Part One - The same old thing but with Christmas on it
With each new month comes new hope. The hope that I’ll be able to walk again without the fear of shooting pains travelling from my buttocks to my leg, the hope that I’ll be able to go back to yoga and swimming and partial mental health. The hope that the old tricks will work on new times and that I have something to cling on, something that can help me help myself.
I re-thought my priorities, changed the way I track what I eat and how it makes me feel, made a plan on how my getting back into shape would slowly but surely evolve. Oh, how I tried.
On the first weekend of March, the men of the house were going to Budapest to spend some quality, man on man Hungarian time. I know it sounds like the name of a very specific type of gay porn, but go with it. Imagine what you will. In the meantime, the gals remained at home, to bask in the sudden lack of testosterone. Our first thought was “Ok, what can we do that we can’t do when the guys are here?” First, walk around naked. Easy. Second, celebrate Christmas! Christmas in March, you say?! It’s outrageous, it’s never-heard-of, I looove it!
We didn’t do the whole tree thing, cause my tree died, BUUUUT we had twinkly lights and Christmas carols all day long! “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas / Everywhere you gooo”
Plus, we watched “A Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart and baked heart-shaped frangipane tarts. T’was a grand Christmas, indeed!
As it usually happens to me on Christmas, something comes along to fuck shit up. It’s like alongside Santa Claus, there’s this other Santa - a bitchy, evil lil’ non-fat fucker whose belly does not shake like a bowl full of jelly! He fills my stockings not with candy and joy but with sorrow and sadness and diseases, oh boy!
The first in a series of unfortunate events, the first of the plagues was a mushroom. No, not a portobello or a fancy chanterelle. Nope, it was her majesty, the Queen of Yeast Infections- Candida The Second. In other words (for some reasons, I feel compelled to use more) my lady cave was for a short time -that seemed endless- the host of this irritating little monster. That’s how I discovered that time is relative when your pussy itches.This right here, they should teach lil’ boys and girls in school! Page 15, chapter 2 of the “Undeniable truths of life”.
It’s valuable information, people! Really puts things into perspective. It should be spread around -like a disease- until it becomes common knowledge.
Imagine this: I’m in the future, and so are you! I’m successful, I’m rich, I’m in the best shape of my life (mainly ‘cause I’ve been in a shitty one so far). Women wanna be me, men want to be with me, dogs want to constantly sniff me - life is good! I’m travelling places, pain-free, doing what I love with people I like. One day, while sunbathing in California, I get a phone call. Tim Ferriss is asking me if I’d like to be a guest on his podcast. I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon! I used to listen to those podcasts and hope and pray that one day I’d be one of those people! I immediately said yes and set up a date. Being there feels surreal. I greet Molly - she’s older now but still wagging her tail and welcoming me into Tim’s studio. He must be all grey-haired now, but how could I tell? He’s bald. Still bald. “It’s a choice” he says. Plus, he really looks like he cheated time with all his crazy body hacks.
We have a cup of some crazy, disgusting tea that’s supposed to do some magical shit to my immune system and then we get down to business. After an hour of talking about morning rituals, strategies, personal struggles and the key to success, we’ve moved to wine instead of tea and shit has been increasingly funny. Then, we get to the last part of the interview ‘cause “he wants to be respectful of my time” and he asks the good ol’ billboard question: “What message would you put on a billboard for millions to see?” There, sitting in that chair, aware that my answer would be reaching thousands of people, I draw a short breath and I say, without a doubt in my mind or a pause in my speech, “Time is relative when your pussy itches”.
Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity! - Eminem, helping noob writers segway since 1972.
This particular merry day began with the usual breakfast and tea, this time with a side of itch. I had made a list of simple, yet necessary tasks. First, I had to call my friend Maurice, ‘cause he hasn’t been in touch in forever and I was kinda worried. Second, I had to check the balance on my bank account, online. Third, I had to pick a place for dinner and make a reservation. Let’s see how that went, shall we?
First, Maurice didn’t answer. Ring, ring, itch, itch. Second, my online banking wasn’t responding. Buffering, buffering, itching, itching. Finally, it decided to lock me out of my account. I tried to call them, my phone was not able to make that type of call. I tried calling them from my friend’s phone, they did not answer. I looked for a way to contact them online. I sent them an e-mail. An automatic response let me know that it was Saturday and that they will contact me as soon as possible, starting Monday. Ughhh, ughhh, itch itch! Fine, fuck it! I’ll just start to look for a place. One where we could eat good, decently-priced food, that’s close to the cinema cause we were gonna see La La Land right after. That too, proved to be much harder than expected, or ever imagined. After finally, finding the perfect place that miraculously fulfilled all three of our needs, I picked up the phone feeling like I might actually accomplish something! Ring ring, itch itch! Ring ring RIIIING, itch, itch, IIIIITCH! No one answered. It was too early, they opened at 12 pm. It was 11:30. I waited, I itched, I called again. “Sowy, no tables available. Only before 5 or after 10”. Well, that’s definitely not gonna work! The sound of itching was now all I could hear.
