How To Come Home

I’ve just made it home. My suitcase is still lying in the center of the kitchen floor.

It’s crazy how good home feels after you’ve been away from it, even when you’ve completely enjoyed your time away. Somewhere between waiting in line barefoot among rookie fliers who somehow forgot about the jug of water in their carry-on and the captain shouting God knows what into that fuzzy speaker, I start to feel my humanity slip like some kind of sock with lazy elastic hovering at the ankle.

Once upon a time, flying made me feel like a celebrity. The whole experience was a novelty and a privilege.  And somewhere in my jaded depths I know that it still is. The mere idea of humans taking flight on a bus in mid-air is still mesmerizing and I’m lucky to have access to it. And yet somehow,  the only celebrity I ever feel like is Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. I’m all eye rolls and discouraged sighs, which sometimes emerge as a laugh–the kind of laugh you let out when nothing is actually funny. I try to keep my moans of discontent in, even when the automatic toilet flushes while I’m still on it and I’m sprinkled with fresh public toilet water. I try to breathe through the frustration of then not getting that same toilet to flush when I actually want it to and there I am dancing like some kind of monkey on fire trying to activate the motion detector that says just wave your hand to activate. It lies. I exit, I don’t care. I hate the toilet now. All I want to do is wash the Ebola off my hands and possible STD’s off my thighs, but the faucet requires the motion. And the soap requires a motion. And the dryer requires a motion. And what happened to handles? If I went on Shark Tank I’d reintroduce handles to public bathrooms. Anyway there is more dancing. More erratic behavior from inanimate objects. More laughing when it’s not funny. It’s like the DMV in there; the threat level of a Stage 5 freakout is just one toilet flush away in any given stall. You can sense it.

But not everyone confronts the airport bathroom circus. The old lady next to me doesn’t seem to have problems with her soap. I bet she’s been spared from the toilet water too. What is your secret, old white lady in the brown velour pant suit? What am I doing wrong? But there’s no time for philosophizing, I have to get to my gate. Guess where my gate is? Guess if it’s nearby or at the very far edge of the airport as in it has a separate zip code and everything. Guess.

Is it the tragedy that is modern American air travel that makes home feel this good? Maybe. Probably. I guess this account of flying would suggest I’m a young, old curmudgeon who has lost sight to how lucky I am.  But it’s always temporary. I am either going somewhere great or coming home to relief and love, and it’s just the in-between antics that can get a girl down. Once home nobody shouts the temperature and the toilets flush WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO. Of course, an 80 pound furry beast running around you in circles then through your legs and back, shoving every toy in the box in your lap and wagging his tail with enough vigor to knock over small children and feeble adults, well, that helps too. That’s the best.

I celebrated Thanksgiving with my best friend big brother Nick and Company in Miami for a week. Mostly I felt like death, but I was excited to go and the change in scenery did me good. It’s been a rocky few months. My health declined from mediocre to poor without discernible reason, and that’s just the name of the game with illness like this. I can’t pretend I’m not discouraged by it or tired of feeling really shitty when I didn’t overdo it or change anything, as if a person deserves bad health anyway, but I’m trying not to wallow in it either. I saw the specialist in Miami and there are a few changes we are making, but we won’t know more until the results arrive from the copious amount of blood I gave to test. Aside from that, my progressive boyfriend and I broke up. Ew, breakups.

It’s interesting that a decision you’re sure of it’s the right one to make can be just as painful as the wrong ones you’ve made when you didn’t know any better. And by interesting I mean shitty. We did the adult thing and “called it” at the appropriate time. We saved ourselves the tragedy of letting it slowly burn and die until it ended in hatred. I guess ultimately, even an amicable breakup is still a breakup. It’s an end. You grieve for them and you grieve for who you were with them. I experienced a whole new pain this time around that stemmed from not being my whole self in the endeavor. I pretended and concealed when the truth was ugly or getting a less than desirable response. I don’t think Id ever done that In a relationship before, but I’ve never been under the circumstances I am now and had to introduce someone knew to a world that took so much explaining, and defending in some cases.

It’s weird, I actually wanted to keep my illness out of the whole thing. (I wanted to live in Neverland, is how that sentence should read.) I had this fear it would interfere with things before they ever had a shot to develop. I feared it would be difficult and unbecoming; It would suggest I was someone inferior. I was even afraid it might be the demise of the relationship. And then, it kind of was. The weight of it became too heavy, it’s unrelenting nature became too repetitive and it’s lack of a solution wore out the seams and we broke. There were other reasons, of course. But my being sick was up there, it messed with things, it was a big a part of the end. And for a while that was a really crushing thought. It made me feel small, made my life feel lesser. I push and work to live my life in spite of this invisible force trying to take it away, and yet sometimes, it still comes out on top. It wins.

