The last several weeks have been weird–tough and vibrant and emotional. Like some other life, really.
I had a routine down for a while. Knew where my priorities were. Or thought I did. I’ve been working a lot. Doing a lot. I’m back to being the golden child at work. Back to being #1 in the company–earning a company trip to some exotic locale–that I will likely turn down.
Everything that was–well, it is again. Except I’m in a new place, and I’m a new me. A more authentic me. In some ways, a stronger me. Someone with better boundaries and more self-worth. But still always long-hauling there.
Some quick updates–which will be talked about more later…when I’ve processed them.
More on all of this later. Feeling quiet on this first day of December.
My cat Fogg is one of the great loves of my life. I adopted her years ago, after a pretty awful break-up. I had wanted another cat to be a buddy to Cleo, but my boyfriend at the time always objected to it. He wasn’t ready. Or rather, he wasn’t ready to do that with me. After he moved back East, I decided it was definitely happening, and found myself at the DDFL on a cold winter morning.
Fogg was one of a handful of gorgeous Maine Coon cats. She was four years old and just gorgeous. A little princess with big green eyes and the sweetest nature. She was in a big cat corral (is that what they’re called)–with a bunch of other cats–and I remember seeing her immediately–mostly because she was staring me down…willing me to be her Mama. I took one look at her, and all the other cats on my list receded. I told the counselor I wanted to see her. And they brought her in a few minutes later. The first thing she did was hug my face. Now, Fogg doesn’t just hug your face. She makes it her own. Like this.
Needless to say, we became inseparable that day. Even when she broke her carrier and ran through the garage of my new apartment building as soon as we got home.
Fogg and Cleo didn’t get along very well, and that was a saga–but we came through it and eventually achieved an uneasy peace. The two of them were opposites and both completely in love with me–and fought constantly for my attention.
A year after we made the agonizing decision to put Cleo down, almost to the day, Fogg had a bump appear on her backside. She seemed completely normal, but there it was. I told myself not to worry and hoped it would go away. It didn’t, so we took her to the vet, who took a sample and immediately diagnosed a mast cell tumor. A shitty cancer, to be sure, but not as bad for cats as it is for dogs. It felt like it was completely cutaneous–in the skin–and could essentially be cured by cutting it out. It would be necessary to get wide margins. There was a risk of it going to her organs–and that was a terrifying big-bad prospect. But there were no signs of that, so I was relieved. Still, I agonized about all of it because this was my baby girl–my eternal sidekick–and the year of grieving since Cleo made the prospect of something happening to her an impossible reality. Worse? This was caused by a vaccine. My choice to be a responsible owner could kill her.
In the days after that initial diagnosis, I noticed a tendril of something that was off-shooting from the mast cell tumor. It felt different to my fingers. On the morning of her surgery, I remember feeling so awful that I was deliberately taking this beautiful, happy, seemingly healthy cat and subjecting her to all this suffering. It killed me, honestly. I took her in, though, and was sure to mention the tendrils and her surgeon took even wider margins than normal. I picked her up later that day–a huge incision down her side. The tendrils were fibrosarcoma–a horrible cancer that terrified me. But they thought they got it all.
She had a terrible reaction to her anesthesia–was completely crazed and howling–running around–and immediately started bleeding. I thought I was going to have a breakdown. It reminded me so much of the day I brought Mama home after her CHF hospitalization–how I freaked out with worry about oxygen tanks. Somehow, I got through that day. I got through many other days–rushing her to the vet often because of my terror that she had hurt herself. She recovered from the initial stuff, but then the rest of that terrible year happened. In a few months, she almost died several times. I said goodbye to her a few of them. It wiped me out financially and I hustled all day to pay every single bill.
But not without damages. That year made her a diabetic. But she lived. And a new normal took over. A normal I never imagined where I got real good at giving injections, taking blood samples, and worrying about my girl.
She made it through the crucial first year without any recurrences. But I checked her religiously for bumps. I held my breath every time I felt a skin tag.
But she lived.
Every day felt like some crazy gift. But it was the hardest year of my life save the one where I lost my mother.
And here we are. A handful of years later. In July, I noticed a bump. On the opposite side. A tiny bump that scabbed over and bled. It seemed to hurt her. It coincided with some health issues for the boys. I took them all in to the vet in the neighborhood who’d been seeing Fogg for a bit by then. She was stable and good. It looked a bit like a bug bite. Or maybe a Rilly bite. Or maybe an allergic reaction to the new litter I was using. We tried one thing. It didn’t do much for her. Then tried a month of antibiotics and anti-fungal drops, which I religiously placed on the bump. The vet never took a biopsy. He didn’t want to stress her out. My gut said to insist on it. But I wanted so much to beleive she was fine. That it was just a skin tag–a bite–an irritation that wasn’t healing because of her diabetes. Denial. It’s easy to embrace when you’re scared. But it never changed.
