Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Who Knew Us When

Two seconds before I took this picture they were cuddled together, sharing a bath.  Then they switched to a wrestling match that ended with Lucy running away and Tucker curling up in a smug little ball at my feet.

A friend and I had coffee the other day and the topic of family came up.  My friend was feeling pretty frustrated and I asked why.  I heard about how my friend's parents feel a certain way about an issue - an issue that is admittedly, something that would be extremely difficult as a parent to adjust to - and the way that they feel is - for all intents and purposes - pretty openminded and accepting.  Still, it's not how my friend wants their parents to feel and this is causing a lot of upset and hurt.  Now, I am not my friend (nor am I my friend's parents) and I make no claim to understand the complexities of the emotions on either side.  But in an attempt to offer some objective perspective on the whole thing, I gently suggested to my friend that from what I could hear about how their parents felt, it sounded like they were really making an effort.  And I added to that observation a kind of universal truth - that there is a perpetual gap between who we might want our parents to be, and who they actually are.  Just like how there is a forever and continuous valley between the person our parents want us to be and dreamed we would be, and who we actually turn out to be.  

The point seemed to hit home (in spite of the clumsiness of the metaphor).  I sometimes think about how with all the moving around I've done and the way I've lived my life, I don't hardly know anyone outside of my family who has known me for more than a few years (if that).  The people that watched me grow up, that knew me when I was small and still know me now, people that perhaps took a guess or had an idea or an unspoken wish or even a whole host of expectations about who I would grow to become - what do they think now?  How wide has the valley grown?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Remember how Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck?  I feel bad about my camera.  It sits, either neatly  zipped into its bag, like an inanimate toddler dummy buckled into a carseat or more casually perhaps, it rests on my dresser, its neck strap hanging seductively towards the floor, waiting to be picked up and caressed.  I avoid looking at it like we awkwardly made out in the bathroom at a Tegan and Sara concert and then thought better of it when morning came.  I feel bad about not using my camera, and so I will occasionally pick it up but since I never take pictures anymore, I am, um, really bad at taking pictures.  Which then frustrates me into zipping it tightly back into its bag where it sits for awhile before I start feeling intensely guilty again.  And so it goes.  I'm going to try to fix this cycle by taking a few photos of whatever strikes me, several days a week.  And sharing them with you all.  Be nice, okay?  Me and my awkward make-out partner are still trying to figure each other out (again).

I found a baby scale in a junk shop last week.  H. looked it up tonight and we realized it's from 1931!  What an amazing treasure for a future midwifery practice.

I used my macro lens to try to capture some of the details of the scale.  This is the counterweight that balances the scale on the tabletop.
For laughs: Lucy on the scale.  For but the briefest of moments (like most girls).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Six Months In

I am drenched and dripping in sweat, gasping as I fling myself up from the rumpled, damp sheets, sitting up now with my head on my knees and the room is so quiet, it hums around me and all I hear are my ragged, heaving lungs.  The house was burning down, the stairs were engulfed in flames, I couldn't get out and I was all alone - the fact that all this was a dream settles over me like a heavy blanket that gives no comfort and only feels like a smothering hand, like the walls closing in on my galloping, hummingbird heart.  I lie back down and wriggle closer to his still, sleeping form.  I rest my forehead in between his shoulder blades and listen to him breathe and I love him, and he loves me, but all the love in the world doesn't raise a man who sleeps like the dead just because I had a nightmare.

