I remember thinking in my darkest hours and sleepless nights, when the weight and relentlessness of my situation felt too heavy to bare, that this, like all things, would end. One way or another. It was a matter of physics. Time is one of the constants of the world, and it would keep going and eventually things would change. Winter would turn to Spring and at some point I’d lift my head with ease. I wouldn’t be bedridden in Colorado for the rest of my life, even if it felt like it. I remember reciting Winston Churchill’s quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” That’s what I did, and at last, the physics of the world did what it always does. Winter passed. I was given the opportunity to live in a happy house with a lot of windows; just Monty and me. And my health very slowly improved from what it was. And I have truly never felt luckier or more grateful to be where I am. Things aren’t perfect. I’ve still a ways to go. And it’s never far away in my mind that this illness can hibernate and reemerge as if on its own agenda. Sometimes for no reason I can think of. But for now, I’m so improved from this time last year. And it feels good to know, that the reassurance I felt at night but could not see was real. The hardship wasn’t forever–the sun came out and I survived. It’s easy to be disillusioned and overwhelmed by our thoughts in hard times. But how important it’s been for me to remember, to everything, there is a season.

And for me, the best will always be this time of year.

Happy Holidays Yall. Hope it was a good one.

Health and Happiness and photo-7

Prepare Yourself, This Might Get Sappy.

There were a few things I was going to write about this week. One was a response to an article that’s gone viral about why Generation Y is so unhappy. I almost wholeheartedly disagree with it, but I couldn’t finish. The second post was a “Breakup Playlist” that was really just a list of happy songs I composited that get me excited and I can’t help but dance to when they come on. And sadly, yes, a lot of the dancing I do these days is alone. But I enjoy it so lay off! The third was an observational piece about how impersonal life can be in the digital age of social media, where so many things are taken at face value and how someone’s online presence can be so far from the person they actually are yada yada yada. I began writing on all of these topics as my scattered mind couldn’t focus on just one, but there was something more important that kept nagging at me while I worked. Finally, I pulled the plug on these ideas. I’ll work on those later (unless they end up terrible which right now they are), because this post is for you, the reader. Because even though I sometimes have these grand ideas I I can’t wait to unleash, sometimes something else comes knocking and demands to be written. At that point there’s not a lot I can do except listen; type out the words and let my heart do the talking. There’s plenty of time for break-up playlists. This was something I needed to say now.

I’ll be honest, having a chronic illness, especially when it’s at its worst like it was for me most of last year, can be terribly lonely. As much as I love my friendships and romances and strong family bonds, it’s nearly impossible to keep them all up when you’re sick. One but more likely all of them will suffer. Last year the relationship I was in ended and as my health steadily declined, so did my social life. I remember just not answering the phone when it rang. I felt like I didn’t even have the energy to explain my mood, my condition, or apologize yet again for being a crappy friend or sister or whathaveyou. One of the hardest parts of the illness has always been what it’s done to me and the outside world. Last year was a dark one, but I was lucky enough to have family who took me in, and friends who were understanding when we went months without talking. I always liked that definition of a friend- someone who knows you but loves you anyway. :) I’ll say that being sick sort of dwindles down who the key people in your life are. Some survive the storm and some don’t, and it’s not really anything personal. Some people have needs you’re not able to meet with a condition like this, and truly you can’t blame them. I am an admitted flake, terrible at keeping up and correspondence, and I cancel at least half of the plans I make. This is mostly the fault of the illness, and it’s understandable why not many friendships are upheld through it. My circle is small, but I love everyone in it dearly, and they certainly love me back considering what they tolerate.

I think last Fall was one of the hardest times in my life. I was living in my sisters house in California. Home away from home away from home. I initially planned to go there for a month, but when my crash worsened and things like walking became hard, I ended up staying until Christmas, and everything felt out of control. Because it was. I was a difficult person then, and I feel a little bad for my behavior. My sister would always ask me to go eat dinner with her at my brother-in-law’s restaurant, but the thought of small talk with people I didn’t know was overwhelming. Sometimes it put me in a bad mood just thinking about it! I actually preferred being alone. I often felt more alone when surrounded by people but completely isolated on the inside. I hated who I had become–such a solitary hermit. But I truly just didn’t have the energy to even be polite. It was easier, and better I think, for me to just stay home. Which sounds terrible and depressing. Healthy people won’t get it. But truthfully relationships of any kind take work, they are two-sided, and I just didn’t have enough to give at that point. But the real reason I’m writing about this is because, beyond all the crappy days and reclusive tendencies, there was this community built on the blog. People reading it and commenting, people sending emails of gratitude or support or encouragement or all of the above, and it was truly remarkable to receive feedback like that, especially at a time where I felt really alone. I knew there were others like me and I wasn’t suffering alone. And although I didn’t know any of you truly, I knew of you because you reached out and were honest, and I read every word. It meant the world to have complete strangers rooting for me, some in other countries. It felt incredible not purely for personal reasons, but because I saw just how much positivity and love and support could be garnered by so many people who didn’t even know each other. It still gives me chills to this day; it shows what can happen when human beings come together for something good and optimistic. I think we’re all looking for a reason to be good. And while no, it didn’t cure me or fix all the problems, it did give me a real sense of hope that I could get better, that it wouldn’t always be like this, and even at times that if I never got better, this wonderful energy was still created and circling around the world. I didn’t do it, we did it. We put that out into the universe, and there’s something kind of magical about that. We’ve created some good together, and I think it’s something to be proud of.

Last week I posted about a promise I had made to myself years ago: that I would celebrate my 30th birthday in Paris. When I read people’s responses and support and encouragement for me to do something purely because it would make me happy and in turn, them happy, I felt the most love I ever have laying in bed and looking at a computer screen. Strangers telling me to go for it, that they’d donate money for me to do it, and insisting I go regardless of circumstance, was truly inspiring to me. I felt connected and after such a crappy year last year and feeling so far on the outside, watching everyone else live their lives while I felt like I was crumbling internally, that was such a powerful thing for me to feel. And needed to feel I should say. It’s easy to get stuck on your story, to live life from the outside looking in, to let things pass you by. But after seeing such a positive reaction from people, and seeing how me going after my dream and living with purpose was encouraging others too was simply unreal. But mostly, it was an inspiring and and abundant source of love to feel on my end. And that’s stuff you just can’t buy or put an amount on. It is truly priceless.  So for that I want to say thank you. THANK YOU. THANK YOU A LOT. I felt a very long time ago that this blog wasn’t really just about or for me. It was for something greater. And I know that now more than ever. It’s about all of us.

As summer turns into Fall, (unless you’re in New Orleans in which case it’s still 90 degrees and there’s a tropical storm headed our way) I am reflecting on where I was last year at this time. I had no idea that some of the hardest months of my life were about to unfold. And in the darkest of times, moments where I couldn’t find myself in the world, I would always come across the words in a comment or an email from a reader that reminded me of something very simple but very important– I wasn’t alone. And if you’re reading this now, going through a hard time caused by anything- health, heartache, loneliness, insecurity, whatever- I hope you’ll know that you aren’t alone either. It was in those very dark but small moments, that the tiniest crack of light would shine in and let me know, we truly are all in this together. We’ve all got our battles, and we all experience things that make us question who we are and where we’re going and if we’ll ever get out of the hard time we face. I’m here to tell you, you do. I did. Many times actually. And the hard parts aren’t over. I am relatively young and life won’t stop throwing boulders or pebbles across my path. (If you’re listening God, I prefer pebbles. But, you know, do what you gotta do.) I just feel that one of the most important things that could ever so slightly drag me out of the dark, was this interconnectedness I’d feel with humanity, even though I had no social life…at all. Granted my sister tried, but I was mostly a grumpy curmudgeon. Sorry Amelie! Anyway, things have gotten better. My health, while still a major hurdle, is not nearly as bad as it was this time last year. I’ve reunited with friends. I wear pants a lot more now. ;) But it feels good to know that while last Fall was let’s face it, a shit show, I re-emerged. As we all do and will, if we can only hang on, remember that nothing is forever, and as lonely as it can feel, we are never truly alone. I mean it. And I’m alone a lot!