And that, boys and girls is the story of how auntie Gog started drinking at 12 o’clock in the afternoon.
Why? Because at the exact point of my blow-out, auntie Ala was there. Earlier that month she had moved in and she had brought with her from far far away, a magical, life changing object - a cocktail shaker. She said “Don’t worry, babe. Later, you can start drinking.” “Later?” I said. “ What’s wrong with now? I need it now.” “It’s 12 in the afternoon!” she replied with fake outrage and mild disbelief mixed with mischief. I only gave a look. It said “bitch, please”. We truly had a great non-verbal connection, cause she got up and started mixin’ and shakin’. We had our drinks out in the garden with the sun in our faces. I inhaled half of that drink. We then went inside and dozed off on the couch while watching Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix special. Nothing itched, nothing was tense anymore. I was soft like a pillow and oh, so comfy!
Later that day, we went to place called The Yarn Pizza and booze where, you guessed it, we had pizza and booze. I had a lovely roasted strawberry-tarragon-gin cocktail and the Giuseppe pizza. I can’t say that their pizza is my favorite pizza, but it’s good pizza and a nice atmosphere. It’s for those nights when life seems too complicated to handle and you need something “easy like pie” - pizza pie. If you’re having such a day and you happen to be somewhere on Lower Liffey Street, you might look up and see a red, flashing neon sign that spells “Pizza and booze” and suddenly you’ll think to yourself: “Hm, that’s all I need” - and for awhile that will be the truth.
After this truly magical time in my life - of fungi and chronic pain - I got a bit of a break. I could see the light at the end of the shitty tunnel! Now that sciatica wasn’t an everyday companion, I felt that I could live life again. I summoned the wise voice in my head and she advised me to take it easy, make a plan that would slowly but surely allow me to return to swimming, yoga, normal walking and even dancing. I put it all on my board. First week, I would just do my muscle strengthening exercises. Then, in the second I would re-introduce swimming lessons and some light yoga. Week 3 I would maintain this rhythm and finally, on week four I would join a pilates class to further help my core, which would help my back, which will fix my sciatica.
At about this time, when days were going by painlessly, I developed a new fear. The “return of the pain”- fear, closely followed by the “return of the fungus” fear and “return of stomach ache” fear. That, my friends, is a nasty way to live one’s life. Either in the midst of pain, struggling not only the physical agony but also the feelings of helplessness, bitterness and despair that naturally come along with it or in the expectation of it. When it finally decides to release its strong, torturous grip, you can’t escape its shadow constantly hovering over you, ready to settle in at anytime and turn your days into struggles.
After precisely 5 such days, I ventured on long walks and long cooking sessions, after which, I diligently/stubbornly did my exercises. Thus, on a glorious Saturday, the pain re-installed itself - as sadly foreseen. I, once more, stopped doing everything. My plan was now sitting there, staring me in the face - no way that was gonna happen anymore.
I called Dell (my physiotherapist), I obviously needed some of that crazy muscle manipulation that he does.
He didn’t answer and he didn’t call me back as he would usually do. I was growing desperate. I sent a massive cry of help via text message. He was alive but he was in Tallaght. Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a commute can be? Translation? It was far, it was outside-of-Dublin far. I would make it alive but I would lose a lot of myself on the way! It was an epic journey that demanded a brave heart, a taste for adventure and a loyal companion. With Ala as the Sam to my Frodo, we embarked on the long journey. Half-way, after the first part of walking and the train ride, we got off only to get on. On the Luas that is.
Yeah, it was nothing like that. Not that I expected it, but it would have been nice. Instead, I got to play a part in the unknown, irish-geriatric version of a Streetcar named desire. Wanting to make sure that we got on the right tram, I decided to ask the grey gentlemen sitting near us, if this train goes to Tallaght. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello! Sorry, do you know if this tram goes to Tallaght?
Me: This tram, does it go to Tallaght? At this point in the story, he gets up and comes closer to me. He slightly leans his ear into my direction, so I get the cue and ask again. Me: Does this go to Tallaght? Him: (as if reading my lips) Steeee-laaaa? Me: (in disbelief): Taaaaaa-laaaaaaaaa. Him:(stronger, as if he got it): Steeelaaa. Me:(amused) No. T -A- L -L -A -G… Him: Ooooooh. Tallaght! Yea, it does, it does.
Me: Thank you. No, really, thank you so much!
