Tiny Little Worlds

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

small friends.
small friends.

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

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

Dear God.
Dear God.

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

Snapper?!
Snapper?!

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

Health and Happiness and Little Tiny Worlds

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

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

Wisdom In the Day Lilies

I’ve been pretty taken by these Day Lilly flowers blooming outside. I like that their entire purpose (for me) is just to be something delightful to look at. To be simple and beautiful reminders. It took years and years of me hearing the term “Day Lily” being thrown around as merely words assigned to a flower to one day, just last week, finally putting it together that they are named this way because they bloom for merely a day. (Duh.) They are such vibrant and roaring things. They’re like little poems themselves that don’t require writing. Flowers often strike me as delicate but these specifically do not. They’re almost unruly. They are stunning colors and you’ll find yourself lost looking in their center, unaware of time. Tolle refers to flowers as “Windows into the formless” and that makes sense when looking at these lilies. They’re incredible creatures, and they only last a day.

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If you’ve never read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, he begins the book with a description about the first flower ever to bloom on our planet, and why that is important to our existence and collective consciousness now. It’s quite a beautiful passage. So here it is:

Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained an isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet– if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it.

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I really love this description and the image of such a large, simultaneous blooming. But the deeper point he goes on to make is that flowers were most likely the first things human beings came to value “that had no real utilitarian purpose for them–that is to say, were not linked in some way to survival.” He attributes our fascination with flowers to their ethereal quality, calling them “temporary manifestations of the underlying One Consciousness.”  Since a flower is a glimpse into the formless, and ego is described as “identification with form” (materialism, i.e. I am what I have) we can say that the simple act of looking at flowers is an opportunity for us to see with our soul and not our eyes. To drop our egos for a moment. Physically the flowers are beautiful, and underneath they represent the joy of formless beauty. You don’t have to “own” a flower to enjoy it. It’s interesting too to witness how the entire atmosphere of a room can change once you put a vase of real flowers in the center. Or even one flower in a small vase. Somehow, it makes a difference. It changes things.

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To think about beauty and purpose in terms of time, it occurs to me that only humans would consider a day not long enough for something to exist. If we were told we could be beautiful and happy and perfect, but we could only last a day, would we take on the endeavor? It seems like we’d demand more time–enter some boardroom negotiation with the creator. And yet, some of us exist on earth for only a little while. There are so many lives cut short, and as survivors we see it as indecent. It feels, to us, like they were never given a chance. They were never able to really live. But maybe, like the day lilies, one day of life is more than enough time for us to serve our purpose. It’s hard to grasp conceptually. Time is something my mind busies itself with at night–until I think of the concept of eternity for too long and the thought becomes too intense and my brain explodes. It’s pretty frustrating, you can imagine. Gary Zukav once described life in terms of time as “the eternal moment” and sometimes that makes perfect sense to me and sometimes it’s not enough. It’s almost too simple. But that’s how I imagine a lot of the secrets of the universe to reveal themselves. Complex, large ideas executed very simply. Maybe the better word for it is elegant. 

Maybe I’ve made some far-reaching metaphors here. The truth is, flowers are pretty things to look at mostly, and possibly I’m ruining their beauty by cluttering them up with philosophy. But it’s an interesting investigation to discover why we as humans, often so entrenched on utilitarian things, furthering our purpose, working harder and faster and longer, can every once in a while stop our busy lives and look into flowers and feel a sense of ease and simplicity. We may smile looking at them without even knowing it. It’s interesting that in our modern society, flowers have come to serve the purpose of a wide spectrum of emotions. They’re a way to say “I Love You” and “I’m Sorry.” We use them to celebrate life and death. It’s no mystery why people say “Stop and smell the roses.” Flowers are small and silent, their scent often subtle–requiring you to drop everything and stick your nose right into the bloom to really take it in. I think once I just thought they were pretty things to look at and that was all. But I’m finding more and more that simple and beautiful things, selfless providers, (flowers, dogs, sunsets) are much more in tune to our purpose here and the work we do. If ego is the blueprint for dysfunction like Tolle says, perhaps flowers are the blueprint to consciousness. If even just for a day.

Health, Happiness, Day Lilies

*I took these photos on my iphone and they haven’t been enhanced. For realsy!

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

Baby Talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Babies.

Life In My Parents Pool House

So if I die I want that to be the name of my memoir. Isn’t is perfect? It’s funny yet sadly true. A sick girl-turned-woman living in her parents pool house and on their dime. With a dog. Wait am I a girl or a woman? Now I know how Britney Spears felt when she sang that song. In any case, it sounds like a Fairytale to me. I wonder how this one ends.

What I’m really getting at is that life in my parent’s pool house is great and I recommend that all 28 year olds or young adults in general try it. I had my first night in my new place three days ago. Waking up the next morning in my bed, in my own house was basically spectacular. You have to understand it’s been 2.3 years since I’ve been able to wake up under those parameters and having to wait so long and go through what I did has made the moment even sweeter. If felt like finally exhaling after a ridiculously long tunnel. I laid in bed for the next hour with a pure feeling of gratitude, and that’s all I can really do in these instances. Breath, reflect, take it in and give thanks. If you don’t they pass you by, and you find yourself years later realizing how good you had it only in retrospect. I realize how lucky I am to live in a beautiful house, to call it my own, to have a pool, and to be given help and time to heal, when my givers know I can’t really pay it back. I guess that’s what you call love isn’t it. Did I mention Monty loves it too? He’s also deathly afraid of the polaris but not enough to stay out of the pool.

