Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let Go

How do you know when it's time to let go?  A difficult question for anyone, I'm sure, but an especially difficult one for me.  Though I've quit on myself, all too many times, it takes a lot for me to give up on somebody else.  I constantly make excuses for the bad behavior of others, cutting them WAY more slack than I'd ever give myself, and allow people to treat me with disrespect and, at times, complete disregard.  Why is is that even though I know I deserve better, I continue to allow others to make me feel "less than?"

I watched the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Friday and as was the case when I read the book several months ago, the quote that resonated with me more than any other was this, "We accept the love we think we deserve."  Now, mind you, I have several people in my life who treat me with kindness, respect and genuine care and show me love beyond what I have ever felt worthy of.  I am grateful beyond words for these people. However, there are others who I have placed my faith in and, as I discussed in my previous post, have chosen to retreat, for no apparent reason. Perhaps their initial intention was to be a person that mattered in my life and for me to be a person that mattered in theirs. Perhaps, despite their current behavior, that is STILL their intention. But, in the meantime, they are causing me tremendous pain and damaging me more than I can express.  Maybe this is just how some people are, here today, gone tomorrow, maybe back again in six months, maybe never to return.  Maybe I just never mattered to them at all.  Maybe, despite their vow to embrace honesty and candor, when faced with a genuine connection, something more than a superficial relationship, they find themselves paralyzed by fear and left with what they perceive as no choice but to run for the hills.

I find it interesting when people do not, or cannot, practice what they preach.  I find it even more interesting that even when I recognize this in others, I am still, more often than not, willing to give them chance after chance, wanting so badly to be appreciated, loved and respected, that I delude myself into seeing things that aren't there.  But, then again, perhaps they ARE there and the other person just doesn't have the courage to face them.  Herein lies my dilemma. When do I say when?

In my humble opinion, there is no more brave (or more crazy) thing a human being can do than expose themselves, emotionally, to another person.  Whether it is with a family member or a lover, a friend they have known for ten minutes or ten years, when it comes to being vulnerable, the risk is enormous, the payoff, equally so, and the potential for devastation, huge and constantly looming.  So why is it that we, that I, continue to take that chance?  And why is the end result, so often, heartbreak?

Hypocrisy is something that I find VERY difficult to tolerate.  If you commit to being honest with someone, that is not a temporary or conditional thing.  Sure, everyone tells the occasional "white lie" but when it comes to the things that really matter, the care and protection of someone's heart and soul, there is no room for ANYTHING but the truth.  People are precious, people who have placed their trust in you, even more so.  It is NEVER okay to retreat, with no explanation, from the life of someone who cares about you.  If you needs space, time to think, to breathe, just fucking say so.  If you are afraid because things have suddenly gotten more "real" than you are ready to face, be honest about that, too.  If you find, for whatever reason, that you need to take a step back, either temporarily or permanently, you HAVE to say so.  It is never, EVER okay to simply ignore someone who has opened their heart to you. Sometimes, just the tiniest acknowledgment, even if it's just to say, "This is too much for me to deal with right now but that doesn't mean I don't care," can make a world of difference to someone.  As devastating as it is to hear bad news, in the long run, it's always better to know the truth than to be disregarded.  Nothing, NOTHING is worse than being ignored by someone you care about.

This brings me back to my original question. How do you know when it's time to let go?  I guess if enough time passes and the person who once seemed to care about you refuses to acknowledge your existence or extend you the common courtesy they would show someone they have known for one hot minute, that is probably a good sign that it's time to let go.  Despite how wonderful, special and validated someone has made you feel in the past, if they now make you feel like less than a piece of shit stuck to the bottom of their shoe, it is time to let go.  No matter how many gifts they may have given you, however unintentional that may have been, if they now make you feel like less than nothing, it is time to let go.

I guess I answered my own question, didn't I? The truly tragic fact is that I do know WHEN to let go, I just don't know HOW.  For someone as pessimistic as I am, I want, so badly, for this black cloud to have a silver lining.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I want to believe, with all my heart, that this person does still care about me.  I've been down this road before and in my experience, it has never ended well.  You would think that eventually it would be easier to face but it really isn't.  It hurts beyond words each and every time.  Actually, I think that each subsequent time it happens, it hurts MORE because I am older, allegedly wiser, and yet still stupid enough to misplace trust time and time again. Why, oh why, can't someone ever prove me wrong?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The More Things Change...

It's amazing how one can make a mistake, learn one's lesson, then continue to make the same mistake, over and over again. And of course by "one," I'm referring to me.

For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely sensitive, overly sensitive in fact. Even as young as age six or seven, one perceived stink eye, one offhanded comment, could send me into a tailspin of tears and rage and self-loathing. All these years later, despite my best intentions, that has not changed. As much as I'd like to think that I've learned a bit over the years, I really haven't learned a fucking thing. I try to portray myself as someone behind a thick high wall, motivated by self-preservation, only trusting my heart and soul to a select few. I want to believe that I am an excellent judge of character, that I only open myself up to those who are truly worthy of my time and attention. Hell, only a fool would expose themselves to just anyone, right? After nearly forty years on the planet, I have to have developed some sense of who I should trust and who I shouldn't. I must have crafted a finely-tuned bullshit detector. With all the betrayals I've had to face, surely I would have the good sense to go by more than gut instinct when determining who really cares about me and have learned not to set myself up for heartbreak. What kind of fucking moron continues to trust and have her heart broken, time and time again? That would be me.

The longer I'm alive, the less interest I have in trusting anyone. Did you buy that? Fuck, me either. The really sad and sorry fact is that I want to trust, more than anything, even though I know I shouldn't. I want to believe the best in people, that no one would ever INTENTIONALLY cause me pain, especially when I try, with all my might, not to harm others. I know all too well the pain of being betrayed, tossed aside and disregarded. I consider myself, perhaps above all else, a "broken" person and it seems that the people I feel most drawn to are also "broken." Therefore, you'd think that they would be the LAST people to hurt me, they themselves knowing just how fucking devastating it is to be hurt. Yet, time and time again, I find myself being ignored and thrown away, just so much garbage, rendered utterly useless and worthless. I want to take the "enlightened" point of view, to believe that it's "their loss" and that I am better off without them but the fact is, I do not and probably never will believe that. It is far too easy to blame myself, to imagine and re-imagine scenarios in which I must have done something, anything, wrong. I can't possibly keep getting hurt if it isn't somehow my fault. No one can be that unlucky, not even me.

