Hangers On a Ledge 

I run these ideas through my head, trying to piece it together. I try to make sense of a history that began before me and most likely, I’ll never really be able to figure out. Whenever you’re trying to find where things went wrong and how you can make them right again, it can all feel too big, too long ago to find solutions that make sense now. But still, the red part inside of me that stirs as though it has a body that can do anything, tells me this is something we can fix. We can do better–those words, they play over and over.

I travel back in time, the early 80‘s I guess. That’s when it started showing up in different places and on unexpected people, and the powers at large weren’t able to connect the dots. It’s understandable of course–the thing is literally invisible. Maybe the lack of pressure, lack of genuine concern about the disease began there–at a moment in time where it couldn’t be ‘seen’ under microscopes and wasn’t ‘believed’ often by the people who were suddenly sick and then never better. Maybe it was that the thing wasn’t killing anybody. Nothing fatal. Just a flu. “A yuppie flu” they called it. Not only are the sufferers alive, but they don’t even look the part! They aren’t sick on the outside. And rearranging my position in all this, putting myself on the outside looking in at this “movement” of unexplained sick people, I understand how this notion worked against us–how it continues to today. I think of the old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That may be true in many cases, but I can’t say it applies aptly here. Not in regards to our bodies anyway, which upon the slightest push can fall and not again get up.

What isn’t killing me is not making my body stronger. I am the least strong I’ve ever been. The medicine has caused weight gain that at times has me and my face looking like a bloated pumpkin. It’s hard not to feel at battle with the thing that is intrinsically connected to me, and between us exists a fine line of fighting it and not fighting it at the same time. The whole thing is an honors class in balance. Some days are better than others, and I wonder, am I stronger, or am I just less sick today? There remains a difference. But I’m probably focusing on the wrong area here. No doubt that in our minds, the adage applies. When every day is a battle, beginning with waking up, with sitting up in bed and planting your feet on the ground and taking those first few painful steps to the bathroom, and doing this day after day after day, for some of us years and decades, well then no doubt your mind will grow stronger. It can also grow cynical, it can become   bitter–but many times you’ll surprise yourself with the strength you find and the moments you find it in. If you can keep trying, if you can manage a smile and a laugh, to be happy for other people, to still believe in something good, then certainly you haven’t been killed, and the battle has made you stronger. But that is our mind. Or the soul maybe– An almost contradiction that is both a connected but separate faculty from the body. Refer to the ancient philosphers and you’ll find some disagreement on the subject. I think in either case, for the mind the body is only temporary. And this brings a relief to me. Whatever happens to me physically, I won’t be carrying it forever.

I think of all the others, sick like me, dreaming and hoping and feeling desires like the rest. It’s strange how our indignant heads are alive and full, swirling with ideas and goals just as though we had a body that could serve them all–make them all come to light. But at present time we don’t. So call us “alive” and say we “look well,” but know there is only a very small surface of which most the world sees. And the majority of life with this illness falls far below it, in a darkness underneath that very few see. Some can’t see it. Some don’t want to. Others just haven’t had the access.

It’s funny thinking about that word “alive.” Sure, we’re alive. But there’s an important difference between living and surviving. “Just getting by” physically, is hard to equate with living. And worlds away from thriving, which might be called a pretty commonly desired endgame. We, however, are hanging on by a thread, and it’s hard to call an existence like that “life” with any real conviction. It’s similar to hanging at the edge of a cliff and grasping it by one hand– would we really call that hiking?

That is the point where many ME/CFS patients are: hanging on with a half-steady grip, still breathing, still a beating heart inside, but stuck; Left with few options but, you know, to go on hanging there. It’s hard to have a social life or work a job or vacuum your living room when all of your mighty, tiny strength is being poured into hanging on to this cliff. It’s no wonder why so many people have it let go. There is just not enough hands at the top, not enough people offering help to pull you up, and no safety net at the bottom. And similarly, just as pulling a dangling body up off the edge of a cliff is a difficult but achievable task, a “problem” with more than one possible solution, curing the disease that has millions of people hanging by their own one or two threads is equally obtainable. It’s just to a larger degree. But it’s far from Impossible. And it would involve a few similar tactics: some people at the top, those say, for whom walking and standing is not a great feat, and who themselves are not also hanging off the edge of a cliff, combining their efforts and resources and intelligence and getting to work; finding a solution, in this case a cure.

Never having the experience of rescuing a person dangling off the side of a high-up something or other, I imagine that a rescue is within the realm of human capability. There are many ways to go about it, and maybe I’m being sort of dense here, but I’d venture it basically comes down to people lowering themselves to the ground, extending their arms to the dangling human, and with a great amount of strength pulling the person up until he’s back on his feet. And while maybe the tactic is basic, the act itself requires a solid effort. Lifting a person from this particular state is like trying to maneuver deadweight– Much easier to carry a body which is alive even if incapacitated, than one that’s dead and stiff. I’d like to emphasize that I’ve never hauled a dead body around but I’ve tended to my share of drunk friends who had 6 too many, and it would take 3 of us just to get the person, alive with a LOT to say about the world and true friendship, into a car. The very obvious point is, saving the person who’s still hanging there off the edge while I write this, is a very doable thing. And I know I’m comparing apples to oranges, or apples to bowling balls, but I believe with every part of me that this issue of solving or at least better managing this disease has never been on account of inability. This is something we can do, we’ve simply chosen not to based on some very obtuse, very lacking scattered pieces of information that cannot be labeled as facts.

Me, I can’t rescue the hangers on the ledge. Of course I can’t, I am one. But therein lies the kind of rescue I can provide. I can hang off the ledge next to you. Because there is something undeniably comforting in knowing that whatever struggle you find yourself facing, that you’re not in it alone, and that others are in the same boat. Or off the same ledge as it were. Like I mentioned, you can’t do a lot while devoting all your energy into grasping your spot on the mountain and not letting go. I can’t march in front of congress demanding to be seen, nor can I carry out the hundreds of other ideas I have that I think could make a difference, could help change the state of things in a positive and progressive way. But I can do a little. And thanks to modern times, maybe my little could turn into a lot. As I write this, I am laying down in a dim room in my moms bed. I have a frozen ice pack on my forehead and around my neck, with a hot pack at my feet under the covers to help draw away the blood from my head, which is throbbing like always. And yet I am still able to write, thank you very much Steve Jobs, on this rectangular dense brick otherwise known as my phone. It’s often hard to sit up comfortably with the computer in my lap and so being able to jot everything down from just a small device is kind of a miracle. Very often, while either FaceTiming with my niece or buying dog food from my phone that will be at my door tomorrow, I this is it-we’ve arrived at the future. And yet, I don’t even know how a calculator works.

The point is, healthy or functioning or bedridden or whatever, there are little things we can all do, in our own way, that can help change things. And yes I hear how corny that phrase played out. Recently I watched an interview with an author and Benedictine Nun named Sister Joan D. Chittister. She was really inspiring to watch. An author of over fifty books, she writes about about many topics including spirituality, women in the church, and social justice. She is clearly leaving an amazing footprint on the world through her written and continued community work and is firing up others to do the same. She said she is often asked by people “What can I do to help change things.. To fulfill humanity or to better the world?” Her answer is very stripped down. “Something.” And her brilliance was immediately illuminated in her acknowledgment that speaking up for a friend is as big as a March on Washington. “Just do something. Wherever you are with whatever you’ve got. When you see an injustice or see something that needs changing, do something. It doesn’t matter how small, just do something.” Of course this answer resonated with me. I often get discouraged about the state of things concerning the disease and the state of my life and all the change I wish I could make happen but physically I am unable to. But I forget that small changes, small acts can have huge impacts when carried out diligently. I have so many big ideas, big dreams that I hope to achieve one day. But I also have to remember that one day is now, and it’s probably better to focus on what I can do today, as I am and with the resources I have now. And I think putting in the work that might feel small, that isn’t NY Times worthy, doesn’t mean it lacks the chance to make a difference. There’s a feeling you get when you pour yourself into something you care about, that seems to carry out a mission from deep inside you, even if you don’t know what that is exactly. I get that feeling every time I sit (or lay) down to write. I may not know for a long time what the role of all this is or how it will play out in the larger context of things later on down the line. I just know it’s what I can do now. It’s my something, so I’ve got to keep at it.

It’s been a pretty sick and trying few weeks for me, and I feel often that accessible moment of how easy it would be to just throw in the towel, or to become hardened by the relentlessness of the experience, but I want to remind the other hangers on the edge out there to hold tight, because not only are there rare gifts to find within all this, things will change. They have already begun to. Today will become tomorrow. And one day soon enough, this will all be a memory of something that yes, didn’t kill us and made us stronger. Hang in there. Hang on. It is going to get better.

Health, Happiness, Cliffhangers 

Love Letter To My Valentine

My love,

I’m well aware of your rare but genuine lack of sentimentality, and me addressing you on Valentines Day, one of those Holidays that makes all the whites of your eyes show when you roll them, is at least a little funny to me. I didn’t buy you one of those trinkets we often laugh at together. A “Blessed” keychain or one of those wooden picture frames with the non sequitur adjectives sketched in, meant to communicate love I guess. Love. Family. Hope. Frying Pan. Coffee Beans! Maybe we’re too young to be such skeptics. Maybe it’s our hiding ego, projecting superiority that we don’t need kitschy picture frames to allude to what’s real and shared inside of us. I’m in the card aisle at the pharmacy looking at a criminally large sized teddy bear holding a heart. It says I wuv you on it. It’s similarly tacky, but I consider purchasing it just for the laughs I know we’d have due to the scale alone; I actually don’t think I could carry it on my own. Then we’d feed it to Monty and watch him go straight for the eyes, as always, and fill the room with the cotton candy innards of a fifty dollar bear. But I hear your words play out in my mind “Don’t ever waste a dime on crap like that for me.”

