Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow aka Thanks Again 2020!

I knew that the week of January 17th was going to be insane. I had immunotherapy on Monday, and then classes started on Wednesday, which was the same day as the inauguration – and I know I wasn’t the only one who was stressed about that. Given all of this, and the fact that the first two weeks of January had been insane, I said that I didn’t consider 2021 starting until after Biden became president. Well, that was a mistake because 2020 saw that it had extra time to do something shitty, and so it did.

On Sunday of that week I had my cousin* trim my “pandemic hair” because, even though I was growing it out, it was looking really ragged after not being cut for over a year. After my cousin trimmed about four inches of ratty ends off of my hair, I decided to cover my silver while I was at it since I was also going to be adding another year to my age that week too. After doing that I was too busy to pay any attention to my hair again until the end of the week when the dye had set enough to wash it. It wasn’t until I went to pull my hair back into a ponytail the morning after I had washed it that I noticed there was a lot less hair to gather than before.

“What the fuck?” I muttered as my hair band wrapped around my ponytail several more times than was required before to hold my hair in place.

Unfortunately I had been getting ready for a Zoom class at work and this was the moment that my professor decided to let me into the meeting and, though my video was off, my microphone was on. It was enough to take my mind off of my hair for about five minutes because throughout the entire session my hand kept reaching back to grip my thin ponytail, hoping it would magically feel normal. When class finally ended I ran into the hall to look at my hair in the mirror there, and it only took a glance to tell that something bad had happened to it.

In the midst of this crisis my phone was blowing up – because this happened to be on my birthday – and I could feel my abdomen beginning to cramp as I tried to field well wishes through my rising panic over my follicular situation, which meant the stress of everything was sending me into a flare.

A few hours later I was able to go home and show my mother my ponytail to get her opinion. I really, really wanted her to say that it looked fine, but she was honest and agreed that my hair looked a lot thinner. 

“Is it the way that it’s cut?” she asked.
“No, she literally just did a plain blunt cut to remove the dead ends,” I told her. “Nothing like layering that would change the way it looked.”
“Do you think it was from your immunotherapy?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough times, and never noticed any hair loss before.”
“But you’ve been having reactions during your treatment. What if it’s from that?” she asked.

My mind was racing as I tried to think of all of the things that might have caused my hair to suddenly disappear. Was it because I was underweight? Or because I’d been very anemic since Christmas? I did notice that I’d been shedding a little more hair than usual, but this was so dramatic it didn’t seem likely. Was it the hair dye? It was the same one I’ve used for several years, though in a darker color, so I didn’t think it could be that.

“I don’t think you shouldn’t continue the immunotherapy anyway,“ my mother pressed on. “There has to be another treatment that won’t give you anaphylaxis.”

I shook my head because we’d been through this discussion a number of times. “My insurance won’t cover another option. You know this. It’s either deal with the reaction, or rely on pills that make me feel like garbage every week when I take them. The immunotherapy is only one day of feeling sick every six weeks. And it hasn’t killed me yet.” I paused. “But if it is what’s causing me to lose hair then I might rethink it.”
My mother looked at me.
“Yes I will accept the possibility of having a lethal reaction to my treatment but I will not accept losing my hair!” I huffed, then stomped down to the bathroom and closed the door. 

It was the first time that I was alone and could really examine my hair at all angles. The mirror above the sink was long enough to see down to the tops of my legs so I twisted around to see how my hair looked down my back. I could easily see the grey of my shirt through the thin curtain of hair laying against it. And yet I still couldn’t believe I was really seeing correctly. I ran my fingers through the hair on my scalp. It didn’t seem any thinner there, but as I continued down just past my ears there was a dramatic difference in volume. It was like half of my hair broke off from there.

I took my hands out of my hair and just stared at myself. Staring back at me was a person with hollow eyes inside a gaunt face, with cheekbones that looked cadaverous, all framed by lank hair hanging in thin ropes like broken party streamers. Someone whose right hip was now noticeably higher than the other due to a crooked spine. Someone who was too skinny, and yet had an inflamed abdomen that was starting to distend like a starving child’s.

Someone who was now another year past forty.

I was too upset to even cry. I felt like all of the hard work I’d done, and all of the progress I’d made, and everything I’d been proud to have accomplished over the past six months to put myself back together, to try to be normal, was bullshit. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I was never going to be normal. I was never even going to look normal. I’d been trying so hard to become who I had been prior to my health crash, and now my long hair – one of my defining characteristics – was gone. It’d be at least a year until it would be long “enough” again. Another year to add to the nearly ten I’d already spent getting my health under something that resembled control.

But I’d never have control. And even if I’d found some way to be – or at least resemble – the person I’d been, I’d never have that time back.

I came out of the bathroom and threw myself into scouring the internet on the best ways to make hair grow faster, and though there are things I can do to facilitate its growth, the final answer was the one that I feel I’m always working against: time.

It’s been about six weeks now and I think I’m finally ready to make the jump and cut the handful of hair that did not break. (Explanation of what happened will be added separately since you’re probably already sick of hearing me whine about something so stupid as hair.) I’m not thrilled, but I’m trying to not be a big baby, and to keep it in perspective. I know it’s only hair. I know it’s ridiculous, and it’s vain. I know it’ll grow back. I know I should be thankful that I haven’t lost my hair the way that others have. I also know that I should be thankful that my hair was long when it broke because it could’ve happened right after I got sick and I would’ve had nothing. 

But it’s another aspect of myself that was taken out of my hands. And I’d been growing it out to donate, so if I’m cutting it then I’m going balls in and cutting the full 10 inches required. It’ll bring my hair up to about shoulder length which is “longish”, but shorter than I’d planned. (And then I just pray that my hair is still donatable because if it’s not then I don’t want to know.)

