The Cusp

You know in those movies where the main character is down and out after shit hits the fan and they’re nearing rock bottom but then comes this pivotal moment, a complete momentum change where usually an offbeat sidekick character busts out the tough love and tells them only they can change the course of their lives and no one else can do it for them? Suddenly this head-boppy motivational song chimes in and so begins the montage where down-and-out becomes up and coming and bad choices are replaced with healthy ones followed by inspiring shots of her showing kindness to strangers and looking bright and happy and you know, you know, that everything is going to work out for her. Her life trajectory rockets into the stars where her potential is limitless.  And all the shit that hit the fan has settled and disappeared. It’s all going to be OK. It’s going to be good.

I find myself on the cusp of my own Hollywood game-change montage. In the movie of Mary, it’d start with me rolling out of bed… onto the floor.Then Monty enters, pulling me by my shirt collar into the kitchen, and scoots me a plate of pills with his nose across the floor. Then begins my momentum shift song, potentially this one by The Killers

…followed by shots of me lifting three-pound weights and flexing my “muscles” in the mirror. I’m drinking green frothy stuff and throwing away prescription bottle after bottle, high-fiving doctors and crossing off lifelong goals. Suddenly I’m the one waking Monty up to play, and I’m helping sick people and giving speeches in front of the president demanding  healthcare change for the chronically ill. Then the camera slowly fades in to me typing at the computer in the hazy blue of night; a question appears across the screen: Are you sure you want to change this URL? It asks. I click YES, only to reveal my new web address word by word: Zero.Pills.A.Day.Com BABY! (Scene) For some reason this hasn’t happened yet. So weird.

OK so yes this is more Hollywood than reality and there are a lot of flaws to the fantasy, like me “exercising” for one. And vitamins curing me, for two. But the other half contains actual hopes I have for my life. There are real changes that I can feel waking from dormancy, and ambitions I know I can achieve, all that’s required is that I jump off. Dig in. But when it comes time to leap, I feel hijacked by my own dumb brain. Maybe it’s more of a lump; a dense rock in my depths that thinks of a million other things to do besides the one thing that matters. Sometimes it’s a total jerk of a rock and suggests I’m incapable or unworthy, or that someone else could do it better. And the worst part is, I listen! I think yeah, I should definitely attack my nails and cuticles until they bleed instead of trying to change my life and others for the better and for forever. Smart, real smart.

When it comes to writing, I encounter the same consensus among writers, which is painfully simple: That writing every day is obnoxiously hard and often achingly lonely, but you just make yourself do it.   The writer Anne Patchett writes in The Getaway Car that the key to completing artistic endeavors is forgiveness. Before she begins, “I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. …Forgiveness is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again I will forgive myself.” I’m working to keep this in mind, since so many words and pages I write on this computer end up in the trash bin. It’s hard to know whether I have a discerning eye for quality work, or if I just don’t trust myself enough. It’s beginning to feel like the constant editing is just another guise I’ve unconsciously created to keep me from the jump. Amy Poehler advised in her recent memoir that in order to write you have to symbolically remove your brain and put it in a drawer, then listen to it throw a tantrum until it wears itself out–meanwhile you get going on the real stuff. “The doing is the thing. Talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. Writing the book is about writing the book.” See? Basically to achieve what you want, you just have to do it. Brilliant. When I’m not in denial and I’ve let go of excuses, I am well aware that the only thing in my way, holding me back, is me; and knowing that almost paralyzes me even more. But I also know that change starts with awareness, so I think it’s time I take out a hit on myself. At least on the part that’s so lost in thought it leads to stagnancy. I can’t believe the trouble thinking causes. Has Tolle taught me NOTHING!?

So many days I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going or what’s going to happen to me and it results in either laughter or becoming totally overwhelmed. Where I used to fear change in life, I guess when things were stable and I was happy, I’ll sense an aching fear that things won’t change. That I’ll live and die in my parents pool house, an unpaid blogger with 37 chronic conditions. I can’t grasp where my place is among the world. Furthermore I can’t decide whether our place is made or reserved. Do we discover it or carve it out all our own? I don’t know. I only know that most days I feel far from either. Other days I feel close to a major turn-around; like something huge is about to sweep me up and change all of this for the better. But by the next morning we’re back to the ordinary. I’m taking my pills and moaning and Monty is doing his best to get me out of bed. Often my life feels like a raft drifting in the ocean in no particular direction, and the wind in all its thoughtless surprise is steering the boat, not really taking me anywhere at all.

