My Super Duper Serious Farewell Video to 2017

I worked super cereally hard on this video you guys! I’m seriously cereal! Sorry, link was broken before– youtube couldn’t handle the serious complexity of this super serious farewell video.

 

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Here’s a picture of a rain dropped sloth, because, why not?

Health, Happiness, and 2018 Bring. It. On. Like Donkey Kong. Yeah I said it.

***Artwork of sloth, plus so much other great art, by Sonia Kretschmar, and you can look and enjoy all of it! Here or soniak.com. Keep goin Sonia, your art makes me happy.

That Year the Universe Sh*t On My Family: A Six Part Series

Part 1: No Big Deal

There is no shortage of platitudes and sayings, bumper stickers or posters inside of cutesy frames meant to remind us how fragile life is. How fleeting. How fast it can all go upside down. How fast it can all go, altogether. Live Life to the Fullest, You Never Know How Many Tomorrows You Have Left. I hate this phrase, and I can’t totally say why. A cliché, true, but I can deal with clichés. I even love them sometimes. It might be that I see this and similar phrases on decorative pillows in Stein Mart, on picture frames holding happy photos, etched onto a wooden clock piece in my doctors waiting room, but I rarely confront people who actually seem to live this way. Except Monty of course- he does everything to the fullest. At that doctors’ office with the clock, for instance, the women at the front desk are really mean. All 3 of them, mean. True story. It seems like people who are conscious of how devastatingly short our time is here wouldn’t be so mean, particularly to sick people. But hey, maybe their boss is a jerk. Or they’re having a hard day. Or how about Hey, there are a lot of good excuses to be really mean. Doesn’t mean you have to be. 

I know, I’m writing as though I live this way and sadly I don’t. I forget all the time. I let petty things get to me, forget to be appreciative, or simply fail to treasure the life I’ve been given. Nobody gets away with a pain-free life. It wasn’t a part of the contract that we’d come here and it would be easy. That it wouldn’t hurt sometimes. But you know what other phrase I like? Don’t waste pain. What an auspicious, novel idea it is, to see pain not as a punishment but simply as part of the program. A piece to the puzzle, the plan. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad. In hindsight, it’s been the more painful and tough experiences that have taught me the most, made me dig deeper for purpose, made me kinder, more aware, grateful, better. It’s not that they aren’t terrible experiences sometimes, because damn, sometimes When It Rains It Pours. But what can you do other than pick up the pieces and keep going? If you’ve suffered a long time, you might as well redeem the coupon and see what’s on the other side of it. If it’s more suffering well, maybe you’re missing something. Or maybe you’re cursed. Either way, at least you have experience, so you’ll know how to do it. “I’m really good at suffering.” I should put that on my resume.

It’s easy to feel sometimes like you’re getting an unfair deal. And you probably are. I confront stories and realities everyday that are gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and nearly impossible to explain. Watch five minutes of the news, explain that. But I’ve also encountered stories and people who have suffered immensely, endured incredible pain,  and emerged as better people for it. They didn’t just survive their experience, their loss, but actually came out happier than they were before-not bitter. Fair or unfair, they kept going. And it’s almost a miracle to observe what some people have faced in one lifetime and not given up in the process. These people are generally pretty awesome, and hearing their stories are encouraging and important. Maybe their stories should make the news more often.

Anyway, this one year, two thousand and shit, I mean six, 2006, was a really tough one. For every member of my family, life roared its ugly head, respectively. But we survived it and it’s encouraging to remember that, particularly when it’s pouring. I also find it hilariously tragic, if that’s an acceptable phrase. Our lives did turn upside down, but we emerged standing. OK I emerged sitting but the rest of them, standing strong. So, here is our story, in six parts, of the year the Gelpi’s were shit on collectively. Just remember, it all ended up OK, even though at times it felt definitely not OK. Maybe that’s the cliché platitude to take away from that year. Everything is OK, even when it isn’t.

***

On a Tuesday morning in 2006, I can recall certain details with complete clarity; each of my senses awakens and remembers with a concrete ease. I am brushing my teeth in my college apartment surrounded by beige everything: carpet, walls, countertop. My boyfriend is watching TV on the couch waiting to give me a ride to class. Media Law 2030— my favorite course, taught by one of the best professors I’d ever have at LSU. Professor Freeman, the Man. On the first day he passed out a syllabus and guided us broadly through the timeline we’d follow through the semester. In bolded font halfway down page 1 it read: If you are going to miss any day of class this semester, make sure it’s NOT February 6th. It was February 6th.

I can taste the mintiness of that toothpaste still– I’m tapping the toothbrush on the rim of the sink, releasing the excess water. When my phone buzzes in my back pocket, I see “home” on the screen and think twice about answering. I know that conversations with my mom were often pretty long, so I consider waiting to answer it; call her back after class when you’ll have more time. But that thought quickly vanished and I pick up instead. On the other end, a very weak, unfamiliar voice emits from the phone–a voice that I know belongs to my mom yet sounds nothing like her. Mary? Shit. She could barely get my name out. I was standing by the bed now, looking at the ridiculously bright orange of my duvet; I’d bought it at Target because it seemed like happy bedding. Mom? I couldn’t know what she would say next, but hearing just one word in that crushed voice, I brace myself for the verbal equivalent of a car accident– that moment after the screeching breaks, just before the collision. Through palpable pain and shock, the words emerge just above a whisper. Roger died last night. …Crash…

Roger was my stepdad, my moms second husband. My dad had died of cancer when I was 12, and despite whole heartedly believing she would never marry again, in walked Roger. Her second chance at love. Something called grace, I think, seeing her happy that way again. Roger was the reassuring ending I could give people when they asked where my dad lived and then grew visibly uncomfortable hearing the answer. I’m sorry they would say, and I knew that they meant it and this was the standard response, but somehow its never quite felt right to me. Unfitting. Square peg in a round hole kind of thing. It’s OK, I’d comfort them. She fell in love and is remarried. She’s really happy. They’d loosen up, their shoulders would relax. I’d make some joke to break the tension. Better. It was OK.

What my mom was telling me didn’t completely register– it didn’t feel possible. That exceptionally human thought circulated: This was not supposed to happen. And yet in the same instant, something deep within, the intuitive part that knows things but not through cognition, knew with an aching certainty that it was true. Of course it was possible. These things happen everyday, except that they happened to other people, not to us. Four little words, nothing the same.

Goodbye It’s OK. Hellooooo cruel world!

I can’t remember if I sat on the bed or stayed standing, but I remember that orange of my duvet suddenly taking on a very harsh shade. A ridiculous color. I momentarily gasped for air and caught my breath. What? But I heard her, I knew what. You just figure, we already lost a husband/father, we should be safe with this next guy, right? All at once the universe revealed its impartial nature, the lawless reality of our life here. Fair, unfair, it didn’t matter. No one got a free pass. After shock, losing it, then regaining composure all in a breath, I tell her I’m on my way. I’ll be there in an hour. I hear her lose it again. Her weak voice, now with a noticeable outer concern. Your sister is getting married in a week! The cherry on top: one week until Amelie’s wedding–the already postponed wedding thanks to Katrina–at the same venue where Roger and my mom were married less than 5 years ago. Awesome. Cool. No big deal. I’m frantically throwing random clothes into a bag that will later turn out to be socks, a sweatshirt, pajama bottoms, and zero shirts. But I try to stay steady on the phone. Don’t worry about that. Who’s with you? She tells me our neighbor and two family friends are there. Still, in the midst of basic horror, she is heartbreakingly maternal. Are you alone? Don’t drive here by yourself. I tell her I’m fine. I’ve got the dog. I’ll be there in an hour.

We havin’ fun yet? :)

By midnight I was shuttling the last of my siblings from Louis Armstrong, across that long bridge, back to our house. They came from every direction, Amelie with a wedding dress packed in her suitcase. And what did we do? What the Gelpi’s do best: weddings and funerals. Oddly enough, it’s not just logistics. Although the fact that Roger died in another state complicated things only slightly. He was in Florida on business. When he didn’t show up for work the second day, they found him in his hotel bed. Something heart-related. Tragic to say the least, although not a bad way to peace out if you’re not into long goodbyes. With my dad there was time. This sudden-death thing was a whole new ballgame. What else can you do but step up and play the best you know how.

We planned a funeral. Prepared for a wedding. And in between we crowded around my mom protectively like a pack of elephants. We would cry a lot. Give a shoulder for others to cry on. We’d allow the silence when there was nothing to say. And we’d make ridiculous and morbid jokes when we needed to laugh, which we needed a lot of. People who attempted to explain the pain away or fill the silences with quips like “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God has a plan!” weren’t invited to our epic dinners. Not because these phrases weren’t true or even inappropriate really, but because it wasn’t about fixing it. Something tragic happened and it was going to hurt. We’d have to allow that. More than anything, that week was just about being there, being together, picking up the pieces and doing what we had to. I remember my boyfriend Gabe being nervous about coming over. “I know I’m going to cry when I see your mom.” I could sense his angst. But I laughed and reassured him, “So what? That’s what we’re all doing!” And that’s just what happened; when he saw her he cried and she did too. They hugged and felt it. And it was OK. We all took turns.

Friends and family would trickle in and out, and at night we’d have these big, loud dinners. Eat, drink, and tell stories about Roger late into the night. There was crying and hugging and crying and kleenex and relived shock every time we had to tell someone. But there was also a crazy amount of joy and laughter. My brother Doug laughed so hard he cried. So many people showed up for us in many different ways–food, room and board, help with funeral, help with wedding, never asking for a dime. It was truly an intimate and precious time, and we saw how lucky we were, how much love we were surrounded by. Roger was extremely particular so we’d have to make this funeral right. And I know he would’ve approved. The service was outside in the garden that he created, around the pond he’d dug himself. Lot’s of people spoke, including my mom. I can’t remember all of what she said, but I do remember her saying “To love is to be vulnerable to loss. And I’d still do it over again.” What a badass! We grieved. We rested. Then three days later, we had a wedding.

