Friday, August 30, 2019

Thoughts After Today's Biopsy

45. They tell you to tie the hospital gowns in the front, but it does no good, they are always too big.

I have spent hours studying what the doctor said it "probably" was, remembering the 17 year old accident with bruised breasts, searching for the lump they found.  No luck.  It's just not there, so I'll have to trust them. 

How many rooms are we going into?

Funny how death always does prompt this sick side of us, searching for reasons that they might deserve it more, or at the very least it made sense. Oh, yes, she was a drug addict, so that death makes sense. Oh I see--he lied to his family for years, so maybe this death doesn't feel as bad.  But it does always feel bad. It's supposed to. My belief says it's not acceptable, not natural. And we all are equally deserving and undeserving of this horrible separation, however momentary, from the love we know. The little babies, the old prostitute, the guy who never forgave anyone. I wish I could see them in the blanket of kindness my God sees them. But my nature is to hope for an understanding of things I will never understand.

Trying to read the magazines provided to stop thinking about death, because this is just a little needle, a little "pinch and burn," as the nurse says.  Then it's over.  ta-da. It'll be painless, they reassure me.  I want to talk a big game, "I prick my fingers 6 times a day" I want to prove to everyone, "and if I could test the iron in my blood by needle, I'd do that too." Knowledge is power, I want to tell them, but I smile. I reassure the reassuring lady in scrubs that she's doing a good job.

I steal stuff. A recipe out of a magazine from June. "Mexican pickle," with radishes. It's low carb. I steal a sample of moisturizing foundation--just my shade. I wonder if my shade of skin is what all the rich ladies have.  I worry about losing our insurance in 48 hours.  

The biopsy is simple and it doesn't hurt, weirdest part is the wedge keeping my breast high off the table, and losing feeling in my shoulder. Worst part is new doctor, saying everything's different than the first doctor said, but it's "just ducts." She says papilloma, I don't know that term. She says clogged ducts, that's likely. She indicates that the possibility of something worse is very slim. She says that part faster than the other stuff, I think.  She hopes I'll forget it.

We will have results on Thursday. Right in the middle of the dead zone between employer insurance and medicaid.  I tell myself not to worry, there's always Go Fund Me. My stomach hurts. I wish I had life insurance, I wonder if my iron is low and that's why I'm so anxious. I wonder if being stressed out will cause a raise in my blood sugars.

No need to check out. One last mammogram. Keep it iced, don't pick up anything over 5 pounds.  I don't see how that's possible.  Groceries, bottles of water, everything's more than 5 pounds. 

The woman in the waiting room told me she got married on Yom Kippur, which made her father in law furious. I'm thinking of interviews of celebrities who got double mastectomies, and now they're fine. I promise myself this is not good thinking. I decide to stop for a snack on the way home. I wish I'd brought someone, and I have no idea who.

And once again I wait for no news.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Planus Interruptus

I forced the kids to leave the house today.  It's not easy in 112 degree weather, but I thought it necessary. We went to the pool, fighting off bees and wasps, which was fun in itself, and rescuing the bees who were drowning in the pool. We laughed, they screamed, and I got out after about an hour, knowing the bad part would start.  It did right then--too much bickering, then fighting, then hitting each other with inflatables, then suddenly the little one drinking in too much water.

He came running over to me, choking.  He angrily told me, "I didn't want to come to the pool today! I had a plan--I was not going to leave the house at all, and spend the whole day watching cartoons in my pajamas."  He was furious with me--for ruining his plans.

I am so happy right at this moment.  Happy to be with my husband, my children.  I am  happy to have taught an amazing summer camp for the first time--it was perfect and I am still on some sort of cloud 9 from a blissful last performance. Happy that my husband is being let go, leaving his job on peaceful terms. We don't have other plans, but I hated him being there.  He hated him being there.  So now--we have maybe the tiniest chance at his being truly happy sometimes, and not always burdened by the feeling of failing at a profession where he always felt one step behind, no matter how much he gave it.

I don't have a professor job yet, and now again he doesn't have it.  And we are--middle aged?

I have finally started getting control of my health and I am so thrilled that when the doctor reads numbers to me over the phone I whoop and holler and feel like I'm winning a lottery. This will only get better.

And yet, in quiet moments....this isn't the plan.  It hasn't felt like there was a plan in a long time.  God, my first love, seems so quiet. It's been so long since I felt we were walking under some sort of divine leadership.  So many years that God's presence has only been felt when we weren't dealing with the bad stuff, and a strange, silence looms over every hard thing. A silence that feels like we'll never have a plan. 