Woo!
Evil Polaris EVIL POLARIS

Moving into a house when you’re a sickly takes a very long time. Also having this month-long headache still isn’t helping, but who’s counting? I was overeager in the beginning. I wanted to set up every room and unpack every box and start painting walls all on the first day. It took a little overdoing and paying the price later to realize OK, this needs to happen one room at a time. Sometimes one piece of furniture at a time. And mostly one drawer at a time. It’s ridiculous to me how many times I have to learn that lesson. That overdoing it will be costly and painful, and yet I continue to overdo it and pay the price. And the funny thing is, most people I speak to with this illness (like my mom and everyone at the support group) say they do it constantly. You’d think we’d learn after all these years. We’re a bunch of stubborn dum dums!

Anyway I think the most exceptional part about living by yourself is the amount of time you can spend without pants. Like that first day, after I spent the hour of gratitude in bed, I got dressed and began unpacking and organizing and having these grand fantasies in my head like “And in this room I’ll have scrabble tournaments and in this room I’ll serve afternoon tea.” All of which will probably never happen. After a while my pants were really beginning to bother me. Don’t ask why–sometimes it’s noises and sometimes it’s clothing. And then it struck me that I could take my pants off and keep unpacking because THIS WAS MY HOUSE and at my house PANTS ARE NOT REQUIRED. So I took them off and unpacked in my underwear and soaked up the amazing feeling of being able to do what I want in my own place because I make the rules now. Yeah! Other rules include:

  1. No Bill O’Reilly (Not even an option because I’m poor and don’t have cable but still)
  2. Peeing in the Pool Is Actually Allowed. I know you’re going to do it anyway and come on, we use strong chemicals in there.
  3. No guns.
  4. All dogs allowed! In fact, no humans without dogs.
  5. What happens at the pool house stays at the pool house. Like swimming. And scrabble.

So basically, there are no rules. I just want it to be a happy place and an open door to the people I love. I can’t guarantee I’ll be wearing pants, but hey the world has bigger fish to fry. This other cool thing happened while I was touching up paint the first day. I found my ipod from like 5 years ago and thought I’d play songs on random and be entertained from my 5-year-old playlists. The first song that came on was “Let It Be” by The Beatles and I totally stopped what I was doing and belted that song as loud as I could. I’ve heard it so many times before, but suddenly all the words felt like they were being sung just to me and my life. The lyric that really spoke to me was There Will Be An Answer. Because there will be. One day. Maybe not for many many years, maybe not even in this life on earth, but we will see what our lives mean in the grander scheme of things and we will get an answer to our pain and sorrow. I dream about that moment of clarity and revelation all the time. In the meantime, we just have to hang on. Pick up the pieces. Keep going.

Anyway, I played that song about 6 more times really really loudly and sang it really really loudly because that’s another rule: You can sing as loud as you want. Standing in the kitchen. In your underwear. In fact I recommend that’s how you do it. So below is the song Let It Be and I suggest you play it and belt it and let those words remind you that everything is OK. Even though, I know it’s not. My life is a mess. The world is a mess. I watch the news and I see it. I see war and poverty and violence and corruption and it all makes me feel very small. Very powerless. All I am is a sick kid who calls it a success if I take a shower frequently enough. But it reminds me of a quote from Joseph Campbell. He says:

“When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

It’s not the most romantic theory about life, but it can be reassuring. When I think about what the world has evolved from, (think even from the Civil Rights Movement to present day) it gives me hope that we will continue to grow. It’s all going to be OK. We’re here. We’re awakening. We’ve survived this much, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

Health, Happiness, Pants.

Back To New Orleans.

Excuse the drabness of this post, I’m on day 10 of a headache and sometimes it makes the words come out funny. Or boring. But the show must go on! Anyway, I have some news. I’m pregnant. Just kidding. I just keep dreaming that I am. It’s pretty stressful. Because in the dreams I’m like wait, I take waaay too many pills to effectively grow a fetus inside of me. The rest of the dream is spent in panic mode wondering how to be this sick and how also to care for a child. Sick girl fairy tales! So, the real news.

First, I’m back in New Orleans. Monty and I both are. In fact I’m writing from a courtyard at a friend’s apartment in the French Quarter now. It’s weird to think I’ve been gone for nearly nine months. I don’t know if that’s a thing about the South or a thing about Home, but it never truly feels you’ve been away for as long as you have. As soon as the humidity grabs you at Louis Armstrong Airport, you pick up right wherever you left off. Changed or unchanged.

