I get by with a little help from my friends…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. Not really consciously, but it’s been weighing on my mind heavily the last few months, and it’s something I go to in the moments between falling in bed and falling asleep, between helping a customer and alphabetizing the books, between episodes of The West Wing or even during them- friendship, and those friends that you never quite expected to go or stay- that is what occupies the empty spaces in my brain.

Leafing through a bridal magazine, I am momentarily shaken when I come to an article about choosing bridesmaids. Yes, I know it’s coming, and it shouldn’t be shocking to me any more than it was 9 months ago, but I still get caught off guard. Who do you choose, the article asks, the friends you’ve known since childhood or the friends you made in college? The ones you grew up with or the ones you’ve grown close to in your adult life? How do you let them down easy? How do you encourage your close work buddy, the one you get lunch with every day or hang out with on weekends, to befriend your childhood bestie- the person you only see when you go home for the holidays but who has remained a part of your life nonetheless?

As if life was simple, like a movie.

It’s these articles that bother me more than the ones about including your parents, or making sure you don’t hurt your mom’s feelings. Because I know my parents are gone, and it’s something I was prepared for long before I got engaged.

But I wasn’t prepared, not really, to be standing on the edge of my wedding feeling utterly alone.

I do not have a “lot” of friends. Certainly not ones that I’ve known for decades or shared lunches with in the elementary school cafeteria. I never have. My life is different, and always has been- I accepted that a long time ago. I was the girl with divorced parents in a small school where EVERYONE had parents who stayed married, even if they didn’t want to. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, and we had ONE child in our class who came from Mexico. Everyone around me was white, wealthy, and religious. I look back on it now and it breaks my heart that my mother had to cave so easily to my father- that my father was so wrapped up in winning the small battle of where I went to school that he did not notice that both my mother and I were suffering. He didn’t know how miserable I was, and that my experiences in elementary school and junior high would shape the way I saw the entire world for the rest of my life. How could he? He worked three jobs and yes, he was an amazing father, but it’s astounding what we can be blind to if we honestly don’t want to see it. He thought he was doing what was best for me, everyone else be damned.

So I’m bitter. I have been for years and I probably always will be. I’m self-conscious and awkward. I make weird jokes and I say weird things and it wasn’t until I escaped this country that I realized what it truly meant to be myself. On a bus somewhere in the United Kingdom I found someone, and crossing the Sahara Desert in Egypt I realized I LIKED her. But it wasn’t until the end of my journey, halfway through the middle of the South Island of New Zealand, that I discovered that other people liked her, too. It took me several years and millions of miles to figure out that not only was Modesto bad for me, but so is California. The same for Oregon, Washington, Texas, and New York. It doesn’t matter where I go in this country we call America, I will never feel free enough to be myself. I will never be far enough away from the decades of pain I endured and caused and felt and inflicted to actually survive.

But I came home. I had to. I had changed, but nothing else had. Worse still, no one I knew had allowed for the prospect of me coming home a completely different person. I have a picture, from the day I landed in San Francisco in April of 2012, and I look at that girl, and THAT is the person I want to be for the rest of my life. I have never felt more mature, more alive, more grown up or more free than that woman did, standing on the wall of the lookout over the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved coming home because I hoped things would change. I hated being home because I knew they never would, because yes, I lived here, but like Harry Potter returning to his aunt and uncle’s house for the summer, it never really felt like “home” to me.

So I left again, and came back again. And now I’m leaving again. Each time I’ve felt like I’m leaving something, something important. This time I wanted to feel like I was leaving nothing at all. But you cannot survive in a place for 28 years and not leave something behind when you go. So I go, and I leave family, I leave memories, I leave pain and hurt and depression and hatred. I leave bitterness and anger and history and love. I leave people and places to which it breaks my heart to say goodbye- I leave things behind I never thought I could part with.

But I’m leaving something shocking, too. I’m leaving friends. I’m leaving people who, against all odds, I found liked me. I can separate my life into two sections- the BEFORE, and the AFTER. Before my mom died, before something inside me broke and healed and broke again, and AFTER she was gone, AFTER I came back, AFTER I found the person so many people seemed to like. And I can count on one hand the number of people left from BEFORE, because they are few and far between.  There aren’t many people left from before, because there was a space between before and after that I only vaguely remember called “during”, and in that space I was truly lost. There were people I met in that space who held my hand and guided me, and for that I could never show enough gratitude, enough love. There is no amount of kindness with which I could repay them, there are no words in the English language to do justice to the way they saved my life. The friends I had in the “during”; those are the friends to whom I could never really say goodbye.

