It’s been a bit of an odd weekend.
For some reason, I’ve been having a hard time keeping track of when my last MNM class started. I thought it started a couple of weeks ago, initially, and found out when I tried to log in that–nope–I was jumping the gun. Then, as the days went by, I thought it was next Friday. Only it was this Friday, and on Friday, I just happened to doublecheck. I think my intuition saved me this time.
I wasn’t prepared, though. Going back to school, after a few weeks off, requires preparation. I’ve been mostly in work mode lately, with much needed self-care thrown in. But this week, I felt particularly depleted. So I was frustrated, to say the least, that I didn’t plan better. And I was getting a cold. Or something. In any case, by Saturday, I was pretty tired.
My roommate has been going back and forth to Boulder this week/weekend for a Buddhist Geek conference, so that also brought with it some chaos and new routines–and having more household responsibilities and more time alone (well, in theory). In truth, I ended up working a lot more without him here because I tend to forget what time it is when I’m quietly puttering away.
I had planned on doing some self-work this weekend. I’ve been obsessively acquiring e-books recently. I miss reading for myself, and I realized that I often have ten minutes here and there where I could read instead of tweeting or checking FB. My big plan for the weekend was to come up with a game plan for changing my life. I was feeling stronger after this last week’s therapy session. Last weekend, I had a revelation of sorts…that, basically, every internal battle I have involves two versions of myself: six year old me and 26 year old me. Six year old me wants to take care of everyone, to her own detriment. She is a perfectionist and control freak. But–really–she just wants to be loved. She wants to be worthy. Twenty six year old me is all about self-care, but in a self-punishing way. She’s really pissed off. They’re both part of me–different aspects of me–but they are as distinct as separate people. I realized, this weekend, that I check out a lot when things get hard. If I feel overwhelmed by anything, my healthy, rational, functioning self shuts down. And these two take over. When they run the show, I pretty much live within my shadows. I’m not being the me I want to be, and self-care–true self-care–goes out the window.
I’ve glimpsed myself doing the shut-down thing a few times in therapy. But last weekend, I figured out the cues that indicate it’s happening. It was a big breakthrough for me because I was able to stop it from happening. Instead–sorta like that witnessing thing I felt during my cleanse–I was able to let the feeling of shutting down pass. I was able to come back quickly and process it. What brought it on? I was feeling uncomfortable–because…feelings. To me, feeling things I can’t control feels a lot like dying. When I don’t know what to do, I shut down and the parts of me that allowed me to survive swoop in to save me. Only they don’t. Mostly, they numb me to the feelings. They use food or people or anger or exercise or television–whatever–good, bad, indifferent–to stop the pain. Pain I actually WANT to feel.
So, in therapy, I had some conversations with those parts of myself. Basically, I told them I was in control now. That I was going to take care of me–and them. That this ends. I think I must’ve disassociated a bit during therapy because it didn’t feel as healing as it normally does. But I did feel stronger and lighter afterwards. But since then, I’ve felt a little lost. I found myself absentmindedly missing meals and not doing things I normally need to do. I wouldn’t eat until I got hungry–not based on a time on the clock. So, one day, I didn’t eat till 8 pm. I slept when I was tired. So, some days, I didn’t get to bed till 4 am. It was almost as if, without these two telling me what to do, I had no sense of self motivation or discipline. It was hard to organize myself and to stick to plans. I was much more easily angered and more emotional. And other strange things happened that I won’t get into–because yea—I dunno.
Yesterday was kind of a cluster. I didn’t get anything done. I slept far too long. I felt like crap from the cold I’ve been fighting. I felt unlike myself, and I kept allowing myself to get riled up about things that really don’t matter. I kept choosing to do things I didn’t want to do because I felt like I had to. Each time I did that, I didn’t choose to do what I wanted. So, by the end of the day, I gave up and numbed out in front of the TV.
When my roommate got home, we talked some about his conference. We were talking about enlightenment and the various things that have happened in our lives.