So, once again, I find myself at a crossroads. Do I try to rebuild the wall, this time for real, and shut myself off from new people and experiences or do I continue to follow my heart and trust in people who I truly believe are worth it? I suppose there must be some middle ground, the area in which I so infrequently tread. The answer seems so obvious - let people in gradually, over time, if they seem like they can be trusted. But therein lies the rub. I never know how much is too much. What seems to be a perfectly acceptable level of sharing to me may be deemed far too much to someone else. And what happens when the rules change, when what is initially perceived as "appropriate" suddenly becomes "over the line", seemingly out of nowhere? Ultimately, I have to be true to no one but myself. But right now, at this very moment, my heart is broken, yet again, and right or wrong, I find it hard to blame anyone but me.

UPDATE:  So, after about an hour and a nice long chat with my husband, I've come to a different conclusion.  The fact of the matter is, I CANNOT blame myself, for this or any other incidence of being "tossed aside," "forgotten," "disregarded" or "ignored."  Wearing my heart on my sleeve, trusting and loving others, is NOT a character defect.  Sure, I've probably trusted and loved the wrong people on occasion but the act of doing those things is not, in and of itself, wrong.

I am one hell of a person.  You will NEVER meet someone more loyal to her friends or more willing to give, in every way, to help someone she loves.  This, too, is not a character flaw but something to be commended and appreciated.  I know that I have many acquaintances and some true friends who recognize and value these qualities in me. Those who do not, well, quite frankly, it IS their loss.

I never say never.  Sure, I may pull doors partway shut but I never close them completely.  Everyone has the potential to grow and change. Everyone is on his or her own journey and has his or her own lessons to learn along the way.  Some of those lessons may be to appreciate the love and support of others when it is given, to recognize that letting others help you does not make you weak but makes you STRONG and that being completely independent isn't always brave and can sometimes be the most cowardly way of coping.  It is not my job, or my intention, to judge.  Believe me, I will never EVER examine another human being under a more precise and damning microscope than I do myself.  I guess what it boils down to is this:  I am valuable, I am important and despite the hiccups along the way, I will, ultimately, find people who understand me and can relate to me on the precise level I desire.  I, as does everyone, deserve nothing less.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Moment

I am not the same person I used to be. We're all, ideally, in constant evolution and I suspect that if any human being compared who she was this time last year, a decade ago, when she was a child, to who she is now, there would be an insane amount of change and growth, right? The remarkable thing is that I am not comparing myself to the Kari of long ago. I have changed, grown and, to a large degree, discovered myself in just a few short weeks. For most of my thirty-nine years, I lived in near-constant fear, constantly trying to impress others, to please them. Now I live for myself. That probably sounds selfish and maybe it is but I don't fucking care. I have realized that the extremely corny sentiment that one must love oneself before one can truly love another is actually completely true. I have also learned to value my own judgment above all others. This is HUGE for me. I've always been reluctant to make decisions on my own, figuring that if I left the deciding to someone else and ended up in a bad place, well, I could blame THAT person for my problems. When I think about that now, reflect on all the opportunities I've let pass me by, all the chances untaken, I feel sick. I have wasted SO much time. But not anymore. It might have been a long time coming but I am now going to live for today, trying to embrace each precious moment for the gift that it is, without fear or regret. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be nothing less than honest with others and, more importantly, myself. I will no longer settle for anything less. Some may call me a bitch, some may call me brave. I'm not going to lie and say that those names or descriptions no longer matter BUT they matter a whole lot less than they used to. I feel empowered and so much more confident than ever before. I'm choosing to have only quality people in my life, people whom I respect and I know respect me back. It feels like a tremendous weight has been lifted from my shoulders and there is absolutely, positively NO looking back.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Me...In Progress

I am precisely thirty-nine years, four months and one day old. My reasonable estimate is that of that time, I have probably been truly happy for about six years and most of that was during my first five years of life. I fully believe that I was born broken. Now, some may not call depression "brokenness" but that is how it feels to me. It's as if I am missing a vital piece or that the pieces I have are in the wrong order and cannot be repaired.

My genetic depression has certainly been exacerbated by outside factors. Had I not been raised by a mother who she herself suffers from depression; had my father worked less, been more present, not gotten sick at 43 and died at 53; were my brother not an addict/alcoholic, my life might have been quite different. Had I not been born and raised in a town of one square mile where the town's size was often matched by the small-mindedness and "tolerance" of its residents, surely I would have been less judgmental, less condemning of myself, right? Perhaps. But today is the day I try to put that all behind me, to let go of grievances and slights, both real and imagined, and come to terms with the fact that I am depressed and it is no one's fault, including my own. I am responsible for the choices I have made, or refused to make. I can no longer point the finger of blame and say, "I am this way because of YOU." I am this way simply because I am and no one can change that except for me.

I am deeply ashamed of the choices I have made (or been too afraid to make). I am an imperfect person. I make mistakes, sometimes repeatedly. But I know, inside, that I am a good person. You will never meet a person who is more loyal, more protective, more willing to lay down her life for the people she loves. I am smart, creative, funny, supportive and thoughtful. Yet despite these things, I don't like myself. How can this be? I have spent far too long trying to answer this question, trying to figure out why, if I'm so good, do I always FEEL so bad. I guess what I need to learn is that I may never have the answers to these questions. Maybe there aren't any. Maybe what I need to do is let go of the past, forgive myself, take a deep breath and move on. I refuse to spend the rest of my life trying to fill voids and correct past mistakes that can never be changed. I must simply release that old Kari and, starting today, right now, this very minute, begin the process of becoming who I want to be, without fear, without shame. You may not like the "new" Kari. She will be stronger, braver, less afraid to speak her mind and certainly less suggestible. Yes, you may not like her but hopefully, I will love her, at last.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nearly Broken

Well, fuck me! I had every intention of blogging every day this month, not for any particular reason other than it was a personal goal I had set for myself. I had set that same goal regarding working out and I've failed there, too. I do have a very good reason for this. Yesterday was one of the most difficult days of my life. At this point, I'm not remotely ready to share the reason for that, I'm afraid, but suffice it to say, I am dealing with some enormously difficult things and I am quite terrified.

