Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wanderlust

I was listening to a friend go on and on about all of her exotic vacations and international work travel once when I let slip that the idea of that exhausts me. She acted like I insulted her family. Heretic! How could you NOT want to see the world and travel as much as possible?

Because I just don't.

Ever since then I've shut my mouth when people talk about their travel experiences, feeling like I have nothing to add. But as I step into my truth more and more each day, here it is:

I don't really have a sense of wanderlust.

Please don't feel sorry for me, or take pity on me. I don't feel like my death would be in vain if I didn't see the whole world or as much of it as I could. I don't care about hiking to Macchu Picchu (your pictures looks awesome, though), seeing the pyramids, or walking in Tokyo. It's just not my jam. For me my peace and finding myself comes in the mountains, among the pine trees, away from the noise and clamor of people and daily life. Quiet. Peace. Serenity. And I can do that here in less than an hour's time. I've visited lots of great places here in the good ol' USA.

Growing up I never went more than a few miles from home, save traveling to visit out of state family in the summertime. In high school, going to the other side of Sacramento seemed like a huge ordeal. Ordeal became the word associated with being away from home. Home grounds me. Home feels safe. Moving from Sacramento to Folsom (15 miles) in my mid-20s was a HUGE deal at the time. And then moving from Folsom to Auburn at 30 blew me away. I was an hour away from where my tether was anchored! And yes, I do realize how silly it seems now. These days driving across town and all over the Sacramento region doesn't seem like a big deal.

Baby steps.

As a kid I spent a fair amount of time in Montana, compared to anywhere else (Florida too, maybe). My Dad is from there and many summers we spent a week or more at my grandparent's lake house or hiking in Glacier National Park. As a kid, I was awed by it, sure, and even then I appreciated it. My appreciation as an adult has only grown.


This weekend I flew to Montana to visit friends, same city where my Dad is from. The flight(s) including getting to the airport/layovers took less time than driving to Los Angeles from northern California. Within a few hours I was a thousand miles away. Flying into the Flathead valley, I felt a sense of peace as everything melted away. Sitting on my couch writing this, I feel like I left part of myself there.

I let go. I felt myself let go for the first time in years. I slowed down. I stopped resisting. I have been telling my therapist for the last few months that I am terrified that if I let go, my Intuition will rock my world again - like the divorce, meningitis, recovery, moving 4x, and getting my heart broken again and again. I have been living as if the other shoe was going to drop because in the past it has, again and again. I told her I am terrified that after all I've been through, my Intuition will ask me to pick up everything I own and move far, far away from "home." As if I haven't already been through enough! I wail on a regular basis.


I have never lived more than an hour away from where I grew up, and I'm telling a woman who doesn't even live in the same COUNTRY as her childhood about my "tether" to a certain zip code. I understand the irony.

As of late I've come to a metaphorical line in the sand, moving all my little boxes of emotional/physical/spiritual progress to that line and no further. I will say the last year has been rough. I'm tired of all the "work." I would like a break, or for all my hard work to pay off (it already has in a lot of ways, more on that VERY soon). I haven't been willing to let go and see what is beyond that line because IT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME.

My fear isn't exactly unfounded.

I have fallen in love with Montana. In letting go and not resisting my Intuition's call anymore, I understand what she is showing me. I never thought I'd leave California, ever in my life. But at some point, maybe not for a number of years or even retirement perhaps, my trajectory is north.

The mountains are calling, and I must go.


She is always right.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Get Busy Living

I heard a quote today that put the last week into perspective for me.

I was watching Super Soul Sunday (my favorite show) and Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer fame was doing little monologues before commercial breaks. For those of you who don't know Kris Carr, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 10 years ago and made a documentary about it. I remember watching it back around 2005 and thinking how awesome she was. I've followed her on and off over the years, and have read a number of her books. During one of her segments she said,

"Ten years ago the fearful side of myself might have said I wouldn't be here, because when I was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer I was told that I had only 10 years to live," Carr says. "But then there was a side of myself, the fighting side of myself, the loving side of myself, that decided to reject that information and to get busy living."
Carr says she had to give up thinking, "Until they say I'm perfectly healthy, I am broken." She says, "I looked around and decided that was a dragon that I would be chasing my entire life if I didn't change my thinking. Because I may never be healthy on paper, but I am well."