Correction; we had an epic wedding. Once again, the same people showed up plus a bunch of Californians from Keegan’s side. They said “I Do” and the celebration of love and life continued. A beginning after an end. Conceptually these ceremonies seem opposite, but they aren’t so far apart when you drink whiskey and get philosophical. OK there are many differences, but the biggest was the insane amount of dancing we did. And that would’ve been inappropriate at the funeral. I think. ‘Appropriate’ is a hard word for the Gelpi’s to understand, but I like it that way. It means throwing out the rules and embracing the moment, doing what you have to. Talk about a cliché. That week was an intensive life course in The Show Must Go On. And I have to say, I think we aced it. You might say we Danced Like No One Was Watching. That night when I looked over and saw my mom dancing among everyone, a week after tragedy and unspeakable loss (for the second time), I knew anything was possible. A lot of people might say we had really terrible luck, and they might be right, but celebrating that night, seeing my mom dance anyway? I felt really, really lucky.

I also had this strange feeling that big things were in store for her, good things. Turns out when I have strange feelings, I’m usually right. Stay tuned! .

Health, Happiness, No Big Deal

You Don’t Have to Understand It (I Don’t)

About a month ago, my dad appeared at the doorway to my bedroom. He was smiling like usual, wearing his favorite striped terry-cloth robe. It’s still hanging in my closet. I was happy to see him; I’d been struggling with something and whether it was with words or a hug, his presence is always a help to me. He entered the room quietly and sat on the edge of my bed. I began speaking and started to cry. The grin he was wearing didn’t waver at all, he he waited and listened with total attentiveness, the kind you rarely find. His calm demeanor and ease despite my tears comforted me, as though he knew something that I could not. When I paused he said “Be strong Mary,” like some kind of Indian warrior, but less warrior-like. He continued to smile as he spoke and reminded me, “You want to make sure you’re loved for the right reasons.” This felt like both a question and an answer. It sounds a little vague, but I could feel distinctly that I was heard and he understood me. His words were minimal but powerful; they gave me what I needed. I felt lucky to have him. Then, it was over.

The brash sunlight in my bedroom bursted in through my blinking eyes as I left one world and awoke firmly in this one. It’s bizarre but it usually happens the same way: In the first moments of consciousness, the dream plays out in its entirety in reverse, in maybe one or two seconds. But this recollection doesn’t seem to happen in my mind. It’s as though it comes from the center; my gut or chest. Then, it arrives in non sequitur bits and pieces and my mind immediately begins to reassemble them in order. In those first moments of wakefulness, the experience feels so entirely tangible and fresh, so within reach, I’m convinced if I close my eyes tight enough it will all come back to me. But most of the time there’s no going back. While the dream itself is sacred, there is something Holy in waking from it too. I have felt God there. It’s as though dreams give access into the eternal, and in those first blinking moments, the human mind hasn’t caught up yet. In this little pocket is where we can sit with the phenomenal before our thoughts flood in and diminish it into something digestible; something that makes sense.

The dream visit is like the Cadillac of post-death interaction. It’s a chance to see and hear and feel someone that you don’t have physical access to anymore. I feel extremely grateful when I have dreams with my dad. Beyond the refresher for my senses, there is power in them. I was given advice and comforted yes, but I felt actual love through that dream. I drew strength from it and I’ll treasure it among the other great memories I have of my dad. And that had me thinking. I’m always hearing people say that dreams “aren’t real” or shouldn’t be examined because they’re just imagination or a meaningless summation of random events and mostly just aren’t true. Of course, this has roots in pragmatism. A dream that your best friend is living in your refridgerator doesn’t mean that they are, hopefully. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately of dreams I’ve had with my dad, especially this most recent one. I’ve been recalling it, as though it were a real memory. And I’ve been trying to discern what the difference is between an actual conversation like this and the one we had in my dream. Didn’t it really happen? Isn’t it now a real memory? When you read the first paragraph, did you have reason to think it wasn’t real? It did happen. Not in our dimension but in some dimension. However unorthodox, there is still meaningful interaction between us. I don’t pretend to understand how it all works, but I know it is true. It feels as real as a phone call with my brother last week, or the heat of the sun burning on my neck.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated his 67th birthday. We always cook his favorite meal and group-text photos of the food like a bunch of nerds. We caption them with the funny things and phrases he always said. It’s happy. It’s a chance to remember him and hear his stories and the awesome things he did or the weird songs he sang on his guitar. It’s all an opportunity not just to celebrate but to know him better, which I’m perpetually trying to do. For a long time I didn’t allow that to happen. Since I didn’t truly grieve him until college, I entered my twenties still knowing and remembering him as my 12-year-old self. There was a chunk of time when I shied away from talking or hearing about him, afraid it would make me cry which I hated to do in front of other people. It pained me to see other people cry over him too. Grief was something I had to learn, it didn’t come naturally. And whether I had cut myself off intentionally or was just too young to process it all, I had also cut myself off from getting to know him further. I unknowingly stunted our relationship, which I assumed was something that couldn’t grow once he was gone anyway. I was wrong, as it were, and so occasions and stories were just reminders he was gone.

It wasn’t until after facing and enduring the big parts of grief that things changed in a big way. I could finally begin to know my dad as my older self, not as a 12-year-old. I began understanding and appreciating him in new ways, and my love for him grew. It was then that our relationship began to evolve past sentiment and allowed for interaction. He existed as more than just memory, which was so fulfilling in my life. I found myself looking forward to any occasion regarding my dad. I love(d) to hear peoples stories about him and the wide open way he loved and lived. New stories and photographs all offer another glimpse into his life and who he was. I’m still putting the pieces together. Even the stories I’d heard before took on new meaning, because unsurprisingly, you process a story or memory much differently as an adult. I allowed other peoples sadness and I allowed my own because I knew it meant we loved him well, and that was in itself a comfort. A connection. All of it, including the dream, reminded me that he was still my dad and some part of him wasn’t gone, he or it was still there somewhere, maybe in that pocket between life and the dream.

I know that enduring the pain of losing him and reaching out to him again as though he could still hear me is what opened up our “line” where things like the dream happen. But truthfully the contact is not always so blatant.  Most of the time I have to look in the minute, the subtle, in things that are easy to dismiss. And I find him there. In heart shaped leaves. In a fly that won’t leave. In being so unconditionally loved and taken in by my family, including my stepdad, who my mom says my dad helped arrange. I find him in my nieces and seeing my brothers as fathers. In the morning. In rain. He loved the rain and was always reminding us that it was a sign of balance. Since his death he has continually shown up to special occasions with rain, if even a two minute shower. It’s raining now.

Getting to know my dad so many years after his death is a surprisingly positive and treasured experience for me. It’s been a privilege, really. Death is mostly talked about in hushed tones and at the risk of sounding morbid, which I’ve been accused of once or twice. But my dad has made death feel less serious, somehow.  When someone dies we label it as “bad” and when someone young dies we call it unfair. And while losing someone you love is one the hardest experiences in life, grief is not stagnant. Nothing stays the same, including the pain. And when you endure it, you also open the door for incredible things to happen. You’re brought intimately close to the lifecycle and there’s a sacredness there too. I don’t think it’s over when it’s over. I also don’t think people die and stick around to play with light switches. But I do think the line of communication is still there. It just involves reaching for it and experiencing someone using a new kind of language. It means being open to things you don’t completely understand.

I’ve always been aggressively curious and sometimes the weight of life and the worlds mysteries become too heavy and I get discouraged. Even mad sometimes. But getting to know my dad after his death and developing our relationship and talking with him while he sits on the edge of my bed…it superseded the comprehensible a while ago. It left me with far more questions. It’s made me an implicit part of something I don’t fully understand and for that I am so grateful. Because that’s most of life, anyway. We don’t actually know why we’re here or what happens to us when we’re not, but we go after it and love people and try to have a good time anyway. Knowing him has been a humble reminder that life and love and the infinite universe unfold despite our human comprehension. It reminds me that we don’t always need the answers in order to experience the fullness of life. Sometimes we get so caught up with thought, intent on answers and knowing that we limit ourselves from the phenomenal. Some things are beyond the realm of understanding, beyond words and category, and these are all but reasons not to embrace and cherish them as the miraculous treasures they turn out to be. I am looking forward to more. The rain has stopped now.

Happy Birthday to my Dad: THE ORIGINAL HIPSTER!
Happy Birthday to my Dad: THE ORIGINAL HIPSTER

This post is many weeks late. Chronic tardiness was my beloved dads only vice and he passed that on to me. So I’m sorry dad, but also I blame you. -Love, Rudy

Health, Happiness, Happy Birthday!

Thirty Year Old Girl.

Next Sunday, I will turn thirty years old.

I have no idea what this means really, only that it feels sort of big and at least a little disconcerting. Sometimes I get nervous thinking about it and when I hear the countdown clock ticking, I feel like I’m about to make some commitment I’m not ready for–like I’m marrying into adulthood and I’ve got cold feet. Other times, like yesterday while jamming to Kanye in my car, I think Dude, whatever. Thirty is just a number, and when I wake up on Monday nothing will have really changed.

My disoriented feelings about turning 30 are hard to articulate, but when I came across this artwork by Rafael Verona I thought dude, that’s how I feel.

Just a twenty nine-year-old in the red snowy jungle of life, hanging off branches and…Oh God nevermind.

Anyway, this belief that ‘I don’t really feel thirty’ resurfaces in my mind again and again–looking in the mirror, playing hide and seek with my dog, or while playing Taylor Swift songs loudly on guitar, alone in my living room. But I’m thinking now that sentiment is more an excuse, a denial maybe, of what I’m entering in to. How do I know what 30 feels like? I’ve never been 30 before. Here I am, a week shy of it, and so it follows that for me and my life, this is what 30 feels like. It’s only off because what I anticipated about 30 when I was younger and dumber is far off from the experience I am having now. There’s a lot of ways for a person to be thirty years old, and one is no more essentially 30 than the other.

