Dude. Solitude.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Solitude.

Help and Thank You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Enough.

City Girl in Mountain Town

Monty and I have arrived in my other hometown- Grand Junction, Colorado. Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. I remember in my seventh grade geography class everyone feeling a little defeated when we opened our books and saw that Grand Junction wasn’t even marked on the map. It’s grown a lot since then, but it still feels much like the small town it felt like as I grew up here. It’s hard to explain but there is a certain look to Grand Junction. It’s almost distinctly indistinct. But when you wait at the gate in the airport to come here, it becomes slowly evident just where you’re going. Suddenly there are a lot of teva sandals and drawstring cargo Capri pants–on women and men. I’d call the fashion here “Mountain Casual” with a few embellishments here and there. The thing is, it’s a very genuine town. There’s nothing really excessive or fancy about it and that’s how they like it. If Fisher Island is a red Ferrari, Grand Junction is a light tan, mid-sized sedan. A Ford Taurus maybe. I love coming here because while there are new additions every time I arrive, (like The Olive Garden or Lane Bryant) it always feels the same. It has this smell that has never changed–a mix of cut grass and wet clothes in the washer machine. In a word; clean. Even the water has a certain taste to it-also very clean. For comparative purposes, New Orleans water has a particular taste from the tap too- something like garden hose mixed with chlorine and mud. And that is one reason you don’t drink water from the tap in New Orleans. Not unless you’re a real risk taker.

Growing up here I kind of despised the place. I dreamed of big cities with bright lights and tall buildings that stayed open past 10 pm. Cities that had stores like the Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch. In my young mind, what made a city cool and important was whether or not they had tall buildings. Grand Junction has one tall building; Alpine Bank. It’s ten stories. I’ve gathered that most youth have a love/hate relationship with the place they grow up, especially if that place is particularly marketed as “A great place to raise a family.” And Grand Junction is just that. Very little crime. Quality, free public education. Beautiful scenery and four distinct seasons- none of them extreme. No earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards. It snows roughly 5 times throughout the winter, just enough to make it a novelty and exciting. I recently heard that Grand Junction made the top 10 list of US cities in which to retire, which may help explain why being a teenager here is less than exciting. But I look at it now with fondness. It may not be the cultural capital of America or boast the best cuisine, but it’s a beautiful, clean place with really good people. By this point in New Orleans, the heat achieves a whole new set of adjectives. In June it’s terrible and unrelenting. In July it’s suffocating and oppressive, unfair even. It will stay that way until late September. So we’re in a mountain town now that actually cools off at night, and it feels good to be back.

Monty and I are staying at my grandmas house. I love staying here because much like the town, it always looks, feels and smells the same when I walk in the door, and there’s some kind of comfort in that. It’s the most organized and clean house and it’s always been that way. Everything has a place and often a label; your toothbrush, playing cards, scrap paper and “hand cream.”

See?

Also nothing is wasted. Nothing. (I’ll expand on that next time) I gave her my word that Monty would stay off of the furniture, so when he pawed at the bed last night with the look on his face like “Are you going to scoot over or am I just going to have to slowly push you off like normal?” I told him “Sorry buddy, not at Grandmas’s house.” He seemed to understand that sentiment because he grunted and then laid down in the hall under the swamp cooler. Oh, that’s another thing. Swamp coolers. The whole goal of keeping a house cool in Louisiana is to keep the moisture out of the air since most days are boasting at least 90% humidity. Here, it’s a desert climate, and you’ll notice large boxes on the tops of all the houses. Those are the swamp coolers. They keep the air cool by actually pumping moisture into it, the exact opposite mechanism of the south. And there’s our science lesson for the day.

On an another note, I’ve basically been crashed every day since arriving here. We flew through Dallas and a huge storm kind of threw flight schedules out of whack resulting in a lot of cancelled flights and a whole lot of angry people. At first I was stressing because I was worried about Monty getting impatient. Then as we sat there I realized, impatience and irritability are much more human traits than dog. Monty had no idea that our flight was leaving hours later than scheduled, or didn’t seem to mind anyway. He laid there like a champ, like this.

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And he brightened the moods of a lot of other delayed and restless passengers. As one lady noted, “He’s therapy for us!” and then she scratched his belly for the next ten minutes. We didn’t end up arriving until midnight that night and overall travel time ended up taking nearly 12 hours. So my body has been angry at me for the last 3 days and I’ve done very little but rest and eat hearty dinners with my large extended family. Today is the first day I haven’t crashed immediately after waking up, so here’s hoping. I went to bed at 8:30 last night. It was still light outside. What a crazy life I lead.

Until next time.

Health, Happiness, Mountain Towns