After getting back test results that weren't so great, I had to finally admit to myself and the world that I am sick. I am not going to get better. I am not going to have normal kidney function again. This is my life. This is my journey. I am learning to accept that I am not super human; I can't do everything. My body is doing its best, and I have to give it time and space to rest, and that's OK. Living life at breakneck speed, pleasing everyone but myself, and running on stress is not the way I can live my life anymore. (Now that I put it that way...why would I want to do that?)

I think the message the Universe has been trying to send me all along is that of acceptance. Surrender. Letting go.

I have never, ever, let go.

Hearing Kris' words today were like a life raft in the middle of the ocean. It's OK, I don't have to be healthy on paper BECAUSE I AM WELL. 

Perhaps besides meningitis, kidney disease is my greatest teacher. Learning to love myself, learning to take care of myself, learning to set healthy boundaries with people in my life, surrender, knowing that I am safe and loved at all times - these are the lessons. 

Surrender.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Staying True

I had dinner with my mom this weekend and explained the events of the last week in light of my health, and she told me about a situation that occurred in the hospital that I have ABSOLUTELY NO RECOLLECTION OF.

There was about a week’s time where I was conscious and talking and I don’t remember any of it. In fact, I hallucinated that whole week about who was there and what was happening. The little I do remember from that week is pretty interesting…and has nothing to do with what was actually happening.

I had dialysis when I was hospitalized. All I remember is how awful it was, and how yucky it made me feel. I had a total of four treatments; they didn’t think I’d survive the first or second one. I found out they did in fact stop the first dialysis treatment before it was over because my heart was not working properly – I should frame a copy of that EKG as a testament to my life today. It also explains why I got a letter from my insurance company a few months later declaring “Welcome to our Heart Failure Club!” Seriously. Heart failure. Apparently I was conscious for the fourth treatment and at the end as they were unhooking me, I asked my Mom (while trached* with tubes down my throat/she read my lips), “How many more of those?”

I was semi-conscious, hallucinating, and can tell you dialysis is pretty much the grossest, most awful thing ever.

This is why I am taking care of me and putting myself first. I NEVER WANT TO HAVE DIALYSIS AGAIN. This is why I’ve decided to follow a low protein diet. This is why I’m sober. This is why I don’t drink caffeine anymore. This is why I’ve pared down my obligations to hardly anything. This is why I have to say no to people I care about. This is why I pretty much do nothing but rest and sleep when I’m not at work. This is why I am sharing it with you here today. I've been waving the banner of "Look at me! Look at how healthy I am!" and it's bullshit. I am sick. And this is me accepting and admitting it.

I am giving my body the best chance I can throw at it to be healthy and live past 50 years old. Death doesn’t scare me – not living long enough to see retirement does.


*Fun fact: When they removed my trach people had bets on what my first words would be. “Fuck!” was the most bet on word, but I actually said, “Son of a bitch!” Stay true to yourself, my friends.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taking a Step Back

I got my most recent lab results back and my kidney function continues a (slow) downward descent. 18 months ago my GFR was 45 (CKD 3A), now it’s 38 (CKD 3B). That’s an 11% drop, enough that it scares me.

I know what I was doing to take care of myself 18 months ago. I was watching what I ate and managing stress in my life. Today? Not so much. There are no excuses anymore.

The past couple months have made me realize that I push myself too hard. And the numbers don’t lie because they’re reporting the same thing. I’d love to say, “Yes! I’m back to 90% of normal!” but actually if I’m being honest that number is 70%.

Maybe. 
On a good day.

The reality is that there is no getting back to where I was before. That person doesn’t even exist anymore. This is my new normal. It’s incredibly frustrating to not be able to perform at the same level I used to, and it’s hard to be in acceptance about it. But then I remember most people who had what I did don’t get half of the opportunities I do, let alone live independently. As someone reminded me recently:



I have to take a step back. I want to do so many things – go out and play, go to dinner with friends, keep myself busy every night, be active in hobbies, and be available to participate in the lives and recovery of others – but the reality is that I need to take care of myself and that just isn’t happening when I am prioritizing everything and everyone else above myself.