But hiding it was like doing a monkey dance in a cramped bathroom stall. (Kind of) It was stupid on top of exhausting, and I don’t know how I expected anything authentically good to emerge when I wasn’t being true to myself. I am not my illness, I know that. But it’s there, it’s changed virtually everything in my life the last four years, and nothing good has ever come from denying or dismissing it; from pretending it’s not there. And yet, sometimes I can sense that people want me to pretend it’s not there. They want to hear that I’m better, and no one understands that fantasy more than me. But pretending makes me feel like I have to hide a part of my life that I can’t control, and that’s not a healthy place to be. I don’t want long conversations about my illness. Ive had enough of them for 20 lifetimes. But I do need an honest atmosphere that doesn’t require apology. I need to be able to be sick when I’m sick and well when I’m well and not judged inbetween. It will always take patience, compassion and effort in order for my life to be understood and loved from the outside. It will always be hard in my relationships. But hopefully if I am really seen, my external circumstances won’t take up so much space. And that was half the problem, I never really felt seen. Instead I felt sorry, and that’s because I betrayed myself. By not putting it all out there, I made it nearly impossible for my life to make sense.  I am not jobless and living in my parents pool house writing on a blog called Twenty Five Pills a Day because of lifestyle choices. And that’s an attitude I confront a lot. I’ll work like hell my whole life to turn lemons into lemonade, but I didn’t pick the lemons, so I don’t think I need to apologize for that anymore. The weird thing is that in glossing over and skirting around this small part of me, so much more of who I am was stifled. Good parts! Fun parts! It doesn’t feel good not to bring your whole self to a party. In fact, that hurt the worst, and I did it to myself. I had a need that wasn’t getting met, and instead of accepting that once I knew it was true, I tried to do away with the need. Surprise surprise, that didn’t work. It’s OK to have needs. Love enjoys needs.

Now I am Stella getting my groove back. I see my health in the distance: a ship in flames slowly sinking into the ocean. Haha. That image makes me laugh. But this will pass. I’ll get better. Or I’ll get worse, then I’ll get better. It doesn’t matter, because I’m going to keep trying. I’ll attempt to transform all of this– pain, pleasure, toilet water– into something useful. Something fun. Because despair is boring and I’m seeking a creative life. The world doesn’t need more sad stories so I will find the good ones. I’ll trust what I’ve been given and let it fuel all my endeavors. Mostly I’ll breathe easier because I am who I am and I’ve made it home. I’m back. And I have so much to do.

Stay tuned.

Health, Happiness, Home.

Technical Difficulty Please Stand By

A couple of weeks ago, I lost my head. It happens sometimes.

I call it spaghetti brain and it occurs when I’m in a crash or when I’ve overdone it for too long. I knew I was pushing myself a little too hard because I ended up in a push/crash cycle that typically doesn’t end well. My body continued to give out, and I continued to push until finally my mind followed suit. I had a stressful few weeks and my mental agility dulled until I could hardly say my own name out loud without stumbling over it. It’s difficult to explain, but when these cognitive issues flare up, trying to think and listen and speak makes me feel like a car with the gas and the break petals pressed to the floor at the same time. My thoughts come fast but fragmented; the words pile up on the tip of my tongue, tumble over one another, and then emerge in random order with a lot of stuttering in between. Half of the time the wrong words come out altogether. My brain feels like it’s on fire, and a few times I’ve had to just sit in a dark quiet room to extinguish the mental chaos and regain my sensory composure.

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Besides writing and speaking like a fumbling drunk geriatric, my sense of hearing becomes extremely heightened and over-sensitive. It’s as though a sensory filter was removed and now all sound is allowed in at the same level: loud. It’s extremely difficult to hold a conversation if there is any background noise like television, or if other people are speaking nearby. For whatever reason, talking on the phone turns into a strained task, and often the sound against my ear can become jarring. I feel unable to focus on what’s in front of me, and as a result all sounds merge together and all I hear is incomprehensible noise. Sometimes I feel held hostage to some kind of sensory overload, where sights and sounds almost compete against each other and become so overwhelming that my skin starts to crawl. Suddenly I can feel all my clothes touching my skin, and it’s very irritating. That happened at the coffee shop a few days ago; the music playing in the background and the two girls talking next to me and the glare of my computer screen suddenly engulfed my mind and I felt paralyzed. I’m sure it was fun for outsiders to watch me suddenly go a little nuts, throw everything in a bag and run out of there as though I were on fire. But hey, I’m happy if I can be of any entertainment.