So, that’s it. Among all my other ideas, this one wouldn’t leave me alone. And I want to tell anyone reading, I read every comment on this blog and every email regarding it. I don’t always respond (I told you I’m a flakey friend and terrible with correspondence!) but I honestly take time and read all the feedback sent my way. And I LOVE hearing from everyone. The funny thing is how many emails begin with “I’m sure you get thousands of these but…” I assure you that’s not even close to the case. A few a week at best!! All of you have your own battles and wonderful, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, stories of tragedy and triumph, and I relish in reading them. I wish there was a scientific or spiritual way for me to prove or convey this, but all of that positive and loving energy sent my way goes right back into this project and the world at large. It’s such a cool community we’ve set up here. Remember this all started with two followers: my sister and my aunt Amy. And look at us now! :) Thank you for reading, writing, laughing, and crying with me. The community we’ve built is invaluable, and I always turn to it when I feel myself leaning towards seclusion or sadness. I hope you do the same. Because half of writing anything is having someone to read it. I think we’ve done well. Again, a million times over, thank you.

momo
Monty was very excited to take this photo.

Health, Happiness, Merci.

*P.S. On September 26th, this blog turned two years old. Yaaay.

The Great Indoors

I’ve spent most of this last week in bed, or in and out of sleep on respective furniture that I turn into a bed. But mostly in bed. During crash periods I have a lot of time to sit around and think and do nothing. And while “doing nothing” sounds a little worthless and at least a little depressing, I’ve gotten pretty good at feeling bad. That is, I’ve found ways not to succumb to complete boredom while spending my days and nights in the supine position. But I have to be decisive and proactive when it comes to mental stimulation. It’s easy to do nothing and think nothing and waste away hours watching cats on the internet. I’ve done a lot of that too.

fartheraway
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Currently I’m reading “Further Away”– a book of essays by author Jonathan Franzen. It was given to me by my brother Nick, who wrote on the note inside to add it to our virtual book club. Nick and I don’t live in the same city and considering how poorly I keep in social contact even with people I care most about, we don’t talk so often. But we have similar taste in things and it’s true that I trust any literature from him will be enjoyable. Like the others this one doesn’t disappoint. I gave him the book “Why Does the Universe Exist?” and said it might be a good starter for the club. Nick is a full-time professor of architecture with multiple side projects and is a husband and father. I’ll be impressed if he has the time to finish it. I have nothing but time but in retrospect, I can think of at least three books in the last year I’ve simply left unfinished with less than 100 pages left. For whatever reason– It might be a commitment problem on my end. Because oddly enough I enjoyed the books I left undone. (Except 50 Shades of Grey. I just couldn’t do that one, even from a humorous standpoint. It was just so bad.) At any rate, I like that we’re trying. I know I need to read more and it is truly one thing, a gift even, that I can do whether or not I’m sick. I could read for hours and feel somehow refreshed at the end. TV and the internet are bottomless. I could be dead tired but watch more, click more, disengage more. It’s far too easy to fall in and at the end I never feel great. I’m like where am I? What time is it? How long have I been watching Tosh.0? I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the Kardashians and rolled my eyes thinking to myself that it’s the stupidest show on TV. And yet when it shows up on the guide, I almost unconsciously go straight to the channel. It’s like mindless auto-pilot in the way of my brain. I think it’s their hair that keeps me coming back. It’s just so pretty.

Speaking of the Kardashians, did you see the photo of baby North West? I think she’s cute. Wait, why do I know what their baby looks like? Because if you watched TV or were on the internet yesterday, it was everywhere. As well as mass hysteria about Ben Affleck becoming Batman. Maybe that says something about the places where I get information. But it also says something about the things that gain momentum and attention and a dialogue. Meanwhile, my state is sinking. I don’t totally understand the nature of a sinkhole. Except that I’m pretty sure it’s unnatural.  And it’s a problem when entire trees are being swallowed whole. Something about salt domes? But why take the more effort-requiring time to find out when I could just look at a tumblr that makes fun of what Kanye’s baby looks like? It’s so easy to just lay back and look at what’s easy to look at and make fun of what’s easy to make fun of. But it’s not very wise for someone like me to do too much of that. I constantly have to remind myself to be careful with how I spend my time. I truly have a lot of it.

Anyway, maybe by the next post I’ll be much more knowledgeable about sinkholes. Or I’ll have a lot more photos of baby Nori. Anyway, I’ll continue my quest to be at least a half-way informed citizen and spend my horizontal time wisely. I love being outside but on weeks like this one, I’ve mostly been inside which can be wearing too. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still watch internet cat videos because come on, that stuff is funny. And laughter is important. And if we spent all our days indulging in bad news we could succumb to despondency and boredom just as much as if we watched TV and internet videos nonstop. It’s all a balance and I’m always in search of the middle. So far, 29 has been just fine.

Health, Happiness, and Wouldn’t You Think Sinkhole Would Be Two Words? Me too.

What To Say When Someone Has Died.

It’s been one of those weeks. I realize the title of this post is a little dry, emotionless, business-like even. But I don’t mean it that way. It’s been something I’ve thought and written about before, and in the wake of tragedy the words have been busying my brain. (Hence me writing now, at 3:30 am)

A good friend of mine lost her love suddenly and tragically this week. I hardly knew him at all, but of course in the hazy aftermath of the realization that he’s gone, and the strong sadness I feel for my friend who lost him, we all can’t help that feeling that so often comes in death, sudden or not. He was too young. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Things like this happen to other people. Death is always a knock at someone else’s door. Rarely do we feel accepting when it knocks at our own. Or comes into our neighborhood anyway.

The worst of it is, there truly isn’t much to say in these situations. And as humans, as fixers and problem solvers, it leaves us all a little stumped. A little quiet. There are few words I can think to say to my friend who lost him. Accept to hold on. That we as friends will hold her hand through it. That it will be OK. But first it will be hard and trying and she already knows that. One day at a time I would tell her. Some days, one hour.

As having lost a dad to cancer–a slower death, and a step dad to heart attack- an abrupt and unforseen death, I can say that both are difficult in different ways. At least in cancer  you have time to prepare your affairs to some extent. I remember my father in his bathrobe, stick thin except for his swollen legs, on our back patio in the sun picking out music for his funeral. Laughing. Having a wonderful time. And that memory really sticks with me. It made me for once, unafraid of death. With my step-father it was different. No preparation, no time to really process it. He was here and then he wasn’t. Alive then in the ground. And what do you say to a mother who loses the second love of her life? How do you convince her there is design in all this? In the depth and solitude of grief, it’s hard to find reason in any of it. I know that feeling very well. And vague phrases about life and God and a reason for things, often fall flat. In the moment of pain, you just have to feel it and grieve it and keep on going. This is life after all. Peaks and valleys. And here I go with the vague phrases about our temporary existence. I’ll stop.

What I really want to say, is that I feel a real duty in being there for humankind when they lose someone they love. Mostly because I remember what helped and what didn’t in past times of tragedy. And also because there is no education in all this. No preparation in school for what to say and how to act when someone we know has died. And for anyone reading this, it may seem abundantly clear how lacking we are in this culture of behavior in death. There is, or maybe there should be etiquette in it. And so many lack it. I remember a family friend calling after we lost Roger. “What are you guys going to do?!?!” She pleaded to me on the phone. “And your sister is getting married next week!! In the same place your mother was married?! What will she do? Will your mother keep the house?!” I sat on the phone quiet, with tears running down my face. “I don’t know” is all I could say. And then, silence. Because I didn’t know. There was no way to know what to do next. Like I said, one day at a time. I just remember thinking that asking so many questions at that time wasn’t very helpful. In fact, it was the opposite. It’s not at all a time to start changing major life plans or rearranging things. Mourning is a process, and we have to be patient. The most helpful people in that time of crisis, were those who made small decisions for my mother, and didn’t bombard her with questions. A house in a time of grief is filled with flowers and food sent and relatives and friends. There are logistical things to take care of. There is damage control to do. And that’s what we all did for my mom, attempting not to bother her with details. I know this sounds perverted, but in some ways it can be a really beautiful time. It is when we truly acknowledge what it is to be human. We show our love without hesitation. We hold each other in tears and cry with them or let them cry on us. With this embrace we communicate that their pain is our pain too. In death we’re all the same.

I am a severe lover of animals and what they can teach human beings. (Far more than we give them credit for, I think) In grief I am reminded of elephants, one of the only other animals that are noted to grieve physically. They allow themselves to cry. They can be seen caressing the body after the animal has died, and different, distinct behavior can be observed of a matriarch even years after she loses a baby. Surviving elephants are known to stand together in their herd by the body of a fallen one in silence and stillness. Undoubtedly, they exude sorrow and seem to have some sort of formal grieving process, even beyond physical tears. Whenever I think of someone who will need help in their grief, I think of the elephants, standing by one another. They seem to convey to us, it’s not something to do alone.