Maybe it feels off-putting too because I’m growing up in the American culture of avoiding looking our age, of never growing old. This sort of ethos is the basis, I think, behind these campaigns I’m always confronting that say “50 is the new 40” and “30 is new the 20” and there’s no reason we should look like we’re getting older, even though we’re all getting older. Americans, more than other cultures it seems, don’t like the idea of growing old. And so assigning a lesser number to our actual age promotes this mentality that we’re only as old as we look (or feel). And looking less than our age is not difficult to do. We’re surrounded by options, like facelifts and chin implants and chemical peels that burn all our skin off! Not to mention the newer business of Supplemental Testosterone, which is geared toward aging men and is a $2 billion dollar industry now. Even I, feeling angst at the number 30, am trying to excuse it by reassuring myself that I don’t look thirty, as if that really means anything. It’s pretty stupid.

I should be happy to be one year older. I should be especially happy to have survived and officially move past my twenties. A lot of them were exceptionally fun, but there were a lot of mistakes and pain too, often the result of being young and not knowing better. I know that the more I understand and know myself, the easier my life becomes. When I reflect on some of the hardest parts of my life, they were often during periods that I didn’t understand or had forgotten who I was, and being lost like that causes its own type of pain. As cheesy as it sounds, every year I grow older has meant a year of knowing myself better. And being in touch with who I am means understanding my strengths, recognizing my purpose more clearly, and grasping the meaning of my small life in the context of a larger whole. Carving out where and how I fit into reality is one sure way to feel happy and fulfilled. And every birthday means I get a little closer.

….

….

….

ON THE OTHER HAND I’M STILL KIND OF FREAKING OUT AND BITING MY CUTICLES A LOT AND I FEEL SORTOF CONFUSED LIKE IS MY YOUTH OVER? AND DO I HAVE TO REFER TO MYSELF AS A WOMAN NOW OR CAN I STILL BE MARY THE ‘GIRL’? IS THIS WHERE THINGS BEGIN OR IS IT ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE? ANY ADVICE IS APPRECIATED I’LL JUST BE HERE TALKING TO MY DOG. THANKS.

Health, Happiness, Thirty.

(Ew)

The Opposite of Boredom

A few noteworthy things of late.

I’m completely lost in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. I began reading it Sunday and now I find myself attempting to read only small bits at a time because I’m already dreading it being over. It’s such a good read. The protagonist Jack really resonates with me but also Percy is such a creative and dead-on writer of things large and small. I admit reading his words make me feel like I could never write anything of worth if I tried for it my entire life. But on other pages his complex ideas play out so simply, his writing so accessible that it gives the assuring impression that anyone could do it. The story takes place in New Orleans mostly, among other Louisiana Parishes and the Mississippi coast. I love stories set here, not for reasons of pride but for how perfectly the landscape plays into the story, picking up where plot leaves off. Something huge would inevitably be lost were it to be told from Ohio…or Michigan. All parts of it from the dress, to the houses, to the unnerving racial tension are all intrinsically Southern, and you find yourself loving it whether you hate it or not. Also of note, Percy lived in Covington. He used to drive the bridge to New Orleans. I guess it’s encouraging to know something so inspiring came out of this little town that for so long I hated. Speaking of the bridge..

I had another moment of coherence. This time around mile marker 11. Monty and I were driving home once again, New Orleans to the Northshore, last Monday evening. It was a pretty nondescript Monday, cloudless with little traffic. But my thoughts were floating through me with the rhythm of the bumps per usual. Then I did this thing which I do a lot. A small amount of congested traffic formed from some kind of road repair, and as I slowed my car to a near-halt, I felt myself bracing for impact. Not from me but from a car behind. (No car in particular, I do this no matter who’s behind me) Then I imagined the loud crashing sound it would make and my airbags inflating. Then the last part which is usually the most unnerving for me, I saw my car crashing through the concrete barrier to my right,  and my feeble Toyota corolla with Monty and me inside it, falling slow motion into the water. Down, down we’d go.

like this. but less black and whiteness.
Like this. But less black and whiteness.

And usually the thought doesn’t end with a rescue. Usually it ends with me shuttering at the idea of the lights going out on my life so fast, and then me being jerked back to reality, convincing myself someway that death is nothing to think about. As though I’ll never die! But last Monday was different. I had the thought, I braced for impact, I saw the vision of my falling car. And then out of nowhere…tranquility. My mind felt placid. I may have even smiled. I thought how weightless that moment must be when you finally let go. The grand transition. Finally releasing something you’ve held so tightly onto, whether it was good to you or not. The surrender. The relief! It finally occurred to me that only being lost so deeply in the world garners that sort of fear about death. If we could interview those who have “passed on” (as I hear older religious folk say) I think they’d say it wasn’t that scary. Nothing compared to the rest of their life on earth scared to death imagining it! I’d love to get just one interview. It’s like I know all these dead people and none of them will give me the dirt.

Anyway, I can’t explain how reassuring that moment was on the bridge. I remember in California over a year ago, I was sicker than I’d ever been to the point I actually thought I might be dying. And I hated the idea. I was so overwhelmed by that possibility that often it brought me to tears and I’d have to excuse myself and physically catch my breath. In theory it should have been almost a relief to think about–an end to suffering. But I didn’t want to die. And I certainly didn’t want my last days on earth to be like the ones I was having there. Closed up indoors, lifeless, feeling very alone. It’s just interesting to me that now that I’ve really been living these last few months, and dare I say it, even–happy–my fear of death has lessened. I’ve enjoyed the park and the pool with Monty in the sun. I’ve gone to dinner parties. I’ve said yes to things that in my sick past were a big fat no. I’ve spent quality time with people I love, not doing a whole lot of anything at all but talking about life and people and laughing really, really hard. And there on the bridge, for maybe no more than a second, I didn’t fear death. I felt curious and interested. But I wasn’t tense bracing for impact. I was smiling at how much fun I’ve been having and how at ease with life I feel. You’d think that would make the idea of death more unnerving than ever, because it means an end to happy times. But the opposite occurred. From my perspective over the water, death was just another thing that happens. Maybe after all, it’s not that big a deal? Hah. That moment was the first I’ve had that it didn’t feel like this overwhelming weight baring that comes with the knowledge that one day we’re all going to die. And even though my normal angst about it has at least half returned, that moment has really stuck and it feels readily accessible still. There was something very casual about it, which made me trust it even more. Sometimes I find myself looking for grand answers, spectacles, formal explanations of life and existence..and this was not really that. It was a simple and tranquil instant of acceptance, and those are the moments that persist. I pet Monty’s velvet ears, turned up the music and into the distance we drove. That indistinct Monday turned out to be quite the evening as it were.

Besides my newfound excitement for death! (jk)… the Day Lily’s are back in bloom. I looked at all the colors sprouting up yesterday, noting that by nature’s calendar I’ve officially been in this house for one year. I remember writing about these flowers last year, excited for how life in the pool house might unfold. Funny I hardly remember what’s happened in the time since then. In some way the fact that nothing terrible stands out makes it safe to say it’s been a pretty decent year. I only know that being given the gift of “relative health” the last few months has truly been remarkable for me. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of so many moments– of friends and boys and late nights immensely–and I feel gratefulness overflowing in me. I don’t remember the last time I was bored. I’ve read and written and played Taylor Swift on my guitar ridiculously loud. When I’m sick I rest. When I have energy I go. But most notably is this gratitude and the awareness of this gratitude. It occurred to me recently that this is the opposite of boredom. When I feel gratitude I feel like I’m living with my eyes open. I’m often noticing things that were already there that I’d simply skipped over before. I like this feeling of being in touch with my aliveness, seeing the realm of possibility beyond personal limits, recognizing the awe-inspiring nature of everything alive. Maybe it’s why I love saving the frogs from the pool, or why I don’t get rid of the spider living in the corner of my bathroom. I don’t think you can be in tune to these truths and be also bored. Boredom uses a narrow vision, it sees life as something to happen for us and not from us. Even yesterday, which turned out to be a crash day spent in bed, I lost myself in the enjoyment of a book, completely grateful for the existence of novels and good authors. Then completely grateful for a nice house to read them in. I never got out of my pajamas or brushed my teeth. I didn’t exactly contribute to the world. And all the same, it was really a wonderful day. I know there was a recent time in my life when I wouldn’t have thought that to be so.

Health, Happiness, Opposites.

 

 

Some Posthumous Advice

A friend sent this to me recently and I really loved it.  There’s something relieving and freeing about it and I think we could all use a laugh. Read it, you’ll smile.

Written by Caitlin Moran,
Published in The Times of London

My Posthumous Advice For My Daughter

My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out – I’ve thought about writing her one of those “Now I’m Dead, Here’s My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life” letters. Here’s the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I’ve had another fag.

“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.

“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.

“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.

“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).

“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.

“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.

“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.

“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

“Love, Mummy.”

You can see the original post on Caitlin’s blog at Brouhaha

Thank you Giselle for the read! And congrats to my sister Amelie, who is a new mother today. It’s a good day.

Health Happiness Moms

The Eighty Year Old Twenty Year Old

How come no one ever warned me about how hard your twenties are?

Well first, let me say hi. I returned last week from a medicinal tour of America. Yeah! I had to see my doctors in Colorado and Miami–Which means I had to take part in modern American air travel which means I felt like crap a lot. I went to Colorado and felt absolutely terrible the whole time I was there. The funny thing is, despite feeling awful, I had a really great trip. I stayed with my grandma at her assisted living residence. But judging what my days were like and what her days were like, you’d guess I was the 83-year-old and she was 28. She lives a very active, involved, and social life. She wakes up by 5 and it seems like she doesn’t stop until she sits in her recliner chair at night. She can hardly keep her eyes open through the news. Me, I slept mostly. She brought my food at normal food hours and finally after being completely fatigued and short of breath for 3 days, my uncle Mike hooked me up to her oxygen tank she uses at night.  So I looked like this most of the time.

 

Air please thank you.
Air please thank you.

The extra oxygen helped, but I was still out of sorts the whole time. Weak, Dizzy, Fatigued Yada Yada Yada. Luckily my grandma is one of the easiest people to be around. We talked a lot while I was there. I love hearing her stories. I love how happy she is at her age. I love that grandmas exist. I used to fear growing old, but watching her, I don’t anymore. In fact, I’m ready to stop being young and stupid.