Backstory…I was raised Lutheran/Christian. I never felt comfortable in the church. But I was always searching and found myself at a Jesuit college–which opened up some stuff for me. I’ve been mostly free of religious labels for most of my life. I always felt an affinity for Buddhism, but I didn’t know much about it. But, the weird thing? At some point, a lot of people started asking me if I was Buddhist because of things I wrote about my life. They assumed I’d read something or other–and I hadn’t. Then, I’d read whatever it was and understood why. While I’d never studied it, the explanations I had for my life and how I handled it were very Buddhist. So, I decided to read what I could. I still feel like an idiot, but Buddhism has become more important to me, and I self-identify as a Beginner Buddhist. I have the training wheels and everything. :)
In any case, I feel like I’ve been on the road to enlightenment for a long time. I think it started when my father died. I feel like each step has involved me shedding things or discovering new tools that prepared me to experience the next step. Right now, I feel like I’m shedding self-abuse and loathing. And while I’ve already shed tremendous amounts of sadness, fear, and rage, this step might be the hardest one yet. But I do feel like–as lost as I feel right now–there is a center inside myself–that witness that is sure-footed and wise. That the confusion and frustration is temporary, and that something really beautiful is on its way. I’m also starting to recognize how I’m resisting. For me, the biggest resistance is choosing others–and that shows I’m still very attached to six year old me…that maybe what I most need to get through this step is support and love. Because that’s all she’s ever wanted. And I can’t get that from anyone but me. So, I’m trying to be compassionate and give myself a break/space to figure it out. At the same time, I’m learning how to work with my own self-sabotage–figuring out what helps and what hurts. I’m seeing that–before I ever even know it–my brain is preparing me to do what I need by making choices I wouldn’t have connected to this before.
It’s seems weird, but just giving myself permission to mess up and giving myself options is helping me do better. It’s also helping the emotions that are locked inside all of it come out. Instead of planning out everything and trying to be perfect–only to postpone or give up when something doesn’t go according to plan–I’m choosing simple things that I know work for me. I’m setting a no-judgment or shame intention with ridiculously easy goals to keep me going. I actually have faith that I can do all of this and maybe, for once, I’ll be who I want to be.
I love autumn. No secret there.
Apparently, though, as a grad student, I’ve gotten this reputation for being a reader. And I AM, but grad school isn’t really helpful for reading things I enjoy. I try–I really do–but the energy it takes to read is way more than the energy it takes to spud out under the blankies with Netflix and Hulu.
One of the things I most look forward to is the fall premieres of old favorites and the new shows that come up. I try to watch all the new shows (unless they look ridiculously bad). This season isn’t any exception. So, I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts about the ones I’ve caught.
Spoilers ahead, yo.
Mulaney – I really miss great comedies. I watch a lot of British comedies (obscure ones, at that), but American comedy is usually boring and just not funny. I had high hopes for Mulaney, but it was immediately apparent this was a Seinfeld rip-off. Really, Jerry should sue. It’s that blatant. And it’s TERRIBLE. Like I didn’t even laugh once. I wanted to gouge out my eyes. I hope it dies a swift (though, undoubtedly, painful) death. Just UGH.
Madam Secretary – I love Tim Daly and Tea Leoni. This show reminds me a lot of The West Wing–which is high praise considering how much I loved that show. I dig it. The one thing that I don’t love is how much they focus on Leoni’s domestic situation. I don’t feel like a male character would be portrayed this way, and while it does make for a more layered character, it annoys me. But, for the most part, it’s well-written with great acting. Good stuff.
Awkward. – Yes. I know. I was as surprised as anyone to discover I loved this show when it first premiered a while back. And it’s been a rough ride. Last season sucked so hard. But this season is a bit less annoying. Jenna still grates on my nerves, but there’s less gimmicky crap to contend with and more character-driven plots to feel good about. It’s not classic tv, folks, but it is a good time that’s worth watching in your PJs with some popcorn.