It leaves a hole in me, I guess.  So right at this moment, watching a movie in the dark with my loved ones, in blessed air conditioning, I can't even let myself take a deep breath.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Faith of Promise (AKA no easy parts)

My headache has started.  It's daily.  My anemia has reached a point where I'm symptomatic, and it's burdening my heart.  I have to see a doctor about the murmurs, the headaches, the sudden moments where I need to sleep NOW. I ruminate over whether I'll need transfusions or a uterine ablation, or worse.  It's awful, and I'm not sure how to get through today.

I pray about it.

Last weekend I upset my sister and she wrote me 9 pages of anger and vitriol so terrible I can't get past it.  My body has reacted. Sometimes in the middle of the day I just burst into tears, thinking of how it's been like this since we were toddlers. Me, always so frightened of what she would do if I upset her, and then a wave of sadness that somehow she still lives this way.

I pray about it.

My dad is in a rehab, and I'm filled with hope.  In the bad moments, I'm terrified because he's 70 and if this doesn't work, we're probably done.  After all these years, I don't even know who he is.  Is he the drunk guy or the sober guy? Is he the loving dad or the one who didn't call me when he was "blissfully happy" with his wife--sometimes for years at a time--he was so much happier without me. I want a relationship now, and I live with terrible anxiety that what I want is a fantasy.

I pray about it.

For six years of our 11 year marriage, my husband and I have been through a place where we never feel safe.  Financial ruin is constantly around the corner, and we never recover from job losses enough to get to a place where we can just relax, or pay off, or save. We still sleep on a broken bed for fear that $250 will break us. I have a part-time professorship and I wonder all the time if I'm doing enough. Our blue collar neighbors used to call us spoiled that my husband didn't just take a factory job and I didn't stop doing my low pay teaching and performing.  To them we were being selfish to our children.

I pray about it.

I am stuck between a point where I feel like my prayers fall on deaf ears. Nothing ever comes to resolution, and I long for a deep breath that a God whom I loved as a child doesn't seem to deliver. Coupled with the horrible examples of so many "believers" around me, I have such a hard time getting through the prayer without telling God that I'm disappointed, and I've lost track of whether anything's real.

But what's the alterntive? Don't pray? Don't believe when I've seen so many things that look like God? Live like everyone else--who thinks they're in charge of everything? It's not appealing.

So I sit listening to my faithful husband snore beside me.  I'm grateful he can pass out. And I pray for the strength to pray.  I'm far from thinking that things will change anymore, but maybe He'll change me and that'll be enough.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

I Used to be Rich

Well, it's only been 8 months since my last blog post. At least I'm getting more than one in per year.

I used to be rich. Or feel rich.  12 years ago I was a single woman in NYC.  I worked for an executive dude in an office in midtown, and I told very rich people what time their meetings were and sometimes saw their private paperwork, and went to the best restaurants on Christmas.  I made more money than I do now by 4x. I was lonely but not miserable.  I went to a lot of counseling. I carried a dog around in a purse, built up a savings account, and paid less than 1/4 of my monthly salary to my NYC apartment.

I was rich.

Kind of.

In February, 12 years ago, I met a man online who was a midwesterner and a Republican. We had a fight the first time we talked.  And probably the third and fourth.  But he was a good listener, and we were both creative.  We were both walking the same spiritual path, we both longed to help people.  We both believed that empathy was possible every day.  We both had little dogs.  It was outlandish, that anything would happened.  He lived in the same city Rush Limbaugh was born in. Oh sorry, I threw up a little when I wrote that.  But there you go.  It was never going to happen I mean.  Never.

At night, we started calling each other and praying on the phone. I would fall asleep, and he would try to wake me up by yelling into the phone.  It was exhausting.  New York, I mean.  It was exhaustingly wonderful. And our conversations, punctuated by praying together, felt like home.  Like a home that didn't exist in any sort of human world. So that's how I fell in love for the first time.

I was 33. I remember, because it seemed strange that I was the same age as Jesus. It's a good age. It's an age of possibilities, even though you start telling yourself you're too old for stuff.

A year later I was married to him. Our honeymoon was a u-haul ride to Iowa, starting a new job. I didn't have one. He barely had one.  We had credit cards full of marriage.

I was poor.

Kind of.