My original plan was to just spend the spring here. New Orleans has about the shittiest climate of any American city, but April and October are magic. It’s perfect. And when you’re here on a day like today, you wonder why anyone would ever ever leave the place. Plenty of artists have depicted the perfection of this city a million ways better than and before me, so I hesitate to try. I can only describe it as magic on days like this. Of course outside those couple of months, is a city ill-equipped for a few weeks of penetrating cold, followed by relentlessly rainy or relentlessly hot or relentlessly both. In those times it’s easy to see why people would leave. And yet few seem to. The roots here are deep, and I love how many love stories there are between person and place. I’ve lived in different cities over the years and have more than one place to call home, but there is reserved a very special spot for New Orleans. It’s like that boyfriend you never quite get over.

The original plan was to come for my friend’s wedding and spend a month reacquainting myself with the city I’ve been missing. But in February my parents made me an offer. They knew how hard it had been for me to give up having my own place two years ago. Beyond not having the money to afford my own place, I don’t really have the health to live on my own either. It’s a chunk out of the ego to come to terms with things like that. My mom was constantly driving over to pick me up and bring me home. It’s long been a difficult truth for me to accept that I can’t live on my own. I have always loved solitude, and basically since moving out of my apartment that March a few years ago, I haven’t been able to really find it. That all changed in February when my parents told me they were willing to let me and Monty move into their pool house. Because that’s what all mature 28 year olds do; they live in their parents pool house. My mom explained that this way, at times when I’m too sick to be on my own, they’ll be on the property to help. And for the rest of the time, I’ll have a place to call all mine. 

Since that morning, even the thought of their offer has brought me ease. One of the hardest feelings in the world is, in a word: stuck. Stuck with somebody. With something. In someones house. Stuck in a crap situation. One where you don’t see an out. I have confronted this feeling many times and it can feel crushing. It’s often just the wrong set of eyes to be looking at a situation. Many times when we feel stuck we’re not always seeing the whole picture, or the truth of what we’re surrounded with. But I must admit, the feeling has pervaded over and over and I think it stems from a lack of options and a lack of power on my part. When you don’t have health and you don’t have money, you’re not left with much to offer the world. You’re sort of just relying on the pure heart of people around you, because if I’m honest, for everything they do for me, I have little to offer in return. And that has been the truth of my situation for a few years now. So many times–relying on the goodness of people to do things for me, knowing full well I most likely won’t be able to pay back the favor, or the funds, or a house. It’s been a lesson in humility to say the least. How does that quote go? The true character of a man can be measured by how he treats someone who can do him no good. Something like that. I think of those words all the time. I watch people endlessly help to make sure my needs are met, and all I can do is go to bed at night with an immense sense of gratitude and no certainty that I’ll ever be capable of repaying the favor. I promise myself and the universe, if I’m ever well again and if I ever have money, I will use them both graciously for good.

Tomorrow I’ll start the move into my new place and fantasize about all the wonderful things that may happen to me and my life when I’m in it. Maybe it’s the house where I get better. Where all my wildest dreams come true. Where I find my happy ending. Maybe it’ll just be a nice place to write and lay around and be sick. Go my own pace. Either way, it has a pool, so Monty will be happy, and that will make me happy. I also really enjoy being under water, so there’s that too. I’ve got some projects in mind to begin working on now that I have some space to carry them out in, so at least there will be time and room for all the ideas I’ve been scribbling around in my library of notebooks. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a few photographs of the magic city in Springtime. Everyone needs a pretty day in New Orleans. It does the soul some good.

Health, Happiness, Home.

Nothing beats a New Orleans Wedding.
New Orleans Wedding.
Nola Windows. They're the best.
Nola Windows. They’re the best.
photo-68
Life In Color.
Eating crawfish. Once you know, you know.
Eating crawfish. Once you know, you know.

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

Art!!!!!!!

Since my genuine exposure to the “old times” has been either black and white photos or black and white film, these color photographs that have emerged of life in the 30’s and 40’s have found their way into every corner of the intweb and are a real gem. Every time I look at them I feel like I am glimpsing a reality that I’ve never truly felt connected with. The olden days have been described to me by my grandparents and in magazine articles and I’ve laughed at the way actors speak in old movies and their gay, wordy advertisements– but for some reason it’s just always seemed like a story. It never quite felt personal. I know it was real, because my grandpa used to tell me war stories and I’ve sat through history class since 3rd grade, never truly appreciating that there really was life before me. So it’s funny to me that something as simple as color could bring something so distant to life for me, but these really do that. It’s like looking at thousands of paintings of Jesus and then being handed a headshot.

A Man Named Jack and His Family, October 1940
A Man Named Jack and His Family, October 1940

Basically, the disconnect between then and now was broken, and I dove right in. The prints were taken on Kodachrome by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information throughout the 30’s and 40’s respectively. They were then released by the Library of Congress in 2006 for an exhibition called Bound For Glory; America in Color. I don’t know why the element of color has upped the real factor to such a high degree, but I never get tired of looking at them. I have to remind myself constantly that they aren’t actors and  they aren’t in costume.