In a way it’ll be a relief to finally make the chop because I’ve done nothing but obsess over my hair these six weeks, and when I do that I ignore or disparage how much better I’m feeling and functioning today than I did a year ago at this time. Which horribly ungrateful of me. I’m honestly very thankful to have made it to where I am now. It’s not perfect or “normal”, but I’m blessed because I’ve come further than I thought possible. And I’m not done yet.

*Cousin is high risk, already vaccinated and I’ve lived in a bubble for a year now so we were following COVID19 safety guidelines.

The Last Heartache of 2020

I was in a car accident about a week before November. Thankfully – and miraculously – I was not hurt. My car, on the other hand, was totaled. The front end had been smashed in, and even though I was able to drive it the 1.1 miles to my house from the scene of the accident (story about that later), I knew that my beloved car of eighteen years was another casualty of this incredibly difficult year. The junkyard picked her up on Tuesday. I wanted it done before the New Year, making it the last heartache of 2020.

I bought “Zoey” at the end of 2002. She was a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer and the first “adult” purchase I ever made. My dad had gone with me to look at cars, and he was my cosigner on my loan. I found the paperwork for it when I was looking for the title. His signature is right below mine, with the little star he would always put before the “M” of his first name.

Zoey gave me a sense of freedom during the years with my ex-husband. We had lived with his family and the only time I would have any privacy was when I would take Kira out for a ride. I would always rest my hand on passenger seat for Kira to lay her head on. The nap of the fabric in that spot was shiny from my hand having been there so much. Our exertions consisted mostly of trips to pick up sushi, going to the bank, and most of all trips to Dunkin’ Donuts. In the five years since Kira’s passing, I would still look at the passenger seat and see her sitting there, prancing in place as she waited for a cookie from the bank, or a piece of doughnut.

My mom got the honor of driving the trees home.

Lancers are smaller cars, but I swear that Zoey had been hit with a “Capacious extremis” charm because the amount of crap I was able to fit in there was unbelievable. I moved an entire one bedroom apartment in that car with only a little help from best friend’s truck for the mattress. Every Christmas I would haul a 7ft tree and totes of ornaments from my mom’s. I drove to Trenton and brought back four 96″x16″ plant bench tops. The warehouse manager laughed when I showed him the car I would be taking them in, and then he applauded when I pulled it off. I bought nine 7-foot-tall fruit trees on clearance and fit them all my car. A woman was walking into the store as my mother and I as were loading them in the car and her jaw dropped when she saw all of those tree disappearing inside. There was admittedly no room for a passenger in the car but it was still pretty bloody impressive.

The car was so damn rugged too, so badass. This is the car that I turned into a teeter-totter at a hipster concert out in the stix, and would also plow through snow banks when I didn’t want to shovel. Unlike a lot of smaller cars, she never slid in rain or snow. I always felt safe and comfortable despite my back issues in my car.

I had managed to hold my emotions together immediately following the accident, but I became hysterical as soon as the police left. I was destroyed about my car, but I was in a blind panic that my back, which I had been working to reconstruct since June, had been injured. My mother took me to the hospital, but when I finally was able to calm down I was fairly sure that I had made it through safe and left. It was truly was miraculous considering how delicate I am – I still say thank you to God whenever I think about it – that I wasn’t injured at all. It felt like Zoey had given her last to protect me.

The night before the junkyard was scheduled to pick up Zoey I cleared out all of the random junk that had accumulated through the adventures over the past eighteen years. I found a “Commerce Bank” pen, a bank envelope with a dog cookie still inside, and napkins from Dunkin Donuts when I cleaned out the glove compartment. On the floor in the back were some stray pieces of straw from the 9ft corn stalks I had managed to haul home in October. In the trunk was a box with miscellaneous junk from the last day at my old job.

After I was finished cleaning I just sat in my car and listened to the radio for a while. The battery still worked despite the cold weather and not running for over a month, but it didn’t surprise me. I know it’s stupid to anthromorphize inanimate objects the way I have for this entire entry, and God knows I’ve experienced enough loss that I shouldn’t cry over a car, but it really felt like I was losing a friend. I sobbed as I thought about the past eighteen years – nearly half my life – and how much that car meant to me. When I was done I told her that she was the best car ever, there will never be another like her.

So thank you Zoey, not only for doing your part to keep me uninjured in the accident, but for eighteen years of memories. Of drive-thrus and donuts, overgrown fields and snowbanks, of fighting to get the temperature knob to turn on the console and fitting ridiculously large items into the cabin. I’ll never forget them.

I’ll never forget you.

Two Oh Two Whoah

What could be more fun than having precarious health and no sense of direction, other than having precarious health and no sense of direction in the middle of a pandemic. Oh, and living in the second most COVID-19 infected state in the most infected country in the world. Thankfully I’m at least in the part of New Jersey that is considered a suburb of Philly rather than in the north. (Actually I’m always thankful for that since, as anyone from New Jersey will tell you, the north and the south hate each other.) But yeah, it’s been one hell of a month.

I’ve been sitting here for an hour and a half trying to think of how to make this a cohesive post and I can’t do it. The Depression Monster is bearing down on me and while that usually breeds better writing for me, that’s not the case today. Being one of the vulnerable members of society meant that I had to begin social distancing before most people even knew what that was, but then I managed to come down with a fever the Friday before last and that was a complete nightmare. The chances that I had contracted COVID-19 were slim but I still had to isolate as if I had it, and of course because of the country’s ridiculously limited resources, I wasn’t able to be tested to prove otherwise. The scary thing is that I was most likely experiencing a Lupus flare, and thank God that it didn’t become complicated, but it made me realize how fragile I am – a fact that I still do my best to ignore. That realization, along with the current state of things, has me in a funk. I don’t do well just sitting still. It’s a skill I’m trying to develop but I’m not good at it. However if there was every a time to embrace the art of being still this would be it. So much like the rest of the world I’m sitting, which is probably for the best since I don’t even know where I’m supposed to be going yet. I suppose none of us do.

