Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reflections from an outpatient surgical suite.

I cannot pee on command. How are you supposed to pee when you aren't allowed to have anything to drink all morning? This completely baffles me. And my bladder. I am a camel.

Generally speaking, doctors don't seem to get my sense of humor. Nurses? They do. But doctors? Not so much. Maybe at some point in all those years of med school their sense of humor gets shoved aside in order to make room for knowledge on how the limbic system works. I don't even know what the limbic system is, so maybe that's why I'm so funny. Or maybe I'm just the only one who finds me funny. Either option seems equally possible to me.

I've decided that, overall? my health really isn't all that bad. Do you know how many questions I had to answer "no" to today? High blood pressure? No. High cholesterol? No. Asthma, breathing issues, chronic bronchitis? No, no, and no. Irregular heartbeat? No. Allergies? No. History of cancer? No. History of stroke or aneurysm? No. (there were more, but I really don't remember them all.) Then, when the next doctor came through, she lead with the question of "how's your overall health?" and I had to answer honestly: "it's okay." She flipped through my chart and asked the next most obvious question, "but you have MS...?" Yep. Yep, I do. But considering all the other shit that I apparently *could* be dealing with? I'm sort of feeling okay about it. It's just MS, after all.

Half a liter of IV fluids later, and it's back to the bathroom for me. Seriously, people: CAMEL. I managed to squeeze out a few sad little drops. I felt like a urinary failure. My bladder was shamed. But it was enough to confirm that my uterus was not harboring any fugitives. My uterus appreciated my bladder's efforts, at least, and the nurse was amused.

I am convinced though, now more than ever: my body basically shrugs off any and all attempts at sedation. ("I don't take drugs; I am drugs." maybe Dali had it right.) Nothing phases me anymore. I find this fact neither comforting nor troublesome; I find it fascinating. Am I feeling at all woozy? Um, no, should I? Did you even administer the drugs yet? Oh.... you did.... hmm. Interesting. I was hoping for a nice little moment or two of floating lithium-like happiness. Instead, I got a morning without caffeine and big ass needles in my spine. This was not on the brochure people. I'll take a shot of whatever the incoherent lady in the stall next to me had, please and thank you.

To round out the morning, the lovely recovery nurses offered me juice and a snack. Much like the protocol of the vampires at the Red Cross blood drives, actually. I think the real purpose of this is practice is to, on a subconscious level, induce fond childhood feelings of snack time in kindergarten. I mean, unless your kindergarten experience was traumatic. In which case, those nurses better watch who they give those crackers to. But the last time I had a snack of graham crackers and apple juice, it was probably followed by a nap on a mat with 20 other kids.

And really? A nap wouldn't be so bad, right about now....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

If you believe in this kind of stuff. (which I do.)

So, the other day - September 24th, to be exact - I was all, "yay! it's time for the Libra birthdays!" as I was under the impression that I had so many more Libra Facebook friends than any other zodiac sign.

(because, as we both know, there's the real world and then there's the FB real world.)

((and we both know which one is more important.))

24 hours later (because apparently these are the things that weigh on my mind) I decided to actually check the numbers. Here's what I found:
  • Aries (March 21 - April 20): 29 friends
  • Taurus (April 21 - May 21): 31 friends 
  • Gemini (May 22 - June 21): 30 friends 
  • Cancer (June 22 - July 22): 29 friends 
  • Leo (July 23 -August 21): 31 friends 
  • Virgo (August 22 - September 23): 28 friends 
  • Libra (September 24 - October 23): 29 friends 
  • Scorpio (October 24 - November 22): 26 friends 
  • Sagittarius (November 23 - December 22): 34 friends 
  • Capricorn (December 23 - January 20): 35 friends
  • Aquarius (January 21 - February 19): 21 friends 
  • Pisces (February 20- March 20): 26 friends

 (please note: apparently 40+ of my FB friends exist outside of the zodiac.... whoa.)
Wait a minute..... where did all these Capricorns come from?? Capricorns??!

