Can’t Touch That

I write this from the floor. My knees are scrunched up in front of me and my caps serve as wrist stands. I’d write at my desk–my writing desk–but I can’t sit there long before my neck goes out which causes a headache which causes a sad face. Like this :( That’s exactly how I look when I’m feeling bad if you were wondering.

Today I woke up feeling rough. Rougher than usual. Still, this is nothing new, and I’ve learned how to let go of plans and make myself useful in other ways from bed. But I was impatient today. I had things on the to-do list that I wanted to tackle and I couldn’t. I confront this a lot, but today it made me mad.

I’ve been trying to make some changes in my life: health-wise and beyond. I’ve been proactive about eating better and since some recent lab work detected gluten anti-bodies in my gut, I’ve cut that out. I don’t miss it that much, in fact it’s high time to go without it. Gluten free is so trendy right now! It’s just that I’ve never liked when people are picky at restaurants. And now I’m that girl, ordering the burger without the bun and asking the ingredients of sauces. Oh well.

Besides the diet, which I’m still working out, I’ve begun organizing closets and getting rid of excess anything and attempting to follow some type of schedule. It feels good. Throwing stuff out makes me actually feel lighter. All of the changes feel good, but I always seem to hit a wall and the whole thing falls apart. Like yesterday.

I cleaned out this closet in the living room, which has somehow collected my nieces baby clothes, my ex-boyfriends computer, a guitar with a missing a string, and THREE brooms, among other miscellaneous clutter. Carrying the bags of trash out and then looking at the organized masterpiece was a hole experience. Oh God, it’s just a closet. After that I went to the bookstore to check out a few recommendations from a friend. I found them and walked around a while– I just like the atmosphere there. Then I went to the grocery store for a few things that turned out to be a lot of things. My legs were burning by the time I got home and I knew I’d probably overdone it. (Wuss) But I was in my Martha Stewart zone, or something. When I began to put away groceries I noticed that the fridge could use some cleaning. I took everything out, pitched half of it, washed the drawers in the hot soapy water, wiped everything down well, then stocked it. Admittedly I sat there and opened and closed the door a few times just to relive the magic of my newly pristine fridge. I was done around 10:30 and Oh my God I am boring myself.

The truth is I didn’t do that much. But that’s just the ticket. You don’t have to do that much in order to feel this bad the next morning. It feels like you ran a marathon on a whim and at the end a bunch of people gathered around and started kicking you. Dicks. When I sat down I realized my whole body hurt and my mild migraine I had all day has turned into a full-blown one. I took some of my 25 pills, then my nighttime pills, read a little and went to sleep. I slept pretty rough, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

When I awoke the next morning to the pool guy knocking on the glass door I felt the way Gary Busey looks.

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

I could barely get my eyes to open fully by the time I got to the door. I’m sure I looked like a zombie in pink pajamas. All the “overdid it” symptoms were back. Achy, dizzy, heavy and the worst of them all: weakness. Because there’s nothing to do for that except wait it out. And that’s especially hard to do when looking at the list I’d optimistically made yesterday of all these tasks that needed crossing off. I had another closet to take on and there’s all these medical bills to sort. General fun time stuff. They would have to wait. Like my mom says, they’ll still be there tomorrow waiting for you.

The thing is, it’s OK. This is how the illness works and I overdid it, just as I’ve done hundreds of times before. I’ve learned plenty of ways to make the day count from the couch. I’ll rest and improve over the next few days and remember that compared to the past, this is truly small potatoes. I don’t write the details of my day to wine or seek sympathy, but because I’m still trying to figure out life with this illness and it still surprises me what a disruption it is. I only tried to plan two days! Then again, everything I wanted to do yesterday is still here today. In the rush and crash of life, I constantly confront the lesson to slow down. It reminds me of something Marc Nepo wrote:

We are so unused to emotion, that we mistake any depth of feeling for sadness, any sense of the unknown for fear, and any sense of peace for boredom

Having one well day doesn’t mean I have to attack every closet and drawer in the house. Sometimes I should just slow down and enjoy being well, without getting so quickly lost in the world of things.

As my life continues to change I am learning how to re-mold myself and adapt to new experiences with some kind of grace. I am in a new relationship which has been scary but great. I didn’t realize that meeting someone new and introducing them to my weird sick life would make me feel soo… scared. I remember thinking OK, so this is what vulnerability feels like. I’m usually a a take-it-or-leave-it kinda girl but I liked this person, and there was the possibility that me and this life and my illness would be too much for him. And that will always be a possibility. But, everyone risks rejection when you go for it. And it’s worth it because cuddling is cool and making out is fun!