Dribs & Drabs

  • As you can tell I am writing these entries without any regard to SEO, readability, or images because I would use all of those as an excuse to not write. This entry is shit but at least I wrote.
  • I again made it by the skin of my teeth by posting my monthly entry on the very last day. Hopefully the day will come again when I’ll write for inspiration rather than obligation.
  • Stay inside, everyone. If you do have to go out, wash your hands like you ate a bag of Cheetos and have to put your contacts in.

20/20

You know you’ve been neglectful of your so-called blog when a friend who has been following your blog for nearly ten (holy shit!) years sends you a message to see if your blog has been hacked because she got an email that a new post has been published. It of course didn’t help that said post was one from ten years ago that I tweaked last month when I did my annual Year In Review and it somehow published as if it was new, but ultimately my protracted absence is to blame. And because I assured her that not only had I not been hacked, but was going to aim for a post a month now, I’m blathering this out now.

I’ll just put it out there: I’m in a weird place right now.

When I began checking out of the blogging scene in 2013 it was because the tip of gigantic iceberg of health issues had appeared on the horizon for me. I was, at most, marginally concerned, and only that much because I didn’t have health insurance. But the thought that it would change my life, that I’d have to adapt so much, that despite my astronomical force of will I wouldn’t still be able to do whatever the fuck I wanted didn’t occur to me. I’ve had health issues my entire life so it was old hat to me, in fact it had felt almost abnormal that I’d gone as many years as I had without an endless schedule of doctor visits, tests, and procedures. So, much like the Titanic, I cranked up the engine and plowed right into that iceberg, feeling the same shockwave as the ship felt when it realized it was not indestructible.

So yeah. Health could be better. But it could be a lot worse, so I always remind myself of that whenever I started to feel sorry for myself, which I will admit has been more than a handful of times particularly since early 2017.

Unfortunately when your health is compromised it pretty much means your entire life is compromised. My professional life is in a holding pattern because I don’t know what I’m physically able to handle. My beautiful flowers –

And that’s where I had to stop because I just broke down sobbing. Don’t feel bad; I needed to do it because, in addition to my physical and professional states, my mental state could be better. I’ve a problem letting my feelings out so when I break down like that – suddenly and when I’m alone and can ugly-cry without embarrassment – it means that the pressure valve on a pot that I didn’t realize was boiled has been released a little. This is definitely not the worst I’ve ever mentally felt though and that is a huge blessing – though my professional self might argue that at least I write better when I’m depressed. I will say that I’m just really tired and all I see every way I turn is work to be done. Physical work to try to get my malfunctioning body to perform better. School work to get a stupid degree that I don’t really need but just want. Emotional work dealing with the major changes that happened in the past two years. Spiritual work to know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

We’re two months out of this year already and I still don’t know which end is up, but here’s hoping that 2020 will be the year that I see clearer.

Dribs & Drabs

  • I updated the (anti)social media links in the widget. I sometimes still on Twitter but I’m not clever enough to be on there often, and I’m never on Pinterest, and G+ went down the tubes (big shock), and ironically the one on the most is Instagram and that was missing so those are updated
  • If you do follow me on Instagram don’t expect much. It’s basically dogs and cake. (Though what else do you need, right?)
  • I started baking. I’m going to be very un-hip here and say that it’s not a business, I have no intentions of making it a business, and I couldn’t make it a business even if I wanted to because I’m not very good at it since I’m adapting recipes to be allergy safe.
  • Thank you, Trish, for seeing if I had been hacked. Not only do I appreciate the concern, but by talking to you I was held accountable to write this entry which only made it into February because it’s a Leap Year. Hope you are enjoying your trip!

Snow

Roseanne’s office was always cold.

When I had first started going to her for counseling she would apologize and frequently rub her hands up and down her arms as if to make sure I was aware that she was suffering as well and to not blame her for the frigid climate. I had assured her that I didn’t mind the cold. This was, in fact, true. If the office was cold then I had a perfect excuse to keep my jacket on and enjoy the false sense of security it gave me to have it wrapped around my shoulders. My survivalist brain also registered that it would be easier to make a hasty retreat if I didn’t have to search for a jacket hung somewhere on an obscure hook. I allowed that a jacket could be sacrificed if a situation required it but I rather liked the jacket–a leather one with the Led Zeppelin Icarus painted on the back–and I decided that I would put it in as little sacrificial danger as possible.

After a year of seeing her for therapy, the temperature in Roseanne’s office continued to hover around “Arctic” though her performance had changed from apologies and arm-rubbing to complaints and eye-rolling.

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell the super to raise the heat in this building,” she snarled as she pulled a sweater from her closet.

I didn’t know either so I remained silent.

“With how much I pay them in rent it’s the least that they could do. And I’ve told them that I’ve had clients complain about how cold it is.”

I shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

Roseanne’s face convulsed between a series of dirty looks as she tried to decided if I was being obstinately contrary in expressing an opinion which disagreed with hers, or if I was being ridiculously polite and protecting the sensibilities of an inept superintendent.

“How can you not mind?” she finally challenged me.