Okay, so, that being said, I went back and looked at the people on that list. Not that all my almost-400 FB friends aren't equally important to me.... but yeah, they're not. So, I went back and counted - out of those people - people that I would consider to be a close friend, someone I have/had a significant connection with, and/or someone that I just really genuinely like.

(not that I don't like the rest of them....)

((wow, I am just not going to dig myself out of this one.... moving. right. along.))

This is what I found: 
  • Aries (March 21 - April 20): 5 friends
  • Taurus (April 21 - May 21): 7 friends
  • Gemini (May 22 - June 21): 4 friends
  • Cancer (June 22 - July 22): 7 friends
  • Leo (July 23 -August 21): 11 friends
  • Virgo (August 22 - September 23): 11 friends
  • Libra (September 24 - October 23): 16 friends
  • Scorpio (October 24 - November 22): 10 friends
  • Sagittarius (November 23 - December 22): 9 friends
  • Capricorn (December 23 - January 20): 6 friends
  • Aquarius (January 21 - February 19): 4 friends
  • Pisces (February 20- March 20): 6 friends
Now that's more like it.

I know I have a lot of important Libras in my life. I equally know that I am seriously drawn to Leos and Virgos - always have been. I never actually gave much thought to the Scorpios although maybe I should have. Interesting. There's definitely this bell curve type distribution centering around my own sign.

(ha, bell curve. Shit just got real.)

I'm a Libra myself and I am a Libra. Almost every time I read one of those "Libras are blah, blah, blah...." I am the blah, blah, blah. Care to know more? (I realize the answer is probably no, but too late now, if you've been reading this far, you're kinda pot-committed.)

Traditional Libra Traits:
  • Diplomatic and urbane (please note: I do not know what "urbane" means.... so hopefully it doesn't mean "knowledgeable about obscure words", cause yeah, that would be wrong.)
  • Romantic and charming (obviously)
  • Easygoing and sociable (totally)
  • Idealistic and peaceable (everyone should be) 
But, on the dark side....
  • Indecisive and changeable (ummmm, maybe....?)
  • Gullible and easily influenced (what, who, me??)
  • Flirtatious and self-indulgent (that's a bad thing.....? whatever ;-))
A bit more about Libras:
Librans are among the most civilized of the twelve zodiacal characters and are often good looking. (yeah baby....) They have elegance, charm and good taste, are naturally kind, very gentle, and lovers of beauty, harmony, and the pleasures that these bring. Their characters are on the whole balanced, diplomatic and even tempered. Librans are sensitive to the needs of others and have the gift, sometimes to an almost psychic extent, of understanding the emotional needs of their companions and meeting them with their own innate optimism - they are the kind of people of whom it is said, "They always make you feel better for having been with them." Their cast of mind is artistic rather than intellectual, though they are usually too moderate and well balanced to be avant garde in any artistic endeavor. (which is why I am artistic, but not an "artist") They have good perception and observation and their critical ability, with which they are able to view their own efforts as well as those of others, gives their work integrity. They like the opposite sex to the extent of promiscuity sometimes, and may indulge in romanticism bordering on sentimentality.

The negative Libran character may show frivolity, flirtatiousness, and shallowness. It can be changeable and indecisive, impatient of routine, colorlessly conventional and timid (never!), easygoing to the point of inertia (guilty), seldom angry when circumstances demand a show of annoyance at least; and yet Librans can shock everyone around them with sudden storms of rage. Their love of pleasure may lead them into extravagance; Libran men can degenerate into reckless gamblers, and Libran women extravagant, jealous, and careless about money sometimes squander their wealth and talents in their over enthusiasm for causes which they espouse. (or just wine, apparently.)

Libra governs the lumbar region, lower back and kidneys. Its subjects must beware of weaknesses in the back, and lumbago, and they are susceptible to troubles in the kidneys and bladder, especially gravel and stone. They need to avoid overindulgence in food and especially drink, for the latter can particularly harm the kidneys. (hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!)
I'm not going to list every single sign (you're welcome) but you should totally go check out your sign from the links above. Even if it's not something you believe in, you might be amused to find how your sign description compares with how you view your own personality.

