Life is messy. It’s a series of microwavable dinners and week old dishes. It’s heartache and tears as your apartment is invaded by creatures of the six plus leg variety. It’s sitting down on your luggage to rest after 10 hours of travel only for the wheels to slide out from under you causing you to fall unceremoniously on your butt. For a stranger in the corner to laugh till tears are coming down his face as he begs for you to do it again. It’s about spending hours obsessing and arguing over the last season of Game of Thrones. It’s learning to find balance between putting yourself first but helping others. Life is a grand adventure filled with missteps and moments of unsurpassable joy. It’s learning to fill the void after you say goodbye and finding the peace again. This is my life.
March was a dawn of a new era for me. I left my job of six years for a better opportunity. I was on cloud nine until I was plagued with a series of disasters. Someone hit my car door and drove away. No note. Thank you kind sir/madam for that. I then melted my microwave door when a pan fresh out of the oven slid off the stove top and came to rest against the microwave. But to top it all off, I had my iPhone in my back pocket. Phones and toilets do not mix. I didn’t think that the second week in March could get any worse, but it did. I contracted tuberculosis. I’m sure the doctors will argue that it wasn’t what I had, but they weren’t living my nightmare.
I was coughing to the point of dry heaving and or peeing myself. It’s a pretty picture, isn’t it? I guess I can put it on my résumé as a specialized skill. Technically, it’s a type of multitasking. Bosses love that kind of thing. It should also be noted that wetting one’s pants while dry heaving is an excellent anti-kidnap device for your person. Keep that in mind.
I tried all matters of cough syrup but nothing would stop it. So, I did what any sane person would do and sucked on a cough drop. Not just one per hour but three. That quickly adds up. I was consuming between 20-25 cough drops a day. These magical pieces of throat candy, soothed that incessant tickle in my throat. I could now make it through a meeting without tears in my eyes from holding back the power of a bronchial spasm. It didn’t even have the decency to sound pretty, like the call of a humpback whale.
After following this strict regime of cough dropping for two weeks, my body started to protest in the most guttural way. It was like my intestines were being filled beyond capacity with air… essentially a poop balloon. I felt every slow excruciating expansion. No amount of shifting in my desk chair eased the pain.
Breaking wind became performance art. How much can I siphon off before anyone notices? Why must it have such an acrid stench. No air freshener could compete with the methane I was producing. A skunk was less potent.
This went on for two weeks. Two weeks of the worst cramps that I’ve ever experienced. I duck waddled to the bathroom to rid my guts of a poison so foul that a hazardous waste can was needed. I was so self conscious that I flushed repeatedly as the porcelain throne accepted my offering.
And you know what I was worried about? Calories. How many calories are in these 20 plus cough drops that I’ve been consuming. I grabbed the bag out of my desk drawer and scrolled through the medical jargon. My eyes landed on the warning label.
“Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect.” (Courtesy of Halls Drops)
Obviously, 20 is excessive. The sad thing about this entire ordeal is that I didn’t lose one pound, nor has my cough completely vanished.
*Note: There are 5 calories per poo drop.
September 2014 was a living nightmare. My Uncle Randy had been sick the majority of the summer, living with increasing pain. The doctor dropped the death sentence on my uncle and it was as if the entire world shattered.
“It’ll be okay.”
“This isn’t the end.”
These phrases rolled around in my head like a penny spiraling down one of those plastic grocery store wishing wells. They aren’t words that work well, when your uncle is confined to a hospital bed. Sorry fails the person I loved as their world comes crashing off its axis. Instead, we said, “You’re not alone.” I’m not sure who started it, but we all took it up like an anthem. Because that is what matters when you’re in the trenches with the person you love as they fight against a losing battle. Time isn’t on your side, and as the clock hand strikes midnight the uglier it gets.
Pancreatic Cancer is one of the deadliest cancers and is one of the hardest to diagnose. It emaciates the body, and can eventually rob the individual of the ability to walk without aid. It will rack the body with an intense pain that drugs can barely take the edge off. Food becomes a thing of the past. The struggle to use the bathroom brings embarrassment because they can no longer go on their own. It steals their independence and their pride.
My family spent hours with my uncle those last few weeks, rotating out like clockwork as he slowly became bedridden. What kept us going and what kept him calm were puzzles, music, visitors, and The Three Stooges. To find laughter and distraction in hell is a godsend. If you are going through this it is okay to laugh. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be mad and frustrated. This isn’t something you need to do alone. Take advantage of the counselors that are offered. Take advantaged of online support groups. And remember it’s okay to take time for yourself, to pull away somewhere quiet and just be.
