Snow, Christmas, Crash, Repeat.

I’ve attempted to sit down and write multiple times this week but my eyes continue to grow heavy and I fall asleep with the light of the monitor on my face and an incomplete sentence waiting. Most of the family left to their respective homes on Sunday and it appears my body waited for them to leave to go ahead and crash–which is nice of it actually. I made it through Christmas Eve and Day with adequate enough energy and I was really grateful for that. If being sick now is payment for what I experienced with family this Christmas, then it was well worth it. I just love those crazy animals!

Christmas is by far my favorite Holiday. The lights, the soundtrack, a reason to be kind, the eggnog, the food and the family. I treasure it all. Since we spent this Christmas in Colorado, I began praying weeks in advance for a White Christmas; something I haven’t had in many years. It just makes everything that much more “Christmasy.” When I awoke on Christmas Eve, I saw that my prayers were heard. We had every type of snow that day. In the morning it came down softly. By the afternoon it was big, slow flakes. On the way to Mass it was small gusty snow, fast and twirling. I felt like a kid again. And being that we’re Southerners who are rusty in the art of driving in snow, we went about 15 miles per hour on the way to Church, leaving an impromptu parade of backed up traffic behind us. But you can’t get mad about traffic on Christmas Eve– Not in your Sunday Best while the sky is falling. I received more than I asked for; 6 inches to be exact, which is pretty substantial for this town. It continued to snow into the night, revealing a very real White Christmas the next morning.  My favorite part was taking Monty on a walk that evening. The night sky orange from the clouds reflecting lights, the atmosphere hollowed; a padded cave where your steps crunching the snow is all you really hear. It almost demands that you stand still, that you look up. There is a tangible quietness to snow and it was a real gift to experience it again.

Monty in the Snow, Night.
Monty in the Snow, Night.

I also really like this time of year because there’s such a sense of hope and possibility with the New Year. On a technical basis, it’s minor. It’s just a change in numbers. A 2 becomes a 3. But for human beings, where space and time matter, it marks an end and a beginning. As the numerical date changes, it’s wise to reflect on the past 365 days and think of what you want the next 365 to look like. Of course, as the mystics would remind us, there is no past or future. A New Years Resolution can only begin and mean something right now. Right now is all there is.

I didn’t make a New Years Resolution specifically, though I love the idea. I reflected on New Years Eve 2010, which I spent at my parents house, and it was Monty who I kissed at midnight. The next few days would involve a heavy crash and a hospital visit and some major contemplation about what to do with my life that I was slowly losing control of to health. I remember that last New Years Eve I thought well, at least the worst year of my life is over. I thought 2011 would be my sickest year, and that I could stuff it far away somewhere. Bury it. Burn it. Just put it out of sight and move on. And then I met 2012. In many ways 2012 ended up being my toughest year. Health-wise it was one of the worst. Emotionally it drained me. Personally it humbled me. You’d think after years of being sick I’d have it all figured it out by now. But I’m still learning. Feeling my way through the dark parts to find meaning, treasuring the good days, and holding out hope that this won’t be my life forever. 2012 was deeply hard, but another way to look at it is this: I survived. I made it. It’s over, but I’m still here. Like Caroline Myss says, “As long as you’re still here, you’ve got purpose.” I may be sickley and often seemingly useless, but I am still here, and I do feel underneath my lifeless body that I still have a lot of work to do. And if most of it comes from bed, so be it.

There’s a few other lessons I’ve learned in 2012 that I’ll take with me into 2013 on my way. Wherever that is.

I’ve learned how to be a house guest: That most people consider themselves clean and organized, and that every person’s definition of those two traits are absolutely different. All in all, people appreciate when you make your bed, so do it whether your hosts do or not.

I’ve learned that old ladies don’t like dogs without leashes.

I’ve learned that violence is not the answer and instead of trying to punch a fly in the face you may benefit from pausing and reflecting instead.

I’ve learned that even if my body is worthless, my mind is not, and it’s still possible to achieve things from a couch, or a bed…in pajamas.

I’ve learned that even if they’re the right thing, breakups hurt. They’re hard. Sometimes it really is time that heals those wounds best.

I’ve learned that every person is fighting a battle. I used to never talk about my issues, or even write in the first person for that matter. Now I have a public blog with everything out on the table and a lot of I, I, I. But most people do not. They keep problems and pain inside, protecting a sore spot somewhere, which is important to remember when they’re flipping you off in traffic or cursing your name from across the street. We all have issues, and it’s all OK. In my darkest times I’ve found reassurance that no one is alone in their pain.

I’ve learned that the best doctor is Dr. Mom.

I’ve begun to learn to swallow my pride. To accept help with grace. To admit when I can’t do it on my own. And that there is much more freedom than pain in those moments. There is real ease in surrender.

I’ve learned that regardless of the question, the answer is protein.

And that out of all 25 pills, nothing makes me feel better than laughter. Mine and others. For real.

