Archive for the ‘healing’ Category

I’m Alive. I think.

Posted: May 31, 2012 in anxiety, healing, OCD

I know, I know.

I fell off the edge of the planet.

Just for a little while.

It’s been a crazy few weeks.


So much to write about…it’s hard to know where to start.

I’ll try to play catch up.

I made some big changes this month.

I ended a relationship that has been the cornerstone and central focus of my life for the past six years (give or take a couple of weeks where this boy and I hadn’t really decided if we were officially “dating” or not).

I packed everything I own into U-Haul boxes, secured them with brown tape, marked the sides with a bold-point permanent marker, and moved it all to a little bedroom at my brother’s house. (Thank you, brother, for the free storage space).

I packed everything that was left (minus the cat) into a few more boxes and moved into a single bedroom in a tiny apartment with a roommate I’d never met.

It’s been two weeks and I still haven’t seen very much of her, come to think of it…

So now, after six very up and down, roller-coaster kinds of years that have included some of the happiest and most miserable moments of my life, and after that same amount of time spent envisioning rings and flowers and white dresses, I suddenly find myself alone, without most of my belongings, without internet (the horror!) and without a plan for what I’m doing with my life.

It’s liberating and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

It’s been incomprehensibly difficult and strangely easier than I thought it would be.

It’s been mixed with laughter and tears and a lot of second-guessing myself along the way.

I doubt it will get any easier for at least a little while.

There are still a lot of things up in the air, and a lot of things to question. If there’s one thing I really, truly suck at, it’s navigating through the world when I don’t know what’s coming at me next. I blame the perfectionism, and the OCD, but really this is just how I’ve responded to life in the past and it’s hard to change that now, even though doing so is going to be a big step in changing how I move through the rest of my life.

My therapist thinks this will be good for me.

My brother thinks I’ve done the right thing.

My friends all say I’ve made the best decision I could have made under the circumstances.

My mind tells me I did what I needed to do.

My heart, on the other hand, is just confused and hurt and sitting in my throat.

Good inspiration for songwriting, right?

It is done.

The actual SmartLipo procedure, that is.

The healing process is just starting, and it hurts. And itches. And is generally pretty swollen, bruised, lumpy, and gross.

But it will get better, and I will be better for it.

I was planning on detailing the days immediately leading up to the procedure, but they didn’t really include anything special, aside from avoiding alcohol (which I’m pretty good at anyway), drinking a quart of water a day (which I’m decidedly not very good at, though I’m committed now), and picking up my prescriptions (which turned out to be the only part of this whole process I’d classify as “affordable”).

I picked up my prescriptions on Monday:

All these bad boys cost me a whopping $12.76. Thanks, insurance!

On Tuesday, I went to all my classes like normal, and then boyfriend and I headed up to Coeur d’Alene, which is roughly a two hour drive. We got into town about 8pm, and headed to dinner at a roadhouse type joint I’d been wanting to try for a while. I had some delicious pulled pork and grilled shrimp, and a sweet potato, which sadly I did not photograph. Sad, because it was epically delicious. I’ll snap a picture on a return visit. Promise. Then we checked into the hotel, which was a little dated, but contained a lovely, suite-sized bathroom and comfy king sized bed:

All this, and a view…

We spent the evening watching bad reality TV, and I took my first dose of antibiotics, and first shower with the requisite Hibiclens anti-bacterial wash as instructed. Hibiclens basically smells like rubbing alcohol/hospital hallways, is red, does not foam, and leaves your skin feeling dry and tight. Which was kind of a bummer, since no lotion is allowed in the 24 hours before surgery. But if it prevents infections, I’m all for it:

And yes, I politely wiped off the tub after staging this photo.

The hotel also provided this center-less soap, which at first I thought was kind of ridiculous, but ended up actually really enjoying:

In the morning, I got up about 6:30, called for room service, and took my second Hibiclens-required shower. I picked the hotel because it was the best deal, but mostly because it came with room service. Because I do not do mornings (willingly) and getting up to drive somewhere sounded like a lot of work. I had some delicious French toast crusted with almond flakes and drizzled with a huckleberry compote:

This cost half as much as the room. Seriously. So either the room was a *really* good deal…

After breakfast, which was counter-intuitive to have before a surgical procedure, I dried my hair and gulped down my handful of pills about 45 minutes before I was supposed to be at the surgeon’s office:

Two painkillers, two anti-anxiety/muscle relaxers, and one anti-nausea pill. Done.

Then I had some free time to kill, which I used to pace around nervously and take pictures of my old tummy in the mirror. Because while it is (finally) going away, it will always have been a part of me:

Sweatpants are sexy.