My gut said–take her in–insist on a biopsy. But I chose to wait and see. Again–not wanting to hear it. It was inconvenient. My car needed repairs. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the emotions of it, given some of the things going on in my life. So I waited and hoped it would go away–setting a date for following up. Finally, I took her in for a second opinion when I noticed it was still there and still scabbing. Not normal.
That was Saturday. The new vet was way more competent. I trusted him immediately. He initially thought it was a cyst, but said–given her history–he recommended removing it. I pushed for a biopsy. We got it–but it was difficult to get anything. He wasn’t confident we’d even get results back. Today, they came back.
And it’s another mast cell tumor. Not a fibrosarcoma. Not the big bad. It’s tiny. Not growing. But cancer. Still. Another one. In another area. Which means it spread. But it took it a long time. She’s 14 now.
Surgery is scheduled for December 4th. They will take giant margins, and it’ll be about 2 inches. It’s that small. I worry, though, about how long we waited to cut it out. There’s a chance it’s spread to her organs–and that will likely kill her. That would require chemo. But we won’t know till they cut it out–and we wait another year to see if it comes back again. It’s likely this won’t be our last rodeo.
I am more afraid of the trauma of the surgery on her already sick body. This surgery caused the diabetes, after all. And there was nothing I could have done differently. I am terrified of more pancreatitis. That shit almost broke me last time.
I am heartbroken to see her suffer again. To go through this all over again–during a year that has been incredibly heartbreaking even without a sick cat.
I am not doing well tonight. I won’t be well until a year from now when she is still fine and not sicker and not in pain.
But if anyone can survive, it’s this little badass.
I love you to the moon and back, Lady Foo.
Words and me? That’s a long love affair. When I was barely able to speak, my parents stuck pens in my hand and sat me in front of paper and books. I have always had stories to tell. Back then, I wrote them in all the margins of all my parents’ books, with a red cowboy hat on my head. I was “iting.” It wasn’t until I was 10 years old, though, that I really realized that writing was my thing. Sure–I was one of the “gifted” kids who was selected to write books in grade school–before I knew what writing was–but it truly wasn’t until someone shared the world of poetry with me that I realized it was as essential to me as breathing.
I found myself sitting in front of the television set that was always on in our house, for background noise, writing a letter to my dead father. Except it was a poem, and it would be the first thing I’d publish. It was also the first thing that ever healed any part of my heart. Writing became my home, and I found I was drawn to suffering–and that writing was how I processed mine.
The height of me writing was probably in the lost years of my life–that time after my friend’s suicide–when I finally decided I should live. I stopped making excuses about it and took classes. I started writing plays–even though such things terrified me with all the rules and formatting. And dialogue. But really, it was just stories.
After Mama died, writing became my refuge–the only place where I could redeem something of her loss. The place where I could reach out to other humans and be as raw as I needed to be. The place where I could let people see the real me and know that I wasn’t alone in that.
Years ago, after I quit TFA, I worked for an English department on a college campus. The same one I’d earned a degree from–the one where I learned about plays. I supported the professors and the MFA program with their HR needs. I processed payroll. And one of the professors became a curmudgeonly friend. He was a poet–a professor I always wanted to learn from–but never could because of my full-time job’s schedule. But I learned from him there, in that crappy job I took to please my ex–who left a while later. When I was with him, despite his being a writer, I stopped writing. When we broke up, and I lost that job to a layoff, I started writing again and got into music again and started building myself back. I got into photography more and the renaissance that was me came flooding in.
A few years ago, that man died. A random bullshit aneurysm. And I was beat down by it. Too damn young. Too many things left to say and teach. Even though I wanted to write then, I didn’t. I was in some odd paralysis. Wanting to say so much, but not quite finding the right words.
This week, another teacher and poet–who was really a force within Denver’s writing community–passed after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. I started seeing the words fly up on Facebook–alongside photos of him in healthier times and then rail thin this month. Despite his 75 lb weight loss, the spark was still in his eyes–alongside a kind smile that seemed to be ready for a joke. Particularly hit hard was a writing program I volunteered with. So many of my friends from there knew him–were mentored by him–and loved him. This after another recent blow for writers–that one a suicide–and another death a handful of years ago from another friend and poet. All too damn soon.
It was weird. I had never ever met him. But I felt like his presence was in so much of that life I lived then–if only through his influence with some of the best humans I know. I’m sad I never met him. I’m sad I never learned from him.
I went on Amazon just now and found his book–and was shocked. The one that made him Laureate? It’s called Never Summer.
You’ll recall–earlier this year–I started working on something that I’ve wanted to write for about a decade–but wasn’t ready to dive into. I outlined the idea–came up with a plan–and promptly stopped. I needed time still. It was one of the things left on the laptop that just went boom. Luckily, the tech probably can save it. I have the ideas in my head, still, just not the french scenes–which are easy enough to recreate.