Guess we're going South. Cool.
Guess we’re going South. Cool.

Monty and I roam around this town I’ve historically hated more like tourists than anything else. No one knows us by name, besides the pharmacist of course. We spend a lot of time at this coffee shop with the angry barista where I’m writing from now.There are girls here wearing the same uniform I wore in high school. They look so young and cute in their plaid skirts and Mary Janes. They seem happy and untainted and I like the way they burst out laughing at hardly anything. I can’t remember looking that young, a sure sign I’m getting older. Since turning 30 last year, I wonder a lot whether I’m really growing up or just getting older every year. I am surprised to have found the first grey hairs on Monty’s snout this year and I feel like a mother watching her kid go to the prom.Where did the time go?! There’s all kinds of proof that time has moved forward and carried me with it.  And yet my life could easily fit the bill of a 17-year-old in many ways. Some days that’s exactly how it feels. As my friends are advancing their careers and getting married and having babies, I still bring my mom to doctors appointments and often shop at American Eagle.

I understand the circumstances of my life are different and I have to make peace with that every day. But I also want to make sure I’m growing through all of this and not just surviving it. I guess I thought there would be a day when I reached adulthood, as though it were some test you passed, like the BAR, and then were a certifiable adult. I definitely figured as a child that by age 30 I’d have it all figured it out. Of course, I was young and blissfully stupid then. I couldn’t know how obscenely larger and deeper reality would become. I feel like I know less than ever before. Every answer springs up ten more questions. I’m uncertain of mostly everything except for the aggressive love I have for my dog. In short I have no idea if I’m getting it right. And I can’t imagine the day when I’ll feel like an adult.

V413782_RC093
Didn’t You Hear?!

However, I did notice something of note at Victoria’s Secret last week. It was a routine underwear buying trip and my spirits were high because there’s something weirdly exciting about getting new underwear. There I was at the 5 for $25 wrack; my go-to section for cute and economical briefs. But I found myself all disgruntled making frowney faces as I browsed the huge selection. They were all Lisa Frank colors or animal prints. But worse, there was writing across the butt. Things like “No Peaking” and “Shopping Burns Calories!” adorned their backsides. Dear. God. The colors were blinding and I felt out of my element. I then spotted the sophisticated 3 for $33 wrack out of the corner of my eye, where the colors are muted bronzy tones and the designs are laced in floral maturity. More expensive yes, but, as I held a silky pair in my hands, modest, pretty and free of TEXT on the ass, I felt at home. This is where I need to be. I bought my favorites and left smiling. So that counts for something. I think.

Forward!
Forward!

All these thoughts weigh heavy in my mind; stupidly, uselessly. But they can be thick and hard to control. So I take Monty to the river, where he is immediately in his element and I can catch my breath. Monty finds the largest stick in the vicinity and makes me throw it in the water again and again and again. His enthusiasm is contagious and I laugh out loud watching him put his whole head underwater to find the waterlogged sticks. Something about returning to the spot and seeing the river flow in the same direction it did last time we were here quiets my head. Watching Monty run full speed and splash clumsily reminds me to chill out. That life is supposed to be fun, and it only moves in one direction.( See above) Collapsing under the weight of those thoughts makes me feel dragged by the current instead of floating downstream. I don’t know exactly who I am, and maybe it’s something that grows and changes until the day you die. I only know that life and happiness aren’t somewhere over there, and I need to stop assigning them to a future I can’t know. Times will be hard and times will be easy, but there is peace to be found in all of it if I can just trust myself and forgive the experience. More than that there are dreams to be made! I just need to move out of my own way so I can finally jump off. Over the cliff–that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the Hollywood montage begins.

Health, Happiness, the Edge.