One thing I will note though: My husband is an Aries and my daughter is a Gemini - two of my "least" drawn to signs. Yeah. Our family dynamic should be interesting.

If you believe in this kind of stuff, that is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Things I learned this week.

I can be counted on in a crisis. Totally level headed. Just don't ask me to hold a raw egg while sitting at a table and *not* expect it to end up broken.

Even when pressed? I have a really hard time identifying three possessions that are important to me. Equally so? it is hard to pick the three "most" important people to me. (there are far too many.) I am absolutely fine the complete imbalance of those two things.

I am, at the same time, totally crazy and totally amazing. (I have this on good authority.)

There is always someone who has it better than you. And worse than you, too. Don't compare war wounds. We all go to battle sometime.

I can't spell. Seriously. Thank god for those red squiggly lines and autocorrect. (they make me look smarter than I deserve.)

Some days, my iPod is out to get me. I am convinced of it.

Truth happens. Most frequently, when I am drinking.

Sometimes, I completely lose my mind. Fortunately, it has always come back. (kind of like an old cat that wanders away for three days in a storm and just when you're certain she's probably gone for good, she shows up on the deck all, "what? was I missing? meh, whatever....")

Jeans make everything more palatable. Including three days of discussing mental health, addiction, and suicide.

On a totally related note: I cannot handle three days of discussing mental health, addiction, and suicide. True, that wasn't the sum total of the conversations, but I get enough of that already. I'll happily write some college recommendation letters now. Please and thank you.

Some people actually had genuinely happy and well-adjusted childhoods. This concept is wholly unimaginable to me. And, frankly, concerns me. It should, in theory, fill me with hope for my own students, but the plain and simple truth is this: I don't know how to relate to well-adjusted people. I'm still not even totally sold on their existence. (well-adjusted people and aliens: we may never know for certain.)

I am 100% sure that I will irreparably damage my child(ren). Despite any hopes/intentions to the contrary.

"I'll never stop loving you. You exist in a place where time stands still, where the conversation never ends, I carry you in my heart always." (seriously, this was said to me.... texted to me, actually.) ((and it just might be the nicest thing ever texted to me.))

I still love this song.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There's never an easy way to explain.

I want to tell them: I understand.

I want to yell it. I want to hug them and whisper it. I want to write it in the sky and on a note that I slip into their bag when they're not looking. I just want them to get it: I understand.

I know the pain. I know the exhaustion. I know what the emptiness is. I recognize the look in their eyes because I've seen it in my own mirror.

Don't do it.

Don't give up.

Don't let the bitterness win!

Don't lose yourself.


Rage against the dying of the light.

(someone way more poetic and important than me said that, but, the first time I read it, I knew he understood too, so I don't think he'd mind my obvious borrowing of the sentiment.)

Its so hard sometimes.... to not only know that pain, but to see it reflected in others. It's so exhausting wearing that mask everyday. That "I'm okay" mask that you have to wear so people won't worry and won't ask questions that you don't have good answers to anyway.

"How are you?"

"I'm good." (I'm a liar)

"How are things going?"

"They're okay, thanks." (No, they're not, they're a big festering pile of not-okay-ed-ness, actually. But fuck off, cause I can't explain what's wrong anyway.)

"Well you look fantastic...."

"Thanks!" *insert smile that stops short of touching my eyes* (Now you're the liar, cause I look exhausted and I look like I've gained a lot of weight - because both are true. Oh, and occasionally I am convinced I am dead inside - completely sapped of any useful life-force, but totally, sure.... I. look. great.)

Social interaction has a way of wearing on me at times that is at once as ironically funny as it is painful. It's what I do for a living. Which really, wouldn't be such a bad thing if that were all because you can change a career but it's also kind of what. I. do.

