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.
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.
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.
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.
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 andoverduewhile 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.
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.