What I will share is that I am fairly certain that Wednesday will be the day we let Spencer go. He has hardly eaten in several days, a bite of food here and there but not nearly enough to maintain a healthy weight, let alone his tiny weight of roughly six pounds. He is still able to walk around, look at us, drink on occasion but his "soul" is gone. It is almost like watching a zombie, going through the motions, simply running on instinct and memory but with very little to no real cognition left. Our vet will be in on Wednesday and that is the day, barring any remarkable improvement (that, I won't lie, I am wishing to see more than ANYTHING,) that we will let our boy go. There are fleeting moments - he'll rub his head against my leg, hop up onto the computer desk or onto the bed where I'll think, "see, he's still here, he wants to fight." Then I look into his beautiful eyes and wonder if what he's really saying is "Please Mommy. I love you. Let me go." This is the most difficult heart-rending choice I have ever had to make and for someone as reluctant to make decisions as I am, the pressure is overwhelming. This is the one thing I CANNOT fuck up. Brian has come to the same conclusion. We have to do what is best for him and it seems that his quality of life is diminishing daily. He could not mean more to me if he was my flesh and blood child.

So, I may or may not be blogging tomorrow or the next day. I'd like to try as it really is important to me but I just don't know if I will be strong enough. As I implied, there are other things I am dealing with as well and I'll tell you, I know many people say, "God never gives you more than you can handle." To those folks I say, with all due respect, I think that is a crock of shit.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beautiful Disaster

Beauty matters. I am about to make a bold statement but I believe it to be true with all my heart. If you ask any person on this planet if they want to be beautiful (or handsome, gorgeous, attractive or any other such adjective) and they tell you "no," they're a liar. And no, I'm not talking about "inner" beauty, although that matters, ultimately, far more. I'm talking about shallow, superficial outer beauty, the kind that takes people's breath away, that makes them think, "wow, I really like looking at this person." You know, the kind that is oh so hard to define and almost impossible, I suspect, to truly feel.

I think the first time I felt, for lack of a better work, "unbeautiful" was when I was about eight or nine. My best friend at the time told me that her sister, who was a year younger than me, had entered some sort of "Little Miss" pageant. I don't recall how she placed. This was the early 80s, a very small local pageant, nothing like the insane kid pageants of today, at least I'm assuming. At any rate, it wasn't about how well she placed but the fact that HER mother had thought that SHE was beautiful enough to enter her into a pageant. I could not possibly imagine my mother having done that with me. Not that I'd have enjoyed it. I fought her, tooth and nail, when she tried to "dress me up" and with the exception of one dress that I liked to wear, once in a while, when the spirit moved me, I don't think I put on a dress voluntarily until I was a teen. But that was beside the point. On that day, for the first time, I felt "less than" regarding beauty. If I was beautiful, surely my mom would have entered me, too. It was a crushing blow.

Years later, I was at a cousin's house, swimming in the pool. This cousin is quite a few years younger than me but at the time, my family didn't have a pool and she and I were having fun together. Then, seemingly out of the clear blue sky she asked me a question. She looked over at me, stared directly at my face and said, "Why is your nose so big?" To say I was crushed is a massive understatement. I had determined, by having a working set of eyes, that my nose was, let's just say, larger than most. It was something I was quite self-conscious about though, up until that day, I don't recall anyone specifically mentioning it. However, after this day, I could never say that again. The jig was up. It was officially out in the world. My big nose, exposed. And, sadly, I never could get that genie back into the bottle.

Fast forward again. I was thirteen and absolutely HATING life. I was now in junior high which was, in my town, a separate wing of the high school. Quite a big change from sixth grade, when my grade "ruled" the elementary school. It was a time of so much change and it seemed to me that unless you were one of the "pretty" girls, it was a fairly miserable place to be. Or maybe that was just me? Anyway, I was thirteen, totally self-conscious, completely unhappy and struggling to get through my days without spontaneously bursting into tears at any given moment. I was headed for the lockers in between classes when I noticed something different about mine. It wasn't until I got closer that I realized what had happened. Someone had taken it upon himself to write, in HUGE black permanent ink letters, "BIG NOSE" on my locker door. I...was...gutted. I stood there, in utter shock, unable to move, to speak, to breathe. I tried rubbing the letters off with my hand but that was useless. I tried scratching over it with my ball point pen, again, an exercise in futility. I don't remember if I cried but somehow, I don't think I did. My pain was beyond tears, beyond understanding. I never learned who did this but I have always had a theory and really, that is beside the point. All I knew, then and now, was that these two completely unoriginal and uninspired words had cut into my soul, exposed the one thing I was most self-conscious about and marked me, not unlike the scarlet letter. All in all, a very bad day.

There were other incidents, I'm sure, relating to my giant honker, though none I can specifically recall. And I'd like to say, the decision I came to was NOT based on some offhand remark made by a child in a backyard swimming pool or even the cruel actions of a heartless teenage boy. I felt, deep inside, that my nose was hideous, that it was destroying any shot I had at confidence and that as long as it remained I would never, ever be able to look in a mirror without feeling utter disgust, misery and shame. I begged and pleaded mercilessly for a nose job. "Please Mom. You just don't understand." However, my mother, "blessed" with almost the identical nose, did understand. It turns out, she had always hated her nose, too. So, though it was a financial hardship, my parents decided that if it was really that important to me, they would find a way to make it happen. I was fifteen years old.

I remember waiting until the summer between ninth and tenth grade to have the surgery. I did not want ANYONE to know about it. I naively hoped that if it was done during the summer, I would return to school in the fall, changed, better, but that no one would be able to pinpoint what was different about me. I'd just be more attractive than before for some undefinable reason. The surgery itself was awful. Well, I should say, recovering from the surgery was awful. I had never had anesthesia before and I can clearly recall, after surgery, hearing a really loud and grumpy-sounding nurse saying, "Kari, WAKE UP! You need to wake up, NOW." Bitch please, I'm trying. "Kari, WAKE UP!" I guess, eventually, I woke up enough to satisfy her and soon headed home, in the worst pain I had EVER experienced. I remember being so sore and uncomfortable for days. My mother, in a twisted moment, took a photograph of me, looking like someone beat the hell out of me, lying in bed with a small stuffed animal perched on top of my head. I didn't recall this until about ten years ago when I came across the snapshot in a huge Rubbermaid tub of family photos. I looked at this picture in amazement and then, in a rash moment, tore it to shreds. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had kept it. I would have probably never shown it to anyone, ever, but it captured so many different things. I guess it hardly matters now.