Still, it’s been challenging on both ends. The illness is confusing, my life lacks structure and the circumstances just aren’t normal. In the beginning, I loved the escape I felt meeting someone new who didn’t know me as a sick person. It felt like visiting another country and knowing you can be anyone because no one knows your past. I actually thought we could keep going without having to confront the illness seriously. (Stupid) But it felt good to me, good I hadn’t felt in a while, and I went with it. Obviously that approach dissolved and at some point we both had to face the music

I’ve always known that my being sick effects a lot of other people and things besides me. Now I’m finally grasping that being the partner of someone sick can be a big challenge too. They are constantly reminded that we’re sick, but there’s not a lot they can do or say to fix it. And that can wear on anyone-our partner, mother, sister, child- as much as it wears on us to be sick. In my case, the healing doesn’t come from words. It’s more a matter of being there– listening honestly, holding, hugging, or just laying together and feeling the warmth of someone else’s humanness and yelling LIFE IS HARD BUT THAT’S OK! Sitting with the truth like that is hard, but this stupid illness never ceases to be a lesson in surrender, for everyone around it.

I think the thing to remember is that even though illness crumples up plans and stomps on dreams (haha) it really can’t take away the ethereal, elusive thing that makes each of us specifically human. We are still who we are underneath, and illness can’t touch that. In fact I believe there is a way to embrace it and become better versions of ourselves because of it. I do believe that.

Health, Happiness, and Ultra Clean Closets

A Thousand Reasons Not To

This summer I enrolled in a creative non-fiction class at Loyola in New Orleans. The class was a workshop style and the 12 of us made for quite the diverse group. We varied considerably in age, sex, race and background. Together we could have easily graced the cover of a brochure for a city’s Parks Department or a Volunteer program of some sort. But we all wanted the same thing– to write, and for two months that’s what we did. Our teacher was a classic local New Orleanian who was an active writer in the city and taught in the MFA program. He always wore short sleeved Hawaiin shirts and had a pleasantly laid back approach to teaching. After the first class nerves and politeness wore off, we submerged into a chemistry all our own.

Here's a few of us in an elevator selfie I made us take.

Here’s a few of us crammed in an elevator selfie I made us take. It was late. 

We spent the summer writing and reading and critiquing each others work. I knew there was a lot to learn in our short time together, but I loved more how enjoyable and interesting our sessions were. We all shared this passion, but it was more our willingness to show up every week, to put things out there we weren’t always comfortable with, and to give and receive critcism with honesty and humility. Because of our many differences, we had very engaged discussions, and it was so refreshing to hear the voices and opinions of people who were so different than me. It sounds cheesy, but having that diversity made such a difference. When I reflect on my college classes it strikes me how homogenous they were. I was mostly surrounded by people who looked the same as me and were after the same things. This was different. Better, I think. I remember after the first class feeling so grateful that I signed up and went for it. I noticed it advertised on a coffee shop wall. So often I feel an interest for an “extracurricular” like that and tell myself one day, but I never follow through. I was glad I did this time.

The truth is that “One Day” is always “Today” right? That’s probably a bumper sticker somewhere, I hope. But there really isn’t any other day than this one, which is why one day hardly ever comes. It’s already here!

At the end of our last day of class, someone asked our teacher if he had any final advice for us before we all parted ways. He thought for a moment and then gave a subdued, thoughtful response. “Everyone is always asking, ‘When can I call myself a writer?’ or ‘What makes someone a writer or not?’ It seems so obvious, but the simple truth is that a writer is anyone who actually just sits down and takes the time to write. Who works away at his desk and grinds it out, again and again and again. It really is about just making yourself write, day after day, which is very hard to do.”  I remember thinking how simple but powerful an answer that was. So many people in the community, including me, ask that question, and so few people actually commit to the time and vulnerability and work it takes to create meaningful and honest writing. I think sometimes the idea of things is more appealing than the reality, which is always far less romantic.