But people grow apart. People change. I’ve changed so much in the last four years that the only parts of myself I recognize from before are the ones I find when I hear a harmonica, when I put my hands to the keys of a computer and let loose. I recognize the laughter and the love I feel when I see my family. I recognize the smile I see in the mirror or in pictures where I am truly, undeniably happy. I recognize the handwriting on my left forearm, I recognize the pictures on my walls and I recognize the love of books. I recognize the righteous anger I feel when I can’t help someone in need, I recognize the person who talks and talks and talks for days.

I recognize the woman who carries a camera everywhere. I recognize the person who reads the news voraciously, who wants nothing more than to talk about current events. I recognize these people as my mother and my father, as the gifts they left me with that will never, ever fade away.

But I also recognize the person who pushed and shoved and fought her way out of a friendship that drained her. There are moments and days when I miss Kristin, and reading those bridal magazine articles are some of them. But I apologized, I wrote letters, I called, I begged forgiveness. I received no kindness in return, no acceptance, no response. I was hurting and lashed out, and when you lose someone you love that is an understandable, if not expected, behavior. So my list of “befores” is small. Only a few, and only one with whom I can truly say I have not ever lost contact. My list of “befores” is, to me, perfection. My befores are the ones I know I will see when I’m 30, 60, even 80. My befores are my forevers. My befores are proof to me that I am a good person, a person worth loving, and have always been, underneath it all.

I never expected the afters, though. The afters are shocking and lovely and wonderful because they love the me that I love, too. They’re the ones that I couldn’t have imagined if I tried, the ones that I miss now and will miss when I leave. They’re the ones who make me straddle countries and hoard frequent flyer miles, because they are everywhere. They’re the ones that surprise me, always, just by being around. The ones I don’t want to leave and the ones I’m running towards, the ones I want to surround myself with, the ones who make me smile at night and laugh at myself.

There’s no telling what will happen to a relationship when you put the strain of distance and time on it. Some relationships break, some stretch thin, and some grow stronger to make the distance easier to cross. The internet has made the excuse of distance nearly a moot one, but not quite- because some people are not made for waiting, for letters, for phone calls and emails and video chats. Some people are only made for the time they can spend with another person physically, and that’s ok too.

I have had a few relationships cross mountains and oceans and years- only a few. But that’s more than most people in the world, that’s many more than I feel entitled to have. I’m going to make a commitment to spend the rest of my life with one of those people, and the other ones has been parts of my worst moments and my best. One has seen me through days and nights I couldn’t fathom surviving, he has pushed me to be the very best of myself when I could only find the worst. He is a before, someone who knows all my deep, dark secrets and helps me laugh at them every day.

The befores, the durings, the afters- this is for you. You know who you are, you have saved my life and kept me alive. You are the best of me, the reason I am here right now, writing this rambling, long essay. You are my always and forevers, you are the light in the darkness, you are the greatest things to happen to a person, and I am so very blessed to call you my friends. This blog, this moment, this day, and all the days when just getting out of bed is a chore I cannot imagine accomplishing- the days when the lights go out and all I can see around me is the darkness- and the days that are so bright the darkness is completely eliminated from this world and all is green and good again- all of these things are for you. Here are some, but by no means all, of my befores, my durings, my afters, and in chronological order:

For Laura, who has known me since before I was born and has happily swung in and out of my life for nearly three decades, always making it brighter and smarter; for Caleb, who, for the past 18 years, has made me laugh at the pain until the pain shrinks and disappears; for MK, who swooped down and claimed me as her little sister and reminded me that guardian angels do exist; for Laura M, who took my hand and walked me out of the fog of despair and shoved me out the door and into the world; for Tiarn, who never once questioned that we were meant to be the closest of friends and who never forgets or misses anything; for Elise, who showed me that we are all of us broken, even if we look like the strongest women in the world, and proved to me that it’s ok, and will always be ok, because we’re fighting the good fight; for Stacey, who still loves me even though she knows how much I can keep her up at night, asking questions about the world, both existential and scientific, and who knows that it’s always worth it to climb the mountain, even if it nearly kills you; for Jess, who saved me in the most literal of ways many, many times; for Daniel, because I could not ask to spend my life with a better person; for Tahnee, who has proved in a million different ways that you cannot judge a book by its cover and that everyone has the capacity to surprise you in the most wonderful little ways; and for Julie, who let me in during her most difficult time and allowed me to help her, which no one has ever given me the honor of doing, who keeps me from losing my mind and laughs at my jokes and makes me feel like a FRIEND, which is quite possibly one of the best things a person could ever be.

