Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bitter Heart

"In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Stephen Crane wrote that. He can see right through me. He's dead but he knows me better than anyone.

Did you ever read a poem and felt like you just underwent an autopsy? Or think "I wrote that like six years ago in my head while curled in a fetal position on my bathroom floor wondering after the whereabouts of my soul"? Or maybe that's just me.

Poetry has a bad reputation. Novels gossip about her behind her back. Everyone says poetry is easy. She'll spread her legs for anyone. She only inhabits the tattered, black and white composition books of angsty teenage girls with fading cuts about the arms and legs and belly. But that's not entirely true.

The best part of poetry is the part that makes you uncomfortable. Words that are so skillfully whittled they make you squirm like a worm on a hook. A good poem doesn't touch your heart like a gooey love song. It gets on your fucking nerves. It makes you want to eat a whole dark chocolate bar, or maybe just give the world one more chance to get it right.

I stopped writing poetry a long time ago. It felt like a lost cause. It started to be that everything I wrote was inferior to everything I read. It was embarrassing. And I cooled off like ice.

I have a tattoo on my lower back. But before you think that I think that you think I'm cool - I don't. It's a chinese symbol. The chinese character for poetry. I don't regret getting a tattoo. I do regret getting that tattoo. In case you didn't know, I'm not Chinese. I don't know why I did it, but now that it's done I'm going to have to spend a lifetime trying to justify this act either by becoming a communist or memorizing the works of Confucius. I also might have to drive the Dalai Lama out of his hometown. Which makes me sad, because he seems like a really great guy.
I think I'm just going to stick with eating sesame chicken on a regular basis.

Anyway, my tattoo probably doesn't even mean "poetry". It probably means "asshole". The tattoo artist who "did" my tattoo seemed like the type of person who would do that on purpose. But I'm not judging. I'm the type of person who would do that on purpose.Like Stephen said, my heart is bitter, bitter. But I like it. Because it is bitter. And because it is my heart.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Am Not Meant For Womanhood

Current Mood: Looking on the Bright Side of Life

Well, well, well. To my surprise and delight, many have expressed dismay at my planned blog hiatus. While I certainly stand by my position to remain relatively quiet in regards to the negative aspects of my experience, I see no harm in sharing positive insights and anecdotes. So I decided to keep public the blogs that aren't so weighed down in the mire of my chaotic, pessimistic brain.

Last week, after my first fill, my boss' wife commented that I had the bust of a 12 year old girl. And I totally do! It got me thinking about this little poem I wrote when I was about 25, but looking all of 12. I had these scrawny arms and stick legs attached to this frail, puny torso. Amy used to call me a "lollipop". She said my tiny body made my head look huge. It makes me smile in a wicked way to think how afraid I was of womanhood then, even though I was literally knee deep in adulthood by that point. I fought that acceptance of myself as a woman so long and so hard...but in the end nature won. And I'm so glad it did. In the moments when I'm not cursing under my breath about what hurts, I really am very happy to be alive, and also blessed to have a better chance at living a long and happy life. But this poem, still, it makes me smile. It makes me remember who I was at that fixed point in time and what things I was fighting so hard to hold onto. And it reminds me how far I've come. Oh the irony to have breast buds at the age of 32 after that battle to remain a child in body and mind all those years. Or maybe its something only I can appreciate. Either way, here is the poem. I hope you like it.

I am not meant for womanhood
or the hassle of growing up
I'm built for hopscotch and skipping through life
for moonlit giggles and dreaming about being a bride
but not somebody's wife.
My little girl hands
are designed to handle little girl things
like faux but fab jewelry and red candy rings.
My hips are not the birthing hips
my mother said I'd get
but more for carrying baby dolls
and not the real ones yet.
I'd rather wear my sneakers
than silly old high heels
and I prefer a beat up bicycle
than a Volvo for my wheels.
If I could give up dollars
and credit cards, I would.
Then I could pay with candy
Which to me is just as good.
Instead of hours on a treadmill
to make my body slim
I'd play freeze tag with my neighbors
and hit the jungle gym.
In life there are things that we must do
like growing up and getting old.
Since God has said that I must to
I will do what I am told.
But while on the outside
I'll be doing what a good lady does
inside my head I'll always be
the little girl that I was.

Totally corny, huh? But it makes me smile. I hope it made you smile, too. Much love.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Table Salt Nation

Current Mood: Feeling Guilty for Feeling like Shit

Warning: A long explanation of why I'm annoyed with people who are annoyed with me. If you don't care about that then just read the last two sentences and be on your merry way.

It's been brought to my attention on more than one occasion and by more than one person that I am wholly miserable and irritating as of late. Circumstances in my life have not allowed me to feel, and therefore be, any different. It sort of sucks that when you're down, you have to feel guilty for being down, on top of being down. It especially hurts considering that I have multiple reasons for feeling the way that I do. The past year has been one trauma after another.

Things are going on in my life that I don't always talk about, not on here and not even to most people I know. And that is on top of the things I DO talk about. All of which occurred since last February: Finding out my BRCA2 status, the break up of my brother's marriage to one of my best friends, painful kidney surgery to remove a large stone, two lumpectomies and biopsies (basically cancer scares), my sister's horrible illness and death, my agonizing decision of whether to have a mastectomy, my experience of having a mastectomy and current, ongoing and painful reconstruction. So if I'm not doing cartwheels and singing Zippadee Doo Dah with rays of sunshine coming out of my eyeballs all day long then pardon fucking me.

My sadness is not a "disease", or a "syndrome". I'm not depressed. (A term that is so over-used it has started to reach "Alrighty then" and "Yeah Baby" status in my mental list of most vile words ever said in the history of the English language). I'm hurting, physically and emotionally and I'm so exhausted just having to explain and defend myself over and over and over again, on top of everything else I have to be exhausted about.