I ask about a warning I never got because this Saturday I will turn 29. The last year of my twenties. It seems typical to freak out a little when the big three-oh approaches on the horizon. I sense that a bit. But at the same time, my twenties have been really hard. And nobody warned me! Though I don’t know who would, and it wouldn’t really make a difference would it. There’s been tragedy and heartache and some things I didn’t think I’d find my way out of. But, alas, I survived. I laugh because the more people I ask about their twenties , the more I hear people say that those were some of their toughest years. In fact most people said their 30′s were great and my grandma insists your 40’s are the best. Hers were anyway. I don’t know what makes them so, tortured, your twenties. Mine have felt mostly uphill. You know how babies go through the “terrible twos”? Well maybe your twenties are the adult version of that. I think it’s an odd time. You’re no longer an adolescent at all, but the college experience isn’t quite a real-world experience. I went to a University of 30,000 people, but still, it felt like a bubble. After leaving, it felt a little, anti-climatic? It’s like you’ve got all these credentials to prove that you’re an adult now, and the world expects that from you. But there’s still so much to figure out. Then again, I guess everyone is still trying to figure it out. The most important thing is to figure yourself out. I guess by your 30’s you’ve got a pretty good grasp on who you are, and that makes things easier in general. Have you ever hung out with someone who is unsure of themselves, who needs approval for everything? It’s exhausting, and it stems from not having a good hold of themselves. Sadly, we’ve probably all been there. I have to say that not really having my own home or my own money sort of stripped down my identity. I had to start over in a way. It was humbling but it also helped me get to know myself better. When you lose all these external things, it forces you to go within.

Then again, I can’t deny that my twenties had some amazing parts to it. I fell in love for the first time. I lived in France. I published my first article. I traveled and I made incredible, life long friends. I wrote a blog that became bigger than me. It’s had its perks. But I must admit, a part of me is banking on it getting a little easier in my 30’s. Like I’ll really get to enjoy all the wonderful things I’ve gathered with me along the way. A girl can dream.

A few days ago, I found a journal that my dad kept. It feels like I found lost treasure. Of course it’s always extra special when you’re reading someones written words after they’re gone. I read it with such a sense of wonderment. I was only 12 when he died, so I wasn’t really able to experience who my dad was an adult. I feel sad to have missed out on it, but at the same time, reading this journal has helped me to know the man I wasn’t able to know as a kid. I admit I completely idolize my father. It’s easy to do–he was a wonderful person and anyone who knew him would tell you that. He was a lot of people’s best friend. I’ve only ever heard of the wonderful things he did and the amazing person he was. I remember him yelling only once, and that was at my sister for not eating the disgusting buckwheat pancakes he cooked for breakfast. That night he bought her yellow roses, apologizing for having gotten upset.

In other words, he was Mother Theresa. And I often wonder if I am living up to how good he was or how generous he was. Furthermore, I compare other people to who he was, setting a really high bar particularly for the men in my life. Which is for the most part, good. It’s fine to have high standards. But sometimes I wonder if the bar is set so high that no one could live up to it. I need to remember that my dad was still human. He got upset sometimes. He judged people sometimes. He even cursed at our dog Bacchus while throwing rocks and chasing him down the street in his suit and tie. He slipped up like we all do, and I need to remember that. Reading the journal has brought to light the very human nature of my dad that I sometimes forget was there. The best part was, in the journal he describes each of my siblings and me and what makes us each unique. There on the last page were his words about me. Reading them was such a gift. It felt like I was sent an early birthday present, from somewhere over there. :)

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Anyway, I’ve become a little distracted. I try to write but I just feel more an urge to read.  Which is OK so long as this doesn’t turn into a writing breakup. I need to stay focused. But it’s been gloomy and grey and rainy out–so it’s perfect read and nap weather. Know what I mean jellybean? Anyway, all this reading and napping jazz has me worn out. I’m off to dream world.

Health, Happiness, Twenties.

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.

Tiny Little Worlds

Most mornings start out the same for me. My eyes peel open slowly like velcro. My insides feel like they want out. Everything feels out of balance. I throw pills in my mouth, make my pot of coffee, let Monty out, and wait to feel human again. It isn’t the best…mornings have always been the hardest. But roughly an hour later, I start to feel better. The pain subsides. The disoriented, dizzy haze fades, and I sip coffee slowly and let my thoughts organize themselves. Once I’m human again, Monty starts making noises that imply if we don’t go outside and play in the pool soon he is going to explode or implode or something of that nature, so we go. He jumps in immediately, I sit in the water on the first step, and the day really starts. I’ve come to love our routine. It feels good spending so much time outside. Especially after a year of feeling  so imprisoned to the indoors. Lately, the last step of morning involves saving frogs from the pool. They are really tiny; cute actually. Usually there are at least 5 of them. I try to keep them together, like they are some kind of family I’m rescuing and I don’t want the children to get separated. I have no idea why I feel this obligation to save them, but I do, and so I do.

small friends.
small friends.

They are such incredibly small animals, sometimes I just watch them. I feel bad when I find a floater who didn’t make it. I scan the sides of the pool twice where there are usually one or two and then the two round filters that catch the extra debris. I then usually carry them to the nearby ditch so they can hangout in natural water. Last night, Monty was muddy so I walked him out to the pool to clean him off, (this is now what we consider bath time) and when we approached I heard a loud splash of something that jumped in. When I looked in the filter, a huge frog was in there, spinning from the pump circulation. Certainly he would have died in there. The steps are too deep for them to jump back out. I took him from the filter and released him in the garden, and told Monty to be gentle as he sniffed up close after every hop he took. Then I played “Folsom Prison Blues” to him on my guitar because I learned that song recently and it’s really fun to play. And what’s the frog going to do? Walk out on my concert? Come to think of it that is what happened, but you see my point.

Anyway, it’s interesting to look at such physically tiny life that we normally never see. There’s plenty around here. Including wolf spiders that are INSANELY large and terrifying-looking, but ultimately harmless. So when they’re inside I catch them in plastic cups and throw them outside, basically screeching the whole time because if it escaped the cup and crawled on my hand I’m pretty sure I would pee myself.

Dear God.
Dear God.

There is a huge variety of birds; there are mice and turtles, spiders and lizards, and even these tiny bunnies that Monty chases away. I like watching their world. Something about it makes my problems feel smaller, and I don’t know what the explanation is for that.

Snapper?!
Snapper?!

Anyway, I really don’t like killing anything alive. Especially because I don’t feel like they are in my territory but that I am in theirs…and it seems so pointless to kill them. There was a time I wouldn’t mind killing tiny things, I think. But now the idea doesn’t sit right with me. (Except mosquitoes, screw them.) So I catch them and release them. Save them from the filters. If anything, it helps me feel like I’ve done something. There are many stationary days. Sleep filled and cloudy. It makes sense to save something from drowning if only because I haven’t done anything else that day. I don’t have to, but I can. Might as well save a frog or five.

Health and Happiness and Little Tiny Worlds

Frog on Shades.
Frog on Shades.
new frenz.
new frenz.
finger frenz.
finger frenz.

Dog Spelled Backwards

 

Help. I’ve fallen. And I can’t get up.

I have basically been crashed since the day after Christmas. Even before Christmas, my operational value was at maybe 40%. It has steadily gone down. My joints have become cloudier, my muscles weaker and heavier, noise louder than ever, and ordinary light offensively bright. Simply stated, moving has become difficult again, and this is the hardest symptom of all for me to handle. It’s suffocating. I’d prefer pain honestly. My legs are useless. Sometimes I find myself reaching for things across the bed without so much as flinching my legs because it takes an unwarranted amount of energy to move them. I can’t say what is happening to me. Or what has happened to me. I know that every night I pray really really hard that the next day will be better. When I wake up the next morning, and things are the same or worse, I keep going. I take my daily pill cocktail, wait for relief, stare out of windows, and contemplate what a strange and sedentary existence I have. What else can I do but go on? It’s hard. It hurts. When I think about how long it’s been, I fear how long it could last. But I’m not giving up now. I can see the appeal, but I’m not gonna do it.

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome doesn’t kill you, directly. It’s rate of mortality comes from a scary little thing called suicide, and having suffered with this since age 9, it’s easy for me to see why that option can feel like it’s all you’ve got. It doesn’t feel like much of a life, laying in bed each day. Only hearing the sounds of life but not actually participating in them. It’s like smelling the aroma of baking bread and never actually getting to eat any. You watch entire seasons change, babies turn into toddlers, this Christmas into next Christmas, and you expected things to be different by now. You’d fantasized a certain life for yourself by the time you got to 25. And when that didn’t happen you said 26. And then 27. And now 28. I’m starting to forget the numbers. They’ve never changed anything before.

It’s really hard to understand God during these times. I grew up Catholic and have always had my relationship with God- but it’s very personal. I even imagine him when I speak to him, in a very specific location, as if a bulleted address on Google Maps. I think of him now, through darker and unhappy times and I think either he trusts me too much, or he forgot about me altogether. But would the master of the Universe forget about someone? So much goes into making a person and a life. I know that I am an incredibly tiny tiny piece of the whole, but still, a piece. And while in the context of eternity and potentially multiple universes we can feel incredibly small, I somehow don’t doubt for a second that my life matters, and so does everyone’s who is alive. I don’t say that with a lot of pride either. I say it because there is something solid and untouchable in me, something unstirred by discouragement, failure, despair, loneliness and tears. It says Keep Going, and so I do. But the truth is I don’t know what for and I don’t even know in what direction. Certainly I am lost. But it’s sort of for my own bitter curiosity that I won’t give up. I want to see what’s at the finish line waiting. I need to know this is not all for nothing.