I'd love to say that this was the first and last time I suffered for "beauty" but if I did, I'd be lying. Just after high school, my acne (because, of course, I was blessed with that, too, as well as braces, and glasses, naturally) became severe and a dermatologist ultimately diagnosed it as "cystic" meaning, in part, that it would leave scars. I tried every topical cream, every pill available. I can clearly recall one cream that needed to be refrigerated. I had acne on my shoulders and back as well as my face so I would put on an old flannel shirt, which I would remove in the bathroom so my mother could slather the cold cream all over me. It had to stay on for a while so rather than sit in my room topless, I'd put the loose flannel on over it until it was time to wash it away. It was, not surprisingly, not fun.

In time, it became clear that my acne was even beyond what this refrigerator cream could do so the suggestion was made that I try a drug called Accutane. Apparently, this prescription only drug was quite powerful, so much so that I would be required to have blood drawn monthly to make sure it was not affecting my liver. When I look back now, I wonder what in the fuck I was thinking and, even more so, what in the fuck my mother was thinking, but we agreed to try it. I was eighteen, still feeling oh so shitty about myself, and this was lightning in a bottle...err...jar...whatever. I wouldn't have to worry about any more painful cysts on my back and my standard everyday facial acne would disappear too, how fabulous! So, I did it. I used it for six months and it did, in fact, prevent me from getting any more acne cysts. Sure I still got the occasional pimple but it was nothing like before and when it went away, it left no traces behind. Well worth it, right? WRONG. Unfortunately, one of the wee little side effects of Accutane was that while it dried out your skin, preventing the cysts from forming, it also dried out your nasal passages. To be fair, I was warned about this potential side effect. It was suggested that I use saline spray in my nose and even Vaseline on a Q-Tip to keep my nasal passages lubricated. I did this, as instructed, but apparently, that was just not enough. I am now thirty-nine years old and since stopping this medicine at eighteen, I have had a nose bleed almost EVERY SINGLE DAY. Not to get too gross but basically, what happened is that my nose is raw inside. Scabs form which are extremely uncomfortable so I blow my nose. This subsequently pulls off the scab, causing my nose to bleed. I have gone as long as three days, desperately uncomfortable, before blowing, hoping that in that time, the scabs will come off themselves and the tissue will heal but it never works. I blow my nose on that fourth day and the whole cycle begins again. Imagine feeling something "foreign" in your nose that you are conscious of every waking minute of your life. You can't stop breathing so the constant friction of air against your raw nose is unavoidable. All in all, not a fun thing. The great irony, the great cosmic joke in all this? I fixed the outside of my nose so the inside had to have its revenge. Funny how life works out, ain't it?

I am happy to say that after this second let's just say "challenging" experience, I have not done anything to achieve beauty that has physically harmed me. Do I regret the nose job? Not for one minute. It did not make me "gorgeous." I still never got asked out all through high school, or college, for that matter. I was not voted "best looking" in my yearbook. But did I feel better about myself afterwards? Without question. Though I still see imperfections when I look at my nose, I feel so much better about it than I did before. It suits my face and I am reasonably happy with that feature. Now, do I regret this Accutane business? You bet your ass! Though I do not relish the idea of having acne scars across my back and shoulders and, quite possibly, even on my face, the discomfort of what I now deal with inside my nose is definitely not worth it. That choice, made by my mother and, in all fairness, an eighteen year old, fully legal adult me, is one I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

Today, I still do not feel beautiful. I have rare fleeting moments of feeling that I look "okay" or "not hideous" but, as I've discussed before, feeling beautiful is something that eludes me. It is not nearly as important to me as it once was. I do know (though I sometimes forget) that I am beautiful inside. I have a good loving heart. I am very aware of how powerful and devastating words can be and I try, so hard, to choose mine with great care. I am extremely loyal, very supportive and honestly, a great friend to have. These things matter far more than outer beauty, this I know.

So I can say, with near certainty, that despite how things begin to wrinkle or sag in the years to come, I will grow old gracefully. Clearly, I feel that the decision to have plastic surgery, dermatological procedures or anything else "beauty related" done to oneself is a personal choice, one, upon which, I pass no judgment. Everyone has to decide for him or herself what is an "acceptable risk" or "appropriate amount of pain."

My overall conclusion, at least for me, is that fixing the outside does NOT fix the inside but it can help. Of course, fixing the inside is FAR more difficult and that's where the real work begins.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Today, I'd like to tell you the story of how I met my best friend.

It was Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999, and I was in a bad place, seriously bad. I had recently broken up with my fiancé, who also happened to be my very first boyfriend. I had initially instigated the break up by throwing the ring at him but, at the time, NEVER thought for a minute that I wouldn't get it back. After all, this was me, hysterical Kari, well-known for irrational behavior and histrionics. But I never did get that ring back and soon, our engagement officially ended. I was wrecked, drowning in what was the most searing, devastating pain I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. I was in a deep, dark, despairing place and I was lonely. I needed someone, someone who would love me unconditionally, someone I could love back, without fear or reservation, someone I could take care of who would never, ever leave me. I needed a cat.

I started out at a small rescue shelter, suggested, ironically, by my ex fiancé. Accompanied by my entire family, (I think. I know my parents were there. It was Easter so I have to assume my brother was, too.) off I went. I quickly found the cat I wanted, cream-colored and seemingly super easy-going. He seemed so ready to be loved, just perfect. So, I went to fill out forms, answer questions, attend to all the formalities and bring my boy HOME.