I’ll take all of these with me. Into the future, to a galaxy far far away. Or to whatever state I end up in next. I don’t know what 2013 has in store for me. So far, I’ve basically spent it in bed. But that’s OK too. Because regardless of what 2013 brings to the table, I promise to keep on laughing, to keep on joking, and to keep making fun of the tragedy that can be life. In almost every punch life throws, we can laugh or we can cry, and in my experience, it’s just way more fun to laugh at it all. In short, I’ll keep taking 25 pills and making lemonade…or something like that. Happy 2013 yall.

Health, Happiness, 2013

Guess What? It Get’s Better.

It was on this day one year ago that everything changed. And the change began with everything falling apart. One by one, the “solids” in my life unraveled like lazy yarn. It all started on New Years Eve, 2010.

My body was in what I like to call “Fail Mode” and I was at my parents house, feeling isolated and crappy. I was convincing myself that by that night I would feel well enough to leave, join the world in the celebration of a New Year and maybe even drink some champagne. Hah. Did. Not. Happen. By 5 pm I was sending out a very familiar text: “Sorry dude, I feel terrible. Won’t be able to make it…” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that phrase, well, you know.

Happy New Year! Oh wait. My life sucks.

That night I finally had a bit of a mental breakdown. My parents stayed up until midnight. At 12 they kissed and I looked down and saw Monty, so I kissed him. My new years kiss was with my dog. GREAT. I kept reminding myself that it was only a night, it wouldn’t last. By tomorrow, the party I was missing would be over, and so would all of this. For some reason, my mom couldn’t sleep that night and neither could I. I walked out into the living room around 2 am, saw her watching TV, and lost my shit. Through the tears I finally admitted to her how worried I was about my life. I hardly had a social life anymore. I was barely making it to work every day. Traveling was too hard on me so I had basically stopped. It felt like all I did was work and sleep. I had nothing left for anything else. Nothing left for the ‘good parts.’ Nights and weekends were often spent in bed, catching up. I felt out of control. The illness was in control, and that scared me. My mom counseled me through it the way she would continue to do for the next year. She reminded me I was young, that this moment wasn’t forever, and there was still a lot of possibility if I could only hang on. She was right. But hanging on is the hardest thing to do. At times this year it felt like I was sinking, and couldn’t see the bottom or the top.

I felt like the "Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up" lady

New Years Day I was no better. Everything hurt. I was heavy, dizzy, and nauseous. I would be stationary but feel carsick. Walking became hard. Too hard. I continued to get worse until Monday when I woke up and felt too fatigued to walk to the bathroom. That’s when I called the parents, they came to pick me up, and the gradual “move back in with the parents” began. Each day it became painfully more clear that I wouldn’t be able to live by myself anymore. It didn’t bother me so much at that point. I was too sick for pride.

I remember when my sister came to help out at the end of January and I told her I wished there was a fast forward button. “I just want it to be over.” She sat with me, said she wished for one too, but told me the truth. “It’s gonna be hard Mare, but we’ll get through it.” And now I look at the date and see, I made it. The crappiest year of my life, is about to be over. Hells yeah! Sometimes I wish I could bundle 2011 up in a big bowl of lint and burn it to nothing. The truth of the matter is it’s all theoretical anyway. January 1st is just the day after December 31st. It doesn’t mean anything, really. But our perspective changes. We make new plans, pledges, and goals in hopes for not a new life, but a better life. Even though it is just another year, and there’s a possibility it could be even worse than 2011, I am a romantic for the capability of change. And a new year holds great possibilities. It’s like buying a fresh new notebook. You don’t know what will fill the pages, but the prospect on the blankness excites you.

The truth is it’s about to be 2012 and my struggle is going to continue. I’m not all better. I am still jobless, still living with my parents, and struggling to maintain relationships. The challenges I faced in 2011 are still going to be there. My hope is though, that I’ve learned and suffered enough to manage what’s in front of me. Like my mom says, “Just do today.” I hope that I continue to grow, that I cherish what I have and not long for what I don’t. I’m looking at 2012 as the year of possibility. My only job is to stay open to it. And I think I can handle that. I think!

One of the best moments in 2011 occurred in a bathroom stall on my birthday. My friend Kaitlin and I walked to an ice cream shop on Magazine street. In the bathroom stall there were all kinds of scribblings and drawings on the wall, but my eyes went straight to a phrase written in green. Someone wrote this: “It gets better. I promise.” I immediately sensed my dad. Of course my dad didn’t write it. It was probably some stoner kid feeling wildly optimistic. But I think it was from him that I saw it. I felt it. And I felt better. I walked out holding on to the energy of the phrase. Because that’s what I felt from it; energy. It’s like the energy in saying “I’m going to die one day” or “I love you” for the first time. It’s wild. But it’s real.

Anyway, I wanted to share the dark times of this year but also the moments of relief. Because it wasn’t only grand gestures, it was also the very small things this year that carried me. Things as small as writing on a bathroom wall. In the moments where I was hanging on by a thread, I would grab hold of anything to get me out. Sometimes the only thing to concentrate on was my breath. So I’d start there. The most important thing to remember is that every moment passes. Today will be tomorrow soon. Tomorrow will be next month, and alas, the year will end. This year began with everything falling apart. The new year begins with everything reassembling itself. That’s the thing about things falling apart; they always get put back together, stronger than they once were.

Health, Happiness, and It Does Gets Better. I promise.

Happy New Year!