My uncle lived thirteen more months after diagnosis. He was fifty-seven. I know the doctors and hospitals are scary things. But please do not ignore your pain, your fatigue, your depression. And never stop fighting to find someone to listen if you can’t get a diagnosis. You are important.
Cancer in itself is devastating, and money isn’t the only avenue to help those who are afflicted. While research is imperative to finding better treatment and a cure, it is also as important to keep hope alive. Many cancer centers have volunteer opportunities, and take in donations such as puzzles and books and knitting to help keep patients and their caregivers occupied during treatment. Never forget that small things make a difference when you are living in a world of darkness.
Driving on the interstate across the country is soothing for the soul. It’s you, your best friend(s), the road, and the music. It’s a feeling that is near impossible to replicate. Yet, I’ve found that some people are terrible travel companions. Nothing satisfies them, and their complaints become toxic and eat away at the peace that the road brings you. The car becomes a quiet war zone as we are all pitted against that one person. Visions of tying up the problem passenger to the nearest railroad track is discussed in several crazy eyed stares of those wanting to end the reign of terror.
“There are two types of people in this world, those who can ride with me and those who cannot not.”
Being a passenger in my car is the equivalent of going to Disneyland. With all great and grand things there must be order.
Rules of Vehicle Sholty:
- The passenger riding shotgun has the privilege to change the radio station and adjust the heat/AC settings, only if the ride is longer than sixty minutes.
- Shotgun is also the navigator. Our lives are in your hands, or in your ability to google map our way out of the scary portions of cities.
- If you are the passenger in the backseat, you do not get to complain about boredom, the level of the music as you try to sleep, or lack of comfortability the backseat offers. I’m sorry that my car isn’t The Hilton. Wait… I’m not sorry.
- Always be on the lookout for weird roadside attractions, because we are stopping or at least getting a quick picture as we drive past.
- Don’t hesitate to say you have to go to the bathroom. But if you say it every hour on the hour, I’m commandeering your drink.
- Be prepared to create songs. This classic tune was created by Tonya (also known as the best travel companion) and myself.
- “Stuck in Washington, Pennsylvania, for about an hour. We’d like to move it, move it.”
- You meet creepy people in traffic jams. Everyone is stopped. You roll down the windows for some fresh air. Be prepared to talk loudly about knives, self-defense, and quite possibly the use of skunk helicopters.
- All passengers must be supportive of the thing. This is a dictatorship and not a democracy.
The journey is 70% of the fun. I want it to be an enjoyable experience for all. It’s usually several hours of togetherness stuck in a moving metal death cube. It is a time to be crazy, share secrets, and to accidentally misread Virginian road signs as vagina. We band together against crazy drivers, caravans, and motorcycles who like to drive on the shoulder to pass. We give them ridiculous names like, Idgit Pumpernickel and Honda von Buttercrap. I know the journey is the destination is over said, but you learn so much about yourself and your best friends as you travel. You make memories that last a lifetime, and you live by that one unspoken rule: what happens in the car stays in the car. So don’t be that sourpuss that ruins the adventure for everyone. Let go, relax, and enjoy watching the mile markers fly by.
We live in a revolutionary time. We seek instant gratification through our phones. We sigh when an advertisement plays before a YouTube video. That merciful pop up of, “skip ad countdown” never goes fast enough. We don’t read news articles anymore, we skip straight to the comments and wage war. Our skin becomes clammy and our heart rates increase when our phones aren’t within reach. We say we are going to bed, only to be glued to our phones for another hour. We’re afraid will miss the next hashtag on Twitter, or that no one will like our witty comment on the state of the upcoming election. There’s something wrong when we can’t cross a street without glancing at our phones. It’s a street, and in car versus man, the car will win every time.
I say this more for myself than anyone else. I’ve become so disconnected with the world around me that I dread actual social interaction. I have anxiety and panic attacks. My home is my sanctuary. I’d rather be at home on my computer than eating dinner with friends at Chili’s. When I find myself out with friends, it’s a struggle to put the phone down and be present. I pick my phone up as a defense when the conversation lulls, or when I feel the desperate nails of panic claw into skin. There’s no rhyme or reason for the tidal wave of nausea that hits me, but my phone has become this lifeline to distract myself from that need to run to the bathroom and throw up my dinner.