I don't know a lot of people who have had the same experiences as me. I don't know very many people that have had their breasts cut off. I've had it up to my eyebrows with people telling me how I should feel about that, or how I should be over it by now even though I'm still undergoing the process and am in fucking pain every minute of my life. I'm tired of people telling me I need an anti-depressant when the only reason I'm sad is because I physically hurt and yet am still expected to complete all my duties and tasks as if I were healthy and feeling great. Going to work, taking care of Liv, household cleaning, laundry, making dinner, changing kitty litter, gritting my teeth through the pain, and biting my tongue when stupid things are said and done to me, so as not to add "conflict with people I care about" to my already overloaded list. All part of a day's work.

I realize that everyone has shit to deal with. I don't have the monopoly on suffering and pain. But I feel like I'm here to listen when other people hurt, when other people need a friendly, compassionate ear. I feel like I reach out to people, with emails and phone calls and help when asked. Okay, mostly emails. I'm, admittedly, not a phone person. But seriously, I would never make a person feel bad for hurting and needing to vent and just feeling sad. I just can't take this shit anymore. I seriously want to shut the blinds and curl into a fetal position some mornings. Not just because of the pain and difficulty of my life. But because I know I'm going to be hearing some hurtful comments from someone at some point in my day that's going to lead me to believe I'm not doing enough and I'm too sad and I'm apparently getting on everyone's nerves.

And then I inevitably start to panic and worry that I'm going to end up with zero friends after this experience just for being honest about what it's like. Excuse me for having feelings. Seriously. After so many years of silence, I finally found a voice. I found a way to express my pain rather than cutting myself with sharp objects, starving my body down to a frail skeletal shell of a human, or putting my head in a toilet 3-5 times a day. I thought I was expressing myself in a healthy way, through blogging and talking to friends and family. As a result, I've opened myself up to a world of hurt. I have never felt more alone in my entire life.

I am going through one of the most physically painful and emotional devastating experiences, and still grieving the loss of my best friend in all the world, my sister, and I am feeling guilty for being sad. Like I'm abnormal. I guess it is irritating to everyone. That's fine. I'm going to stop bothering everyone with my shit. Of course, not everyone has expressed annoyance towards me. But the few that have, well they've made me nervous and afraid that everyone is secretly rolling their eyes at me after every conversation and/or blog entry. It hurts more than the physical pain I am experiencing.

So for anyone I've hurt or annoyed, I'm truly sorry. The last thing I want is to drive everyone away from me for being a downer or a snooze. I'd rather be eaten alive by a trillion angry fire ants than be boring. It's not like I have a reserve cache of awesome friends waiting in the wings or anything. I'm not that cool. That's why I'm going to make my blogs private for a while, at least until all of this passes over and I'm feeling positive again.

Sorry for this rant. I know it seems like a temper tantrum. It sort of is. I hate to direct this rage at everyone. There are, obviously, so many great and supportive people who are reading this and thinking "Whoa. What in the name of all that's holy is she talking about?" And again, I'm sorry to you. There are so many people who have just been supportive and kind and non-judgemental. I am truly grateful for you. These people say, in not so many words, "You are entitled to the way you are feeling". Which is what I need to hear right now. I do not need to hear the following: Aren't you feeling much better by now? You should take an anti-depressant (I'm not depressed folks, I'm in PAIN. There is a huge difference.) Can't you drive yourself? (After I took a valium to control my chest spasms.) Yeah I guess I can drive, if you want me to risk my life and the lives of others. Sure. No problem.

I'm probably over-reacting here. I'm probably just hypersensitive. And you are probably thinking, why doesn't she get over it all already? Amy died like six whole months ago. Gwen had her boobs cut off like 3 long weeks ago and reconstruction looks like an absolute breeze. Free boob job. She's lucky! Why is she such a pussy? You are probably rolling your eyes. You are probably thinking I need medication. And for anyone who wants to suggest that or who already has...I've tried all that shit before in my life. It never made me feel any differently about anything I was going through. I just had to worry about taking a pill every day on top of all the worrying I was doing about the other crap that was going on.

I swear the pharmaceutical companies are making millions of dollars on these "medications" and it's probably just generic table salt in those little colored capsules. I've heard people say "Wow, I feel so much better", like two days after they started taking them. And I'm calling "Bullshit". And also, "Placebo effect!" It takes at least two weeks for the "medicine" to build up enough in the brain to possibly have any effect, if it will at all. That is, according to the doctors I've spoken to about it.

Anyway, if you take anti-depressants and they work for you, then GREAT. I'm glad for you, truly. But they've never done shit for me. I wish there were a magic pill that would make me smile from ear to ear despite distracting pain, ugly and mutated, nipple-less, numb-skinned, non-breasts, and unresolved grief. That would be the most awesome. But it doesn't exist or believe me, I'd be popping those things like tic tacs. Because honestly? I'm having a time. I have a bee in my bonnet. Fuck it. I have a bee HIVE in my bonnet and the whole lot of them are stinging like the fucking little beetches that they are. (And no, that's not a typo. I fully intended to write "beetches". I might be in distress, but I'm still rad enough to crack myself up with stupid yet somehow totally awesome and appropriate pseudomorphic puns).

Truthfully, though, I'm done expecting anyone else to understand. I guess that was a total pie in the sky idea to have in the first place, huh? If it comes down to losing everyone in my life that I love and/or care about, I'll be okay. Because, in case you haven't noticed, antiquated idioms are my new best friends. And they never tell me that Zoloft is the answer to all my problems. God bless 'em. For those of you that still love me or even still like me a little, I hope you are having a nice weekend. If you need me, I'll be sliding down rainbows into pots of gold and saddling up my unicorn for a nice ride in a country meadow full of poppies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bugs For Breakfast

Current Mood: Disgusted by Oatmeal

Warning: Rated LB for long and boring content. Also, lots of psychological self-evaluation. At the very least: read the last two lines. I feel its my job to warn you.