The End. Curtain close. (muffled laughter is heard)
In order to get to the present faster I will have to cheat. There is no other way. Plus, to be honest, November was a blur. Between dealing with the pain and... dealing with the pain, it seemed that all I could do was deal with the pain. I struggled, I got frustrated, I over-analyzed, I wanted to break things numerous times and so... life went on. My balanced days were gone. I was swimming in muddy waters once more.
You will get some info in the form of uppers and downers. Like so:
Upper:I went to Romania for a quick lil’ visit. Downer: While traveling from Bucharest to Bacau (to surprise my family), the bus driver of the "bus from hell" almost left without me, leaving me in a gas station in fucking Adjud. You may not know what Adjud is. Look it up. I dare you. I double dare you, motherfucker.
Upper: I got to eat a lot of yummy stuff in a very short period of time. Downer: Got very sick because of that and suffered stabbing pains all through my last day in Bucharest AND on the flight back to Dublin.
Upper: Going back home, to maybe die in my bed. Of stomach ache. And regrets. Downer: Intense turbulence throughout the entire flight. Yeah, add panic and nausea to my already desperate situation. Pain was just not enough, apparently. Upper: Learning to calm my tits all on my own, using the very magic of yoga breath. Downer: Appearing very strange to my fellow passengers. Upper: Not really giving a fuck about that at all.
Ah, here comes December: the month of disappointment. I had planned to bake, bake, bake! I made lists of treats and cravings. I dreamed of flaky pastries and elaborate dinners! Feasts worthy of a queen that suffers not from IBS or other bullshit exaggerations of the gut. Little did I know what the future had in store. Reality is really a bummer sometimes. Instead, I spent my time juggling expectations (my own, of course) and trying to trick pain into letting me cook the 12 treats of Christmas so I could gorge on them while watching “It’s a wonderful life” and enjoy the freakin’ holiday season!
Downer: Having to choose which goods to make and which to throw into the oblivion cave. Upper: Having more time to chill and watch movies while eating basic-bitch chocolates that I haven’t allowed myself to eat in years.
Downer: Shopping in full Holiday season, surrounded by waaay too many people. Getting confused, tired and very fed up with it all.
Upper: The comforting thought that these gifts are going to make my family feel better and somehow distract them from the almost unbearable sadness that my dad’s death left behind.
Downer: Being wrong. No gifts in the world can do that. Except maybe the gift of life - but I am not Jesus.
Upper: Realizing this while drinking hot tea and eating a scrumptious mince pie.
Downer: While alone, in a coffee shop surrounded by shopping bags and regrets.
Special section. The “What triggered it?” section
Well... I was sitting there, wiping delicious crumbs from my face, when I saw this older man standing in line. He ordered his coffee and then went back to his seat. While I was watching him, I realized he had a very specific walk. I do that sometimes, notice people’s walks or general mannerisms. I smiled and I kept watching, my train of thought slowly but surely navigating the rail. I remember noticing some sort of familiarity in that walk. Hmm, who do I know that walks like that? Oh, maybe my grandfather! Mmm, kind of... but his was more elegant... more like a bird... less rocked, more proud. This one was a bit silly and… Oh. The penny dropped and I burst into tears. It was my dad. Weird, I had never thought about his walk before. Not like this, at least. I stood there. Surrounded by shopping bags, chatter and Christmas carols. With bits of mince pie around my mouth and tears pouring down my face mingling with the crumbs on their way down. I didn’t want to wipe any of them off my face anymore. It all felt useless now. And foolish. So unshakably foolish.
Upper: Going home to see my family and friends and maybe snow. Downer: There is always emotional distress ahead in such situations.
Upper: Made edible gifts for everyone. Spiced nuts and chocolate salamis. Downer: Back pain got more vocal. Upper: But hey, I got to make the biggest chocolate salami ever!
Downer: Then I had to re-shape it into many average sized if not tiny chocolate salamies.
Upper: having a house filled with friends that you haven’t seen nearly as much as you wanted to and couldn’t wait to talk to them. Downer: having a laryngitis-type situation that made it really difficult to speak. Sexy at times, but extremely frustrating.
Upper: Playing games and drinking wine. Downer: Having wine spilled on my crotch. Upper: Accidentally. Downer: Accidentally?
Upper: Having great conversation with awesome people. In your pajamas!!! What more can one ask for?! Downer: Eating sunflower seeds and pistachios uncontrollably during these talks. Upper: At least it wasn’t lasagna. Downer: We did have lasagna, though. Upper: It was gooey and cheesy and meaty and hot! It was everything that a boring person ain’t not!
Upper: Ending the year on a high note. Downer: Party’s over, people! Come on, wrap it up and go home: each to their own adopting country.
January was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with a lil’ gal I like to call Illness: the cold-blooded white-walker of our times. It hit hard and it played ball like an iron-willed bitch with an ass that won’t quit.