Then we had babies. We built a house. We lost jobs. I taught a million voice students. We moved wherever we needed to.  We are on our second state, and not here for long. He packed my open wound for 6 weeks. I rushed to the hospital when he had a life-threatening infection. We had a neighbor attack us.  We sold the house. We are never ahead, always behind the next thing. We had family interventions that were soul-tearing. We checked people into rehab. We got new jobs we usually hated. We got hurt by people we trusted. I got a friggin' DMA.  I sang roles. I became a published academic. He works at a top news station. We reluctantly live in the desert and we hate being hot.

Stuff keeps falling apart, no matter how hard we try. Then it gets cobbled back together and then falls apart again.  Remember when I was 32 and I used to get manicures and eat at fancy places, and buy boots, and walk home feeling like I was missing something every day?

We are poor.

I think.

Because 11 years in, I love him more than I ever thought possible.

So poor doesn't sound like the right description.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Is it Falling Together or Falling Apart?

Tonight I came home from buying my daughter a new bathing suit for our vacation in two days, when hubby pulled me into the bedroom to talk. "it's bad," he says. "Bad."  Sometimes bad from hubby is a problem with the NFL schedule or hearing one of the kids say a cuss word, so I haven't panicked yet. But it is definitely on the bad scale.  A notice to vacate in 45 days.  They want to "do something different" with the property we've been renting for 3 1/2 years.

So I take a deep breath and I just know, in my chest, that this is what's supposed to happen right now.  I don't know what's next, and part of me wants to panic and pull my arms in the air, and such. . . but it's also somehow right.  For the past few months I have felt a pressure in my veins, all through my body, that we don't belong here in this place, in this situation, and in this house.

I know--of course I feel like this--I just finished the degree, hubby is applying for jobs (he's been getting contacted about positions EVERY week lately, which counters strongly the dead silence we got all summer), and I am applying for faculty positions all over the country.  I had two interviews last year! With each application we are praying, who will get it first? We are agreeing that whoever does get the gig, that will be where we go, and where we somehow "make it work." We feel unified, driven, but mostly anxious. We have already agreed that somehow, by January, hubby needs out of the position he's in, so having a massive life change one month earlier can't be that bad, right?

Tears roll from my daughter's eyes. She just got into an honor choir, she has a few friends, she doesn't want to leave school or move really, she just misses snow. What will happen with her guitar lessons? She's frightened and I feel ultimately at fault. I want to give her a magically stable home. But sometimes falling apart is not really falling apart.  How do I explain this?

Nov. 13, 2013. That's the day hubby got fired and our whole world changed. We moved across country with nothing coming. We were battered, tired, and not that hopeful. And five years later I have a doctoral degree, hubby is producing a #1 show (a torturous schedule that's killing him, but you know) and it feels like the kids are thriving.  We are also not really keeping up with bills--sometimes having only $40 left from a paycheck after bills. We are struggling with my piddly "adjunct" income and it hurts. We don't love the desert, especially not the heat. We hate the tiny rental house where kids have nowhere to play so they just play on top of us.

I pray that just like five years ago, things will crumble apart to reveal a new plan. Perhaps this new plan will feel a bit more permanent, and guarantee my children the chance to make lasting friends. I am grateful that we are getting kicked out, however awful it feels as I scramble for storage units and calculate a rough plan B or . . . is it plan C? I don't really care which plan it is, but I am hoping pretty intensely that it is a divine plan I couldn't possibly have predicted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It Doesn't Have to Happen

I have a feeling that this blog post will start less happy and end up joyful.  Let's see.

When everything fell apart, I changed a lot of how I view prayer and God.  Well, first I hated God. Then I stopped believing, and then I started wondering what it was I really believed.

So, when I was young, things were blissfully black and white. I could just say, "well, I know it hurts but the answer is no and I guess we'll have to deal with it," and then wipe my hands of your problems, or pretend to ignore mine, and get on with my day. I also believed in this crazy thing that many seem to, about "everything happens for a reason."  In some ways I believe this, but now as a more grown-up believer, what I really think is that most of those "reasons" are beyond our comprehension and we will never, at least in this life, get to feel like, "aha, I get it, God was planning this, or this blessing was hidden all along."  Those stories are abundant in not only Christianity but other religions as well.  I think of them as payoff stories. They go like this:

My boyfriend dumped me.  I thought he was the one, I cried like crazy, but then I met the REAL one and he was so much better, and I see what God was doing.  = payoff.