A coworker of mine once compared teenagers to psychic vampires: they are needy at times and when they are needy they suck the life-force from you until you're completely spent. And while I get the analogy, for me, it's not quite accurate.

I *want* them to feed on me.

Wait, no... that doesn't sound right... that kind of makes me sound like an accidental-pedophile. I'm not good with that.

(and why do so many of my thoughts come back to vampires?? oh Joss Whedon...)
I guess what I'm saying is that I'd gladly give up whatever psychic life-force it is that I have if it meant it would help heal their wounds, even if for only a short time. And I do. Over and over again. I can't help it. It's what I do. It's who I am.

Because I'm broken too. And I've been broken for so long that I don't remember what it means to be whole.

Just.... don't give up, okay? Because I'm still here. And I haven't given up. And whatever I have? You can have it, if it will help you.

You can have it all.

Friday, September 9, 2011

10 years later.

Like many others, I will never forget the morning of September 11th, 2001. It’s an oddly communal feeling to know that I am one among millions for which that is the case. That, for a brief horrifying moment, the world we knew stood still - we collectively paused and each experienced our own unique WTF moment, together - and when the world resumed its forward motion, it was truly never the same.

I remember a lot of moments from throughout that day, actually. And the fact that my life couldn’t be more different now than it was 10 years ago doesn’t make it any more or less surreal. It just, was. And that will always be part of the horror to me. It should be surreal. It should be unimaginable. But once it happened, it could never unhappen. And it would never again be unimaginable.

No, I didn’t know anyone in NYC, DC, or on any of the ill-fated planes that morning. I didn’t know anyone personally who was a first responder or worked on the almost never ending clean-up. But I didn’t have to.

I was in the hallway bathroom of my townhouse in Perkiomenville that morning blow drying my hair. It was the bathroom that had become “my” bathroom; my husband and I had been living in separate bedrooms for over a year at that time and he had the master bath to himself. He came out of the master bedroom (also his) and said “a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” I turned off the hair dryer thinking for sure that I had heard him wrong. I walked into the bedroom, staring at the smoking tower on the tv screen, asking if it was small private aircraft, and just then the second plane flew into the second tower.

We were both briefly silent then I whispered what I would probably say 1000 more times that day and in the days to follow, “oh my god….” The sight of that plane. Knowing it was a passenger airliner and yet scarcely able to comprehend the size and scale of something that size crashing into a building…. and the people…. my mind wasn’t even ready to begin trying to fit that into my understanding of what I was seeing.

Eventually I drug myself away from the tv and drove into work. Which, at that time, was the framing business I shared with my mom. It was such a gorgeous fall day - crystal blue skies and white fluffy clouds. But every glance to the skies made the morning’s events even more absurd. The soundtrack for my 15 minute drive was a rush of information and speculation being delivered by equally shocked and confused radio station hosts. When I arrived at work, my mom was already there and she was simply standing in front of the tv in shock.

Two things I remember from that abbreviated work day: the woman from the Chinese restaurant next door came over to watch the tv reports with us. Her English was almost nonexistent and the shock of the morning wasn’t helping; she kept shaking her head and clucking, occasionally saying “so bad”. At one point, two men entered the store. They were the only people we saw that day and they were salesmen for Verizon or AT&T or some such thing and as they launched into their overly cheery salesman schpeal, I remember looking at them like they were from another planet. My mom then told them about the tragedy of what had occurred, assuming that they were unaware, to which they simply waved it off, implying they didn’t think it was something to be concerned about - likely pilot error. I don’t remember how we told them to leave, but I know they left.

The first tower collapsed and we closed for the day. I watched tv off and on throughout that day and in the days that followed, still trying to digest what had happened. My husband and I hung an American flag outside our front door. I remember, oddly, explaining to my Dalmatian that it was an important thing to do, as I stroked her fur and thought of my long deceased grandfather. Within a month, I had made the decision to move out of what had been our marital home and thus began the long process of our divorce.