We finally headed out to the doctor’s office and got there promptly at 9:15. At that point, I was still marveling at how I didn’t quite yet feel the effects of the medication, and wondering what it was going to do to me, since taking 2 substantial doses of Ativan is essentially what I presume crack would be like. My awesome nurse, who rotates between calling me “sunshine,” “girlfriend,” and “sweet pea,” settled me into a cushy chair to wait. About five minutes later, I informed her I was going to vomit. My French toast had turned a marvelous blue color (no pictures of that). That was the point where I realized the drugs had kicked in and I no longer cared what was going on around me.

Somewhere in all of this, I donned on my extra-sexy disposable panties and robe they gave me (I assume the nurse was involved in the process, but honestly, I remember very little), took some pre-op pictures, and walked down the hall to the surgery room. The nurse put some little covers over my eyes, and for the next three or so hours, I recalled vague snippits of conversation, saying “Ow” a few times when asked if I needed more local anesthetic on my tummy, and at one point the surgeon noting they’d taken out a liter of fat.

SmartLipo didn’t really hurt too much while it was happening. I could vaguely feel the instrument under the skin moving around, but by that point, the Ativan had done it’s work and I could have cared less. It took me a full 24 hours to realize that two of the incisions are about an inch up from my lady-parts. Do no remember the surgeon being down there…

Eventually, they stood me up, assessed, laid me back down, took off some more fat, and called it good. Then the nurse had me stand and balance against a counter while she zipped me into my compression garment. Which, I might add, is crotchless and has simultaneously become my best friend/worst enemy. My bra was very bloody and gross from things running up my back (this is normal, apparently), so we took that off, and she took me to the recovery room to hang out for a little while until I was coherent. Boyfriend had apparently been at the grocery store for most of this time, and him and the nurse chatted about the medical benefits of orange juice and saltines while I munched on some of my own saltines, apple sauce, and apple juice. When I was mostly back on the same planet as everyone else, the nurse helped pour me back into my clothes and the doctor wheeled me out to my truck in a wheelchair. I remember thinking at the time that it was odd for the actual doctor to do that, so bonus points for him.

Back at the hotel all of 5 minutes later, I curled up into bed and promptly slept for the next six hours.

I woke up long enough to direct boyfriend to purchase me a mushroom-swiss burger and salad (they said to eat whatever I wanted…) and went back to sleep until he got back from picking up dinner. By that point it was about 8pm. I ate about half my burger (which was delicious, and everything I was hoping for), took one painkiller, and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I got out of bed (which hurt a lot), and we checked out of the hotel before heading to the surgeon’s office for a post-op check up. We pulled into the parking lot at the same time as the doctor, headed up to the exam room, and I got to change into another fashion-forward pair of disposable panties for round two of picture taking. This time, I got a sweet print out of before and after shots. The doctor said everything looked good, the nurse changed my bandages and dressed my incisions (I have four of them, one below each side of my ribs and two about an inch above my ladyparts), gave me instructions for my first post-op shower (which couldn’t happen for 48 hours), and boyfriend and I headed home.

Somewhere along the way, he decided it was necessary to go to Harbor Freight, so we drove back through Washington, which was a terrible idea, because Washington’s idea of road maintenance is to not do it. Bumps were not my idea of fun, but I survived. We swung into Target for a few minutes so I could buy some boyshorts (these, I’ve learned, are the post-op undergarment of choice, because they fit nicely over the compression garment, which is crotchless). Limping around was actually a nice change after not moving for 24 hours. We swung through Hu Hot Mongolian grill for lunch (win, as I could get mostly veggies and a giant 7-up zero with cherry!) and then drove the rest of the way home. Where I promptly went back to bed for the rest of the day.

On Friday, I waited for boyfriend to get home from work so I could shower and wash my compression garment. By hand. It took forever to dry, which sucked, because while I was ecstatic to get it off for a while, by the time it was dry three hours later, I was achy and ready to put it back on. They recommend you buy two for this reason, but at $100 a pop, I couldn’t justify it for something I’ll only wear for two weeks of my life. The nurse said that was okay…

I was only allowed in the shower for 15 minutes (I’m not good at short showers…sue me…I had enough 2 minute dirty-water ones when I was a kid to make up for it) and boyfriend had to stand there the whole time to make sure I didn’t pass out, as per the doctor’s orders. I was really sore and limpy the next day (turning over in bed, standing up, and bending over are decidedly not fun), and I have a strange sore/numb sensation on my stomach that I’m not a fan of, but it’s supposed to go away in 6-8 weeks. All in all, the experience has been pretty manageable, and I’m able to get around the house now without too much discomfort. I’m applying cold for an hour or two each day to help with swelling and taking it easy. And hanging out with my cat.

