Couch Crashing.

There is something I’ve become pretty good at over the last year that I would’ve never really expected, being a sick kid and all, and that thing is adaptability. Since giving up my apartment last March, I haven’t had a real home that I consider all mine since. All mine: that’s a phrase we humans love. I have jumped from house to house, state to state, with a small bulky suitcase and a bag full of pills for a solid year now. I’ve turned into a professional couch crasher. I have found that I encounter home in many places. That studio apartment that was all mine was just one of them. I remember cramming the last of my remaining boxes into my corolla and turning in my key to the landlord last year. It was a terribly sad day. Currently I’m writing from Tampa, Florida, nearly a year since that day, and I am suddenly feeling the freedom of not owning anything anymore. For so long I was trying desperately to keep everything I had, like a squirrel stumbling around hanging on to too many acorns, because they were all small symbols to me that my life was together and I was together and I could do it on my own. But finally letting those attachments go (and accepting what was true) has opened up a new freedom. Basically everything I need I can fit into this green bag I bought a couple of years ago. Except Monty of course, he doesn’t fit. But he made the 10 hour drive to Tampa, and is an incredible teacher of what it means to be adaptable. See?

I think he likes it here.

See?

I don’t know how long I will be here or where I will go next. At some point I plan to go to Colorado and stay with my grandma for a while. And at another point I’ll make it to New York because my brother and sister-in-law will be having their baby in a few weeks. I don’t have a distinct plan. Which is very much my style because about 95% of the plans I make do I ever follow through with anyway. So in this new style of life, I just sort of go where the wind takes me, and on my own terms. I am lucky to have such loving and welcoming people in my life who have all said in their own way “Sure, I have a couch you can sleep on.” Of course they don’t mean permanently and I never intend to stay forever, but there is sort of an unspoken agreement between me and my hosts: Stay until it’s time to go. Last year I spent two months in New York at Nick and Estee’s. (The soon to be parents) Then I spent a month in California at my sister and brother-in-laws house. Then a little time in Miami for Nick and Estee’s wedding. Then it was back to my parents house, and floating around on couches in New Orleans, recovering, writing, and living a non-traditional nomadic life. I have finally grown accustomed to living unplanned, undecided, and out of a suitcase.

I still look forward to the day when things are settled down, when I finally have a home base, and when I can answer this question a little more easily: “And so what do you do, Mary?” I love that question. And by love I mean despise. How does someone like me begin to even remotely answer that question? Usually I say “Oh, I live with my parents and yell at the TV when they watch Bill O’Reilly. Sometimes I take showers. What do you do?” I think now I have a better answer. I’m a nomad. But instead of wondering in fields, I crash on couches. At this point, it actually does feel like my vocation. Like I’ve been called to wonder around the world for a while, and figure out how to live well even though I’m not. It’s certainly been a learning experience, but I know I still have a long way to go. Like my mom always says, Just do today. Today I’m in Tampa, it is sunny and warm and Monty is fetching sticks in the bay. Somehow after the journey here, I still haven’t crashed. I woke up with a pretty killer migraine this morning but the medicine took care of it and I don’t have that typical Feel-like-I’ve-Been-Hit-By-A-Truck-In-the-Face feeling. So I am grateful for that, and trying not to harp on it for long. Sometimes I fear if I think too much about it the good feeling will go. So I’m not questioning it, I am just grateful.

I think more than any physical place, my notebooks have been my home. Writing often reveals to me what is true and real before my own mind can recognize it in the world. I know that writing is a way for me to find truth and tell the truth. It might be why I get anxiety just before I sit down to write, but after I finish, I feel better. Lighter. And if I’ve written correctly, I always walk away with more clarity, more light in the room than before. So I won’t concern myself too much with what house I call mine for now. Maybe home is more an internal thing than anything else. For the time being, home is on paper, and deep within.

Health, Happiness and Nomadic Tendencies.