You. You, all of you, are the best of me, and I am so grateful and honored and thankful to have you, and to tell you I love you isn’t a good enough way to describe the depth of emotion I feel for each and every one of you.

What do I do when my love is away?/ Does it worry you to be alone?/ How do I feel by the end of the day?/ Are you sad because you’re on your own?/ No, I get by with a little help from my friends/ Get high with a little help from my friends/ Gonna try with a little help from my friends…

Empty chairs at empty tables…

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It’s different, being alone in a place after someone has died. I don’t mean it’s haunted, or that there’s a presence here, more that there’s this lingering sense of overwhelming sadness, a choking sort of invisible mist, that settles in your chest when you think no one else is watching. There’s pain, of course, and anger and sadness and doubt and acceptance and moving on- there are all the steps of grief, but always this cloud, this mist, that follows you throughout the house, waiting until you’re well and truly alone before it sets up in the empty space by your heart, and fills your chest with lead.

Somedays I’m not sure if I’m alone here. Somedays L doesn’t leave her room, doesn’t interact, doesn’t get up to eat unless she’s sure I’m gone or in bed. But somedays, she does leave. Quickly and quietly, or before I’m home from work, she slips out without a trace and it takes me a while to figure out that yes, yes, I am alone here. There is nothing left. Only me.

I used to long for days like this. Days when I could watch TV- hours of “Say Yes to the Dress” or “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones” with reckless abandon. I could ignore the dishes and turn on the heater and curl up in the living room with my laptop, choosing whichever recliner I felt like sitting in.

I hardly ever use the big chair anymore. I don’t like to sink into its cool leather embrace, smell the hearty, musky, earthy smell, feel indentations where my father’s body used to be. Sometimes, occasionally, I’ll slip into it. I’ll forget, and I’ll jump right into the chair. For a moment, yes, I can forget. Can’t we all? Don’t we all, sometimes? Isn’t that the point- that life goes on, whether we’re ready for it or not, and we have to either jump on or watch as everyone and everything we’ve loved in this world just passes us by.

L and I, we use the small chair. The one that, if we’re honest, he used most towards the end. The one that has been with us longest. The one that most smells of him, feels of him, reminds us of him. The one that we feel comfortable settling into, because it was his chair, but it also wasn’t.

I look to my left and see the pillows and pillow cases I bought especially for the hospital bed we had set up for him. The pale, aqua green, meant to be soothing, meant to be fresh. The colour makes me ill. The pillows make me angry, irrationally so, wanting to throw them out the window, set them on fire, run them over with my car. His car. I want to make loud, angry noises, noises that don’t make any sense at all, I want to scream and throw things and break things and destroy things. I want to hit something, to beat something, to rip something apart until it is nothing at all, until my hands are bleeding and raw and dust is everywhere and I finally feel something other than this heavy, aching, empty smothering of grief.

So I am alone. I used to love this. I used to joyously push my parents out the door, tell them not to hurry back, and I would revel in their absence until I had to rush about, cleaning up the messes I’d left so they could return to a clean house. I’m trying to remember that joy, trying to access those memories so that I can feed a bit off of the happiness that the younger me felt, so that sitting here, in this chair, doesn’t make me angry and sad.

But it is all I can do to keep from sobbing. Choking back my tears makes me nauseous, I feel like I’m going to vomit. When I try, a guttural, angry, sick noise comes out of me, the sound of pure grief, the sound you make when you’re sure that you’re truly alone so that no one else can here. If losing both your parents in your mid-twenties, before you’d even begun to live, had a sound- it would be the one I make when I’m sure I’m truly alone.

Since I got engaged, I’ve realized this dark, secret desire lives in my heart- that she would’ve known, and prepared a stack of letters for me, for special events she knew she’d miss. That her partner would have them, and that I’d be presented with these letters on my wedding day, the day I have my first child, the day I turn 30, when I buy my first house, when I need her the most. The moments she had to know she’d be missing- I dream that she could see all of these things, and prepared for them.

But she is gone. My mother was prepared for everything, but I won’t allow myself to hope for this. I have nothing left of either of them, nothing to carry with me, no way to know if I’m wildly disappointing or if they couldn’t be more proud. No way to know if they’d love the person I’ve become, or if they’d discuss their disappointment on the phone, or over coffee, in hushed voices, not wanting me to overhear.