Pictures of the results, coming up…

As my quest to get totally healthy and happy continues, I find myself questioning situations in new ways. The way I process things has changed significantly in the last couple of years, to the point where things I used to just do I now sometimes over-think and over-analyze.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if it helps me get to the bottom of my emotions which have bounced around all over the place for most of my life.

When I stopped taking anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications about a year ago, I was afraid that I’d slide back into the place where my emotions hit peaks and valleys every few hours and made me feel like I was stuck on a bad roller coaster I couldn’t get off of. That hasn’t happened for the most part…the coping skills I learned in therapy helped me stay more balanced and to stop and consider why things were making me feel certain ways.

I found that I had to spend a lot of time working on my attitude, and my negativity. Negativity has always been kind of a knee-jerk response for me, because I’ve spent a lot of my life expecting things I want to be taken away; things I’ve worked hard for to not come out how I’d hoped. I never realized it was such a pervasive part of my life until I got help. For the most part, I’m better at catching myself when negative thinking starts to creep in, but I still struggle with not letting little things bother me.

Even things that don’t affect me.

Like this evening, when boyfriend asked if I’d heard about Paula Dean’s announcement that she has diabetes.

I have.

“It pisses me off,” I [innocently, or so I thought] informed him, “because she’s insinuating that it’s not a big deal, and that it’s fine for her to continue eating the same things even though she has a serious condition. She should be a better role model.”

Then boyfriend accused me of being too negative, which made me mad, because I felt like I was just responding to his initial inquiry, so I yelled at him and informed him that I’m sick of feeling like he’s setting me up for failure by trying to dictate how I should respond to his questions. Since I can’t know what he’s thinking, I can’t always respond how he wants me to. Am I supposed to lie, and pretend things don’t bother me when they really do?

Eventually we retreated to our respective corners and discussed things, and he told me that for him it comes down to my response…still. It’s not a problem that I think Paula Dean should be a better role model; it’s a problem in his mind that I let something that absolutely doesn’t affect me become that big of a deal that it pisses me off.

Fair enough.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as I start to put my music out into the world and prepare to face the inevitable barrage of negative feedback that is sure to accompany the positive.  Getting to a point where that negativity doesn’t bother me, and recognizing that it doesn’t have to affect me unless I let it, is going to be a process, but it’s going to start with making these other little changes, like not being phased by what a TV personality does. I can disagree with it, but it doesn’t have to piss me off. It can just be what it is.

But seriously Paula Dean…behave yourself. There are kids watching you.

I Am Full of Christ Love!

Posted: January 16, 2012 in faith, healing
Tags: ,

If you’ve seen the movie Saved! then you’re snickering after reading the title of this post.

If you have not seen the movie Saved! please do so, and then resume reading. I’ll wait.

There was a knock on my door this afternoon, and I opened it to find a somewhat familiar face named Dennis who has been coming around the neighborhood inviting people to come to Sunday night bible study at his house. I think I first encountered him back in about August, and he’s come back a few times since then. He’s very persistent.

I’ve been thinking about going to a bible study or church for a while, because my faith has been an important, if problematic to define, factor in my life for as long as I can remember. For a long time, I assumed church wasn’t for me because I was not nearly perfect enough to fit in. I figured I’d just done too many things wrong and maxed out my limit on what was forgivable.

Other things in my life have made church problematic. Such as the whole “thou shalt not have sex before marriage” bit. I figured I’d screwed that one up the first time I encountered a real, live penis at about age 14.

The first time this Dennis character showed up on my doorstep, I figured the truth was the easiest way to get rid of him.

“I’d love to come to bible study,” I told him honestly, “but I don’t think I’d fit in there. I live here…with my boyfriend…to whom I am not married.”

“Oh by all means, bring him too!” Dennis replied cheerfully.

“He’s sort of Catholic…” I insisted. Clearly, strike two.

“Oh don’t worry, we don’t make anyone go through the conversion chamber until at least the second or third night!” he laughed.

I turned back into the house a little befuddled. I’ve used these lines on the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses multiple times, and they’ve always worked. It was going to be more difficult getting rid of Dennis, I could tell.

He came back several times over the course of the fall, and even introduced himself to boyfriend, who he chatted with about cars or guns or something before continuing on down the neighborhood. When he came back this afternoon, it was almost like seeing an old friend. I’ve come to expect him to pop up from time to time.

Tonight, though, I was part bored and part curious, and figured I had nothing to lose, so I did something uncharacteristic for me, blew the dust off the cover of my bible, and trudged through the snow up the street to Dennis’ house.

You know that poem, about the footprints in the sand?

I followed Dennis’ footsteps through the snow, from my front door to his. The author in me loves the comparison.

And bible study was…pleasant. Non-judgmental. Just an interesting discussion of the book of John.