I would have done some eye-rolling of my own except that this would have indicated what I was thinking and I had long since decided that I wasn’t going to let Roseanne know what was really going in my head. Mind you, this wasn’t a personal reflection of Roseanne, though her personality was in perfect harmony with the temperature of her office, but rather a rule in general when it came to counselors. I had seen several over the years and after a disastrous experience with my first counselor I realized that no amount of psychological training could prepare another creature to wade through the fucked up kettle of fish that swam in my head.

“I’m only in here for forty-five minutes,” I told her which was both a deliberate barb in regard to what was supposed to be an hour long session, and a satisfactory answer to her question which revealed nothing. I adjusted my jacket and leaned back into the couch.

Roseanne drew the line of unprofessional between dirty looks and talking about financials so she gave a dismissive sniff and opened up the folder which contained all of the secrets I had let her discover about my person.

“Let’s see, Kat, where did we leave off last week?” she murmured looking through her notes.

I cringed inwardly as I always did when she used my nickname. This was another common characteristic I had found in counselors in that they always ask what your friends and family called you and then used that name profusely. It helped them to create the illusion that they are friends listening to your problems because they care rather than uninterested third parties whose time you have bought. When it came down to it counseling is really just prostitution without the STDs.

“I don’t remember,” I told her.

“Well, then what happened this week?” she asked completely oblivious to my lack of enthusiasm.

“My former brother-in-law, Ronald, called my mother and said that he found some things of mine that my ex didn’t burn and was going to drop them off,” I offered.

“What was it he found?” Roseanne asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a tote of some old toys that my grandmother made me get out of her basement when she was cleaning. They probably survived because my ex most likely thought that they were my niece’s old toys. When Ron heard that I was moving he also offered to bring up some of the kitchen and bathroom stuff that I had bought. But I’d rather he not bring that all,” I added.

“Why not? If you bought those things then they belong to you,” she told me.

“They don’t matter. I told you about the night that I left and all I cared about taking with me was Kira, and my old “Wonder Woman” comics if I could, and that’s how I still feel. The rest were things. Things don’t matter.”

Things are expensive though,” she insisted. “Those things can help you as you move into your own little nest.”

I wrinkled my nose before I could stop myself. If there was one thing that I was not building it was a “little nest”. Nests are for newlyweds and adorable birds just out of college. The least that you could accuse a feline such as me of building would be a den, though a dungeon would probably be closer to the mark in my particular case.

“I’ll either make do without them or I will buy them myself when I can afford them,” I replied as soon as my nose had returned to smoother state.

“That’s absurd. There’s no taint of your former marriage on your kitchen things,” Roseanne said.

“There is if my ex has peed in them.”

“What?” To Roseanne’s credit she processed this declaration with little more than a slight cocking of the head.

“I’m pretty sure that my ex has peed in my Kitchen-Aid by now,” I said.

Actually, for all for all of his flaws, my ex appreciated fine mixing equipment almost as much as I did and I was confident that my Kitchen-Aid had not been molested, however Roseanne had called me “absurd” so I felt the need to live up to that accusation.

And she had also come dangerously close to uncovering a truth so it was serendipitous that my conventional method of diversion was to say something inane. I’ve become so excellent at this skill that it’s a reflex rather than a reaction now. In much the way that a leg kicks up when it encounters a strike to the knee, my inanity kicks up when it encounters a strike to my brain.

I sat waiting for Roseanne’s response. I hoped that it would be another dirty look since I was creating a mental catalog of all of her annoyed facial tics. She would be a brilliant curmudgeon in a future novel.

Roseanne gave me a deadpan expression. “Then wash it before you use it,” she said.

I was so delighted by this spontaneous drollery that I almost considered taking off my jacket for the rest of the session.

Instead I told her about the time that my ex left me at a rest stop as punishment for telling him to get off at the wrong exit, because sharing a horrible experience with a counselor is akin to leaving an extra five bucks on the motel nightstand.

As was the case whenever I told her a tale of my recent former life, Roseanne listened raptly making up for my monotonous intonation with her own grimaces and colorful commentary.

“He is a horrible!” “What a jerk!” “Are you sure that he did not have some sort of mental deficiency? Because no adult male should behave like that!”

She was never so pleased with herself as when she implied that my ex suffered some sort of malignant mental malady and she, through her astute listening and brilliant deduction had diagnosed him without even a personal consultation. I let her enjoy the moment because I was still amused by her remark about washing the Kitchen-Aid, but I found myself experiencing the empty feeling that comes when a hilarious joke is no longer funny.

Despite my glaringly obvious contempt for counseling, I had entered therapy with genuine intentions of talking about my problems and attempting “to get better”–if there even existed such a state for someone like me–only had I planned on doing this is the most clinical and sterile manner possible, without the messy display of emotion that usually erupts from one’s eyes and nose during a counseling session. I expected this to be a challenge, after all I had been through some very traumatic experience, however I as shared each of the mauvais quart d’heure which were to blame for my sorry state I realized that it was quite simple to keep my emotions in check, namely because I was not feeling any. Initially I thought that it was because I was so loathe to reveal emotion in front of other people that my brain wouldn’t even attempt to access them knowing that I wouldn’t indulge the feelings anyway, but I found that even in the lone safety of my bedroom I could not feel anything. I replayed my most painful memories over and over and I could not even muster a sniffle. I squished up my face and hyperventilated and rapidly blinked my eyes but I could not convince myself to cry. To be honest I didn’t truly want to cry but I felt like I should want to cry, and furthermore I would like the option to be able to cry if the notion should strike me, but it was impossible. All of my tears were gone, or washed away, or dried up leaving behind less salty residue than it would take to thaw an icy patch of sidewalk.

