Monday, August 22, 2016
If typing in the wrong URL for the login page isn’t a sign that I haven’t been posting enough, I don’t know what is. As is usual, there are things I think about writing but to actually type the words, that seems like an insurmountable task…
But enough of that. Let’s write about something that has been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks. A coworker and I were on the topic of childhoods and discipline and I decided I would share an anecdote with her. Despite the fact that I come off as being a sharer (and an oversharer, I’ve been told) I do hesitate to say some things. Talking about the way that I was disciplined growing up, or, giving actual details, that’s something I reserve for people with whom I feel comfortable. This particular moment happened when I was 9 or 10 and I had gotten into trouble over something. As I walked away from my mother I muttered “bitch” under my breath. I hadn’t meant for that to be overheard but overhear it she did. Before I knew it, I had been spun around and a hand was traveling across my face. The smack was hard enough that it cut open an eyelid. And here’s the part that’s been bugging me since I told this story a few weeks ago.
I couldn’t, you see, remember which eyelid was cut. I have a scar on an eyelid but it’s so small that it’s hard to see or feel now. I remember feeling embarrassed, as if I was making more of the moment than I needed to because the scar wasn’t big enough to locate without doing some close inspection.
The absurdity of that feeling, however, didn’t hit me until a few days later. And it reminded me of how normalized abuse is in my life, or the history of it, anyways. Thankfully I’ve been able to structure my life so that I’m long past that but the emotional scars are still there. At some point, a few days after the conversation, I found myself laughing at myself. “Oh, Patricia,” I thought, “really? You’re embarrassed about the fact that your scar wasn’t bigger? How about feeling something about the fact that you have any scar at all?”
That’s the insidious thing about abuse, the invisible thing that people just don’t understand unless they’ve lived through something similar. The scars heal, they may even look like they’ve disappeared, but the emotional impact of abuse, there’s no way to fully grasp that because often the person doing the surviving, the living, the moving on has no clue about how deep the chasms go. You think you’ve got a grasp on things and then a small moment of embarrassment reminds you of how sad, painful, and ludicrous your existence was at times.
Friday, July 01, 2016
What are the things that define you? The things that you like to hear? On the flight back from SF I was thinking about this. When you’re stuck in a plane for six hours you have a lot of time to reflect. Though, really, this is my usual MO regardless of location; as I often say, I’m my most favorite subject! But I digress.
I had a fun, lovely time during my short visit to Northern California. Three things stick in my mind that call back to my questions above.
On my trip I was told:
1. “We’re so proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.” I didn’t go looking for that or asked for it but hearing it from people who have always wished well for me, it’s a generous gift.
2. “I’d know that hair anywhere.” This could go either way, right? But no matter how annoyed I am at my hair it’s been consistently a thing that I have liked about myself. And, vain as it may seem, there were times when coming up with things I liked about myself was hard so whenever someone compliments my hair it’s fun.
3. “You’re funny!” Being told I’m funny ranks up there with being told I’m smart, good at my job, take good photos, write well. I don’t practice being funny so it seems strange to feel prideful of this trait and yet I do. And having people recognize it, well, that too is fun.
So, that’s me I guess. Funny with good hair that has managed, through trials and tribulations, to get to a good place. I’ll take it. Maybe in my next life I can add good singing voice and an ability for quantum physics. Then, man, I would really be something, wouldn’t I??
Monday, June 27, 2016
While having lunch with a friend on Saturday, she began to tell me a story about someone she knows who has developed a fear of flying. “But,” she said, “someone who hasn’t had a fear before, that doesn’t develop without some kind of traumatic event -” She seemed to be implying that because there had been no near death experience via flying that there couldn’t or shouldn’t be any reason why this person would now be afraid of getting on a plane.
“I’m afraid of flying now,” I shared. She blinked and said nothing so I continued. “Ever since the cancer last year and the surgery, I’m afraid of flying and that was never the case. I’m okay after the take off but before that my stomach churns, I am jittery and afraid. Fear of death will do it, I guess.”
She nodded but didn’t seem that convinced.
I realize I put her in a bit of a spot because is she really going to argue with my assessment? That’s the thing about mentioning the C-word, it has an unfortunate ability to shut things down. The laying down of the Cancer card isn’t anything I do intentionally, nor do I really even like bringing it up. But this wrong idea that the brain always works in such a linear fashion made me want to speak up. I was a psych major for a reason; the way that the mind is constantly making connections, trying to make sense of the world or the way it can sometimes misfire is fascinating really.