That is the problem with freedom, the problem with truly being alone- your thoughts can overwhelm you in the silence, and they can be louder than any crowd in the world. I’ve been so many places, thanks to them. I’ve been to so many countries, so many different cities and lands I never thought I’d go. I met my fiancé during my travels, and he was able to meet my father. I realize that all the desperate moments of begging for my mother back are gone now- I’ll never truly be able to trade the world I have now for one with her alive in it. Because asking for my mother doesn’t just mean losing the adventures I’ve had in the last five years, it means losing the people I met. It means giving up the one person in this world I could not honestly say I would willingly trade. And that, I suppose, is moving on. If my mother’s death gave me this wonderful man, and all the happy moments with him, then how could I willingly give him up?

There is a reason we can’t go back. We can try, we can go sideways and walk in circles and refuse to take one step forwards; we can watch as the world and all the people we love pass us by. But we cannot turn around. We cannot go back. We can look over our shoulders and stand in place and sob, we can be terribly, terribly sad, we can be resentful of the whole, wide world and all the people and things pushing us forwards. We can kick and scream and fight, but we can never go back.

So I sit here. Alone. Alone with my grief, with the heavy emptiness that sits in my chest, staring at the TV from the seat of my father’s favorite chair, looking around at the house that hasn’t changed but will never be the same, and I wonder. When will it get easier? And why am I still alive?

When I was young I knew everything…

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I had a day. I had my day fucking planned. I knew what I was doing and I borrowed the convertible and I had A DAY. PLANNED. FOR MYSELF. TO ENJOY.

And you ruined it.

I wasn’t in pain. You know what causes pain? Stress.

I used to think that people meant well. That it was only here, here in this place that I would be mistreated. If I got out there, if I took the time to get out of this backwards-thinking, incredibly restrictive area I would see that the world was open and loving and free. I would see that my belief in the good of humanity would be rewarded. People aren’t like the ones I knew in elementary school, kicking dirt in my face or yelling at me for having a lesbian mother. I can still hear a little girl’s mother yelling that her children weren’t allowed to be around me, like I was dirty. All because of whom my mother loved? Surely the world wasn’t this way. Nothing could be THIS unfair forever.

I should stop. I shouldn’t write when I’m angry. I say things I’ll regret. And I shouldn’t let the ignorance of stupid people get to me. I should just enjoy myself, surround myself with bright and intelligent people and ignore the rest. Just like ignorant people surround themselves with ignorant people to reinforce their views. But I stepped off that track a long time ago. Because if you just explain, I used to think, if you just explain then they’ll understand. They’ll see. They’ll get it. People aren’t like that because they’re hateful and mean. No one is hateful and mean on purpose.

Some people are hateful and mean on purpose. A lot of people are hateful and mean on purpose. For fun. And now I’m about to walk into a country full of mean and hateful people, it seems. I live in a country full of hateful and mean people. I’m leaving one country of hateful, mean, ignorant people to go to another country of mean, hateful, and ignorant people and this IS NOT THE WAY THINGS WERE SUPPOSED TO TURN OUT. NO. NO NO NO NO NO.

ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO BE UNDERSTOOD. TO BE LOVED. TO NOT BE FUCKING TREATED LIKE SHIT. I know you lose your voice when you start to curse, I know you lose your intelligence and your battle and your worth as a writer is compromised when you start swearing at people but FUCK FUCK SHIT GODDAMNIT!!! NO. This isn’t what I want.

This is hard. Why is it so fucking hard??????? Why can’t I just… I just wanted to find a place with nice people. I just wanted to know that the world wasn’t one giant racist, homophobic, snotty, superior, arrogant pile of crap.

I wanted to find a nice place to raise my kids, with supportive people who weren’t intolerant and who actually cared about other people. And now I’m fighting my ass off to move to a country where NO ONE WANTS ME. Even my own “family” posts anti-immigrant things on social media. “Oh, that’s not directed at you.” They say. Bullshit. EVERY ANTI-IMMIGRANT POST IS DIRECTED AT EVERY IMMIGRANT. I will stand for all immigrants, those who seek asylum because they are running from a country and government that treats them like cattle, or those who spend years and thousands of dollars to be granted the privilege of being allowed to touch our dirty immigrant feet onto your precious soil. Only to spend thousands more dollars and years and years of our time before we can feel “safe” in our own homes.

Australia, I want you. America, I love you. But why, why do you have to be SO DISAPPOINTING???