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I remember at the time of Rogers death, some of the most poignant times and helpful moments were those with no words at all. As each of my mothers four children and two step children made their way to our house, each hugged my mom, and both simply cried. I remember her weak voice, but her warm body when we hugged for a while. I live closest to home so I was the first kid to get there. Walking up our porch steps I thought “What will I say?” When we met eyes all she said was my name and then we hugged and cried together for what felt like a long time. But truly, that seemed the mose appropriate thing to do. The only thing to do. There were no words to say then. Helping someone grieve and truly being there for a fellow family member or friend is not so much a matter of having the right words to say but more a matter of simply being there. A warm body to embrace when the reality is too much. A literal shoulder to cry on. Someone who allows us our sadness.

For many people, the crying makes them uncomfortable, or the silence does. But crying is just a part of our grief and something we have to do. It’s a sign of us coming to terms with death. It will come out some way or another. We’re so quick to hush the griever and tell them its OK. But I think it’s acceptable to admit that things suck right now and the creator seems like an idiot and even crack jokes when the timing is right. I never cried or laughed so much as the week that Roger died. Which may sound morbid but it really wasn’t. Someone’s death brings on too the celebration of their life. It’s a time to tell stories and toast to their quarks and remember their beauty. Crying and laughter will ensue, sometimes in the same breath. And maybe even drunken debauchery. At any rate, I want to tell my friend, and anyone in the throes of grief, that it’s OK to cry and it’s OK to laugh and it’s OK to throw plates at the wall. Anything you feel is OK honestly, and you just need to do what feels right to you. There’s no right way to do it.

I didn’t have an answer for the woman on the phone with so many questions before. I couldn’t have known that a year later my mother would fall in love with the brother of my dads best friend and that even a tragic story like this would have its own happy ending. And maybe that was one of the biggest things Rogers death showed me; it was an end, but not the end. The story would go on. And that’s what I want my friend and anyone in the depths of despair to know. The only adage that gave me hope was remembering that This too shall pass. And it did.

Health, Happiness, Grief.

Cutest Passport Photo in the History of Time?

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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

Baby Talk.

Around New Years this year, while I was half dead in a record-setting cold and dreary Colorado, my sister and I were texting. She said that 2013 would be The Year of the Gelpi, as though it were a new hybrid car that ran on water. Among other things, She was going to get pregnant, and I was going to get better; things we’d both been after for a while, but neither one conquered. It’s hard to keep up hope when day after day you feel exquisitely the reality of your circumstance. I often wished I could just take all my sleeping pills, hibernate like a bear, and wake up in the Springtime. All better. But I was also well aware that taking all my sleeping pills meant dying, like for real, like dead dying. Not the day-to-day I feel like I’m dying dying. And I wasn’t ready to call it quits either. I knew there was more to the battle, so I just held on, because that’s all there was to do.

My sister’s situation was a little different. She and her husband decided a few years ago they’d start trying for a baby. Which really meant, they’d just stop trying not to get pregnant. After a year went by with no “success,” my organized, take-control and conquer side of my sister started to monitor every part of the process. Was his stuff OK? Was her stuff OK? Can teeth whitener lessen your chance of pregnancy? Everything checked out OK. We’re just so used to seeing people sneeze and get pregnant that the word “trying” began to take on real meaning. Finally, on her 30th birthday, on a whim she took a pregnancy test, and to her excitement it was positive. I knew that was the best present she could have gotten that year. Yes she was only 4 weeks along but it’s true–she glowed. It was extremely early so they told very few people, even though I remember thinking it was silly. “Let’s tell everyone!” I didn’t understand the need to be so precautionary. I happened to be staying on their couch 2 years ago because, hello, it’s me, that’s what I do. One morning she woke up and said she felt “different.” She had some strange symptoms, and all of her “pregnant” symptoms seemed to have vanished. I told her not to google them because it would only scare her and it’s best to stay calm. Before she could get in to see the doctor, I looked online and cringed as I read many people’s accounts of an early miscarriage–most described her symptoms exactly. I didn’t tell her what I read. I said everybody and every pregnancy is different and we shouldn’t assume anything until she sees the doctor. I prayed for a better outcome, but when he called the house that night, the results weren’t good. The fetus had stopped developing. He was sorry for the news.

I knew it was really hard for her. I don’t know what it feels like to be pregnant, but I know that after you’ve tried and tried and you finally get it, it must be that much harder to lose. It seemed like an unfair teaser. I’ll never forget my sister, brother-in-law, and me standing in their bedroom when she got the news. She hung up and cried a few tears and Keegan and I hugged her. Then she wiped them away and said “I think I want a glass of champagne please.” Keegan was quick to grab a high quality bottle from the kitchen and three glasses. We also ordered sushi, something she’d given up for the pregnancy, and gorged ourselves. Staying true to our morbid sense of humor, we made terrible jokes and tried to have as much fun as we could while we grieved something we couldn’t see.

They would spend the next year and a half meeting with fertility specialists and exploring all their options when it came to having a child. “Who knew it was this hard?” I remember her asking me one day, and admittedly I did not. For one thing, I’m ashamed to admit I watch that show 16 and Pregnant, and those kids make getting knocked up look easy. Not to mention, we’re in the time of everyone and their mother (haha) getting pregnant.

It's so easy!
It’s so easy!
mag
It really is quite easy. Cheerio!
Oh God.
Someone make it stop.

I mean, if Snooki can accidentally make a baby, certainly this healthy, loving married couple with financial stability should have a solid shot at it. It threw us all off that you couldn’t just shoot some tequila and let the magic happen. Could you?

After two doctors, a few rounds of fertility drugs and one procedure, there was still no baby. The next step was going to be very invasive and very expensive. In late Fall, they decided to hit the pause button on the whole charade. No more fertility drugs. A break from the doctors. They were going to let the rest of 2012 finish with as little stress as possible, and pick up where they left off in 2013. The Holiday’s came. We ate gourmet food and drank good wine. 2013 approached and the funny thing is, that night my sister was texting me that this was going to be our year, she didn’t realize that half of the dream had already come true. Inside, a tiny miracle was beginning. And after learning what all is required to take place in order for life to begin, there really is no other way to put it. It is a miracle. I don’t really mind how cheesy it sounds. I also don’t understand how so many people don’t intend to get pregnant but do, because A LOT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR IT TO WORK. But wouldn’t you know it, they got liquored up on Christmas, and well..you know the rest. Apparently the Snooki method works!

Today is my sister’s birthday and I know that it’s a special one. I haven’t given up that my dream will come true too. She’ll have a baby and I’ll get better. But I’m realistic. I know I won’t just wake up one day healed. The key to getting healthy for me is to be at a point where I can manage it effectively. Where I can function and not spend multiple days or weeks in bed. Where I can be proactive and not reactive with treating my symptoms. And where I can remain hopeful, enthused and optimistic even when I feel the worst of it. I have to learn how to find happiness and peace, regardless of my physical state. And I don’t think it’s impossible. It will take dedication and determination and support, but hey, it’s only April. I’m going to be an aunt again in September, so that gives me five months to get in shape. No matter the state of my health, we’re all looking forward to new life in the Fall. We’ve long awaited that little miracle.

Health, Happiness, Babies.

That New House Smell.

I’m sitting upstairs in my new bedroom in our new house. After eight months in an apartment complex I called the “California Projects” for many reasons, most recently a murder in the apartment above us, it feels good to be in a house. A real house. There’s a yard and a small playground. My room has a bay window; something I fantasized about having as a child, and now at 28, my window dreams came true. There are men downstairs installing the floors and speaking in Spanish. In typical white girl fashion, I say Hola! and ¿Cómo estás? and that is all I know so that is the end of the conversation. They are nice. I wish I could creep on their conversations, but I chose French in college which, outside of my semester in France, I never ever speak. Except for my dreams and a French dude I sat next to on the plane last time I flew.

The people who lived here before us hadn’t paid their house note in two years. They are one of thousands among Southern California and America whose eyes were bigger than their wallets. Their inability to pay made for a steal on the house but an insane amount of paperwork and complicated buying contingencies. After a lot of back and forthing, Amelie and Keegan got the house, and then tore out all the ugly stuff. Right now we don’t really have a downstairs with floors, or a kitchen or a living room. So I hang out in the yard with Monty and notice that when the old tenants kids were younger they carved their names into the cement on the side of the house. I feel a little bad. I’m sure when they moved in however long ago they figured this would be their house for life. But I guess it’s a lesson thousands of Americans learned these past few years. It makes me afraid of money. Which is fine because I don’t have any.