I could lament about the commercialization of Valentines Day, but I think it’s all been said before, and I already know you’d agree. In fact I’d bet the farm you wouldn’t even bat an eye were the whole thing eradicated. You might not even notice! You’re funny. It’s not that you’re distracted, unaware. I’d suggest it’s the near extreme dedication to living a life of unwavering, powerful love, that is a fireworks display of a spectacle to watch. But for a lucky few, myself included, it’s a humbling miracle to be the recipient of. It sounds so dramatic to say, but I stand by that belief. It’s not hard to do. There have been plenty of reasons for your heart to have closed shop by now. To crack and break and crumble; call the whole thing off. And yet I’ve witnessed it come to the edge and never truly break. Instead I watch it explode like our day lilies in the spring, I watch it grow, astonished, in times that might normally make a person very small. And still yours expands, stretches, finds strength somewhere far in the depths and suits up for another day, knowing well the many things at stake when we agree to live a life. When we agree to love deeply. I don’t know exactly how one attains the capacity to love like this. I can only speak to the immense gifts of wisdom and friendship and compassion it has provided so many lucky ones, and me, knowing too well that ‘thank you’ isn’t large enough a phrase. I think how redeeming and salvational some of its outcomes have been. We’ve all experienced the pang of loneliness, and these last few years have shown me with unbridled truth just how far off and away we can feel, whether in a crowded room or a self-made island. Illness lends itself to its own kind of solitude, that can swallow you up whole if you aren’t prudent. Never have you let me drift too far down the rabbit hole. Sometimes sitting in a room with you, watching The Voice or Scandal or something I have no particular interest in, I feel wrapped in a sanctuary at the center of cupped hands, protected by the thick walls of a steadfast love that I know can never die. For two stoics like us, I can’t help but think ours is a Fairy Tale love, without an ending. We both know there won’t be one. Maybe I’ll submit it to Disney.

I keep thinking of this moment. A grey morning in December not long ago, I was more sick than usual. My central nervous system inflamed to a point that I could hardly tolerate sound or speak. My skin was buzzing, my hearing hurt, my thoughts and words felt and emerged mangled, and I couldn’t exactly articulate what was wrong. I felt like a shaken up liter of coke, hardened and about to fizz out everywhere, but there was no outlet. No where for the ‘fizz’ to go. My nerves felt inside out. When you came in the room, I tried to express what was happening but had trouble; honestly I hardly understood it myself. You didn’t look away, or demand answers or try to immediately “fix” the enigmatic pain I was in. You only said a couple words to me as you sat down on the couch and cupped your hand on the back of my head. “It’s going to be OK Mary,” and your voice cracked when you said it. My body felt as if it collapsed inside, calmed with this soundbite of peace, and the pressure slowly eased from that liter coke bottle. Tears came streaming down my face. I wasn’t that sad, truthfully. Certainly, all of this has been a trying time, for all of us, but there was a lot happening at once, my mind and body both being pulled and torn in different directions, and your very simple words allowed me the outlet. Permission. It’s pretty common for the tears to come when I feel so overwhelmed, overtaken physically. But it wasn’t your words exactly that moved me and conveyed your love with such depth. It was that your voice trembled when you said them. Just barely, and you’re not a crier, I know. I believed you, too, that it would be OK, but in that moment, you saw me. Accepting there was no quick answer here, no advice or platitude that could lift my heavy burden, you did the bravest and most beautiful thing a love can do: You sat down next to me, you put my hand in yours, and you shared what would normally just be my burden, my pain. You didn’t take the pain on, but you faced it with me. If only the world knew they didn’t need perfect words or answers to comfort and relieve us when we’re in the thick of pain. If only they knew that Love listens far more than it talks. A shoulder can mean more than a mouth. Love shares, it communes and confides. In joy and in pain. This is love. Our love. You helped carry the parts that I could not, and turned on its head what felt like momentary hell into saving grace. Just the memory of it strengthens me now.

This made me think of Nepo’s definition of Love. One I come to again and again, the most eloquent I’ve ever heard, and I often find myself reciting the words in my head: talking with friends, watching birds, kissing Monty. Somehow through your small action made with great braveness, your love materialized in a way I could not only feel inside with warm intensity, but could touch and see it, feel it in your hands. His definition for love is only this: Sudden Oneness. How perfect these two words capture what We shared that mangey morning. I warred with my same broken body, but I was also slipping into the outskirts of doubt and hopelessness; a place you know but helped lead me out of. His words so perfectly explain why when you love someone deeply and true, that when they cry you cry. When they’re happy you’re happy. Their joy is yours and vice versa. This is the beauty and brilliance of the oneness from love: lightening burdens and multiplying grateness. My tears continued but something about your unconditional nature made them begin to carry new truth in their waters. Hope, I think. Surrender. Reassurance.  But it was this small gesture that mattered most; allowing me as the mess I was, seeing and hearing me and not turning away or trying to quell it with empty phrases. I know how hard it must have been for you– the only other soul in that dark room, while mine laid strewn on the floor like a discarded garment. It’s not that you saved me, necessarily, but you saw me through the darkness. You stayed. So many fear that stillness of pain, enduring the murkiness of life when there aren’t easy answers to offer someone. You helped see me through it, bring my tired heart back into the light, ready to try once again. But first you let me die a little. Shed a skin I didn’t need anymore. Another testament to what brave love can do. Little deaths prevent big deaths. That was Nepo too.

It’s interesting, but when I recall this whole ‘event’ now, we seem to be alive inside a pocket of timelessness. There we are, the two of us, enduring what we did, frozen in an exchange that felt unearthly, and I can’t for the life of me feel or remember the passing of time. The moment is still alive. The lessons are wide awake, and they pour through so much of me: My fingers when I write. My soul when I’m discouraged. My intellect when my respect for the novelty of life drifts– I think of you and our moment and I know that there is meaning behind the pain, but it requires seeking. And luckily we don’t always have to do this alone. The Oneness that enveloped me, I think in fact may have been my first real glimpse of Forever. Or Eternity. Whatever the word for that otherwise incomprehensible concept is, for a fleeting moment I caught it, like a fast grab of a buzzing fly, followed by thick silence. In this excessively brief lapse in spacetime, I glimpsed the two of us–we were not just not apart, we were the same. We were one another. And the comfort was greater than a reunion you’d imagine would bring great joy. It comforted me. Humbled me. A powerful experience no doubt, but mostly mom I’m just plain grateful to know and learn from you this way. You’ve mastered a difficult and necessary art, and expressed and given it the way that you do, it’s something that will last far after you. And me. And my children too. Perhaps like Einsteins theory come to life one hundred years after the fact, that little ‘blip’ on a device recording an explosion a million years old, your love ripples will be felt long after you’ve gone. This is the miracle of true love. It’s so huge and yet it can be easy to miss. Like looking for mustard in the fridge tirelessly and finally coming upon it on the middle shelf in plain view, right in front of your eyes.

For me, this is incredible news! I half-knew already this was true. Losing and still knowing dad, our love somehow still growing, I knew it had to be real and not just the stuff of voodoo or fairytales. So I rest more assured now. One day you’ll die, and if life is good to us, it will be before me. But I don’t fear this occasion the way I once did. I know it will hard. The pain will be deep, as loss is not a one-way street. You lose more than a person, you miss a piece of who you were with that person. But like my clearly favorite Nepo says, Grief is a sign we loved them well. It’s in living this life, that when we give and receive love in its pure form like this, unconditionally, that it sustains and lives on. It works miracles! And it removes the sting and surprise of death, a thing we treat with pretty odd behavior in my opinion. But anyway, I can’t lie. I’ll be a mess. A sobbing heap on the floor. A shaken up bottle of coke. And where will I go? How will I recover? As I was taught of course–I’ll remember that moment of your bravery, to see your kid in pain once again and have to surrender; to be at peace with the mystery of these things. Just as you saw me through that, I learned that these moments actually do pass. That life does go on, the pain isn’t forever, and we wipe up our mess and keep going. I learned that because you lived through it with me, not because you sent a card with a bow that said “This too shall pass! Call if you need anything!” You are living love, in a beautiful form, and you are doing incredible work in the world because of it.

Perhaps by now it’s become apparent that I’m single. (Haha) But I can’t think of a more deserving Valentine, a bigger barer of gifts who never seeks out recognition or accolade for loving this well. You seem to perform the duties of love effortlessly, and I’m not only grateful to have you around and receive them, but I’m happy and feel lucky to learn what love is through you, how to give it and accept it from such a master as yourself. You’ve been through enough pain for 10 lifetimes, but I’ve never see you throw in the towel or give way to bitterness. Sure, you’re still a human being and a mother and you’ve made your mistakes. We all have. But you’ve never faltered on love and it seems to grow larger and more powerful in happy and hard times. Perhaps this is what the pain of experience does for us. I don’t know. I’m still learning. But watching your resilience and continued faith in life, in things bigger than you and me, in good things, in eternity, I know I’ll never stop seeking the answers. I’ll never stop trying to find the good, the value, the meaning in every kind of experience. Including the dark ones. Perhaps especially those. Thank you. For all you’ve done and continue to do. I don’t know how you’ve not collapsed yet of exhaustion, but maybe all that loving you do is an energizing force. It certainly is for me. Thank you. Keep going.

Oh yeah, Be Mine?

I love you.

Health, Happiness, Modern Romance

7caojdadi

P.S. I extend this letter to Marc, Doug, Nick, Amelie and their significant others for pitching in in all kinds of ways, helping carry me through the crap times, and loving me so well. You are all my angels. Thank you.

Adjusting the Perspective on Pain

What is it about Winter?

Post-Holiday Winter, I should specify. It’s wearing on me. Draining and uneventful, this window of time moves so slowly it all starts to feel static. The date keeps changing but there’s nothing I can point to as proof of time passing. When I think back on it, this “leftover winter” has gotten me down in the past, too. It reminds me of the day after a night of drinking in college–hungover days where things on the outside are idle but there’s some invisible pressure that I ought to be doing something, anything, other than what I’m doing right now. But what that thing is I can never name. It may not even exist. I hold the colorless weather outside at least partially accountable. Winter is haphazard in New Orleans. Nothing sticks long enough to adapt a routine or wardrobe to. It goes from freezing and wet one day to weirdly humid and warm the next, but something about the sky, the whole atmosphere out there–it’s this oatmeal-hued environment that either mimics my insides or my insides start to mimic, and for whatever reason the affect is restless and un-motivating. It feels like weather that’s waiting on something and the ansi-ness rubs off on me. Then I find myself in this counterintuitive disposition of mostly-optimistic anticipation that something of note is going to happen in my life, mixed with that physically paralyzing effect that comes with a heart-ache depression. It’s like I’m sitting in a car all packed and ready to embark on some adventure with road-trip snacks (Gardettos) and a map, but there isn’t any gas in the car. So I just sit in the driveway, snacking on Gardettos.