I’m not sure where this is headed, or if this is the right bible study group for me, but I’m willing to keep an open mind. And maybe even go back next week.

The thing about faith for me is that it doesn’t come in one shape or size, and it’s different for everyone. It has different interpretations. The things I’ve been through in my life can be seen in a lot of different lights, depending on who is doing the inquiring. But I’m ready to look back now and explore what faith means to me again, at this new juncture.

I’m always going to be a sinner. But maybe there’s room for some Christ love in there too.

And seriously…go watch Saved!


2012 is going to be a great year.

I can feel it.

It’s starting off on the right track.

A few weeks ago, I auditioned for the music program at my university. This raised some eyebrows, because I’m a) not a music major b) have essentially no music background and c) am almost done with an advanced degree in something else entirely.

I was terrified of this audition, because to be told no at this audition would have felt like being told “Sorry…you just can’t sing. We don’t see potential here.”

Waiting was a big test of patience. It was almost a month before I got the final word that I had passed, been assigned to a voice studio and choir, and could register for classes.

That’s right. 3 semesters out from finishing my PhD, I’m enrolled in all undergraduate music classes.

It’s going to be strange going to classes again. But I’m excited.

I’m also doing something a little out there, and investing in me this year: I’m having SmartLipo, which is essentially the newest format for liposuction, performed with lasers.

It’s expensive.

It’s costing me, all said and done, half of what I make in a year. (I pulled this off with some extreme budgeting…bye bye iPhone…and a payment plan).

I’ve been self-conscious about my weight and my stomach for a long time. As long as I can remember. A few years ago I got tired of people asking if I was pregnant, so I started doing Weight Watchers and exercising like a fiend.

I lost over 25 pounds.

I’m only 5 feet tall, so that was significant. I’m currently only about 20 pounds from my super-pinnacle of achievement goal weight of 105 pounds, and I’d be happy with making it to 110. I’m not overweight, and in general I’m pretty happy with my size. I’ve cut out soda, candy, butter, white bread, full-fat everything, and anything fast food, besides the occasional Whopper (plain, with cheese, add barbeque sauce) from Burger King that I generally get twice a year, at Fourth of July and Christmas when boyfriend and I head over the mountains to visit his family. I’ve reduced portion sizes, taken to measuring everything, and acquired a Bowflex Treadclimber (second hand). On top of classes at the gym.

After a couple of years of that, I got discouraged and gave up. Because my stomach wasn’t getting any smaller or less-pregnant looking, despite the fact that I’d lost a lot of weight and developed abs of steel beneath it all.

Why exercise and give up all the foods I love if I wasn’t feeling any better about the one part of my body I’m self conscious about?

I binged and gave up exercise for a while. But I realized that I didn’t miss huge portions, or regular soda, or fast food. I did sort of miss exercising. I just needed an added boost.

I got a doctor’s opinion, and a second opinion. It turned out, I wasn’t failing in my diet and exercise routine. I’m just built this way, and genetically, my extra weight wants to go straight to my stomach. The bottom line was, there isn’t much I can do about it short of a) going hardcore-all-out-bodybuilding or b) having surgery.

I don’t particularly want to be a body builder. And I have a friend who does it, and it’s expensive when you add up all that goes into it. So I picked surgery. And a good combination of yoga, pilates, tabata, and recommitment to my Weight Watchers plan.

I don’t expect surgery to give me a six-pack or fix all my body issues.

I do expect it to give me the boost I need to continue moving forward with my weight loss goals, and an added dose of confidence that I believe I deserve after all the hard work I’ve put in on changing my attitude and response to life in the last few years.

I’ve done a lot of work on me.

It’s time for the outside to match the inside.

So there we have it…two major major steps I’ve taken toward building something amazing in 2012. It’s a new beginning that has been in the works for a long time.

I love when a plan comes together.

Welcome to 2012

Posted: January 2, 2012 in healing, weight loss
Tags: ,

Today was the perfect indication of how I imagine 2012 is going to go.

Food. Frustrations. Laughter. Family. Music. Hope.

Today, I had dinner with my family. All of my family – both parents, and my brother.

It was the first time we’ve had a family dinner all together for a major holiday since about 2003. And in 2003, I came down with pneumonia and spent the evening in the emergency room while everyone else was having dinner.

It was nice to have my whole family together, and we had a pleasant afternoon just eating and talking, exchanging presents, reminiscing about happy times. That’s a huge step, because it seems like for the past few years, most of our energies – mine included – have been focused around the negative parts of the past. There were real, legitimate negatives, but it’s important to remember that there were good times too.

We did some other things together this afternoon that were amazing steps in the right direction. We laughed.

I played my guitar and sang a song I wrote about letting go of California, and we cried.

Then we laughed some more.

