An Update

Boy, life sure can be busy sometimes. The last two months have been hectic and filled with milestones and setbacks. I have returned to therapy in an effort to untangle some of the issues from my ex husband. Valentine’s Day I finally replaced my car with a 2011 Toyota Camry that I just love. Having a vehicle again has really helped to restore my confidence.

I’m trying desperately once again to get into some kind of routine. Somehow, managing 3 kids plus trying to have multiple careers is really hard. I have a great partner but at the same time, he’s not here a lot of the time which means just about everything falls on me: bills, groceries, child care, medical, financial. And lately, the stress has been overwhelming me to the point that I spent five days with a migraine and ended up in the ER. Fortunately, they gave me a nice “headache cocktail” and I was back on my feet the next day. Turns out, they’ve made a lot of progress with understanding migraines in the last ten years.

Everyone in the ER was very considerate – they made sure the lights were dimmed, tried to keep things quiet for me and most of all, got me meds just as soon as possible. They also gave me a CT scan to make sure nothing was wrong and thankfully that was clear. The migraine was severe enough at one point we thought I might have had a stroke. Turns out it was just the pain muddling my brain a little. I was having trouble remembering things, concentrating, and even got lost several times trying to get home.

At this point I’m under instructions from my doctors that when a headache starts, no matter how mild, I’m to immediately take pain medication. Once the pain reaches a certain level, it will require hospital intervention but if I can get to it fast enough, I can avoid another trip to the ER. So I start with a mild drug and work my way up from there. If still no relief then I call 911 again but after what happened last week, I’d really rather avoid that.

It really was a cluster. I was at home alone with the kids, who were outside playing. I reached the point that I was almost incoherent with the 911 operator (although I do remember calling), and by the time the ambulance and EMS arrived I was completely incoherent, unable to stand unassisted and had to be wheeled down the stairs. Talk about an embarrassing drama! They even had to call the police department to come watch my kids for a little while.

I am thankful that it wasn’t too serious, although at the time it felt like my head was going to split apart. In terms of pain, the first migraine was a 20 on a scale of ten. In comparison, the second migraine was a 10/10. Still bad but not nearly as scary. At this point we’ve attributed the migraines to a combination of severe stress, too much driving, and dehydration. So I’m working hard to take better care of myself in all ways physical, mental and emotional.

That starts with having a semblance of a schedule that I can stick to. And it includes writing for at least 15 minutes a day, even if it’s just doing a blog entry. So today I am starting simply with a blog post. I might try to do a little fiction writing in a bit once the kids are asleep. I have a fantasy short story I want to write for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Asimov’s Science Fiction. If it’s published then I hope to submit it to my favorite podcast, PodCastle. It would be my first submission under my new pen name. Hopefully the writing will go well.

I am still working on getting my real estate license and hope to take the text in the next 30 days. The sooner I can get that particular career off the ground, the better. Although I fear it may bring about its own set of problems and stresses. Like having an appropriate wardrobe. But I’ll deal with that when it gets here.

In any case, off to try and write and then maybe play a little Guild Wars 2.

Three Kinds of Hell

This is yet another cautionary tale against going out to eat. I know there are plenty of them out there on the internet. And with my history, you’d think I would have learned by now. Out of a group of ten people, I’m the one most likely to get food poisoning. It’s a curse. Think I’m kidding? Read on and learn.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was served, not once, not twice, but three different times undercooked chicken. Fortunately, after the first time, I became obsessive about checking my food. At one point a few years ago, I was given food poisoning – again, not once, not twice, but on three different occasions from three different locations no less! – food poisoning from Subway’s chicken breast. Another case in point, I bought some steaks (years ago) from Walmart, not once but twice, was given food poisoning from the meat (despite cooking to the proper temperature). 

Mind you, I have a sensitive stomach anyway. There’s a long list of things I’m allergic to – chocolate, red wine, any kind of dried pepper or spice (paprika, cayenne, chili, cumin, taco seasoning) and any kind of hot pepper. I have to be careful around marinara sauces and pizza sauces. I’m the queen of bland foods – the spiciest I get is black pepper. 

But this weekend, a group of us (five) decided to go out to eat at a local chinese place that serves mongolian BBQ. I’ve been going there for four and a half years. The food is always perfect – I know what I can eat and what to stay away from. I did my usual – I grabbed a bowl for the mongolian bbq, filled it with mushrooms, onions, a nice scoop of garlic, a little carrots for crunch and color. Along the way I was behind a gentleman who had a heaping bowl of veggies and a second bowl in his hand for his condiments. I watched him ladle three heaping spoons of chili sauce, plus garlic pepper and jalapenos. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s gonna be one hot dish! Glad I’m not eating that – it would just about kill me”. (Now don’t get ahead of me here).