Trusting the Battle

I’ve received quite a number of emails over the months and read many responses from people who ask how I stay so positive, happy, and humorous among illness and all the things I’ve lost. It makes me smile to read emails like that because it’s sort of like “Oh, haha, these people think I’m happy and have my shit together.” The truth of the matter, is that happiness is something I work at, every day. I mean that. I’m not a naturally chipper person. Especially in the mornings. Most days I don’t feel incredibly alive until about 7 pm. I don’t have a ton of friends or a blooming social life. I am OK with that as I’ve always been someone who enjoys solitude. But I just don’t want to give the impression of “The grass is always greener” over here. I’ve gone through a lot of heartache and despair. I’ve just made it out on the other side. But I still struggle with optimism and simple joy. Writing here has enabled me to find the lessons that were hiding beneath the tears and sickness and loneliness. So sometimes it appears that I’ve got it all figured out and wake up whistling the tune to “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…” I don’t. I work to find the beauty and meaning of every day of my life. And many times, I fail.

I have been prone to periods of despair throughout my life, especially last year. One day in February, I cried almost the entire day. I kept thinking I would run out of tears, and I never did. As soon as I’d finish blowing my nose and wiping up my face, I’d sit down just to have the tears return and my heart go back to aching. That night, my mom brought in tomato soup to my room and made me eat even though I had no appetite. There I was at 26 years old, being spoon fed by my mom. It was humbling, but also a really beautiful moment to know that even in all of the isolation I felt, someone was still there to feed me, when I didn’t have the strength to feed myself. She talked me through the pain and the tears, many of which were falling in the orange liquid in the bowl and making little ripples like a rock in a pond. I remember how sad and hopeless I felt that night, distinctly. But, I made it through, with the help of my mom. It wouldn’t be the last day where I felt like I was drowning in the sadness of my own story. But each of those moments when I reflect on them now, were revealing something quieter, and not as easy to see. In my anger that I had to move back in with my parents, I missed the fact that I was lucky to have somewhere to go and have someone to take care of me. In the sadness of losing my job, I skimmed over the idea that staying there would’ve made me sicker, possibly to the point of no return. Last year revealed many moments that at times would suffocate me, if I looked only at those moments. But life isn’t isolated that way. In every moment of darkness, something else is revealing itself, if we choose to see the whole of it. A lot of times, I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and take an honest look at the way things were. This was not easy, and it still isn’t easy. It’s work. Like Nepo says “This is the trick to staying well isn’t it; to feel the sun, even in the dark.”

I still struggle today in finding the meaning of my life. But further than that, I struggle with general happiness. I sometimes slip and get stuck in a hole. At times it feels easier just to be depressed or angry. And momentarily I guess it’s OK to feel those things, I just know that the only times I’ve been able to move forward is when I choose to look honestly at my experience and try to see what it has to offer, not what it has taken away. Staying mad, staying sad, saying ‘It’s not fair’ just keeps me in the hole. And who wants to live in a hole? It’s dark down there!

Everyone is fighting their own battle, whether it shows on the outside or not. We often assume everyone else is happy, has an easy life, and could never understand our struggle. I often felt that way last year. But that thought is not only our ego trying to isolate us, it’s false. Peel back the layers of any person, and you’ll see the battles they’re undergoing and the scars they carry. I have mentioned this before, but it is something that has stuck with me for a while. Trust your battle. Trust that the life experience you were given is exactly what you need. The lessons you learn will become the whole worlds lessons. Wayne Dyer says to find the lesson, you have to actively ask each experience “What is this here to teach me?”

So that is what I’m working on; not only to seek the lessons of my experience, but to try and live each day happily and with ease. Again, it’s something I have to work at. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the questions and mysteries of life, that I miss the simple pleasures. I could spend all day wondering and fearing whether the sun will rise tomorrow, and wrapped up in that anxiety, I miss the sunset. I’m going to try and trust my experience and my battle. I’m going to stop wishing for a life that isn’t mine. And I’m going to try whistling that tune “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…” every morning. Because my grandma always whistles that tune, and I’ve yet to meet anyone happier.

Health, Happiness, and Battles.

 

Some Lessons of Love on Valentines Day

I’m told that you learn how to love from your parents. So on this International day of love and cheap Walgreens chocolates, I’m going to share the lessons of someone whose influence has been huge and far reaching- My mom. Here is a part of her story.