We enjoyed traditional recipes that my grandma used to make, including an amazing (and easy) macaroni salad and pumpkin pie that I made from scratch. I’ll post the recipes…

I’m exciting going into 2012, because I’m really happy about the foundations I built in 2011 that will make 2012 a better year. I’m happy that I’ve taken steps toward taking charge of some things that are really important to me, like playing guitar and singing. Boyfriend and I have taken some big steps toward strengthening and improving our relationship and I’ve made some really big steps toward rebuilding my relationship with my brother.

And, just so you know, I’ve decided to take charge of something about my body that has bothered me for a really, really really long time. I carry all my extra weight around my stomach, and so do most of the women on my mom’s side of the family. I’ve done a lot of dieting and exercising. I’m not done with those things by any means, but the moment I realized (and a medical professional confirmed) that those things alone wouldn’t remove the extra weight from my stomach was a devastating moment.

So this year, I decided to do something about it. I budgeted, and I planned, and I researched. And I decided to have SmartLipo to remove the extra fat from my stomach. I’ll still be hitting the diet and exercise more this year, because getting into better shape and just feeling better are important goals for me. But I’m going to stop hoping beyond hope that diet and exercise changes are going to make me feel comfortable and confident about my stomach.

I have made some drastic changes in the last few years.

I cut out regular soda, and butter, and regular salad dressing; mayonnaise and full fat sour cream and milk. I got up at 5 in the morning to hit the gym, and sometimes spent up to 4 hours a day there, five days a week. I lost weight, and I’ve kept most of it off. I’m within about 5 pounds of my lowest weight right now, and in general I’m pretty happy with my body.

But not my stomach.

And it’s hard not to lose motivation to work out when it feels like all the hard work you do isn’t touching the one problem area you’re most sensitive about.

Two separate medical opinions confirmed my worst fear: I could reach my goal weight without it significantly reducing the amount of fat on my stomach. Genetically, that’s where my body wants to store it, so that’s where it’s going.

I cried over that revelation.

Then I took charge of it.

And yes, this surgery is expensive, and it has risks, and I’m nervous. I know it will not give me a perfect body or solve all my problems.

But I wish I’d done it sooner.

It’s an investment in me, and a turning point. Not the biggest one or the last one I’ll ever have, but a moment in my life that will make later moments different.

I’m all for that.

And I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Breaking and Fixing

Posted: November 30, 2011 in healing

Boyfriend and I had an interesting Thanksgiving break. All was lovely, until the return trip. We were going 60 miles an hour down the two-lane highway that leads to home, about 6:30 at night, in the rain, joking about the bad Christmas music selections available on satellite radio, when suddenly the back of the Jeep skidded and the sound of metal grating on pavement reverberated through the cab. Boyfriend stayed calm and got us off the road with no problem, where we were greeted with this:

The driver’s side rear wheel came off, bounced over a guard rail, and off into the night. Dear Jeep: Fail.

The driver behind us got off the road fine as well, and neither he nor his car were hurt. He told us he’d seen the tire fly off and bounce off the road, and while we were standing there, talking to him in the rain, with cars streaming by, we heard a crash, and turned and watched together as a dozen cars rear ended each other because they were all following too closely. We ran down the line of cars, making sure everyone was okay, while trying to explain to 911 that we were off the road, and there was an accident behind us that we were not involved in.

Twenty minutes later, I sat in the cab of the Jeep shivering and trying to stay out of the way as the first blue and red flashing lights appeared. No one was hurt, and everyone was driving slowly because the people directly behind us, who had driven past by that point, had slowed down to go around us. Not sure what else to do, I texted my brother.

“Umm…the wheel just came off the Jeep. I didn’t know that could happen,” I typed, looking for conversation.

“Holy $%*#! Are you guys okay?” he texted back almost instantly.

That surprised me a little. This is a big corner for my brother to have turned…he wouldn’t have asked a year ago. I also wouldn’t have been comfortable texting him a year ago, so this is a big step forward for both of us.

Then, another surprise: my phone rang.

“What happened?” my brother asked, and listened patiently while I tried to explain. I know nothing about cars; for him, they are almost as simple and as easily incorporated into life as breathing.

“Where are you?” His next question. I wasn’t entirely sure. About twenty miles from the next major town. Somewhere along a very dark stretch of highway that was suddenly very crowded with flashing lights and blue uniforms.

“I’m headed out there,” my brother said calmly. “I’ll be there in a little bit.”

I hung up the phone a little dazed by the reality that my brother, who I haven’t spoken too much at all for a few years now, was on his way to my rescue (which may sound melodramatic, but in the dark, in the rain, on the side of the road, I very much wanted to be rescued. Especially since I presumed the people involved in accidents behind us would be getting priority in assistance and towing). I was as little worried that boyfriend would be irritated at having another person at the scene, but I also knew that my brother would see the Jeep and know instantly what had happened. There are some things he will never need explained.