I tried for years to have a baby. It was so hard, but then I got pregnant and my daughter is amazing and I understand all the waiting was worth it for this great kid. = payoff.

I didn't get in to Harvard, but Cal State Whatever ended up being the greatest blessing of my life. = payoff.

Here's what I think.  Sometimes boyfriends dump and you never get married, and sometimes babies don't come, and it hurts like hell, and sometimes Cal State wasn't as good as Harvard. And none of that means there isn't a God, because God is bigger than that.  I believe there is a big story, an ultimate journey, and a God who cares but maybe in a way we can't fathom sometimes. Otherwise, you will always wonder what went wrong, when nothing came wrapped in a bow. And probably you will wonder how YOU are wrong, or why God hates you.

Again it comes to me, all these brilliant hymns, which describe real suffering to me. They resonate so perfectly, because there's something in there I can't even imagine, something deep and fulfilling and perfect, something in the verses of the Bible that I can't show you by giving you a payoff, or telling you I finally got a good paying job.

My goal is God himself, not joy, nor peace nor even blessing, but himself, my God.

When sorrows like sea billows roll.. . Whatever my lot, God has taught me to say it is well with my soul.

My place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark, and I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark.

It is not well, I guess, because things will get better. It is not well because I have what I need financially. It is not well because my kids are amazing, or I am blessed with doing what I like for work.

It is well because the creator of the Universe is real. It is well because He endured the worst possible pain, separation from God, to give me a way to know forgiveness, and to be at peace in my imperfection. It is well because nothing in the world is fair, and yet I am known, the very darkest of me is known, and ultimately loved in a way I can't even ever love back.

I will still pray for it to happen. But it doesn't have to happen, because right this moment, I rejoice that He exists, and that I am His, and He is mine.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

10 Years

I guess I feel like blogging, I seem to start these things lately and then give up.

We had an anniversary weekend, though we still have 4 days to go until the real 10. Hubby and I went on a trip, where nothing was as I planned. He had to nap each day, because his work schedule has kept his body from being able to sleep a full night--he gets up after 4.5 hours, then later on he's exhausted.  I knew that, but I didn't plan for it.

The restaurant I dreamed about going to was booked solid until 10. We were starving, so we went to another place, a fancy expensive place, which I downrated in my head and then reluctantly forced myself to enjoy. It wasn't what I wanted, and the adjustment was so hard. I was angry with myself for not being more flexible, and yet still not completely flexible.

It was hot, I was sore, and we didn't have the cash we should have, so we had to put some of it on credit which scares me.  I think I will have a doctorate degree in a month, but it's not the way I wanted--with a job at the end, a plan.  I originally thought our 10th anniversary would be celebrating the new life we'd worked for, and instead it just . . . was a nice anniversary.

I feel like the whole weekend was an allegory of my marriage. We have been putting out fires for so many years, and I have had so few weeks of just breathing and enjoying. We have two amazing children, albeit horrible and difficult pregnancies and births. We have a place to live, but we don't own it, it's too small, and I'm ashamed a bit when people come over. 

My husband has tried to get a better position for over 10 years now, and he'll be hitting 50 years old in 2019 without that position.  We've battled medical and dental emergencies that were life-threatening, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. We never have enough money coming in to pay off the bad times--despite my ability to budget. It just seems like we never catch a break that lasts longer than 10 minutes.

And yet, just like this weekend, if I don't stop picturing what I wish it was, I will not see that I am very happy with a person who loves me for me. I have kids who miss me, who are kind to people, who are smart and healthy. I am soon to have a doctorate, that hopefully I'll be able to use as intended, and in the meantime, I am only working doing what I want to do. I don't earn enough to be a living wage, but we're always able to fill in those gaps, and hopefully I'm building toward it.

I think expectation and gratitude play a constant battle inside me. I feel frustrated that every little thing is earned so painfully, but maybe I should be grateful that I have the will to do that work. I feel frustrated that we get so little time together, always trying to scrape together a schedule, money, vacationless jobs, but maybe I should focus on the gratitude that we are moving forward. Slow is ok. It's just so hard.

There are harder lives to be had, for sure. There are loveless lives, and there is pain I don't ever have to feel. I am present and sober with a family who loves being together. No creditors are coming after us yet. We have purpose. We have today. And now we have 10 years of somehow staying afloat. Thank you God, for the flotation device. For whatever purpose it was to have us struggle through these years. And I pray the next 10 are a lot more boring.