I haven’t written much about the cognitive effects from CFS, but I really should have. This last month has been an alarming reminder of just how crippling it can get. It’s a total disruption on your everyday life, and were I working right now I think I’d surely be fired. I remember when these strange symptoms began when I first became sick at age nine. Suddenly the sound of the vacuum became intolerably loud. As in painfully loud. The same went for hair dryers and the radio in the car and even washers and dryers. It’s not a constant state of agitation, but like the other symptoms, when I’ve done too much, it gets ignited and wreaks some major havoc. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, others a few weeks. But usually with time and rest the mental cloud clears and things improve. This week is already a lot better than last, and I think it’s because I’ve had a lot of solitude and allowed myself to really rest. But still, it’s there, mixing up my word order and making it really difficult to speak in complete sentences. Trying to talk to people when these symptoms flare up is like trying to cook in a really dirty kitchen, with dishes piled in sink and sticky gunk on the counters and no clean utensils. Am I making sense? The point is, it’s messy up there. Cluttered. Jammed.

I laugh at the thousands of words I’ve written in the last few weeks and what a literary disaster they’ve turned out to be. I read over my words at night and find myself scratching out entire pages because they’re all over the place, incongruent, and in general just not up to par. I’d be lying if I said all this didn’t scare me a little, especially because writing has always been something I could do despite being sick. To see that nothing is really safe from the CFS monster is unnerving, and it’s been frustrating to feel held back this way. But I haven’t lost hope. I know it will improve as I continue to rest, as it’s improved before, and I wanted to at least let it be known that I’m not dead, I’ve just temporary lost my ability to communicate properly. It’s not like I’m a writer or anything and that kind of thing matters. :/ ANYWAY, In place of writing I learned some Timberland on guitar and made some drawings of Monty. They’re not very good.

At any rate, I expect my head to recover from the spaghetti state soon, and I’ll be back to catch up with the world once I’m more able. I appreciate the patience as I await my brain. In the meantime, you can read more about the science behind spaghetti brain in people with CFS here and here. Catch yall on the flip side.

Health, Happiness, and a Cognitive Catastrophe

Girls in the Fall

Something happens to girls in the Fall.

It begins faintly around mid-August, once the novelty of summer has rusted to near hatred, and the first few harbingers of Fall reveal themselves, however slight, that our frenzied wait begins. We Southern girls must wait the longest. Not until the rest of the country has surpassed Autumn fully en route to Winter will our Fall truly begin. But wait we will, masterfully preparing (boot shopping) for those dropping temperatures, sometimes near the fifties!

Is it the wait that induces our frenzy? Our DNA? Some primordial leftovers from crafting our loincloths into something warmer, adding fur both protectively and just maybe, because it looked cute on our cave husbands? I don’t know. But no doubt, when those pre-season football whistles begin to blow and that JCREW catalog arrives with its Fall Preview showcasing wispy stick women coddled in cardigans among orangish woodsy backgrounds, it’s over. Fuhgetaboutit.

Like this.

Like, what is even happening here? I like it.

 

Do I want pumpkin shit in my coffee? No. Not even a little. But I don’t mind the deluge of pumpkin flavoring making its way into thousands of consumeable items, because its meaning surpasses flavor. In the Fall Fantasy, it means sweaters and scarves. Do you know the seratonin-dopamine discotque that breaks out in my brain when I hear the words Sweater Weather!? Do you know how exciting those infinity scarves are? Do I wear infinity scarves? Nooo, and yet somehow that didn’t stop me from browsing about 1,400 of them online, salivating at their patterns and the thought that some girl out there will be wearing them and she will look fantastiko, DID IT? How could I be psyched for strangers wearing an accessory I don’t? Um, I dunno. It’s what I mean about girls in the Fall. It goes on..

It means FOOTBALL and something to “do” on Sundays, in your pajamas if you want! It means Red Beans and Rice and soup and STEW. Group text shit-talking and creative/perverted Fantasy Football names. It means PLAID SHIRTS PEOPLE. It means wedding season and chic Fall dresses. It means campfires and that smell on your clothes. Pea-coats and tea and brisk walks in the park. It means your boyfriend looking cute in a grey hoodie sweatshirt. And kissing in the cold, and how for some reason it’s different–warmer, better.