If I spend time psychoanalyzing myself it isn’t that hard to figure out why the fear of flying has come into play. Being diagnosed with cancer and having to have body parts cut out in order to cure it, then spending weeks waiting to hear if the cancer had spread, there was no controlling that. Nothing I did could change the trajectory of that life event. Flying is a bit like that, right? Once I’m on the plane, whether I make it to my next destination isn’t up to me. Of course, we could say that about pretty much any action I take every day of my life but to worry and be on high alert every minute of the day would be ridiculously overwhelming so let’s thank the brain for choosing to only do this when I have to fly. That’s manageable, mostly because I don’t do much traveling!
Still, I’m hoping that with a little more time passing, the anxiety around flying will fade away. Just because I can pinpoint it to a particular traumatic part of my life doesn’t mean it makes it any less annoying to have to deal with.
Monday, May 16, 2016
While driving home yesterday I found myself crafting my trip to the mall. I revised it several times in my head, dismissing bits that I thought were irrelevant, changing the direction of the anecdote. As is usually the case, one little story meandered into many. Cut it back, I thought. That and that and definitely that is another piece.
Do you do this? The constant crafting of your life? For whom, I wonder? The trip to the mall was posted on Facebook where it got some likes. The point of the story was to share that my phone is back in working order after a week of not being able to receive or make calls or text messages. In theory it had a purpose, though the point could have been made in a sentence or two instead of the 20 or 30 it ended up being.
Not having written anything remotely “worthy” in a very long time, I don’t label myself a writer, but I clearly have writerly tendencies, which pleases me. Letting the words live in my head, however, that’s either a waste or an action that is sure to drive me crazy one day. Which is another thing to ponder.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
When I revived the blog I said I was doing it because there were things that needed to be written. That remains true. Writing has always been cathartic for me, it was a way to get the swirling thoughts out of my head in a way that made me process emotions, ideas, aspirations, fears, anger, etc. Everything that happened last year should have been accompanied by heavy bouts of writing but I was so out of habit, not just with blogging, but with actual writing that I didn’t do it. As a consequence, all of these words continue to live in my head.
The problem is, I don’t want this to be the cancer blog. I don’t want to have entry after entry of just depressing content. Because, that’s the thing about writing in public, isn’t it? It isn’t just a therapeutic exercise. It’s the creation of “content”; the understanding that the words, once given life outside of myself, are going to be processed by others and that changes things. This isn’t a bad thing, this isn’t a condemnation of living our lives, part of our lives, in public spaces. It’s just a layer. How much that matters is up to each of us.
As I chafe against having every entry be about the cancer, and, hell, if I’m honest the cancer isn’t what I think about or cry over on still a very regular basis. It’s the infertility, stupid. That’s the root of the sadness. So, because I don’t want this to be entry after entry about how that has affected me, I don’t write. I don’t write despite knowing I need to write.
So, for now, I’ll just do a bit of a brain dump:
- Thing one: I finished A Tale of Two Cities. I had a hard time finding a groove because of the style of writing. The story itself I enjoyed very much so I know I’ll go back and reread it at some point. I also greatly enjoyed having the chance to discuss the book with someone; so the mini-bookclub was a success in that regard. I realized that while I was aware of the famous first line (It was the best of times…) I wasn’t attributing another famous line to this story. When I read the last line (It is a far, far better thing that I do…) I gasped and thought, “Oh! That is from this book?!?” I know know exactly why I find that note worthy and yet I do. Next up for the mini-bookclub is Atlas Shrugged. It’s one of those books that people reference a lot (especially lately) but that I can’t speak to having never read it. From the little I know about the book the reading and discussion should be interesting.
I am so close to being done with the cross stitch project that I intend to give to my mother on Mother’s Day. I’m generally happy with the way it’s come out. It has been a few years since I worked on a project this big (it’s an 8x11 cross stitch) so it’s given me ample time to become aware of the short cuts I take. I imagine that may improve if I stick with the plan of stitching on a more regular basis. Though I don’t want to impose such a tight deadline on myself for anything else. Getting this done for May has meant putting aside other activities and that’s definitely not a sustainable way to live my life.
Hmm. I thought I had a third thing but maybe the beginning of this entry was thing number one. This will do for now.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
After reading a blog post on Bookriot about reading rules I started thinking about mine.