My attention span has become that of about 30 seconds. If what I am looking at hasn’t captured me by then, I move on. I never used to be that way. I was patient. I asked questions. I engaged. I didn’t dread talking on the phone. I actually used my phone as a phone. I’ve become that lady who says,
“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Something needs to change. This world has become a violent and scary place. We only get one life, and living behind a screen isn’t how I want to look back on my life. I used to be spontaneous and adventurous. I’ve let my anxiety clip my wings, and I’ve sought solace in my phone. This is my apology to my friends and my family for secluding myself away in Casa de Hermitaña. It’s been two years of quality time with my cats and books, but if I expect to find happiness again, I need people. I need to allow myself to breathe, to put the phone down and be myself again. I need to stop living behind a screen and drink in that wild air that lies beyond my door. I have to stop sleeping with my phone by hand. It’s time to be me again.
I compliment people with the revelry that is bestowed upon royalty, because this world is a cruel and desolate place. Everyone deserves to feel appreciated and special. Yes, my compliments might be off the wall, but I make it unique to each person. Because a friend that she uses her impressive teacher voice and stare to get the noisy teenagers in the theater to shush, is an amazing ability. It’s like the power of Medusa. She might not think it’s anything special, but it’s a talent I do not possess and she must be recognized.
But heaven forbid someone pays me a compliment, even if it’s something as simple as them telling me that they love my new haircut. My entire body goes into shutdown mode like a rabbit in the middle of a field that sees a cat. All brain functioning ceases to exist. People are looking at me. They’ve noticed me. This isn’t a drill. Melt into the floor, now! Crud muffins, they expect a response. The complimenter’s beautiful expectant face is what kick starts my brain into action.
Thousands of possible responses barrage me:
- They have shoes compliment them back.
- Say thank you (insert blush).
- Cheese. I like it.
- Is smiling enough of a thank you?
- Mumble… Today is the only day it’s going to look like this because I just left the salon.
This has plagued me for years. I’m me. A human. I shower and try to look nice, but I don’t actually put an extreme effort into dressing up. The ability to do that escapes me. I pony tail it all the way. Dresses make me feel self conscious, and then when you draw attention to me in a nice kind way, I instantly want to vomit. My brain instantly goes to, I must look like hobo every other day. Which is then closely followed by me complimenting you on your dental hygiene or that Doctor Who shirt you’re wearing. I hate the spotlight and instantly deflect it back to you. I expect everyone to be a decent human being, so when I get a compliment it jars me. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and I feel completely unworthy of your praise. This isn’t to dissuade you from complimenting me or anyone ever, it’s just an insight into what goes on in my brain, and I pray that it also occurs in a majority of other people’s heads.
Honest question, if you compliment someone would you be offended if they handed you an emoji card with a smile? Because I feel like this is my foolproof plan for flubbing any more social interactions.
I turned thirty this year, and this month marks the three year anniversary in which I made that first monumental step into adulthood. No, it wasn’t graduating college. Nobody cares about that. Actually, I didn’t even go to my college graduation. What I did do was finally succeed in getting my own place. I was about 5 years behind on my ‘Life After College Plan’, because I wasn’t living in a foreign city working as a CIA agent. Alias gave me unrealistic expectations.
With owning one’s own place there came an adjustment period. I constantly felt like I was living in a hotel because my room was strange and I knew no one. I even got locked in the bathroom my first night there. Stupid push lock doorknob. Mainly, I had to get used to the fact that I now had to walk outside to get to the laundry facility. It never failed that my underwear and bras always found their way to the top of the dirty laundry basket. You’d think seeing underclothes wouldn’t embarrass people. Everybody wears them; ok I know guys typically don’t wear bras. And sir, I am truly sorry if my bras and undies horrified you. But seriously what do you think holds my boobs up? It certainly isn’t gravity.
Two weeks into living at the new place, I had used the laundry facility several times. No problems. The machines worked great up until that fateful night. I was pulling my darks out of the washer, and I notice white ‘down there hair’ all over my clothes. Oh, hecks no. This is not kosher. I shook my shirts like a bird taking off for flight, but the motion wasn’t dislodging the icky hair from my clothes. I paid a good $1.25 for clean clothes. Now they were infected with a stranger’s personal hair. I regret admitting this. I really do, but I couldn’t put them in the dryer with someone else’s DNA embedded in my personal items. I started picking the hair off. Of course, I didn’t notice the trashcan until after I dehaired my clothes. I am truly sorry for that. I did final glance of the washer before heading to the dryer, when I saw about 3 feet of twine in the bottom. Oh crap! I washed twine!!! Who washes their twine??? Then it hit me. It was me! That wasn’t a kindly neighbor’s down there hair. It was my twine.
A week prior to this incident, I decided to try and hang pictures with twine. I wanted to go for that shabby chic look, but then I realized that the frames wouldn’t lie flat against the wall. Out of frustration and after a good 30 minutes of my time wasted, I stuffed the twine into the back pocket of my shorts. What did I learn from this: (1) Always check your pockets. (2) Twine can make for a good practical joke.