Of course it conjures up the Holidays too, which is another fever all on its own, with very similar symptoms. Just the idea gets my Fall heart pumping! I can smell the live Christmas tree now. There’s no thought of Holiday realities that include the misery of modern American Air Travel and family freakouts or that time I got too drunk during Scattergories and dropped those F bombs in front of concerned adults. These fluttery dreams, even if they are illusions, are at least half the fun. They don’t include conflicts or drunken meltdowns. They do include fancy Holiday parties (never go to any) and sparkly dresses to wear and kissing your love under mistle toe! Have I done these things? No! Does that matter? No! It matters that I could, and the Gap commercials always make it seem highly likely. I even look forward to Holiday commercials! Jeez mahn.

But what I’m truly getting at here is something that invades and consumes the female brain. I may be entering sexist territory here, but I confront it every year–Among friends, on TV, at strangers in the store, at groups of girls at Football games, and within myself. It’s a necessity. (Wait no it isn’t) It’s an industry. It’s huge. It’s had us salivating for months, on the constant lookout, thinking strategically about our approach. There’s a method to it. It’s what the season is all about. It’s what makes the world round.

It’s fucking boots yall.

This all comes down to boots. We’re surrounded and tempted by images and advertisements and boutique windows whispering to us Boots. There’s boots in here. Step inside and be somebody in boots. And there’s so many options. So many ways to go. An obviously unnecessary amount of ways to go. But the boot phenomena is not about need. We’re deep in the Fall Fairy Tale now. Here is our Knight in Shining Armor. Only he’s wearing sassy new BEWTS. This is what made the intolerable heat worth it. Our rescue. Our romance. Our savior. It’s boots. Of every color and every kind.

grey-et-al-is-wishing-for-fall-boots

Boots!

You need a casual brown or beige boot as the versatile go-to. You need rubber snow or rain boots. You need a dressier, heeled black boot. You might throw in a casual flat black as well, depending on your chosen purse color for a while. You’ll need a lace up black one for the edgy but casual Fall outfit. And you’ll definitely require a few different “booties” for various outfits. A heeled black suede or velvet. (Can be worn with pants or a Fall romper or skirt for a night out) (I don’t go out) A neutral flat ankle boot, to wear with a rolled up skinny pant or casual floral daywear dresses. There’s the classic riding boot to go with skinnies and the aforementioned plaid shirt. Or leggings and an oversized Grandfather sweater. You could do the over-the-knee boot too, to fierce up your look, dressy or casual. You may throw in a grey ankle boot, to be worn with an array of colors and can transition between black and brown. THERE’S JUST SO MANY. And we love them all.

It weirds me out and embarrasses me how exciting boots can be and a part of me

Oh God.

Oh God.

Sorry what? I got distracted by this pretty platter of ankle boots. Anyway it just sort of disturbs me how

Give it to me baby

Give it to me baby

What? God, see? This is what I mean..I just got lost looking at this melange of boots and what wearing a few of them will say about me, and whether I’m comfortable with that message should I wear them. Anyway look, I feel a little ashamed right now that I’ve even devoted writing this long with a buildup that landed on boots. There are realer things to talk about. Like things that matter. And I intend to get there. But I couldn’t be helped. This fever set it me a while ago and I’ve been playing it cool, but my eyes were cast on Fall months ago and I could no longer hide all the feelings it conjured up and my weird excitement for plaid. And cardigans. And kissing in cold weather. And BEWTS. Duh.

There’s this part of Fall which mimics the thrill of Christmas. It’s the anticipation. It’s imagining all the fun you’ll have. All the parties you’ll go to. And how great you’ll look doing it. IN YOUR BOOTS OF COURSE. I have no idea if any of this happens in the male brain. Doubtful. Anyway, Is all this a little narcissistic with inflated versions of self and broaching on being so vain you probably think this blog is about you? Yeah, it is. But I think it’s OK to venture into a Fairy Tale a while. But truth be told, Fall is beautiful and I find romance in so many parts of it. And in Louisiana we really do await its arrival a long time. I can’t even be sure it’s here yet exactly. But I can tell you it’s 90 degrees outside today and the humidity is low, and I’m about to play with Monty outside. But first I’ll change into a plaid shirt I bought months ago and some boots that make me happy. Because it’s Fall yall! It’s close enough. It’s nearly Christmas morning.

Heath, Happiness, Fall. Boots.