Faking It – I’m trying to stick with this show, mostly because I didn’t hate last season (didn’t love it either). But I’m starting to get bored and exasperated by the idiocy of these characters and plots.
Black-ish – I want to like this show. I do. I like the actors, and the idea is a good one. But it’s just not funny, most of the time.
Scandal – I’m a huge fan of this show (#teamjake), but I don’t feel as good about it this season. While I get that last season did a bunch of damage, I really don’t want to watch the angst and infighting between gladiators. I want to get on with it. I want Olivia to come barreling through, uniting everyone to take down Command and build a better world. Call me an optimist. I want some romance and heroism–not the yawn fest of senators manipulating whatever the hell they want. I want broken ugly wailing. I do love Bellamy Young this season (which is rare because I usually find her a bit grating). I feel like something’s missing this season. What this show does best is illuminate how there is not good or evil…how the lines overlap and how life isn’t simple. We haven’t seen much of that this season, so far.
Selfie – I had such high hopes for this show. I LOVE the leads and I love the idea…a play on My Fair Lady. But it’s just not good. Not charming. Meh.
Manhattan Love Story – I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I adore Analeigh–ever since her appearance on Next Top Model–and even followed her on Twitter for a bit. She was quirky and interesting. I was hoping her real personality would carry through. I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, so this was an easy sell for me. Alas–I hate the male characters. I hate the sister. I hate all of it–especially the sharing of thoughts. No chemistry here. Not believable. Abort. SIGH.
A to Z – I’m not sure about this one. I enjoy the characters. A lot. But it seems like it’s running out of steam.
Bad Judge – I only watched this because I love the lead actress. But she’s been stumbling into terrible roles for a while now. I found some redeeming qualities here, but mostly, I fell asleep.
This is Life with Lisa Ling – Basically, this show is the same as Our America–the show Lisa just wrapped on OWN. Not sure why they renamed it, but I’m betting it’s a CNN thing–sorta like when Bourdain moved his show. It’s a good show, and Ling is a great journalist. But I feel like she covers the same stuff over and over again.
Homeland – Probably my most anticipated show…and my favorite show in recent years. It’s not as good as it was. I miss Brody. Like literally–I’ll say to myself–“Brody would make this situation awesome.” Carrie continues to be a bit batshit. I’m annoyed that Saul is such a minor character right now, since he’s my favorite. For me, Quinn is pretty much the best thing about this show right now. I adore him so much.
Cristela – I was expecting pretty much nothing. But this was good. Like actually good. Cristela manages to do the impossible–be actually funny while saying really subversive things about White America. I don’t think many people caught the pretty edgy joke in the premiere, but I actually gasped and cheered after I caught my breath. How the Hell did that get through the censors? While there are plenty of stereotypes in this show, they are necessary and ultimately make the show even better. It crosses boundaries and shows a part of America that television networks usually ignore.
The Flash – Loved it. Adored it. More, please.
The Walking Dead – 1. Carol is a badass. 2. I’m so happy Judith didn’t die. 3. Zombies can be helpful, sometimes. 4. I’m with Conan. Die, cannibal asshole, die.
(Please bring back our resident badasses: Darryl, Michonne, and Glenn. Their performances were lackluster in the premiere. And, while I enjoy He-Man Rick, I need more Darryl in my life).
Peace & Love,
Recently, I started noticing things changing.
Every year, around this time, I feel this wave of stuff–decidedly bad stuff–wash over my life. It usually brings on a distinct mood. A feeling of sadness and being stuck in some awful reality I never chose. It always seems to come with my father’s birthday. Weeks ahead of the actual day–which happens to fall smack dab in the middle of my favorite season and month–is this gloom I can’t seem to shake. And, to be honest, I love fall because it feels like me on the inside. Winding down, beginning some sojourn to hibernation and isolation.
I call it grief season. Because there is no other way to talk about it. When you lose every single person during certain months, they get stained with it. Dates on calendars seem innocent enough, but each one has a landmine behind it. I don’t know which one will go off–which one will send me careening toward the sky. So, I have this tendency to brace myself. I’ve been doing it for years.