Homesteaders Faro and Doris, Pie Town New Mexico, 1940
Homesteaders “Faro and Doris” Pie Town, New Mexico 1940
Woman Aircraft Worker- Burbank,  California 1942
Woman Aircraft Worker- Burbank, California 1942
Bayou Borbeau Plantation- Natchitoches, Louisiana 1940
Bayou Borbeau Plantation- Natchitoches, Louisiana 1940

For as long ago as the “old days” have always felt to me, something about these color prints remind me it really wasn’t that long ago. Can you imagine showing the people in these photos an iphone? Or trying to explain the premise of Facebook? (Kind of makes me feel disdain for the times we’re living in) So much has changed and yet inside, I don’t feel we’re as far apart as we think. Then again when I looked at Facebook a few minutes ago, I may have changed my mind.

I think a lot about the “records” we’re leaving behind for the generations who will come after us. Looking for clues as to what life was like in our day, for the strands of humanity that tie us all together no matter how many years have passed. Will there be Facebook 100 years? How will our grandchildren study us? It hit me a few days ago that this blog is somewhat of a record itself- a sick girls life and her dog and yada yada. It then occurred to me that if I die tomorrow..the blog would live on. It has its own shelf life now. Unless I leave someone in charge to disassemble it once I’ve gone on. But I think I’m fine with it living without me. It’s turned into a community of sorts and that’s something I hope will live…forever? But my Facebook page– Maybe somebody should kill that.

So it was cloudy and California’s version of cold today and since it was one of those days that a normal person might go to a gallery..I brought the gallery to me and started looking at art online and some of this stuff was just too good not to share. It made me wish I was an artist. But the only art I’ve made lately is this drawing of Mario Lopez  from December.

Pen on Paper. $50,000 or best offer.
Pen on Paper. $50,000 “Or best offer”

Maybe I should stick to writing. Or sharing actual artists work in this case. Here’s what really stuck with me today.

Price Tags
Price Tags

So this conceptual artist Rachel Perry Welty uses everyday items in sequence or on repeat per se to construe American “middle class minertia” as she puts it. In her show “Lost in My Life” she uses the byproducts of her domestic life to make for some unusual and beautiful prints. I couldn’t get over the stunning visuals and patterns brought on by tiny objects I see all the time.

Bread Tags
Bread Tags
Twisty Ties
Twisty Ties

I love how she never shows her face and how the small pieces become part of her apparel. Awesome stuff! You can read more about her and her exhibition here or here. For me the most inspiring part to hear was that she didn’t even enter the world of art until she was 36, and her work and ideas emerged out of lack of materials and time as she was a full-time working mother when she began. Word.

OK and then there’s this:

Chairs.
Chairs, Istanbul 2003

How effing cool is this? Artist Doris Salcedo filled a gap between two buildings in Central Istanbul with roughly 1,550 chairs and her intent was to create a “topography of war” embedded in everyday life. Whatever you deduce from it, you can’t deny that visually it’s just spectacular and the simplicity of materials with such a complex and poignant result is surprising, not to mention its impressive scale.

Lower view
Lower view

You can read more about the artist here or here.

OK last and not least I discovered a poem today that I found so incredibly enjoyable that I realized poetry can be fun and good modern poetry does exist. My friend Giselle, a ceramic artist, hates poetry mostly and I understand why, and a lot of the time I hate it too. (It doesn’t stop me from writing it or reading others) But this poem today, well it just really stuck with me and reminded me how much fun an often sad art form can be. It’s a little lengthy so click here to read it. It’s called Tap Water and is written by Mathew Yaeger. Job well done dude! A few favorite lines are:

What good is it
polishing to a shine the pile of dimes on which your life
has turned. You feel blessed or you feel regrets.

and also

When a woman has entered your life and then
left it you are changed and while you may change
forward into something resembling what you once were
you most certainly do not change back.

So, I guess that’s enough art for our cloudy cold Tuesday. Monty is bored. I’ll see you next time.

Health, Happiness, Art Gallery Day

That New House Smell.

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, Suburbia

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

What Happens In Vegas Goes On the Blog

What’s up party people? I took my first week vacation away from the blog and I really missed it like it was some kind of boyfriend I took space from. I’d have moments observing something or participating in a conversation and think “Aww, the blog would really love this.” Then I’d try to store things in my brain to access later but most of it drifted away like cotton candy. Anyway,  I have some items on the agenda to address beginning with something that might seem a little hard to believe, but believe it baby. I just returned from a bachelorette party in LAS VEGAS and I had the time of my life. Let it be known that I had no intention of attending this party weekend for obvious reasons. I have no money and no health. And yet it happened anyway.

Movie Poster for "Sick Girl at the Window"
Movie Poster for “Sick Girl at the Window”

I had three roommates throughout my tenure at LSU and we were kind of just our own family. We all studied abroad the same semester so we could meet up in Europe together. We tackled the angst of our early twenties together. When one of us went through a breakup we all felt it in a weird way, as sappy as that sounds. We were tight knit, and those years in college were the best of my life. Inevitably, it became difficult to maintain such closeness after college, as much as we all wanted to think it would never change. Geography, jobs, marriages, and ailing health took their toll on the crew and slowly those days of casual conversations on the porch about nothing became fewer and further between. Admittedly, I am absolutely terrible at maintaining and keeping up friendships in the sense that I rarely answer my phone or fill people in on “What’s new in your life?” I am for sure the worst in our crew. But with those girls it always felt like I could go a long time without seeing them and pick up where we left off. That’s the way to define a best friend isn’t it? Very, little, maintenance.