The working title, of course? Never Summer.
There are no coincidences here.
Mercury is an asshole. Just sayin’.
My horoscope predicted an ex would make an appearance around Halloween, and of course, that happened. It meant confronting some stuff I put to bed back in May and making sure that damn door stayed shut, but I think I’m finally in forward motion in regards to that. Which all happened just in time for my laptop to stop functioning in like a big way. It’s in Mountain View, with a hot, soft-spoken tech man. Here’s hoping he can fix it and isn’t horrified with what he finds on that laptop.
That said, I’m writing this on a laptop I never really liked (after I took it home) that I purchased to replace that one years ago when I was convinced it was dead then. I somehow lost many power cords in the move hell, so this one is missing a power cord. I’m using my work laptop cord–which doesn’t charge the battery…but lets me do stuff as long as I’m plugged in. (Gotta get on THAT). My laptop is likely either ding dong dead, or will be operable in 2-3 business days. SO, I don’t know how much I’ll be writing in the weeks to come since I hate this laptop.
Lots of stuff is happening at the moment. Namely, my work with my business coach is really disrupting a lot of the BS I’ve been sort of tolerating in myself. I swear this is more effective than therapy, and I love it because it’s action based–so I’m not just thinking. My homework this week is to think about what my life would be like if my actions were rooted in showing love for myself rather than telling everyone else, “Fuck you–I’ll show you.” This–after a big revelation from me in yesterday’s session that MOST of what I do is rooted in proving to EVERYONE that I can do whatever they think I can’t–whether I want to or not. Just noticing my OWN actions and what’s motivating them has been fucking eye-opening, and it’s been a DAY. It was such a powerful concept–and the way I expressed it was so apparently genius that my coach put it up in her instastories (with my permission, anonymously, of course) because she felt like it would help so many people.
I’m still committed to not making new decisions (unless forced to), and that has led to some BIG shifts, too. Namely, I’m starting to realize how my codependence and bullshit works…how fear runs my life. The actual mechanism of it. Hint: it’s committing to shit I don’t even want full speed ahead and then hating on myself for making the right or better decision when it feels like shit.
Anyway. I’m trying to exercise more patience and live more from a state of intuition rather than impulse. It’s not easy–and even the convos we had about it were difficult for me to even express. My coach worked hard–using her own intuition to help me push past the stories I tell myself. It was really helpful, and I know my therapist will have a field day.
I’ve been suffering a lot in the last few months. I feel like I’m pulling out of it, and I’m attracting better people. I’m walking in my integrity more, and I’m letting go of crap that doesn’t work. As much as it sucks that my laptop may be DOA, it’s given me a LONG run, and that poor thing is literally cracked and ready to be buried. I’m hoping for a few more months until I can get something better, though, but I think the things I don’t need are volunteering to go, just so I can learn how to say goodbye.
I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been grappling quite a bit about how I’m showing up in online spaces. The thoughts started showing up more for me as I was getting healthier emotionally. Namely, I found it more and more difficult to share deeply personal parts of myself here. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say or ability to express those somethings. It was that I didn’t know if it was appropriate to share at all.
I’ve had various rules for myself for online interactions for a while now. I’m private on Twitter and have been for years, despite it making it less fun for me. My Facebook is heavily regulated, and I exercise lists quite a bit. I really don’t post that often, and when I do–it tends to be very diplomatically positioned thoughts. I’m on Instagram quite a bit, and it’s probably my preferred platform at the moment. I’ve made a conscious choice not to go private there, but I’ve been careful with how I engage. I do share stories, from time to time, but since I have been slow to fully embrace it like a lot of people have. I think I’ve posted 1 video of me actually in front of the camera on stories–and maybe one video post of me ever. Mostly, it’s something I’m still getting comfortable with and navigating. But I enjoy my time there and value the people who do share vulnerably on there. I’m just not completely there yet. And part of that has been because I’ve had ambivalent feelings about social sharing altogether.
I’m going to probably ramble a lot here, but I want to share these ideas pretty unedited–so here goes.