I mark this move as a symbol of better things to come. The last apartment was both literally and figuratively dark. There was definitely not enough windows and the light that shown  in my bedroom came from fluorescent bulbs that burned in the corridor outside my room. Yellow and artificial. I spent my sickest days ever there. On the couch or in my bed. And those steep stairs you had to walk down to get to our place–my God I hated those stairs. Each one I cursed when I walked them and my legs were shaking with weakness. Screw you screw you screw you screw you screw you. All the way to the bottom. Or the top. Didn’t matter, I hated those stairs, and Sunday was the last day I had to walk them. I flipped them off from the car as I drove away from that apartment. In my mind that song “Movin’ On Up” played in my head and I hoped that this literal upgrade would also be the symbolic mark of how all of our lives turned around. How once we moved, everyone got everything they ever wanted. But even I know that’s not how it looks. Still, a girl can dream. Only good things here. Leave all the crappy stuff at the bottom of the stairs or in my old closet with the broken door.

Now we’re in real Suburbia. A three car garage and neighbors that say “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” You can hear kids playing outside and there are minivans and such. It’s a nice street in a nice neighborhood and you don’t have to go down any stairs to get in. Now when my large and loud family visits, there will be room for us- presuming we don’t all spit out a baby in the next nine months. But hey, you never know. Although last time I checked you have to have sex in order to have a kid, so, you know, I’M GOOD THERE. Monty is my one and only, and he’s happy to sleep on the floor. Here’s some pictures from the heart of the burbs. Enjoy.

Health, Happiness, Suburbia

Monty enjoying the new view.
Monty enjoying the new view.
Someone loves Taylor.
Someone loves Taylor.
Tiny furniture left behind in our sand box.
Tiny furniture left behind in our sand box.
A neighbors astroturf af lawn.
A neighbors astroturf lawn.

Life at the Window.

I spent last Spring in a playground called New York City. My brother and sister-in-law had this great apartment in TriBeCa with huge windows and a doorman. As newly jobless, apartment-less, boyfriend-less- New York City felt like the perfect place to spend some time and  get to know myself again. I had lost all of my “identifiers ” and it was time to get in touch and adapt.  It was truly a treat  staying there while I reconfigured what my life was going to look like. My brother spent most the week in Boston teaching at MIT and Estee worked full-time, so I had this great little cube in the city to myself a lot.

Our cube with the light on.
Our cube with the light on.

My only responsibility as a guest there was to walk the dog, Lilly. Lilly was cool. Sweet and low maintenance, she was happy to spend day after day sitting on top of the heater with me and looking out the window to life below. I wrote, read, and occasionally played music super loud and danced alone in the living room. (One day I danced “the Dougie” too hard and exhausted myself for a week) If anyone were watching from the building across the street, it would have been quite a show. Lilly sometimes barked at a dog below or a UPS man unloading boxes, but mostly we just watched. It was a perfect, small existence for me at that window. New York City had a way of making me feel intricately connected to the pulse of life, even though I was sick and on the outskirts, and my only participation was mostly observation from the 4th floor. I never felt isolated in New York. Sometimes I ended the day feeling like I had interacted with so many people and in fact I hadn’t actually talked to anyone. There’s something so involved there, that even as a spectator I felt implicitly a part. I would watch the people walking their dogs or babies in strollers, laughing or yelling on their cell phones, entering restaurants and hugging friends hello, and it all made me feel incredibly human again. I could watch life from that window all day and never get tired of the sights. And most days, that’s all I did.

Life at the window.
Life at the window.

I really had to get used to the “free time.” I know that sounds like an illegitimate complaint, but going from working to not was hard to navigate. To strangers it sounds fun..”You’re so lucky! You don’t have to work.!”  But that’s kind of like telling someone in a wheelchair “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to walk!” Truthfully it can be extremely lonely and isolating having absolutely nothing but time on your hands, but possessing none of the means in which to do the things you used to. It took me a long time to adjust to not having a typical day schedule to follow. Such is life. We notice things more once they go missing.

It was surprising how responsible I had to be with my free time. You can’t just do nothing. Nothing is the gift you give yourself after you’ve done something. But if you’re not actually doing anything, the nothing part becomes completely sad. You have to be responsible. It occurs to me now how much security and diligence there was in my fulltime job. A schedule is basically simple. Follow the rules 5 days a week, get paid, go home. There are things you say in an office and things you don’t say. Wear and don’t wear. I worked at that gallery because that was the progressive step after college. It was safe there. I knew exactly what was expected of me and I was good at what I did. And on the 1st and 15th of every month I was paid 1,060 dollars for following the rules and doing my work dutifully. There was a time work began and ended. And there were two entire days a week you had to yourself. It didn’t matter what you did on those days. It only mattered that you showed up on the right days and were on time if not early.  Then all that was left was following the rules. Performing tasks. I do miss the stability of that old life. The one where at least I felt  like I knew what I was doing and where I was headed and what was coming my way. Now there is none of that routine or structure. There isn’t really anything expected of me now.  No tasks to check off, no paycheck twice a month. There’s no real order, and it’s a strange thing to very quickly lose something like that. There is ease in order.

As easy as it is to complain about work, to dislike your boss or co-workers, there is something very essential in human beings that gets fulfilled in just getting dressed and going to work every day; contributing  to the “whole” some way and getting paid to do it. Even if the work is  mundane or repetitive. Even if your co-workers are punks or your boss is a turd-sandwich, there’s something gratifying about good old fashioned compensated  labor. Life becomes pretty different without it.

Part of my biggest adjustment in getting sick has been surrendering to a schedule that I can’t control. I don’t know how I’ll feel one day to the next, what I’ll be capable of. I don’t know if Ill sleep at night for 12 hours or 10 minutes. (Or if I’ll be up at 2 am writing this blog like I am now)  So in a very bizarre way, the illness has literally forced me to live one day at a time. One moment at a time. What am I capable of right now? OK, I’ll do that. It has become that specific.  And I think after nearly two years of no “real” job and crashing my siblings couches, I am finally understanding and accepting life without schedule, rules, tasks, and order. Or what I was perceiving to be order. The funny thing is  now I see that even in my highly organized, scheduled life, I still wasn’t in total control. It only felt that way. It looked that way. I still got sick. Life still “got to me.” My life is no more or less in control now than two years ago. It is truly, just perspective.

My brother Nick encouraged me to read while I had so much downtime, and that was good advice.  Here I was writing all the time, but never reading what was done before me. And you need context in everything, especially literature. I still have a ton of reading to do, but I’m really glad I discovered the real joy of it. Growing up it always felt like labor– a requirement that didn’t interest me. Now I find real freedom in it. There is nothing like getting lost in a story. I admit it’s more fun to read than to write. There is anxiety in me sitting down to write. But there is total surrender in sitting down and investing in a story.

Anyway now that I didn’t have a schedule to adhere to or  specific tasks to perform every day,  I was now up to my own devices. I realize that sounds like a really spicy thing to say. But mostly it was  me in and out of dreamworld on the couch or sitting on the heater, looking out that window, and drinking coffee with Lilly.  Every once in a while we mixed it up. Like when I dressed her up in my hat.

Lilly wearing my hat with attached scarf.
Lilly wearing my hat with attached scarf.

Or put her in my laundry basket.

Say cheese!
Why are you doing this.

Or if it was a healthy day we’d walk to the piers and watch the joggers and boats.

..
Contemplation.

As nice as our walks were, I think I was most content at that window. In general, I am happiest by windows. I gravitate in every house to the room with the most light. I like to see outside. Hopefully one day, I won’t be the girl at the window, but the participant outside. The subject of someone else’s observation. But truly, I ‘ve become happy with this spectator form of my life. I don’t think it will always be this way, but it has granted me a unique perspective. It has made me step back and examine. It’s given me stillness in a very fast world. Even sick in bed, I can still examine life, ask my questions, read and write for the answers. None of this could happen in my old busy life. There was simply no time for it. There was work during the week, and sick recovery on the weekends. Now I have a new kind of work. It doesn’t pay well (as in, it doesn’t pay) but my boss is cool (that’s me) and every day is “Bring Your Dog to Work” day. Maybe the best part is, I am never too far from a window. For me, for now, that is enough.

“Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.” -J Campbell

Health, Happiness, Windows

My friend Gabe took this picture of me at the NY window at night. Thanks Gabe!

Night.
Night.

The Story You Tell Yourself

It is sunrise again in California and I am reflecting on the last few months of my life. I just dropped my mom off at the airport to fly home to tend to other business. Newsflash, she has a life outside of nursing Mary back to health! I’m really lucky she was able to come. She did an incredible job as most Dr. Moms do alongside my sister and I am much more functional than when she arrived a few weeks ago. I can climb the stairs easy peasy this week–that is something new.