If my lack of emotion wasn’t puzzling enough already I was surprised to find that their absence did not seem to bother Roseanne in the least. Even my rudimentary knowledge of psychology told me that this was likely a problem, and I anticipated a lecture from her about dealing with my feelings, but much like my tears, castigation remained absent. I wondered about her lack of concern regarding my phlegmatic state but I finally decided that she was simply grateful for a client who wasn’t constantly plucking at the requisite box of tissues which all counselors keep within arm’s length. I would have cancelled any further appointments with her at that point but by then she was comfortable enough with me to drop her professional manners and so thoroughly verbally thrashing my ex-husband that I decided to continue therapy for the entertainment alone.

But as I sat on Roseanne’s couch that day, idly twisting the chenille tassel of a of the chintz pillow between my trembling fingers and recounting the details of the trip that will forever make me averse to visiting Florida, I decided that I had had enough of this game. It had been gratifying to hear someone regard my ex with the venom that I could no longer muster, but this mock therapy was not helping me to feel any better about myself, in fact I felt worse than I had a year before. While the pain and anger I’d felt then had been unpleasant at least there had been something inside me, some kind of fire in my belly to make me live if for no other reason than to spite the ex who had assured me that he had been too instrumental in making me who I was to live without him. Now I felt nothing. I felt nothing, and I wanted nothing and I was, indeed, nothing. If I’d had any emotions I probably would have been terrified at that moment but instead there was only the tiniest of twinges like a candle being snuffed out with a pinch.

If Roseanne had asked what I was thinking at that moment I would have answered her from my broken soul for once. Instead she made an errant scribble in the folder containing my married name written in black Sharpie marker and looked up. “Well I guess that will do for today.”

I looked at the clock.

4:40.

“Same time next week?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah, that’s fine.” I gave her the check for my $20 copay and left the office.

On the day of my appointment the following week it began to snow. There was a healthy two inches on the ground by the afternoon–a veritable blizzard by southern New Jersey standards, so I wasn’t surprised when Roseanne called me cancel my appointment.

“What day do you want to come in instead?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have my calender with me so I’ll call you back and reschedule,” I replied.

Of course I never did.

snow, woman

Photo by Mike Wood

Letting Go

I’ve had an epiphantic weekend.

(I know that’s not a word but it should be.)

For example, I sometimes feel like the Past is unfairly vilified. There are so many memes spouting to “not let your past define you” and “you can’t look forward if you’re still looking back” and “blah blah fucking blah blah”. While I don’t deny that these sentiments are in fact correct, I feel like sometimes we can’t go forward until we do look back and see how much that past defined us. It just sucks because it’s never a simple analysis with an obvious answer and the time that we take to get the message into our thick heads is indeed time taken away from the move forward. And it just sometimes happens that the moment when our eyes are blurry from a combination of sweat and tears, when we blink furiously and only see the bottom of the toilet for a brief moment until the sweaty tears drop from our chin and shatter the water surface in jagged circles, that we see the clearest.

At about 3 am last Sunday I began throwing up more violently than I had thrown up in years. I initially chalked it up to food poisoning but even as I heard myself reciting that reason the next morning when I called my office manager to explain why I wouldn’t be in work I knew that bad food wasn’t to blame. I was to blame. Myself and my psychotic need to not only do everything myself but to do it and understand it perfectly…to stand in the middle of a furiously rushing river, holding on to broken tree branch because fuck you river, I am not finished analyzing what is on the bank right there yet.

On the most basic level I was overexhausted from staying awake at all hours due to frustration over this migration. While I managed to do the migration, I did it without fully understanding the internet protocol and how it actually worked. Do I really need to know the ins and outs of IPS? Probably not because I sure as hell am never doing a migration again, but it still pissed me off that I had to just accept that something worked the way that it did because that’s how it does. (And in a related note I was really fucking pissed that I couldn’t get the feed to work for blogger reader. I think I might have fixed it but I won’t know until I publish this.)

humans fuck up, letting go

I bitched about memes and then made one. GO HYPOCRITICAL ME!

On the deeper level though, I realized that the reason I was so stressed about having this site be perfect is because *deep breath* I’m insecure about my writing. All writers are insecure, and I’ve even admitted as much before, but I didn’t realize just how much until I had made myself sick over it. It was on my third day of lying on the couch in a fevered and dehydrated state was that it dawned on me that I was putting a shit-ton of work into my site because I felt like my writing alone wasn’t good enough to stand on its own. I felt like I needed a massive platform to tempt an agent into trying to market my novels and that my Alexa rating would be the thing to sell me instead of my ability. I know now that I can’t think like that anymore. I’m sure that I’m still making grave webmaster errors but I have to accept that they don’t matter.

This entry is so disjointed since you’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with that spew in the beginning about the past and analysis and shit, but what else I realized is that I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and, much like my irrational need to understand the mechanics of internet protocol, I’ve spent time analyzing those mistakes to ensure that I don’t repeat them and have wasted attention where it’s not needed. They were just mistakes. I’m not going to make them again because I’m not a moron. I do stand by my statement that you should learn from your past but sometimes you just do stupid shit and there isn’t any deeper meaning other than you’re a human and we fuck up.

And on another note there is some random shit that happens for no other reason than shitty things sometimes happen to good people.

I’m never going to be one to accept things at face value–it’s just not who I am–but I’m trying to entertain the possibility that the answers might not be complicated, that sometimes understanding comes with letting go.

But He Will Be Missed

“It’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.”

I’ve said the words so many times this past week they’ve become a reflex and I wonder if I really mean them, if I ever meant them.

No, I did. And I do. But I’ve come to realized that a tiny voice in my mind has started to add, “But he will be missed.”