In the span of the 10 years that have passed since that Tuesday morning, my divorce was finalized, our business closed, relationships were built and destroyed. I went back to school, fought with the depression that had been threatening my life for so many years, fell further into debt, fell in love, married, and had a beautiful daughter that came into this world without planning. I found out I was sick and fought more than a simple depression - I fought myself. I began a new career, began a new life, began new relationships and ended others. I’ve loved and lost and questioned my sanity and grown older and stronger and weaker, all at the same time.

I was 23 on September 11, 2001. Even if pressed to come up with the most unlikely life I could imagine for myself in 10 years from that moment, I wouldn’t have come up with anything close to where I am now. I don’t know how I feel about that. But I don’t think we’re really supposed to understand everything about life. It happens. It continues. And I think sometimes that’s all we can know for sure.

The students I work with now would have been just slightly older than my daughter on that day; my daughter who wasn’t even a thought in the back of my unhappily married 23 year old mind. To them, the memories of 9-11 may be vague. For my daughter, it will simply be a lesson in a history textbook someday. Maybe someday she will ask where I was the morning of September 11, 2001. I will have a hard time explaining who that woman was to my daughter. Some days I feel like I don’t remember her well at all. But I will always remember that morning.

The changes that have taken place in my personal world since that day 10 years ago had nothing to do with the actual events of that day. Still, the comparison is stark. However, the changes that have taken place in the world since that day have been vastly impacted by the events of that morning. The world my daughter will grow up in - the only world she will ever know - will always be shaped by the events that I stood and bore witness to on a small tv screen, feeling like what I was watching was bigger than life itself.

The world may or may not be more dangerous now than it was 10 years ago, but for me personally, the stakes are now higher. And I understand what those stakes are in a way that ignorance will never again cover. I have a child; she is my connection to a future that I may never see. I have former students serving in the various branches of the military; I never want to hear their names spoken in a past tense. I want, more than anything, for them to be safe in a world that is very clearly not a safe place.

I joke about a lot of things. I bitch and complain and laugh at inappropriate times. I have to; it's how I cope. I see and experience a lot of pain; not just my own, but the pain of others as well. The world is an imperfect and cruel and completely unfair place. And yet I know with certainty, that to be a part of it is a beautiful and worthwhile thing. I just wish it wasn’t such an imperfect and cruel and completely unfair place. I wish it wasn’t so damn fragile.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This isn't the muthfuckin' Matrix, people.

Long story short? You might want to just leave me alone until early to mid October. Unless you like being verbally assaulted and/or potentially stabbed. That being said, you can read on if you'd like, but you've really already got the most important part: shit is going down; you won't want to be around for it.

Welcome to the world of the red pills.

Once every 90 days, I have to take two progestin pills, every day for two weeks, to offset the shit ton of estriol I'm taking as a part of this MS study. Theory is, it will lessen my chances of developing breast and/or uterine cancer from the estriol. Thing is? I'd almost rather take my chances with the cancer. Not to be making light of cancer - cause I'm not - but seriously, the side effects suck.


(oh, no worries, I will elaborate.)

During this time, it is basically even money that I will be ridiculously exhausted, cry, yell for no reason, want to die, cry some more, try to crawl out of my skin, send nasty texts and/or emails to anyone who even remotely made me angry in the last 2 years, bleed profusely, cramp spontaneously, cry again, yell even louder, and eventually slip into a sullen hateful black mood where everyone within arm's reach is in imminent danger.

I actually feel a little kind of very sorry for those who have to deal with me on a daily basis. Unfortunately that empathy is usually expressed via mean venomous words barely articulated through clenched teeth or loud yelling that would make a taxi driver stfu and run for cover.

It gets ugly.

It's actually kind of all the worst emotional effects of MS, all rolled into one whirlwind month.

But wait! One month, you say? "I thought you only took the pills for two weeks!"