I feel a lot more at ease since she arrived and helped me to process some pretty heavy thoughts I was having. For one thing, I kind of thought I was dying, because I’d never felt that bad before and I imagine death must feel like something close to that. It’s pretty unsettling feeling like you can’t walk or hold a brush to your head or take a shower. Forget climbing stairs, I was scoring my days on whether I could walk to the bathroom or not. Since then my strength has slowly inched its way back. I still do very little physically throughout the day as to not overdo it, but I can feel some energy where there was none before, and for that I am really grateful. I’ve been drinking protein shakes from the naturopath doctor three times a day along with 12 other supplements alongside my normal pill cocktail. I’ve been drinking Chinese tea from Dr. Xu that tastes like ground up birds nest and getting acupuncture twice a week. My B12 was low so I even learned how to give myself a shot…in the butt. It’s impressive. But anyway, it’s helping. All of it, I think, is working in different ways and putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I notice that every day has it challenges. Mine has different uncertainties and struggles. Will I be strong enough to climb the stairs, will I get to shower, will Monty and me save the world?! And the truth is I just don’t know. None of us do. There is no certainty about what will or won’t happen tomorrow. There is just here and now. And I notice that when I examine my life with clear hindsight and an open-minded eye, I see that it’s not bad. Like at all. It’s actually kind of enjoyable! I’ve gotten to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law that I never would have had otherwise. I’m lucky to have a mom who was able to fly out at the drop of a hat and give me some much-needed help. I get to read and write as I please. (Even though it’s mostly from bed.) I get to spend ample time with my favorite person, Monty, and I get to put my very little energy towards something positive–writing, humor, optimism, and good news. There are a lot of outcomes of this seemingly crappy situation that are not themselves crappy. They’re more like great. And that always gives pause for reflection. But trust me, it’s easy to go the other direction. The slightest tip of the scale and I could see things very differently. Darker. And I have those days sometimes. I could say it isn’t fair. I could say this isn’t the life I wanted or signed up for. I could look at all the healthy people with their functional lives and long for that to be mine. But, like Iyanla Vanzant says, that’s a life path that doesn’t belong to me. So it’s important to let it go. As long as I try to get back something that was never mine, I will suffer. As long as I tell myself a sad story, I’ll pay.

What’s your story morning glory?

We tend to think we know best for ourselves. And many times that’s true. But the problem with the human experience is that we are stuck in the mental limitations of space and time, so it’s hard for us to see our lives in the context of eternity. But that’s the truth of existence. We’re just a small part of something much larger, and we aren’t meant to see all of it at one time. I think we’re meant to just hold on and enjoy the ride, and when it’s a shit show, like my life the past year, you hold on tighter. You pull in people to help. You acknowledge there is something bigger than you, and focus your energy on balance. On acceptance. On inner peace.

The thing is, you can’t just tell yourself a happy story about your life and you’ll be happy. You have to believe the story you tell yourself. For some reason it’s like we’re conditioned to believe the sad story more than the happy one. And through the dark times especially, it’s not as easy to find the pretty things, but they are so valuable when you take time to find them. That’s why acceptance is so important. Once I stopped focusing on the happy life I would have once I got better, and instead focused on how to be happy with the life I have now, I found much more success. And it takes work. I have to remind myself everyday of the things that I am lucky for, and most of the time it’s a no-brainer. It’s family. But it’s easy to forget. To slip up. To fall into the humdrum of life and feel like you’re not where you’re supposed to be. And maybe you’re not. But most of the time, life just requires us to be present where we are.  We already have everything we need, we just have to be aware of it. In The Untethered Soul, Singer wrote that “Life is surrounding you with people and situations that stimulate growth.”So before you judge your life and your hardships, try to acknowledge that this is what you need in order to become whole. In order to become who you are– the best possible version of yourself. It sucks sometimes. It’s hard. Don’t I know it. But if in the end it forced you to grow and become awesome and happy, well then, it’s worth it isn’t it? Maybe it isn’t such a sad story after all.

I’m learning I have to be careful about the story I tell myself. Because if it’s a happy one, that will be my life. But if it’s a sad one, that will be my life, too.

Health, Happiness, Stories.

It’s OK To Ask For Help. Help!

It has taken me a long time, a very long time, to admit what I am about to. It’s not a very big deal at all, but I’ve spent a long time fighting the very notion of it, and in the end it’s completely true; I am totally reliant on the help of other people right now. I need help. I can’t do life on my own. It’s been this way for a while and though many times I’ve picked myself up by my own bootstraps as they say, and I’ve done all I could to live a life that is mine and have a struggle that I conquered, it just isn’t the case. And why that would be so hard to admit or accept for me, I have no idea. It must be the ego in me. It doesn’t want to admit I need help, but the simple truth is, I do! A lot of it. It’s all so silly. Sometimes life is hard and sometimes you need help. It’s OK to ask for it. And if someone offers it to you, you should accept. The world is full of good people and many of them are happy to help someone out in need. We’re in this together people! Independence is important. Solitude is a gift. But there are 6 billion people on the planet and I don’t think we were put here to suffer alone. This is where and why love exists, and I am seeing now that I need to channel my old fire for autonomy into pure grace and gratitude that I have people who are willing to help me when I’m down. Even when sometimes I don’t deserve it. When I have nothing to offer back. When I resist it. They give it anyway, and I am incredibly lucky for that, for them. It’s really time for me to let go of the anger that I can’t do it on my own. (I think they call this surrender.) Little by little, I feel my pride give way to acceptance. It hurts. It’s hard. It doesn’t always present me in a very pretty light. But there is freedom in admitting you need others, and I’m getting there; slowly letting go of a life path I had in mind that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. Well boo hoo. It happens. The universe had other plans and here I sit in California listening to coyote puppies howl outside and trying to understand grace. I know it won’t always be like this. Things don’t stay the same. And the truth is it doesn’t matter whose couch I’m on or which family member I’m bumming off of. The key to my happiness is just being where I am. I really need to let what was, go. Let what could have been, go. There is just this, just where I am now.

The model citizen in this whole experience is easy; It’s Monty. Two years ago he happily rode in the backseat with me after the day at the hospital–let me use him as a pillow on the hour drive home to my parents house. It was a gradual move-in, but Monty seemed like he knew we were there for the long haul and quickly embraced our new house. (He was right.) I remember waking up one morning to find my mom feeding him cantaloupe off of a fork and laughing. Marc took him to the prairies with him and they quickly became partners. When I was too weak to play he slept. When I was sad he would fart or do something equally meaningless but would somehow lighten the mood. When I decided to go to Colorado, he got on a plane with me and we went, and he didn’t lose his temper when we were delayed for 6 hours in the Houston airport. He played fetch with a rubber band and then he waited patiently. When I came to California he came too, swam everyday and had a really good time. When we moved into an apartment with my sister and brother-in-law with not a lot of space, he made himself at home. I’ve always wondered what Monty in a bad mood would be like. I’ve never seen it. Every day is literally the best day of his life. He wakes up so excited. Could I be like that? It seems worth it to try. I’ve never seen Monty stub his toe and then yell “mother fuckerrrr!!!!” like I did the other day. Or complain about the agenda or the situation or his crappy pebbly food. It’s like all he does is love and embrace everything. His energy is really good to be around and I don’t take it lightly. I know I’m a little obsessed with him and people say “It’s just a dog, Mary.” But what does that really mean? I’m just a human. Monty seems to have something figured out that I don’t and I don’t see the problem with learning from another species. Some things, they just get. Anyway, it’s fun having him along.

Model Citizen.

He is just another part of the “Help” I’m receiving. The best part about dog help is that you don’t really have to ask for it, they kind of just know. So whether it’s Monty keeping me company in bed, my sister carrying me up the stairs, my mom counseling me through dark stuff, or a million other ways in which I am being helped by other people, I am finally comfortable admitting that I need it and I need them, and that’s OK! We have a tendency to want to do it on our own, but I promise it will be easier when you don’t go at life alone. Especially through the rough times. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return the favors to my friends and family. Pay it back. Or forward. Technically I’m in debt to a few family members like a jillion dollars but one day I tell them, I’ll pay our bills and take us all to Hawaii. Or I’ll do the house chores for them when I’m on two feet again. Or I’ll just keep being the lifeless girl on the couch who tells jokes every now and then. At any rate, I’ll keep trying, and I’ll continue accepting the help from the troops who were called in.  As hard as things get, it’s nice to recognize that I’m not in it all alone. Dare I quote the Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends?” Oopse, I just did. Well there you have it.