You know that saying "Everything happens for a reason"? Well after so many years of buying into that bullshit, I just sort of gave up. It brought me nothing but trouble, that little phrase. My annoying little brain coming up with, for lack of a better word, half-assed theories based on unrelated events. I already hated myself, and I didn't much help in finding "reasons" to do so. In fact, I'm sure that I looked for reasons to reinforce this self-loathing at every turn. A flat tire, a shoe lace untying while running on the treadmill, a rainy day, even an animal carcass laying on the side of the road, could became a symbol of how much the universe despised me just as much as I despised myself. It's not the only irrational thing I used to do in those days. Human beings and their actions, whether they are innocuous or harmful, could become the fiercest weapon I would use against myself. That is, other than myself.

My therapist would tell me that I had a unique lens through which I looked at everything and everyone: the opposite of rose colored glasses, if you will. If a person would look in my direction when I walked through the door at a party, I would assume that he or she was looking at me and assessing me in all sorts of negative ways, that he or she must find me repulsive or fat or under-dressed. Or if I was buying my lunch in the cafeteria at work and the cashier said "You must be hungry today", I would think that this woman thinks that I'm the fattest, most disgusting pig that ever walked the face of the planet. If a remark was made regarding my lunch, no matter how harmless, I would take this as a sign that I shouldn't be eating it. Often the lunch I had just purchased would be ceremoniously thrown away, for something as little as a remark from a person who I didn't know and didn't know me. So I would jump to these conclusions based on no reality whatsoever.

I would look for symbols in everything. The lights went out through the night, so I wasn't supposed to go to work the next morning. I would step in dog shit and somehow that meant I was a shitty friend. I would find squirming maggots in my just made oatmeal and have a naturally visceral reaction to that. But also think, the universe is telling me not to eat right now. And I am listening loud and clear. So I would not eat for a few days in response to this event. And that type of event would occur so regularly as to make a pattern. It had to mean something, I would think. Why else would these bad things happen over and over? And then my therapist would say, with that inquisitive smirk she would so often employ, "What makes you think that you're so special?" Over and over, every session, she would bring to my attention that, despite all this self-loathing and terrible, terrible hatred of myself, I had somehow and someway designated myself the center of the fucking universe. I was a person who hated myself so much that I actually coined the term "Gweningitis" in regards to an imagined disease people would catch should they be in my presence too long or too often, and yet had inflated my importance to egotistical proportions. Assuming every person who looks in my direction is thinking about me, even negatively, assuming every rainstorm is falling from the sky in order to ruin my day, a little bug planting eggs in my food on purpose just to give me a reason to starve myself, is so self-centered as to be considered pathologically narcissistic.

She was right, of course. Although, this wasn't ever my intent. Since child hood, I had developed strange methods of dealing with stressful events and fears, both natural and unnatural. And being raised, as I was, in a fatalistic, doomsday cult, there were plenty of the latter, believe me. But anyway, these methods were like mind games; only I convinced myself that they held actual power. Magical thinking, I believe it's called. This is the root of it all, I suppose. I remember lying in bed at night and having these fears about fires, or robbers, or anything bad a child can imagine after watching the evening news. I thought, "Well, if I say my house will catch on fire tonight", then it won't happen. Because what are the chances of this happening? That I will know something bad will happen? And here is a paradox; I knew that I didn't have that much power. I couldn't foretell the future and predict events. But at the same I was also giving myself a sort of control over these traumatic events, preventing them from happening. Instead of nightly prayers, I would run a list in my head of everything horrible that I could possibly imagine happening, and say, decidedly,"this all will occur". And you know what? It never did. I connected the dots. It was working, in some weird way.

Into adolescence and adulthood, I kept up this mindset: this pessimistic attitude about life as a sort of talisman, or as a shield between my heart and the world. I mistrusted anything good or happy…thus the lens, that horrible, lens through which I looked at everything. Through therapy, cognitive therapy, I learned what I was doing. Why I was doing it. It really did help to know why I was so negative, why it was so hard to see the good but so easy to see the bad. I did grow a lot just knowing this. The experience, for me, was sort of like in the wizard of oz when Dorothy sees what's behind the curtain…that the wizard is just a man after all. These magical thoughts lost all credibility, laid out and transparent as they were on my lap as I sat small and frail as a child on my therapist's couch. After these revelations, I really made an effort to interpret events, conversations, looks, and just everything in a different way than I had before. It was all up-hill. Like I said, I sort of stopped believing that everything happens for a reason. I mean technically everything does happen for a reason. You can find a reason for everything that happens if you look hard enough. But just because you can, it doesn't mean that you should. Or maybe that's just a dangerous endeavor for me. I'm not really that special or unique. The universe, and other people, don't single me out for anything, good or bad.

When I gave up my conspiracy theories regarding the universe, that's when the worse things started happening. When I finally relaxed and allowed myself the luxury of happiness, the luxury of joy, the luxury of living without weirdness, the universe attacked and with a vengeance. But I still tried to stay the course, maintain my newfound convictions that the "wizard had no power". When I found out Amy had cancer, I had to convince myself, "this is a random event". Four words repeated over and over, like a mantra. Internally, my heart was beating against that. And then we discovered this fucking BRCA gene mutation. How could I not feel attacked? It is so hard to repress those soul-destroying ideas that, again, the universe despises you. That God, himself, despises you enough to make you wrong, altogether wrong, in the first place. But I took a deep breath, and I said, "Gwen. Stop it. You are not that fucking special." Amy died, you guys. She's dead. Her breath is lost, never to be found. She is ash in the cold, muddy ground. And still, me saying over and over "get over yourself, Gwen. You are not that special." See, I work so hard to be normal. To feel normal. To think normal. I don't know. Maybe everyone does. But again with the fucking "special", I am thinking.