I already say NO a lot. And I’m going to have to say NO a hell of a lot more.

I was in Cameron Park until 6:30pm a few Fridays back and someone said, “Oh good! That means you’re free after that!” What the actual fuck? That pissed me off royally. Like I keep saying, even though I look healthy on the outside managing my health is a full time job, people truly have no idea. I’m not even kidding. This is why I don’t have pets or kids – I literally don’t have the bandwidth for either of them because I can barely handle myself.

I don’t want to die young. I don’t want to be sick. But in order for me to live MY life I have to take care of MYSELF, even when other people are telling me I have to do things for them/others. Obligation feels really bad to me – it’s probably one of my top 5 worst feelings. I avoid it like the plague. I’m overwhelmed and beyond mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. I’m mad. I feel vulnerable and raw and fragile.

Out of the pan and into the fire…


Sunday, July 20, 2014

That moment

It rained for about half and hour this afternoon. While nothing more than a novelty due to our ongoing severe drought, it was lovely for a little bit.

I had the urge to pull out my camera. It's even charged, which is kind of a surprise. It seems every time I go to pull it out the battery is dead.

I got some fun pictures while it was raining.

Rain drops! 
The oaks

This is *my* backyard with the towering oaks

I picked up my camera today ♥

Rain drops and jacked up toe nails

The moment I'm referencing is the decision to pick up my camera. Today is really the first honest time I've picked it up and NOT felt any grief or sadness or energy around it. I enjoyed feeling it in my hands, snapping pictures as the rain fell. I still know my camera, it's settings, and photography principles inside out, the memory hasn't left me. I even missed my Flickr account for a minute (although Yahoo has completely ruined the greatness that was Flickr a few years back, which is why I cancelled my account).

My love of gardening has returned. I sit and read my gardening books, getting ideas for my 'someday' home. I have held out hope for the past 4+ years that photography will be the same way, but it has been slow to return.

I signed up for an REI outdoor photography class in August* which just happens to be a few minutes from where I work in Auburn, and I'm really looking forward to it. Wish me luck.

Update - The class is on 8/22, link here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sentimental

I have been accused of being unsentimental. I eloped because I didn't care about having a wedding. I wanted to throw away my high school yearbooks until my Mom said she'd take them if I didn't want them, and that made me feel bad, so they sit in storage. Pomp and circumstance just doesn't run in my blood. We all die and eventually nobody remembers us, that's just the way it works.

Every night before I go to bed, I do the following after my nightly routine of brushing my teeth, etc:
I put a pair of sneakers by my bed.
I put a lightweight pullover next to the sneakers.
I put my laptop and charger in a case with my iPad.
I put that case next to my backpacking backpack, masquerading as my 72 hour kit.

If I were to need to evacuate in a moment's notice, I'd be ready with all the things I needed.

I've done this as long as I can remember in some form or another, and as you can see, there's not much sentimentality to it. Food, clothes, internet - my hierarchy of needs.

Getting ready for July 4th is always an exercise in anxiety for me. This year I had planned to take all of the things listed above and put them in my offsite storage unit for the weekend, just in case the dry "greenbelt" behind me caught fire and I had to evacuate. (It's worth noting that one of the buildings in my complex burnt down due to fireworks a couple years back). This July 4th, I added one more thing to the list above: a small box of pictures I've collected over the years.

Honestly, this kind of shocked me. I'm not sentimental so why all of a sudden am I interested in saving pictures? I had the chance to go through them with my Mom recently, as she was cleaning out her garage and found loads of pictures from me and my sister's childhood. We had a blast looking through both sets of pictures. I thought I knew myself as a child, but this was a new experience.

Like the one of me hiking in Glacier National Park when I was 12. This was the most spiritual experience of my life to date, and the first one I can really remember. I've talked about it forever, and now I have a picture of that very trip.

Or my high school graduation pictures where my eyes are the deepest blue I've ever seen because I was happy and *possibly* falling in love with someone. So much promise.



Being able to see my childhood through a new lens casts clarity on my life as an adult. And while I may not be sentimental, I now know where that box of pictures is each night when I head to bed, just in case...