My birthday is this week or… technically, it’s at the very beginning of next week.
For the record, it’s 10-4… you know, like in the police code.
In other words, “OKAY”.
I was once in the back of a police car and they said “10-4” and I said, “That’s my birthday!”
I love birthdays. And I used to love my own but last year and this year… I just don’t want to deal with it.
Today, a Twitter friend astutely suggested that perhaps I had served my life purpose.
I’ve already done what I came here to do.
I’m technically still *here*… but I’m also… floating elsewhere.
That sounds somewhat dramatic but… she really hit it on the head.
Maybe I’ve already served my purpose, played my part, made my contribution.
I just never say that out loud/in print because I wish to avoid the hyper reaction of others who care.
I’m not contemplating suicide or anything. I’m just trying to read the signs as they come in.
Or as they don’t come in and life stays stuck because then my physical health started to falter in dramatic ways.
And that summary above doesn’t list the “unexpected” overproduction of brain electricity discovered this year after two 72 hour EEGs which caused a whole bunch of drama and stress.
Consequently, I feel like I have been preparing myself to accept the final bad news. And, accordingly, I accept the theory that I have already done what I was put here to do.
I am ready to go and I have a bucket list of shit I want to fit in here.
However, recently, a former supervisor found a way for me to get my doctorate and professional experience recognized by the state.
Acquiring that kind of certification would qualify me for more positions and then maybe I could apply my doctorate, justify all this student debt, and find purpose through my work as I had long ago planned.
Pragmatic hope lives.
Maybe then I could channel all the excess electricity my brain apparently produces towards healing itself.
But, as part of the certification process, I had to acquire updated letters of reference and my former doctoral supervisor added text to his letter which stated how I would have surely been offered a tenure-track academic position by the University of Edinburgh…
but I turned down the position and returned home so I could be closer to my parents.
And then my life, for the next ten years, was dramatically consumed by sickness, advocacy, grief and loss.
My mother was given six months to live in 2012 (frontotemporal degeneration (FTD))), my father was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, my cousin who was like a brother to me was given a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer in 2014, and my grandma was also quietly diagnosed with cancer and then… my father died in 2015, my cousin and grandma died in 2016, and my mother died in 2017 in my home as I cared for her in her final year.
And then our dog died in 2019.
That is a lot of beauty lost from the world.
But life goes on with or without you.
So I tried to pick up where I had left off after leaving academia… and I couldn’t find a “real job” and then my epilepsy started giving me issues and my body started to break down.
I mean, that is an incredible amount of wear and tear of the mind and body.
Consequently, floating in space for a bit almost sounds therapeutic.
Take another look:
That’s a “wheeeeeeee”, good buddy.
The reality is how I’ve always pushed through to get somewhere else, somewhere situated along the path of Forward Movement and so there has been little time to snivel or feel sorry for myself or complain about how unfair or sad or tough life is…
and now I’ve pushed through to *here*.
And I can’t help but feel I missed my stop.
Like I was sitting on the metro and I’m suddenly at the end of the line, not able to see anything ahead and realizing I maybe missed my stop and life has gone on without me because everyone else used their transfer and are on different tracks.
This isn’t a new revelation.
In fact, in the past year and a half, I’ve determinedly tried to extend this metaphorical metro line, manufacture a stop and find purpose and place there.
But it’s not tangible yet.
So, when my birthday arrives, and kind souls I don’t regularly hear from wish me a happy birthday, it’s like a spotlight is suddenly shown on me but
no one is really there.
Woof! It’s a rather hefty thing to share as it is in direct contrast to the public image I portray and wish to maintain.
But it’s logical… no medication or support group can mend this reality.
The important thing is how I remain on the hunt for purpose and place.
And, when I say “place”, I am referring to something symbolic but also literal because
THIS APARTMENT SITUATION CANNOT SUSTAIN.
For instance: THERE HAS BEEN A CAR ALARM GOING OFF FOR 45 MINUTES NOW AS I WRITE THIS BLOG OH MY CATS.
Yesterday, I was on the phone with my genetic counselor’s coordinator when my phone blew up with texts.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
And, if I don’t look at a text, the text will keep beeping.