Downer? Uhm, yeah, definitely! I laid on the couch bathing in my own sweat while popping pills like Judy Garland and trying to breathe using my nostrils, like a normal human being! Or even a manatee! I bet they were breathing better than me at that point - and they’re underwater! Not exactly my idea of a good time. Upper: It started snowing heavily and it kept snowing until Bacau became the new Narnia and it was in everybody’s closet!
Downer: I could not enjoy it because I was too busy saying “farewell” to the world from the comfort of my own couch. Upper: Eat ALL the soup! Downer: Taste none of the soup.
Upper: Finally seeing a doctor to get confirmation that I was really as sick as I felt. Downer: I was, she gave me antibiotics and prescribed that I not breathe the outside air. Upper: I welcomed the pills into my system with abandon and hope. It worked. I was free, free at last!
Upper: I was almost fine. Downer: I was also out of time. Last night with my family before leaving for Bucharest where a plane will be waiting to take us all the way to Dublin. Upper: Spending a bit of time in Bucharest, getting the chance to frolic in the snow and living to tell the story. Downer: Snowy streets+Bucharest traffic+very low temperatures (-17)= frustrating times
Upper: Great chinese food at chinese place with chinese people. Downer: It was cold in there, too! Upper: Time to go back where temperatures never drop as far as -17 degrees. Ireland, here we come!
Downer: Goodbye, people I like a lot and will miss.
Upper: Sleeping in my own bed again with my fat cat and my bear. Downer: Back pain got back with a vengeance. Louder, bitchier and ready to cause some shit. Upper: Hmm, I can’t seem to find one. Having to deal with chronic pain builds character? Is that what I’m supposed to say?! Cause it does, I’m just not sure anybody enjoys the kind of character it builds. It ain’t a pretty picture.
Upper: Started a detective mission trying to figure out what triggers the pain from hell. Kinda figured out that everything I sit on and the way that I sit on them makes matters worse. I guess the upper is that there’s power in knowledge, right? Downer: Some days I would just wake up, move around for 5 minutes, realize the pain was still there and have a wave of anger wash over me.
Upper: I did not inflict any pain on others. Not that I know of, at least.
Downer: Goodbye yoga! ♫ ♪ Hello binging, my old friend/ I’ve come to eat you up again! ♪ Upper: Inside, a storm was brewin’! I was reading Amanda Palmer’s "Art of Asking", watching Tony Robbins like a maniac and got a creative thirst that no man could satisfy.
Downer: Meditation stopped working. Headspace wasn’t doing it anymore. I found myself unable to go through a session smoothly and I couldn’t even listen to the voice. Upper: Tried Tara Brach’s meditations for a change. Really had a breakthrough with the “emotional forgiveness practice”. It made me realize that I’m holding onto a lot of guilt and that I have trouble forgiving myself most of all. I cried my heart out but it was liberating. I would definitely recommend the experience.
On the edge of January, I decided I was in need of some professional help to crawl out of the pitch-dark hole that I’d been inhabiting oh so dearly. This was also gonna be the month of change. My best friend aka my ol’ partner in crime was moving here on the 15th of February and shit was about to get serious. Serious catching-up, serious strolls through Dublin, serious new projects and hopefully life-changing experiences. In the words of Sam Cooke, a change was gonna come.
Downer: As I said, back pain was still there, so I decided to go to a physiotherapist. Went to one in the past, was disappointed. I mentally prepared myself to have to go through a bunch of them until I would find a good fit. Upper: A friend recommended Dell. Downer:He was a man. Upper: He was a brazilian man. Downer: Still a man, though. Upper: A gay brazilian man. Downer: As I would find out on our last session. Too little, to late!
Downer: I had to take my clothes off. (Remember: at the time, I did not know he was gay and had no interest in my lady parts). Since the only other physiotherapist I’ve been to hardly undressed me or touched me (yes, I am complaining) I didn’t know the amount of wolf-skins I needed to shed. When he said: “I’ll leave you to take your clothes off” I had to ask “How many clothes am I taking off, exactly?”. He said “To your underwear”. Now the only question that remained in my mind was “What do I do with the bra? And what’s worse: to leave my bra on, when I should’ve taken it off or to take my bra off, when I didn’t have to?” We all know the answer to that, I assume. So, I left it on and put my head in the hole.
Upper: He unhooked my bra with minimal/no awkwardness. Now I know. I am not supposed to wear a bra. Downer: Parts of the muscle manipulation hurt so much I thought I was seeing the light and waving goodbye to my alive loved ones and hello to my dead loved ones.
Upper: Other parts of it felt amazing. Also, he explained everything to me and answered all my questions. He gave me a big-ass bag of information, made a long-term plan to improve my back situation and he did it all with a positive attitude, thus giving me hope that one day I will again be able to do what I want to do.