I was still huddled in the Jeep when my brother’s little white car pulled up and swung in behind us. He took one look at the damage, asked where the tire had gone, pulled out a flashlight, and hopped over the guardrail in search of it. By the time the two truck finally got to us, boyfriend and big brother were chatting about wheels and lug nuts. While boyfriend considered where to take the Jeep, big brother reassured him it would be easiest to tow it to my parents’ house, which was closer; they slipped easily into discussions of how to unload it (a forklift and a hitch were apparently necessities).

“I guess you guys don’t have a ride,” the tow truck driver sighed, noting that he had to load another car before he could leave the scene.

“Yes, you do,” my brother informed boyfriend.

By the time I was curled into the back seat of my brother’s car, it occurred to me, fully, that my family, in this instance, was coming through for me. By that time, as the Jeep was being winched onto the tow truck, mom had texted me to ask if we made it home safe.

“Actually, we’re on our way to your house…long story…” I texted back. “Hot chocolate is welcome.”

We arrived at the house in Colfax, where I have not been in a while, and where, when I am there, I usually can’t stand. Mom had hot chocolate ready, and it was nice, for a change, to just sit there and tell her what happened and not worry about anything else. This whole thing reminded me that my parents have come through, from time to time, and there are ways that I can reach out and let them support me now that I’m healthy. It might be in simple ways, like cups of hot chocolate, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The tow truck arrived and my dad and brother helped unload the battered Jeep. It felt nice knowing that in this situation, they could help. Usually it’s boyfriend’s family helping me. Not the other way around. We visited for a while, borrowed my parents’ car to make it the rest of the way home, and fell into bed about 4 hours after we should have been home.

The next morning, boyfriend asked me to text my brother and let him know we were coming over. He wanted to go search for his tire in the morning.

Big brother texted me back a picture in response: the tire, in the middle of a wheat field. He’d gone out on his own that morning and found it, and brought it back home.

So the Jeep and it’s wheel were reunited, and maybe, in a little way, I’ve started to reunite with my family. The honest truth is, I may not have my parents for much longer, and while the past was very dysfunctional and very traumatic, it’s important to start building forward now.

I’ve worked through the past, and I’ve been hurt by it all over again while I learned that I was justified in being angry over certain things. But after a certain point, looking back isn’t as important or as rewarding as looking forward. I’ll drink hot chocolate to that.

Visiting Seattle is a strange experience for me sometimes. I lived here for four years, but for most of that time, my anxiety prevented me from getting out and exploring the city in any meaningful way. When I come back, now, it’s a strange mixture of familiarity and newness.

Boyfriend has a work conference this week, so I get to stay for free in a suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. It’s lovely. It comes with designer-brand sheets, an assortment of bath goodies, plush bathrobes, and $8 bottled water. It’s the kind of place that I usually feel out of place in – like I’m pretending, because I can’t really afford this stuff.

It’s nice to be in Seattle and be able to get out an explore it now, without feeling anxious or overwhelmed at every new turn. Last night, I met up with one of my roommates from my undergraduate years. It’s always interesting to see people who knew me back then, and hear their observations of the person I was. I compare that girl to who I am now, and sometimes I wonder where she went. Other times, I feel like she’s looking over my shoulder, waiting to see if she can force her way back in and turn this new life I’ve been building upside down. She’s the voice of self-doubt that always wants me to give up on things; who tells me it’s not worth it to keep trying whenever the slightest hint of disappointment crops up.

I’m doing a much better job, lately, of shutting her up.

I had a very interesting conversation with former roomie, over a Dry Blood Orange Soda and a delicious snack platter of roasted nuts and olives:

What was most intriguing to me, on this particular night, was her view of me, from back then.

When I look back, on the girl who struggled through undergraduate school, I don’t see much that’s positive beyond the school part. I was an excellent student. I earned grades commensurate with the hours and hours I spent locked up in my bedroom, or the library, or (on really good days, when I was feeling adventurous) a coffee shop. That part of my being then tends to fade into a background of student loans, bad fashion, damaged skin, anxiety, and bad decisions. I didn’t know how to function in that world, away from my parents’ dysfunction. I didn’t know how to be social, or how to have fun. Literally – that was a new phenomenon to me, when I worked through the walls OCD and anxiety helped me put up so early in my life.

When I look back at my undergraduate years, I tend to only see what I missed. In reality, there were parties at my house that I didn’t attend…even when I was in the house. I’d lock my door, stuff in ear plugs, and do homework. Not because I didn’t want to be social, but because I genuinely didn’t know how.