One of the more confusing results of all this is that I can’t tell what direction I’m moving in. I realize that life and time pass in one way only, but somehow I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. Things are feeling stagnant mostly. And on really tough days they feel backward, a distorted Ground Hogs Day reality where I’m living one day over and over but I’m doing it worse than the day before. I notice during times like these, Oatmeal Winter and Illness at the Helm, one day can easily feel exactly like the one before it, and when I think too long on it, I can’t totally distinguish between the two. Or three or four. Of course it’s pretty easy for me to point my finger at the weather while this other important truth remains that I’m really sick right now–that I’ve been really sick since that crash the day after Thanksgiving and I haven’t really been able to recover. I guess sunny or not, this will get anyone down, even the most seasoned of sick people.

Being sick for months at a time poses an interesting creative challenge. Since you can’t often achieve a change in scenery, which is a widely agreed-upon method to upping ones mood, you have to find ways to see yourself and the world around you in different ways and with new eyes. This is really hard to do. Especially since there’s been such a distinct and relentless sameness to everything given the weather and my health and yada yada. It probably explains why I chopped eight inches off my hair, which helped, actually. But consciously I realize that becoming bored by your surroundings and state of being stems from a lack of proper perspective, and not a failure on the part of the universe to remain exciting. Everything around us is constantly changing, if even at a rate that is undetectable by our human eyes, and every day we wake up and live through is completely unique, never once experienced until now and impossible to ever be duplicated again. When I think about the fact that you never get to live the same day twice, it’s actually a comforting thought. Usually when I feel that I’m in some time warp with my struggles or misery or boredom on repeat, it’s because my vision has narrowed far too much and I’ve lost the horizon from my line of sight. Marc Nepo says “It’s the giving over to smallness that opens us to misery,” and I think that applies here. He says later “Misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything.” What a truth bomb. I think I read that line five more times after I underlined it twice. I know that when my focus zooms in purely on what is hard, the scope of my experience is cut in half, at least. This is why gratitude as I’ve come to understand and cultivate it is so immensely powerful. It wisely keeps and protects the good things in your life within your consciousness, within your line of sight. And it’s so incredibly true that the times when I am most unhappy, I’ve become lazy about remembering what I have, which is a lot. It’s not to say you can’t be conscious about the hard things or honest that they’re challenging or depressing. If you don’t express acknowledge these truths, the gratitude doesn’t have a chance to be authentic either. You have to be honest about both. But that’s the key, acknowledging one without forgetting the other. Grasping them both helps keep a broader and more accurate picture of your life within view.

Maybe this is a bit of what Nepo means when he talks about being a Spiritual Warrior–which sounds fancy but is definitively humble.

“All Spiritual Warriors have a broken heart–alas must have a broken heart–because it is only through the break that the wonder and mysteries of life can enter us. What does it mean to be a spiritual warrior? It is far from being a soldier, but more the sincerity with which a soul faces itself in a daily way. It is this courage to be authentic that keeps us strong enough to withstand the heartbreak through which enlightenment can occur.”

This was both comforting and angering to me. Angering because I think, why can’t the enlightenment come through cracks that aren’t caused by heartbreak and struggle? But this is a larger philosophical point. I think a more evolved species will be capable of this in the future–achieving higher consciousness and peace and gratitude without having to endure loss or pain or heartache to see it. But at this point within human evolution, our condition is still adapting. We haven’t caught on to the larger things yet as a whole. Think how bad we’re still blowing it. As removed as I feel from some of the real evils of the world and humanity, I don’t have to look very hard or long to see humankind missing the mark, in big and small ways, all around me, and that includes me and the seemingly petty ways I do this in my own life. Just because I can point my finger at ISIS and project all the evil onto them doesn’t make me superiorly more virtuous. What we see around the world are manifestations of evil that exist, if even dormant, within all of us. But I’ve wandered off-road again.

What’s comforting in Nepo’s words is knowing that our work ultimately is to become who we are at our center. And it’s funny how simple this task appears but how insanely hard and rare real authenticity is–being honest about our weaknesses, our beliefs, our limits, our expectations…It’s not as easy as I’d hope. And yet any time I face a truth about myself that for a long time I either hid or denied, I always feel stronger after having confronted it or shared it with someone I love. Even admitting the extent to which I was/am sick and the limits it places on my life is a challenge, even though totally obvious to an outsider.  And I think this is why authenticity is such an important ingredient he includes in being a warrior–I don’t think it means knowing exactly who you are at all times, if anything this search feels like long–maybe it’s more the reverse: slowing peeling away who we aren’t until we become condensed, perfect little vessels of our true self. I think he’s also alluding to the idea that you can’t be conscious and inauthentic at the same time, and since ultimately we’re seeking whole consciousness, it requires in small ways along the path to acknowledge and cultivate the true self, while diminishing the layers that are not real.

The reason it angers me is because this formula is what I confront when reading all the spiritual masters and mystics and artists for thousands of years, and so it’s a clear truth that has persisted through the centuries–that it’s through hardship and pain that human beings seem to achieve deeper consciousness. Or at least, it is through this pain or suffering that we have the opportunity to grow and evolve consciously. It’s very easy to use pain as a reason to stop trying, and I’ve certainly done that a good number of times. But the most amazing people, those who seem to get it, those who appear to be made of peace on the inside and who exude joy outwardly and live their lives with creativity and virtue and light-heartedness, are not people who were given easy lives and thus are happy. They have all endured exceptional pain in their own ways, and have all found a way to use their most challenging of experiences to propel them forward, up, larger than their circumstances. The pain is still real inside of them, accessible and observable even to those on the outside–its not that they eradicated it, but somehow turned it into the material that would make their life good, whole. (See an amazing example of that here)  They didn’t eliminate it, but they also didn’t use so much of it that their life was made up purely of struggle. This is another exploitation that’s easy to pursue with ones pain– using it as a platform for identity. The point, obviously, is not to become the pain, if we’re trying to transcend it. Wallowing in our own web of misery is an easy way to garner an audience but also to never evolve. To avoid consciousness. What I was trying to say when I began this thought of why this truth angered me, is that I wish human consciousness could evolve in easier ways than through pain. Of course, there are many other teachers that develop our soul and psyche, love namely, that aren’t as challenging as say something like, an invisible disease that pulls the rug out from under you. Everyday. :) But the truth is, the things which have taught me the most, shown me the gamut of human emotion and contributed to further compassion, kindness, capacity to love and ultimately consciousness on my end, have been these very deeply painful and trying experiences. And so I know that it’s true. And I know it’s vitally important what you choose to do with your pain or heartache, because not working to put it toward growth, gives it the power to swallow you up whole. It takes away from you, gives you a reason to be bad, to stop trying, to give up on the world. And that’s the truth– I say it because I’ve felt these things in the past in reaction to the tough experiences in my life, not always directly after they happened either. I still struggle with it. And it haunts me how easy it is to let those experiences take the wheel and drive me to unhappy places. Luckily we’re not powerless to pain. We have choices to make.

In a different way, using the pain to define your self, or wallowing around in it but never moving on from it is another struggle that I have to stay keenly aware of. I have a whole blog that is named after a damn disease that I am also trying hard to not let define me. It’s a huge part of my life and my story, but I have to keep it from growing so large that it takes up my whole view. I don’t want illness to be my only avenue for expression or creativity, and I definitely don’t want the art and work that I do pursue in the name of it to be all sad or negative or heartbreaking. Of course this isn’t always easy to do either, because writing about your health good, bad, or ugly, is naturally going to include parts that are bad and/or ugly. There is a lot of that in a life with illness. And my point when I began this project so long ago was to accurately portray what life with chronic illness actually looked like, since I’d confronted so many misunderstandings and false beliefs about it from people in my own life. Obviously some writing stems from hard days and dark feelings, and if you’re going to tell the truth, tell the truth. The point was to have a space where I could be honest and not polite for the sake of peoples small-talk comfort. BUT, the point I have to keep in mind is that illness is just one part of my life, and while it can feel like it defines so much of what I do, it is still just a part, but requires me to keep it right-sized. It’s only when my perspective zeros in on it do I lose the whole horizon, which are the amazing people in my life that I love so much and who love me back, the incredible house I live in, how happy my dog makes me every time I look at him, how lucky I am that I was given the gift of writing and this is one thing the illness hasn’t taken from at all. In fact, it’s what gave me a voice on this very medium. Hey look at that, the clouds are parting.

Winters are tough. They seem to be that way for a lot of people, North or South, sick or well. It’s easy to look around and see the same thing everywhere you look, because details are small and we’re usually too busy or too certain to stop and look twice or three times at things before we see the wonder in them. I know that during times like these, my life becomes very small because when you’re sick and weak like this, you’re constantly breaking everything down into smaller pieces so you can digest and complete them. You know how during hard times people will say “Just one day at a time”? Well during days like this, it’s really more down to a moment by moment basis. Mostly because each tiny little movement requires so much more from you than normal. It astonishes me how hard the simplest of tasks become when your body feels like it’s made of lead glued together with honey. It’s not just Wake up and make the coffee! It’s OK, sit up in bed. Ready? 1, 2, 3, sit up. Why didn’t you sit up? Try again 1, 2, 3. Come on, you can do it, just a little more, OK! You did it! We’re sitting up. Now, turn to the side to put your feet on the floor and stand up slowly. Feet on the floor, ready? Here we go. OK, feet are on the floor. Time to stand up. Heeeeere we go, and we’re dizzy we’re sitting back down again. OK, catch your breath. Breathe slowly. Calm down heart, all we’re doing is standing here. OK, try again on 3, rise slowly this time. Ready? 1, 2, 3 and we’re going to stand up. 1, 2, 3, we’re standing! Now, 12 steps to the kitchen, you got this, 1…2…3…

6.jpg

The kitchen is super close to the living room and my couch, and so sometimes I have to make a stop-off there first, which is perfectly portrayed in this cartoon by another blogger with CFS. 

