Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dream Date

I loved this cartoon as a kid.  I still love it.  I also love the part in the movie Stepmom where Susan Sarandon arranges a dream date with her little son (yes, that Stepmom, I know it's a horrible movie, but I like it, okay?  OKAY??).  H. and I regularly schedule dream dates when we're apart from each other - like now, when I'm in New York for my weekly stint with Birdie.  Yes, we go three days a week without seeing each other.  Yes, we miss each other when we're apart.  Yes, it's mildly pathetic but so is the movie Stepmom and we've already discussed my feelings on that, so there you go.

You know what I dream about?

A place where I'm happy with my body.  A place without eating disorders.  A place where I don't base my self-worth on the shape of my stomach or the number on a scale.  That's why they're called dreams, right?  Because those places don't exist in real life.  I wish they did.  Tonight, I'm wishing so hard that they did.  Instead, I'll try to find that place in my dreams and enjoy it until the sun rises, the alarm rings, and a new day begins.

Where do you go in your dreams?  Do you bring anyone along?  I'd like to think I'm not the only one.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Moment of Thanks

When I was young, it was customary at big holidays for us to go around the table and say something for which we were thankful while breaking off a piece of the traditional Polish Oplatek wafer.  We usually did things in order by age so that the least patient among us (who, me?) could go first.  My father recalls Thanksgiving dinners growing cold as I attempted to hold the proverbial floor by desperately adding to my list of thanks before the focus of everyone's attention could turn elsewhere: "I'm - I'm - I'm thankful for...puppies!  And kitties!  And bunnies!  And horsies!  And - and -and..."  And you get the idea.  While my thanks was not insincere, it certainly didn't encompass the larger, truer things I was lucky to have as a child - things like family and safety and food on the table.

Twenty years later, I'm better able to verbalize my thanks for things like family, friends, and all those other things people are thankful for on Thanksgiving.  But this year, I'm hundreds of miles away from both my family and my fiancee, I'm struggling financially like I never have before, I don't have a home of my own, and it is work - work - to get through each day.  Is it work worth doing?  Well, yes, I'd like to think so.  But so here it is.  This year?  This year, I'm thankful for the hard.  For the messy.  For the getting up each day, even on - especially on - the days when I feel like I can't. 

There's often an unspoken (or sometimes spoken) question that arises around mental illness.  It goes like this:

If you could, would you give it up?

If I could, would I wish away the bipolar disorder?

The bipolar disorder that makes it so that I can't get out of bed sometimes, that makes it necessary for me to swallow handfuls of drugs every night, the bipolar that landed me in a psychiatric hospital for a week when I was only 20 years old?  No.  I would not.  I think that my manic depression is what allows me to feel for people as intensely as I do, which is often difficult but ultimately I feel it's valuable.  I think I am empathetic because I've experienced such a range of emotion, at such intense highs and lows, that there's relatively little that I don't feel like I can relate to on some level.  I think that my empathy will help me to be a strong mother and a gentle midwife, even if the degree to which I feel is exhausting sometimes.  However, I don't see my illness as being some sort of window into the meaning of life, or as being essential to my being or something like that.  I see it as the hand I was dealt and it's up to me to navigate the world with and through it.  I would never romanticize this illness - I wouldn't wish on anyone the hope of death, unbearable helplessness, mania that makes one a danger to oneself and others, depression that renders one completely nonfunctional or the pure exhaustion that comes from swinging from one extreme to another like a pendulum you can't control.  But it's part of who I am, and wishing that I could give it up is like wishing that part of me doesn't exist.  And when I came through the period of time where I did want to die, I did so with the knowledge and appreciation that I was blessed to be alive and loved, I was worthy of existing, there was good in the world that I was meant to do, and choosing to give all that up was stealing value, hope, and joy not only from myself but from anyone that loved me and wanted to see what I could do with this life.  So accepting who I was, and that I was valuable, meant accepting every part of who I was - bipolar and all.

There are the moments when I feel like I'm cemented into bed.  Moments when I lie awake at 3 AM and wish for my heartbeat to slow down.  Moments when I wonder how this will all, ever, work out.  But there are also moments like this.
And it is for those moments that I am thankful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Confessions of a Chronic Insomniac

Doesn't matter if I'm walking or driving, I find bicyclists annoying. 

