Monday, September 24, 2012

a new lease on life~

In 2008, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
It was pretty much the most horrifying day of my life. First though, are you sure you know which diabetes I'm talking about? I'm referring to an autoimmune disease that has no cure. 
The reason I'm blogging about my disease is not to gain your sympathy, but rather, your ear. 

I used to be a worrier. I mean, we're talking like, The World's Worst Worrier. If there was an award for worrying, I'd have won it every year. People used to say things like "You're dwelling on this." "You've got that look on your face." "Just let it go." But I couldn't. I was too worried.
When I got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as unfortunate and difficult as it's made my life at times, it's also offered me a new lease on life. I don't say this lightly. I almost died and it took me a long time to come to terms with how close I came. When I did, strangely enough, looking death and a chronic disease diagnosis in the face basically forced me to give up on Worrying. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I survived; relatively unscathed, and most importantly: a different version of the same me.
It suddenly came over me that yes, we survive everything. Until we don't. And then, we really have nothing to worry about.
I'm trying to avoid sounding cliché here, and I wish I had magical words to allow you to see inside my head and my heart somehow to understand the depth of that diagnosis experience and what effect it had on me. But all I can offer you is this pathetic blog post in an attempt to tell you to live. Fully. As if something could come down the pike any day that swallows up a good amount of your mind and your time and you still manage to wake up with a stupid grin on your face and say Fuck it, I'm alive. 
Because when I think back on all that time wasted worrying, I want to take up running just in an attempt to catch up to it and change things. The problem being, of course, that no one takes up running backwards. What's done is done.
So I truly live for the moment now. Mostly because I laugh at my old, worrying self and know that everything has always, often in strangely serendipitous ways, worked out. Despite how worrisome my old self was. Things don't get to me anymore. I'm not trying to sound enlightened here. It's just a fact: I can listen to people say awful things to me and I just don't take them personally. I'm sitting there, looking them in the eye, or dealing with their awful behavior, and thinking quite kind thoughts, actually. And not the condescending 'kind' thoughts people often have; a barrier to what they really feel about the person. It's the strangest thing in the world because I tried and tried for many years to become this person. When I was religious, I prayed about it. Then, I just read a lot of philosophy. Then I just journaled and cried a lot. Then I got sick.
Funny how the most terrifying things are often the ones you need the most to grow. Even the ones you don't choose. Well, especially those.

The waking up was just that---a waking. A gradual process I was mostly unaware of, stubborn and impatient with. Struggling and itching and angry, I thought I would never see the end of that tunnel. And then, about a year ago, it started lifting. Like a fog. The kind you see standing against the railing on a dock by the river early in the morning and it's happening so slowly, at first you forget you started out by complaining how little you could see, how heavy it felt. And it is only after you've finished saying it, the fog has lifted and you can see...everything. Because it's a new day. A fresh start. The one you've been waiting on forever.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

you'll know him when you find him, part 3~

In late August, just as the semester is about to begin, we spend a Sunday together after he offers to take me to Mass. He has never been, and despite the fact that I am not trying to convert him, he is curious and unflummoxed. We were sitting in his apartment, talking about all sorts of things: everything and nothing, as great friendships do. Only ours had some secrets, obviously.
I remember he was leaning back in a chair, his hands folded in his lap when he suddenly said, exasperated,
I love you! I'm in love with you!
I did not react the way you're thinking I would. Or should.
I vaguely remember starting to cry, although it might've been more of a weep. Hey, at least I didn't sob.
And then I started saying things like, You don't know what you're talking about. You can't possibly feel that way...this is all too much...
Yes, you can say it---I had some obvious issues to work out.
He then gave me a letter he'd written to me a while back and left the room. It was a love letter, entitled "Letter to Emily (never to be sent)". An honest to god love letter. It made me swoon, and not because of it's titillating romantic quality, but precisely because of how unpoetic his words were; so simple and real. To this day, every year on my birthday, four days before his own, I read that letter.
He always had this very calm and collected, formal aspect to him. He didn't even kiss me that day. He just wanted me to know how he felt. He wanted to know how I felt, if I could ever feel the same about him, despite our differences. He was very polite, but also genuine and warm.
I was so taken aback by his old-fashioned approach that I honestly had no idea what to do. I think I cried simply because of this fact. When he drove me home, I looked over at him and the windows were down; it had just rained. The desert air was so fresh and he began to blast Bach. I kid you not: Bach's Cello Concertos. This is a person who is known as a connoisseur of Punk.  He had tears in his eyes and he was smiling in a way I'd never seen him do. He exclaimed, I'm so happy! even though I was still so obviously overwhelmed and had not really given him an answer about dating. But something let go in me in that moment and I knew that I loved him. He knew that I was just afraid. To this day he often knows me better than I know myself. But it was pretty terrifying; the jumping in. Finding the one person I knew would take care of my heart and trust me with his, the one person I couldn't just easily break up with because that was what I always did: date guys I could easily break up with.
But I couldn't do that to him. No, never.