I remember after getting my full-time job at the gallery after college thinking “Hmm, how does one go about making friends after college?” I was the youngest person at the gallery but aside from age, I felt a real void not having that crew along for the ride. I wasn’t proactive about making friends, especially since most of my weekends were spent in bed recuperating my body anyway. I was nostalgic for the ease in which those three girls and I were friends together.

The first one in our crew was married in 2011 and in true female form, we all screamed and freaked out about it for a while. It really drove home the point that college was over and we were getting older. Last year we got a similar photo text of Tiffany wearing an engagement ring and now the second one of us was “biting the dust.” Once again in true female form, we all screamed and freaked out about it as we begged for details and said all those incredibly female things like Oh my god!! How cute!!! So romantic!! When it came to my attention that Tiffany’s bachelorette  party was going to be held in Las Vegas, I felt a pit in my stomach. I’ve become pretty accustomed to missing out on things due to my lack of health and funds. But this one stung more. I have desperately missed my friends over the last two years. Especially the last few months. I feel like I’ve been a third wheel to other couples and their respective social groups for a while now, and I’ve missed the comfort and lack of effort being with your own great friends affords. I was sad to see the party would be in Las Vegas because there was just no way I was going to be able to make it and I resigned myself to the fact that it would be just one more thing I would have to miss.

But a month ago they informed me that whether I wanted to or not, I was coming on this bachelorette party. “We’re buying you your plane ticket and you’re coming,” Emily told me. Of course my ego and pride always protest a little when people volunteer to buy things for me or help me out, because a part of it just feels wrong. I want to be able to pay my own way. I don’t want to be a burden. But they insisted and I once again learned a lesson in gratitude and humility.  Sometimes you need to rest that “Oh I couldn’t possibly!” reaction, and just accept with grace the gifts that are offered to you. But there was still another problem; even if they bought my plane ticket, how in the hell would I survive Las Vegas? A month ago I was barely walking! My mom and sister insisted that for my flight out there I use a wheelchair in the airport and then get a wheelchair at our hotel and let my friends take turns wheeling me around. This was once again, going to stir up things in my pride. I don’t want to use a wheelchair, I want to use my own two legs to walk. But I also know that every time I fly, I crash the next day, sometimes for like a week. I know if I walk for more than 10 minutes some days, I pay for it for days at a time. So we were proactive early on. We made a plan.

I would use a wheelchair the day I travelled, and I would also use one at the hotel and try to stay horizontal or sitting as much as possible. I had been reading that some people with CFS have found relief using adderall so I brought some with me to take at night so I could stay awake for dinner and everything after. I began praying constantly, whenever I thought of it, for strength and energy and for things to go smoothly while I was there. I had nightmares of me sleeping the entire trip away in a dark hotel room. But honestly, I thought, even if I don’t make it out after, it would be worth it me to go there and have dinner with my friends. It had just been so long since I had done something purely recreational like this. I knew my soul needed it. So we prepared as much as we could and I left the rest up to the Gods of partying and drunken debauchery.

As I stood in the crowded lobby of Caesars Palace on Friday night, over stimulated by the sounds and sights of Las Vegas, I saw out of the corner of my eye two girls pushing a wheelchair with huge smiles on their faces, headed in my direction. My heart wanted to explode. I was so unbelievably excited to be with them again, and to know that just like in the college, they were in my corner again and I was in theres. They would push me the entire weekend, even when I would say “Nah why don’t I just walk..” My friend Emily would put her foot down and insist I “wheel it.” I quickly got a small glimpse into the life of someone who is physically or mentally disabled because people stared at me in that chair. I thought of those who are physically handicapped or disfigured and how many of those stares they have to deal with on a daily basis. I wonder if they get used to it or if after years it still gets to them.

Besides being with friends again, one of the best parts of going on that trip was feeling like a WOMAN again. I wore dresses and high heels. I had my nails painted red, did my hair like celebrities and smelled sexy, because I could. I’ve been sick and wearing the respective sick costume so long, I needed to remind myself that if I really wanted or needed to, I could still take the time and emerge out of a hotel room with my heels clicking on the glossy floor, and make a man look twice. It’s just plain fun to play dress up. And even at age 28, I don’t feel any different than when I was five and I would clumsily walk around our kitchen in my moms high heels 6 sizes too big. All of life just feels like theatre to me now. Two years ago I was wearing the corporate girls costume in pinstriped skirts and last year I wore a sick girls costume and this weekend I was all dolled up at a club and no one knew the difference. I think I really needed to give my mind a rest from thinking about being sick all the time. It can be extremely consuming and I am always cautious not to let my “story” dictate who I am. It’s always been a fine line. But this weekend, for the most part, I was just Mary. A girl with her friends celebrating the upcoming marriage of one. I danced my heart out to terrible music in the VIP section at clubs. I drank gin and tonic and flirted with boys. I even kissed one, just to make sure I still knew how. Turns out I do. I had the time of my life and I think I needed it more than ever. How am I feeling now? Well, kind of crummy. It’s catching up to me. But at least this time, I’m paying for a great time I had, and it was well worth the price.