Health, Happiness, Help!

A Shit Show.

I don’t know of any other way to describe the past week except as a shit show. And maybe that points to how juvenile I am, but I honestly can’t think of a more sophisticated word. If you read my last post, you can see that I was in a bit of a bad way last week. I crashed really hard last Monday and was feeling pretty deadly. We did the normal protocol and quadrupled my hyrdrocortisone and I mostly stayed lying on the couch or in bed, researching the little amount of money spent on this illness and writing somewhat of an angry blog about it. I don’t usually like to succumb to moments of mental negativity like that. I think anger has its reasons for existing, but I have always wanted this to be a place of optimism, humor, and hope. So I hope I didn’t put too bitter a taste into the community here. I also need to remember that more research than ever is being done, and while we do have a ways to go, we’ve already come along ways. I’m not going anywhere, and no matter how far agencies like the NIH and CDC take the research, the goal is always to be as happy as possible, with whatever you got. The other goal of this blog is to promote awareness, and so maybe my little moment of anger can help do that in the long run. I think the best thing it did was inspire many of you to comment or email with your stories. Many people say it helps them to read this blog, and the truth is, it is just as helpful for me to hear from you. It’s easy to get so lost in your own story that you only see yourself in the world. The truth is no matter how poignantly real it can feel sometimes, we aren’t alone in this, and that’s maybe the most important thing to remember.

On Sunday morning I had started to bounce back from my week-long crash. I thought. Part of the “Shit Show” of last week was that on Monday, our kitchen flooded due to a leak in the wall. It was going to involve some major reconstruction (basically knocking out every wall in the kitchen) but they assured us it would only take a week. My sister thoughts were that we should move apartments. She’s all too familiar with how long a “week” takes in contractor time. But the idea of even packing my bags in a suitcase felt devastating to me, and luckily my brother-in-law was in no mood either to up and move overnight. So we decided to stay. But a few days later as I was walking through the hall, water seeped up through the carpet onto my feet. Never really a good sign. The workers came back and found the leak had begun to flood the master bed and bath and the front closet. By Friday morning, I was still pretty crashed and somehow there were 5 workers in the kitchen beginning demolition and making a shit ton of noise. The noise permeated my dreams but I stayed sleeping. If you can call it that. Keegan came in my room a few times asking if I wanted to go to his parents house to sleep, but the idea of getting in a car and going felt like too much. I said no, rolled over, and went back to exhaustive sleep. The demolition went on.

By the afternoon Keegan and his friend were moving the big stuff out to an apartment across the street. I packed in the laziest sick person way possible. I honestly didn’t have a lot of stuff, but what I did have I threw in two boxes Keegan gave me, and left all my clothes on hangers. Keegan and his friend moved my bed first and the couch so that I could literally go from my bed in the current apartment to my bed in next one. As they moved it on the first load, I laid on the floor in my empty room with Monty and fell asleep staring at the ceiling. I watched Keegan and his friend carry heavy things and sweat and noted how interesting faces look when you’re looking at them upside down. Here are some pictures of me during the move.

Day 1. 
Day 2.

As you can see I’m a big help. Anyway in two days, Amelie and Keegan had everything packed, moved and unpacked, and I laid there watching life walk back and forth carrying boxes over my head. It was a new perspective though and I’m always down for new perspectives. My favorite line from the whole moving experience came from my sister as she was unpacking in her new bathroom and I was laying on the couch counting ceiling popcorn. “Our fucking toilet is leaking!!!!!!” This was after three cabinets fell completely off of their hinges in the kitchen and the sink pipes leaked underneath when you turned the water on. When it leaks, it pours. If I could consume alcohol, I would have played a drinking game called “Drink Every Time Something Breaks” and had a gay old time. Instead I slept or played DJ for Amelie and Keegan while they packed and unpacked–which mostly consisted of me playing Carlae Rae Jenson’s “Call Me Maybe” on repeat. God that song is good.

By Sunday we still didn’t have cable which meant we WERE WITHOUT OUR SUNDAY FOOTBALL and my sister was WITHOUT THE RED ZONE ON ESPN which meant she COULDN”T TRACK HER FANTASY TEAMS ON A PLAY BY PLAY BASIS which was a problem, you can imagine. So we went to a bar with 4,000 TV’s and I felt sad as I watched the Saints lose in overtime and was the only Saints fan in the joint. I still yelled ‘Who Dat’ if ever so quietly. Unfortunately my body felt like it was slowly slipping away from me. An hour later when sitting upright felt near impossible and I felt a migraine coming on, I went home and fell straight asleep. Whatever momentum I had felt that morning was long gone and when I woke up a few hours later I had the migraine of the century, which lasted until yesterday. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 on Monday morning and when I woke up, I was more weak than I’d ever felt. I took Monty outside, but with this new apartment comes a flight of steps to get to ground level. I hate those steps, and I cursed every last one as I climbed them one by one, the way old people do. I threw the ball for Monty a few times, then apologized to him for being a human wasteland and came back inside. I set up camp on the couch and wondered what had happened to my limbs over night. It was like the cement fairy came over night and filled my whole body up. Thanks cement fairy!!

Yesterday morning I didn’t think I felt any worse until I tried to get out of bed. It was really hard to move. Nearly impossible to walk. I didn’t feel like I could make a fist. I wasn’t sad but I kept breaking down in tears, I think because I was scared. This felt different; worse than it’s felt before and I was nervous this time I might actually croak. Usually I just curse the illness, roll back over and go to sleep. Anyway, going to the ER is always a last-case scenario but after talking to Dr. Emils (one of my best friends in her last year of med school), my mom and my sister, we decided it was the best option. At least we could eliminate the possibility of eminent death since I had been getting worse over the week and the iv fluid and steroid would help with the weakness and get the migraine to go down. So Amelie left work early, helped me up the stairs and I cried as I said goodbye to Monty because I really didn’t want to leave him and I was also scared I’d get bad news at the hospital. It was the first time I found myself praying they wouldn’t find anything, because usually I’m looking for an answer. This time I just wanted the normal “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but here’s something for your discomfort.” Luckily, that’s what I got. As well as kind nurses and doctors and basically no wait time. A whole other world compared to the New Orleans hospital last January.

Hospital gowns, like mullets, are business in the front and party in the back. 

So, that brings us to the present. The good news is I’m not dying. I only feel like I’m dying. Haha. But, that I can handle. For some reason I woke up with swollen joints this morning, so it’s just another reason to take it slow. It’s also a creative challenge to see how many fun things I can do from the supine position. I don’t know what this crash is about, but it’s just going to take some waiting out. The best part through all of it is I realized just how much I didn’t want my sometimes shitty life to be over. I had been pretty down the last week being sick. I felt myself saying “Owell” as a speeding car raced past Monty and me on our walk and I entertained the thought of it taking me out. It was just my dark sense of humor of course, but now I say “No way JOSE!” to that car, and I live to see another day. Even if from the couch. Sorry for the length of this one. Like I said, it’s been a shit show of a week

 

Health, Happiness, Shit Shows.

 

 

One Thing, Once a Day.

I love getting late birthday presents in the mail. Wait, I love getting mail period. For one thing, I think the art of letter writing is becoming extinct, so it’s always pretty special to get something written in one of a kind hand-writing, written just for you. Dear Mary… Anyway, late birthday presents are like those blooper scenes they show during the credits of a movie you liked. Just when you thought it was over–bam! My brother Nick and his wife Estee sent me two new shirts and a skirt and a necklace with a hand-written card, the best! And my sister brought me shopping at Nordstrom. Her and Keegan have kind of adopted me as their 28-year-old child. Keegan even sent me to my room yesterday. I also unpacked my suitcase at their house two weeks ago, the first time I’ve really not lived out of my suitcase since February. All my siblings are like extra parents, each pitching in to help in their own ways and I am really thankful for that. It’s easy for me to forget that my situation could be a lot worse. They have all encouraged me to visit them, and that is a real gift. Anyway, I love shopping and I love new clothes, but it has turned into such a silly thing for me to love, mostly because I never wear normal clothes anymore. I never really go anywhere and I hardly see people besides Monty and my family. My uniform has evolved into leggings and t-shirts–every guys fantasy.