Anyway, notice the minuteness of each of those moves? I’m not exaggerating. This is simply what Bone Crushing Weakness does. Tasks this small shouldn’t require being talked through like you’re in a danged boxing match. But what can I say, it must be evolving some part of me so I can be the best of the best Spiritual Warriors ! Or just a normal 31 year old who gets out of bed. Either way. I think it’s this breaking down of things so they are doable is also what makes life feel so un-doable sometimes, because it all feels too big, too much, too long. Like I’ll never be able to get on top of things. But I know it’s because my vision is off and I have to be proactive about seeing my life and even these sometimes painstakingly long days against the larger backdrop of the world, of eternity, of the whole web of human existence. I find relief in seeing my life as a small spec within the largeness of our universe. I didn’t always feel that way, but now I know it means that enduring challenges come to an end. It means I am just one of many kajillion working parts and lives. It means that while not everything is up to me, the essential parts are, and I’m here because I’m capable of achieving them. I have to remember that as much as I can convince myself and be successful about it, I am not alone. That thought isn’t real. And my life is not impossible. And all of this, including colorless winter skies and lacking motivation and bone crushing weakness, will end. And I’ll look back on it one day, as the pain that moved me forward and opened the door for great things to happen, not as a shit show that ruined what could have been a good life.

Health, Happiness, Perspective

P.S. If you want to see one incredible example of taking tragedy and hardship and turning it into Greatness, watch Mayou Angelou share her life story on Master Class. It’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen, ever. http://cms.springboardplatform.com/previews/3405/video/937187/sfta001/

This Is Still a Life

Oh hi world, I didn’t see you there. I haven’t seen you in weeks in fact! I’ve been in involuntary hibernation since Thanksgiving. Pardon me, I was knocked out.

This crash has been intense and I’ve been writing my way through like always, trying to understand it better. But this time I tried much harder to accept and approach it without the need to fix or change it. Without “fighting back.” I want to be clear that I’m not writing to answer the question of Why me? I’m not in that stage anymore. So I’ve tried to create a surrendered space to talk about it, where it’s regarded as part of the plan, where there’s no sense of unfairness or despair about it. It’s simply a fleeting, physical state that I’m meant to endure and examine closely among probably many other physical states I might encounter in my lifetime. I’ve tried to adjust my whole response to it, which has been more of a lack of response, or reaction, and more objective observation. Life between stimulus and response. Being sick and being OK with it, not attaching the personal, the story, the woe-is-me. I applied this approach to both my writing and my perception of the illness in real time, which has been interesting and challenging and often extremely helpful.

But I’ve sort of been a tortured artist with the writing–I keep editing and condensing and re-writing. I feel the angst that it’s never quite right, that there’s a concept just on the edge of being conveyed, like a mathematical equation I’m on the verge of solving. So I’ve once again ended up with 7000 words scattered across 3 notebooks, my iPhone, my computer, and one business card. Most of it has been exploring the same topic at different depths, and while some of it is good, I realized it’s just not meant for this space right now. Not to mention, my brain feels inside out lately–I’m a little fuzzy cognitively and I can’t gauge it. I’m either buzzing or stunted. But I’ve continued trying to make my words achieve what I feel inside and what I want to convey, staying very conscious about my intentions,  which are that I don’t just want to write about being sick and my experiences simply because they’re true and they happened. I don’t want to start and stop at pain. I’m well aware of the danger in that. So I’ve been tinkering with these concepts, some of them seemingly contradictory: diving in deep into the experience where I can feel it completely, while also regarding it from a distance where I can see it inside of a larger context–which keeps the illness right-sized. I can recognize it as a part, and not a whole. I’ve gotten pretty close to finishing it, I think. But it’s been arduous and probably redundant and my mind is still spinning, even as I write this now.

Anyway,  I’m going to start from scratch today and try to relax about the outcome. A good friend said not to worry about lengthiness, just to keep writing and trust that if people don’t want to read it, they won’t. That’s so true, duh. Thank you friend, I’m just going to write some broad things out, and whether good or bad, hopefully open up some space in mind for some fun topics, like my exploration of Hallmark and Lifetime Made-For-TV Holiday movies, and also a note about my 12-foot real Christmas tree that refuses to drink water. But it lives on!! Tiny miracles.

My health was already on pretty shaky ground leading up to the Holiday. Thanksgiving  Day was great, ate good food and had some fun reunions with old friends, but it was long and cumbersome. I could feel myself subtly hitting physical limits along the way, but I pushed on anyway. (I include the socializing that happens as part of the exertional strain, even though it’s enjoyable, it always costs me something physically the next day.) It was a Holiday after all, and I could sleep it off tomorrow, I thought. Unfortunately, I was flattened–handed over fully to the illness overnight while I slept. I woke up to the dreary and unfamiliar light of 3:30 pm pouring into my room on Friday. It disoriented me further as I felt an overwhelming weakness blanketing every part of my body, down to my fingertips. I laid there an hour before making a move, and once I did I felt keenly the severity of my condition. Moving was not easy and wouldn’t be for a while. I knew this wouldn’t be something that I could sleep off in a day or two. Shit.

Since then, I’ve been on a roller coaster of physical states, mostly at the mercy of this crash, and life here at the farm has been chaos. For a few weeks I’ve been enduring a symptom I find the hardest to cope with–bone crushing weakness. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, this one challenges me way more than the others. It leaves me the most powerless. There’s nothing to do for this symptom. When it has you, it has you. Its’ demands come in this perverted form of requiring that you do nothing–which is basically the reverse of our instinct in response to a ‘problem.’ It requires that you lay still, it means you’ll need a lot of extra help for things you’d normally do yourself and never think twice about. It means playing the waiting game and not knowing how long you’ll play it, without allowing impatience or succumbing to anger or despair while living through the thick of it. (Those reactions only makes me weaker.) There aren’t pills for weakness like this, not exercise regimens or quick fix solutions. There’s a lot of being stationary, quiet, often remaining in one place or one room for a solid chunk of time. Sometimes it’s a messy room, and you have to let that go. You have to let the dishes go. Truthfully, the whole thing is a crap ton of letting go. You have to achieve cleanliness mentally, because there ain’t no way you can vacuum right now. It means putting off the long list of things you’d thought you’d do, and finding ways to achieve a surrendered state of mind despite the external world around you appearing to unravel at nearly every seam. It touches everything, seeps into every corner, means nearly anything that isn’t necessary in the moment must be put on hold or go in the ‘burn pile’. You have to find a way to remember that despite all the can’ts and don’ts and no’s, somehow you still have everything you need in the moment you think to ask.

The only times I get overwhelmed is when I try to conceive everything at once, or I think of the future, as proximal as the one five minutes away. And the root of this is fear mostly, fear of ways the illness will hinder the things I have to do. Yet the future always comes and I always survive it, the essential is always achieved one way or the other. The non-essentials fade and soon you hardly notice they’re gone. When I stay extremely mindful of right now, tending to exactly and only the task right in front of me, I truly feel fine. I feel positive and at ease instead of buried, powerless. I think, all I have to do is drink this glass of water. I don’t even have to consider what will come after. It will come and go despite my concern. That’s where my navigation of this crash has felt like a small miracle. Maybe for the first time, my spirit has succeeded and carried me through the really difficult times. I’ve often been able to observe what’s happening to me at a distance, without becoming crushed by what I see. Or angry at how I feel. I feel really crappy, really weak, and so I find a good reason to be really weak today. They exist! They just require an adjusted perspective. In this way I’ve had the crash more than it has had me, and that has made a huge difference.

To whom or what do I owe this miraculous capability? Well for one thing, my mom. I should mention it’s not just my spirit that’s carried me, because it’s my mom who has physically carried me. She has tended to my needs when I’ve been incapable. Not to mention that she has a prayer chain halfway around the world dedicated my wellbeing. Just knowing so many people have dedicated even a moment toward healing intentions and thoughts for me is both humbling and energizing. It makes me feel hopeful, and that hope gives way to optimism, grace, surrender..they’re all there, and this situation constantly brings to light the choice I have in how I’m going to receive my circumstances. Whether or not I will accept and recognize all the treasures that lie beneath the hard stuff on the surface.

I believe there are always incredible gifts waiting at the heart of our struggles–and this time I was able to find them at clutch times. They don’t come from me, but somewhere else more eternal. I suppose the gifts materialize when we open ourselves enough to receive them– to the vulnerability that comes with accepting help in the first place. Our silly human egos could easily interpret the reality as I’m not enough. I should be able to do this alone. Blah blah blah. But to simply acknowledge the truth that yeah, I could really use some help right now if I’m able to emerge through this in one piece, the disappointment of need or felt inadequacy melts and grows into a ginormous humbling gratitude in acknowledging that I have help at all. What a reassuring reminder to know that I don’t have to do this alone. So why would I? I have help! It’s sortof like staying in a miserable marriage for 20 years all so you can say with pride that you’ve been married for 20 years. It may momentarily impress people, but you’re the one who has to share a life and go to bed every night with a person you may not even love or like! Sometimes we go after things because we like the sound of them, or the image they create. But the real meat of life is on the inside, in the everydayness of how we live. Not a 20 year anniversary, but how you love and treat someone through the mundane parts of life together. Talking about dentist appointments or discussing an article in the newspaper–how did you speak to one another? Not that you beat or survived illness, but how you treated it day to day and through the challenging times, how you treated those around you, and what you made out of your experience. Make it count? Or just get through it so it you could quickly forget and attach to something else. I don’t know. I’m rambling again.

The realization of some of these things  makes me smile and cry at the same time. I am so encouraged and fulfilled by all the love and help I’ve received, and it’s come in so many different forms, all of them special. I’ve had incredibly healing and inspiring conversations with people I’m very close to, and each one of those talks builds me up higher than before. What a hushed relief surrender is–and a gateway emotion at that. It opens the door to a surge of mindfulness that illuminates grace, friendship, love, thankfulness, all the good in my life that I’m blinded to when I’m distracted fighting something I most likely can’t control.