Downer: For now, I was injured. I had to stop swimming, stop dancing and walk as little as possible. Also, improve my posture, sleep better and do the exercises he showed me. Upper: Becoming aware of how bad posture is the main cause of the painstorm. Downer: Sitting properly is exhausting and not walking is impossible, especially when your best friend is new in town and you wanna take her on all the fun rides the city has to offer. Upper: I realized I walk a lot more that I think I do. Downer: I was a bad, bad girl because I couldn’t help myself. That delayed the healing process. Upper: A lot of delicious meals were had, movies that broke us or amused us were seen, plays that shook us to the core were attended, friends were introduced to each other and generally things happened. Fun things. Downer: I was still advised to take it easy and stop fucking around. Upper: It got better. Soon, I would go back to swimming and exercising.
Downer: It all got a bit chaotic. My mind got overwhelmed by it all. Upper: This was a new kind of chaos, the kind caused by a crazy sense of possibility and the feeling that the time has come to build, build, build. We’re putting on our story teller hats and venturing into the world! Hold on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!
Downer: Said bye-bye to meditation. Couldn’t breathe, had reactions reminiscent of panic attacks.
Upper: Decided I had to accept that and let go of the things that don’t work for me anymore. They might work again in the future. If it doesn’t serve me anymore, why force myself?
Upper: That’s a wrap, folks. I had the weight of 4 untold months on my chest and now I finally feel free. Downer: For a little while.
Once upon a time there were these two weeks in the month of October when everything was working out. I was calm and collected, organised and energized. Motivation was high like a kite in the sky and everything made sense. I was soaking up Tim Ferris’s podcasts and somehow ended up listening to exactly the ones that “I needed to”. I began taking swimming lessons once a week and set a new every-day activity: walking. Why would I add that to a board and have to check it everyday? Because it’s what the walk represents, people.
I was listening to the “Tara Brach - On meditation and fear of missing out” episode while cleaning. At one point she starts telling the story of our brother bear, Buddha, who was - as you know - sitting under a tree trying to achieve enlightenment. That night before he caught enlightenment by the tail, he fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara. We’ll call her Mara, because demon god is too long and kind of hurtful. Also, it appears that it was a “he” but I feel differently, so in my version of this story, it’s a she. So she, Mara, attacked that night with everything she had in her pouch: fear, doubt, greed, anger, lust, etc - you name it, she used it. The Buddha successfully managed to turn the water into wine - wait, no, that was Jesus, scratch that - he managed to transform the arrows into flower petals and Siddhartha Gautama into The Buddha. Mara failed that night and left all passive aggressive and pissed. That didn’t stop her from showing up every now and again. Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would freak out and announce non-subtlely that the “Evil One” had again returned. Then, the Buddha, all chill would calm Ananda - who was borderline hysterical - “Bro, I got this”. Then, instead of ignoring Mara or being a biatch to her, he would simply say “I see you, Mara. Come, let’s have tea”. Aaaand this is the point where I began to weep like a baby.
Because we all have a Mara, Mara is in all of us, she is a part of us and the way we treat her is the way we treat ourselves. In this case it’s with acknowledgement, compassion, patience and at the end of the day, love. So, it moved me and it taught me to approach my Mara emotions differently. This story combined with the fact that this woman apparently wakes up every morning at 5, eats nothing, drinks nothing, grabs her dog and goes for a walk no matter the weather made me want to do something similar. Except the 5 o'clock in the morning extravaganza. My approach has less discipline. It’s based on the fact that I don’t get up and go for a walk whenever I feel like it, either because I’m lazy, either because I’m busy, I postpone or plainly deny myself something that always makes me feel better. After hours of writing at a computer, I often get headaches, backaches, all sort of aches and a walk would be a nice treat/fix. I decided to do it everyday, no matter the weather to bring some resilience up in this biatch (me being the biatch). The point is three-fold:
To have the outside wake me up, breathe some fresh air and pretend that it’s coffee
To get un-stuck and face the world through it all: sunny, stormy, cold as fuck, etc.
To take Mara to tea. If I feel restless, uneasy, have to make a decision, I go for that walk.
As a direct result, I started enjoying time with myself a lot more, expecting less from others, being kinder and holy fuck, was I aware! I mean, I always thought I was being aware but this was a whole other level. It’s like I had superpowers. I was seeing connections everywhere, I was understanding mechanisms and relationships and everything just came naturally, no barriers.
Swimming helped loads! Aside from the fact that I’ve never felt better after a physical activity in my life (!), it was fascinating to understand what you can accomplish if you just relax in the water. We struggle to move our arms and legs to keep afloat for an entire hour and then at the end of it, she goes: “Just relax and glide. Just float”. I thought that was madness and only doable in salty water. All of a sudden, I unclenched, took a deep breath and let the water hold me; and what do you know?! It freaking did! It was eye-opening. It’s the same shit I face everyday. If only I unclenched more often! I’d float more and sink less.