We Are Women Hear Us Roar
We Are Women Hear Us Roar

Thank you to my friends for insisting I go and helping pay the way. I needed it. I’ll pay you back when I’m a millionaire one day.

Health, Happiness, VEGAS

Believe in Miracles? Believe This.

Good News! I woke up yesterday totally healed. I have loads of energy and no pain at all. I threw out all my pills and I’ve signed up for a marathon and begin full-time work next week! Haha. Just kidding. But that would be cool wouldn’t it? I’d write my final blog post: “Well, I’m all better now. Peace suckers!!!!”

Last week I put out a call to the master of the Universe with a very modern hope that he reads blogs, and specifically mine. Well it appears, he does. Or he did. After a really tough couple of weeks with bone crushing fatigue and other relentless symptoms, I woke up on Monday…lighter. My weakness seemed to have lifted overnight and I felt energy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was bizarre. I didn’t think too hard about it fearing if I did it would somehow leave. On good days you just count your blessings and then you get a few things done that have gone undone and overdue while you were busy sleeping, living under a rock. Or covers. You get it.

I was surprised and deeply moved when I looked at the blog on Monday to see so many people had rallied in my corner, sending positive thoughts and prayers. Many of them perfect strangers. My mom had also written an email to family and friends asking for some divine help, as nothing on “this side” was really working. I was again taken back when I signed onto Facebook to see people gathering troops in prayer groups and the like to pray for me…a sick girl who asked for a little relief. My cousin Cindy asked her “prayer warriors” to come together and see if they couldn’t “lighten her load.” On Monday that is exactly what it felt like physically; like my load had been lightened. That heaviness I had been carrying around, gone. Once again, perfect strangers wrote to say they had been praying for me, many of them offering beautiful and supportive encouragement, assuring me I would get through this. People emailed my mom back all with truly inspiring and beautiful things to say, some as succinct as “Hang on, you’ll get through it.”  As I read I cried, overcome by gratitude. But more importantly I believed what people said. I was assured I’d see the other side. With each message I felt a swelling warmth in my chest. Suddenly it struck me that the miracle was not that I woke up basically symptom free on Monday. It was how quickly humanity had come together-friends, family and strangers–with powerful intentions, love, support, and healing thoughts for a girl who some had never even met. It reminded me that we are in this together. We are not each one life, but an interconnected string of lives, and that when we assemble for good cause we are capable of incredible things. When one of us is pain, we all feel it somehow. When one of us overcomes, we all win. And maybe most importantly, when one of us strengthens and expands her consciousness, all the worlds consciousness is raised. We all evolve.

I laugh because in my blog I asked God for one day. Just one day of relief. Well, I was given two. By Tuesday night I felt the heaviness start to come back. My  muscles weakened and my familiar sick disposition descended on me. I know that on the outside it seems unfair. Why give her two days? Why not give her the rest of her life? And if God were a genie and life were a two-hour movie, that’s probably how it would work. But we are living in the midst of eternity here–our lifetimes in that context are a flash, but each one brings an invaluable meaning to the whole. The lessons we learn often take a whole lifetime to get perfect, but each contributes a small piece to the universal puzzle. Anyway, in my blog I sadly theorized that maybe I was forgotten about. My symtom-free two days reminded me ever so gently that no, I was not forgotten. This is just the work I have to do right now. A lot of it from bed. Seemingly on the outskirts of the high-paced world, the 9-5 jobs, security or fortune or fame. But just because you live a lot of your life in solitude does not mean you’re alone. Just because you don’t wear fancy dresses and attend important events doesn’t make your life’s work or contribution any less important. We all have very individual paths and under closer examination the design reveals itself as perfect. When I consider that my passion is and has always been writing, something that was absolutely untouched by the illness except that it gave me my platform to begin, there’s no question that there is a higher intelligence who’s job isn’t easy either. I doubt the creator likes to see his masterpieces suffer, but that’s the difference between us and him; he can see the finish line and we can’t.

To keep living takes a massive amount of trust on our part, especially in the midst of pain and hardship. But it’s that solid trust inside me that tells me to keep going. That’s what the voice is grounded in; trust in the grand design. That this is the work I have to do right now in order to become whole, to evolve, and to find inner peace. I often fantasize about a life that I don’t have. One where I wear pretty dresses and attend charity dinners and I charm people with gracefully told jokes and stories. “Tell us another one Mary! You’re the greatest story-teller ever!” they all yell.

That Mary Is One Hell of a Story Teller!!
That Mary Is One Hell of a Story Teller!!

Haha. I have no idea why that’s what I fantasize about, but it is. And maybe one day I will dress up and I will do those things at a party–but for now I need to be where I am and remember it won’t always be this way. Remind myself that I still have access to life’s greatest treasures whether I’m in my grandpa’s pajamas or in a dress at a fancy party: Love, passion, friendship, community, creativity and hope–they’re all still there. I am still young relatively and I’m still figuring it all out. I don’t know exactly what I believe in, I just know that after last week, I believe.