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15 thoughts on “The Cusp

  1. Thank you for this post. I haven’t read your blog in a long time. I guess because I am in denial of my own health – CFS/EI. If I don’t read about it, and don’t join Facebook groups about it, then maybe I don’t have it? But I am having a bad day, and suddenly thought to check it, hoping that since so much time had passed you might be doing better. I am so sorry to hear you’re not, but grateful to know I am not the only one in this boat. I have lived with my parents for 6 years now, in a town I’ve never bothered to get to know. I only thought I’d be here 3-6 months, to get some down time and things would be better. Instead, I’m still here, and can barely name a single street – except for my own. I know no one, save some neighbours to wave at when I pass them. My dog was a puppy when I moved, and is now considered “senior” according to my vet. Reading this was like reading my about my own life – except I am 35 this year. I don’t know how to cope with this age; it’s my “scary” age. My friendships dwindle a little further everyday; with each child they have, the gap between us grows exponentially. I feel so far behind as an adult, I wonder if I’ll ever catchup. I find myself constantly doing lifestyle math: if I was to wake up well tomorrow, I’d have x years to meet someone and have kids. But most days I just wonder what my purpose in this world is; surely there has to be more? Thank you for sharing, I sincerely hope things improve for us both.

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    1. Hey friend. I know the feeling and ive done the “lifestyle math” myself. But the truth is we dont have to be completely well on order to have quality relationships. We just have to find the right people who love us as we are. And remember, Audrey Hepburn didnt have kids until into her 40’s, so that always reassures me :) There is so much groundbreaking research going on right now and I have no doubt there will be a cure in our lifetime, but it is up to us to find meaning and peace in the meantime. Think of the illness as a buffer to weed out the incredible people from the fair weather fans. In that we are lucky, we get a preview of how people are when it comes to the shit of life, and not just the polite stuff floating on the surface. Just remember youre not alone try to draw strength from the millions of others with CFS who are struggling, many of them worse than you or I. We will get there! And be on tbe look out for a change.org campaign I am starting asking the NiH for more funds toward CFS. We will get there.. Hang in, and I will too :)

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  2. I always enjoy your posts. At this moment, I thank the stars every day that I’m a man and don’t have to wear words on my underwear’s ass! And to be honest, I’m 42, married, have kids, and responsibilities and still feel like a failure. Keep up the writing!

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    1. Thanks dude. Enjoy your textless underwear. I’d say having a wife and passing your love onto your children who I assume are being raised to be badasses and live on into the universe after you’re gone is far from failure. But hey that’s just me. :)

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  3. Thank you. This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with lately. I’m about to turn 30 myself, in less than a month. And… I’m also living with a parent due to my chronic health conditions and lack of a real treatment plan. Sigh… Again, thanks for this today. I often come here finding exactly what I’ve been thinking; my own thoughts, but you’ve miraculously managed to write a post that makes me feel less alone in living this sort of life.

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    1. Thanks for reading and responding. It’s always good to hear I’m being heard and understood out there..I never know what happens after I press the post button. But hang tough and as you can read, you are far from alone. We’ll get there, one day at a time. Hang in ;)

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  4. I’m not sure anyone would want to make a movie of my life, as weird as it’s been. I don’t think I’d trade it in though. I happen to like roller-coaster rides. I used to take zero pills each day, not even a vitamin. Now I take five and a vitamin. Although, generally, I don’t mind growing old at all, ache, pains and pills I’d like to do without.

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    1. Growing up and old looks fun. I’m just never sure I’m doing it right. I guess everyone is up against that though. I guess a roller coaster is more fun than the lazy river canoe ride :) Thanks for reading. Hope you’ll be back,

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  5. I’m 32 and not where I thought I’d be in life. I rarely feel like an adult. I think this feeling is somewhat normal for our generation. You always bring up great points in your blogs. I had to leave a comment when I saw your mention of Lisa Frank!!!! I miss those crazy colors and fun images! I don’t want any writing on my booty either, but I would totally take a thong with a purple and lime green tiger on it!! :)

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    1. Agreed. If Lisa Frank came out with her own underwear line, I’d totally buy that shit. Good to hear from someone going through the same stuff in our generation. Maybe no one ever feels like an adult. We’re just a bunch of people getting older in ridiculously colored undies. :) Lisa Frank 4 Lyfe!

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