You are the girls of my childhood, the elementary school clique I could never join, the children who teased me, the harassment of my high school peers and teachers. You are the sophomore year English teacher who physically pinned me to a wall and yanked off my jacket in high school, to see the cuts on my arms, and then reported ME to the administration for abuse because I screamed and screamed for him to stop, to “Get the fuck away from me.” You are the boys who got me drunk and raped me. You are the family of the man who forced me to have an abortion, showing up at my workplace and telling me to “not ruin their lives”. You are all of my worst nightmares now, you are everything I have always hated, you are all that is left that can hurt me now that my parents are gone.

You have all the power, and I have none. America, Australia. I am at your mercy and you are merciless.

I’ve given you all, and now I am nothing

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It’s been two days of absolute terror and hell and fear and anxiety. It’s been two days of being hung up on and ignored and laughed at. But now I have confidence. Now I have a plan.

But to be honest I feel like the big, giant signs on the front of the Australian Immigration website homepage that say “You will not make Australia your home” are really, really offensive. I am doing my very best to go through the proper channels, and the people visiting your Immigration website probably aren’t the ones going there illegally. Because those people can’t even afford a proper boat, let alone internet service. Listen, Australia, I love you. I want to become a citizen of your beautiful country and add to its amazing culture. But when you tell me, to my face, that Australia will never be my home… I can’t help but feel like I’ve spent more than $5000 to be humiliated. You can say that sign isn’t meant for me all you want, but the truth is, it’s on your website. The website I, as a legal applicant to become a temporary citizen of your great nation, must use on a daily basis. It IS meant for me. All the anti-immigration slurs and demeaning comments made by Australians ARE meant for me. I want to call Australia home because that is where my family is now, where my friends are, where I want to raise my children. I am doing all I can to go about this in a legal and respectable way, and it’s next to impossible. 

My fiancé’s friends go around making comments about “brown people” and “towel heads” and other racist remarks. They think it’s completely ok to demean immigrants or just people in general if they don’t look exactly like them- white, Northern European descendants of explorers or prisoners. I’m not knocking Australia, or its citizens. There’s a reason I want to live in that country. But that reason is not because I want to be humiliated every day for the rest of my life. The reason is far more complex than that.

My parents are dead. My family here is small. But every moment of every day, I have a living, breathing family in that country. I have friends and sisters and brothers and yes, they are all in-laws, but they are family. My fiancé is all that keeps me going some days. He’s my light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. He is my safety, my happy place, my reward for pushing through another day. So to see such open and obvious hatred towards immigrants of all kinds- those seeking asylum in a country that hates them for no real reason, or those trying to go about making a new lives for themselves through the proper legal channels- it’s so frustrating. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. I feel like I’m the only one on my side and it’s next to impossible for me to win. 

I’m not seeking asylum. I’m not seeking welfare or money or someone to fix my problems. I have been fixing my own problems for nearly four years now and I will happily continue to do so for as long as I am able.

I’m seeking my home. I’m seeking my family. I’m seeking the one person in this world I can count on to love me, unconditionally, for the rest of eternity. I’m seeking a place to raise our children, should we be lucky enough to have any. And I’m seeking a safe place that will welcome me with open arms.

I am sorry, Australia. But you cannot tell people they are welcome in your country as long as they go about things the legal way and then put up a big sign on your immigration website that says “You will not make Australia your home”. It doest not matter that you aren’t directing that message at me. Because like it or not, that message has gone out to everyone, all over the world, whether they want to make Australia their home or they just want to visit.

There is no kindness, helpfulness, or generosity found on your immigration website, Australia. I understand the message you’re sending, I’m hearing it loud and clear. And I desperately look forward to the day when I am a legal citizen and I can vote to change that message. Because no one should feel like they are superior to anyone else just because of where they happen to be living. I know what you’ll say- you’ll say “America’s no better”. And you’re right. There are some Americans that aren’t any better. But it’s not our official government policy. And I will vote to make America better every single time I get the chance.

For now, I will do what I can to obtain my legal visa to go to Australia, marry my fiancé on the date we’ve chosen in the place we’ve chosen to commit our lives to each other and then I will work my butt off to become a legal citizen. Of both countries.

All it takes is one person willing to make the world a better place. It only takes one. Australia, you are better than this. Please be better than this.

So hurry up and run to the one that you love…

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How long has it been since I’ve posted? How long has it been since I’ve written? How long has it been since I felt the catharsis of letting the words flow from my brain to my fingers to the keys on this keyboard to see them on this page. How long?