I must be honest, I think a lot about how stupid I think my life is. I know that seems irreverent at best, but sometimes you just have to laugh about it. Today I was too fatigued to brush my teeth. My God! It’s so stupid! It’s so stupid it’s funny. You should see what I look like these days. Somewhere between Jim Carrey when he visits the Nut House in Ace Ventura wearing brown boots and a pink tutu, and an old senile man in pajamas on his front porch with a cigarette and a shot-gun. Sometimes I stare at myself in the mirror, not quite recognizing what I’ve morphed into. The steroids have puffed my face, my skin is pale and there are dark circles I never had until now. But more than that, it’s like the lights are out. What’s that phrase? A shell of who I used to be? Something like that. I feel like a caged animal and I fear that’s what I’m starting to look like too.

 

All my classy PJ's were in the wash.
Thanks for the clothes Grandpa!

Tonight I cried I guess because it all catches up to me once and a while and feels too heavy to keep in. My mom says we’re all due for a little meltdown now and then. I cried but what I wanted to do was scream, because I am physically nauseous from how sick I’ve been. How relentless it’s been. Day after day, hour after hour. When the weakness makes just standing up a chore that takes energy, my stomach turns. I’m tired of being sick and I’m tired of taking pills. I want to scream but I don’t have the energy for it, so I cry. By default.

 

When I cry I blow my nose really loud, hoping that it’ll wake God up from his sleep. I hear a rustling and when I look up, it’s Monty standing there, wagging his tail at me. He’d snuck in when my head was buried in my hands. Truthfully, I was happy to see him. It then occurred to me that Dog is just God spelled backwards…so maybe he is listening after all. Maybe Monty is God! I don’t know. And that’s the hardest part about moments and times like these. We don’t see how they fit into the grand design of our lives yet. All we see is what’s happening now. For now, there’s pain and suffering, and if God reads blogs, then I guess this is me asking him to take it a little easy. Maybe just for a day. Either way, I will still go to sleep with hope that tomorrow might be better. And if it isn’t, then the next day, or the next day or the next. Keep going something tells me, and since I have nothing else to do, I guess I’ll do that.

Health and Happiness and Keep On Keepin On.

 

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.

 

 

Is Happiness a Choice? A Book That Challenged All My Notions, and Won.

I think my favorite present to both give and receive is a book. And not an e-book, not a kindle or a tablet thingamajiggy. A real, tangible book with pages to flip through and words that you underline and notes in the margin that you come back to later. There is something necessarily palpable about a book for me. Maybe I just really like turning pages, but I don’t think I’ll ever make the switch to electronic literature. I know it costs us trees, but I kind of feel like a tree would be happy to be a book. If only trees could talk. OK, anyway, I received a book from my mom for my birthday, and I’ve been lost in it for the last 4 days. I kept telling myself I needed to write, but my urge to read was stronger. I had to finish it before I could do anything else. I think it may be one of the most important books I’ve read as of yet.

.

“The Untethered Soul” is written by Michael Singer and I’d never heard of it or him until I began reading. The book is 181 pages but is densely written and covers everything from consciousness to identity to happiness to God to death to Christianity to the Tao. I really don’t know how he combined all of these topics so succinctly and covered them with such perfect simplicity, but he did, and it all made perfect sense. Every word. Sometimes I’d read a paragraph over and over, not because I didn’t understand, but because it felt so good to read the words. It was like light would suddenly pour in the room, and with each page (each TANGIBLE page) I felt more clarity, maybe even more happiness. At least more awareness of it. There is such a wide variety of topics he covers and methods associated with them, but he ties them all together seamlessly to teach one huge and vital lesson; to know yourself, and to find bliss. It will be difficult to summarize the whole thing up on just one page..this may need to be a two parter. So I’ll just cover a few topics that really captured me.To begin with, you can’t fix the world. You can’t fix other people, and you shouldn’t try. But you can become the purist and most open version of your Self, and that is your gift to the world. You will be the most successful and biggest help to humanity by knowing yourself truly, and waking up–becoming conscious. So long as you are unconscious, reacting to external factors, hiding behind fears and anxieties, letting that voice in your head dictate important matters, you cannot be of help to the world. You are stuck in your mind, and so you can’t go any further or higher up than that. Not until you wake up.

Like Tolle, Singer writes pretty extensively about how to answer the question “Who am I?” …a question I constantly ponder but feel my answer always comes up short. I am Mary Gelpi. Well no, that’s a label given to me by my parents. Take it away and I’m still here. Who am I? Who is the Self? It was more poignant and enlightening to hear him explain who we are not. Some we’ve been over before. Ready? You are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. You are not the things that happened to you. You are not a gender role. You’re not even your personality. And here’s the big one: You are not that voice in your head. In fact the journey to discovering your self (which is who you are) involves the attempt to eliminate that voice. In other words: telling it to SHUT. UP. And in the meantime if you can’t get it to, DON’T LISTEN TO IT. For the love of GOD don’t listen to it. Think how many times that voice in your head has been wrong…a lot. But we continue to reach out to it for advice and guidance as though it were an intelligent shrink. It’s not, it’s noise. Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about voices plural in your head. That’s another disorder altogether and we don’t have time for it. I’m talking about the voice in your head that is constantly chattering. If you stop reading this right now and look around the room, just wait a few seconds and listen. It will begin talking. About anything. Stupid things. Funny things. Memories. To -Do lists. It’s noise. It’s a lot of noise that isn’t really propelling you in any direction on your mission. This attempt was among the original purposes of things like meditation and yoga. It wasn’t to pray or to exercise–it was to find inner stillness, the center. The center is where “You” reside. Behind the chatter, judgments, and noise is your soul or spirit, or whatever you’re comfortable calling it. It’s quiet there. It’s the part that doesn’t die. It’s the center of your consciousness, or what Zukav called The Seat of the Soul. (Also, another awesome book) So this is how the book begins; with the search for the self and a map of where to go to find it. Once you’re able to pull back the curtains on all the things that don’t define you, you begin to feel and hear the real you. Your higher self. Perhaps he puts it most accurately with this definition: the simple awareness of being aware. Or..You are not the thinking mid; you are aware of the thinking mind. 

“When you contemplate the nature of Self, you are meditating. That is why meditation is the highest state. It is the return to the root of your being, the simple awareness of being aware. Once you become conscious of the consciousness itself, you attain a totally different state. You are now aware of who you are. You have become an awakened being. It’s really just the most natural thing in the world. Here I am. Here I always was. It’s like you have been on the couch watching TV, but you were so totally immersed in the show that you forgot where you were. Someone shook you, and now you’re back to the awareness that you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. Nothing else changed. You simply stopped projecting your sense of self onto that particular object of consciousness. You woke up. That is spirituality. That is the nature of Self. That is who you are.”

 There was one chapter that I re-read a few times, because it really challenged my notion of happiness. It asked this question, which I find myself constantly asking: Is happiness a choice? I have always believed that we are susceptible to our circumstances, therefore happiness isn’t really a choice because we aren’t in control. We can’t help it when bad things happen. But Singer absolutely disagreed with that, and I’m pretty sure he beat me. Just because we aren’t in total control doesn’t mean our happiness isn’t in our hands. If our happiness isn’t up to us, who is it up to? Other people? Circumstance? Conditions? No wonder we’re not happy! You can’t rely on anything or anyone else to cause your experience of happiness. It is entirely up to you. If you make the commitment to be happy, it is to be unconditionally happy. But, that means acceptance of the present. That means erasing your version of what you think your life needs to look like in order for you to be happy. That’s something a lot of people don’t want to give up.

I know what you’re thinking: What if my family dies in a plane crash? What if a bird shits on my head on the way to work? I can’t help that! Of course there will be challenging events in your life, you already know that or may have already experienced them. It doesn’t mean you don’t grieve appropriately and process the hard times. But it also doesn’t mean that you stop, that you can’t be happy again and continue to live a  beautiful life. (Just ask my mom, she was widowed twice, but has once again found happiness.) That’s part of the commitment. You have to accept what happens in the present, deal with it accordingly, and release. Keep going. There’s no hanging on to the past allowed. It will never change by you clinging. There’s no cringing about tomorrow allowed either. You’ll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes. And think about it. Does you reacting and getting upset and yelling change the fact that a bird shit on your head? No, it doesn’t. Clearly our reactions are not only silly, they’re unintelligent. They serve no purpose. They’re just noise.

Your definitions of desirable and undesirable, good and bad, all come about because you have defined how things need to be in order for you to be okay. We all know we’re doing this, but nobody questions it. We think we’re supposed to figure out how life should be, and then make it that way. Only someone who looks deeper, and questions why we need the events of life to be a particular way, will question this assumption. How did we come up with the notion that life is not okay just the way it is, or that it won’t be okay the way it will be? Who said that the way life naturally unfolds is not all right?

This is still a challenging notion for me to process, but I know it’s right. This is not to say that making unconditional happiness your mission is easy–it isn’t. It’s probably the hardest work you’ll do. But I’ve decided to take this mission on. I certainly have the time, don’t I? Maybe we all do. But we fill it up with a lot of stuff. A lot of Kardashians and O’Reilly Factor and arguments and anger and work and chaos and noise. I think it’s time to slow down. Time to go IN, not out, and find that little nook where our soul is, and try to please it. What more important work could there be? Chopra says that this is a recreational universe and that we were meant to have fun here. We weren’t meant to suffer! So I think it’s time to play. Today is August 22nd. It’s my dad’s death day. Death birthday? I wonder if they celebrate the day you die in Heaven the way we celebrate birthdays here. Anyway, my dad was one of the happiest people I knew, and that’s what everyone else had to say about him–How positive and kind he was. This book reminded me of him and his constant disposition of joy, happiness, and love. I’m going to start my work toward consciousness and inner peace with him in mind and this book as a guide, or at least a solid starting place. I highly recommend The Untethered Soul if you’ve been searching for a deeper purpose or listening for a higher calling and need a little help getting started. This is a really good road map to begin with.

My favorite line from the book: It is actually possible to never have another problem for the rest of your life. 

Health, Happiness, and Real, Tangible Books.

*My favorite underlined phrases from the book. :)

What it means to live spiritually is to not participate in this struggle. It means that the events that happen in the moment belong to the moment. They don’t belong to you.

The only way to inner freedom is through the one that watches the self. 

It’s bad enough that your happiness is conditional upon your own behavior. When you start making it conditional upon other people’s behavior, you’re in serious trouble. 