I really have to change that setting.
So, eventually, irritably, I checked the texts after I hung up and the first one was from the downstairs neighbor who isn’t staying there presently and it said something about how our landlord couldn’t reach me and he needed me to open the back door of our building to let someone into the basement.
It read as if it was some kind of emergency and I assumed our landlord was standing at the back door, waiting.
So I grumpily grabbed a mask and walked down the stairs to the first floor and tried to open the back exterior door. But it has swelled shut and I was unable to do it.
Then our landlord called me and it took about ten minutes for me to explain where I was (there is only ONE exterior door in the back of the building to which I have access to… I AM AT THAT DOOR HOW IS THIS DIFFICULT) but he was confused because our neighbor got it wrong and he wanted me to turn on a water valve in our gigantic basement.
There was never anyone at the back door and I’m not sure why the door was even mentioned by the neighbor.
So I asked my landlord for some guidance as I had no idea where this valve was and I’m going to go out on a limb to say that our landlord is not a verbal communicator. This soon became clear because he felt it would be easier if he FaceTimed me.
Naturally, I was standing in a basement so our video chat wasn’t super successful.
Yet, I was soon following pipes away from the east wall. He made it sound as if the valve would be close to the wall.
Our basement is partitioned with one side never really being used and, as such, it is filled with cobwebs. I went over to that side because it also had pipes running from the front of the building.
I simply was not seeing a valve.
So my landlord started to explain what a valve was. He used “spicket” and “spout” and other words so I was keeping my mind open and resented his need to provide more details for one of the multiple names he had assigned to the singular object I was looking for.
“I know what a lever valve is. I’m telling you I’m not seeing one on any of the pipes running from the east wall near the wall.”
“Well, it is probably closer to the middle of the room.”
WELL THAT MADE A BIT OF A DIFFERENCE. Because, here I was, pushing through cobwebs, verbally documenting what I was doing, and he just allowed me to continue drudging around the east wall area in the dark knowing that the valve was probably elsewhere.
So, once I was given another area to explore, I happily headed toward the middle of the basement which is well-lit and more friendly and found the red valve above me in the ceiling.
But I couldn’t move it.
By this point, I was ignoring him as he debated whether it should be turned clockwise or not and just tried to move it any way I could.
Because I could not move it.
I tried to move it for minutes.
He wanted to see the valve to make sure it was the right valve which made sense to me.
But, yes, it was the correct valve. Allegedly, it had been turned off not that long ago so it shouldn’t have been as stuck as it seemed.
So he said.
And he again said, “It shouldn’t be that hard.”
I know he didn’t mean how it had sounded. However, my hands were red with my effort and I was not giving him the benefit of the doubt.
“I think a wrench is needed,” I said.
“Or a hammer. I’d use a hammer,” he countered.
So I walked to where our tools are kept and found a small light mallet hammer and walked back and tapped on the lever and then my landlord freaked out.
“Jesus! It shouldn’t be that stuck!”
And then: “Maybe you should get a chair? Do you have a chair you could use? Chair chair chair chair…”
I interrupted him to say, “There aren’t any chairs in the basement and we don’t own any folding chairs which I’d be able to bring down from the second floor. And also I’m 5’10” so it’s not an issue of me not being able to reach it and really push and pull on it. It’s just not moving.”
In other words, I’M CLEARLY NOT STRONG ENOUGH AND THIS IS NOT HELPING MORALE.
And, also: MAYBE YOU SHOULD HIRE A MAINTENANCE PERSON.
My landlord left it at “Maybe David can move it when he gets home” and I was all “I guess it wasn’t an emergency then huh” but didn’t say that and then neither of us could disconnect from our FaceTime conversation which was ironic because I was pretty sure I never wanted to interact with him again.
In any case, finding a new literal place is essential for well-being.
The apartment building we’ve been living in for over a year is very old. We even have the original windows which were in place when this building was erected back in a former century.
Our landlord likes to say that as if it’s his contribution to historical preservation.