Rain is pouring down right now. I sort of like the sound of it. But I can't shake the feeling that these raindrops, falling meanly and incessantly, are somehow my un-cried tears. But that's progress, I guess. I used to hear hateful words in the music of the rain. I know I'm being ridiculous. Nothing is about me. People die every day. I'm not the only one who has lost her breasts, or her sister, or her soul to years of desperate, disgusting actions. This morning, I am at work. Danielle is making breakfast in the kitchen. She asks if I want oatmeal. "Sure," I say. And you're probably wondering how I could do that again, eat oatmeal after what had happened before. It took a long time, let me tell you. I didn't trust that little guy with the hat for years. It is a traumatic event to see maggots, alive and wiggling in your food, after all. I convinced myself after a few years that it wasn't worth holding onto, that particular fear. It was a one time thing. It could never happen to me again. "Blueberry or Banana Bread?" Danielle asks. "Blueberry. Definitely blueberry." I eat two bites. And then I look at it. Really look at what I am eating. Little fly larvae mixed in the oatmeal. Gross, repulsive little bugs for breakfast. The dialogue in my head is sort of saying that I'm the gross and repulsive one. I shouldn't be eating breakfast. I don't deserve breakfast. I am listening, again to the universe, as if I were this special person. But this is…this is…again. With the bugs in oatmeal. Twice in a lifetime. Why?

And it occurs to me that I am doing all of it again. Seeing the symbols, looking through the twisted lens, hyper-sensitively reacting, interpreting, ever unnecessarily interpreting. And I probably have been doing it for a long time. Someone told me last week, that I'm too negative, that I'm never happy. That I put too much on others when I should be putting it on a professional. This person is right. I am sorry, so very sorry. I shouldn't put these things onto you at all. It isn't fair. I want to make it up to all of you somehow. If I could make the rain stop, I would. But I don't have that kind of power. You've put up with a lot of negativity just by reading these blogs. Truth be told, I do think you're all pretty damn special. I hope the universe brings you blessed and wonderful things.

I know I need to at least consider the idea of seeing a therapist. The whole thought of it makes me really, really tired. Therapy is just the heaviest thing, the most tedious, gut wrenching mental work for me. I don't know if I can do the couch thing again.But I guess it's better than burdening people with this type of talk. Maybe I need to come to terms with the universe yet again, call a truce. Or maybe it's a simpler matter. Maybe I need to just STOP EATING OATMEAL. When I think of oatmeal, I want to vomit. Can you really blame me? Jesus Christ, I hate fucking oatmeal. It makes me sick to my stomach, now and forever. I think oatmeal is the real thing I need to be afraid of. Hell, maybe all of us do. Twice in my life I've been violated by it. I was a fool to trust it again. Those innocent, instant oats are screwing with my head. What with the always trying to make me eat wormy looking, nasty, vile, abhorrent insects. Watch your back, people. Look very carefully at the Quaker Oats, is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Painkillers Made Me Write It

Current Mood: Waiting for My Next Dose

If you ever in the future have to get your breast expanders filled, just remember to breathe. Very deeply. It's painful in that invasive, bruisy sort of way. Not the sharp way a needle feels. And then the filling itself is pretty dreadful, but exhilarating at the same time. It's like your chest is a balloon and someone is blowing it up. Except you're not at a party and your plastic surgeon isn't a circus clown trying to make you a crazy hat or something. You're lying on the doctor's table on your back breaking out in hives like the nervous wreck that you are apologizing for things you never really did wrong.

That's me. I'm sorry I'm breaking out in hives right now because you have a giant needle you are about to stab through my skin in order to fill my chest with fluid and stretch my skin and pectoral muscle to places it was never meant to go. What the hell is wrong with me? And of course Renee is there to say that. And Dr. Wu is very kind and warm all of a sudden instead of cut and dry and snippy the way she was before. This may or may not have something to do with her two week trip to Asia that she took like right after my procedure. And of course Renee was there to say the joke that was aching to be told...namely "I guess you needed a vacation after dealing with this one". Where's the guy with the drum when you need him?

But Dr. Wu, luminous and lovely, looked at me and said, "You've handled all of this so well. I knew right away that you would when I saw you the day of the surgery." And honestly, this sort of baffled me, because I distinctly remembered an onslaught of tears that infamous day, tears just rolling down my face and never stopping. And when Dr. Wu came in to take the penultimate "before" picture of my sad, doomed breasts I couldn't help but laugh maniacly, too, through the crying at the ludicrousness of it all. If ever there was an insane person, it was me on that day, with my strange laughter and my sloppy tears standing there naked but for my underwear posing in this bizarre photoshoot.

I wish I could have had a better sense of humor about the whole thing...I mean the situation was begging for a sarcastic supermodel joke, a mug shot joke, or the like. But I was just at such a loss in so many ways. And Dr. Wu said to me with the greatest confidence, "You're going to be okay. You really are." And I believed her. Because she's really pretty. I wouldn't trust a plastic surgeon who wasn't. It's not my only criteria, but damnit if you're responsible to make my breasts beautiful, prove to me that you know what beautiful is to begin with. I wouldn't let a person with a mullet cut my hair.

So I'm sort of in pain, as per fucking usual. I hate pain. I'm sort of unique in the human species that way. But I'm sucking on the teat of sweet, sweet painkillers and Valium, so don't cry for me Argentina. Just validate me, when you have the time. I realize that this is probably the most boring thing you've ever read. But I'm okay with that because I can't always be interesting. I can't be entertaining all the time. I learned in therapy that I use humor as a shield against despair. But sometimes there's just despair and I just let myself have it. I get it out of my system. And then somebody does something really stupid or annoying and I start laughing again and all is right in the world and god is in his heaven. Or however that dumbass saying goes. I don't even know why I am writing this here for public consumption. I just think that all of this is so odd, something rare in the scope of human experience. Don't you think so? I would never want anyone I know to have to live this. But if it has to be someone, then I'm glad that it's me. I'm a big girl. I can take i

Thursday, February 7, 2008

V-Day or D-Day?

