Living between two big days

I’m feeling spurred to write this evening, because I find myself feeling caught between two very different emotions and struggling to handle it.  

In 42 days I’ll be a married woman, having gathered a few of my nearest and dearest around me to celebrate the union of my then-husband and I to each other.  I will have spent more money than ever before, despite it still being a ‘cheap’ wedding by modern standards, and will have asked many people to go very far out of their way to be there.  I would do it for any of them, and in some cases I will or have already, but it still doesn’t feel 100% joyous for me, at least not in this moment.  I guess it might never - grief will always colour my experiences.

When my sister first died, I felt this much more than I do now, because I was in this liminal space all of the time.  I knew what it felt like to be between life and death, embodying one but touching the other.  When I held her cool hand while I still could, I felt it settling into the blood that pulsed through my warm body.  Most of the time now I forget what that felt like, but once in a while it reappears.  Sometimes in a flicker or a flash, and sometimes it settles over me like a bed-sheet, sinking into my skin until I’m suddenly wondering when I started to feel so sad.  

As my wedding day approaches, this sense of ‘liminal living’ is getting stronger, perhaps because I am again in a very true period of transition.  My fiancee and I have lived together for a year now, but I do see marriage as a separate act from that kind of commitment, although many cultures don’t anymore.  For me, it is a covenant, and it is a promise to be more than just ‘myself’ for the rest of my life.  As a Christian I believe I am in this covenant with God each and every day, and I don’t always hold up my end that well - and I know that in marriage this will also be true sometimes.  Still, I am making this choice, and I am joining myself to not just one other life but all of the lives that touch his.  I am committing myself to being there for them, and perhaps more scary, allowing them to be there for me.  Sometimes being on my own just feels easier, but that’s not how life has laid itself out for me.  

All of this is incredible - it’s a glimpse into heaven, on earth.  I just wish she was here to be by my side (or the thorn in it) throughout it all, although perhaps more than that I wish I could be the same to her, when it could have been her time.  I think I grieve that more than anything else.  Through my own joy I am made more profoundly aware of the loss I, my parents, and of course she, has experienced.  Now that I’ll have some time to breathe, with school done for another term, perhaps what I need to put energy into isn’t just pew-bows and name-cards for the tables, but weaving grace into each day.  Obviously something is demanding my attention, beyond paper ribbons and fabric flowers done just so.  

September 23rd:  ”Reasons For”
I was running the other day and it occurred to me that considering what I’m training to do, I should contemplate why I’m doing it, really.   

I’ve decided to run a half-marathon on May 4th to raise support and awareness of mitochondrial disease, and I’ve started a blog to help me stay motivated and accountable! 
I hope you check it out!  :) 

Things I am greatful for

The health and safety of my family, near and far.

My own good health, and the knowledge that no matter what happens I will be well taken care of.

My amazing friends, who are all loving, good-hearted and healthy people. 

That with the end of some chapters, new ones are opened that hold a lot of hope.  That’s pretty big, right there. 

the battle

Since I started working out at a gym in the last six months, one that has really fit my personality and needs, I’ve never felt more aware of my own body.  I’ve noticed the addition of new lines - muscles becoming defined in my legs and arms, a ghost of a rib underneath the flesh in my abdomen, my collar and cheek-bones suddenly creating shadows.  I’ve also noticed the subtraction of others - less curve to my waist, my hips, my flesh upper arms. 

I’ve always felt in conflict with my body, but what I’m experiencing now feels like a brand new battle.

The measuring tape tells me I’m smaller - I don’t ‘fit’ into plus sized clothing anymore, I’m able to consistently walk into a majority of stores and find my size in at least a handful of pieces. 

Yet when I look at myself in the mirror, I’m still seeing too much tummy, too much back-roll, too hip that doesn’t curve quite right into my bum from behind.  Why do I sometimes feel like I have less confidence now than I did 6 months ago?  Is it just because I’m looking at myself more?  Am I expecting too much? 

For a long time my mantra to keep going has been, ‘working on it’.  I’d see something I didn’t love on me and I’d think, ‘That’s ok, working on it!’  And it was effective for months, especially when I started to see the changes.  I think lately it’s been harder to take comfort from because I’m realising that exercise might not be enough.  I might need to look at a diet more tailored for weight loss - something I’ve wanted to avoid as much as possible.

I don’t eat in excess, I don’t binge anymore, I don’t even eat dessert all that often - but I don’t eat to lose weight.

I guess I fear that it will be a whole new battle - I already put enough energy into working out, wearing the right clothes, etc.  Do I really need to fight with my brain now, about one of my favourite life pleasures?  The idea exhausts me. 