Fast forward 8 years. Here we are in 2012.
Now we have our first child together. This tall, lanky guy still gives me butterflies. We've been through hell and back, he and I. Oh, people love to say that: We've been through everything together. But after listening to half the stories, I've learned that most of what people call "everything" really means something like We've finally learned to take turns unloading the dishwasher. But as soon as the Littlest Big Thing happens, people seem to throw in the towel. That's how I know this thing MAC and I have---it's rare.
We've held each other through family heartache, rejection, and death from overdose, personal paradigm shifts, chronic disease diagnosis and the mess it makes of living (and dying), job losses and no money, pursuing goals others scoff at, homesickness, psychotic bosses that even bring their poison into one's home, sudden cross-country moves with a baby.
Oh my, the baby.
The little boy who is our greatest delight. We delight in each other, but he is what we are most proud of about ourselves, about each other. We wanted him so much; he makes our family. He makes our Home.

So this is to you, MAC. On your 30th birthday.
You're the best thing that ever happened to me. You are, as an elderly man told me a long time ago about how you know when you've met The One:
Well, you'll know him when you find him. That's the person who makes you want to be the best version of yourself.
Your soulmate is the person who challenges you. And that, you have done well.
I loved you the day I set eyes on you, even as I feared I didn't deserve you---you in all your talent and quiet joy and laughter, you in all your radical ideas and dreams. You in all your radical love and light.
I am blessed to know you, to spend my life around you; hearing your thoughts as you listen to mine.

Truly, you are not only my better half, but my best.

Friday, September 7, 2012

you'll know him when you find him, part 2~

One day, our professor told us all to meet at the library to go over some research methods. As I was getting off my bike, my classmate approached me with one of the funny guys as I walked inside. He was smiling and laughing, more relaxed than of late. I cautiously sat down at the wooden table, and he handed me a paper to read that he'd just written for another class, entitled Life Without Principle: A Modern Dilemma.
Everyone was very chatty, with Spring break starting soon. I was secretly excited to read more of his work, and so I read the piece in bits during an exam study session for my Astronomy class; glancing up every once in a while at the professor, trying to act interested. I realized when I was done that I hadn't known his last name yet. It was Cone.
We begin talking again. A bit here and there, before class, after. Sometimes he walks me to my bike. We even go to the coffee shop off campus once and spend all morning talking about politics, our dreams, our simple and complicated likes and dislikes.
A couple of weeks later, I was unlocking my bike and we were talking as usual. He asks me if I'd like to get some food. I'm confused. Right now, you're hungry? I ask. No, no. This Friday, he says, laughing. I tell him "sure", because we're finally friends, right?
And then I realize This Friday is Good Friday. And at the time I was a practicing Catholic and could not miss Good Friday Mass. On Wednesday, I gingerly approach him after class and tell him how sorry I am that I can't go, but could we do it next Friday? His eyes dart away, I can tell he thinks I'm lying. He says ya, that's fine a little too quickly and I try to explain, but it comes out sounding ridiculously forced. I promise myself that on Monday, I will remind him.
That Monday, I can tell he is up for more ignoring. I bee-line him at the end of class, forward compared to the girl I usually am, easily embarrassed around guys I like. At the time, I didn't admit this even to myself about this particular one.
I ask him directly if he's still up for Friday. He tries to mask his surprise but can't; he says, Ya, ya, ok, Friday. Wanna say 6? He gives me his number. Just in case, he says.
Friday comes and I am not nervous. I am literally in gardening clogs and watering my tiny flower bed when he pulls up, Joan Osborne blasting out of his speakers. As we're driving, he says, So I was talking to my roommate about how I was sorta going on this date and how I didn't really know where to take you.
[Date?! Who said anything about a date?] This is the honest to god truth. I was literally in jeans and a t-shirt. I may or may not have combed my hair before getting into his car after watering the flowers. I did change out of my gardening clogs, though. I know I did that.