Three days of the black cloud over my head.  Three days is nothing compared to the months (nay, years) of sickening depression I have endured before, but three days is long enough to remind me of just how god-awful it feels.  To remember what it feels like to rise slowly up out of a half-sleep, look at the wall beside my bed and only have one word come to mind: Fuck.  Because another day has begun. Because looking at myself in the mirror is hateful, because I wish I could shower with my eyes closed so that I wouldn't have to see a single particle of me, because everything feels so pointless, because fuck, this is hard.  And then that night, when I lie in his arms and I tell him how awful this feels and he listens, and I know he cares, because he asks me softly, What can I do?  And I don't know what to tell someone who has never felt this way before.  I don't know how to let someone help me when they cannot tell me, I have been where you are.  I tell him he's already doing it.  He listens.  He holds me close and he cracks quiet jokes until a small smile tugs at the corners of my mouth.  Satisfied, he pushes my hair out of the way and plants a last kiss on my neck before falling promptly to sleep.  I lie awake, counting his breaths, his arm warm around my middle and I think to myself with an ache that threatens to tear me in half, No one ever tells you how to fall in love with someone new.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snowpocalypse 2013

Blizzard beginnings

It seems like old news now, but the blizzard named Nemo (seriously?) of a couple weeks ago was pretty dramatic.  I grew up in snow country (i.e., western New York) where getting a foot or two of white stuff overnight was not exactly news.  It was also not always a good enough reason for school to be cancelled, and for this reason I remember plenty of school mornings being shuffled outside with all of my siblings, shovels in hand, so that we could clear our own path to school.  Talk about teaching the value of an education.

Before the real stuff started

Yale was (thankfully) not taking chances, and preemptively cancelled clinical and classes the night before, which was a good thing because I didn't dig my car out until five days later and H. and I thought that what was going on in the two pictures above was pretty dramatic and exciting (about 10 PM on Friday night) - until we woke up the next morning.

The next morning.  That's my poor green Honda on the left!

It was insane.  There was at least three feet of snow burying everything, and the wind had blown drifts that were covering our entire porch, all the cars, and that were up to five or six feet deep in places.  But check it out.  Girl power, we shoveled our own porch and walkway, thank you very much.

Quite the workout

The boy and I climbed up our local mountain Saturday morning, before anything was plowed and while the trek up was pretty treacherous and difficult, the view at the top was incredible.

At the top

And then we slid on our bottoms almost all the way down the mountain, which worried the dog quite a bit - he kept trying to run in front of me and jump into my lap - but was great fun nonetheless.

Digging out

Our street didn't get plowed until Monday night, by a bulldozer who was struggling down the street.  Now, almost two weeks later, things are still a bit of a mess.  Workable, thankfully, but still tricky.  There are enormous piles of snow everywhere, and our street has about half as many parking spaces available as it usually does.  But the rain yesterday helped melt quite a bit, and hopefully the temperatures in the low 40's for the rest of this week will take care of some of the rest.

H.'s face the morning after was pretty priceless.  And when she asked me if I had ever seen anything like this before, I had to tell her that honestly, no, I hadn't.  I've seen serious snow before, but this blizzard was unlike anything else I'd ever experienced.  For several days, our house was full of a constant rotation of drying snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens.  We played in it, we dug through it, we slept, we enjoyed the break from school and work, we watched movies, we read books, we went a wee bit stir crazy.  We made lots of memories from the blizzard of 2013!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birthday Vlog, Version 2.0

Less embarrassing than last year?  You be the judge.

So here we go, folks: a second look at Lucy, more birthday questions - some sillier than others - and still no editing (nope, not even a little bit).  Enjoy!

The 25th Birthday Vlog from hallie on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Trading It In

Running brings all of your truths to the surface.  Good and bad.  Banal and profound.  I have to poop, is right up there in the front of your mind along with, What would it feel like to feel like I am enough? 

Two miles or twelve, high tech tights or Target shorts - if you put on your shoes, if you open the door, if you take the first step, you have begun.

Like a lot of things in life, running can be super exciting and filled with the encouragement and accolades of others near the beginning - and the end.  It's the middle that gets lonely.  The getting up early, the running when it's dark, the being so bad at something, so shockingly and terrifically awful that it takes you literal months to get to the point where you don't want to die every time you head out the door.  That part sucks.  Oh, but that's where all the magic happens.

Because I would never have gotten here if I hadn't been there.  I am not a great runner.  I don't run every day.  I don't break records or win medals.  But several months ago, I traded in numbers on a scale for numbers on the road.