Too long. It’s been too long. I was going to blame it on the drugs, the abuse, the depression, but those things have never stopped me before. I think I gave up on myself. I think, for the first time in my entire life, I actually gave up the one thing I love most in this world- placing words on paper in a way that makes other people feel something. Maybe writing won’t ever make me famous or make me money, but it makes me complete and for some reason, I cannot imagine my stupid, small life without it.

Would you like to catch up on my Quest? Because this blog was so aptly titled all those years ago, and even then I thought it would be a temporary name. But no, this blog is perfectly named. Because I am still looking for perfection. I am still looking for all of the pieces of my life to fall into place become the picture of loveliness that I know it can be.

Suddenly I’m 27. Suddenly I’m engaged. Suddenly I’m actively planning to start a family and being proactive about it. Suddenly I’m taking extra effort to be an adult. Suddenly I’m moving back to Australia- forever this time. Because I’m marrying an Australian. Suddenly it looks my life is turning out perfect.

And I am terrified. I am so absolutely fucking scared I don’t know what to do. This fear just popped up in the last few days, when I realized that these genetic tests and blood tests and ultrasounds and exams and prescriptions and plans- they meant that this was all real. And now I find myself buying wedding magazines but never actually looking at them. They just pile up on my bed, in completely perfect condition. I find myself unable to make any more bookings or decisions about the wedding that I insisted on, because I cannot believe it. This is it. I was so intent on running forward, I got to a point where there was absolutely no turning back. This is it. I am an adult.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m marrying my dream man, in my dream chapel, with a reception at a venue that is beyond gorgeous. I am thrilled and excited and beyond overwhelmed. My life- it’s going to be amazing. I’m marrying a man who was terrified of committing to someone who was so ready to settle down that he pushed against it but decided I was worth it. ME. I am worth it. To this one person, I am worth the world.

But there is still a part of me that is fighting it. I know there always will be. I’ve come to learn that there is a part of me that will always believe that the other road would’ve been better. I will always have a bit of me that thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, that going right instead of left would’ve been more exciting. I just can’t make myself lose that. But there’s so much of me that wants this- so very much of me that wants this that I cannot bear to consider the alternative.

But when I look into my future, I see the the random holidays with family and I see children and I see backpacking around Europe with a baby firmly strapped to my front. I see all the things I’ve ever wanted. Because there is not a chance on this earth I would raise my child without all the benefits I’ve had in my life. There are things I’ll do differently, and there are things I won’t do at all, but there are some things I’d never give up. Concerts at age 2? Of course. Running naked through National Parks while bears and deer look on? Without a doubt. Making an active commitment to the women in my life who helped raise me, even though they had absolutely no responsibility to? No question. I will make my mother and my father proud, even if I never know it.

Last night I wrote a letter to my daughter. I wrote to her all the things I wanted for her, all the things I hoped she’ll have. It hurt. Because it occurred to me that all I’ve wanted my entire life is a little girl, and I’m so incredibly close to that now. And it’s terrifying, absolutely terrifying. Because once she’s here- if I am ever so lucky- everything else will stop. There will be no more running away.

But for once in my life I’ve realized I think I know where home is. 27 years and I think I’ve found my home. And I’ll do anything I can to get back there. There’s a boy out there who loves me for some strange and incomprehensible reason, and he just happens to be related to my best friend. And I’ve found an amazing and lovely friend in my other sister in law. I have lost both my parents, they are gone from me now. But I still have two more. And I have people waiting for me.

I have a wedding to plan and a family to build and a life to begin and a Quest to finish. But I just wanted to say this one last thing, before I go.

There haven’t been many days in my life where I haven’t wanted to kill myself, one way or another. I haven’t known a lot of time without serious depression. But I can tell you that the moments I’ve felt safest, happiest, and healthiest- they’ve been with my fiancé. I guess that’s how you know it’s true love. When you know that there’s one person you know will be there forever, no matter how difficult you are.

There’s not a moment I don’t miss my parents. They’re gone and there’s nothing I can do to get them back. But I can make sure that my children know everything about them that is humanly possible to know. I will make sure they know that my father had a passion for economics but was drafted for the Vietnam War and had to go into teaching, and that’s why he lived through that war. I will make sure my mother had a passion for music and dance and that she had the same anxiety issues I have. I will make sure that they know that my parents wanted me as much, if not more, than I want them. They’ll know how to make my mother’s Christmas cookies and my Nonna’s pasta sauce. They’ll know how to cook like my father and that friends are family- that everyone is welcome. 