It’s difficult to articulate, but sometimes I zoom out from my life, like a camera zooming out into space with earth at the center, becoming smaller and smaller. When I do, lately I see a small figurine of myself living inside the palm of two big porcelain hands cupped together, like that of a statue. I see that I’m being held, and in the image, I feel watched over and protected, both from a far off place and a space deep inside. What an amazing treasure it is, to reach out your hands in a time of real need, and to have someone/something grasp them on the other end. For the most part, it’s my moms hands which have reached back. It’s she who provides. Her help, love, and attentiveness is immeasurable. As equally as my spirit, she has done the labor of care that being sick this way requires. And it’s not an easy job, though she’d never let you know that.

No doubt this has been painful and overwhelming for her. She has said that seeing her child in pain is far worse than having it herself. I’m very aware of this, and it’s even more reason that I feel the need to voice out loud what has been burning true through all of this– That it’s all OK. I am OK. I’ve felt strangely at peace through the tough stuff, and I know it’s on account of her and other loved ones in my life who’ve given so much of themselves just to try and lighten the burden. I am continuously strengthened by these acts. I want to assure her, because I feel it in my weak little bones, that this is all leading up to somewhere great. I’m certain that I am just where I am supposed to be. I don’t feel like any of this is random or cruel, but that it’s the work I am meant to do right now, and I accept it with fullness and eagerness. I know there is greater reason and payoff that we can’t see yet. But knowing it’s there waiting helps to greet all these “stresses” with an assured openness. Getting there requires work, but it’s work that I’m capable of; important work that doesn’t require a physically fit body in order to happen. It will be beyond worthwhile, if we can only get through this moment. Then the next one and the next one.

And the good news is we can! I can, I have. And I will continue to. Her enormous and powerful love has helped put my inner self on a plain where I am capable of moving forward and growing from this. For that I owe her…well, everything. But I know the only payment she would want is the certainty that I’m not only OK, but that I’m happy and that I haven’t forgotten the novelty of what it is to be alive. And if you’re reading mom, I haven’t. I experienced  incredible moments, inspirtations, and laughter, often alone with Monty in my messy living room! This is it right now, and I’ve found immense joy in it anyway. Like you said, This is a life, too.

I know this doesn’t solve the many problems we have right now. There are so many other things that haven’t gotten the attention they need, important tasks that had to go un-done, financial burdens that we have to figure out. And most of this is on account of this all-encompassing illness that touches everyone around me, especially her. But I do feel that soon things will change for the better, that we’ll get help where we need it, we’ll complete everything that’s gone undone. I know one day we will smile with relief at the memory of trying, chaotic times like these, where everything was falling apart. And yet I know these are what will become the foundation for some amazing things to come. When they do, incredible things are going to start happening. I can feel it!

For now though, a breath. A glass of water. Rest. Feed the dog. Rest. Send a text. Pills. A breath. Rest. Small tiny moments. One foot in front of the other. I feel really weak today and I can’t do a lot physically, so I’m going to find a good reason to be weak today. Writing, reading, listening compassionately to someone. Photographing my dog because I love him so much I smile just watching him sleep. So many amazing things require so little of us physically. Navigating each moment with quiet consciousness, I know not that everything will be OK, but that it is OK now. And I revel at the momentary freedom in that. I’m grateful just to glimpse such a powerful truth. Today is heavy and rainy outside, there are dishes in my sink and I’m too weak to do them. But I’m listening to Christmas music, I’m admiring my ridiculously huge Christmas tree and the soft nostalgic light it casts on my living room. And I’m reassuring Monty who is staying unnaturally close to me (following me into the bathroom and squeezing between the toilet and the wall) because it’s thundering outside and for him this equals imminent threat of death. This is my life today, and many days, and I’m living anyway! I’m enjoying it. I like the rain. I like quiet days. I also like singing obnoxiously loud to Mariah Carry Christmas songs. Monty and I, we’re fine over here. A sick life, but still a life. Regardless of physical outcomes, All will be well. But even better, all is well now.

Thank you, all of you, who have kept my spirit so alive! What all of you have contributed in your own small ways matter immensely to me. I feel extremely connected to the world and am humbled by the love I’ve received. I’m excited for the ways I plan to pay it forward. 

Health, Happiness, and This Life, Too.

 

Living Masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Masters

The Plague.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Indecisive Girl” by Carli Ihde

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Plagues.

Artwork: Indecisive Girl from Carli Ihde

I Wanna Get Better

This strange thing keeps happening. This clear salty liquid keeps filling up in my eyes and overflowing down my face. I’ll feel a little overwhelmed and then a sense of loss, like I’m mourning someone. The liquid is an endless spring. I imagine I’ll run out, but I don’t. I have to drink more just to supplement all that salt I’m losing! It’s pretty annoying. I’d like it to stop.

The truth is I become a fragile emotional feather when I’m sick without relief. Gradually, after day and night and day of unrelenting sickness, it just gets to you. It starts to feel like dying more than living. I know that’s a heavy statement, and I use the verb feel very specifically. I am very much alive. Although it does beg the question. At what point do we say someone is “dying?” When their suffering outweighs their relief? That’s another question another day. I am for whatever reason, very alive, although I feel very dead. But dead people don’t cry so I think I can rule that out.

The real reason it’s been so hard recently is that being sick is absolutely and utterly exhausting. It’s overwhelming. And you know what I fantasize about? Being one of the people in my life right now that gets to offer help and suggest improvements and do random kind things. I dream of just being an average person in the functioning world. If you are that person, in anyones life, treasure it. It’s truly a privilege to be able to give to others. I might not have understood that had I never gotten sick. I want to give instead of take take take all the time. I’m tired of relying on help from others and constantly showing gratitude or kissing ass because I’m often helpless, unreliable, or burdensome. I’m tired of being high maintenance. I’m tired of all the pills I take, that work about half the time. Sometimes my stomach turns at the thought of them. I’m tired of being a bad friend in terms of what I am able to offer. I’m tired of what I am made to consider my “social life.” I’m tired of calling in sick to doctor appointments. Of seeing one or two hours of sunlight on bad days. I’m tired of my nightmares and high anxiety dreams every night. You’d think such a weighed down life would find respite in the dreamworld, but nope!! I’m tired of being 29 and relying on my parents as much as I do. Tired of feeling like I have things to offer the world but am too sick and small to carry them out. I couldn’t even hold a part-time job right now. And I’d actually love to. I’m tired of the answer being that there is no answer–there is no cure. I’m tired of being tired. And I know that those I rely on get tired of it too. The effects of all this go beyond me.

I don’t believe in whining and complaining and lamenting about life. Going on that way doesn’t really move us forward. But at the same time, there is pain here, underneath the pain, and if I don’t let it out I fear it will grow and take over my already sick insides. So I have to release it. I thought maybe if I write about it, these episodes of fluid filling up my eyes and clouding my vision and streaming down my face will cease. In other words, I want to stop crying at dog food commercials.

I am someone who loves solitude, thrives off of it even. But lately it feels more like loneliness, which is the third cousin twice removed from solitude. It’s a bad feeling. The difference between the two is that one is chosen and the other feels like the forced, only option. It’s hard to swallow when you’re constantly canceling on plans. And what you’re doing instead of being with friends, is being sick and alone at home. That’s not a fun thing to go through all the time. It wears on you.

I also laugh and cry at myself because I still want to see new places and try new things, meet new people and kiss cute boys. It’s like my heart doesn’t know I’m sick. It never gives up on the idea of new adventures. And then I wonder who would want to date me that has read this blog? I sort of leave my bleeding heart in the words here, and it’s a lot. It probably looks heavy. It can be, like anyones life. I feel vulnerable sometimes knowing that people have read such personal things about me without actually knowing me at all, but it’s part of the project. I told myself I’d always be honest, including when it got ugly. And I feel like it’d be dishonorable to discontinue that just for the sake of vanity. Still though, I worry and wonder if I’m cutting myself off from potential personal relationships by laying it all out there for the world to chew up. I worry where my life will go and how in Gods name I will move forward from here when some days I can’t leave the bed. But our boy Tolle is right: all we have is the present moment. All anyone can do is here and now. And if the present moment has me weak and in bed, (like it does right now) I can’t judge it or myself. This is where I am. I am doing what I’m capable of. Some days are going to look like this:

Not tired of this yet.
Not tired of this part.

I see where I’ve gone wrong. I’ve been judging the circumstances of my life which are beyond my control. I’ve been equating my broken body with who I am and my past as the teller of what my whole life will look like. Neither are true. But my circular thoughts would say otherwise, and sometimes we have to observe ourselves beyond our thoughts and feelings–as they are often flat-out wrong. At the same time, this life is just painful and hard sometimes, and I guess it’s OK to type that out loud. Just like I will type out loud when things change and life is better. Everything is temporary.

I also know that goals never hurt anybody. And I plan to make some more specific ones and at least feel  like I am playing a part in my health and happiness. There are small things that I can do and/or avoid that can help. Well, that’s what my mom says, and she is usually right. She’s also planning to give up TV for Lent which sounds great to me. I have a few projects in mind in lieu of the crap we would’ve been watching. Creativity never hurt either. In fact, it’s often where we find relief we didn’t even know we needed.

Also, listen to this song. It’s called I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers and I know the title is almost annoyingly appropriate but it’s a really fun and happy jam. And you can’t have enough of those.

Health and Happiness and Sickness and Sadness :)

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.

Fame or Peace

I’ve read this excerpt of Marc Nepo’s book at least a couple of times. I know this because I’ve underlined some things in blue and starred others in black–And even this morning while reading it for what is evidently the third time, I still felt inclined to mark parts of it. So I thought I’d share the whole excerpt here, because it really speaks to me, and I think it will to you too. Here it is. Have a beautiful day.

Rather the flying bird, leaving no trace,

than the going beast, marking the earth

-Fernando Pessoa

Much of our anxiety and inner turmoil comes from living in a global culture whose values drive us from the essence of what matters. At the heart of this is the conflict between the outer definition of success and the inner value of peace. 