Everything was going splendidly until they got to the question, "Will this cat be an indoor/outdoor cat or indoor only?" Now, I knew, having lost our family cat seven years ago when he was killed, on our very block, by a hit and run driver (our neighbor witnessed the whole sordid affair) that I had NO intentions of letting my cat outside. But, as so often happens in my life, I let my mother's "You can't not allow a cat to go OUTSIDE, that's CRUEL," influence me. Therefore, I casually answered, "indoor/outdoor." Suddenly, time stopped. "Oh, I'm sorry. It is against our policy to adopt cats out to owners who will let them outside. Have a nice day." WHAT THE FUCK? I had been born and raised on Long Island. Almost every cat owner I knew let their cats outside. What in the holy hell was happening here? "Okay then, I won't let him outside," I assured them with a smile. After all, I was a nice 26 year old woman, accompanied by my entire family, on Easter Sunday. How could they deny me the opportunity to give an animal a loving home and a fantastic life based on one hastily given (and not truthful) answer. "Well, I'm sorry, miss but it's too late, now. You already said that you would and that's against our policy. You cannot adopt a cat here." Now, I was LIVID. "You mean to tell me that you would rather leave this cat lingering in a cage, denying him a loving home, because I answered your trick question incorrectly? You're looking at a police officer of twenty two years, here," I stammered, gesturing towards my father. "He saved people's lives. Do you really think ANY of us would harm this or any other animal?"

"Miss, that's our policy and yes, under the circumstances, we would rather have him here."

I walked out shell-shocked, in tears and completely, utterly decimated. The thought of this innocent cat, MY cat, being left here, for who knows how long, maybe the rest of his life, because I STUPIDLY ignored my own heart and listened to my fucking mother, AGAIN, enraged me and I was devastated. Subsequently, I swallowed my pride, called my ex, tearfully told him the story and begged him to go get the cat for me. To his credit, he tried. He went to the shelter shortly thereafter, found the cat I had described and was about to do the paperwork when someone said, "Hey, weren't you here recently with a blonde girl?" (He had been. Before our break up, I was already thinking about adopting. We looked around but I was not quite ready to make the commitment yet.) He, I assume, said "no" but this fucking asshat with, apparently, a photographic recollection of anyone who had ever entered the shelter, was not giving in, not to mention that two different people wanting to adopt the exact same cat on Easter Sunday had to be more than a coincidence.

What the fuck was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn't. I was, as usual, Veruca Salt. "Don't care how, I want it NOW" you son of a bitch. Thus, that was the end. They refused to allow him to adopt this cat either, convinced he would just give him to me. This cat was not to be mine. I was in a much worse place than I was before I started. My family, figuring we were done with the ordeal for the day, prepared to go to my aunt's house for Easter dinner. But I wasn't finished. Oh no, not even close.

My parents and brother looked at me like I was insane (possible). "Are you sure you're not coming? This might not be the best idea," my mother said.

"I'm sure. You guys go, I'm fine."

And off they went. I had another plan.

I drove to another shelter, this time the North Shore Animal League where at least half the people I knew on Long Island had adopted their pets. The fact that I was doing this BY MYSELF, me, over-dependent Kari, who had a meltdown making ordinary phone calls like to schedule a doctor's appointment, that I was setting out alone to make a decision that would change my life completely, hopefully for many many years to come, was literally mystifying. I'd like to say I felt brave and empowered but I was probably just scared shitless. Still, I made the thirty minute drive, took a deep breath and went inside to find my cat.

I was quite surprised at how easily I found him. It typically takes me twenty minutes to decide whether or not to buy a shirt, for Christ's sake, but this decision was made the minute I saw him, the smallish grey, black and white tabby, hiding in the corner of his cage, looking completely terrified. If he was not me in cat form, I don't know who was. The sign on his cage said, among other things, "Name: Snapdragon. Age: Approximately one year."

The instant our eyes met, I knew. This sweet boy had chosen me as much as I had chosen him. I asked to see him and they took him out and placed him on a table. He scrunched down into a tight ball in the farthest corner. He looked SO fucking scared. "He's a bit feisty. That's why we call him Snapdragon."

"I'll take him."

Soon, I had my boy in a cardboard crate and was filling out papers (no one even asked if he was to be allowed outside), being given his meds (apparently he had an upper respiratory infection) and paying his adoption fee. Then, it was official. This beautiful terrified cat, who I named Spencer (keeping Snapdragon as his middle name to honor his past) was mine.

We got out to the car and I told him we were going home, me and my little angel cat. When I started the car a song came on. It was called "Angel of Mine" - clearly the exclamation point on what I knew, with my whole heart, was meant to be.

For days, at least a week, Spencer hid. When he stopped hiding, he was frozen. If I picked him up and carried him across the room, that's where he would remain, for hours, until he needed to eat, drink or use his litter box. When I took him to the vet for his follow-up exam (to check on his infection and make sure he was healthy overall. He had already been fixed before I got him,) he, once again, cowered in the corner of the table. The vet said that this was typical for him. He had clearly been abused before he arrived at the shelter (no wonder he looked so fucking terrified when we met) but his health was great. In time, he slowly began to warm up to me. He would explore the house (I still lived with my family in the house I grew up in) and allow himself to be petted and loved more frequently. He knew he was home.

Fast forward to now, over thirteen years later. Over the years, Spencer has become an absolute cuddle bug, still only with the people he knows and trusts (my husband, my mother and myself) but, in his own unique way, super-affectionate. He loves to give what I call "mooches" (smooches), especially when I'm in bed (he hops up onto my pillow and licks pretty much my entire face) or when we come home (licking legs, feet, whatever body part is easily accessible). He is my absolute joy, my heart and soul and my very best friend. I could not possibly love him more.

Yay! Happy tale, right? Wrong! (You must be new here so I'll let it slide.) My husband and I learned yesterday that our beloved boy is in some serious trouble. Let me set the scene. A few weeks ago we took him to an emergency vet, twice, when he was having trouble going to the bathroom and, after $600 worth of tests, we were told that he has, "mild kidney disease, barely on the charts, easily treatable with a special diet. We MAY want to consider injecting him with subcutaneous fluids a few times a week at some point but, for now, just change his food and follow up with your regular vet in a few months." Okay, that sucked. I never EVER expected that our having a constipated kitty would mean he had a disease. He had had this issue once before, a few years prior, and at that time, he was given a cat laxative and sent on his merry way. I had expected the same outcome this time around so I was in a bit of shock. Still, the disease was "very mild," no reason to freak out. Change his food, see the vet in a few months, we've got this. At our second visit in as many weeks to the emergency vet, it was suggested that we find a regular vet for him, follow-up, and to learn how to give him the subcutaneous fluids at home, probably twice a week. The next day we scheduled the appointment for my husband's next day off, yesterday.