By May, we'd begun to instant message and email. He tells me how he is planning a backpacking trip up a big mountain in Colorado. I invite him to my end of the semester party. He comes, brownies in tow. I secretly think about him all of the time, even though the pilot is around. We fight a lot, he makes me cry. I stop writing to my classmate, sabotaging a perfectly good friendship because I feel bad thinking about a guy so much who seems to only want to be my friend now, as I simultaneously date/nondate someone else. Besides, he's an atheist: a big no-no for the good Catholic girl I was raised to be. In spite of myself, I enviously think of the cute philosophy major hipster he's probably dating. Perfect match. Barf.
He suddenly writes me again in July. He picks up where we left off, wondering how my summer is going, even though we both know I didn't write him back last time. He wants to know if I'd like to get some ice cream.
That summer, we were solely responsible for doubling Ben&Jerry's profits.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

you'll know him when you find him, part 1~

I met him in a Literary Analysis class my first semester of college. It was January, 2004. I had just finished my time in the military---I served as a U.S Air Force medic for 5 years straight out of high school. I remember only signing up for the minimum twelve hours required for full-time study because I was so terrified of failing. I had never been to college before, I had no idea what to do, surrounded by sleepy 18 year olds. Only my roommate-like-a-brother guided me along the way, taking me to this office and that, filling out paperwork, showing me how to get from one class to another on time. I rode a really cheap bike to school that eventually got stolen and had a love of 1940's wool coats. I was 23.
I remember sitting in that class in a circle, as the professor, who took a strange liking to my novice writing, had asked her small group of students to do. I noticed him on the very first day, as he would appear to me the next four months: in a corner, quietly reading his assignments clearly for a philosophy class, head bent down under an old baseball cap, wearing a hip-but-not-trying-to-be-hip grandfather button down shirt. He was lanky; over six feet tall and had razor burn. He was 21.

The course was from 8-8:50, Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I went to every one. He tended to miss at least one a week. He didn't care. I noticed. Sometimes, I would glance over at him, while our odd, old, worn professor was waxing on about the lack of published female writers in the 19th century, and find him staring, his hand tightly folded against his mouth. He would blush and look away, attempting to seem irritated.
He rarely spoke, only laughed with the two guys who were always cracking jokes, somehow finding ways to even warm up our cold professor. Sometimes they would make us all laugh so much we'd be holding our stomachs; I'd glance at him and see him wiping tears away, he was laughing so hard. There was also a classical musician and creative writing major in the class. The musician made me uncomfortable and yet somehow finagled my number from me and I somehow always accidentally answered when he called. I had no interest in him. The creative writer was genuinely kind and very good looking. We got along swimmingly, but I  knew he was gay. All the guys in the class disliked him because all they saw was Zach talking with all the girls and making them laugh.
But I thought about my tall classmate sometimes, even mentioned him to my roommate, in passing. There was not much to say. There's an interesting guy in my Lit class but I don't know why I find him interesting because we've never spoken? Maybe not.
One day he asked me if he could read the paper I'd just gotten back. It was my first. Ever. In college. I didn't want to give it to anyone to read, let alone him. I said yes.
He took me to the basement of the library, where all of the published dissertations and other old forgotten manuscripts and articles were. We sat next to each other in one of the wall desks. He handed me his paper to read, I handed him mine. I was eager for pointers, considering that I'd heard he was an English-Philosophy major. He chuckled and said, She gave you an A. That's good, you deserved it. I had no idea what I was doing there. He could write. She gave him a B. Why did he want to see my paper and then tell me something like that?
We talked for 3 hours. We asked each other about our families, our lives. I could sense we'd been raised political opposites, but the conversation flowed easily. I'd been going through a paradigm shift since, oh-I-don't-know-9/11, but was having a hard time finding my real voice. I secretly questioned and criticized everything. Nothing made sense to me any longer politically or religiously. I felt angry and vulnerable. Like most college students, I suppose. But I was also just out of the military, feeling angry and vulnerable for other reasons. We shared our personal insights and hopes and dreams. He wanted to be a writer, he wasn't sure how it would work out, but that's what he wanted the most. I was passionate about working with impoverished groups, providing healthcare to the most marginalized. We gave each other space in that quiet basement to be ourselves, no one watching or listening but us.
I went home and told my roommate about him, The Guy In My Lit Class. He was worried about an upcoming exam; he barely heard me. My heart wasn't soaring, but I looked forward to feeling that I'd made an interesting friend. The next class, when I said "hi" he responded and looked away. The next few classes, he left as quickly as he could, ensuring our only contact be with our eyes. I was hurt.

I soon met a C-130 pilot. I didn't like him because he was a pilot. I thought I fell for him mostly because he was a Catholic, and also a bit disheveled and silly. I just got out of the Air Force; he was familiar, but what I needed most was disheveled and silly---seemingly perfect. We quietly started to sort-of-but-not-really-see each other, even though he was in the midst of a divorce that my naiveté was too naive to realize was a terrible idea. He seemed complicated in a sweet way. I laugh to myself now about learning what the term rebound means the hard way---and how dating is simultaneously so easy and difficult in your early twenties.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