During this floating period I kept hearing about the magic of cold showers and how they improve shit in your life. I was so high on life at this point that I went and tried something downright crazy. Well, crazy for me. I began embracing the cold. If there’s one thing you need know about me to understand how much of a big deal this is, is that I can’t stand the cold. Cold water, especially. I have a mug that reads in big bold letters “I like it a lot when it’s burning hot” and honey, I ain’t lying. I eat my soup scalding hot, if my tea doesn’t burn a little I don’t feel I’m alive. So, you see, it was a big deal. After a mediocre amount of research I decided to dive hard. I would start my shower at normal temperature and then, slowly but surely, reduce the temperature down to the point where my nipples could cut glass and my butt would clench significantly. Easier said than done. I don’t actually remember the first or the second time in detail. All I remember was that I found it challenging to say the least and I was now quite terrified to take a shower. On a marvelous Tuesday, I got back from my swimming lessons feeling quite pleased with myself and life in general. I got into the shower with no intentions of taking anything more than a regular, good ol’ hot quickie, but you know, one thing led to another… Next thing I know, Sia is pouring “don’t give up”s into my ear and my right hand started to move the damn shower knob from nice and cosy all the way down to “holy shit, it’s freezing! How am I doing this?!”. Boys and girls, it felt amazing.
First thing I noticed is that it isn’t the body that gives up, it’s the mind. The body can take a lot more shit than we give it credit. The minute that water went cold, my mind went into “hell no” mode and all I could hear was “make it stop, make it stop!”. Now, if you suck it up and get passed that point, you’re home, you made it, that’s it. Then, it’s all zen meditation - breaaaatheee and for Buddha’s sake, keep scrubbing! It helps.
The second you stop and get out of the shower, your body will start this amazing process of heating itself up from your magical inside and that is the moment you start feeling awesome. Your mind is awake and crisp as a motherfucking winter morning and your body is cranking up the heat and puttin’ some gas in the tank.
That night, for a brief 30 min or so I could do anything! - and 30 min suddenly feels like forever when you’ve gone forever without feeling like you could do anything. I was officially hooked.
Doing something I thought I could never do - and on a daily basis! - made me feel like a winner. I was facing a fear, I was putting myself in a uncomfortable situation and then, after having struggled I would meet myself on the victorious side. If that’s not life, I don’t know what is.
Chapter Two - Snow globes, sex toys and hummus
Right before said life started to crumble like fine french pastry, I had quite a memorable day. Thinking back, I should’ve known the universe was just trying to tell me shit was about to come my way, but sometimes you just resist the signs because you really don’t wanna believe them. I don’t remember how the day started, which means it doesn’t really matter. I had the second part all planned out: first, I would do some shopping on my own, then I’d meet Nuc and go to a sex shop, have a bite to eat and go to our first blues dance class.
There I was, surfing the shops for individual pie dishes in pastel colours (particular, I know) - also, spoiler alert: didn’t happen - but I shouldn’t know this at this point of the story. I am still starry-eyed and hopeful like a naive orphan.
I was roaming the TK Maxx shop, trying very hard not to get distracted by the Halloween merchandise AND the Christmas decorations! No, guys, the 17th of october is not too early, not at all! Hey, I’ll tell ya’ hwhat: bring the freaking Easter bunnies with their colourful eggs in their wicker baskets and fuck common sense, seasons and all that silly stuff! Let’s celebrate them all at the same time and get it over with! BRING ON AAAAALL THE CANDY! We’ll all be fucking dead before those sleigh bells start “jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too” but that’s a different conversation.
They didn’t have pie dishes to suit my needs, so on my way out I was just looking at the Christmas stuff thinking half angry, half nostalgic thoughts when I magically reach the snow globes area. Ah, snow globes, always magical. Even mid-October! Omg, guys, I take it back, I’m so sorry! Now I understand everything!
In the pile of Santa Claus-globes, reindeer and nutcracker-globes, there sat the globe of my existence. It had a simple white base with a metalic little key and inside the globe, sitting on the snow were two bears - transparent, translucent, crystal-like bears. It was like they were made of tears. My tears, the ones I started crying then and there surrounded by snow globes, pumpkins and witches costumes. I lifted it and I turned the key. It started snowing to “Joy to the world” which was the official song that every Christmas lights played in the 90’s. Or maybe it wasn’t, but it sure seemed like that. My childhood flashed before my eyes with images of my dad aka my main bear, on winter time (which this is not, ‘cause it’s OCTOBER and if stores wouldn’t pull this shit I wouldn’t be sitting here, crying real tears that are especially reserved for Christmas time, this close to my freaking birthday! Each tear for its precise time of the year!). I wiped said tears from my face and decided that I have to buy it. Screw individual pie dishes, I’ll just eat my feelings from a regular sized dish. I put my new precious possession in my backpack and left the building like Elvis in the good days!