It is not life’s events that are causing problems or stress. It is your resistance to life’s events that are causing problems or stress. 

If you want to understand stress, begin by realizing that you carry around with you your own set of preconceived notions of how things should be. 

Imagine if you used relationships to get to know other people, rather than to satisfy what is blocked inside of you. 

When a person is dealing with their own fears, anxieties, and desires, how much energy is left for dealing with what’s actually happening?

The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay. 

If I Was a Horse, They’d Shoot Me

Maybe that title is a little extreme, but sometimes when I’m counting out my pills in the morning and filling up my coffee mug for the third time, I wonder about my existence. Not in the depressing suicidal way, but more in terms of how such a weak physical specimen as myself has made it this far, it being survival of the fittest and all. I’m far from fit, but I guess I am surviving. But when I see people on facebook climbing mountains and shit I think crap, I can’t even stand the thought of standing in line without needing to faint. What am I doing here?! Then I get off facebook because I’m really starting to believe it is the demise of human beings. I think I’ll post that thought on facebook.

After visiting with the doc in Miami and changing around a few doses of things, we agreed upon my next round of treatment; which is two anti-biotics for the next two years. Woo! Yeah! Apparently, all my liminess isn’t gone, and the 6 month run on those overly priced horse pills didn’t do the trick. SO. Round two. To be honest, I’m fine with this decision. I mean, my pill bag has just enough room for two more bottles, so I’m cool with it spatially. I could look at it and be like waahhh two years of more pills. Or I could look at it as; In two years from now I presume I’ll be alive anyway, so would I like to be full or free of lyme disease? It’s my patriotic duty to choose freedom. And anti-biotics. So here’s to more pills! We’re waiting on the blood work still to finalize decisions but it’s looking like I’m in it for the long haul. Which is fine because, you know, I have the time.

So I’ve been reading A New Earth and it’s really awesome even though I’ve read it before. I think it’s one of those books you could continue to read your whole life and never fall short of gaining incredible meaning. The only other book that has done that for me is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I love that book.

Aaah Childhood.

So anyway there’s this part in A New Earth where Tolle is talking about human evolution. It reminded me of my first day of my college anthropology class. The teacher brought up evolution and began to talk about the timeline for the semester and then started to give his personal viewpoint on evolution so the class would have a clear direction. Then he asked if there were any questions and a student raised his hand and asked “But if evolution exists, then why have humans stopped evolving?” The teacher smiled big and shouted “Great Question and THANK YOU for asking!” (This was his enthusiastic response to any question a student decided to ask during class.) Then he put his hands together under his chin and answered with “That’s the good news. We haven’t!” He went on to explain that evolution are adapted changes made over a long period of time, and that if we compared modern humans with our counterparts 10,000 years ago, there would be numerous differences. I at least know that in terms of communication even in the last ten years there have been an incredible amount of changes that will forever change the ways humans interact with one another. I’d love to show a caveman Facebook.

Wait why don’t I just actually poke her?

Anyway, back to the book. Soo Tolle is talking about humans and how we’ve evolved and that one of the biggest fundamental differences between human beings and the rest of the animal world is that we are conscious of our consciousness. This kind of awareness is what drives the fundamental questions like “Who Am I?” and “What Is My Purpose Here?” Although these are the kinds of questions that can be terrifying or seemingly impossible to answer, they are what make us uniquely human and for that they should be celebrated! And pursued, too. What he also says is that “The next step in human evolution (enlightenment) is not inevitable, but for the first time in the history of our planet, it can be a conscious choice.” Cool dude!

Along those same lines, I watched a lecture that Deepak Chopra gave a few days ago, and much of what he spoke about correlated with this very concept. (Synchronicity, Yeah!) He talked about the mind, the body, and the soul, but he began by expounding on the intelligence of our human bodies independent of our human minds. For example, our bodies are made up of 100 trillion cells, which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Each cell is performing roughly 100,000 activities every second and every cell instantly knows what the other cells are doing and correlates its activities respectively. This is how we are capable of thinking, talking, digesting food, playing piano, killing germs and removing toxins all at the same time. “This is the inner intelligence inside of you that mirrors the wisdom of the Universe,” he says. It was cool to hear him speak about this because so many times I’ve laid in bed with my hand on my heart, listening and feeling my heartbeat and thinking “Who’s making it beat?” I guess the answer wasn’t a who, but a what. Or a who-what.

Then he broke down human intelligence into four levels. He said that the highest form of human intelligence is State of Being. He describes this as the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself. The Second highest form is Feeling- our ability to feel compassion, joy, empathy. The 3rd highest form is Reflective Thinking- Who Am I? What Do I want? What will my contribution be? What inspires me? And the 4th highest form is Doing- the ability to create happiness. He also provided a pretty simple but profound definition of the soul- the space between your thoughts. Think about it.

Anyway seeing as how sometimes I’m a worthless physical specimen that doesn’t “do” a whole lot, I liked how doing was last on the list. :) But it was his last thought that was most reassuring to me, since it had been a very sick week and I was feeling a lot like a horse needing to be shot. “The next state of evolution is consciousness. It will be survival of the wisest, not the fittest.”

Health, Happiness, Horses.

A Salute to Step Dads

Interestingly enough, I have celebrated Father’s Day in my 27 years with 3 different father figures; My deceased dad Doug, my deceased step-dad Roger, and now my live and well step-dad Marc. (Don’t get any ideas, Marc.) Each of these figures have witnessed me at a different time in my life. I only had my dad until the age of 12, but I have never felt ‘cheated’ by losing him at a young age. I feel that the first 12 years of a child’s life are critical. My parents taught me from the day I was born what unconditional love looks like, and sometimes that included tough love, but I must say, even that was pretty rare. I learned what a happy marriage looks like, the dynamics of a large family, and that challenging times can be the ones that make you closest. We had our fair share of them. I truly look at my childhood with endearment because while maybe that chapter only lasted 12 years, they were filled with love, happiness and togetherness. I also had my two older brothers, Nick and Doug, both who took on a father role to me in my dads absence, and that has made an incredible difference in my life. To put it simply, I was made to feel that I mattered as a kid, and I think at a fundamental level that is what most children require in order to turn into secure adults. So Happy Fathers Day to Doug, Nick, and to my dad; I guess you knew that 12 years was all I needed and that I’d be left in good hands. You were right!

In chapter 2 comes the introduction of my first step-parent; Roger. Roger didn’t share so many traits with my dad except one vital one- he loved the crap out of my mom. Roger had a difficult life that had its fair share of pain and hurt. I could tell when he spoke about his childhood, it wasn’t the same as mine. I don’t think he was always shown unconditional love or made to feel that he mattered, so when he confronted that kind of love with my mom and her four loving yet obnoxious children, he didn’t always recognize it when it was there. As much as he took warming up to our family, I took warming up to him. It’s always an adjustment when new members join the gang. The whole dynamic shifts. My mom changed, the living situation changed, even our dog Bacchus changed. So it was challenging for me at age 16 to try to plant my feet in something solid. But after two years under his roof, it actually started to feel like home. Underneath his cautiously built walls was an incredibly loving, sensitive and generous person that after a while I was finally able to know and really enjoy. I used to call home during LSU football games and he’d be rooting them on and happy to talk to me. Somehow through all the muck, we were able to find each other, and it turned out to be a pretty great relationship. I would have never, ever, guessed that Roger’s role in our life would be a quick one too. My mom and him were only married 5 years when he died suddenly of a heart attack. I know I know, this sounds depressing. But both my mom and I feel that while we were a part of Roger’s life for such a small stint, it may have been the most vital. We were able to show him some of that unconditional love we’d both been a part of, and I think when he died even though it happened to be alone in his hotel room, it was the least alone period of his life. I feel assured of that. So Happy Father’s Day to you Roger; it wasn’t always easy and it didn’t last long, but I think we both showed each other a thing or two that ended up making a big difference.

Chapter 3; present day. Marc is my 3rd and hopefully my last father figure. When my mom and Marc married a few years ago, I figured we’d get to know each other over the years, but to be honest, since I was older and away from home, I always figured he’d be more my ‘mother’s husband’ than something like a step-dad. But wouldn’t you know it, at age 26, I end up too ill to work, unable to keep my apartment, and move myself and my dog back in with my parents–back to the house I thought I’d never live in again. It was not something I wanted or readily accepted and for that first month or two, I wasn’t exactly joyful to be around. Meanwhile right under my nose, I wasn’t considering that a sick girl and her dog moving back in with her parents wasn’t necessarily easy on them, either. But day after day, I was taken care of there. I wasn’t told that they were doing me a favor, I wasn’t reminded of the gift I was receiving and nothing was ever held over my head. Once again, I was shown how powerful a love like that can be. Marc didn’t owe me anything really, I was his wifes kid after all. But that is not at all how it played out. He turned out to be a lot like a real dad. I found myself saying “my parents house” and really feeling like I had two parents, not a mom and her husband. The point is, terms like “step-dad” and “blended family” have kind of become meaningless for me. It’s simple; blood doesn’t make a family, love does. And there’s plenty of that going around. So, Happy Fathers Day to YOU Marc! Thank you for playing your role so well to me, and being such a great grandpa to Monty. I’ll pay it back when you’re old and can’t feed yourself. ;)

Health, Happiness, and Happy Fathers (or positive male role model) Day!

Go Ahead, Cry It Out.

There there…

You know, you’d think as someone who takes 25 pills a day, I would have a pill for everything. And when it comes to aches and pains, muscle spasms, migraines, restless legs, or insomnia..it’s true. I’ve got a pill for most things. I carry around my pharmacy in a medium-sized black bag with birds on it. It’s like my second purse, but probably more important. But in the depths of that entire bag, among all the bottles of pills of every color and every shape, there is no pill for crying. Sometime’s life is really hard, and you just have to feel it. In two words; it sucks. It’s tiring and seemingly unrelenting and comes and goes in waves but just like everything else, it won’t last. It isn’t forever. And sometimes that’s the only thing to get you past the moment.