My mom and dad met on a blind date set up by their two best friends. It was only meant to be “friendly” and an innocent night of fun. Neither my mom or dad were fully on board with the idea of it, but they were told “It’s just dinner. What’s the harm in that?.” What was promised to be just dinner, ended up being the first night of a journey that would lead to marriage and four kids. Bam! In 1993 my dad was diagnosed with cancer. There was a lump underneath his belly button which had been there a while. It hadn’t really grown or changed but to be on the safe side they went in and removed it. Upon opening him up, they saw that not only did he have cancer, but that is was so widespread they couldn’t even locate the origin. So we were never told he had “lung cancer” or “stomach cancer.” He had whole body cancer! He was given six months.

We were also told the cancer was too far spread for chemo or radiation treatments to be effective. My dad wasn’t thrilled with this prognosis, so he devoted himself to getting well through a hollistic approach. He cut out white sugar, white flower, meat, artificial everything, and drank so much homemade carrot juice that his palms turned orange. He lived in great health for three and a half more years to the surprise of all his doctors. But ultimately he lost the battle. After he died, I remember my mom saying “I could never love someone the way I loved your dad.” And it was pretty well understood and accepted that she wouldn’t marry again.

But four years later, she was set up on another blind date which she again resisted strongly and almost bailed out on minutes before. This time it was a different set of friends who set her up, but the promise was the same. “It’s just dinner. And we’ll be there the whole time.” Well wouldn’t you know it, sparks flew that night too with Roger. (We liked to call him Roger Dodger) And six months later, they married. I remember my mom saying, “When you get to be my age, you just know these things. There’s no reason to wait!” He had two kids from a previous marriage, so now altogether there were three boys and three girls. We were literally the Brady Bunch, just far more dysfunctional. But it was a really incredible thing to see my mom so re-energized again. Roger was very different from my dad, but it didn’t seem to matter. He brought her back to life.

Five years later, I was a junior in college at LSU. I remember this Tuesday morning distinctly. I was brushing my teeth and going over a case in my mind for my Media Law class that I was running late for. My cell phone started ringing and I saw it was my house. When I answered, I heard the horror in my moms voice. She could hardly get the words out, but she does. “Roger died last night.” He was in Florida on business and died in his sleep at his hotel room the night before. He was never late, so when he didn’t show up to work the next day, they knew something was up. The autopsy revealed it was a heart attack. I kind of gasped for air when I heard my moms words. In a moment it felt unreal and disgustingly real simultaneously. I was trying to process what she had told me as I packed a bag when it hit me- the icing on the cake of this surprising and sudden tragedy–my sister was getting married in two weeks. And here’s the cherry on top– they were getting married in the very same Hall that my mom and Roger were married in. As my sister Amelie so eloquently put it, Are you fucking kidding me?! It was unbelievable. I hopped in the car and made the hour and a half drive home, in shock. It felt like a 10 second drive.  Doug, Nick and Amelie were all in by that night as well. Roger’s kids were in the next day and we all put our heads together and began the “making arrangements” process. Sometimes I still look back at all that and think, did that really happen?

So we Gelpi’s do two things really well: Weddings and funerals. For one thing, we’ve had a lot of practice. We planned and executed the funeral, and then prepared for my sisters wedding a week later. Somehow, the funeral was beautiful and seemed just how Roger would’ve wanted it. A lot of people spoke, including his son who’s words were poised and beautiful. The service took place outside in the 3 acre garden he created. As depressing as it was, somehow it still felt right. The next weekend, it was time for my sisters wedding. And it was a blast. Still one of the best weddings I’ve been to! Everyone smiled, laughed, and danced, including my mom. Sometimes I think we should start a business where we plan both weddings and funerals. I must say, there’s not SUCH a difference. Each involve an absurd amount of flowers, a lot of drinking, and usually someone saying something inappropriate. There’s just more dancing at a wedding! Anyway, the next year involved a lot of cursing and yelling at God. A lot of questioning life and existence and the universe and a lot of crying and flipping off the sky. But in very quiet moments, in stillness, I felt reassurance. I could feel that this was not how the story would end. It wasn’t over; not yet.