I have so much to learn still, before I become a mother myself. I have so much to learn about life. There are so many things I’d like to see before I just settle into a relaxing home life. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my parents, it’s that you can take kids anywhere. Backpacking, camping, concerts, flying, travelling- you can do those things with children. I mean, it’s harder. But I’ve never once made anything easy for myself. Ever.

So I’m hoping my visa comes soon. I’m hoping to hear from immigration, I’m hoping to hear that I can be with my future family and future husband and we can start our life together. But don’t mistake my eagerness for a lack of fear- I’m terrified. But what do they say about bravery? Being terrified and doing it anyway?

I’ll never let them down. I will always be brave.

And I will be writing more. Because as crappy and as jumbled and as random as this post was, it felt so good just to feel my fingers on the keys that I hope I can convince myself to do this more.

Sometimes I worry that I’ve lost the plot…

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Y’all know how I feel about the healthcare services afforded to women in this country. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me rant about the way women are treated, the way our problems and complaints are written off and ignored. The advice we get- find another doctor, keep talking and eventually someone will listen to you- those things are really only reasonable if a woman has extra time and money. And coming from that place, I can tell you that it gets exhausting to keep telling different people over and over about a problem you’re having- a very personal problem- and have them tell you it’s all in your head. You begin to believe you’re crazy. It doesn’t take much anymore. We’re bombarded with images of how women should be, and act, and feel and you can claim that things are better for women now than they’ve ever been and I’ll just come right back and say they’re nowhere near good enough.
I have major reproductive issues. I haven’t been coy about that on this blog- I have had major problems and absolutely horrible medical care. I don’t believe in the system because the system doesn’t work for me. If I could go somewhere that I knew could help me, I would go there. It was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to move to Australia- it seems, to an outsider, that they have a much better healthcare system than America does. And they do, to an extent.
Both my parents were diagnosed with cancer shortly after I turned 18. My mother, ovarian; my father, prostate. Brushing aside all you know about those two different kinds of cancer, the survival rate for ovarian cancer is pretty low compared to the survival rate for prostate cancer. Usually patients with prostate cancer are told to “wait and see” how things progress, because it is usually a slow-moving cancer that causes no real problems during the patient’s lifetime.
The difference between my mother and my father was that my father’s cancer was caught early and treated early. My mother, even though she was complaining for over a year of various problems, didn’t receive a correct diagnosis until her cancer had progressed to stage III. After complaining for over a year.
The difference between my mother and my father is that my father received competent medical care. My mother was ignored. My mother’s cancer, had it been caught when she first reported it, could’ve been treated more successfully. My mother, in all likelihood, would still be alive today.
My father’s cancer just happens to be a rare mutation that would’ve progressed in the same manner, despite his excellent healthcare. My father has had amazing doctors and experimental treatments that have without a doubt prolonged his life and enhanced the quality.
My mother had an incompetent gynecologist who didn’t give a shit and is still practicing medicine.
It is my experience that most OBGYNs are completely horrible at their jobs. (Here’s looking at you, Dr. Tow.) I don’t know why. I don’t know what about the field attracts people who seem to dislike their patients so much. If I went to work with the same attitude most of the OBGYNs I’ve seen, I’d be fired. When I wanted a second surgery to help with my endo pain before my insurance ran out and I asked Dr. Tow to, among other things, flush out my fallopian tubes and check for scarring, I assumed that she would, indeed, be doing that. When I asked her to see just how bad my uterus was malformed, I assumed that she would do that, as well. Instead I ended up with a massive allergic reaction, MRSA, bleeding for three months and absolutely no results at all. When I asked why she didn’t do any of the things I’d asked, she said that I wasn’t ready to have children so it wasn’t a priority.
Not a priority. Maybe not to her. Maybe not to any of the other OBGYNs I’ve seen over the years. But the fact remains that I am almost 27, and if I want to have children tomorrow that is my choice. I am not too young. And I want to know if it’s even a possibility, something that Dr. Tow, in her infinite wisdom, has denied me, because now I don’t have health insurance and to be honest, I don’t want to have another major surgery.
Which brings me to Planned Parenthood. The haven for women. An island of hope in a sea of incompetence. A beacon of light.