THAT'S THE BEST PART!! I take the pills for two weeks and then the side-effects take a solid 2-3 weeks after that to flush the fuck out of my system. Canna geta A-MEN??

(you better not be "amen-ing" me right now, muthafucka.)

((shit. I think it's already started.))

 I don't give a shit about your goddamn rabbit hole, Morpheus.

(Don't do it Neo. Trust me. Those robo-cop guys will be the least of your concerns.) 

Friday, September 2, 2011

"You do not have the right to quit trying. (The universe wobbles when you do.) "

It's been a long time, but there's a reason for it as well. That reason? Simple; I had shit to do. But, shit's done, and I'm back. I'll explain in a moment. First: within the last three days, the congruence of three disparate things made me feel the need to spew forth with some blogging.

To start, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a WSJ article that revisited Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford from 2005. I'd actually never read it before and if you haven't, you should as well. The next day, I had a great conversation with one of my students about how lost he was feeling in figuring out what to pursue after high school. It was one of those conversations that was only so great because he was in a place where he was really open to listening as well as talking. Sometimes with teenagers, they won't give you both. Go figure.

Lastly, and most profoundly for me, I had an awesome "talk" with a friend that took place in the form of a series of FB messages. A talk that was meant to help him, but really resonated with me. He was feeling at a loss for direction and motivation in his life and wanted advice - although he never really asked a question. I began with the idea that had sort of been at the crux of my conversation with my student, which, not so coincidentally, arose from the WSJ article - in thinking of the future, there are two things I think everyone should consider: What am I good at? And, more importantly, what makes me happy? Because here's why: somewhere, somehow, those two things intersect. What you're good at meets up with what makes you happy, and that? Somewhere in there? That's where your future lies. There's a career there, there's a destination, and there's purpose. It's not always easy to find but it exists.

For me, I chose a path through college based on what I thought I was good at. And, with a few minor tweaks along the way, I followed that path right through college and on to a career that I enjoyed. I don't regret that path and I learned a lot about myself - both during that career and in hindsight. However, I can see now that, though I was very good at what I did, I was never truly great. And while I enjoyed it immensely, I never really loved it in a way that was personally rewarding. As a counselor? I am great. Something in me shines and keeps me going, even through bad days and missteps and disappointments. It's personally rewarding. What makes me happy is dynamic personal relationships. Where that intersected with what I'm good at? I found counseling.

And I love what I do - as much as I may bitch about it at times.

This summer, I had to complete 36 credits of post-grad professional development courses. Before you get all impressed, please know - they were 36 credits of busy work and bullshit. But finishing them or not finishing them meant the difference between making more money and being reimbursed the $3000 I spent for the classes, or losing the $3000 and not getting a raise for the next year. Crazy thing was, the money wasn't a motivator for me to get them done - money, while necessary, has never been a great motivator for me. Hell, I wouldn't be working in education if it was that important to me. So, I had to find different motivation.

I decided to shut down my Facebook account (and not blog) until I took care of what needed to get done. I took a lot of shit for this. First, in the form of, "are you so addicted to FB that you can't pull yourself away to do your work??" (answer: um, no.) Then, in the form of, "I feel like I don't know what's going on your life now..." (hmm, fuck you for your mockage then, how about that?) I took away FB because it took away something that was important to me - my connection to the *people* who are important to me. I'm motivated by the relationships and people in my life.

(and just so we're clear? I took those courses and kicked their collective ass.)

And now, I'm back.

(see how that came full circle?)

But seriously, do yourself a favor. Figure out where your talent intersects with your joy. Figure out how far you are from that intersection. And if need be? Find a path to get there. If that intersection shifts? Don't be afraid to change your course. Don't ever feel stuck or bound to one path - forge a whole new one if you must. It's never too late. And go back to read the Steve Jobs article. (It doesn't seem fair that someone so otherwise talented and successful would also get to be so articulate, but cancer isn't fair either, so I'll make allowances.)

I've missed you though. And I promise to try harder with this relationship. Because it's important to me.