I can make five strand braided challah, a gingersnap-crusted cheesecake, a blueberry pie so good it made Alix fall in love with me, and the best vegan blueberry muffins you'd ever had.  It makes me sad that I'm too scared to eat and enjoy any of those anymore.

I wish I owned more flannel, lesbian cliches be damned.

I simply do not understand the obsession with red velvet.  Seriously.  It's chocolate with food coloring.

On a similar note, I hate food coloring.  It freaks me out.

I have two dreams: to learn French and to learn to play the cello.  Deep in my heart of hearts, I hope that someday I'll be able to do both.

I judge people who don't know the difference between it's and its; there, their, and they're; loose and lose; and aw and awe.

Is the effort it takes to eat a grapefruit really worth it?

I'm self-conscious about my height and rarely, if ever wear heels.

Did you know that tulips are the only flower that continues to grow after being cut?  That's why they start to droop in their vase, because their stems are still getting longer.

I have four tattoos.  With the exception of my first one, each was conceived, pondered, and inked onto me in less than 48 hours.

I deeply covet a Le Creuset Dutch oven.

I will never, not ever eat jello, Smarties, or drink Gatorade.  Why?  Because I know I would hate all three.

I think all my siblings' names are cooler than mine.

I'm obsessive about covering my mouth and nose when I sneeze but will blatantly forget to cover a yawn.

What the hell is the point of Twitter?

Things that make my world go round: a hot cup of coffee, a good book, a sleeping baby on my shoulder, a warm blanket, a hug so tight it takes my breath away, and the feeling of being needed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hither and Yon

I'd pretend to be sleeping
When you come in in the morning
To whisper good-bye
Go to work in the rain
I don't know why
Don't know why
-Top of the World, by the Dixie Chicks

Those lines get to me.  Probably because I've done exactly what they say.  I've sat and listened while someone called my name, I've pretended to be asleep when I'm not, I've made an art form out of wanting to be found, but hiding all the same.  I remember being tucked into the hall closet in the old farm house where I grew up, listening to my mother yell for us to come down for dinner.  I'd sit, curled up, waiting.  Please, I'd think.  Please come find me.  Please come look.  With seven kids to feed, I can hardly fault my mother for not wanting to traipse through three floors of shadows, in pursuit of her youngest, most stubborn, most exasperating, and ultimately baffling child.  Why, for god's sakes, was I hiding in the hall closet when I had clearly heard that it was dinner time?  Eventually, when it became obvious that no one was going to come looking for me, I'd scramble out of the dark folds of winter coats and wrapping paper rolls and gallop down the stairs, away from the monsters I was sure were living in the closet I had just vacated.  I'd run into the brightly lit kitchen, only to find the rest of my family calmly filling their plates and just sitting down to eat.  "Where were you?" my mother would ask.  "I called and you didn't answer."  "Hiding," I would say, and it seemed to suffice.  It wasn't true, though.  I wasn't hiding, I was waiting.  Waiting for something that would not come.  Waiting for a pursuit, a search, a rescue from something I could not name.

In some ways, I feel like I'm still waiting.  If that's the case, then I'm still unsure of what I'm waiting for.  Proof that people care where I am?  Evidence of others' concern for my well-being?  I have those things, in spades.  Maybe there's just something about feeling like I spend half my life in transit these days: more often than not, you could find me on a bus, on the subway, on the T, on the NJ Transit, or sitting, shivering in a station waiting for the doors to open, my ticket to be punched, and the wheels or rails to creak into motion.  Back and forth I go, happy in each place, but in transit nonetheless.  GPS, text messages, and online schedules assure anyone who cares to look exactly where I am at any given moment but it doesn't make me feel any less lost.  Knowing where you are is a far cry from feeling like you belong.  Landing is different from coming home.  And it's only as I've gotten older - and been sought out and found and picked up and carried to safety more times than I can count - that I've realized with an aching heart that even being found when I'm trying so desperately to hide won't take away the demons from which I'm ultimately running.

Years ago, the dark hall closet held me secure but also trapped.  Folded in amongst the coats and winter boots, I was hiding just as much from myself as from my mother.  In the same way, running back and forth can start to look an awful lot like running away.  I want to land.  I want to come home.  I want to unlace my metaphorical sneakers and feel like I belong.  It won't always be this way, I tell myself.  This is part of being young; going with the flow.  Feeling like I'm riding the waves of change instead of fighting to keep my head above water is an art form I have yet to master.  For now, I'll make my iPod playlists, I'll read my library books, I'll pack lightly, and I'll enjoy every hug at the end of every journey.  I'm a lucky girl, I tell myself.  There's love wherever I land.  That is more than enough.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A few minor changes...