Just over a year later, my mom was at a bar-b-que at some of our best friends house, the Pastoreks. Paul Pastorek was one of my dads best friends. They were the family we’d take ridiculous annual vacations with in the summers. We were extensions of each others families. Anyway, while at the bar-b-que, my mom met Paul’s brother, Marc. Somehow, in their more than 20 years of friendship, my mom had never once met Paul’s brother, until today. You can go ahead and guess where this is leading. Yep! They ended up falling in love, too. Just over a year later, they were married on a mountain in Colorado. We joked about who was crazier; my mom for taking another chance and marrying again. Or Marc, for taking a chance and marrying a woman with two dead husbands! The first song we danced to at the wedding was “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. It was both irreverent and inappropriate, just like all of us. Once again, we danced all night. It was perfect.

Taking the plunge, part 3.

So now, the lesson. Only marry men with strong genes. Just kidding. I think the biggest lesson I have gathered from my moms story,  is that choosing to love someone involves incredible risk. There are no guarantees in life and certainly none in love. I think it would have been very easy for my mom to clam up after the first loss. And then to disengage completely after the second loss. Excuse my Jewelry commercial sappiness, but I think by keeping her heart open to even the idea of loving again, she was able to both give and receive it in spite of the track record. At Roger’s funeral, she stood up to speak to everyone’s surprise, including her own. But she said something came over her, and the first  thing she said was “To love is to be vulnerable to loss.” This is true for everyone. And that’s a scary thought if you harp on it too long. But the alternative, which is safety, bears no reward. And that doesn’t sound like much fun, at all. Most everyone I’ve talked to who has been in love, whether it worked out or not, says it was well worth it. A few nights after Roger died, a lot of people were over at our house. We were eating, drinking, and remembering, telling stories. At one point my mom was talking about their first date and how hesitant she was. At the end of the story she said “What can I say, given the chance, I’d do it all over again.” That’s what you call courage! I was in awe of her. And as I watched her marry a third time, change her name a third time, ‘do it all over again,’ take another plunge into the unknown, I knew I was bearing witness to a model for not only how to live, but how to love too. Get busy livin or get busy dyin! Am I right? So here’s to you mom, for doing it all over again, picking up the pieces and moving forward, and teaching everyone around you that love, while it is a gift, is not random. You have taught us well.

Health, Happiness and Love!

The Day My Dog Sh*t on Park Avenue and I Didn’t Have a Bag

The following is a true story. For realsy.

It was August of 2008 in New York City and unbearably hot. And that’s coming from a Southerner. They were calling it the heat wave of the century. At least I was calling it that. People were basically stripped down to nothing and when you breathed you felt the heat expand in your lungs. The cement made the already hot air electric. It would burn you at times, only letting up for about an hour between 2 and 3 am. Walking outside was what I imagine the last two weeks of pregnancy must be like; simply uncomfortable. That being said, I was REALLY hungover.

There’s something about being hungover that makes heat…hotter. I basically just want air to be blowing at me when I’m under the weather that way. I used to stand in front of the freezer with the door wide open for far too long and just let the cold air rush past my face in some weird attempt at relief and to try and make the hangover go faster. Like it’s some guest I can get scoot out the door. But everybody knows…you just have to sweat it out. I still can’t believe we’re capable of growing seedless watermelons but we can’t figure out the cure for a hangover. That being said, Monty really had to pee.

Every dog owner knows that on the day after partying, the dog totally gets shafted. “Sorry buddy. Mommy blacked out last night and now my everything hurts and so we’re probably not going to play fetch or do anything remotely fun today.” I feel awful when it happens. I hardly drink anymore because, well, I feel dead all the time on my own. But there were those days. There WERE those days–When moving was all-too-painful and your pores smelled like candy and vodka and your hair was inexplicably sticky? It was one of those days. Monty needed to do his business. New York was exploding with heat. And I was deathly hungover.

I was staying at my brothers apartment. It was on the third floor, so I mentally prepared myself for the walk down the stairs I was about to take. I walked cautiously and told Monty “Go slow buddy. I could DIE at any second.” He seemed to notice I was out of sorts and behaved a little better on his leash. I pushed open the ridiculously heavy door at the end of the stairs and the sun and the heat and the smell of New York pour in and engulf me and I kindof throwup in my mouth. I swallow hard,  blink my eyes forcefully a few times, and hold my head still while my eyes catch up with reality. I turn right, begin the walk down the sidewalk and Monty wastes no time. He spots the first tree, lifts his leg, and I contemplate letting the semi driving down the street run me over. He passes. And business number one is done. Great, keep going. There’s a spot that he loves to poop a few blocks down, but I’m wondering if I can make it that far. My life is in Monty’s hands. Or butt. I have to get this over with. “Just go anywhere buddy. Really, it’s fine to go on the cement.” But Monty is a Southern dog and is still getting used to shitting on cement. I can tell by the look in his eyes when he does it, it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s the human equivalent to driving on the left side of the road in England. Or putting ketchup on a filet. Something like that.