And I hope you do too, because you were very much a part of it.

Health, Happiness, Miracles.

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.

 

White Girls on Facebook: Part 2.

1. Write the name of an alcoholic beverage and a question mark followed by “Don’t Mind If I Do!”

Ahhh much needed.
Ahhh much needed.

2. Talk about how INSANELY busy they are and the massive amount of things they have to do! So much so they spend the next two hours on Facebook talking about it!!

3. Use “LOL” questionably and in an overabundance. “I have cancer lol” “Me too lol”

4. Some version of this picture, allll up in your biz.

My legs enjoying the beach.
The bottom half of my body enjoying the beach.

4. Talk about preparation for tomorrows workout, take a picture of today’s workout, or reflect on the burn from yesterdays workout.

5. Delve into the recent cold they caught, list all the corresponding symptoms of said cold, then tag a photo of Dayquil and Hot Tea. Potential Caption: Yucky sniffles AND a sore throat! :(

6. Take a picture of herself scandalously dressed and tag it with this caption: “Hey you.”

And by you I mean me.
And by you I mean me.

7. “Today I am thankful for gratitude lists.”

8. Attempt a really inspiring, self-written life quote. “Never take advantage of anyone. Life is short but regret is forever. Always thank your lucky stars and never forget to dance. Even in hard times, the sun will shine through the night.”

9. Talk some major smack about football and/or their fantasy team. Then talk some major smack about The Bachelor.

10. Take a picture of basically anything and caption with: LOVE. <3 <3 <3

LOVE.

12. Girls Night Out!! Prepare for pictures, captions and a play-by-play before the night is halfway over.

11. Something borderline horribly offensive followed by “Just Sayin.”

13. Picture of the hubs taking a nap with the baby!

LOVE.
LOVE.

14. Vent a frustration beginning with WOW. “Wow, I was under the impression that a STOP SIGN MEANS STOP.”

15. Duckface. Forever and Ever and Always.

Yall come to the party I'm having by myself in the bathroom!
Yall come to the party I’m having by myself in the bathroom!

Health. Happiness. Facebook. GIRLS.  <3

Snow, Christmas, Crash, Repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, Happiness, 2013

Life at the Window.

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

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

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

Life at the window.
Life at the window.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or put her in my laundry basket.

Say cheese!
Why are you doing this.

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

..
Contemplation.

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

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

Health, Happiness, Windows

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

Night.
Night.

Sixteen Clementines

It is a dreary, rainy day in California today. I love it! It was this way yesterday too. I had been feeling a little home sick lately and now suddenly I have damp Louisiana weather–the in between cold, lonely drizzle outside. It’s superb. It’s so anti-California. Feels like home to me.

When I stepped out into the rain for our morning walk, I was expecting to make it quick since that what’s you do on days like this-stay indoors. But Monty seemed so happy frolicking around and it felt pretty good hanging around out there, that I just let him get wet and play in the mud and people laughed as they walked by. I’ve always let Monty get messy if he really wants to. There’s no real problem with it..dirt washes off! So we got dirty.

Mud.
Mud.

Health-wise I have been improving since the whole too weak to move crash, slowly but surely. My naturpath doctor received some blood work two weeks ago that confirmed I still have lyme disease, as well as two co-infections (one is Bartonella, aka as cat scratch fever..what the hay?!) and one parasite in my gut. All right!! This is good news though because they were definitive results and allowed us to move forward with a treatment plan. Since she is a naturpath she doesn’t use antibiotics to treat things, so combating the lyme this go around will be a little more complex. I could go into the details but I don’t even understand them entirely and it’s pretty boring anyway. It’s a crazy coincidence that my doctor studied a while with one of the top lyme specialists in Northern California, so we’ve got that working for us. If we can’t get it under control with her care, she’ll send me to him.

I forgot to mention that part of seeing the naturpath is going on a major detox where you avoid gluten, dairy, corn and you drink this protein shake all the time which actually tastes decent! After 6 years of convincing me to go gluten-free, my sister can now rest easy knowing I’ve made the step. For now anyway :) The diet actually isn’t so difficult to adhere to but that’s because my sister keeps the house stocked with stuff I can eat and pretty much brings me dinner every night. You may ask yourself, what do you eat? The answer is yams. I eat a lot of yams. Kidding. Well, I did eat a lot of yams in the beginning. But the point is to mostly eat fruits, vegetables, and a lot of protein. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Yesterday I ate sixteen clementines. For real. I can only eat at least four at a time. They’re just so small and addicting. I don’t know that I’ve been able to tell exactly what difference the diet is making since there are so many variables right now, but I do know it’s nice to feel good about what goes into your body. I admit I never felt great mentally after stuffing my face with fudge sickles at 2 am. Mmmm fudge sickles. That sounds so good right now.