Valentine's Day is stupid. It's like this manipulative thing that either makes us think that we need to spend money on or receive a) dumb, useless gifts such as a teddy bear holding a heart or flowers that will die and then start rotting and stinking up our houses until we finally get off of our lazy asses to throw them out or b) lots and lots of liquor to drown away our sorrows because we don't have anyone to buy for or receive from these dumb, useless gifts. It is a contrived monster, a monster draped in cupid's clothing that feeds on dollar bills. Our dollar bills. It is the evil spawn of Hallmark and Things Remembered, or maybe Zales. Hallmark's not entirely sure who the father is. Hallmark is a whore. Every trinket, fruit stinking candle, overpriced Willow Tree figurine being shilled in that store is a waste of your hard-earned money and you know it. But for some reason, we all go back. We walk by the window on our way to pick up our new specs at the Glasses Galore and the Hallmark draws us in with her wiles like the prostitute she is, as if we were in the Red light district instead of the Newtown shopping center, with her perfectly adorable Vera Bradley purses placed oh so strategically at the front of the store. You know you want one. You have 3 at home, but you need another. And then she has you.

I mean, I know it's just a card store in theory but come on. It's turned into so much more than that. That's like saying Cinnabon is just a bakery. Hopefully you all know the truth about that, namely, that Cinnabon is selling obesity and heart disease in the guise of cinnamon doughy deliciousness for $3.29. There is so much unnecessary garbage being purchased in that Hallmark store and others like it for the sake of a holiday that has no real meaning other than to make you think you aren't a loveable person if you don't have someone to open their wallet and spill out all the contents on the counter for a stuffed animal and fancy chocolates. Getting a stuffed bunny rabbit that dances and sings a corny 70's love song does not mean you are loved. It means your partner doesn't know you well enough to realize that you'd much rather have him do the laundry or watch the baby while you get a night out to yourself than get a trinket or toy you'll never look at again. Plus there's something so unnatural and creepy about a plush toy that animates.

God, I know that now I'm sounding ungrateful. But I'm really not. I just think that even diamonds are over-rated. You know that commercial where the guy buys his wife the diamond "journey" necklace that every jewelry store is suddenly marketing incessantly? Well when he slips it onto her neck while she is sleeping and this wakes her up and then puts on this act like he's still asleep, it really doesn't make me feel all sweet and squishy inside at all. I keep thinking that the woman would probably rather sleep in late for one day of her whole fucking life than be woken up to get a necklace that early in the morning. Couldn't he have waited until noon to give it to her when she at least had the chance to…I don't know…brush her teeth? Get her bearings for what will surely be a busy day? And you know that guy just lazed around the house all day, all smug and shit about the fact that he got her a JOURNEY necklace. I'm sure he was thinking "my work is done here". And I'm sure that she wore the necklace all the live long day, probably through making breakfast, getting the kids fed, changing the kitty litter, folding the wash, while he sat his ass on the couch watching some sort of sporting event. Being married to that guy must be exhausting.

I hate jewelry commercials almost as much as I hate the Holocaust. And I know you think it's clever, Jodi, but the more I hear the slogan "Every Kiss begins with Kay" the more I realize how completely, irrationally egocentric it is. But now back to our favorite harlot of a card store, Hallmark. Upon entering the store your nose is assaulted by the scent of a thousand Yankee candles. I'm not really complaining here. (The only place I like the smell better is a Home Depot. I love the aroma of freshly cut lumber for some reason). One unnerving thing about this place is that when I go in there to just buy a birthday card and some wrapping paper they ask me if I want to join some sort of Hallmark club or something. I'm like, umm lady, I just bought a couple of things for my friend's birthday, and I'm not looking to get involved in a "card buying group", per se. Apparently there is some sort of membership card and discount "rewards" involved should you join. And who knows what sort of things you have to do to maintain membership. Like I said, Hallmark's a whore. There ain't anything for free. I don't trust Hallmark, so I'm always like "NO" before they can even finish asking the question. When they ask you, what will YOU say?

Anyway, Valentine's Day isn't ALL bad. I'll admit it was sort of rude of me to call it a monster. There's something adorable about those little candy hearts with the alluring messages, even if they always taste stale enough to have been made when the original St. Valentine was still alive. I remember waiting anxiously 9th period in high school while they passed out the Valentine carnations, and always got a few. From my girlfriends. I also remember the first Valentine's Day I spent with Todd. He bought me these beautiful Armani sunglasses. I admit I sort of loved them. But what I loved even more is that we went snowboarding that evening and I made a complete fool of myself falling off the lift. We laughed together about it and he didn't make feel like an idiot even though he should have. I realized, then, that I could fall in love with this guy. We shared the most romantic kiss when the lift was high and we were high after having smoked pot on the mountain. We were shivering cold and we snuggled close to get warm and then…a kiss so hot I couldn't even feel the icy air. That wasn't about Valentine's Day, though. That was two people on the brink of falling in love. That it happened on Valentine's Day was a coincidence I'm sure, because you can't manufacture romance, no matter how hard you try.

Oddly enough some of my best memories of Valentine's Day actually occurred when I was single. A few of my single friends and I used to get together to eat at a diner for our "Lonely Hearts Club" Valentine's dinner, to ease the pain of being alone, yet again, on this fake holiday. And you know what? We weren't alone. We were surrounded by love, just in a different way than we thought we wanted.

I still have fun on Valentine's Day, when I have the opportunity to even enjoy the day, but I just don't take it too seriously. I love my husband. I want to celebrate that love in little ways every day, not just when I'm told its now the time. It's not that I always do. It's just that I want to. Even if it's just a sexy text message or an extra long kiss when he empties the dishwasher, or his favorite dinner waiting for him after a difficult day. And he, too, gives me so many gifts of action every day. Especially now, with all I've been through. With all we've been through. The first time he saw me, when he looked at me naked, scarred and breastless, he didn't even blink an eye. He just kept, and keeps, insisting, "You are beautiful. You are beautiful." What better gift could I ever get than that? I guarantee Hallmark doesn't have unconditional love in stock, and never will. So Happy Stupid Valentine's Day to everyone I love. You know who you are.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Firstborn Survey AKA T.M.I.