So, yeah, we still need to move. I didn’t want to again decorate this apartment for Halloween. We were only supposed to be here for a year — some boxes remain packed — and, well, I never became employed.
And, before the “lever crisis”, I had been on the phone with my genetics counselor’s coordinator because I had sent in cheek swabs two months ago to see if I had mutated genes that made me susceptible to cancer but also to see if I carried the FTD (presenile dementia)/ALS mutation.
I scheduled the results call for next Tuesday and not tomorrow as they had wanted because it is my
MOTHERLOVING BIRTHDAY WEEKEND
and I’m trying to pump myself up.
And tomorrow morning I have my appointment with the ENT (Treebeard Mark) about whatever is blocking passage in my sinuses
and I had already decided I would do whatever I wanted to do with the rest of my Friday.
I don’t have time to hear genetic results.
No, I have a gift certificate to Forever 21 which I got for my last birthday from my husband and I need to use it before Forever 21 is completely bankrupt.
I couldn’t exchange it for cash. I already tried that a few months earlier when things were really tight.
Forever 21 is a little sentimental to me because I only know about it from my father who loved the store.
My dad didn’t love crowds or malls or anything I feel is associated with Forever 21 and which keeps me away away from the Forever 21 stores but… he inexplicably loved going to that store.
Christmas will never be the same because I will never receive the Dad-picked treasure trove from Forever21:
My dad was full of surprises in the best way. So, in honor of him, I’ll redeem my Forever 21 gift card tomorrow.
And then I thought I’d go get my nails done because it has been… over two years since I’ve had any kind of professional nail care.
But it’s a pandemic and we can’t pay rent again so… I decided I’d just buy some Sally Hansen Tough As Nails from Walgreens and do my own nails.
A side effect from my old epilepsy medication which I’m back on
is not only profuse sweating but also… shaking. Trembling.
Therefore, I wouldn’t want to go in and get my nails done because they’re a complete wreck and also because I wouldn’t be able to hold my hands still.
That sounds a bit hellish and not at all a fun birthday activity.
So I will buy dark nail polish as I have none, and I will also splurge and buy an electric toothbrush as mine died a couple weeks ago.
I may also spray paint the only shoes which don’t aggravate my back injury. I got them for my mom when I was caring for her and, after she died, I tried them on and… they’re amazing.
And also fiercely colorful. 😬
So I’m going to spray paint them black for my birthday.
Ta-da! New shoes!
I am an old person. It’s official.
Sally Hansen nail polish, an electric toothbrush and aesthetically repurposed tennis shoes/trainers… my birthday splurges somewhat defy the word “splurge”.
So when the genetics coordinator asked if I was able to hear the results of the genetics testing that I’ve long been dreading this Friday, I said…”no.”
This Friday I am doing birthday stuff for me. I feel like I’m disappearing and dread my birthday but I AM EXTENDING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS MOTHERLOVING YEAR IN PROTEST OF THIS BUMMER FEELING.
Maybe I’ll get really carried away and also buy a pet of some kind. Our landlord who prohibits pets lives in California so how the hell would he know if I had a pet here in his disintegrating building in Milwaukee.
Maybe I’ll get an iguana.
There isn’t any kind of outdoor green space for a dog and, besides, going outside in our neighborhood at night is somewhat suicidal.
And I wouldn’t have to feed the iguana because it could eat the wildlife which live in our apartment who come in through the holes in the walls and windows.
If the certification doesn’t come through and my purpose and place remain unknown and I continue to float in space, at least then I’d have an iguana for whom I could
create a felt clothing line.
Putting clothes on animals is not something I have done regularly but it’s important to step out of our comfort zone if trying to get back on solid ground.
It will be okay.
And, if it isn’t, it’s only 30 days until Halloween where we can all pretend we’re someone else and easily find temporary purpose through costume and fancy dress.
And get a break from being ourselves and our individual search for earthly meaning for just a bit.
And if Treebeard Mark the ENT unexpectedly gives me bad news tomorrow regarding whatever the hell is stuck in my sinuses which they accidentally saw during my last brain MRI…
well, I have friends and dogs to drink with this weekend and oh shall we drink and be grateful for the time. 🖤