- Never dog ear a book. I tend to not use bookmarks and if I do, it’s something thin, like a receipt or even a square of tissue.
- Related to the above, if the book is new, I endeavor to not break the spine. For quick reads, it appeals to me to be done with a book and still have it look good as new.
- That said, if a book requires thought and time to finish and understand, having it gently show wear also appeals to me.
- I like to have more than one book going at the same time. They have to be of different topics so it’s easy to keep track of each book’s progress. I move between books as the moods strikes but inevitably one book will rise above the rest and compel me to devote my time to only it. I let the stories tell me how to read.
- I’ve tried to get into reading books on the Kindle but I find that I still prefer reading paper books best. Although I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities on the Kindle, progress is so slow. I blame the ability to be distracted so easily. No matter how engrossed I think I am in a story, when I hear a ding or feel the buzz of the phone in my hand, I am pulled away to check emails or make a move on a game. I wish I were better able to ignore the notifications but that seems to only happen when I’m holding a paper book in my hands.
- If it’s a series, I have to read the books in order.
- I try to end at a chapter but that’s sometimes difficult if I’ve read long into the night and have to admit that sleep is more necessary than getting to the end of a chapter.
- At some point in a story, I find the need to know the ending. I don’t fight this; sometimes all I need to do is read the last page, sometimes it’s the last chapter. Only once has this actually ruined a book for me. Knowing how a book ends detracts not one bit from wanting to know how it got to that ending.
- No marginalia on quick reads. But I do make rare exceptions on school books, history/philosophy books, etc. Basically any books that I a) intend on keeping and b) require significant thought to understand.
- Unless I am sure that I will be reading the book multiple times, I gift/donate the book so that others can enjoy it.
I think those cover my rules. Though it does feel as if I’m missing something. I’ll add to it if I remember anything. So, the question now is, do you have any reading rules?
Friday, March 11, 2016
For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced sharp, lucid dreams; dreams in which I am aware that I am dreaming. In doing some reading about this, I’ve read that some people have reached the point where they can direct the dreams. I’ve never tried to accomplish this. One, because I’m not sure how one would go about doing that. Two, while they happen often enough, they don’t happen so often that this is top of mind for me.
Some of the dreams can be fun. There was the one where I was a superhero and was kicking badguy ass left and right. I had a super cute superhero suit and super speed. The part of me that was aware that I was dreaming thought, “Cool. It’s like my own little comic book movie!”
While other dreams are emotionally intense and leave me quite disoriented upon waking. Like the dream within dream where my dream baby died. I remember thinking, while dreaming, that it was an awful dream and I wanted very much to be able to wake up so I tried to do that. I woke up relieved that the awful dream was done and that my baby was well. The part of my brain that knew all of this was just a giant mind game knew things were still not right. So when I finally woke up from this multi layered brainscape I had to work hard at understanding my reality. “Wait. Do I have a baby? Is my baby dead? No, right. I don’t have a baby. Thank god that was a dream.”
There I lay in bed, both relieved and sad that I had no baby to lose but still wishing my life wasn’t child-less. Can I tell you how hard it is to process that many feelings and sense of confusion so early in the morning and still get up with some energy to get to work? I probably don’t have to tell you. You can probably guess.
I was told I had cancer on a Friday morning, as I’ve previously shared. Friday, January 22nd to be exact. And from that day on, for about two months, I woke up every day with the feeling that that call had been a dream. All of the fear, the tears, the confusion, the anger, the grief; it all seemed surreal. So surreal that I was certain at any moment I would wake up thinking, “My god. That was the most detailed dream I’ve ever had!”
Each day there was the waking up with the confusion and the slight hope that this horrible thing would magically go away. Each day I was forced to accept that this was my life now. It’s gotten better; I don’t wake up every day believing the cancer was a dream but it would be a lie to say that, even a year out and with a clean bill of health, I don’t sometimes wonder when I’m going to wake up and be able to put this nightmare behind me.
Sunday, March 06, 2016
I turned 43 yesterday. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed my birthdays. Even when I didn’t have anything planned and spent the day alone which made me a bit sad, I still managed to feel generally happy about the day. This year there was no anticipation, there was no joy, just sadness.