Sorry about being all depressing, but I’m going through some hardships right now and I told myself I’d write good, bad or ugly, so here’s sticking to goals. I won’t get into all the details but I am going through a breakup, thus the random waves of crying that come on like sudden nausea. It’s awful! It’s also funny, because truthfully, I was never much of a crier. If I felt the urge to cry I held it back, and I especially didn’t like to do it in front of people. I didn’t cry at my dads funeral. Maybe it’s because I was 12 or maybe it’s because seriously, his funeral was somehow a joyous occasion and I don’t really know how to explain that except that we sang happy music and felt proud that his life filled up an entire church. It wasn’t until my step-dad died, unexpectedly in the middle of college, that I turned into a crier. There was no holding it back anymore. It was tragic and it happened fast and left the family a little lost, especially my mom. It’s funny because my mom was never much of a crier either, but after Roger died, the same thing happened to her too. Sometimes we’d sit in the office, trying to tackle another post-death obstacle like canceling Roger’s phone (which somehow took FOUR MONTHS) and we’d sit there just sniffling and wiping tears away. Truthfully, there wasn’t always something wise to say. A quote about God’s plan or everything happening for a reason really falls short when you’re in the very raw place of grief. Sometimes all there is to do is cry or be a shoulder to cry on and remember that it won’t last. But what I’m trying to get at is this; it’s OK to cry.

I don’t know how our society or culture became this way, but it feels like somehow we view crying as a weakness. And when someone begins to cry our first impulse is to try to get them to stop. “Don’t cry,” we’ll say. Or “It’s OK” or some other vague comment that is usually untrue. The problem is crying makes other people uncomfortable–we’re a people of solutions, and crying means that someone is in pain or hurting some way, and we want them to stop. That’s the nice thing about dogs, they let you cry and cry and they don’t judge you for it. The thing is though, crying is not only natural, it’s good for you. It’s acknowledgment and acceptance that yes, this moment or time is rough. It’s challenging or painful. And the truth is, you just have to feel it. You have to exist in the grit of it. It hurts. But it also means you’re awake. I thought after 2011 that I would literally run out of tears. There was one day that I cried on and off most of the day and finally by 9 I thought wow, I think I’m all cried out! Then a commercial about abandoned dogs in New Orleans came on and I burst into tears. Nope, wasn’t all out after all!

My point is, that instead of telling someone to stop crying or to be strong or to move on, we should try the opposite. We should encourage them to cry. Tell them to go ahead and sob it out. Hold their hand or offer your shoulder or pass the whole stupid box of kleenex if that’s what it’s going to take. But don’t try to stop the process. Sometimes life is sad, and it’s OK to acknowledge that and it’s OK to cry about it. Babies do it. Women do it. Men do it. Even elephants do it. Just like laughter is an expression of something funny or entertaining, crying is an expression of sadness or loss, it is honest, and to repress it is only going to make it hurt more later. Simply put–let it out. Shakespeare said “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” That being said…Waahhhhhhhh.

Kidding. I’m not crying right now. I’m watching the Golden Girls with Monty and accepting that this is a tough time but I’m going to survive. If I could recommend a new class for college it would be called Breaking Up 101. I have thought this for a long time, because breaking up is one of the hardest experiences and worst pains you can feel, even if it is the right thing to do. But we’re conditioned to think that if you feel this bad, then something’s not right–you shouldn’t do it. So then it follows, if you’re miserable from a breakup, then maybe you made the wrong decision? The truth is, there is never a good time to break up, it hurts like hell whenever it happens, and it’s going to screw with your life for a while. Aka…you might burst into tears while watching Say Yes to the Dress or you might suffer an identity crisis and start wearing brightly colored wigs like Kim Kardashian did. But that’s kind of how it goes. It’s tough, but it won’t last.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on in my life…how are you? Haha. I hope this doesn’t sound too tragic. Everything and everyone will be OK. I am assured. Mostly. But I still get waves of tears and random things that set them off, like an old photo from college or coming across my old business card from when I used to have a real job and my life was more..clear. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean and am just drifting in no particular direction at all. It’s living in the “grey” of things. But it’s OK. I’m going to cry and then I’m going to stop and then I’m going to pick up the pieces and keep going. Because that’s the thing about life..it goes on.

Health, Happiness, and BOO HOO!

*Photo Credit: Jill Greenberg

I Know I Know. Don’t Freak Out.

You’re in the right place. This is still the blog about fibro, pills, humor and attempted awesomeness. I gave the blog a little makeover and I’ve been putting it off  for a while now, but the time has come my people. First, I shortened the address from 25pillsday.wordpress.com to just 25pillsaday.com so we can all breathe easier knowing we have 9 less characters to type. Also as someone who’s 5.3 feet proud, I always argue that shorter is better. Secondly, all the crap that used to be at the bottom of the page is now easily accessible at the top. See?  Right over there. >>>>>>>>>  And that old picture of all those drugs that were the colors of library furniture have been replaced by bright neon cascading pills in the background. It’s all so magical. It’s funny that I would even consider so heavily the design or lack thereof of something that makes me no money  and is in most people’s eyes just a hobby. But truthfully, it’s my baby. I care a lot about it. And in recent nights I’ve woken up like Wait, should I put the links on THE LEFT SIDE?? Then I’m like OK there are wars going on and the location of links and font color is not so big a deal. I just needed to pull the trigger. So bang. I’m also reminded of the time I spent an hour picking out a dog collar for Monty and I guess it makes sense I’d take so much time with this. If you don’t like it, just give it a few days. If you still don’t like it, feel free to email me with only these words: YOU BLEW IT! I’ll know then what I’ve done. There will be some new additions to the blog but I thought I’d ease into those slowly. We’ll start just with cosmetics.

What else? I’ve spent the last two weeks in California at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Orange County, California. (Side note: I recently realized my life is whole lot like Rob Kardashians, and that makes me have quiet moments of extreme discomfort.) It’s funny, because both my sister Amelie and my brother-in-law Keegan work full-time jobs, like most normal people. So in the morning they’re getting ready for work and I’m laying on the couch lifeless, half conscious. Sometimes I don’t even wake up to them scrambling around because I think my sleep schedule is so incredibly screwy that I’m in my REM cycle at 8:30 a.m., but that’s something different altogether. Last week Amelie was putting the final touches to her work attire in the bedroom and Keegan was getting ready to walk out the door. I was fumbling through pills on the couch. Before he walked out Keegan asked “Are you sure you don’t want me to leave the car here for you? Like are you going to get restless?” Amelie and I answered in a monotone voice in unison: “No.”  “You’re not going to get bored?” Again, from both of us. “No.” Then we kind of all laughed, maybe for different reasons, and the functioning people went to work and I opened my book.

I am reading two books. I must admit, after I finished reading Freedom I felt like there was this new hole where something solid used to be. The way it feels after you lose a tooth. Then when I was in New York, my brother told me Strong Motion written also by Franzen competed heavily with Freedom so I brought it with me and have been enjoying that one too. It’s written in true Franzenian form and I once again feel like I’m getting a literary/science education just by reading the work, so it’s fun. But I don’t know that anything can top Freedom. OK I’ll stop talking about that now. Except wait I have one more thing. On NPR people with cool voices were all telling Jonathan Franzen he needs to keep an eye on Nell Freudenberger and there was all this jabber about the book The Newlyweds and so I decided to give it a try. So far it’s really good. She isn’t as inventive with the prose as he is but her writing is clean and the storyline has me going; a mail order bride from Bangladesh marries a 30 something engineer dude in upstate New York and there are hints of secrets and controversy and all the good stuff that makes good books good.

The other book that I just finished is The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and it was really, really incredible. Not as dense as A New Earth but just as enlightening and really reassuring, especially if you fear death. And for a while I think I became a little too obsessed with this idea that I was going to die. In the sense that I would actually start to wonder, maybe I just won’t die. Like maybe I’m exempt? But duh, I’m not. And it’s cool, because he says all this stuff that makes so much sense and I basically underlined the entire book. I feel like I’ll just keep it at my bedside forever now. Until I..you know, die.

OK, that’s all the housekeeping for today. Or should I say book-keeping. Get it? Health-wise I’ve been managing pretty well. This morning was my first migraine I’ve had since leaving NYC two weeks ago. That’s a long time for me! Good stuff. Maybe I just need to be by the ocean for the rest of my life. California is awesome, but weird. I’ll talk about that next time. Cliffhanger!!

Health, Happiness, and Give It a Few Days.

Speaking of Death, Let’s Talk Birth.

Before I begin about birth, I have to share quickly a dream I had the other night, after I wrote the post about death. As I laid down to sleep, I sent a little prayer to the universe. A prayer to help me not be afraid of death or the unknown. Since I happen to know a lot of people on “the other side” I asked them to show me, give me a little hint of what dying was like, in hopes it would calm my fear about it. I fantasized about having a dream in which my dad took me through the stages of death and we ended up at the end, at the gates, where all I felt was love and happiness and I most defnitely did not feel pain or sorrow, and I would wake up reassured. Maybe he’d show me what it looked like. Maybe he’d even tell me how I’d go. And in my morbid little mind, that would be a fun dream. After dying so many ways in my dreams for years, I’ve become somewhat desensitized on the matter. Well that and experiencing death at such proximity at the age of 12. What I’m getting to, however, is that I did not have a dream like this. In fact, I hardly remembered any of my dreams from the night before, which for me is unusual. But there was one dream–if you can even call it that. It was more like a very short “scene” I was in. I was crouched down under some flat rocks. I don’t remember being alone but I don’t remember who accompanied me. Above us, over the flat rocks, was a stampede of rhinoceroses, running full force and I could hear the pitter patter of their feet and watched as little tiny rocks spilled into the hole in which I was huddled in. That’s it. I remember knowing in the dream that this was my answer from the other side, and sort of chuckling about it. I’ve never heard anyone relate death or the afterlife to a rhinoceros stampede, but the subconscious works in symbols, not plots. So I’ll have to get my mom to help analyze this one. It was still fun to at least feel like someone or something had heard that prayer I sent. Ask and you shall receive.