As we walk on, my stomach starts to turn. Ah, the viscous waves of nausea that accompany the hangover. Will I puke? Or will it pass? The mystery of it all is fantastic. I look away from the sun and think of lemons. I always think of lemons when I am nauseous. I’ve done this since I was little and it’s the only thing that helps if I concentrate on it. Lemons lemons lemons lemons lemons lem…aaaaaand now my mouth is watering. The turning gets faster, the saliva is circulating in my mouth and I know it’s go time. We stop at a tree, I get on my knees, and share my insides with the streets of New York. Awesomely, my throw up tastes like gatorade. I find that Gatorade is the best thing to vomit. It tastes the same coming out as it did going in! I like the red flavor but really any of them will do. As I’m crouched over, puking, Monty tries to start licking it. “NO!” I yell with as much energy as I can get behind that word. Then I ralph again. I hear high heels walking towards me. I know she’s classy. I can feel how pretty and put together she is. She smells good too. “Hey, are you OK?” she asks as she hands me a kleenex. Is this rock bottom? I think so, but I can’t be sure. “Yeah, I’m fine. Thank you.” I don’t make eye contact. I feel so ashamed. I wish I were wearing high heels and expensive perfume and walking somewhere important. Instead I am upchucking on a sidewalk and my dog is trying to eat it. WHEN WILL I GET IT TOGETHER. OK, so the best part about puking is how good you feel after you puke. I take a deep breath, continue our walk, and bear the heat a little more easily. On to number 2.

We’re approaching Monty’s favorite spot, and we’re both getting excited. I can tell, he’s been waiting for this for a while. My relief after vomiting is short lived and by the time I get to his special spot, all my symptoms are back. Awesome. Monty does his business and I pick it up with a torn grocery bag, and it strikes me that picking up dog shit off the sidewalk with a damaged bag is NOT the grossest thing I’ve done today, and that is concerning.

We turn and begin the treck home. I am going to make it. Monty and I are both going to live and I smile at the idea of getting back to the apartment and not moving again until tomorrow. But suddenly, something is happening. I can feel it. I sense something with Monty. Why is he wearing that excited look he gets when he’s about to poop? He already did that. He’s sniffing at another tree and won’t come when I pull the leash. It can’t be. No. No no no. Not a DOUBLE POOP DAY. SHIT. DOUBLE SHIT. It’s a strange phenomena that happens once in a blue moon. The double poop. You never know when it will happen. But almost always when it does, you’re not carrying the bag with the extra in-case-of-emergency poop bag. SHIT. I am on Park Avenue. I am the human version of a car accident, and my dog is pooping and I don’t have a bag. Thanks Monty, thanks a lot. He wags his tail. My stomach turns and the road dizzies.

I have no explanation for what happened next, but it really did happen. There is a sudden breeze, and I close my eyes and just let the somewhat refreshing movement of air run over my face. It had been static air in New York for so long it felt like. Suddenly, a breeze. I feel calm. I try to think if this is a poop and run moment or what my plan of action is. Just as I contemplate options,  I feel something grace my ankle. I look down and see that a Duane Reede bag was blown right onto my foot. The wind carried it from who knows where, and basically delivered it to me and this train wreck of a situation. I can’t believe it. I look around and make sure I don’t see a dude in a glowing white suit say “You’re Welcome. By the way, I’m God.” I don’t harp on it too long because that breeze is dying down and of course, my stomach is turning. I disgard Monty’s second helping. We complete our walk and make it to the apartment, up the stairs, and onto the couch. I don’t move for the next 12 hours. I play that moment of the bag hitting my ankle over and over. And that was the day my dog shit on Park Avenue and I didn’t have a bag.

And then, suddenly, I did.

Health, Happiness, and Always Take a Second Bag.