It’s a strange place to be in to have to feel grateful that the fertility assessments were the things that made it possible to catch the endometrial cancer. There’s no way to know if I’d feel any less sad, any less lost and grief stricken if a regular doctor’s visit had caught the abnormal results. I just know that I spent a long time thinking that maybe this year would be the year that I’d have a baby or be trying for a baby. Instead, I’m just one year older, infertile, and living under a cloud of sadness. Which isn’t to say there aren’t good moments. Oh, there are. Thankfully a good many of them. Underneath those moments, however, are always the undercurrent of grief, sadness, and this vague sensation of being without purpose.
But, I’m still here, right? I’m a few months away from paying off a ridiculous amount of debt I’d racked up in the last decade and by this time next year I expect to be living on my own again. In the summer or early fall I’ll make appointments with the appropriate people and start exploring my adoption options so that too is something to be hopeful for. So there are things to look forward to. I just have to keep reminding myself of that and things will be - if not fine - at least okay.
Friday, February 26, 2016
I have memories of being an avid reader so despite the fact that my reading levels have gone down steadily for several years now, I still think of myself as being an avid reader. I still love books. I still collect them despite putting myself on a book buying ban back in 2007. It was necessary, really. It wasn’t uncommon for me to buy a dozen books a month and simply put them on the shelf, to be read later. As a consequence, I’ve built a nice diverse personal library. This I consider an accomplishment and it pains me that the bulk of my books have been in storage for three years. I yearn for the day when I am once again surrounded by my books.
When I moved in with friends and was once again living in limited space I carefully chose 30-40 books that I swore would tide me over until I would be on my own again and reunited with my library. Of course, the bulk of those 30-40 books have gone unread as I’ve purchased more books. Due to the limited living quarters, however, I have delved deeper into the e-book market (though I don’t much like it. I do it simply for the convenience. A convenience that I actually dislike and resent so go figure.)
I lost the point of the post immediately after the first two sentences, I believe so let’s get back to it. Despite believing myself to be an avid reader, my reading levels have gone down. So, to do something about it, I convinced a friend to read A Tale of Two Cities with me. Believing that if I had a deadline and a promise of a book discussion I would be more dedicated to the reading.
This would have been, I still contend, a solid plan had I not decided to work on a cross stitching project for Mother’s Day.
As quick background, during the last two trips to El Salvador, I have completed a small, quick cross stitching project for a favored aunt. My mother, while appreciating that I am doing something nice for someone she cares for, has also expressed mild jealousy over the fact that I’ve never done something similar for her.
Still riding the nice mellow high of completing a project, making something pretty that someone really enjoyed, when we came back from our vacation this January, I had the brilliant though of starting a new project and why not kill two birds with one stone and make something for my mother in time for the May observance. But what to stitch for her, I wondered.
I quickly considered and rejected various themes and then I realized something religious would do the trick. Thankfully, Amazon came to the rescue with a cross stitch kit of Our Lady of Guadalupe who she has tremendous appreciation of. Perfect! I though, she’s going to love this. Or so the theory goes and I certainly hope I’m right or I’m going to be ridiculously disappointed.
So what does one have to do with the other you ask? Or maybe you’re not asking and you know exactly where I’m going with this.
The 8.5x11 cross stitch work has been taking up the bulk of my time and, honestly, also my interest. While I have started the book, I’m no where near close to being finished with it and the book discussion is this coming Monday. Trouble! I’m going to have to focus on the book over the weekend, a fact that leaves me wishing I didn’t have to because I want to really only focus on the cross stitch. Leading me to the title of the post, at first I found myself thinking, I wish I had more hours in the day so I could focus on different things, the reality of it is that I would probably still only focus those hours on the cross stitch project. I’m that obsessed with it right now. This is a good thing however. Because I’ve made great progress on it and I have no doubt that I’ll finish it way before the May deadline.
Because I’ve enjoyed working on this so much I’ve been thinking I should get back into the habit of doing one or two projects a year but if I do that, I’m going to need to figure out how to balance out the work because I can’t continue to ignore other things (such as focusing on exercise, reading, photography) simply to churn out cross stitching projects.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
I saw the above a day or so after I wrote a lengthy post that I ultimately set to Draft status because it felt scattered but also slightly too personal. This is something I’ve always struggled with - trying to find the balance between writing what I’m feeling, what’s going on in my life and wanting to make it somewhat interesting for the few people who stop by to read my blatherings.
The quote is a good reminder that if I’m going to do this well (well being subjective, clearly) then I have to work through those feelings of discomfort and just accept that writing about some things is just going to feel scary.
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