Finally, something not about my surgery

Well this isn't technically a blog. It's a survey Kacey sent to me. But I had so much fun answering the questions - Perhaps too much fun- that it sort of morphed into a blog at points. And I think I need to post a blog right now that has absolutely nothing to do with sadness or negativity because someone told me lately that I'm never happy and always negative and that I am probably going to alienate people. Which of course I don't want to do. Because I like people. Mostly. And I hope that people like me mostly too, even when I'm having a time. Even when I'm distraught and making it known. Even when I have a bee in my bonnet for like 3 weeks straight. So without further adieu...Firstborn Survey

1. Were you married at the time?Hmmm ...I wasn't married when I got pregnant. I was married when I delivered.

2. What were your reactions? These questions are confusing. What were my reactions to finding out I was pregnant, or what were my reactions to labor, or what were my reactions to actually seeing Liv for the first time? Well, when I found out I was pregnant I was scared, excited, and also terrified to tell Todd as this was completely unplanned. I also was in complete disbelief. I actually called the pregnancy test people because I wasn't sure if the test was correct or not since one of the lines was like really blurry. As far as labor, well there was a whole gamut of reactions to that. At first I refused to believe I was actually in labor, because I was being induced that day and I thought what are the chances of that happening? This must all in my head, I assumed; but when I started bleeding and it started hurting like an absolute bitch, I knew the time had come. During labor I had the unique experience of being completely terrified that my husband had died. While I was screaming from the pain of contractions and the nursing staff was trying in vain to get a vein (hee! I love homonyms) for an IV so I could get some freaking pain medication, my husband starts to leave the room and right as he exits I hear a loud thud and then see just his head facing down on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood. My screams from labor pain started to mingle with screams of terror at thinking my husband just had a heart attack. I was so distraught that even my OB doctor came into the room to calm me down. I'm serious. You know I had to be freaking out pretty bad in order to see the actual doctor so early on. I mean a person is lucky to see an actual OB during the delivery of the baby. They are like these phantom people who can only materializes at moments when absolutely needed. But anyway Todd spent an hour in the ER getting 16 stitches. Not a thing was wrong with him except he was upset about watching them poke me with needles. This is a testament to why God is infinitely wise to have chosen woment to perform the horrible, but necessary task of bringing life into the world. Men have a hard enough time WATCHING the procedure. Anyway, after he was wheeled away, 1 bolus of nubain and an epidural later, I was sleeping peacefully for hours until my doctor decided to break my water manually and I actually FARTED. Like out loud, in front of a human man, who also happened to be a sexy "of Latin descent" doctor. I got to see the man like 3 times in my entire labor and once I was crying hysterically, the second time I farted, and the third time I had my belly ripped open with all my internal organs exposed including my intestines. So embarrassing. I cringe about it to this day. Anyway by the time they asked if I wanted a C Section I was just so relieved to know that the experience would soon be over and I wouldn't have to worry anymore about getting my vagina sliced open or pooping on the delivery table (issues that worried me more during that 10 months than anything else), so I signed the document with great eagerness. During my C-section I was exhausted, vomiting, and crying. After 18 hours of labor and then a C-Section, who could blame me, really? Seeing Liv for the first time was alarming because I wasn't quite prepared to see that much hair on top of a wrinkled prune face and blotchy slime covered body. But oh she was beautiful. And then I vomited again. Because childbirth is really magical that way. I realize that this is a lot of answer for one survey question. But what can I say? I'm prolific. And it is a loaded question. One just can't be succinct when talking about this experience. Not this one anyway.

3. How old were you? 30 (See, I am capable of being succinct when it's warranted)

4. How did you find out you were pregnant?home pregnancy test

5. Who did you tell first?my girlfriend tina. then todd.

6. Did u want to find out the sex? Is the Pope Catholic? Absolutely I did. I don't get the people who don't want to find out. Their thought processes are alien to me. To me it's the equivalent of having a present, a beautifully wrapped present with a big red perfectly tied bow, sitting on your lap and you refuse to open it yet because...because (and this is the reason everybody gives) you want to be surprised. I'm sure that there is something more deep behind the reason people want to wait. I've just never had a better explanation than "I want to be surprised". But the thing is, finding out the sex of your baby during the ultrasound is just as much of a surprise as any other time. And the best part of knowing the sex in advance is that you don't have to refer to your unborn child for your entire pregnancy as IT. Which, let's face it, is rather dehumanizing. Oh and also, I hate the fact that in this question the word "you" is abbreviated to "u". Is it really so hard to type out the whole word? I can see using the abbreviation when text messaging because its annoying hitting those little buttons on your phone. Otherwise, its just laziness really. Don't you agree? I love the internet more than anyone in the whole world. It is my best friend most days of the week. But I hate it for making this type of abbreviation acceptable in intelligent society. Well nobody's perfect I guess. Regardless, I know that you didn't originate the survey, Kacey, so this ire is NOT directed at you in any way, shape, or form. Okay?

7. Due date?September 1

8.Did you deliver early or late? On my due date...September 1, 2005 at 2:04 am. It is a rare occurrence to give birth on your due date. Only 5% of babies are born on their due date. I wanted Liv to be born in August...I was actually concerned about her having to wait to start kindergarten until she turned 6 because of the stupid rules they have about being 5 by sept 1. I don't know why I was so worried about something that wouldn't be happening for five years, but five years goes by pretty quickly and that's a whole extra year of paying for preschool. So it's an issue I'm still sort of worried about. I realize that they have to have rules and draw the line somewhere but she was born 2 hours after the typical cut off of August 31. AHHH! Don't get me started.

9. Did you have morning sickness? I had constant nausea from week 6 to the beginning of my 3rd trimester. Just like the books all said might happen. It was weird. Maybe I shouldn't have read the books, because maybe reading that part inadvertently caused me to get what I liked to call Morning, Noon & Night sickness. It was horrible and I was miserable, and if Todd didn't murder my ass during this time then I don't think he ever will. It makes me feel safe knowing that.