But enough about death for now. Today wasn’t filled with thoughts about death and the end and the sometimes mentally paralyzing mystery of life. Today, I thought about life and beginnings. Last night, I had a dream that my brother Nick sent me a text message which read “It’s miraculous. It’s real.” Somehow in the dream I knew that he meant his wife was going into labor. When my eyes opened this morning around 9:30 to yet another killer migraine, I picked up my phone to see a text message from Nick. “Estee’s water broke.” I smiled with relief. Finally, she was going to be here, and I was going to be an aunt for the second time. No more talking about the baby in future tense, no more guessing who’d she look like and whether she’d have Estees genes and be on time or Nick’s genes and be late for everything. She was going to be here in physical form now. She was going to be her own governing self.

As much as death mystifies me, the process of conception, pregnancy, and labor mystify me just the same, if not more. I remember learning in anatomy class many of the things that have to go right in order to conceive and carry a child. Once hearing them, the idea of it all sounds impossible. And yet, we do it. It is natural somehow. Nick’s text message in my dream is just how I feel about all of it; that it’s miraculous.

Welcome to the World.

At 6:41 this evening, I received the first photo of her. 8.2 pounds. “Say hello to Olive Marie Gelpi,” it said. I stared and became a little lost in the photo. She has these big cheeks and beautiful hair and looks excessively calm. Something about a new life inspires even old souls; looking at the photo I felt this strong sensation that humans are the most capable creatures on the planet. Here Olive is only a few hours old, and already her path is being built. The energy is changing. I’m not even her parent, but here I am gazing at this photo and thinking of all the things she can do. I want to tell her that too–that she can do anything, Like some cliche high school year book signature. Dear Olive, Reach for your dreams! You can do anything! But these were the feelings popping up in me. Mostly I just feel happy she made it. 10 fingers and 10 toes as they say. Baby and mom doing well as they also say. The most beautiful part of today, is that a child was brought into the world first to two parents who want her and love her, unconditionally. Just for showing up, they love her. This is a good start. And then to two sets of grandparents who love her and will inevitably spoil the crap out of her and show her that she matters. And then to three aunts and two uncles who will tease her to toughen her and help raise her in every way we know how. If it takes a village to raise a child, I’d say she has a pretty good start. Today I’m not thinking about sickness and death. Today I’m thinking of human possibility and what we’re capable of. And it suddenly feels like a lot.

Happy Birthday Miss Olive Marie. I can’t wait to see who you are and what you will do.

Health, Happiness, Possibility.

Let’s Talk About Death. Yeah!

Once again it is nighttime and everyone is sleeping, but me. This is often how I spend this time of night; listening to the in and out breaths of humans and/or dogs around me, and thinking about how everyone including me and including my dog, without hesitation, is going to die. I can never figure out why this thought drowns me at times. But sometimes it’s so incredibly real that I have to talk myself out of thinking about it. Like eternity. Like time and space. Sometimes it’s too much.

And other times, also mostly at night, I think about what an elephant in the room it is; that we’re all going to die, and nobody is talking about it. And if you try to talk about it, you’re either morbid or misunderstood, or both. And that doesn’t make the infringing feeling of The End feel any better. I think about death in many capacities, but mostly I think of it in my own terms. How will I die? How old will I be? How does my story end? These are all silly meaningless questions that I can’t know the answers to. So why are my dreams filled with me or Monty dying all the time? And why do I always stop at the obituaries section of the newspaper? I’m pretty sure that means I am morbid, and that’s been something I’ve insisted I’m not. Crap.

You know what happens when there’s an elephant in the room that nobody talks about? Well actually, I’ve never heard the answer to the proverbial question, but I think it goes something like: Eventually the elephant poops and everyone at the cocktail party is like “Hey!! There’s elephant poop in the middle of the living room!” and everyone freaks out and screams and before you  know it your guests have ruined their shoes and saying “We should have seen it coming.”  If they just would have  talked about the elephant in the first place, it wouldn’t be such a surprise coming across elephant poop in the living room! Get it? Human Death is the elephant poop in this analogy. Did I make that clear? I’m not very good at this. AM I. Anyway, I use that analogy because when someone hears about someone dying, it’s exceptionally hard to grasp the idea. It is sad. It is tragic. But no one ever says “Mary died today, and this was supposed to happen.” I hope someone says that on the day that I die. But what we say is “You’re kidding! It’s not right! It’s not fair!” As if we were ever promised to live forever. As if dying wasn’t a part of the deal the whole time. Funny how we act about that.

Maybe all this death talk is because I’ve been feeling so deathly lately. I was on a pretty good streak for a while there, I’d been doing better than normal. My energy level was up and my pain tolerable. As a result, I pushed myself a little bit over the edge so today when I softly blinked my eyes open around 7 AM my head was like GOOD MORNING YOU HAVE A MIGRAINE TODAY. And I was like, “Loud and clear. Thanks, head.” Not the best way to wake up, but once again modern medicine rescued me. Now I am migraine free, but wide awake and wondering if I should sketch out my funeral plans. OK, sorry, I’ll stop with the morbidity. But I’d like to let it be known, it doesn’t depress me to talk about death. In fact, it excites me. I don’t think you should sit around sulking all day. But I don’t think it should be avoided like it is. Once my brother Nick and I were talking about it, and he said “I mean, it’s gotta be a cool experience, right?” And I totally agree with that. Death has to be cool. But most people don’t wanna talk death with me. They wanna talk about birth control or facebook or Mitt Romney and sometimes while people are talking, the words “We’re all going to end up dead,” are circling around in my mind in one of those cartoon bubbles.  And I say these words with joy! I swear. It doesn’t make me sad. It’s just such an incredible mystery. Why aren’t we talking about it?! Can’t a girl just get a cup of coffee and have a light hearted conversation about life and dying and tentative funeral plans? Good grief.

I guess I am still working out my death issues. This is the part where I wish I saw an analyst so I could say “My analyst seems to believe I am going through a minor existential crisis as I confront my own mortality and begin to humbly accept that this life, while precious, is temporary.” But I don’t. Analysts are expensive. And my mom is pretty good in these areas. Anyway she says the death dreams are just my subconscious fears playing themselves out. I suppose it’s your basic fear of the unknown. Plus, its not like I’ve been able to ask any of the people I know who are dead to tell me about the whole dying thing. Wait, that is a really good idea. Why haven’t I asked all the dead people I know how the whole dying experience is?! Duh, I have so many sources! I’m going to say a little prayer tonight, ask for some answers, and hopefully stop thinking about the things that I cannot control and that I can’t know now. Everything in due time. Everything.

Health, Happiness, Elephant Poop.

 

A Story About Death

Let’s talk for a second about death. Because I love it, and one day I’m going to die. And so are you! Isn’t that awesome? There’s something I do sometimes and I encourage other people to do it to: say out loud “I’m going to die.” I do it to free myself when I am feeling trapped– it reminds me that time on this earth is temporary. I think 99% of our lives are spent in either uncousciousess of the idea or denial. It could be an ego thing or a fear thing, but all I know is I’ve always been eager to talk about death but I’m usually dismissed as morbid or depressing. I don’t like to talk about it like “God dude, one day I’m going to die….what’s the point…blah blah blah.” I think talking freely and happily about death can be a very intelligent and healthy conversation to have, it just seems like no one wants to have it.

Well I do. And I realize why I’m like this. I have this very distinct memory of sitting on our back deck in Colorado in August. I was 12. The weather was hot but nice, and my mom and dad, a volumptuous jazz singer named Veronica who sang at our Church among other things, and me were sitting around a patio table sifting through sheet music. You know what we were doing? Picking out funeral music, for my dad’s funeral. He was dying of cancer. Theoretically this is totally depressing. But I’m telling you, it wasn’t! He was in this striped robe, (an awesome robe, I still have it) with his legs folded and laughing and making jokes, and so was my mom and so was Veronica. They set the stage for me emotionally that death is not all bad. They laughed, so I laughed.

My mom and dad sang at the choir in our Church so my dad was particular about the songs he wanted. He didn’t want sad music. And so we played happy music. Beautiful, hopeful, honest music. Veronica sang, and it was perfect. It was just how he wanted it.

So that was my first big experience with death. And I guess being so young and seeing someone that you expect to have around forever slowly leave, makes you examine your own immortality. It’s not so much that I care how I’m going to die, I just worry whether I’m “doing it right” while I’m here. I don’t know when I’ll die, and I want to make sure I’m staying in the moment. I want to be conscious. (Insert some quote about dance like no ones watching )

Wait, that last part is a lie. I TOTALLY wonder how I will die. Not in an obsessive way but out of simple curiosity. Although for a solid year all I did was dream about the possible ways that I would die. There was a lot of falling out of airplanes and a lot of not being able to breathe and a lot a lot a lot of tornados. Ick. Then one day after my health really plumetted in Jaunary of this year I was talking about my fear of death with my mom. Some days I really felt like I was dying, but it had been a fear I’d had for a while. I told her I wasn’t so scared conceptually of it, but I was scared of the pain of it. My dreams were really stressful; I was always closing my eyes and clenching my teeth as the plane went down waiting for the pain to hit me. My mom stopped me and said “Mary, you’re in pain everyday. You’ve been sick for years. Dying can’t be any worse than what you’ve been through?” And then we started talking about how life is the hard part. This is the painful part. Death will be exciting. It will be incredible.

After that I was able to let some of my fear about death go. I still do think about it a lot. I really wonder what is next. If there is a next. (I know there is a next. I know it!) What will it look like. And what will I be without a body? I could go on and on and this is what I think about when I go to sleep so sorry for the death spill on aisle 6, but I just felt like talking about it. Or typing about it.

Anyway I guess I am just hoping that if it’s a week before I die, I can sit outside like my dad did and laugh about my funeral and plan it with family and friends and know that I have loved and I am loved. Those are the things that will outlast me.

So what’s the point in all this? The point is: You’re going to die! And that’s great news! I’m going to die too. And we’ll see each other again, in other blogospheres, in other bodies. But we’ll have all the lessons and love that we’ve acquired while we were here. That’s what I think Heaven is. Something like that.

Health, Happiness, and You’re Going to Die! Smile!