When social everything started, years ago, I got in line because of my ex-fiance. He told me about MySpazz because he knew I loved music, and it was a way to discover such things. We were knee deep in the ruins of our relationship at that point, so MySpazz became a big part of my distraction from pain. Early on, I made friends with strangers pretty easily. I’ve always felt more comfortable, oddly, with strangers than people who were supposed to be there for me. On my worst ever days, strangers showed up while friends and family didn’t. So, it was easy for me to fit in there. When Mama got sick, I particularly leaned on a few new friends I made on the Spazz. Eventually, I started blogging–at their encouragement–starting with funny observations and mostly making fun of my life. It was a welcome distraction from the shitshow that was my life at the time. When Mama passed away and when I finally nailed the coffin permanently shut on my ex-fiance, I was as alone as I could ever be. And it’s an alone most people can’t really comprehend. So, for a long time, MySpazz was the only human interaction I had beyond work. I made a decision when she died to not be my introvert self. I decided I was going to reach out to people, and well, words were my easy ways of doing that. Where having face to face conversations was impossible for me–mostly because I’d cry too hard to be understood–and it was just…too vulnerable–writing about it was doable. Cathartic. And it helped others. So I did it. I think I probably did it more to help others than myself. Because I still didn’t give much of a shit about myself back then.
The thing about social media and blogging is that it creates false intimacy. It makes you think you know people when you only know slivers of what they choose to share. It’s not that the mediums are worthless or bad, per se, it’s just something to understand. I’ve met lots of people online–dated a few–and there is always an adjustment and learning curve. It’s very hard to know another human being this way. And it’s very hard to truly be vulnerable this way. There is always some kind of barrier that is providing safety when mediums are involved. True intimacy, I think, really only comes from being in front of someone. It’s hard to achieve on a phone or even by video.
The problem is–it’s easy to mistake it for the real thing. The support you can offer is limited. The relationships are limited. And the problem with that is it changes interaction and makes us speed through things that take real time.
So, what does that have to do with blogging?
Well, if you’re someone like me who writes pretty openly about all kinds of things–it means it’s a real shitshow of crappy boundaries–which also, problematically reinforces crappy learned behaviors that…for people like me…are really tough to break. And it does it almost invisibly.
It’s so common now for people to share shit on social sites and blogs that they NEVER would have shared IN PERSON 20 years ago. I know I’ve done it. I don’t have a lot of shame and even pride myself on being an open book. But here’s the issue: that drips into everything. If you have no boundaries here, it’s likely because you have no boundaries anywhere and vice versa. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if you should share it because it involves another human–that’s proof that you aren’t really respecting yourself in your sharing because you’re not giving yourself the same consideration you give others. And yes–you’re giving permission–while maybe they aren’t–so it’s different–but why the need to share it at all?
So that goes to motives. Are you sharing to help others? Alright–could you do it in some other way–like a poem or creative work? Could you volunteer to share your story somewhere? What is your need to do it immediately and here?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being vulnerable in these places. I’ve benefited from these things. I’ve made real friendships from it. I’ve genuinely helped others. I’ve been helped. But I’ve found that unconscious sharing almost always comes from a place of lack for me. It’s about attention seeking and low self-worth usually. It’s about needing support, but not being able to ask for it. And ironically–it’s often about hiding in plain sight. The words–the vulnerability–actually become armor. It’s another way for me not to feel–oddly.
So, I’ve thought some more about what my actual goal is in writing about my life and sharing it with the public. I’ve no interest in bleeding in public. I don’t want to be a spectacle. I don’t want to invite more spectators to my life who have no investment in it. What I want? Connection. Community. And I’ve found that simply broadcasting things is not a way to get either. It is a way to feel more alone and more unworthy of those things. It is a way to feel ignored and abandoned. It doesn’t feel good for people to witness your suffering and say nothing about it. It feels rather shitty, actually.
And that can make this sharing a frustrating experience. That can inspire shut-downs and rage. That can make me stop writing.
The thing is–I write. It’s how I make sense of my life. I will ALWAYS write. I will always write about things that hurt me. But I also don’t find it fulfilling to write things and stuff it in a drawer somewhere.
I used to love writing poetry because I could publish it and perform it. In high school, I won many competitions. I was on the debate team where my sarcastic, dark humor was embraced. In college, I was on the Media Board. I was a writing consultant and a TA. I had a radio show and wrote for the paper. I was an editor and frequent contributor to our lit mag. I performed my work in our coffee shop. Performing–in particular–was gratifying and so incredibly vulnerable. I was able to share in ways that meant something–to me and other people–and it made me feel worthy.
That’s more of what I want. And I think I can do some of that on Instagram. It’s something I’m willing to try at least, but really–I’m going to start a podcast soon that will likely be a lot more of what I’m wanting to do. I’m still going to write the vulnerable shit I normally do–but I’m not sure where I’m going to share it. I’ve thought about doing Patreon stuff and maybe having that as a reward for supporting my other creative work–as a way to really share myself to people who value what I have to say and what I do enough to actually show up with me in more ways than just being there.
I don’t know when I will do that. But it is part of a sea change for me of me actually valuing myself and my vulnerability enough to risk the slivers of support I do have–to risk being abandoned and unheard. But I think I’m worth that risk. And I think what I have to say matters enough to be worth someone’s actual investment.
So yea–those are some thoughts. Share yours. I’d love to have more conversations about this.