My uncle was a good person who never intentionally hurt anyone. Unfortunately he made some poor choices in his life that hurt himself, and I don’t think he ever realized how much it did hurt us to see him struggle. It irked the shit out of me to see him make huge strides toward a better life only to blow it all on another bad choice. In recent years he had finally showed consistent progress but I think I’d been subconsciously concentrating on what he had done that made me angry when he got sick because it’s easier to be mad than sad.

My uncle’s battle with End Stage Liver Disease ended last Monday.

It’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least until my bitch of a brain betrays me as it often does, and the memories came floating through.

Memories of my uncle making me pancakes when I was in elementary school and then me telling him that he couldn’t move away because who would make them for me when he left.
Of taking my grandmother and me to dinner at the restaurant in Virginia where he got his first job as a chef.
Of introducing me to “Interview with a Vampire”.
Of watching UFC matches at P.J. Whelihan’s and drinking Smithwick’s which I had never had before.
Of taking the injured gosling I had saved to the wildlife rescue because I couldn’t miss work to take it there. (He named it Matilda because she/he had a broken leg and “tilted”.)
Of going to see the Flyers.
Of watching my brother and him ride the roller coasters at Great Adventure.
Of him whispering that I looked beautiful as he passed me on his way to the podium to read at my wedding.

I tried to ignore them all, but grief is the piper who insists on being paid.

So it’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.

But he will be missed.

The Butterfly

I try to keep my October posts all for my Halloween-palooza, however my brain was locked up and every time I tried to write any of the posts that I had outlined, they sounded like shit. The reason for this lockdown? It’s because my brain had been hijacked by what I’m now going to call an RLF, which stands for Rude Little Fuck. An RLF is a story that I don’t want to think about, don’t want to write about, and don’t have fucking time to write about, but it will just not go away until I write it. And the really irritating thing? It’s never a happy story about The Adventures of Happy Puppy Cuppy Cake and Cherry Merry Muffin, it’s always some downer shit that I could really do without having bouncing in my brain space. There’s nothing to be done for it though, so here it is, and y’know what? As soon as I wrote it, I was able to blast out a typically brilliant(?) and inane Kat post for later.

**********************************************************

The Butterfly

I couldn’t figure out why my husband was so angry with me. We had been having so much fun at the comic convention, and I couldn’t understand what had happened. I had been admiring the work of an aspiring comic artist when I felt his fingers dig into the soft flesh of my upper arm and jerk me around. The pain radiated up to my shoulder but it was nothing compared to the terror I felt seeing the fury smoldering in my husband’s black eyes. I had been the recipient of this look many times over the years and yet it still startled me to see his face twisted into such a mask of utter contempt. I’d look at him and know that he hated me. My husband hated me.
“We are leaving,” he snarled at me.
I felt my head shrinking down, attempting to disappear into my shoulders. “But why? We…we didn’t even finish Artists Alley yet.”
Mark released my arm with a shove. “Fine! Finish!”
I didn’t move.
“Go!” he made a dismissive motion with his hand.
“You don’t want to come, too?” I asked meekly. “You always like to look at the sketches.”
He gave me a disgusted look. “No. I’ll sit here and wait.” Mark dropped onto a bench, crossed his arms over his thin chest and began glaring at the floor.

I didn’t want to go back to Artist Alley anymore, but I knew if I didn’t go it would make Mark even angrier. Instead I walked away slowly and kept glancing behind me to see if he would change his mind and join me. When I rounded a corner and was out of Mark’s sight, I pulled my phone out of my bag and began to text my friend, Jerry.

Jerry was a fellow comic nerd and had met us at the convention. He had gone off to do his own thing when Mark and I started in Artist Alley, but I had to let him know that we were leaving.
“Something came up and we gotta go,” I texted him. “Sorry to leave so soon.”
Jerry immediately texted back. “Are you still in Artist Alley? I’m in the next aisle over. Be there in 30 seconds.”
I was in the middle of texting Jerry back when he appeared in front of me.
“Mark’s not feeling so well, so we’re going to head out,” I told him.
“Oh that sucks,” Jerry frowned. “Where is he?”
I gestured around the corner. “Sitting on a bench. Resting.”
Jerry glanced around the corner. “Oh I see him.” And before I could stop him, Jerry was en route to Mark.

Mark had his elbow resting on the arm of the bench and his head leaning in his hand. He appeared to be sleeping and I was reluctant to wake him.
“He didn’t sleep well last night and he has a headache,” I told Jerry.
Mark opened his eyes at the sound of my voice. I had hoped that the rest had cured him of his anger, but his eyes were still hard and cold when they fell on me.
“Jerry wanted to say goodbye,” I mumbled.
“It was nice to meet you,” Jerry smiled warmly and held his hand out to shake Mark’s.
“Yeah. You too,” Mark grunted. He stood up and dutifully shook Jerry’s hand.
“I guess I’ll see you on the comic forum later, Kat!” he waved at me.
“I’m sure you will!” I replied with false cheer. Mark had already started to stalk away. I threw a quick smile and wave back to Jerry and scurried to catch up.