Last week and all weekend was a sick week. Like a sick day, but you know, times 7. I once wrote that I was the mayor of Migraine City, but I am upgrading myself this week to Governor because my head is super angry about something and apparently wants the world to know. Here’s your shot head, let it all out! Every day I keep telling myself I will get dressed in my new clothes and I will go somewhere and I’ll do my hair and makeup and look like someone who has her shit together. But, that has yet to happen. “Tomorrow” I tell myself. Then the song from Annie starts playing in my mind and I bet my bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun, and I will go out in it! Since I’m in Cali, there is always sun, but when you have a migraine, it feels like if you were to go outside under that bright sun you’d start melting like the witch from the Wizard of Oz. Anyway, the migraine cycle continues, but why am I talking about migraine cycles? I’m even boring myself.

When I’m in the throes of a sick week, I can start to get down. And also start to go stir crazy. So there are a few things I do and a few things I don’t do. Maybe most importantly, I do not watch TV during the day. There is just something undeniably sad about daytime television, and sunlight coming in through the blinds..maybe reflecting off the TV screen? Yuck. The only time I don’t find a sunlights’ reflection on a TV screen depressing is on the weekends when we’re watching football. Exceptions to every rule.

First, I keep a book on hand and I read. I swear it’s like I’ve discovered the joy of reading only last year..at age 27. Pretty ridiculous since I discovered the joy of writing at around age 9. I feel like I’m catching up on all the years that I began books and never finished them. I always associated reading a book with homework, something I had to do. It never felt like I had a choice in the matter. As soon as book reports became part of my schooling in 6th grade, it became my goal to see how little of the book I could read and how high a grade on the report I could get. Unfortunately, I work really well under pressure–so the night before it was due I’d skim through the book, find the important parts, and write a flowery report. I almost always received A’s on them. I was actually proud of myself for being able to complete the work this way! What an idiot. Anyway, now that I have really experienced what getting lost in a book is like, I feel like I have years of catching up to do. So that’s partly what I’m doing. Especially because it’s not sad at all to read while sunlight is coming through the window. In fact it’s the most fun to go outside and read. Monty and I had been going to the park daily, but I crashed mid-week and we haven’t been back yet. Anyway, right now I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A true story about a woman who lost her way and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, with no experience. Truthfully, it’s a little difficult to read because she is in a lot of physical and emotional pain so far, and I like reading to carry me away from real life, so in that light it’s not been as fun to read as Gone Girl but I’m just about 1/3 in, so I’ll see how the next 50 pages go.

The second thing I do is create something. It can be anything from a four line poem to a line drawing. The goal is not to create a masterpiece work of art. The goal is to let your soul do some talking. Sometimes what you make will be crappy and sometimes you’ll surprise yourself. But the thing is, now no matter how sick or worthless I felt today or the fact that I never got dressed in real clothes, at least when someone asks me what I did today I can say “I wrote a poem,” or “I drew a picture of a stupid cat.” So now today was not a complete waste. Here are some simple rhyming poems.

*I am tired
But do not sleep
I am sad
But do not weep
I close my eyes
And count to 10
If I still feel it
I’ll do it again
Until the clouds part
And the dark clears
I’ll think of my loves
And not of my fears.

*In the corners of my mind
In the absence of a dime
I think about home
In a house that isn’t mine.

*At night I roam
through consciousness alone
Would I have chosen this
If I would have known!

*At least at the end of day
Where I never got dressed
I can say I wrote a poem
And that’s something I guess.

Normally I hate rhyming poems, and I don’t necessarily love these. But, they’re what came out. So I let them. Because that’s what my soul had to say today, and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s good or bad. It’s the fear of making something good or bad that is dangerous. Once I let that fear go, I kind of free myself. The worst that can happen is you write a shitty poem or you draw a shitty picture. Certainly there are worse things! Either way, you’ve got something to look back on or laugh at or talk about, and you weren’t completely at the mercy of illness.

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I drew the above drawing a few days ago. It turned out to be one of my favorites…drawn on a sick day where I never got dressed. It started with a very simple shape; a leaf. Then I repeated the pattern and this is what turned up. I had no idea what I was sitting down to draw that day, but it’s another example of letting your soul speak. Or stillness speak. I just know that when I designate time to letting things come through me, I am usually surprised. I end up creating something I never could have thought of myself. It’s strange, the way sometimes your dreams can be insanely more creative or smarter than you are in real life. I guess it’s the subconscious at work. This one is titled “I Don’t Normally Look Like This” and is for sale for $10.

Anyway, that’s been the last 7 days. Fingers crossed that tomorrow is migraine free and filled with more energy and I get to wear some happy clothes and run errands like humans do. If not, well then…it’s back to the drawing board.

Health, Happiness, One Thing a Day.

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.

Dude. Solitude.

Sound the bells. I survived the Colorado Crash of 2012. I’m alive. Woohoo!

Yesterday I finally started feeling back to my normal sickley self, not my deadly sickley self. And it feels good to be able to be out of bed for more than an hour a day. That tends to wear on a girl…at least a little. I can’t believe what a disaster my Colorado vacation was. It’s funny I’m still referring to it as a vacation. That’s like taking someone to the DMV and calling it a date. It was really hard for me to enjoy my time there because I was in constant recovery, catch up, and crash mode and the cycle didn’t break the whole time I was there. I had to say no to things and miss out on things which I’m typically “OK” with but this time I felt real sadness and anger about it. I wanted to blame someone, I wanted a reason, I wanted to “talk to the manager” about this. I wanted it to be somebody’s fault and somebody to fix it. But, that’s not how it works. These are the things that teach us grace and surrender and sometimes getting the lesson is the most painful part. By the last night I had broken down in tears just exhausted from being exhausted and feeling like the Debbie of all Downers. This illness tends to turn its victims into high maintenance fun suckers when it’s at its worst, and nobody likes to be around that. By the end I was tired of who I was on that trip and what I required. But my brothers talked me through it and we decided that next vacation we take, we aren’t making an itinerary. We’re not overcommitting to engagements and we’ll try to just take each day as it comes. We’re going to try to effectively do nothing–something I’m pretty spectacular at and most people are still getting the hang of. I’m happy to teach my ways. I’m doing nothing right now!

 

As hard as the last two weeks have been, I feel like it is all starting to pay off because now I find myself in Paradise. My sisters in-laws left yesterday morning for a three-week trip to Africa. When they told me about their voyage months ago my first question was what they were going to do with Mikey–an enormous yellow lab and king of the household. When they threw around options I casually mentioned that Hey, I have nothing to do in August (or any month ever for that matter) and I could watch Mikey for them if they preferred he had a dogsitter. A few days later they took me up on the offer and even allowed me to bring Monty here too. So now, after all the exhaustion, noise, chaos, itineraries, plans and breaking of plans, I find myself in a beautiful California home with two loveable drooling teddy bears, and I could not feel more at peace having arrived. When I wake up in the morning, there is silence, and there is no itinerary to follow. DO YOU KNOW HOW GREAT THAT IS!?!?

 

Truthfully I have always treasured my solitude. If I were a Country Singer, I would write a song called “Solitude Has Always Been a Friend of Mine.” Anyway, it happens at least a few times a year that I require almost total isolation and dream of being locked up in a cabin somewhere and cut off for a little while. It’s like my souls version of food cravings. I have always enjoyed small endeavors on my own. Sometimes I like to eat at restaurants alone, or see movies or go to the bookstore. I love not having to keep up a conversation and going at my own pace, which is usually pretty slow. There isn’t anything so commonplace and exhausting to me as small talk. I have no patience or energy for idle conversations anymore. I don’t like having the “What’s new with you?” conversation. I don’t like to hear how your job is going or how your brothers band got a new drummer. And I don’t like to share news from my neck of the woods either–obviously because I don’t have any. “Yep, still sleeping on peoples couches. Well bye!” I realize this probably makes me sound like an old curmudgeon, and maybe I’m starting down that path at the ripe old age of 27, but there is something about those forced conversations that sometimes even the mere thought of them drains me. They just feel so inauthentic on both ends and since my time out of bed is so precious anyway, it’s hard for me to spend it on a conversation that we’re having to fulfill some duty–or because we feel like we should. This is why having a dog as a best friend works out great for me. No elevator talk.

I don’t care about your job.
Me either!

The other part is, while writing is my passion, it’s kind of  a lonely practice. You can’t do it well with people around. And you kind of have to “strike while the iron is hot” which is typically for me sometime around 3 in the morning. The act of writing is not nearly as satisfactory as the result, and many times the process is grueling. Anyway, the only living thing that can hang out but not disturb me is a dog. Two dogs even. So Monty and Mikey have been great companions. We eat, sleep, swim and write and there’s no itineraries or talking about our jobs. Wanda left me a note welcoming me to help myself to any and everything and to write a book while I’m here. Think I’ll take her advice.

Health, Happiness, Solitude.