My life. Has changed. So much.

Here are the facts:
1.  On Wednesday mornings, I take a 6 AM bus to NYC, where I work for J. all day, then take a train to NJ to see my therapist at 8 PM at night (God bless this woman for staying late to see me) and then I take a 9:30 train back into the city before returning to J.'s apartment to collapse.
2.  Thursdays, I will be babysitting a little boy for a few hours, puttering around NY, taking care of things, and then taking care of Birdie for her parents' date night starting at 5 PM.
3.  Fridays, I work for Birdie all day and take a bus back to Boston around 7 PM.
4.  Saturdays, I collapse, do laundry, hug my best friend, go grocery shopping, etc.
5.  Sundays, I go to a local horse barn where I shovel shit in exchange for the chance to ride.  I also do this on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I AM THE LUCKIEST GIRL EVER.
6.  Right now, I am camping in the room of this girl I talk about all the time.  Starting in December, though, I'll be living in the apartment upstairs with two roommates (yet to be found, inspected, and approved).
7.  I'm looking for a part-time job in Boston for Sundays-Tuesdays, to help bring in more money.  I've applied to every coffee shop and bookstore I could find, so we'll see what happens there.
8.  I miss my boys terribly.  For the sake of Rupert, his need for more consistency, and the ease of me finding a place to live, he is living at Alix's dad's house for now.  I have shed more than a few tears about this, because he was (and is) the light of my life and not snuggling up with him every night has made a part of me die.  In fact, I'm tearing up right now just writing this.  But I know he's in a better place right now, this is temporary, and yes.  Okay.  It's better.  I know it is.  But oh, I miss him.
9.  Until I move upstairs, Tucker is staying with my brother so as not to continue to overcrowd H.'s apartment with warm bodies.  So I'll be counting down the days until December 1st when I can begin our staring contests again.  (He usually wins.  But I feed him.  So technically, as the wielder of all things edible, I WIN.)

The gory deets:

Living with Birdie's family three days a week is going surprisingly well.  We genuinely get along, we have fun together, and it's not awkward.  (This is remarkable.  I am the queen of awkward.  I could make a coffee table feel uncomfortable, if I tried.)

I am eating.  More.  Every day.  It's hard.  I am trying.  The end.

I applied to Yale.  I wrote a damn good essay (if I do say so myself), and the office of admissions is being very understanding about the lateness of two of my letters of recommendation due to the snow/ice storm that took out power in the town from which two of the letters are coming.

Last week, when H. was helping me pack, it was quite honestly, the most exhausting 72 hours of my life, between packing up all of Alix's stuff to put in storage, going to Boston to go job/apt hunting, coming back, packing up all of my stuff, loading a moving van, driving to Boston, unloading the van into a storage unit, and then driving me and H. and my essentials to her apartment.  ANYWAY - we were packing.  We were tired.  So, we decided to get coffee.  Then, we decided coffee was boring.  So, we added Bailey's.  Irish coffees make packing A LOT more interesting.  Please see below:
In case you can't read: (H) AIR (Y) Conditioner (and golf clubs).
The last time I picked up a golf club was...oh wait, never.  So yeah.  Around 3 AM, everything was in boxes, labeled (although you can only imagine how much more fun the labels got as the hours swung by), and organized into piles for van vs. car.  A couple hours later and we were up, bumping furniture down three flights of stairs and soon on our way to Beantown.

I was so tired when we got there that I almost fell asleep on the floor.  Of the living room.  With the lights on.

Today, I took a walk in Riverside Park, just for fun.  Just because I wanted to.  Because I had enough energy to do so.  Because the sunshine felt nice, and I had nothing else to do, and I was happy.

Further gory deets, though: I am still swinging like a monkey on a tree between moods.  Definitely hanging out in the depressed section these days, for way longer than I have been in a good long while.  I'm hoping that my medication changes will help, as will all these other huge life alterations that were all done in the name of saving my sanity (even if temporarily, it's disrupting it completely).  Eventually, I will even out.  And so will my life.  And life will go on.  And all that stuff that they say, but it's true, and it bears repeating.

Holding this close to my heart tonight, and trying like hell to believe it:
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.