I hate to generalize because I know there are exceptions to every rule, but let me tell you this- in my years of going to PP, I’ve had only care, consideration, kindness, and competence. (And alliteration, apparently.) Empathy, reassurance, helpfulness- they’ve got it. For an organization that comes under fire every single day, you’d think they’d be doing something more controversial than providing women with essential services they need to lead healthy lives. I’ll spare you the statistics- that less than 5% of all services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions. That means 95% of what they do is help women like me. Like you. They help women without health insurance get annual exams. Birth control. STD testing. Help.
Most of all, they provide a safe place where women can go and feel like they’re not being judged. They can be honest, and no one is going to make them feel like less of a human being.
I once had a gynecologist throw a package of birth control pills at me after grilling me about my sexual history. I was 15. I didn’t have a sexual history, I had debilitating periods that made me so sick and caused me so much pain that I literally curled up on the floor of whatever room I was in and rocked myself from side to side, wishing I was dead.
I’ve had doctors tell me I can’t get pregnant. I had medical professional after medical professional tell me to suck it up, that the pain was all in my head. I felt for years like I was broken, defective, like there was something wrong with me.
Planned Parenthood didn’t judge me. Instead, they welcomed me. My last visit showed just how incredible the women who work there are. Instead of judging me, they provided me with all the information I could want or need. They expressed their indignation when they heard my stories, and the nurse who performed my exam told me her own stories about the vile woman practicing medicine over at HERA Medical Group. (*cough* Dr. Tow *cough*) The nurse who took my vitals and confirmed my medical history gave me stacks of information on different kinds of aid I might qualify for since I don’t have any health insurance and can’t get any through my job. When I burst into tears after a seemingly innocuous question about my mental health history, she waited quietly and asked “Do you have a support network? Who is there for you?”
I guess what I want to say is this- it’s already hard enough, being a woman. It’s already hard enough to find good doctors and competent medical care. It’s hard enough to get someone to take us seriously, to listen to our complaints, to hear what we’re saying.
The men and women who go into the field of gynecology do so for a multitude of reasons. I know that it pays exceptionally well. But we need to start expecting more from our doctors. So I’m going to say this again, for what I think is the millionth time on this blog- please, pass the word around. If you know a good OBGYN (Dr. Low, NP Susan Ways), tell everyone you know. Tell your mother and sister and best friend and worst enemy. Tell the newspaper. Put it on Facebook. If you know a great doctor, shout his or her name from the mountain tops! Sing it out! Tell the world!
And if you know a bad one- if you’ve been shamed or treated poorly or made to feel bad about anything, if you feel uncomfortable or weird or ignored or brushed aside- scream it from the mountain tops. Make signs. Write reviews. Write letters. But, most importantly, tell your mother and your sister and your best friend and your worst enemy. The worst feeling I’ve ever had is hearing that my cousin ended up at the same doctor (Dr. Tow) who treated me so poorly. To hear that other women I knew were going to this doctor because they didn’t feel they had a choice. That what she was doing to her patients was normal and the status quo and nothing they did would change it.
We can change the quality of the healthcare we receive in this country. We can change it if we share our information. We can control what happens to us.
And if you don’t have health insurance, please don’t let that stop you from seeking good medical care. Planned Parenthood is an amazing resource with amazing women to help you.
My mother’s death might’ve been inevitable. Maybe she would’ve died in 2011 even if her cancer had been caught when she first reported her symptoms. Maybe the gross negligence of her OBGYN didn’t change anything. But I can’t help but think that there is a chance my mother might still be alive if that doctor had done her job properly. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone.

Everything that keeps me together is falling apart…

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What a lovely fucking welcome home.
I was thinking I need some new coping mechanisms, but really what I need are some new friends.
Alright, and new coping mechanisms. The old ones require a lot of things I don’t really have access to anymore, like meaningless sexual relationships and drugs that may or may not be legal. For the record, the drugs aren’t the problem. But maybe they should be?
The friends are the problem. I realize that people have started families, had babies, gotten jobs, and changed. I realize that time has passed since I was last home and that is great. But I didn’t expect to come home to… this. I feel like shit.
Did no one care that I was gone? Did no one miss me? The only people I talk to are people who live in Australia. I was talking to them the same amount when I was actually IN AUSTRALIA. I could literally be dead, and no one in California would know the difference.
I have not seen a single person I’m not related to since I’ve been home. Not even on accident. Not only that, but I’ve barely spoken to a single person I’m not related to since I’ve been home. Look, I know people are busy but seriously? Am I that bad to be around?
Things were really bad, and they’re only going to get worse from here. It would be a really great time to have some friends. Is all I’m saying.

For once, in eight years, could I please catch a break? I am so exhausted.