He leaves his bowl and I stand and wait with my bowl, as I always do. I turn my head for a second as my daughter is talking to me, taking my eye off my bowl. I turn back and I’m momentarily disoriented. My bowl is gone. Startled I look up and the server nods and smiles at me, confident and in control. I look at the silver disk and there’s two heaps of veggies but I can’t tell at all which one is which. My boyfriend walks up with his bowl and I give him a baffled look. He points at the server, I shrug. I walk over to him and he suggests I go get food with our daughter and he’ll bring the food to the table. I smile, say thanks, tell him I think mine is on the left but the server should know, and off we go. 

The trouble doesn’t really start until the first bite. “Wow, that’s a bit spicy,” I mutter as my mouth catches on fire. My oldest stepdaughter takes a bite and declares, “I don’t taste anything.” My boyfriend does the same with the same result. I shrug, figuring it’s just me and take a few more bites. I’m picking around the edges, I’m grabbing from the middle and every couple of bites seems a little hotter. 

Then I find it. A sliver of zucchini under a piece of chicken. I don’t like zucchini. No way I put any in there, not even by accident. My boyfriend finds a red pepper flake – another thing I never put in my food.

Jalapeno_Estonia_3So I start digging a little deeper. Then I find it. Buried like a dubloon, seeds still intact, is a bright green sliced jalapeno. I pick it up with my fork like it’s diseased and hold it up for the table to see. There’s a stunned silence. Everyone there knows – beyond a doubt – I would never put something like that in my food, even accidentally.

My mouth is officially aflame. I can feel the roof of my mouth swelling. My tongue feels a little thick and I feel a slightly sick to my stomach. This is my favorite restaurant other than Olive Garden. My mind is madly calculating – how much did I eat? How long will I pay for this careless mistake? I’ve eaten at least a dozen or more good sized mouthfuls. About 1/10th of the plate is gone. I can practically picture the little chili flakes, red pepper and jalapeno seeds swimming gleefully in my stomach acid, bouncing off my stomach walls, leaving sizzling pockmarks in the tissue before joyously smashing and bashing their way through the rest of my digestive system. I’m almost paralyzed with terror.

This means 24 hours of three kinds of hell. It means the kind of diarrhea that has you clinging to the toilet for dear life, praying for death. It means hours of sweating, groaning, and intense pain that will leave me weak, drained, and exhausted. At this point, I’m done eating. I try to force myself to eat a little something. I’m trying not to ruin it for everyone else. I manage to eat most of a roll, part of some sweet and sour chicken and a handful of jello, terrified to eat anything more for fear of the consequences.

None of them have a clue what awaits me but I’m remembering the last time. I went to a Mexican restaurant (another thing I can’t eat) and ordered a grilled chicken salad. Little did I know their chicken came pre-seasoned in paprika. I didn’t realize it until the meal was done and I was running to the bathroom. That was about eight months ago.

I tell the manager, request a refund of the meal, which he gives us (but not before asking all kinds of questions as to what kind of reaction I will have. I’m not sure if he’s afraid we’ll sue or is fascinated), somewhat reluctantly it would seem. We go home and I take a benadryl, hoping it will lessen the effects but pretty certain it will only delay the agony.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I wake up the very next day, twelve hours later, and start my period. My esophagus feels like someone poured battery acid down it. My stomach is full of lead and I’m cramping fit to put a full grown man into the fetal position, sobbing and begging for mercy. The universe has a really fucked up sense of humor.

I take Midol and Advil like they are candy all day, eat some soup for lunch and generally keep the food consumption light until about midday when I can’t take it anymore. I must eat – I’m dizzy with hunger. So I have some salad and chicken and veggies for dinner.

Around 11 p.m. it hits me, like a freightliner to an iceberg. I’m trapped on the toilet, sweat pouring off of me. It’s hell and I’m practically in tears from the pain. Four hours later, I finally emerge, take another Benadryl in the hopes it will help unclench my sphincter muscles from their death throes, and crawl into bed, praying for sleep. It takes another hour but finally sleep comes at almost 3 a.m.