Since I’m pretty obsessed with the Holidays and Christmas in particular, I told Amelie and Keegan that since I’m a sick kid they have to grant me a wish like the Make-A-Wish-Foundation advertises in the commercials. (On top of housing, feeding, and caring for me, of course.) My wish was for a real Christmas tree and the day after Thanksgiving, we did it! She’s a real beauty. If she had a name it would be Anastasia. We’ll hang small milk bones on the bottom so that Monty will tug at those and not the real ornaments. There’s nothing like the smell of a real Christmas tree. It’s like Winter, Happiness, Warmth and Love all wrapped up in a smell. On top of that I’ll be blaring Christmas jams and watching Elf on repeat which my brother-in-law is really excited about. What can I say, I’ve always loved Christmas.

Apart from yuletide, I’ve been watching Woody Allen movies, taking pictures of people’s windows, and writing things late night I still don’t entirely understand. I still need to watch Crimes and Misdemeanors which I hear is one of the best..but Annie Hall is so ridiculously lovable it’s been hard to forget.  I loved Manhattan too but it made me nostalgic for Annie Hall. I liked Melinda and Melinda a lot and also Alice. Husbands and Wives may have been a little too neurotic, and Midnight in Paris was the best! I really loved that one, and Owen Wilson’s character. Too good. Tonight I’ll watch Play It Again, Sam and then maybe I’ll get back into reading. Somehow I kind of stopped. Anyhow, I keep taking Monty on walks around our complex and I love seeing people’s windows from the outside. The blinds are always closed but people put little decorative pieces to view from the outside, and I like seeing them. I don’t really know why. So I started photographing them. I also realize it ups my “creeper” level a few notches, but I can’t help it.

Dog. In a Sweater. YES.
Dog. In a Sweater. YES.
Batman? Is that you?
Batman. He lives.
Cups.
Cups.
That cat.
That cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health, Happiness, Window Shopping.

You’re Doing It Right.

At one time, each and every human being on the planet was a tiny baby in a mothers arms. In front of him lay a pristine and untouched future, where anything was possible. One thing will shape the direction and vibrancy of that future more than any of other thing; love. From whom he learns it, from whom he does not, how he is taught it, and that he experiences it in its most authentic and pure form- unconditionally. Money is no matter, health is no matter, religion, beauty or brains. Without the message that love sends- the gentle reminder that who you are matters- all of these things are fine but rendered useless if they are anything but anecdotes to a love-filled life.  There are many ways to measure a life, and many definitions to the word success. You don’t have to go far to find the richest people, the famous people, or the ones deemed very important. And they will often gladly share their secrets to what we call success. But behind numbers and cameras and curtains is a very basic human need- not desire- that we all share no matter what characteristics separate us. We have to have love to evolve. And we have to give it to surrender. And we have to lose it, at least once, to really know who we are. And when we find and learn to love ourselves wholly, then might we love others the best possible way. If we haven’t used it to fill holes, if we haven’t given it to get control, then what we’ve done with love, we’ve probably done it right. 

Dude, I love elephants.
Who Doesn’t Love a Tea Party?
The young lovers of Moonrise Kingdom. Have you seen it yet? It’s good.
Bears Love Each Other TOO.
Walrus loves birthday cake.
Monty and Mikey may or may not love when I dress them in towels.

Health, Happiness, Love the Right Way.

We Are the Leaves

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of trees lately. I take Monty on walks in the hills behind our apartment. It’s where we hear the coyotes howl at night. I don’t know where they go during the day. The more I’m around the trees the more picturesque they become. Suddenly I find myself staring at one tree for a really long time. It’s just standing there, its leaves making gentle sounds, and I feel captivated like I’m watching some kind of brilliant theatre. It’s just a tree! But hang out long enough with them, and they share a little wisdom. I started photographing them on my phone because…I felt like it. And my phone is more like a camera with phone capabilities.

When I was a kid I used to think that wind was caused by trees. In fact I may have thought that up to an unforgivable age, but science was never my strong suit. But in my simple brain, since when it was windy I would hear the rustling of branches and leaves, I equated wind with tress. Finally during a dead, wintery day in Colorado, the cold blew against my face and I looked around at the dried up trees around me. There were no leaves rustling, the dried skeletal branches cracked, and it was clear that wind came from somewhere else. Currents cause wind, which in turn rustles the leaves. The real culprit was something invisible yet immensely powerful. So yesterday I sat in the sun and listened to the leaves rustle while Monty chewed a tennis ball to bits. I watched as an invisible current moved through everything and it struck me why I thought the way I did about wind as a kid. It also had me thinking about human beings and our respective passions and purposes. When you’re really excited about something, whether its writing or painting or singing or chemistry…it doesn’t really matter what…there’s something greater moving through you and guiding the art form. In fact I think that’s one way to define genius, or greatness or expertise– opening oneself enough to allow something invisible and quiet to move through you, leaving either art or authenticity in its path, and each time raising the bar. I don’t see being creative as only limited to the arts. I think there are creative ways to do math, and practice politics, and learn history. There are also creative ways to love someone, dress yourself, and give gifts. It hit me there under the sun, that we human beings are the trees. The creative and appeasing truth is the current, and individuals are just the rustling leaves making the noise.

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” -Picasso

Health, Happiness, Trees

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