10. What did you crave? Pecan twirls. And some household cleaning products had such an odd allure to me...I wanted to smell things like bleach and windex. Obviously I didn't give in to that weirdness. But I read later that this isn't that uncommon so that makes me feel better. I also craved beer. But I resisted the urge to drink it because wine relaxes me more. And when your OB tells you that you are allowed to have 1 glass max per day, you're going to go for the one that gives you a better buzz glass for glass.

11. Who irritated you the most?Like Kacey said, people who would tell me that I had to be due any day now because I was absolutely HUGE. One word of advice to anyone planning on every interacting with any woman, pregnant or not, telling her she is HUGE is never complimentary and is risky business. Telling a woman she is huge is the equivalent of standing at the edge of a tiger pit and taunting them. And we all know how well that turned out for some unfortunate kids recently. Other people who irritated me? The ones who gave me dirty looks for drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. Or for taking a hit on my crack pipe in the afternoon. Okay that last one I'm totally making up, of course! But caffeine, people? Seriously. Get a grip on reality. A cup of coffee a day is not a serious health risk to an unborn baby. Crack is Whack, though. Totally NOT recommended during pregnancy. Or life for that matter.

12. What was your first child's sex? Girl. So happy to have a girl. I would have been happy with a boy too. But this way I didn't have too deal with the whole circumcision sore penis issue and also getting pee squirted in my face when changing diapers.

13. How many pounds did you gain throughout the pregnancy? 55. And it was because I ate a lot. I can't really blame that on the baby. She only weighed 8 lb 14 oz

14. Did you have any complications during pregnancy? Well, I wouldn't dilate beyond 8 cm so I wound up having a C-section. That's about the worst of it. Which is awesome.

15.Where did you give birth? Abington Memorial

16. How many hours were you in labor? From 6 am on a Wednesday morning until Thursday at 2am, when Liv was pulled from a hole in my stomach. So grateful for that sheet they hang up between your face and torso. I can just imagine how disgusting it would look.

17. Who drove you to the hospital?Todd

18.Who watched? No one but the doctor and staff watched Liv come out. They were worried about Todd passing out again so they made him sit in a chair next to my head. He never looked behind the sheet. I really can't blame him.

19. Was it natural or c-section?C-Section and epidural - about as far from natural as you can get. I think "natural" is over rated. I'm actually glad I didn't have to do the pushing thing either, to be honest. I was afraid of that and so exhausted after all the laboring (which basically consisted of laying around all day - but still I was so tired. My eyeballs were tired. My toes were tired. You get the point)
20. Did you, take medicine to ease the pain? Why on earth would I want to suffer? And for what purpose? What does it prove? I mean if that is what a person chooses to do, have their child and deal with unspeakable pain, then that is certainly their choice and I respect that. I mean that is a lot of pain to suffer through, so more power to you. But I just get annoyed when mothers who do that get all vocal about how horrible women are who get epidurals. And who also talk as if their method of childbirth is somehow superior and more loving to their children then mothers who choose to have pain relief. Millions of mothers opt for pain relief during pregnancy and it is proven over and over and over to have zero negative effect on infants. If you opt to have your baby without drugs, good for you for having that kind of strength. But, I'm sorry, it doesn't make you a hero. It makes you a person I am in awe of and can't believe you can still be normal after experiencing that kind of trauma.

21. How much did your child weigh? 8 pounds 14 oz, she looked huge to me. I remember thinking, aren't babies supposed to look teeny weeny?

22. Did your child have any complications? Other than the fact that she only slept about 2 hours a day for the first 3 months of her life and would only nurse on my right nipple...no. But if she did have any more complications than that I doubt I would want to commemorate them on a survey. 23.What did you name him/her? Olivia June. June for my grandmother who passed away when I was pregnant with her.

24. How old is your first born today? 2

25. Anything else important about the day your first was born? That was during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I remember watching the footage in the hospital and thinking that it was so sad that I was going through this happy event and all these people were suffering so much. It still gives me chills to think about that.Feel free to fill this out and send to me in an email. I'd love to read your answers!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

These Days Are Dark

These days, they are dark. Menacing and painful, mocking me sometimes about decisions I can't undo even if I wanted to. But I don't. The hardest part about being human, I think, is fully accepting ourselves as we really and truly are. Not the image we see in our heads, not the person we portray to the world at large when we are in full on pretense mode. No not that person with all the bells and whistles and trappings of cultured politeness who says "please" and "thank you" and "how are you? I'm fine" to passersby and coworkers. I'm talking about complete and absolute acceptance of that person who wakes up in the morning and looks like shit, who's hair is a frizzy array of strands made so from a night pushing up against a pillow, that person who's breath is in dire need of Colgate, who's every pore is crying out for cleansing. This raw, unadorned woman that only those we trust most of all get to see (oh lucky "we").

Yes, I believe it is the hardest task to get to that place where we are completely and fully accepting of the thoughts in the head of this person, no matter how dirty or strange or hateful or even good, or sweet, or kind. It is all uphill. But I had finally arrived there, I think, to that point of accepting me, as I truly was, and not always waiting to turn into that version of me that I had always wanted to be, instead. That version of me, which essentially was the best parts of everyone I had ever known combined with the best parts of everyone I had ever read about or saw in a movie or on TV. This undisputable beauty with natural talent at well...everything, who never had to contend with any of the following: body odor, body hair, acne, constipation, PMS, loneliness, liking a person who didn't like her back, being made fun of, being unpopular.

I hope you are bearing with me here, because somewhere in this incoherent tangled twine of words there is a point, I promise. Anyway, I've always hated my body. I've told you all before just how much I hated my body. The ways in which I punished my body just to get through every day living in it. Starving, cutting, burning, loathing, pinching, weighing, cringing, measuring, pushing it to the point of exhaustion, and,(only those of you who have ever had an eating disorder will understand this one), checking.