Unfortunately, we are encouraged, even trained to get attention when the renewing secret of life is to give attention. From performing well on tests to positioning ourselves for promotions, we are schooled to believe that to succeed we must get attention and be recognized as special, when the threshold to all that is extraordinary in life opens only when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. Things come alive for us only when we dare to see and recognize everything as special. 

The longer we try to get attention instead of giving it, the deeper our unhappiness. It leads us to move through the world dreaming of greatness, needing to be verified at every turn, when feelings of oneness grace us only when we verify the life around us. It makes us desperate to be loved, when we sorely need the medicine of being loving. 

One reason so many of us are lonely in our dream of success is that instead of looking for what is clear and true, we learn to covet what is great and powerful. One reason we live so far from peace is that instead of loving our way into the nameless joy of spirit, we think fame will soothe us. And while we are busy dreaming of being a celebrity, we stifle our need to see and give and love, all of which opens us to the true health of celebration. 

It leaves us with these choices: fame or peace, be a celebrity or celebrate being, work all our days to be seen or devote ourselves to seeing, build our identity on the attention we can get or find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give. 

Health, Happiness,
1348638108_peace-sign-coloring-pages-31

Today Is Wednesday.

Today it is hard to wake up. It is hard to move my fingers and hold this pen. Everything is heavy as though my insides are all made out of lead. If you’ve ever tried running underwater in the deep end of the pool, then you’ve had a glimpse of it. It’s hard to say why my body has backtracked these few days. Last week felt like a good one, more solid than the past, and this week things fell apart. Did I get too sucked in? Did I overindulge in the tasks of the busy world? The fast work. The chattery world. The one that I used to think didn’t have room or time for the sick?  (I’ve changed my mind on that one.)This is often the culprit–engaging in too many things that in the end don’t really matter.

So now I will rest. I will sit in the room with the big windows and let the light in. The dishes will wait. Paperwork will wait. Even Monty will wait. Every once in a while he’ll get a burst. He’ll paw at my chair- but behind his brown eyes, sometimes so deep and intense I wonder where his mind is- but he knows that today will have to be one of rest. He curls into the half moon shape at the base of the chair, back to doggy-chasing rabbits-gratuitous bacon-dream world. I apologize and I don’t know if he understands or cares, but he is a creature of the present and for that fact alone he doesn’t seem to mind. It isn’t in his DNA to mind. When we rest we rest and when we play we play and there’s no good reason to cry or complain when we’re doing one and not the other.

Even though it’s a sick day, a string of sick days that always has the grim potential to turn into months of sicks days, I want the world to know that it doesn’t feel like suffering. It just feels like something the day brought- as though it were sunshine or rain or an LL Bean catalog in the mail. It doesn’t feel personal. I know people who take offense to the rain. How dare it rain on my wedding day! Who cares? Nature is balance, nothing more. I’ve been practicing putting the sickness in the same category as the behavior of nature. It takes the sting of it away. Today is Wednesday. It’s humid and raining off and on. My limbs are heavy and stiff and my fingers don’t fold so easily into my palm. The invisible wet blanket of the illness I carry is extra wet–maybe from the rain! But none of this has anything to do with how happy I can be. How much joy I can find.

The things that thrill me still exist. Monty’s tail still wags when he sleeps. The smell of the magnolia tree outside is heightened from the rain. I have a house for Monty and me. A home base that isn’t impatient at all when my life has to slow down. I don’t have to run from sick days. I can let them come and let them leave and not get upset in the meantime. Simple pleasures still exist. My eyes can still take them in. And even if my eyes give out on me, my heart will still know the joy of it. My soul is learning to open slowly, much like the magnolia I picked that is now wide open at my windowsill. I am hanging on to life’s little treasures and remembering and emphasizing and reminding my busy brain that all of these things exist no matter what condition my body is in or what kind of outlook I have. I can stay closed until I think life is going my way or I can open up wide to the world and the sun and every person and animal I meet. It is in fact, up to me. If it’s left up to anything else, then happiness will be a constant, conditional pursuit and never actually attainable. I think when you’re around happy things enough, you start to see where they have it right. Today is Wednesday. It’s muggy and hot. I am heavy and dragging. It will be a good day.

Mastery of Life is the Opposite of Control. -Tolle

Health, Happiness, Wednesday.

You’ll Forget. And So Will They.

There is one component of this illness and autoimmune diseases in general which exacerbates the whole experience. The invisibility factor. You can’t see it. Many times when it shows its ugly head, no one is around to bear witness. People see us when we’re out and about and well, or faking it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear “But you don’t look sick!” People have a notion of what sick looks like, and this doesn’t fit the bill. One day you’re normal and the next day your plagued with something worse than a flu, or a hangover, but you didn’t do any drinking. It’s just such an enigma on so many levels, besides keeping up appearances, that it’s no surprise people just plain forget you’re sick. And it’s understandable. Because honestly, you forget too.

To this day I find myself committing to things as though I am normal, as though I have boundless energy, as though I don’t spend days in bed sometimes for no real reason at all. My circumstances aren’t normal. And some days I have to remind myself by the hour of my limits. Many times I fail to recognize them and I pay the price. So it’s no surprise that the people we love, the people we’re closest to-friends, lovers, family- they’ll forget too. And it’s easy to see why, but it will make you defensive. You’ll tell yourself they just don’t get it and they’ll never understand! And you’re right, they don’t. It’s impossible to know unless you’ve got it yourself. But don’t let that separate and isolate you more. You’ve got enough boundaries. When someone doesn’t believe you, when someone criticizes you, judges you, or doesn’t give the sympathy you’re looking for, let it go. Meet their disbelief with love and understanding. Because the truth is, if you weren’t sick with this, would you understand it? I know it’d be hard for me. I was young when I became ill but I remember distinctly things coming easy to me. Being a good gymnast. Getting good grades. Good family and friends. A 9-year-old with everything! I had no real reason for pause. I often consider what my life would be like had I not gotten sick and in general it’s with the notion that I’d be a better person living a better life. I really wonder about that now. Being sick and at the mercy of others help and kindness, I’ve learned remarkable lessons in humility and compassion, and those are just scratching the surface. I can’t say who I’d be without illness. But like my mom said once “Who knows? Maybe we if we hadn’t gotten sick we’d just be two capable assholes.”

The point is, when I still my mind and consider all the parts of this, I can understand the doubt, the skepticism, the misunderstanding from others. This is not a well understood disease, even for us sick ones. (But I know that one day it will be. I know that.) I remember once last year, I woke up with a pounding migraine. I was in one of my awful cycles. The first dose of medicine didn’t work so I took two, among my other cocktail of meds. I got out of bed around 1:30, hazy, tired, and the hint of my migraine still masquerading around my head. My boyfriend at the time saw me and said “You’re up! Hey, do you want to go shoot guns today?” At that moment I thought of 647 other things I would rather do than shoot a gun. The mere thought of shooting a gun made my headache perk up like what? huh? guns? Here I come!!! Even the suggestion of that activity made me mad. I felt really misunderstood and alone and thinking what I so often think: if they could only feel what I am feeling, they would understand. And it’s true. I think if most people felt the symptoms of CFS even for ten minutes, they’d have such a better grasp of what we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. But that’s not possible. So it is up to us to communicate with love to those who don’t know. What we’re dealing with is basically invisible, and getting defensive and trying to prove it will exhaust us even more.

Besides my mom, who is also sick with this, I think about the one person who has been by my side throughout all of this, and has required the least amount of explaining. The answer is Monty. I realize that sounds juvenile. Oh Mary, you crazy dog lady..maybe you should talk to some PEOPLE. And truthfully I probably should. But I think about the number of beds Monty has slept at the foot of. Patiently he waits until I get up. Some days it’s only a minute..we don’t play and he doesn’t seem to mind. He follows me into the bathroom, he follows me out. When I go back to bed, he does to. And this is a very energetic and active dog. He could go all day, literally. But it truly feels like he picks up on sick days. When I wake up in the morning, he always takes some deep breaths really close to my face. It’s like he can tell by smell whether I’m going to get up or not. Sometimes he sniffs and hops out of bed ready to go. Other times he sniffs and goes back to bed. It really is like he knows.

The thing is, Monty doesn’t understand all the weird components to the illness. He doesn’t know what chronic fatigue syndrome is. He doesn’t understand why some days we play and other days we don’t leave the bed. Sometimes for a few days at a time. But he doesn’t even require an explanation or a defense, because what he is exemplifying so beautifully is living in the present. When it’s time to play, we play hard. When it’s time to sleep, we sleep like it’s nobody’s business. Whatever he does, he does fully. He shows up wholly to every moment. And it’s a truly impressive thing to witness. One of my favorite things is to watch Monty when he gets up in the morning. I open the door for him and he walks outside, stops, and sniffs the air for about 15 seconds. It’s like he’s taking in everything from the night and everything that the day will bring. I like watching it because it’s reflective, and we live such busy, fast lives, we constantly neglect reflection. I think it’s fair to say that it’s required for a happy life. We have to stop sometimes. We have to take things in. We have to feel our feelings. (Smell the roses, if you will.)And we don’t need to say it all on Facebook. Some things we should hold inside near our heart. Or whisper it to someone we love.

I am reading a book called Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson which is incredibly poignant and really well-written. I find myself underlining entire pages. It’s always been a goal of mine to have a book club but of course I’ve never gotten it together and am bad at keeping commitments. So for now the blog will be it. And I invite all of you to read and share your thoughts on these books. I have about twenty more pages and will have a review/summary/dialogue next time. But if you’re looking for a book as a companion..this is a good one. It’s been seeing me through sleepless nights and reading it when I wake up in the morning gives me a happy way to begin the day. One of my favorite lines near the beginning is “We don’t need to push life so much as we need to experience it more elegantly, to be motivated more by inspiration than by ambition.” I like that idea. When I’m not in bed I let my instincts and inspiration guide me…even it’s just sitting on the porch swing and looking at the flowers, which I do a lot. Monty makes me throw a ball and swims laps in the pool. See?

Please just throw the ball.
Please just throw the ball.

 

Anyway, I am working on living a reflective life. I try to take in every moment truly, and feel it genuinely. Even if the moment is sad or fearful. I know that not feeling things through leads to trouble later on. I’ve been there before. For now, I feel happy. The sun is out and the porch swing is calling.