Except this year.
This year, my father’s birthday snuck up on me. I felt bad for forgetting, but it didn’t clobber me like it used to. The upcoming anniversary of Mama falling ill has not bothered me.
I’ve been feeling good, mostly. The surgery last month worked, and I’m feeling recovered. I feel even–like the way I’m supposed to be. My weight is down 15 pounds this month. My thyroid condition seems to be improving. I’m using Western medicine for some things and Chinese medicine for others. Chinese medicine helps make the Western medicine tolerable. I see my acupuncturist once a week for tuneups. I’ve been seeing a great therapist every week for the last year. We’re doing a lot of work, and we’re seeing results. I’m working through stuff I never knew existed.
I feel good.
I have so much more energy. I feel grounded. I feel strong. I feel open and vulnerable–near tears all the time–but not wimpy. Just present. Like my heart has been broken open.
This past week, we did some inner child work as we have been doing for a while now. Only this time, my father was invited. And I got to talk to him. And I dunno why, but my father was the father I needed all those years. Proud of me and there for me…taking my anger in and accepting what I had to say. It was nice to remember who he was and laugh about it. It was nice to feel his presence. A lot of people–I guess–get very ungrounded by such things. But after, I felt such a degree of peace. Like all the stuff I couldn’t express finally got released. I felt really happy.
On Saturday, I got a new haircut. It’s fun and sophisticated. It’s funky and a color I never would have tried in the past. I had such a good time chatting with the girls in the salon, and I just felt really at home with myself. I left there feeling peaceful and happy–in love with myself, really. Like the outer me was finally starting to match the inner me.
Today, I started rolfing. I’d never done it before and was kinda terrified. But I sought it out because I heard it was like a super massage and was good at helping emotional problems. I always feel like I have a huge amount of pain somewhere, so I figured it would be good either way. I immediately liked my therapist and was taken by her description of what she does–that she’s basically moving icebergs. That our bodies react to trauma by building these slabs of stuff, and when you shift them and put things back–it releases energy and pain.
I was really intrigued by it. She’s an energy worker, too, so I was curious what would happen. It didn’t hurt. It sort of felt like a massage, but much less handsy. It was more of a partnership, and breath was really important. If I forgot to breathe, it was more uncomfortable. But when it was all done, I felt totally painfree. It felt like I had done an hour of hot yoga. And then, the energy came and a bit of euphoria. I was just utterly happy. I felt lighter and more open. I could breathe so much better. My asthma breathing subsided, and I felt like I used to. I found myself standing better and sitting taller. It was pretty amazing. I truly feel like my body let go of a bunch of angst today, and man, I needed that.
It’s kind of odd not to feel like shit. To have no aches or pains or crap making me feel bad in some way. I guess this is what it feels like to be normal. I’ve never been normal, so I don’t know.
All I do know is that I could get used to this. And I feel like I’m on to something big.
Yesterday, like many people, I read the news that ebola had finally landed in America. Facebook was the messenger, as it so often is. I responded by posting: ebola :(
Throughout the day, I got emails and some texts–all reassuring me that ebola was a non-issue here in the US. That because of its incubation period, we were safe from epidemic. That because of our amazing health care system, our citizens won’t suffer.
I also saw a lot of posts saying as much on FB and many more making fun of it. Because that’s what people do.
To distract, comfort, and reassure.
I mostly ignored them because I wasn’t feeling like engaging any of those things.
But then I wondered why so many people, in particular, felt like they needed to say something to me about it. I have a degree in biology, took immunology courses, am best friends with a cancer researcher, and know far more about hospitals than I’d care to own.
I know. I know about incubation. I know about disease. I know about death.
Far too damn much. And I hate all of it.
I didn’t comment on ebola because I was worried. That :( meant what it normally does. I was frowning because I was sad. I was sad to hear that another person had it. Sad to hear it had come to another country. Sad to hear that people were afraid and suffering. Because one person is too many. One family is too many.