During the two hour drive from Baltimore back to Philadelphia I did my best to fill the silence with meaningless talk about the comics and vendors we had seen. Mark would occasionally reply with a “yeah” or a nod, but never looked at me. As he continued to brood, I thought that this must be how a condemned man feels as he is strapped into the electric chair. Your stomach drops and you start to feel dizzy. Your hands go cold and become slick with sweat. The nubs of your bitten fingernails press into your palms, and your breath becomes more rapid and shallow. Then there’s the dizziness, becoming worse with each hiccuping breath until you feel as though your head is floating above your shoulders. A silent, nervous giggle struggles in your throat as you imagine your head as a balloon, rising and floating away. The cold glance of the executioner silences you, and sadly you realize that you could never float away because as light as your head feels, your heart is like lead, keeping you firmly tethered to your doom. You know it’s coming. You know that at any moment the switch will flip and electricity will rip through your body, your teeth will clench and sparks will explode behind your eyes. It’s coming and there’s no stopping it. Pleading, explaining, cajoling, none of them will save you. The wait becomes overwhelming, the panic rises like vomit in your throat, the terror shatters your nerves, and you finally want to scream, Just get it the fuck over with!

“Mark,” I finally started quietly, “please tell me what’s wrong.”
He regarded me with the same expression as when he had stepped in a pile of dog crap, and then he shook his head and turned his attention back to the road.
“I just don’t understand what I did. I’m sorry,” I said trying to sound normal, mature adult, and not like a hurt child about to cry.
Mark clenched his jaw and shook his head again. “You really don’t know anything, do you?”
“Not if you don’t tell me,” I said timidly.
He didn’t deem to give me a response, and I resigned myself to the frigid silence for the rest of the drive home.

Just get it the fuck over with!

Mark jumped out of the car as soon as we parked in the driveway and stalked up to the front door without waiting for me. I gathered up the few bags from the convention and followed him inside.

Just get it the fuck over with!

“Mark,” I tried again as I followed him to the room that was his bedroom before we were married, the one where he would stay up all hours playing video games. He stopped and turned so quickly that I nearly walked into him.
“Just leave me alone right now,” he said jerking the bedroom door open.
I felt my eyes tingle with the threat of tears. “Do…do you…?” My tongue felt too thick to form words.
Mark gave me that look again. This was a face that had once beamed and promised to love me forever when I accepted his marriage proposal transformed into something almost feral. It was almost a relief when he slammed the bedroom door in my face. Except I knew that leaving him alone wouldn’t cool his anger, it would continue to fester – sometimes for days – until he could finally stand me enough to tell me what I had done wrong.

Just get it the fuck over with!

I sniffled hard to try and keep the tears from coming, but a few managed to seep from my eyes. I went into the bathroom and reached for the tissues. As I did I noticed the marks on my arm from where Mark had grabbed me. I looked in the huge bathroom mirror that spanned the length of the double sink and lifted the short sleeve of my shirt to examine my arm. There was already a row of purple circles like the segmented body of a caterpillar where the tips of Mark’s fingers had dug into my bicep. I pulled on a track jacket to cover the bruises. My father-in-law and brother-in-law were home and I didn’t want them to see. Somehow they never did.

Mark slept in his old bedroom that night. This was not unusual because he had taken to sleeping in there most nights over the previous five months as he seemed to become angry with me more and more often. At first I had tried to convince him of the old adage of “never go to bed angry”, but it wasn’t long before I realized that “let sleeping dog lie” applied to him better.

It was early morning when I rolled onto my bruised arm and the resulting stab of pain woke me up. Despite the warm night, I had worn a long sleeve shirt to bed and had to roll it up to examine the bruise. The bruise had spread through the night. The purple circles had bled into a black line where Mark’s fingers had dug into my skin, and now violet was seeping out on either side like wings.

“Butterfly,” I mumbled tracing the injured skin.

I heard my dog growl softly in her crate to let me know that she was awake. I hated having my dog sleep in a crate but Mark insisted. I crouched down and opened the latch to open the crate, and was nearly knocked over as my dog bounded out and jumped to lick my face. I kissed the top of her soft, furry head.

“We’re going to get out of here,” I whispered to her. “Mumma just has to get a few more things in order and then we’re leaving. And we’re never coming back here again.”

And though it took five more months, I did get us out of there. I took one suitcase of clothing, a bag of Wonder Woman comics that I’d had since I was four, and two of my dog’s favorite toys, and left all the rest behind. I had wanted to take more so that I didn’t have to completely start over, but when it came down to it, possessions could be replaced, but my life could not.

purple biutterfy, just when the caterpiller thought that the world was over

****************************************************

Okay, so in closing, you may not know this but October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Very quickly I’m going to give you the basic three things about domestic abuse to be aware of:

  1. If you know someone who is being abused, don’t judge them for not leaving immediately. It’s not easy on any level including a financial level and an emotional one. Be there for them. Help them if you can. Most of all remind them that they’re strong enough to leave. They’ve been convinced that they’re weak, that they’ll never survive without their abuser. It’s the other way around: their abuser cannot survive without them.
  2. If you are being abused, you do not deserve to be treated like garbage – no matter how much of your self esteem has been physically or mentally beaten out of you – you are worth so much more than you feel you are. I admitted that it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. You can do it. You are strong enough. There is help out there.
  3. If you are an abuser, you may think that you are safe. That because we leave you, move on, heal, and possibly even forgive you, that no one will ever know who you really are. But we know who you are. You are a fucking bully. And the thing about bullies is that there’s always a bigger one around the corner. One day you might meet yours. You won’t like it.

Sleep well, M.C.A.

I’ve felt off for the past five days that not even a kickass Cinco de Mayo with my dear, awesome girl, Jewels, could remedy.  I know what my problem is though, and unfortunately one of the curses of being a writer is that writing is sometimes the only thing that gives us solace.  I guess I could write this all out and keep it to myself, but there would not be stores filled with thousands of books if writers were content to form words for themselves.  It’s another curse of being a writer.

For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the man in this story as my “father”, though the fact that he was briefly married to my mother and donated a bit of his DNA to create me hardly qualifies him for the title.  “Stepbitch” is my stepmother, but not even for simplicity’s sake will I call her “mother”, unless it’s followed by “fucker”.