I get so much inspiration from femme blogs and the work of women who encourage a healthy body image.  My boyfriend is plentiful in his praises of how I look.  So why do I care so much?  Why do I feel this compulsion to fit into a smaller dress size or see a flatter abdomen?  And so therein lies the final battle - the one between my feminist and body-happy self, and the girl who feels the pressure from ever-more-demanding external sources. 

This is another over blown body image crisis, but I’m a firm believer in venting.  Cheers to anyone who reads it, and cheers to us, who fight. 

Not Everything is Inevitable (a haiku)

There’s a way to stop

The other shoe from dropping:

Putting your foot down.

  • Timo
That time of year again…

When I get up to go to school each morning:

When I look at/think about the piles of marking I have to do:

When my students complain about their workload/grades despite wasting tonnes of class time:

And at the end of the day it comes down to this:

But at least the year is almost out! 

….Too bad I signed up for summer school for the money.

Oh good.

It’s that time of year again.  Where I’m a huge stress-ball thanks to the 30 Hour Famine at my school.

I wish I was one of those people who got energy from this kind of event, but all it does is make me feel like sitting down and crying in public.

It doesn’t help that Grocery Gateway only let us know TODAY that they can’t fulfill the order we placed with them - I so hope the pleasant lady who promised she’d find an alternative comes through for me.  Otherwise I’ll have a lot of running around to do in a short period of time. 

Also?  Hospital switchboard people should have better phone etiquette. Don’t tell me I called the wrong hospital and then spit out another number and then hang up on me with nary a goodbye - you suck, lady.  I hope you stub your toe today, real bad.

Ugh, venting.  I’ll be back.

So here I am.

Oofta, my heart hurts this morning.  It’s one of those physical pressure days, when I feel like something is sitting on my chest, holding onto my ankles, trying to keep me in bed or on the couch. 

This is the day I’ve been dreading for almost 364 days - the one year marker.  When ‘that difficult first year’ is officially over, and all the grace that seems to be afforded in that time is gone.  Used up? 

At about this time when I start writing this, 8:30 am on March 16th of last year, I was awake earlier than I expected in my last apartment.  I’d gotten up, taken a shower, and was replacing light bulbs in a few lamps with wet hair.  I didn’t know that my mother had been trying to call me while I was moving about, I hadn’t thought to check my phone that early.  My sister and I were set to go see ‘Rango’ that afternoon, and I had marking to do, so I thought I’d get up early and start to get work done. 

I was in the living room when my dad walked in - or rather up, since my last place was a flat in the top level of a house, and you had to walk up a set of stairs to go in.  He’d used his own key, and he gave me a fright. 

I of course asked what he was doing there, and he was answering as he climbed up and walked over to me, maybe in a rush to get it out, “I’m afraid I have some bad news sweetheart…Megan’s gone”.

In that moment, I believe I remember my brain almost taking a pause to decide - do we go full stoic on this, or do we break down?  The choice was made in less than a second but I remember some corner of me making it.  Next thing I knew, I was sobbing around “No she’s not”, and curling into my weak fists on his chest as he pulled me to him. 

I cried for a few seconds, then forcibly pulled away and tried to suck my tears back, I didn’t want to have a total meltdown, I felt I had to ‘get it together’ for him, and so we could head out quickly.  In the car ride over, he told me that it might be a little shocking to see her that way, but it was important I did. 

When we got to the house, my mother came down from her room, hugged me, and started to pull me upstairs.  I balked, shook my head, suddenly feeling like a scared child hesitating before going down a tall slide.

Yet being there with her, in that room, beside that bed, in that space - is the most important thing I’ve ever done.  My culture’s rituals and relationship with the dead has become strange, I find - detached, not spoken about.  But the time I spent with her made me realise how important it would have been, in generations past, to be with the loved one’s body, and wash it, and care for it, and prepare.  We were so aware that Meg wasn’t there anymore, and yet it felt so important to honour the body that had held her when she was. 

After we had to call the coroner, after she was taken away, we were left with such a void.  One that was quickly filled with phone calls, e-mails, visits - word travels fast amongst my parents’ work and friends.  Not long after that I kept hearing how tough the first year especially would be, and at that point the idea of birthdays and holidays felt too hot to even glance at.  Now, we’ve made it through those first everythings…and I guess I fear that after a year, it will be harder to rely on the graciousness of other people. 

But who cares, I have to tell myself - who the fuck cares if they think I’m being emo or whiney or whatever.  Like one of my heroes Amy Poehler would say - fuck those people. 