Help and Thank You

It’s been almost 7 days and 12 hours that I’ve gone without internet and I am gently reminded just how much a product of the multi-tasking, turned-on tech generation I am. I think going this long without wi-fi is my generations equivalent to camping. I’m pretty sure they call this roughing it. And I’m pretty sure my parents would call me a pansy.

This is an easy problem to fix, as most public restaurants and coffee shops have free wi-fi these days but since I’ve basically spent the last seven days IN BED or using some other piece of furniture as though it is one, I haven’t been able to take my little coffee shop trips like I’d planned.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but since the day after I arrived here, I’ve been crashing about an hour after I wake up. Apparently my adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly and I’m bottoming out after I wake up. And not just “Gee I’m sleepy I think I’ll lay down for a bit” kind of crash. (Since becoming sick I have no idea how a power nap works. I just know 15 minutes could never ever ever ever be enough when I’m in a crash.) It’s more like hitting a brick wall where the only thing to do is go back to bed. If that sounds depressing, well, yeah, it is a bit. But there is no such thing as faking it. I made it to dinner at my cousins Shawns house after three days in bed but didn’t feel like I could keep my head up to play cards after dinner. And we ALWAYS play cards after dinner. That’s what you do in Colorado. That’s what you do when grandma is around. And that was just one of many things I’ve had to miss out on since arriving, which is very challenging emotionally for me. I’m the youngest of four, so basically since birth it’s been my prerogative to just not miss out on anything. But that affect right there is one of the hardest parts of this illness, many times even harder than the physical pain itself.

A few nights ago after spending the last two days straight in bed, I felt like I started to lose my mental strength. My siblings had left to go visit with old family friends who I’d really like to have seen but I just couldn’t make it happen. When I’m sick like that I’ve always felt it’s best to be alone since I’m not a ton of fun to be around and basic “sounds” really bother me. But then after everyone left, I got sad and wanted them to come back again. All of my siblings are here and we have taken over my grandmas little house. My brother has been sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the living room–and this has really worked out for me, because I basically get to be in bed while simultaneously hearing to the conversations and sounds and chaos that ensues when more than one Gelpi is in a room together.

The truth is, I find myself looking for an answer to all of this and there often isn’t one. There are a lot of questions I have about my life that most of the time I am able to let go unanswered. But during those times like a few nights ago, I can’t escape the questions so easily, and I feel anger about them because it simply doesn’t make sense to me. I was angry that most of my vacation has been spent lying down. Angry that I was missing out on my favorite activities. Jealous of other people’s health. Angry that I rarely get to see all my siblings at the same time, and now here we are all together but I can barely get out of bed. Marc Nepo says it’s our job to make sense out of our pain. So that is what I tried to do the other night as I did the only thing I promised I would do that day–take a bath. Big day for Mary!

During dark times like that, I don’t often have big revelations or hear the voice of God. I just let myself feel the pain and then remind myself that tomorrow is another day and say some prayers. There are two prayers I say when I’m all out of juice and all together they make up three words. And here they are: “Help” and “Thank You.” When I’m too tired to spell it out for the universe, (and let’s get real, I shouldn’t have to spell it out for the universe) those are the prayers I say, and honestly it feels like enough. The help prayer is for strength and the thank you prayer is for my family, particularly my siblings. They have taken phenomenal care of me since arriving, and my sister Amelie has been force feeding me protein every two hours. Even when I’m cranky and don’t feel like moving, talking, or eating. They bring me home leftovers and pick up my prescriptions and lie to me when I ask them if the party I missed out on was any fun. Each of them is an invaluable gift to me. Sometimes I think about my life and think maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I won’t find “The One” or my soul mate or whatever they talk about on Sex and the City. And then I watch us at work together and it hits me that maybe I don’t need that. Sometimes my mom and siblings feel like all the soul mates I could need. (Monty too of course) That being said, I’m sure they’re all hoping that one day I’ll be able to sustain myself and won’t require an air mattress in the middle of their respective living room floors and I am hoping for that day too. But there is just a lot of love between us and often I feel like my glass is overflowing with the stuff that matters. And pain and exhaustion aside, that feels pretty good. At the end of the day, you ask yourself; do I have what I need? And I do. I have modern medicine and the smell of my grandmas house, 10 more minutes of free wi-fi and unconditional love and the answer is clear. Today was hard, but I had enough.

Health, Happiness, Enough.

Sick and the City

I discovered the cure for insomnia–it’s waking up!  So here I am. Totally tired, but unable to sleep. Go figure.

I’m writing from the luxury of an aerobed in the living room with New York City rain slanting down our windows. There’s something about New York that makes me feel connected–which is funny because it’s a large city of strangers who don’t know or care about me, but on a walk outside I feel like an absolutely intrinsic participant in life and that things are as they should be. Even inside an apartment, on the third floor, behind shades..the pulse beats in. I like watching people walk down the sidewalks, enthralled with their busy lives. I like seeing every breed of dog and owner pass in front of our building. And I like seeing a light go off in one room and on in another. No one seems to notice me at the window, but I smile at them if they do.

It’s funny how at home I feel in NYC. And I sortof cheated at New York. I lived and worked here for two summers and spent a few months here last year when I was sick and jobless. My first job was an unpaid internship at GLASS Magazine in Brooklyn. It was unpaid, so my brother let me stay with him for free, and he gave me the bed. The next summer I came back and served drinks to tourists and New Yorkers on a sailboat called The Shearwater that toured the Hudson River. That job seems way too cool for me to ever have had, but my brothers friend got me the gig and I took it. That job paid but Nick let me live rent free anyway. I say I cheated at New York because as most New Yorkers will tell you, it’s a hard city to sustain in. Not just financially or career wise. It can be a dark city too; isolated, unapologetic and relentless. Most people here have gone through some sort of struggle tied to the city in order to get where they are. I on the other hand never really had a struggle to overcome here, because Nick did that for the both of us. He moved, worked hard, met cool people, found all the best spots, and then just sort of shared them with me when I came. In that way, New York has always been glamorous to me. It’s the New York in the movies. All my attachments here were temporary and I never owed anything to it–except those $600 in parking tickets I accrued that one summer. Shit, I still need to pay those.

I’ve spent the last week making art, listening to music, and wondering what’s in store next. I’ve started to become a lot more comfortable with the uncertainty of my life. There is no plan. There is no “mine.” And there’s not much money or organization. I don’t even unpack my suitcase when I go home anymore. But that’s something I think I needed to go through. There are no certainties in life. Even the most promising plans aren’t resilient to fairness or the universe. As much as I used to think there was, I see now there are no rules, and no fair or unfair. There just is and I just am.

I always have this fear that when I sit down to write or draw that what I create will be terrible. I guess the fear is that if I create something terrible, then I haven’t succeeded with the purpose, and then I’ll be cursed and everything I create from then on will be crap. But I see now that not only is that fear irrational, it’s useless. I know this sounds a lot like an after school special, but the real failure is never sitting down, and never giving voice to the things that move you. When I was here last spring I was strongly considering doing stand-up comedy at a comedy club run by my friend Mark. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, at least once. Because the thing is, if I bomb, then I’ve got this great story: I did stand up comedy  in NYC when I was 27 and got booed off the stage. WINNER. And if I succeed, then I’ve made real New Yorkers laugh–and that’s a hell of a story too. I was speaking with my mom about it and admitted I was nervous to try and she said “What’s the worst that can happen? You get on stage and no one laughs?” “Uh, right. Yeah. Exactly that.” That was the worst that could happen, and that scenario is kind of a nightmare. But I think going for it is a success in itself. The very act of braving the audience and swallowing the risk of humiliation is half art in itself. One day New York..I’ll tell you jokes one day.

Anyway, I’ve decided I’m just going to keep trying things. I’ll keep drawing even though I’m not very good and I’ll keep writing even though I don’t really know where it’s going. There have been few certainties in my young life so far. But I do know that every person I look up to has continued and persevered  even when they didn’t quite know where they were going. They took risks and they didn’t always play it safe. So I’m going to keep creating. Even when I’m tired, even when I fail, even when I have no idea what in God’s name I’m doing, I’ll just keep going. And hopefully along the way, it will happen one day. Whatever it is I’m looking for, I’ll find it. Something tells me I’m close. Or maybe it’s just begun. Either way- like the struggles and people and persistence of  NYC, I won’t spend so much dissecting everything–I’ll embrace change as it comes and forgive all the plans I had. There’s just no other way to do it.

Here’s the most recent drawing. It’s titled: “As You Can See, I Don’t Have a Job” 8.5 x 11. I’ll post the rest tomorrow.

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Health and Happiness and