bitter birthmother~

You don't remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.  John Green

Self-loathing is an interesting beast. It usually starts with something that happened to us or that we did that we're a bit ashamed of.  Much of what actually happened is forgotten to us, as we're caught up in all of the personal details of our own actions in the situation. Sometimes, none of it was our fault, not one tiny thing (rape victims) and other times, we're a part of a complicated story that we played a major part in. We are not a victim; our choices placed us directly in the circumstances we found ourselves in. The narrative, standing alone, would be lost without us. It just didn't turn out the way we'd planned.
It starts with the realization that we cannot go back. We begin to neurotically replay the details in our heads over and over, a way to deconstruct and contain our anger. We project everything we can onto as many people as possible until we find one that can last: our final target. It is two fold, this target. It is someone else, but deep down: it is us. 
When the thing that happened had a lot to do with our own role in the way things played out, the rage becomes unfathomable. I could've done something different becomes a painful theme in the back of our mind, a theme that eventually buries itself so deeply, all we see is the face of That Other Person, the Other Target. This is better known as scapegoating: placing blame upon someone for the mistakes or wrongdoing of others. It can shape our entire life, after we've found someone or something to blame for Everything That Went Wrong.

MW is not happy. She is beyond all rationale. Her rage, contained and targeted and wrapped around my birthfather for so long, is not just leaking out of her; it is like a beyond-compromised water levee. Breaking and gushing, filling everything around her with her angry poison. She cannot forgive herself or him and so I am her new target. Of course, she is trying to make it appear to be out of concern for me.
I just don't want to see you get hurt. 
I'm worried he's just being nice for now and then he'll just drop the ball. 
But most of the time, she just calls him a Motherfucker.
Well, that's one way to put the truth, I suppose.

Then she continues by questioning every time I can't answer the phone, or email back right away. Or whether or not I am willing to visit her in Shitty Louisiana (her words, not mine) after telling me from the beginning that I can never visit her house because she's too embarrassed. Jealousy and rage do not merely coincidentally go hand-in-hand with paranoia.
I think the saddest part for me is that she's being so obviously manipulative, pulling all of the classic things people do when they hate themselves. Because that is exactly what's going on here. This has nothing to do with M, my birthfather, and how he is just as happy to reconnect with me and everything to do with how angry she is at herself for having no leverage regarding our relationship.
She didn't raise me. She gave me to someone else to do that. I had to remind her of that tiny fact.
I owe neither of them anything. My choice to find them was just that: a choice. A choice I'm happy I made, but a choice made by an adult child who never knew her birthparents, nonetheless.

I would like to believe that someday, this will all come together in some loving, forgiving, redeeming, beautiful way, but I am not so naïve. We're talking about two people who could barely remember each other, but regarding each other have experienced some of the deepest pain and regret of their lives surrounding a choice they both made.
People have been saying to me lately, "Oh my then, aren't you just so glad she gave you up for adoption? Your life turned out so much better---despite the problems in your adoptive upbringing."
Hmmmm. All I have to say to this is, if you know anything about either set of my 'parents', you will realize that I am living proof there is such a thing as nature versus nurture. Oh, the nurturing plays a role, I don't deny that. But after a while, we all find our way to ourselves; we just are who we are. This can be good and bad, no doubt. As Nietzsche said, You will become who you are. And I indeed, turned out to be just that. I am nothing like my adoptive family, and I am nothing like my birthparents. Yes, I have some personality traits from my birthparents, but as far as my interests and dreams and accomplishments and what I fear and don't fear----that's just my nature. By all counts, and this has often been my only comfort in this whole mess: I almost too easily imagine myself retreating to my room or the local library to read and journal, bikeride alone, work at a bookstore, save money for college exactly as I did growing up. And so, just as I looked at my adoptive mother growing up, saying to myself, "This person is crazy. Not well. Not happy. Not balanced.", I would've looked at MW had she kept me and said to myself, "This person is crazy. Not well. Not happy. Not balanced."
There is great comfort in this truth, don't try to take it from me. Sometimes, it is all that keeps me steady regarding this strange journey: that at least I have myself to hold onto. And that the life I've made is a life I've chosen. Rather than the shitty, filled-with-bitterness one MW chose and would've given me, rather than the one filled with unbalanced religiosity that my adoptive parents chose and tried to give me. I found my own way; this is and has always been, a great source of peace and strength to me. I'm not going to let anything change this fact even at this point in my life.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that when we hate ourselves, it sucks the life blood right out of us. We break our own spirit. We need no enemies, even as we turn nearly everyone we meet into one, simply because we do the job just fine by ourselves. In the end, even the very thing that can redeem us, all the joy that surrounds it----even that is something we come to despise. Because we think we don't deserve it. So then we think if we could just hold onto it, possess it, really----then maybe no one could take it from us. It would be ours and ours alone. This of course, backfires. Because besides food and water and shelter, people need to be free.
Love does not equal ownership. Love does not result from competition. Love does not come from pity.
It comes from a place where you truly accept what is right before your eyes. As is.
But you can't see Love if you can't accept what is right behind your eyes, right?