God bless, but fuck ‘em.

I think that’s becoming the moral of my story - a woman who would have been satisfied living through the happiness of others, forced to learn and feel proud in her own story, her own skin.  A bit of a round hole square peg situation, but maybe that’s what I get for growing up ‘assuming’ life would go smoothly.  Jeesh, I get it already, frig.

I’m so thankful for my friends and family, today, who have made the need to extrovert my feelings through writing that much lesser, because they’ve always listened.  These journals are for them, but mostly for me, and…a little bit of her. 

- March 16th, 2012

What is mine.

Growing up, like most children I imagine, I wanted to be ‘special’.  In my case, I wanted to either be a superhero, or a mermaid.  Either would have been great.

Going to the doctor was something I almost always enjoyed on some strange level, because I was getting lots of attention and finding out that something about me ‘stood out’ enough to warrant it.  The chance to go back to class after a couple days away and be like, “Yeah, I had strep throat, couldn’t eat anything” to curious classmates - a miniature extrovert’s dream.

It always came down to stories; any excuse to tell a good one.  Now at 27, I have stories I would happily keep in my heart, for almost nobody to hear, for truly what matter is it of their’s?  I even hesitate to get a tattoo that would tell this story, a piece of art in tribute to the ones my sister had on her own body, but I haven’t because I don’t particularly feel like explaining to even those few who would see it.

Yet I’ve realised recently, it may be that while I’d grown up loving little moments of specialness in my own personal story, at some point I’ve always expected it would give way to the of another - that I would have a story of meeting my life-partner, and then we’d have ‘our’ story, and then even more so the story of our children, our family.  I’ve travelled, had a career, all good things that many women seem to have before ‘settling down’; I just have yet to actually ‘settle’ (or down, anyway, since I will never settle). 

My own story as of late has gone like this:

My sister died of MELAS in March of 2011, because she was carrying too many mutated mitochondria in her body, and they were little engines that couldn’t.  Her fire didn’t have enough fuel, and at 25, it snuffed out. 

As it happens, I too ‘have MELAS’, given to me by my beautiful mother (said with zero sarcasm), as my sister was.  I’m asymptomatic, however, and at this age and stage it’s most likely I will be for the rest of my life.  The women on my mother’s side do not fit the physical bill for this condition - “hearty” is a word to describe the Hancock female bloodline. 

Yet despite this particular streak of luck, I will need to undergo tests on my heart, brain, and blood about once a year from now on, to make sure that things don’t start to happen.  Is it likely?  No.  Possible, yes.  What has upset me more than this, however, is the fact that I am “not advised to have children”, because it is 100% I would pass this on and they might not be so ‘lucky’.  If I have asymptomatic boys, hurray everything’s great it dies with them.  If I have girls, it continues, and I can’t stand the idea of contributing to the suffering of even far-down-the-line ancestors.  In time technology may provide options through IVF, however it’s more than likely that I’ll choose to adopt. 

So I grieve - not at the idea of adoption, but that having children will never be an easy choice or process for me or my future partner. That easy settling down will never happen, it’s always going to be news I have to somehow figure out how to ‘break’ to a man I’m seriously interested in. 

My story has suddenly got a twist, and I think I’ve found it so difficult because I honestly never expected on being this…interesting?  Complicated.

This particular line of thought was triggered when reading Lionel Shriver’s “We Need to Talk about Kevin”, a novel I wish I could say I was enjoying but honestly, it’s more like trying to get to know someone you sorta disliked in the first 5 minutes of meeting.  Yet there was a line that struck me upon reading it, where the protagonist, in a letter o her estranged husband, phrases her fear over having children like this:  “However intrigued by a ‘turn of the page’, I was mortified by the prospect of becoming hopelessly trapped in someone else’s story.”

I had honestly, never, ever, thought of it this way.  Yes, it had occured to me in recent months that perhaps my inability to meet someone is a kind of ‘sign’ that I should be reaching higher and doing more, but to imagine myself as being “trapped in someone else’s story”…

I had always just thought that when the time came, I would be ready to help create that new story, and watch it unfold, and make it part of mine but really, that it was meant to happen just as mine has.  Yet my narrative is becoming darker, full of over-thinking and questions and self-wonder, not to mention much more independance than I ever really thought I’d need. 

I can’t say it’s a bad thing, just perhaps unexpected - I’m being forcedto continue writing my own story, to stay in it, and to face a special-ness I would have never asked for. It’s something I now shy away from, for it feels dishonourable to do anything other than just be in it.  Aware, but quiet, inviting only a very select few to be part.

Man, I bet mermaids have it so much easier.