Sad because 1/2 of Liberia’s population will likely die due to this disease or its aftershocks. Because before people die they are ostracized and cast out. And that the person who made it to our country was lucky because we supposedly don’t do such things, and we have modern everything. Except we sometimes do. Except it often fails.
So, there’s that.
And then I got really angry.
I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. Been having dreams of beating people up. Violent dreams of annihilation and rage. Because I’ve been doing inner child work, and I gave myself permission to feel. Finally. Only, for all this anger, I’m not much more than sad.
I’m allowed to be angry and sad about things that suck. I am allowed to be angry and sad just because I am.
And I’m so sorry if this is rude, but please don’t try to comfort me or distract me or numb me to the reality you see. I want to feel all of it. Mostly because I felt nothing for far too long, or I apologized for being a highly intuitive, sensitive soul for–well–all of my time here.
You can numb out and logic out and pretend all you want. But I won’t. Because seeing people suffer and die and endure hurts me. Because I saw it happen too often, too early, and I won’t pretend it’s okay.
No–I’m not worried about getting some disease. Though don’t be so comfortable.
Safety is an illusion. You are never ever safe. You live on borrowed time, and the thing that kills you will win one day.
The how is just a detail.
But pay attention to that impulse. Is that the legacy you want to leave? That you laughed at someone’s suffering? That you diminished pain because it wasn’t in your home? That you stopped paying attention because it didn’t matter because it wasn’t yours today?
We oscillate between callousness and hysterics–all the while ignoring the places where our own humanity is most needed. We worry about who’s getting married in what million dollar dress and how many calories are in our $5 latte while people drink muddy water and die because we stopped looking.
I am so grateful I still have eyes and a heart that remembers it’s broken.
Today, I had surgery. I’m writing this from my bed–a fact that kind of amazes me. For one, I’m at home mere hours after a difficult procedure. And I’m actually coherent and not shrieking in pain. I’m not even on heavy drugs, and I can walk just fine.
But there are other unpleasant things.
Like my neck and shoulders and jaw are absolutely killing me. The side effect of being intubated with my head stretched downward across giant pillows. That’s the worst pain I’m feeling. Oh, and the throat–my poor throat. It feels like I have pneumonia–with all the gunk and the raw everything…and that cough that makes me hate everything. The actual thing they operated on? None of the normal symptoms, at all. That feels normal and fine. I am, however, wincing at not-normal symptoms that are from having a tiny pelvis. My body doesn’t play nice with modern medicine. Hence, my anesthesiologist using an ultrasound to find a good vein for an IV after several failed attempts and many painful bruises.
I’ve been here before. The bruises will heal.
But some parts of my body feel alien and delicate–like touching them will make them fall apart. I’m afraid to look.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see a specialist to see what might be causing a problem I’ve been having. Oh, and I needed an annual exam. In my gut, I knew it was my thyroid meds. I knew it because that’s when it all began. When I’d skip a day, it’d stop. But that sort of thing wasn’t normal. And I have a family history of very bad things–that, left uncaught for too long–eventually killed my aunt. After many battles. It transformed from one thing to another. Only to go away–till we all sighed in relief for a while–only to come back as some new thing. And eventually, it stayed.
My aunt with the red hair, who used to make me tortillas–who taught me to make enchiladas–who we visited in summers…driving Daddy’s blonde station wagon. The subject of so many pictures. The only family I ever really knew other than my parents. Who I was like–in almost every way–according to Mama. One day, she was gone.
So, I get the concern.
But–in my heart? I know I’m not her. That’s not my story.
There are other things, too. My Mama had this procedure right before she conceived me. When they told her she’d never have a baby. That it was broken…and then this happened…and then I happened.
So, I knew about this procedure–though Mama certainly didn’t say everything.
Selective memory–when it comes to pain–runs in our family.