I'll be blunt. We do NOT have much money, at all. This is not to say that I wouldn't give up cable or the Internet, sell my fucking tv or eat ramen for six months to pay for vet bills if I had to but we wanted to establish ourselves with a "real" vet, compassionate and caring, the opposite of the brusque matter-of-fact folks at the emergency clinic. Brian found a vet online, ironically located just down the street from his job, that seemed really accommodating. The reviews online were primarily raves. Great facilities, reasonable prices and, most importantly, people who cared. Perfect!

So, we took our poor confused boy, who seemed to be feeling just fine, loaded him into his pet taxi, which he despises and drove him, crying all the way, to the vet. I was nervous. I didn't know how I was going to give this boy, who fights tooth and nail against ingesting oral meds, a SHOT twice a week but I'm his mom, Brian's his dad, we'd figure it out. Imagine my surprise when I learned that my boy, a robust thirteen pounds just a few years ago, down to eight pounds a few weeks ago, was now down to just over six pounds. I didn't understand. He eats every day. How could he be losing so much weight? Little did I know I was in for worse. Much worse.

The vet felt his back and belly and said that he had extremely low muscle mass and his kidneys felt hard. He informed us that what we were told was "mild" kidney disease was, in fact, VERY severe. He explained how one number on his chart revealed this and he was baffled as to how the other vet, how ANY vet, could not have accurately portrayed the severity of this situation. When he said "quality of life" I tried, desperately, to tune him out. However, when Brian asked, "what kind of time are we talking about?" I heard his reply, all too clearly. "Maybe six months."

Now when I look at my beautiful precious boy, that horrible fucking number is ever present. Brian, I guess, had a different view of things all along. He was not at the vet with me when I was told "very mild," though I relayed the message to him. He, I guess, just heard "kidney disease," began googling and had a more realistic understanding of this diagnosis. When we heard that news yesterday, he was devastated, like me, but not unsurprised, the opposite of me, who felt like I was hit by a Mack Truck. I still feel that way, like it's happening over and over again. I took an afternoon nap, very unlike me, just to have an excuse to hide from the world for a while, wanting to be numb but unfortunately feeling the pain with every fiber of my being.

I don't know how much time I have left with my boy. I don't know how to reconcile things like "we need groceries" with "but I can't leave Spencer." I realize that I'll have to figure this out, somehow. He and his furry brother, Sydney, are my children, my furbabies, the only kids I am likely to ever have. I cannot and will not fathom life without him. I choose to live in denial, thank you very much, for as long as I possibly can. This cat has my heart. He is so fucking vital to my life. I will do whatever it takes to keep him here with me, for as long as I can, until such time as it is no longer best for him or, lord help me, he decides he has had enough. I will give him what will be, at least for now, daily injections. I will NOT let him go.

Well-meaning folks say, "Just enjoy the time you have left" and obviously, I will try, but right now, all I see when I look at my sweet baby is a ticking clock. I don't know what to do with this. I would give him MY kidney, if I could, without hesitation. But, alas, as with so many other things, I am powerless.

There is no happy ending here, no tidy conclusion, no snappy witticism to finish out this post. Just a devastated mother, wishing, with all her might, for a miracle even though I don't really believe in miracles, nursing her utterly and completely broken heart.

Pieces of Me

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's the title of an Ashlee Simpson song but it also fits what I feel I am sharing with all of you so, I'm going with it.

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I can still clearly recall filling spiral notebook after spiral notebook with "books" (only one of which I ever finished) that I was working on at various points in my life starting at around age 12. I also love writing poetry. In fact, I'm about to share one of my earliest pieces that I recently found during a visit to NY in a "poetry anthology" comprised of the very moving and insightful literary creations of my second grade class. (My mother, fortunately or unfortunately, is a pack rat. Gee, maybe that's where I get it from?) Are you ready? Here goes, with its original capitalization and punctuation.

"I Wonder If"

I wonder if
The moon would be
A place my cat
Would like to see.
Would there be
Moon mice to chase
Way up there
In outer space?

(Hopefully my skills have progressed slightly in the past 32 years but not half bad for a seven year old, right? Please note that I did not, in fact, get my first cat until five or six years later.)

Here's another one, this one written in 1996, the year after I graduated from college. (And yes, there is probably a reason why I'm choosing to share these particular poems at this particular point in time but I genuinely can't fathom what it might possibly be.)

"working girl" (I was going through an e.e. cummings phase so forgive the lack of capitalization.)

an unmatched beauty
and eager to please
walks down sunset.
the thoroughbred gait,
cheshire cat smile
and gleam in her eye
try to protect her soul.
she is quite particular
though less so than before
as she scopes out
her next partner.
soon the dance
will begin again
and if she can
she will lead.
at some point
she will go home
to the place
where she lives.
there she will find
her only refuge
from the place
where she dies.

(That was cheery, no?)

I think it will be a good thing to intersperse my poetry with my "slice of life" tales as it is a different type of reflection of my life, my interests, my fears and my joys and offers additional insight into who I am. More and more lately, I'm realizing that I AM a writer. It might not ever be my profession but it is my passion and one, with which, I am all too happy to be getting reacquainted.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Teeth Bite

Today is a day chock full of "unfun" things to do but I've got a better grip on things than I expected to. My day began accompanying my husband to a long overdue dental appointment. I'm not one to talk, really, not having been to a dentist myself in about a decade, for many reasons, not the least of which is money (a lack thereof) and insurance (spotty, at best). But the dentist opens up an entirely unique Pandora's Box of misery for Brian. You see, Brian would be the first to admit, he has very bad teeth. It is something that makes life challenging for him and, to a far lesser extent, for me as I very rarely get to see my husband smile. This is not something I have ever discussed publicly and I wouldn't be doing so now without his explicit consent but my husband is a recovering drug addict. His past with drugs has never been a part of our life together. He was addicted to crystal meth but detoxed himself and quit cold turkey about three years before we met. In our twelve years together, I can count on one hand the number of times we've discussed this. That was due, primarily, to the fucked up way I was raised, to believe that matters such as this were NOT to be brought up, and to my fear that it would bring up bad memories for Brian. However, I discussed it with him yesterday, got some brand new insight into his experiences, and realized, once again, how much it truly pains him that his addiction led to what he openly refers to as his "fucked up teeth." He had to have three pulled today and is already missing quite a few others. Ideally, he would love to get them fixed, he has always wanted that, but it is absolutely not financially possible for us right now.