Sorry I pulled the double deuce on you!

Me + World

Night is my other best friend. The darkness allows you to be alone, eat alone, and there are no silly questions about it. You’re allowed to sit in a room with no tv and no music and no electricity and nobody asks why. I like to lay with Monty at the end of my bed and think of everything that is alive. I start with me and move across the room, the street, the neighborhood, city, state, and then I move up. Out. I pan out and watch it all from above, see where I fit. Spot the breathing electricity out of windows. I do this for hours at night. I try not to get blindsided by some faulty thought that I am alone. Because that isn’t true. When I look through the lens properly, it’s clear that all the little beams of light coming through all the little windows connect us. And in dissillusioned visions that imply you’re alone, you find in kind silence, you’re not. That little list you’ve made of everything separating you- turn it upside down. Make a funny doodle of it. It’s a delusion gaining momentum. To position yourself away from the world and claim you’re alone is uncreative; as if this is your only life! You’re not. It isn’t. And all the energy you’re expending effects every little window you think you aren’t connected to. It dims the lights.

If you’re alone, then why do you feel sad when you see a stranger cry? Because you’ve held her pain before. Why do you feel bad for the prisoner, the killer? Because you’re capable of hate, too. And you gave money to him on the street, when you know just what he’ll buy with it. But he showed his gold teeth to you and you smiled back and didn’t let anybody see–You’ve been desperate, too. And you felt loss when you killed an ant and sad when you watched an elephant. You’ve been looked over before. If there’s only you, why do you smile when you see a dad playing with his kid and a grandma teaching someone to cook and a dog making someone laugh and old people holding hands? Because you’ve felt unconditional love, too. How even the thought of lemon makes your mouth water, you know just what that kind of love tastes like. Why when you’re all alone in bed does your mind flood with all the people of the world, the ones you’ll never see, and the open parts, the good parts that haven’t happened yet, and a deep warmth rises in you, that though your body is weak your spirit is strong and for a moment it will occur to you just how big a dent you can make. Because you are not alone.  Just as when the lights turn off, there is blackness and in the newness you think everything’s disappeared–Adjust. The chair is still there, where it always was. Now you see it when you look with right eyes.  You couldn’t be the only one here. You’re important, but not that important. You’re not everything. But you contain the energy and carry the weight of everything that ever was.

You embody every war won and every battle lost. Every kid that died and everyone that survived. Your fingers touched the cotton of every cotton quilt and your arms grew heavy from the labor all day long. You’re jaded from all the gold in the world not being enough and blind from an excess of things that left you empty. Your tears are made of theirs. Your laugh makes the same sound. Your heart is made of all the holes of infedelity and the solidity that binds it is made of  loyalty and kept promises. That’s why every heart is capable of breaking but can also be reassembled. Just as it can hurt, it can heal. Ask a child to love you and she’ll know what to do. That’s why when you cry, I cry too. And that’s why when you die, I’ll die too. When we see each other there, after having all this fun, we’ll laugh at the bad parts, rejoice at the good parts, and once again we’ll smile together.

Tell me again, how you think you’re alone? These aren’t bad things, friend, these are treasures we share.

Health, Happiness, Togetherness!

Community College Dropout

It’s a beautiful thing to wake up and believe that you’re exactly in the place that you need to be. Even if it’s not the place you plan on staying. For me, figuring out where to go or what to pursue next has always heavily involved where not to go and what not to do next. I’ve made some decisions in the recent two months that go in a very opposite direction from what I had planned. You know what they say: Man Plans, God Laughs. I suppose this is my official (and late) letter of resignation to Delgado Community College. Unless of course the writing doesn’t work out, in which case I’ll need Anatomy and Physiology II in the Fall and in the afternoon, please.

Bye Bye Delgado. It's Been Real.

I’m often surprised how hard it is for me to admit that I am sick. All my friends would tell you differently because they’ve all heard me say a million times “Sorry can’t make it. Feel like death again,” or something similar and I operate an entire blog centered around my stupid health! But it hasn’t always been this way. And in my instances of pain I have no hesitation in admitting that I feel awful and to just go ahead and count me out of whatever activity they’re planning. But for some reason, in a larger context, in the long term, I’ve never really considered myself sick or disabled or incapable. That’s why when my best friend Jess and I talked about nursing school this summer, I jumped on board immediately. I was feeling better, (as in, I could walk with ease now) and I wanted to be working towards something. This was in July so I had been away from my job since February and was really feeling the void of not doing anything. I was writing, true, but no one takes a jobless “writer” seriously. I didn’t even take myself seriously! Everyone is writing a book. Everyone has a brother in a band.