And though it would make me infinitely happy to say that in the end, the scale said what I wanted it to because of the running - nope, didn't happen.  I still don't always like what I see in the mirror, or what I see on the scale.

But I sure do love how it feels to be here.
And for now (and hopefully for a lot longer than that), that is enough.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Over the Hill

As of 12:16 this afternoon, I will officially be closer to being 30 than 20.  I'm not sure what to do with this information.  I am no longer in my early 20's.  Which I guess would make me officially in my late 20's.  Again, I'm not so sure what to do with this information.  Mostly, I'm inclined to disregard it and just be grateful for all the awesome in my life and save the worrying about getting old for another time. Maybe if I just keep putting it off, I'll get to be 100 and still feel young.

And if nothing else, these two keep me hopping (and laughing).

And now that my pharm test is over, I can relax a bit and enjoy the rest of my day of classes!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Burn It Down

I barely know her.  She may not even know my name.  We are Facebook friends, but only as a result of the dozens of requests sent in August, when our class roster was released and orientation was a seething mass of trying to connect faces to names and backgrounds.  She is a blip on my radar, a classmate, a body in the room.  But today she has written something about starting her rotation with the "criminally insane" next week, while she and her friends leave comments about her "hanging on the hill," "Yikes!" and "LOL."

I do not know her, and my rage is a white hot torch inside me.  It makes my stomach roll, my hands shaking as I type this, my legs under the table tremble and I feel like if I saw her now, I would overturn tables, scream my lungs bloody and raw, my rage would set her on fire and she would burn to ash in an instant, flattened by the enormity of all I feel.

You do not know.  I want to tell her.  You do not even fucking KNOW.  I want to tattoo things like, They are people, too and They are not "insane," they are sick and have done terrible things because they have felt terrible things that you will never understand, onto her hands, leaving angry black lines that will mark her as indelibly as they are marked by their choices and actions and demons and fears.  I want to run back to the hospital where I spent the last two nights and I want to camp out on the stoop and block the door when she shows up next week, I want to put my flesh and blood between her prejudice and privilege and them, the vulnerable, the patients to whom we owe so much and from whom we have so much to learn.

I want her to understand what it feels like to have your medications handed to you in a paper cup and be watched while you swallow them.  I want her to know what it feels like to have all your phone conversations in a public room, on a dirty telephone with a 12 inch cord so short that you can barely even sit down.  I want her to know how it feels to see a binder, three inches thick with pages of reports, lab results, tests, and medication records that are all about her, the inside of her head, every bad choice she has ever made, every moment when she felt like she couldn't go on, every hurt in her heart, laid out in blue and black ink and filled with descriptions like, decompensating rapidly, poor response to medication, history of trauma, significant for sexual assault, rule out PTSD, poor self care, poorly engaged, continue fifteen minute checks.  Descriptions that once filled my chart.

I am overreacting.  I know this.

I know this, and yet.

My patients.  They have done terrible things, yes.  Killed people, threatened people, hurt their wives, their husbands, their children, their neighbors, the very people trying to help them.  Voices in their head, telling them to do this.  Psychosis so real, so impenetrable and unrelenting that it would be like me telling you, No, that's not your name.  You don't actually live where you think you do.  You are not a human, you are a drop of water.  Everything you believe to be true is false.  Everything.  Some of them are remorseful, some understand now what they did, they understand that they are sick, terribly ill and that medications and therapy may help and though they have helped, they don't remove the sickness and they don't change what happened.  Some show no remorse, yes.  It is difficult to see.  Reading their chart hurts the deepest part of your heart that believes the world is essentially good and worth saving.

But they are not "insane."  And the inside of their minds, the lives they have lived, and the things they have seen are more "Yikes!" than what you could ever possibly imagine.  I hope that when you start your rotations next week, that you will see this.  I hope for this with every torching, white hot fiber of my being.