Health, Happiness, Smelling the Roses

Girl Without Pills

I ran out of pain pills last night. I took my last one at 2 am, with fingers crossed and divine pleadings for what lied ahead. I knew full well that if something were to go wrong tomorrow between the doctor or the pharmacist or something logistically silly that I have no control over, then it was going to be a very bad day. All it takes is a pharmacist who decides that it’s too early for your prescription to be filled, or decides they need the prescription in writing or says that only if it rains tomorrow will you be able to get your pills. Every time I pick up the phone to talk to a pharmacist, check on a prescription, call something in…my heart pounds. It’s a true battle. Seriously. If I didn’t get the pills by tomorrow I’d be positively out. Dry. And I’m years beyond the point of something like tylenol or advil being any kind of effective. The sad truth is that if a 200 pound man took the pill cocktail that I do everyday, he’d have a hard time functioning. If it sounds like I’m bragging I’m not. It’s just the truth. I’ve been trying to get my pills since last Friday. If I don’t get them tomorrow, on top of the pain there would be  bad withdrawal effects. Icing on the cake.

Bright and early this morning I called the doctors office to make sure they received the authorization form. They informed me that they received it and authorized it on Friday. Last Friday. Bad news. That means a pharmacist decided not to fill it for whatever reason. And now the state of my well being, my comfort, my ability to function and sleep, is resting on the shoulders of someone I don’t know at all, and whatever he or she decides is the appropriate day to give a sick girl her pills. But I am just one of many. I’m sure they’ve heard a lot of stories. A lot of abusers. Addicts. Maybe to the pharmacists we’re all addicts until proven sick. “Your pain medicine will be available to pick up tomorrow.” I can tell by the stern urgency in her voice, there is no talking her into giving them to me a day early. A day earlier than the arbitrary Thursday that someone decided was the absolute appropriate day for Mary to get her pills. I tell her thank you. I talk to her like she’s a cop. Make her feel powerful and thank her graciously. I hang up the phone and know that the next 24 hours are going to be tough. I’m not going to sleep tonight. It’s 10 am. The pharmacy opens at 8 tomorrow. 22 hours to go.

Oh you want these pills? TOO BAD!!!
Oh you want these pills? TOO BAD!!!

I often try to calculate how many hours I’ve spent in line at Walgreens. On the phone with Walgreens. On hold for my doctor. On the phone with insurance. (Back in the day when I had insurance.) Acting as a mediator between two institutions which seem to often…miss one another. It’s probably better I don’t know. I don’t count the thousands of dollars out of my moms savings that go towards prescriptions. Inevitably the numbers would be high and sad and dissapointing. What I really need to do is be thankful that for now, there are pills out there to help me and for now, we have the money to buy them. Except today. Today was different.

Today was an insane reminder of what my body feels like in its natural state- which is fucking terrible. I’m sorry about the F word, but I really desired emphasis there. It’s been awful. Of course part of the feeling is withdrawal..but mostly it was just that widespread pain and awful, burning, firey legs. Under my fingernails hurt. My gums and teeth hurt. My body felt like a high voltage electric fence–exuding pain frequencies. It was pretty terrible. At the same time there was light at the end of the tunnel; I knew that by tomorrow I’d get relief. So it was only a day and I looked in the mirror and said for God’s sake Mary, I can go a day without! 24 little hours. And of course I could..it wasn’t going to kill me.Mostly it was a huge reminder of what life without pain medicine would be like, and it was really, really terrible. I know I sound like an addict- but I don’t get high off of my pain medicine. I take one at a time, and I don’t feel euphoric after. I just feel relief. But to outsiders I know what it looks like. And I can understand.

I fully prepared myself for another night up by myself, counting down the hours until I’d get my hands on something to take away the pain. A bath provides about 20 minutes of relief. But once you step out, it’s over. It all comes back. I wish I knew what was going on in my body. It’s like it’s being held hostage by an invisible monster. I realize that pain is not the natural state of the body. It wasn’t built to exist this way. I constantly think of a line in Mark Nepo’s book where he says “Pain is just a sign that something needs to change.” I wonder what needs changing in my life. I try to pay attention. I try to find the meaning in all of it. I do a lot of examining. I know examination is one of the benefits of my situation. It’s hard to truly examine life with all of our distractions and obligations- it’s hard to unplug from our devices. There is rarely quiet in the world. It’s up to us to find it.

I must have a pain killer guardian angel, because when my brother-in-law came home from work close to midnight I told him about my all-nighter plan and the insane state of my body. He happily informed me he had some leftover pain medicine from his knee surgery in his truck. HALLELUJAH!  The pain was going to go away now. I was going to get some sleep afterall. He saved me.

Sadly I know that it won’t be long before I run into this problem again. This logistical, bureaucratic, prescription nightmare is basically constant and I know that all you chronic sickleys out there have to deal with it too. And it’s not the pharmacists fault. It’s not the doctors fault. It’s partially a broken system, it’s partially the fact that drug addicts have tightened the reigns so much on oversight of certain drugs that it’s become hell for people who actually are just trying to feel better.  Last week it took countless phone calls and ten days to get my anti-biotics filled. Ten. I could bore you with the details but I won’t because we all deserve better!

It’s 2:30 am but I’m awake because 1. This is my quiet time. 2. It’s really nice to be alive and not feel the pain that I’ve been feeling all day. 3. When your soul wants to write, your soul wants to write. I have to be honest; all of this scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to have to take pills the rest of my life. I don’t like that I am dependent on medicine to be functional. But the hard truth is that the alternative is just not doable, or worth it to me. I couldn’t endure that type of pain everyday and be a solid human being. I think, eventually, it would just break me. It scares me because while I feel like I’m getting old, in the grand scheme of things I am only 28. I want to get married one day. I want to have kids. I don’t want my liver to explode. But there’s not really a way those things are possible for me right now and I trust that I am where I’m supposed to be. I really do. Being on my own has been immensely educational. In a way it’s made me stronger. Smarter. More self reliant. You sort of learn how to make yourself happy, and there is real value in that. I heard somewhere that 40 is the new 30, so maybe I don’t need to worry about these things just yet. I know the focus needs to be on getting well. It also needs to be on acceptance and finding my heart of joy, and writing, even when things are grey. I want to feel completely whole before I bring in anyone else to my life, and there are still a few pieces I’m looking for.

Anyway, now that the pain has subsided, I should try to find my way into the world of sleep. I day dream all the time about a life without sickness, without pills, without entitled pharmacists dictating a life. But the truth is, even in my dreams at night, I am looking for pills. Taking pills. Spilling pills. Pleading with pharmacists. When I wake up, its because of  pain. I take a pill of almost every color, and then I sit and wait. Every day the same. The life of a sick kid.

It’s better than it sounds.

Party On Wayne!!!

Health, Happiness, Pills

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.

 

How to Hang On.

I came across these words in the middle of the night last week when I was really sick and couldn’t sleep. I was feeling scared and anxious–of what I wasn’t exactly sure, but there was some sort of doom over my head and I didn’t know how to relieve it. This passage helped. Today my mom read to me the same excerpt out loud while discussing life and love and hardship. I figure twice in seven days is enough of a sign for me to pay attention to the words, so I thought I would share them here as well. They are written by the mystic Joseph Cambpell.

The loss of a love and the pain of a broken relationship is an overload of projection. That’s all it is. In youth, your whole life is this wonderful dream that “This is It”: this relationship is the fulfillment of my fantasy and I can’t imagine life otherwise. No argument can quell this feeling of total projection, of everything in the other one. I guess we can all recall an episode of an adolescent relationship that seemed to be the all-in-all and then went to pieces for some reason.

When a relationship breaks off, it takes a person a little while to settle and find a new commitment. It’s after the breakoff, when there is no new commitment and life has been divested of all of its potentials, that this painful reaction takes place. For some people this is a dangerous period.

The psyche knows how to heal, but it hurts. Sometimes the healing hurts more than the initial injury, but if you can survive it, you’ll be stronger, because you’ve found a larger base. Every commitment is a narrowing and when that commitment fails, you have to get back to a larger base and have the strength to hold to it.

Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing that can happen to you is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.

When everything is lost,
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed.

Health, Happiness, Hang On.

A Call For Positivity.

Good morning world, it’s been a little while. It’s 4 am in California and I have to say I’m OK feeling wide awake despite the indecent hour. I feel like I’ve been in a sedated state, in and out of consciousness for the last week–more out than in– and it feels good to finally feel alert enough to touch base with myself again. I have never been this sick before, at least not for this long. It’s beginning to make my other sick days feel more like mere child’s play. They’re nearly laughable when I think of them now.

I move when I can, which isn’t very often. It’s difficult to do basic things for myself these days and it sucks to have to ask, but that’s where I am, so I’m trying to make peace with it. Walking is really difficult and the weakness gets overwhelming. It sort of feels like trying to walk underwater–like someone smothered all of my joints in honey. Anyway, being stationary for such a long period of time isn’t super fun (for me or for Monty) and sometimes the mental housekeeping can be harder than the physical. It’d be nice to lose myself in the distraction of anything physical…tennis, shopping, drinking with friends, a road trip or camping! But it’s all out of the question, so I am left to my consciousness and the quiet of days as the world around me spins on without pause. I know it’s vital that I stay positive; that I don’t succumb to the fear and despair lingering between wakefulness and sleep, and that I surrender to where my life has me for now, and that I remain precisely clear about the difference between that and giving up. I am always going to pursue the healthiest routes and happiest choices, but I also need to just exist where I am- which right now, is immobilized in my sisters apartment. When I try to move around I am worse the next day, so it’s bed rest for me. Not much of a choice anymore.

The good news is, I have help. My sister has been doctor for a while now, while my brother-in-law insists on eating when I don’t want to. My mom flew in on Thursday so now the help has help and I am lucky for all of it. And Monty too of course. He’s a mental help to us all, and when things get sad or heavy somehow he finds a way to make us all laugh.  I think he’s anxious for me to be back on two feet but he’s patient as always. He’s taken to my sister and brother-in-law, like he knows they’re the ones with the energy. They’re the ones who will throw him the ball. So he plays fetch with them and my mom and when he comes back in he trots straight over to whatever piece of furniture I am using as a bed and curls up next to me; content until the next time he needs to go out. He is a constant reminder to be in the present moment. That is something that dogs just get and humans mostly miss.