Anyway, I have always had a passion for nursing. My mom was a nurse, and since I was young I would dress up in her lab coat, wear the stethoscope around my neck, and walk around the house pretending to conduct my highly important work of tending to the sick. I’d also beg people to let me give them an exam, which usually ended up in me asking my Grandma questions like “And how often do you take fiber?” and listening to our dog Bacchus’s heartbeat. When it came to choosing a major in college, I chose Journalism for two reasons. 1. I’m an inherently curious person and 2. It came easy. My writing classes were easy A’s for me. Math and science meant a lot more work on my part. So I chose what came natural, and that was the right decision.

But now this nursing idea was popping up again, so I jumped on board. It was something I had interest in anyway, and I only needed a few pre-reqs in order to be admitted, so I went for it. I signed up for 3 classes, passed the entrance exam, and decided to start a silly blog to accompany me on my sickly journey to nursedom. Oh how the tides would turn. Funny that I didn’t really stop and consider that the whole reason I even had time to consider going back to school was because I was sick and physically unable to keep up with the pace of the rest of the world. Nope..never thought of that…

Even after the blog went viral and other opportunities began presenting themselves, I finally sat down one morning and really thought about nursing school. I started thinking about how I handled my three classes at Community College. Usually, I went, so that was a start and my grades were fine. But nursing school is very intensive. Sometimes the hours are very long and I don’t think it’s one of those jobs that would be very forgiving about me calling in once a week or letting me come in late when I had a migraine. I know a few people attending nursing school now, and when I would see them after a full day and how tired they were, I knew deep down I wouldn’t be able to do it physically. Didn’t I know that before? And yet something made me go after it in August. Unfortunately I think it was ego. Something in me wanted to prove I could do what other people could do. I could be normal. And if I couldn’t make it through, I’d just give up. And that’s not really a responsible or wise decision on my part, but since it only began with 3 classes, I think those near and dear to me wished me luck and quietly thought ‘What the hell is that girl doing? She can’t even prepare her own meals!’ It was also not a wise decision because it was this kind of thinking that kept me at a job so long that I was incapable of keeping up with. It was ruining any shot at me getting better, and this would have done the same.

Luckily, I didn’t get far enough into nursing school to have to quit or give up halfway through. Three days before my last final, the blog went viral and new, more feasible opportunities presented themselves under the same heading: Writing. Remember? The thing you’re decent at and enjoy doing that comes naturally and doesn’t require you to use your feeble little body? DUH. Like Nepo says “When we stop struggling, we float.” Once I stopped trying to prove what I could do, I stopped having to try so hard, and was left with the gift I had all along.

What I’ve been considering lately is that my motive for going into nursing in the first place was very basic: to help sick people. And somehow, now, I am inadvertently given that same opportunity, just through different means; my words. I’ve received quite a number of emails from people with many types of health issues who say this site helps them feel less alone and less crazy, and makes them laugh, too. It’s a beautiful gift to be able to reach people that way. The internet rocks. It’s like I’m an internet nurse!

So I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has written, commented, or laughed, and to everyone who has found comfort, hope, or joy here. One of the biggest realizations I’ve had in all of this is that it’s entirely possible to be sick and still laugh, love, dance, and have a happy life. So don’t ever start becoming comfortable with the perspective that you’re sick and being sick sucks and thus, you’re life is going to suck. Being sick does suck, but you’re life doesn’t have to. Mine isn’t completely where I’d like it to be, but  it’s getting there, and I believe more than ever in the prospect of true happiness. This realization is of course coming after a year of a lot of mental and physical pain and breakdowns and loss and lessons. But hopefully it can offer some comfort to anyone out there without them having to go through a year of pain and breakdowns and loss. Tolle says this: “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” I think I know what I’m meant to do now.

Health, Happiness, and Mom I’ll Pay You Back for That Semester at Community College Soon I Promise.