But as you know, I tried to make peace with it through the years. Through therapy, through finding love, through making love, through discovering there exists such a thing as unconditional, all-encompassing love, through finding out I was love, namely a lovable person (body and soul) who could give it as well as receive it, through getting a kidney stone and enduring a painful surgery, through losing religion and finding God in the process, and then the ultimate turning point - getting pregnant and making a beautiful human life inside of this body, this same body that I'd always hated and tortured so much. I did all these terrible things to my body and yet, despite all I had done, here it had given me this beautiful gift anyway. This healthy, perfectly formed, perfectly wonderful human being. This glorious, miraculous baby girl. And I was awestruck by the fact that - my body did that work. This child, this work of art, was a peace offering. She was the proffered olive branch, my Olivia .(Oh, do you see? )

So we made a truce, sort of. My body and I. I learned to love me, even the parts of me that weren't aesthetically beautiful took on a certain charm. I would never be beautiful. But I was okay with that. I really and truly was. I liked how I looked anyway. It was a nice couple of years. And then it happened. I found out about my BRCA2+ status. My body turned on me, betrayed me. It declared war on me yet again. It forced my hand. I had to make this decision to mutilate myself. I had to do it in order to save myself. Not that I was even worth saving. Self hatred is sneaky that way. It never really fully goes away - it just goes into hiding. And it waits. Oh how it waits. Self-hatred is very patient. And when you turn your back for one minute, once you start pinching an inch in the mirror, once you start berating yourself for never finishing school, for eating a bowl of ice cream, and then another after that, here it comes like an avalanche in your head, impossible to stop - you loser, what have you done with your life? And now you're going to die a horrible death having done nothing of importance or value and maybe you should, maybe you deserve it, you lazy, worthless, unfulfilled potential pile of nobody likes you anyway and thats why you are alone tonight while Todd is out for a drink with his friends. You have no friends, because you have nothing to offer anyone.

And guess what? You're a rotten fucking mother. Your daughter was just playing with a pack of matches and you were watching America's Next Top Model as if you could ever hold a candle to the beauty of those woman. Eat some more Oreos you fat, lazy poor excuse for a woman. Your sister is more valuable a soul than you'll ever be and she's sick. What makes you think you shouldn't be? Why isn't it you? It should be you. Why don't you call her? Why don't you answer the phone when she calls you? Because you're afraid. A coward, actually, of the worst kind because you don't even have the disease yet. She does. And yet YOU can't handle it. Poor you. You're a horrible daughter too. Useless, disgusting waste of space in the universe.

This is the dialogue. This is how bad it can get in my head. And it took literally YEARS to make all of that shit go away. To quiet it down and scare the self hatred enough to go into hiding. So when I found out I had this mutation, here it came again after a few years of reprieve. Up it rose, out of its pit like a phoenix, winged, strong, and ready. Something had to save me.

No...someone. And again, it was this baby, this adorable creature looking up at me with eyes full of innocence and need. Olivia looked up at me only with love. She didn't know about the hatred, about that part. But if she did, I don't think she'd like anyone saying those things about her mother. And then there was Amy, too, who had gone through so much and said to me "Have this surgery because I didn't have the chance to" and she made me promise that I'd do it. This Angel on earth.

Amy wasn't perfect, by any means. And she wasn't a saint, by any means either. But she was there when it counted, and she saved my life so many times over the years, and this time was probably one of them. I had my husband, who's love surprised and continues to surprise me. But when I asked him what I should do, he was pretty clear about the fact that he wanted me alive no matter what the cost and anything that would keep me alive as long as possible had his vote. So ultimately I had to undergo this horrible surgery to ensure my longevity, which was something I had to do for my daughter's sake. And for everyone else in my life who for some reason I can't fully understand and maybe never will, love me in a great and powerful way. I underwent this surgery for them, because they believe I am worth it.

But I couldn't do it for me. I was not enough of a reason. Aside from the astounding sadness of that statement, I mostly can't help but think how ironic it is that the gift my body gave me, Olivia, ultimately became the main reason for me to do this painful mutilating thing. But like I said, self hatred is a sneaky, wily thing. And now I feel like I'm back at square one. I'm angry and hateful at this flesh, this disgusting flesh, this body that I can never trust again. I feel so betrayed. Self hatred is speaking again and saying the horrible things.

I know this is shallow mostly. But having to look in the mirror and see slashes where my breasts used to be is a brutal experience. And another irony, is that my breasts are about the only part of my body that I always actually liked. I thought they were lovely. Small, but lovely. But that doesn't matter now. Because they are gone. That precious part of me, that entertained my husband, that nurtured my daughter during a year of breastfeeding, gone and dissected in a pathology lab like meaningless blobs of flesh.

So now I have this monumental task ahead of me. To not only heal physically, but to learn, yet again, to accept this alien person. To learn how to love this new, even more ugly version of myself. It was hard enough the first time, without all the scars.I hope this blog wasn't too heavy or too personal for any of you to handle. I just know that whoever already reads this blog expects truthful words, honest words. Anything less would be unfair. I do have good moments now. Accepting moments. They are brief and interspersed among a lot of terrible, torturous thoughts. I wish I could make you laugh again. I wish I could report only optimistic things, with fluffy anecdotes about annoying check out clerks at the grocery store. But this is the journey, folks. This is the truth. And that truth is that I don't think the story goes in a perfect arc, like in a book or movie. I think this story is like the scar lines on my chest, jagged and uneven. And for damn certain the story line is not a circle. I will never, ever again be the same girl that I was. But whatever the story, I want to share it with you. If you will listen.

I know that life is good and bad and meshed into one glorious twisted mess I am just trying so hard to find the place of beauty and peace in that mess, the beauty in me again. Its so hard to find it once its lost. At least I'm in familiar territory. I've been here before...in this exile. The map to the good place, I buried because I didn't think I'd ever need it again. The good news is that I buried it inside of me, so I have a pretty good idea where to find it.