I am SO proud of my husband. He faced his fear today, on many levels. His last dental experience was pure hell, not only physically painful but, on a much deeper level, emotionally painful, as the "professional" staff and dentist made him feel utterly horrid about the state of his teeth. I wish I had realized this at the time so I could have drop-kicked the fuckers but alas, that's neither here nor there now. But today, my husband, the trouper, went into that office, expecting to have one tooth pulled and subsequently lost three. This time, he was treated with kindness, respect and compassion as he should have been the last time. He is in a lot of pain, again, both physical and emotional, but in a strange sick way, for the first time, I can look at his teeth as battle scars, symbols of a war that he fought, and won, with his addiction. Would I love for my husband to have a beautiful, healthy smile that he could show to the world with pride? Absolutely! Do I love him any less because he doesn't? What do you think? Once again, I am filled with awe and utter respect for anyone who has fought a battle with drugs and/or alcohol and won. Each and every day that passes where one doesn't use is a victory, one that should never be taken lightly. I never will, not ever again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We the People

I'm going to do something a bit unusual and preface this post with a brief statement. I realize that politics are, and have always been, a very polarizing issue in this country. Though I am happy to discuss my personal political beliefs if asked, I don't generally bring them up in certain situations where I don't feel the time or setting is appropriate (say a wedding or a funeral). This post is not being written to encite a debate but merely as a way for me to share a bit about my voting history and experiences in the political process. As a result, you may or may not agree with the votes I've cast and that's fine. There is a time and place for debating but this is not it, k? Thanks! Now, on with the post.

As an American, an American woman, no less (and I mean that in every way), it has been my honor and privilege to vote in every major election since I became a legally registered voter in 1991 at age eighteen. I had grown up in a right-leaning home (lord, help me) and, as a result, registered as an independent because that was as brave as I felt I could be at the time, in spite of my left-leaning political bent from the time I really started to understand, as much as a white, middle class, Long Island teen can, the political process and voting as a whole. Clearly, I didn't understand enough because I was crestfallen to discover at the time of my first "legal to vote" presidential primary that I could NOT take part, having not chosen a major party affiliation. Utterly devastated, I made sure to correct that mistake as quickly as possible, albeit too late to cast that crucial first primary vote (which, I'll admit with a cheeky grin, would have been for California Governor Jerry Brown).

Casting my first presidential vote in 1992 was a BIG moment for me. It didn't accomplish as much as I would have hoped within my family but it did serve to cancel out my parents' votes that year. Actually, we all cancelled each other out, my mother voting for (it pains me to say) Bush Sr. and my father, bless his heart, was quite enamored with another wealthy Texan. Still, that was the first time I felt like a major player in the political process. I was SO proud to cast my vote for the soon-to- be-elected Senator William Jefferson Clinton and subsequently, each and every Democrat to run for president (and many other offices) ever since.

I feel it is not only my right but my DUTY to vote, one I do not undervalue, even when elements of the political process, as they often do, leave me cold. Like many others, I do not feel TIED to party lines, though it just so happens that my li'l liberal self does generally choose to vote along them. The mud slinging, often on both sides, is quite disheartening. But I will always, ALWAYS, play my small part come election day, even when I feel like my one quiet voice might not truly influence the outcome (aside from maybe canceling out someone else's vote which, in actuality, is no small feat). Though there are things I do NOT love about the United States, knowing that I have the right to feel that way and express it on election day is one of the things I, in fact, most love about it. Attending my very first political rally, standing mere feet away from our soon-to-be vice president in 2008, was definitely one of the most exciting political days in my life. Watching our first lady's rousing speech last night at the Democratic National Convention was another. Though your politics may not be mine, I felt stirred to write this post to reveal some insight into what the process, and voting, means to me. It is a beautiful thing to know that every single eligible voter in this country gets to play his or her part in this amazing process. I cannot wait to play mine.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I will never be an actor. I briefly studied acting at around age 15 but had to quit class after improv because I just couldn't memorize lines. However, that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun doing that "James Lipton/Inside the Actor's Studio/super-fun-and-oh-so-illuminating questionnaire thing", right? Hell, this is MY blog. I do what I want! Here goes...

What is your favorite word? bliss
What is your least favorite word? goodbye
What turns you on? kindness
What turns you off? cruelty
What sound or noise do you love? the very distinctive "cat sounds" my two cats make
What sound or noise do you hate? landscaping equipment of any kind
What is your favorite curse word? I love so many. Lately, I'm kind of digging asshat.
What profession would you like to attempt? I would love to actually earn money as a writer. I also think I'd make a helluva psychologist.
What profession would you not like to attempt? grief counselor or ditch digger
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Everyone is welcome here. Let's go find your dad.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Just Can't Stop

So, you may be wondering what's gotten me so hot and bothered about writing, lately.  I mean sure, in the past I've written sporadically and given you a glimpse at what's inside me but for the past few days, it's like I have this ferocious passion to strip away my defenses and share what makes me who I am.  There is a very specific reason for this, a clearly definable catalyst and that is the brilliant book GUTS - The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster and its remarkable author, Kristen Johnston.

First off, GUTS is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have ever encountered.  It resonates with me on SO many levels and, in many ways, it captures the essence of who I was, who I am and who I wish to become.  I don't want to reveal too much about the book because, truly, I believe you should read it and discover its raw beauty for yourself but trust me, you will laugh, you will cry and, quite possibly, you will come away a changed person, as I have.