I look back, and see that girl – alone, and isolated, and miserable. I knew then, even before I got help, that I wanted something different, but it took time to make those changes. Time that I tend to look at, even now, as lost years.

I looked at my roommates as my polar opposites – friendly and outgoing; smart and funny; fearless and uninhibited. I wanted to be like them, but I assumed it just wasn’t possible.

When I finally started to unravel the deep dark secrets that hoarding and anxiety had kept hidden in my past, I learned there really was a whole new, big, exciting world out there. When I moved to Seattle, I was filled with that excitement and wonder, because back then, at 18, I really thought that if I could just get out of California, everything would be different. I would be different, because people in Seattle were different. Something had to change.

It wasn’t that easy. But it is more rewarding now, in a strange way, to come back to Seattle and see it with brand new eyes. What I wasn’t expecting from this conversation was to hear that my smart, funny, beautiful, fabulous roommate had found things to admire and envy in me, too.

While I was wishing for just a tiny bit of her talent for navigating the world, she was looking at my dedication to my studies. While I was hoping to learn from watching her how this business of making friends worked, she was watching me push through classes. She tells me I did a very good job of hiding my misery, and loneliness. Which is also interesting to me, because I assumed I must be transparent; that everyone could look right inside to see how pathetic I really felt most of the time.

Which led to another turn in the conversation. One I won’t talk about here, because there is too much at stake for too many people in its revelation. But I will say that it made me consider just how far I’ve come, that in the course of this conversation, I felt capable of doing something I didn’t feel like I could do for most of my life: I told the truth, even though it was scandalous and ugly. And I didn’t feel bad about it, because being able to take responsibility for my mistakes while also recognizing that not everything that goes wrong in the world is my fault is a big accomplishment for me. It’s been a long time coming.

We moved the conversation to a nearby sushi restaurant, where little bites of heaven came to a dark lacquered table on fancy white plates:

We sat there, talking about our hopes and dreams, and it came home to me that I’ve turned a corner here, somewhere, when I wasn’t really paying attention. The past is still there, and still a part of me, but the future is brighter and more promising now than it ever was in my wild, desperate dreams when I first left California almost a decade ago. Being realistic about the future used to mean giving up on long-shot dreams to me. Now it means finding new ways to harness and build upon them. That something real, and worthwhile, could come out of all this has been a hazy, troubling thing to try and wrap my head and heart around for a long time. But it’s there now, and real, and it’s been worth fighting for.

Boyfriend is wrapped up with conference duties all day, so this morning, I took myself to breakfast at the same little coffeehouse that served me a delicious Dry Blood Orange Soda and wonderful conversation last night:

Boyfriend seemed a little surprised that I left the hotel room by myself this morning. He’s still catching up to the place where my being alone is a choice and a treat, and not a byproduct of being too afraid to make friends. I already have dinner plans this evening… with myself.

And as for the scared, anxious, girl that spent so many nights alone when she lived in Seattle – maybe I’ll take her too. To tell her one more time to look around and appreciate how far she’s come. And that, above all else, even though she still holds me back sometimes, I’m proud of her.

My mom called today.

I haven’t actually talked to my mom for a few weeks now…I was super busy taking prelims, and quite honestly I just haven’t had the patience or the energy to deal with my parents lately. I’m getting to a turning point in dealing with everything I’ve been trying to process, and that has made it necessary for me to really focus on me. Not on my parents.

But when Mom called today, I answered the phone. Because she’s still my mom.

Today, she was calling to inform me that my dad came to the conclusion, on his own, that he “doesn’t need any more tractors.”

That’s great…it’s just about 30 years too late for it to have any positive impact on me.

The damage is done. My dad’s hoarding, and my mom’s refusal to ever take a stand against it, have already destroyed my childhood. They haven’t ruined my life, but I’ve had to work really hard to get it back, and move forward, and rebuild it into something better than what it was. If I’d only lived up to my parents’ expectations, I’d still be stuck in California.

And by stuck, I mean miserable.

But I got out, and by being out and gaining some new perspective on life, I’ve (temporarily?) lost the ability to deal with my parents. Because their logic just really doesn’t add up anymore.

In telling me about how my dad isn’t going to buy anymore tractors (which I don’t believe), Mom reminded me that her strategy for dealing with Dad has been to “pray, and let God deal with it.” According to her, this is the answer to her prayers. According to me, this is ridiculous.

My mom has long lived by a “don’t ask too many questions” and “let God deal with it” mantra. She never pushed my dad, by questioning his purchases, or attitude, or behavior, because she didn’t like being in the uncomfortable position of being the “bad guy.” The problem is, sometimes as an adult, you have to be the “bad guy.” That comes with responsibility. Sometimes, being responsible means standing up for what is right, even when it’s not fun, or comfortable, or clear-cut.