I’ve been reflecting on his answer more recently as I’ve committed myself to a writing project that constantly challenges me. It boggles my mind that each morning when I sit down at the computer, I feel the same fear that I felt yesterday. I feel an uncertainty that’s totally unnerving. It makes me see and think of a thousand other things to do, besides writing my inside out. I see dust and think that I should dust. I realize a cluttered desk is no place to write so I clean that out first. I see paper and think I’ll make a list of other things to do, then cross each one off, then sit down and get to work. I check my email just to make sure there aren’t other things I could or should be doing. God forbid I enter the world of Facebook or Twitter or the black hole of the webosphere, never to be seen again. It’s crazy how much time I spend doing other things, with a fantasy in mind that once they’re complete, then I can write. It’s all a facade. It’s another One Day. There’s no perfect place to write, no ideal time, and no shortage of other things to do instead. I thought that once I did this long enough, I’d just wake up and start typing until nighttime and then do it again the next day. That I would overcome the fear once and for all. Not so.

Every day I feel a resistance to do the thing I love and deeply believe in. It’s strange and challenging and completely frustrating. It sounds like such a psychological cliche, but apparently this is a common defense mechanism that most people confront. If you don’t actually try and put stuff out there, you don’t run the risk of failure. Or rejection. In effect it’s just safer not to try. So we become skilled at finding ways not to. But it’s also boring and cowardly to give into it so I try and fight it all the time. Sometimes the fear wins and I don’t try that day. I alphabetize my medicine cabinet instead.

The flip side is, when I go too long without writing I feel like that kink in a hose running on high pressure. I get irritable and uneasy, like I’m going to POP at any moment. I can almost feel my insides stirring and expanding and the answer is always to let them out through words. It reminds me of something Marc Nepo wrote: “Talent is energy waiting to be released through an honest involvement in life.” True dat. The time before I write and the act of sitting down to write can be unpleasant and is usually really hard. But the feeling after I’ve written tells me that it’s what I’m supposed to do. I always feel better once I’ve done it, and sometimes if I’ve done it well, other people feel better too.

Whenever I watch really successful people on TV or listen to them speak, it always occurs to me that they got to where they are because at some point in their lives, they decided to try. And they too faced risk. But that’s always how big things begin. I used to think successful people were that way because fate had it in store for them. I thought they were chosen, as though success picked its people like teams in PE class. Now I realize truly successful people are all very different, but are triumphant in their aspirations because they’re true to their gifts and trust themselves enough to put it out there. They risk failure, but they get a chance at changing things, or going big, or living out their dreams. And how many of us are living out our dreams?! Even if they failed, they’d at least have tried, and there is success and respect in that alone. Some of my best stories and biggest revelations came from me failing first. Did you know I auditioned at Julliard? No, because I failed. But it’s also how I learned I wanted to write instead of act. Plus it makes a for a funny story now.

Our writing teacher told the class he had written two novels but so far no publishers had signed on to them yet. I was really impressed hearing that. I think actually having sat down and written a complete novel, start to finish, is a huge accomplishment. It takes such dedication and time and work, and he had written two. Even if they never get published, having two completed novels under your belt is awesome. Especially because writing is such a lonely thing– no one is really encouraging you or congratulating you until the work is finished. And you always run the risk that at the end of your hard work, it won’t be well received. I guess that’s the vulnerable part we all face any time we embark on an endeavor. But I don’t always think it’s about the finished product anyway. It’s more that we’ve dedicated ourselves completely to something, worked hard at it and saw it through to its end.

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But by all means, try something.
-FDR

Health, Happiness, and Try Try Try Again.

10 Things Easier Done Than Filling A Legal Prescription In America

1. Buying Illegal Prescriptions/Drugs In America.

2. Teaching a Wild Bear to Play the Trumpet.

Yeah, You Read That Right

Yeah, You Read That Right

3. Buying a Gun

Guns: Much Safer Than Meds For Sick People.

Because Guns Are Safer Than Meds For the Sick. Duh!

4. Going an Entire Day Without iTunes Asking If You’d Like to Install the Latest Update.

5. Getting Your License Renewed Anything Achieved at the DMV.

6. Surviving a Breakup.

.

Half true.

7. Sitting Through the Entire Hour of “Marketplace” on NPR.

8. Teaching Your Grandma How to Use Twitter.

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Preach it, Granny

9. Admitting You’re Wrong in the Middle of an Argument.

10. Playing Golf On the Moon

moon-300x223

This Didn’t Even Require a Prior Authorization!

Health, Happiness, and A Million Miles of Pharmaceutical Red Tape