There were reasons to go here. Mine was not done for her reasons–more to diagnose and alleviate symptoms. I still have days to wait before I’ll really know anything. Answers I’d always needed. Things I just wanted to know. It was a God’s honest relief when Dr. M suggested it. Because I need to know this thing. Oh, and yes–let’s rule out the big bad scary. That too.
I was terrified. I Googled. (Don’t Google).
I like to know things. It’s my way of tricking myself into thinking I’m in some kind of control–when I, clearly, am NOT.
I did it for years when my gall bladder rotted. I did it when my Mama got sick. To comfort myself. Prepare myself. Rationalize. Find ways to postpone. To cope.
I’d had surgery before. But it was different.
I had been in absolute, utter, horrible pain for over a week. I’d been vomiting for two days, non-stop. I only sought help because I legit thought I’d die. And lo-and-behold–had I not–I would have. The surgery came in the nick of time–like God had planned it that way. The best doctors and the best nurses and everything just fell into place. It was an easy surgery as surgeries go. No issues with anything. Even my troublesome veins cooperated with little fuss.
I had no time to be scared. To overthink all the things and freak out about all the things.
Knowing–this time–was awful. More so because I had done this before, too. With her.
The last time I had to be at a hospital before dawn was the day of her surgery. When they stopped her heart and tried to replace that valve. When that didn’t work. It was a different hospital, but they’re really all alike. That room where all the people gather, all terrified and awaiting their fates. Where the exchange happens. And they ask questions about advance directives and life-saving measures.
Then, they whisk you off to some other room–where they prep you for surgery–along with all the others being prepped for surgery. It’s a flurry of medical histories, blood draws, EKGs, heart rate checks, and the exchange of street clothes for gowns that don’t ever close. I was alone today, but then, I was with her. I had to be her ears, after all, as I always had been. I was the one repeating the things people told her–in ways she’d understand. And then, the introductions. Of anesthesiologists you’ve never met–who are now critically important to your survival. You hope you don’t get a yahoo. And medical students who walk in just as the EKG tech exposes your boob. And smiling others all there doing something you don’t quite know.
And then, you’re whisked off somewhere–and someone else is holding your shoes.
Being the one in the bed, after being the one holding the shoes, is hard and comforting–and surreal.
For years, that moment with her tormented me. That last moment I saw my mother alive without a machine driving her. That whirlwind where I forgot to tell her goodbye. For years, I’ve wondered what she was thinking. Was she scared–as terrified as I was? What did they do to her after I saw her disappear?
Last year, when I had my gall bladder surgery, I learned about that. That last part of ORs and anesthesia and breathing deeply. But I learned something she didn’t. I learned what it felt like to wake up–to be well and happy–totally high on morphine or whatever the Hell they gave me. Still here.
I didn’t learn about the weeks of fear. Of the unknown. Of what happens when things go wrong.
These few weeks, I learned that. Of the obsessive need to know everything.
And then, last night, I prayed to God and to my parents–to her–to help me be alright. Because I still have so much to do. And there are people who need me. And I am too young for this bullshit.
And it calmed me down–allowed me to surrender and race toward that inevitable…and put up with the missing paperwork and the IVs that wouldn’t go and the difficult intubations.
And I got it. In some small way. I understood the things I observed in her those days when she was dying.
And I realized she was okay. She accepted it all. She forgave all the shortcomings. And she went in with her eyes open.
I know this because–today–I was kinda convinced I’d die. Because that’s what those places are for me. I knew better, maybe. I hoped. But that part of me that lost her wasn’t listening to the statistics. All it could remember was everything that went wrong.
This was the place where you don’t get to say goodbye.
Waking up today–more like gasping awake–was a little like being reborn. Man, it sucked. I felt like an old man and a child at the same time. Just trying really hard to breathe. It was some surreal dimension where, like a baby foal–twenty minutes after coming out, I’m dressing myself on my own and walking to PACU. An hour later, I’m stuck in Colorado Boulevard traffic–buying chicken soup.
We are all such fragile miracles. And I am so grateful for all of it. But especially the lessons I could never expect about the people I loved so much.