I was late, so I started moving my legs like fettuccini in a boiling pot - chaotically and not necessarily efficiently. (I would have used “spaghetti” but who am I kidding? Just grateful they’re not cannelloni). Half way there, Nuc said he was still on the bus so I got the weird feeling that I had all the time in the world so I chilled. I chilled so much that my brain went on vacation and I took the wrong way and then got freaking lost and walked around in circles like Moses. The most frustrating part is that it was right there! It could’ve been easy breezy. Instead, I walked double the distance, panting and sweating like a truffle hog. Halfway there I realized I had a gigantic poop on my jacket because some damn seagull wanker decided that he could improve upon my day by completing my outfit with some white and green, leaky shit. I was pissed. I was finally there, late, pissed and covered in poop. I’m ready for the sex shop experience now, honey! It just feels right!
Looking back at all the times that a bird shat on me, it was never on a good day! It always came as the final flourish to a crap sandwich, like a poop cherry standing proudly on top, declaring you a loser in the eyes of the world. Wear that poop, baby! YEAH! You’ve earned it!
Fortunately, my fake leather jacket is relatively easy to clean (if I were wearing suede I would have killed some seagulls that day). We stopped for a cup of whatever so I could get a grip on life for a minute, clean my jacket and drink some water. You need to prepare yourself for the sex shop experience. Can’t just walk in there miserable, feeling like the world is out to get you, you’ll end up hating everything. I assume, I’ve never been to a sex shop before. Naturally, I assumed it’s like going to the theatre: you gotta look your best, be silent and take it all in. Aaah, dirty jokes, how they enrich our lives.
First impression? Yo, there’s a lot of stuff out there. Most of it kitchy. I don’t understand why they can’t be prettier and more tasteful. God dammit, a lil’ class never killed anybody.
I could get graphic on you and share my shopping list but I just made a big deal out of being classy and I don’t want the contrast to confuse you. I’ll just say it like a lady would. Or how I think a lady would, which implies that I am not one. Oh well. I got one “everybody needs one of these in their drawer”, one “uh, that’s sounds naughty” and one “ok, I’ll try anything once”.
Apparently, we took our sweet ol’ time because there was no way in hell we were gonna make it to the blues dance class. Disappointed? Yes. Hungry? Hell yeah!
I’ve been hearing about this place called Brother Hubbard and been wanting to eat for a while now. Since we didn’t have to rush anywhere anymore, we decided to head on there and see what they have to offer. Long story short? Delicious hummus, great lamb and some decent huge meatballs (not a euphemism, guys). Lovely autumn arrangement and great service. Also, I stole a tiny pumpkin. Thank you, goodnight! I gave him a home, ok?! Stop judging me. Jeez.
With snow globe, sex toys, stolen pumpkin, hummus to-go and cheap baloney and pufuleti (from the romanian shop) in my backpack, we proudly headed home. It had been a full day, that’s fo’ sure.
Chapter Three - Ricky Nelson has a song about you
At around this time I welcomed into my life Mary-Lou. My 76 year old amazing friend, Maurice, gave me his late wife’s bicycle so that I could get to my swimming lessons better and to my cleaning bookings faster. I named this burgundy beauty after his wife Louise, added a Mary ‘cause she seemed like a sassy gal and turned Louise into Lou without knowing, at the time, that Maurice used to call her Lou too. It was all in the name of love. The bike was happy to be ridden again, it made Maurice dip into a pool of lovely memories that he then shared with me and I...I was flying. Just me and this gal cruising. I got a lovely feeling of freedom and independence and a great sense of possibility. After a whole week of bike bliss I got knocked off of my high horse by back pain. Serious, undeniable back pain. After trying to make it go away pill-free, I caved. For the first time ever in my back pain history, I started taking anti-inflammatories. It was not looking good. I was now sitting on the floor, obviously unable to ride my bike. Good news was the pills worked, I was pain free about 4 hours later. Bad news was that I suspected Mary Lou was not good for me. I put a metaphorical pin in that cause my birthday was knocking on the door.
Chapter Four - Life is shitty after the 3rd sentence
I don’t know what it is about birthdays. Could it be the high expectations, the pressure to have it be a special day, the fact that another year has gone by and we inevitably take stock and are inevitably disappointed? I always tend to feel empty as soon as the clock transforms the regular day into the feared birthday.
Because of that, I need the events of the day or the people in my life to fill me up until I feel whole again. If it’s not full enough at the end of the day, I feel disappointed. It’s not fair, I know, but it’s how I feel. It does happen at times, that my cup runneth over and that is truly precious.