TRIGGER WARNING – There is no overt child abuse but it’s strongly implied and children were put in a compromising situation.

***

I had always hated when I had to stay the weekend at my father’s, but there was a period when I was about seven that I particularly hated it.  During that time my father and stepbitch had, I guess, “reconnected” with my aunt Katelyn and her current husband, and every Saturday, they would drag me, my sister, and my toddler brother to her apartment where we would be quarantined with her obnoxious four-year-old son, Ryan, in a small bedroom while the adults would drink in the dining room.  We would get there after dinner and stay until at least two in the morning.  One time I fell asleep on the living room floor and woke to find my father and stepbitch sleeping on the couch and the sun filtering through the blinds.  I remember that I was somewhat fascinated because I didn’t know that adults had slumber parties.

My aunt would greet us at the door, beer already in hand, and smile her blinding white smile.  There was something that I didn’t like about my aunt Katelyn.  Every once in a while her perpetual brilliant smile would fall from her face and I would see something cold and reptilian in her black eyes.  I couldn’t explain exactly what I saw, but I instinctively knew that this was not someone to be trusted.

“You’re some lucky kids, getting to stay up so late!” she would tell us as she closed the bedroom door with a decisive click.

I didn’t feel lucky at all.  And that’s what I hated the most: that the adults tried to make it sound like they were doing us a favour.  I had suspected that this wasn’t the case before, but it was confirmed one time when I wandered from the confines of my cousin’s bedroom and into the dining room where the adults were gathered around laughing loudly.

“What’s wrong, Kat?” Stepbitch immediately asked in annoyance.

“Nothing.  I just wanted to come out here and visit.”

“Well, it’s adult time right now.  Go back in the bedroom and play.”

I glanced around the table.  Any traces of laughter were gone from the four adult faces.  My gaze fell on my aunt, and again I sensed danger in those basilisk eyes.  The hackles raised on the back of my neck, and for some stupid reason I looked up to my father for protection.  As usual, he did not even bother to return my gaze, so I retreated back to the bedroom in silence.

Sometimes my aunt’s husband’s two sons, Tom and Shane, would be visiting, and then the tiny bedroom would be even more cramped with incarcerated children.  Ironically I liked my step-cousins better than Ryan who was my blood-cousin.  Tom was the same age as I and he hated our situation as much as I did.  I felt an especial kinship to Tom because one time, the adults called the two of us from the bedroom because they wanted to see who was taller.  I was already self-conscious about my Brobdingnagian height so to have it the subject of scrutiny made me want to hunch down.  The adults couldn’t tell by looking at us side by side who was taller, so my aunt’s husband grabbed me and spun me around.  I was instantly filled with terror at a man putting his hands on me, but panicked tears filled my eyes as I realized that he was pressing my back against Tom’s.  I started to shake as I realized that my butt was touching his butt, but I clenched my teeth and forced myself to stand as still as possible, telling myself that it would be over soon.  When the adults finally released us, I noticed that there were tears in Tom’s eyes as well.  We walked back to the bedroom in silence, but a look of understanding passed between us before he opened the bedroom door, and when my sister asked me why I was crying I just told her that I hated daddy.  It wasn’t a lie.

Some time after this happened we were again at my aunt’s and my step-cousins were visiting again. Tom seemed very solemn and I noticed that his eyes were red, but he distracted me by showing that he had brought a cassette player and a stack of tapes with him.  I was thoroughly impressed because I had only recently discovered the world of cassette tapes and was just starting to collect them myself.  Tom pulled one of tapes from its case.
“This one’s cool,” he told me as he put the tape into the player and pushed play.

“KICK IT!” suddenly blared from the speakers.

I listened in rapt silence to the first two stanzas, but by the third chorus I was screaming, “You gotta fight!  For your right!  To paaaaaar-tay!”

I insisted that Tom play the song again, and then again, and by the third listen I was screaming the entire song, though the chorus remained the highlight especially when the younger kids joined in for it, and soon we were all screaming and laughing.  While I did enjoy screaming just for screaming’s sake, there was some tiny part of me that knew that I was being noisy because I wanted to get the attention of the adults and make my anger known. They wanted us to play, well we were playing, now come and tell us we can’t. Stepbitch did eventually burst through the door and explode at us to shut up, but for once her wrath didn’t matter.  Disappointing my father didn’t matter.  For one brief moment, I wasn’t powerless and I had made my voice heard.

Decades later I still think of the night when I was introduced to the Beastie Boys whenever I hear “(You Gotta) Fight for You Right (To Party) and would snicker.  It was, in fact, the only memory that I really recalled of those visits to my aunt’s.  It wasn’t until Adam Yauch died, and I was consumed by this, frankly absurd, feeling of grief over his death, that I realized how much Adam’s song gave to me. I thought back to all of those miserable weekends and realized that I could have been plagued with only horrible memories of my aunt’s apartment, but instead the song and that one evening were the only things that I would spring to mind when I thought back.  I’ve realized that in some warped way that I’ve felt as though Adam Yauch created that song specifically to save me from that.  He provided the protection that I so desperately wanted before I was able to defend myself.  Adams’ passing has made me feel like I lost the older brother that I’d always thought would keep me safe, one that lead by example and told me that it was okay to not be happy with the behaviour of adults.

Thank you, and sleep well, brother-I-never-knew.  You helped your “little sister” more than you could ever know.

Many thanks to my friend Emmet at The Momus Report, for finding this.

Also, no comments necessary.  Sometimes there’s just nothing to say.  I’ll be back tomorrow, stronger and kicking ass harder. Because I’m a rockstar.