I am going to be very honest and say that emotionally I’ve been kind of a wreck. I’m not a huge crier but for some reason when I fall into these weak, dizzy crashes, tears just roll down my face. I don’t even necessarily feel sad when it happens. It’s like this strange cause and effect I don’t feel I can control. So, I let the tears come. I try not to harp long on any negative thoughts or fearful worries; they are not only useless, but detrimental at this point if I give them too much pause. My mom told me “You can’t afford the privilege of a negative thought right now,” so I try to stay away from them. If they come, I let them, and then I let them leave. I am beginning to learn the art of detachment. Or I’m getting a crash course in it. I don’t know that I have another choice, and I must say I’m getting pretty good! I’m writing about this because I know that so many people have felt what I am feeling now, and many of them have not had support systems behind them. I want anyone to know who’s sick or troubled and reading this that it’s OK to want to punch the wall, scream really loud, curse the car door and earth, the universe, or God. I have done all of these things in darker moments, and sometimes a good scream or cry is necessary. It’s OK. Sometimes if I’m too tired to yell, I just flip off the sky. As if the clouds brought me to this point. It’s like the most passive aggressive protest I can demonstrate, but since my arms down to my fingers are weak, I don’t leave it up there very long, which usually leads to cursing. Haha. But what I also know is that anger and screaming and crying and cursing…it just doesn’t get me anywhere in the right direction. It doesn’t move me along. It’s really easy to be mad at a situation; to be pissed off or sad or claim unfairness. But where that gets you is stuck further in the predicament you were already in, just now you’re a miserable person in a shitty situation. It’s just plain more interesting to be a happy person in a shitty situation. Try it! When people ask how I am I say “Terrible! And it’s the best day of my life!”

My goal now is to stay as happy and positive as I can, which so far has been extremely hard. But I’m going to keep at it. I’m letting negative thoughts come and go and I follow them up with something better. Something true. I constantly remind myself of what I have; love, a family that gives a shit, good doctors, good friends, and the best dog in the world.  A few examples; my friend Kaitlin aka Matt Damon texts me our inside jokes throughout the day, often consisting of lines from Billy Madison, Orange County, or philosophical thoughts on the Golden Girls. Sometimes a one word text can make me laugh, and that feels like a step in the right direction. My brother Nick sends me interesting and positive reading material or funny pictures of the baby. My Stupid Friend Jess sends me her favorite facebook statuses of the day, which are always terrible. And hilarious. My mom and sister let me cry when I need to but are always encouraging, reminding me of the truth, and that is so necessary at times like these. And me, I’m kind of just hanging on. I don’t really feel like I’m driving the car to my life right now, but, I can at least control the music. Is this metaphor too much? Anyway, instead of playing like, Coldplay and Radiohead, I’m trying to play happier and motivating things. The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, The Rolling Stones, and Ke$sha. Come on, that Tic Toc song can make anyone dance. We’re out of the metaphor now, I actually like listening to that song.

So, that’s where I am. It’s a really rough time, but I know it isn’t forever. And I know the answer to it all is not in anger or sadness or self pity, even though these reactions and dispositions are often the easier, default choices. It’s funny how conditioned humans are to respond this way to stress in life–and how absolutely worthless it remains. You’d think after 2000 years of civilization we’d have gotten it by now. Even the dogs get it! Anyway, as I sit immobilized, a heat pack on my muscles and the smell of BenGay circulating in the air, I’m beginning to retrain myself. My body is crazy weak, so I’m going to work on a stronger mind. I know that every situation is an opportunity to grow, and I guess it comes down to whether you want the experience to leave you larger or smaller than you were before. My hope, of course, is to walk away wiser and stronger. And while it’s the harder path to take, I know it’s not impossible, and so many others have endured far worse and done just fine. In the meantime, I gotta stay positive. So send me funny stuff! Among the 25 pills, laughter is still my best and favorite medicine.

Health, Happiness, Hanging 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.

 

 

A Sick Kid With Some Questions; The Scandal Behind Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

It is midnight and I just finished taking a bath. I experienced a really bad crash a few days ago and spent the last two days in bed waiting it out. I am unsure what caused this most recent crash. I have been taking it very easy here but something zapped. A fuse blew. Bye bye Mary. The bath I just took was the first one I’ve taken in four days. I know that this is disgusting. I am someone who prefers to shower everyday, do my hair and makeup everyday, and wear clothes that are coordinated like the commercials tell me; transitional outfits from day to night! It’s no secret that my frequency of showers has lessened in the last two years. But when the simple act of getting up to blow your nose, or reaching for something that is more than an arm’s length away and you return to your position panting, out of breath, heart racing, body weighed down…it sort of leaves showering out of the question for the time being. It’s impossible to stand that long. This is why when I do muster up the energy to get clean, I take a bath, which requires a lot of energy in itself. But I take a sick person bath. I use a water bottle to pour water over my head so I don’t have to sit in weird positions and once I’m in, I’m in for a good hour. I don’t know why, but I often start to feel like a human being late at night. It’s like the clouds part just for a moment. So while I get that small window, I take a bath and tend to personal hygiene; Brush my teeth as hard as I can, because I don’t know if I will have the energy to do those things tomorrow. If today is any indication, then probably not. Monty sleeps, raising his head every now and then at a noise I make, then goes back to dog dream world.

I know this all sounds pretty grim, and it is. This is the ugly part of being sick. The part that people who know me socially don’t ever see. The part that sometimes, like yesterday, become too heavy for me to bear. Not just physically, but mentally. All of the sudden, it weighs too much. I feel stuck. It’s all piled onto my chest to where even my breathing feels labored. I call my mom and she walks me through it. I let the dark thoughts come and leave. They are just thoughts, fleeting and insignificant. I say “I will not lay down and die today.” And then I write it in my notebook. And then I lay down. But I don’t die. (Spoiler alert!)

I survive. Suddenly, I don’t want to write poetry about being sick. I don’t want to find the wisdom in the pain. I don’t want to ask what the lesson is and find how I am a better person because this situation forced me to dig deeper into consciousness. Which is true, it did. But some nights like tonight, I’m just ready for it be over. In my bedridden state the last few days, I’ve been researching the very bizarre and twisted history of this illness, and it’s surprising to say the least. Tragic and appalling to say the most.

I want to know why the National Institute of Health has continuously allotted such low sums towards the research of CFS.  For 2012 it has allocated $6 million, ranking it 220 out of 232 diseases. You can find it at the bottom of the list underneath Psoriasis ($10 million) and Hay Fever ($7 million). To give some context, similar illnesses like MS were given $121 million and Lupus, $105 million, but have less prevalence and a similar level of disability. As a result, countless studies and research efforts in the way of CFS have been put on hold or simply terminated citing funding issues.

It takes money honey.

I want to know why the Center for Disease Control has repeatedly ignored, overlooked, and downplayed this illness for a quarter-century–An illness that the head of the CFS branch himself said left patients as functionally impaired as someone with AIDS or Breast Cancer. The agency not only minimized it’s detriment by calling the thing “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (they might as well have called it Lazy Ass Tired Folk Disease) it’s now been documented that the CDC routinely diverted money intended for CFS research to other projects. This is all documented in the book Osler’s Web and this article by David Tuller from November of 2011. A 1999 report from The Department of Health and Human Services found that between 1995 and 1998, at least $8 million was charged to the CFS tab but rerouted to other projects and another $4 million could not be accounted for.

I want to know why the most promising research of CFS is being funded and executed by private institutions and donors, like the Whittemore Peterson Institute or at academic institutions like Columbia and the University of Miami…no where near the CDC, the NIH, or its constituents.

This isn’t just about me or just about other sick people with this illness.  Contested illnesses like this cost the US billions of dollars annually in lost productivity and depletes healthcare resources. Less than 1/5 of patients with CFS work full-time, and more than half receive disability benefits. The estimated cost of lost productivity from CFS annually is $18 billion. Just over two years ago I worked full time, spent my money, paid my taxes and I was happy to do it. Now I am unable to work and unable to receive or afford health insurance. My doctor has suggested I apply for disability. I am 28. I do not want to continue taking 25 pills a day.  I do not want to live off disability. I would actually like to go to work and be a contributing asset to the country. But I know that in order for these things to happen, the dialogue has to change. There are actually people and doctors out there who don’t believe in this illness, as though it were fucking Big Foot.

I know that getting mad and pointing fingers won’t really help me out tonight. I have accepted my life with this illness. I will be OK whether things change or not. I have found ways to be happy given my circumstances and some days are harder than others. I guess you’re catching me on a hard day. I have a family who supports me and was lucky to find a doctor that is a leading researcher of this illness, although her clinic at this point is barely staying afloat. But not everyone has what I do. I have received so many emails from people whose doctors and/or families have dismissed them, not believed them, or just written them off as depressed. This has to change.

I don’t know what the next step is, I just felt the need to get this stuff out in my little corner of the internet. Maybe the right set of eyes will befall on this one day and some real change can take place. Maybe nothing will happen, in which case, nothing was really lost. I’ll be in bed either way. The thing is, I am not a little kid writing to Santa Clause–This is change that is actually possible. I think there are far more important matters in the world than CFS/ME research and I look forward to the day when this is no longer my cause. I know this country can do better, and I have not ever lost hope that with the right people and minds at work, this is something we can fix, even if it’s after I’m gone.

Health, Happiness, Change.

One Thing, Once a Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, One Thing a Day.

Sometimes You Gotta Say Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So confident.

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

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

Health, Happiness, Yes.

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

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

In two days I turn 28 years old.

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

I didn’t still think I’d be…

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

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

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

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

*…Living with my parents.

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

*Borrowing all my sisters clothes.

*Still getting excited as hell when Christmas comes around.

Yes.

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

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

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

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

Part of your WORRLLD!

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

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

Did someone say bubbles?

*Having my grandma play with my hair.

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

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

Health, Happiness, Twenty Eight.