I felt the blues sneaking up on me even before the clock hit 12am that night. I caught myself and I thought I’d try to receive it differently this time. It was harder this year, though. It was the first one that my dad wouldn’t say “Happy birthday” to me. Because he can’t. Because he’s dead. And he was a big guy, so he left a lot of room in that cup.
I woke up in the morning and despite all my rationalising I felt… off. I put my clothes on and I went for a walk. It was gloomy - proper gloomy - and very still. I walked and I went through all my thoughts, expectations and fears. I addressed all my emptied corners and tried to fill at least some of them myself. Then I came home, put some scones in the oven and had a lovely breakfast.
Also, my grandma called to cheer me up. You know how it goes:
“Hey, happy birthday! May you be happy and wealthy! Cause if you don’t have money you can’t be happy! Ah, life is so shitty.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my grandma: the professional picker-upper, the life of the party, the light in a pitch-dark room! You should imagine my blank expression at this point. That call went well.
Of course, she later called to apologise because she’d thought it over and feared that she might have upset me. Upset me? Where would you get that idea?! Thank God for my sense of humour!
I turned to yoga and yoga did not disappoint. Adriene had a birthday yoga video in which she celebrated being alive and being herself. Hmm, a celebration of me, of being who I am. What an unfamiliar concept. It sure would be great. It’s not often that I get to celebrate that. I think none of us do. We spend most of our time wanting to be someone else, or be more of this and less of the other, more like July or Jim or my cat (really, who could blame me for that?). How great would it be to just celebrate that you are who you are? We should make it our birthday more often.
After the magical yoga, I was brought a big glass of wine and received specific instructions about entering the kitchen. Meaning that I was to not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen. Nuc was cooking for lil’ ol’ me. I had wine on the couch and re-watched Ratatouille while sniffing the air in an attempt to guess what’s cookin’, good lookin’?
When I was eventually beckoned in the kitchen, a big plate of spaghetti all’ amatriciana awaited. Awh, you made me food, you do love me! I wiped that baby clean, ‘cause it was delicious! After a bit more wine and a bit more time, we got ready for an evening on the town aka dinner (at my fav japanese restaurant) and a show in the form of stand-up comedy because a girl needs to laugh on her birthday.
Then we went to a house party where I ate lots of Doritos, talked about gay sex way too much and drank Futyulos Palinka (a hungarian treat that gets you wasted). If it’s not clear, it was a good time. A gal laughed a lot on her birthday. Mission accomplished. My cup was full.
Chapter Five- I think she’s broken, Jim!
When pain hit the second time, she was not as willing to go away. Pills took 4 days to make a difference and I was still unable to walk without triggering it. My bike days seemed long gone, so were my cleaning days. I struggled to make the final decision. Partly because I had grown accustomed to the people and I actually felt helpful and partly because I was clinging to the smear of independence. The one thing that made me feel better about not carrying my own heavyweight in the world, the one thing that made my shame bearable.
I’ve been planning an autumn day in the park ever since the leaves started falling to the ground. Nuc was in LA. It was a Sunday. I treated myself to a day in the park. I would make my decision on this walk, I thought. I learned that I could only walk for 20 min at a time without pain, after which I had to sit. I was battling the actual pain and the pain of making a decision when it suddenly dawned on me that I have no decision to make. It has been made for me and all I can do is listen. I called my customers and the company the second day and quit. I also quit riding Mary Lou. She sits there, awaiting the day that she’s gonna get back on the road - and so do I.
Chapter Six - Sieving polenta from the sky
One night, I was lying in bed, left side of my face down on my warm pillow, knees bent and hands gripped around Fernando, my bear. I took a “and now I will sleep” breath and I shut my eyes. Suddenly, from the pitch dark a bubble of light formed itself effortlessly and I was instantly transported to that very familiar picture. It was summer in my backyard. Under our cherry tree, that is now no more, there was my grandpa, that is now no more, there was my dad, that is now no more and there was this little brown eyed girl that is still in here somewhere. I gasped for air like waking up from a shocking dream. There was a feeling of warmth inside my chest and one devastating question on my mind. What if we could go back on a day? Any day - that day. Just for a minute. Just enough to hold my dad’s hand, to graze my grandad’s stubble, to bask in the summer light while sucking on a black cherry that I picked myself. I’ll never forget that light - this yellow, almost glittery fog that moved imperceptibly. Someone must have been sifting golden flour from the sky and it was dissipating and floating around inside this glass ball that appeared to have been my life for a moment. Every time that image comes to mind, I get a sense of warmth and bliss. Then that question emerges and with it, a strong pang in my solar plexus. That is the pain of an impossible desire and it strikes in my core with an initial twinge, followed by the impression that I’m running out of air. It’s not a desperate act, it’s resigned, exhausted and powerless. The light of my bubble begins to dim, slowly fading into the darkness that it came from.
Maybe that’s why the snow globe meant so much to me. Different season, same warmth.