In short, GUTS captures one woman's journey of self-discovery, addiction, near-death and recovery but it is OH so much more than that.  Having never suffered from an addiction to drugs or alcohol (but having a family member who does), it was not that aspect that I could identify with though, as Kristen says, "Everyone is addicted to something."  It was not just her depression that I could relate to though, as I've said many times before, it is a battle I have fought my entire life.  It is not our shared love of lip balm, true crime, profanity and biting wit that enraptured me, though all of these things certainly helped.  No, what I think effected me most is Kristen's brutal honesty and fearlessness. This is a woman who did not have to tell her story, she wanted to, not with any agenda in mind beyond sharing her truth and maybe, just maybe, inspiring others along the way. She has done that and so much more. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I can come out from behind the curtain of shame that has kept me hidden for so long. I can know, deep in my heart, that sharing MY story can only do me good and if, in the process, I can touch someone else's life, all the better. It is my sincere wish that everyone will read this book and take away from it all that I have.

It is my great honor to have this book, and Kristen, in my life. The lessons I have learned, and am still learning, are ones I cherish. I feel like, for the first time in my life, just who I am is good enough. Sure, I want to continue to grow and evolve. My work is only just beginning. But having this book as a tool and this remarkable friend in my life, wow. It's one hell of a start.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Say, You're Pretty...Pretty Ugly

Okay, here's a little tale from long, long ago. It happened around the time I was eleven and, to this day, helps shape my self-image and beliefs about beauty. I had a crush, my very first, on someone other than John Stamos or various members of Duran Duran (not Roger and never Andy. Sorry dudes, you just weren't my type.) It was powerful and scary and something I ONLY confided in my very best friend at the time who happened to be three years older than me and clearly MUCH more sophisticated and worldly about such things. Anyway, I thought he was just the cutest thing ever and my friend found the whole thing entirely too adorable and was bound and determined to find out if he liked me, too. I insisted that she keep her trap shut, thank you very much, I had NO intention of sharing these thoughts with ANYONE but her and knew that I was in no way capable of handling the crushing blow that would, most certainly, be the result of her inquiry. Some time later, this boy decided, perhaps on his own, perhaps due to some of my "friend's" machinations, to bestow upon me a most lovely moniker, one that I clearly recall to this very day. Are you ready for it? Seriously, you'll just LOVE it, I know I sure did. He began to refer to me as...The Plop From Pluto. Couldn't you just die? Actually, I wanted to. If there was anything my fragile little psyche needed at such a formative time in my life it was a DELIGHTFUL little nickname like that, especially from the boy I had, until that point, thought was the absolute bees knees. *THUD* Yes, that's what it sounds like when your heart drops, just before it shatters. For an indeterminate amount of time after that, when he addressed me, if he addressed me at all, it was as The Plop From Pluto and I died a little more inside each time. For some godforsaken reason, somewhere down the line, my aforementioned friend decided to talk to him about this and ask him, I'm paraphrasing, if he really thought I was THAT ugly. His response, allegedly, was that I was "kind of pretty." This according to my friend who may or may not have been trying to spare my feelings (too late for that, sister) and soften the blow that had been dealt to me, time and time again, for months, at the very least. Now, maybe he did think I was "kind of pretty" and was just doing that crazy boy thing of being meanest to the girl he liked the most, maybe not. But the fact of the matter is, what I have always held on to is the feeling that I am, indeed, The Plop From Pluto, beyond repulsive and certainly, without question, not worthy of being liked or, dare I say, loved. Clearly, this happened a long time ago. I have since been told I am "pretty, cute, beautiful" even, at one point, "the most beautiful thing I have ever seen" but I'll tell you, even now, it is SO much easier to believe that I am disgusting, hideous and wretched than any of those good things. I have said that everyone is born beautiful and it is one's actions (or inaction) over time that enhance or diminish one's beauty but, I'm being perfectly honest here, that applies to everyone BUT me. Still, I feel passably decent-looking today. I took the time to put on a fucking DRESS (I know, right?) for no apparent reason, which I NEVER do and even shot a few self-portraits in my bathroom to commemorate the event. I think the reason I feel this way today is, as people have tried to tell me for YEARS, that beauty really does come from within and I kind of like myself today.  When I like myself, even if it's just for a passing moment (usually) or maybe even a whole day (stay tuned), I feel less than disgusting, slightly cute and maybe, just maybe, a little bit beautiful.

By the way, in case you're wondering, I would still like to kick that boy square in the balls, if he has any, just cause.

Finding My Voice

"Sometimes, I hear my voice and its been here, silent all these years." - Tori Amos

So, certain events have transpired over the past few days that have been my impetus to write again. Not about superficial things. Well, okay, maybe sometimes about superficial things but primarily about what's currently in my mind and heart and, I suspect, often about what USED to be in my mind and heart (and maybe still is today) that has helped shape me into the ball of angst and dysfunction I am now. I would like to share the good, the bad and the ugly, with all who want to listen even if no one thinks they want to hear it. Maybe they will someday, maybe not, and that's okay too because ultimately, this blog is for me, to give me a place to clear my head, reflect on the events of my so-called life and try to begin the arduous journey from who I am to who I want to be. It won't be pretty but life isn't pretty. Off we go.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Never Know

Sometimes, usually when you least expect it, life throws you for a loop. Generally, at least in my experience, this is NOT a good thing. However, once in a great while, even when you feel most unworthy, you find yourself the recipient of a sweet surprise - something far greater than you probably deserve but nonetheless, there it is, this remarkable gift, so much greater than you could have imagined. Sometimes, this gift comes in the form of a person, a new friend, someone who seemingly knows you, can see inside you, without even knowing you at all. I cannot overstate how powerful an experience this can be. I am in the midst of one right now and, honestly, at this moment, on this day, it is enough, more than enough, to keep me going, even if only for one more day. I am humbled and so grateful.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Talking to the Wall

Sometimes, most times, I feel like what I post here on this blog and what I actually say aloud in the world falls on deaf ears. I think that I've been silently screaming for most of my life and now I want those screams to be heard. Alas, who enjoys listening to screaming? Thus, my dilemma. How do I find my voice, share appropriately or, should I say, in a user-friendly way, and still manage to be heard? Is what I have to say even of value, to anyone, even myself? I'd like to think so. I'd like to believe that I have something worthwhile to contribute to the world, although, in 39 years, I have yet to figure out what that might be. I want to leave something behind when I go, something of substance, something that truly matters to someone, to anyone. It is so hard, merely existing, never truly living, so paralyzed by fear and shame.