My mom refused to be the bad guy. She was far better at being the victim, and she fashioned that role for herself expertly. My dad “didn’t listen” to her (usually very subtle) pleas for things to change. To quote her, she “doesn’t demand: she drops hints.”

The problem with this response is that by refusing to stand up to my dad, and by refusing to be the bad guy in situations when things needed to change, my mom sent him a message that his behavior was okay. That nothing needed to change. So he, like a little kid, kept doing what he wanted to do (buying tractors), instead of what he needed to do to take care of his family (buying Mom a safe car; repairing the house). Because of this, all of us suffered (even my dad, though he’s probably never going to understand it).

Also wrong with this situation: by not taking responsibility for our living conditions, and my dad’s role in creating them, my mom put me and my brother in the position of having to play the “bad guys.” I refer to this situation as “playing parent” – me and my brother had to do this often. When the stove broke, or the refrigerator died, or there was no water, or the septic tank was leaking raw sewage down our driveway, or the roof was collapsing, or there were dozens of mice infesting the house, it was me and my brother who had to take action if anything was going to change. We were just kids. That wasn’t fair to us.

I’m struggling through a transition right now. My therapist says that the first part of this process, of learning how to be a healthy, independent adult, involved learning that I am justified in being angry about the list of things in that last paragraph. I’m justified in being angry that I had to be responsible for my parents irresponsibility. I didn’t know that when I started therapy. Now I understand it, and the next step is moving on to acceptance. I’m a little stuck there right now. But I’m working on it.

There’s another giant flaw in Mom’s logic that has always bothered me: the “pray, and let God handle it” argument. I’m all for praying about things. I don’t believe that I need to go to church every Sunday in order to have a relationship with God, and I think prayer can be a powerful thing. But I don’t think God intended prayer to be a replacement for responsibility.

The problem with my Mom’s logic is that she prayed for something to change, but she didn’t take any action. “Praying about it” isn’t a substitute for making hard decisions, and taking responsibility for situations that impact your own life, and the lives of others. “Pray about it” doesn’t mean “let God do all the work and deal with the situation for you.”

Mom started to shut down at that point, and I was reminded (again) that I’m at a much different place in understanding this than my parents are ever likely to be. Mom is going to keep “praying about it,” and I’m going to keep being frustrated that nothing is changing. They’re going to continue to look for ways they can avoid taking responsibility for their situation, and I’m going to keep searching for ways to better mine. It might not always be comfortable, and there will be times that aren’t “fun.” But at least when I look back on my life, I’ll know I didn’t just try. I did.


The Power of an Octave

Posted: November 11, 2011 in healing, rape
Tags: ,

This week, I took a little step toward building the foundation I need to take my (hopeful) singing career to the next level. After a few weeks of playing email tag and trying with limited success, I finally arranged a meeting with a voice teacher who came highly recommended. She was friendly, easy to talk to, and seemed very down to earth. I liked her, without reservations.

She had me standing by the piano in less than ten minutes, ready to test out my belief that my vocal range was limited to about an octave.

It turns out that my vocal range is not about an octave. It’s more.

Significantly more, as it turns out.

I hit notes I didn’t even know were in my range.

“I’d like to work with you, I think you have a very pretty voice,” she told me.

In order to take classes from her, I have to pass an audition, which will come up in a couple of weeks. I’m nervous. Getting up in front of people is easier than it would have been a few months ago–in some ways. I know I can do it. But I also know now how it feels to be rejected, and I’m terrified that I’m going to screw up. The problem with always looking for second chances is that if they don’t work out, you’re being set up for an even bigger disappointment.

So I’m trying not to look at it as a second chance.

It’s an opportunity. It isn’t the first one I’ve had, and it won’t be the last one I ever get.

It’s just what’s in front of me right now.

I truly believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes, when things are happening, it’s hard to see or understand what the reasons are. But I’ve been through too many things that are coming full circle now to believe otherwise. All the things that have led me to this point have happened for reasons, have shaped me, have made me into someone not necessarily better or worse, but different than I would have been otherwise.

And different is okay.

I knew it when I was explaining to my (hopefully) new voice teacher how I ended up in her studio on a November afternoon, at the age of 27, looking to resume something I gave up on a long time ago.

“Singing was all I wanted to do when I was sixteen…then I was raped, and everything stopped. I’m healthy now, and I have my feet back under me. I need help finding my voice again,” I told her.

“Let’s do it,” she replied, and headed to the piano.

And it wasn’t perfect, but it was right where I needed to be, at that moment, at this point in my life.

My next challenge is deciding what song to sing for my audition. The voice teacher suggested a Christmas carol.

I’m leaning toward Silent Night.