I’m up again at 7, groggy and dealing with two ornery children and a daughter trying to get ready for work. I have a meeting at 9 a.m. that I’m barely conscious for and currently I’m sitting here typing this dreaming of my bed. I just ate a bagel, which has somewhat soothed my stomach, although not the rest. Now instead of 24 hours of hell, this has turned into about 72 hours. And my week has only just begun.

Life Story Part 4: The Drama and the Departure

It’s funny how blind we become when we’re in a relationship. I suppose it’s all part and parcel of it really but we create this bubble and we stop looking for the cracks and flaws. The warning signs were all there but as long as I was inside the relationship bubble, I couldn’t see them.

My ex Brian and I are in the process of getting a divorce. And I use that phrase loosely because frankly, if I don’t do the filing, he sure as hell never will. There was so much drama before he left that I am almost afraid to file for divorce out of fear that it will start all over again. The last thirty days have worked to restore parts of me to myself. I’ve begun the long, slow process of healing. The last thing I want to do is unravel that. But I’ve never been one to let fear hold me back from doing the right thing or the hard things in life. So why do I hesitate? Am I really so traumatized by it all?

There was a solid 30 days of drama after I told Brian it was over. Brian is the first person who I yelled “Fuck you” at repeatedly. The loathing and hate was like a thick chalk stuck in the back of my throat. Brian seemed to be able to push my buttons as much as he wanted. He’s the first person I seriously considered physically harming. Some part of me that is still good managed to avoid crossing that line but it was so tempting.

At one point Brian looked at Jon and said, “What, are you ashamed to be with her?” Now Jon is 6’2″ of muscle and I thought he might just tear Brian apart, limb from limb during this period. Brian did everything he could to push both of us, and to push us apart.

In an effort to bring about some peace, I had Brian sit in a vehicle with me for three hours while we discussed everything. I gave him an opportunity to say whatever he wanted to say, to clear the air. I watched him go through the whole gamut of emotions, and at one point he cried and told me he still loved me, that if I said it he’d take me back, no questions asked. He asked to hold my hand one last time. I hoped I saw the beginning flickers of healing but the next day it was right back to where it had been – angst, verbal sparring and antagonism from him. Brian could not understand that once I was outside the bubble, there was no going back into it. I could not unsee the truth. All I could do was look at him with pity, which probably bothered him most of all.

The day he left was a mixture of pain and relief. Jon had stepped in as a complete barrier between Brian and I – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I would no longer communicate directly with Brian and all things had to go through Jon. Still Brian persisted in verbally and emotionally abusing me, with phone calls, long texts and emails. I lost the ability to work for seven long months. My ability to write was blocked entirely. If not for Jon, I would probably still be locked in a quagmire of remorse, guilt, fear, and indecision. Not to mention homeless.

One of my best friends put it best when she said, “Why would Brian ever leave? You take care of him – he’s got it made. Who’s taking care of you?” Nothing could have summed up our relationship better. Jon had said at one point, “You’re his doormat” and he was right too.

I give to others – it’s who I am and I don’t know how to be anything else. My whole life I’ve tried to surround myself with people who don’t abuse that or use it, who won’t take it for granted. Giving to others lifts me up – it makes me happy. It makes me forget all the ugliness in life. And I tried to do that in my relationship, only to have it used against me once again.

The strangest part is that at the height of the drama, I was falling in love. I didn’t think that was even possible. All the therapists and such say you should take a year to recover from a divorce, to grieve and regroup but instead I’m doing it inside of a relationship. Is that a mistake? Only time will tell. But we seem to be navigating it with flying colors honestly. He counsels me, I counsel him and we simply let each other vent when we need to. There’s plenty of baggage and triggers but nothing we can’t handle. We’re helping each other through it. And that might be the best path for both of us. But it certainly isn’t for everyone.

Jon likes to joke that we’re “demi-Gods”. It’s not arrogance, it’s simply that we both are above average intelligence and ability. We stick out like sore thumbs around most people. It doesn’t make us necessarily better, just different, and on another level. I do NOT recommend this path for others. There are times I question my own decision but in the end it is just instinct.

I need Jon like I need the air I breathe. I’ve always been drawn to him and I’ve fought against that current for four years, consciously and unconsciously. Now, having experienced him in all his incredible glory, I could no more deny myself him than I could stop breathing. It’s almost a helpless kind of thing, once the door was opened, there was no closing it again. Once I kissed him, my fate with him was sealed. Once he touched me, our lives were entwined. I cannot imagine my life without him in it and the thought scares me. I know I will never experience a love like this again. This is one of those epic love stories you see in the movies, only it’s as real as it gets.

We’re two people who have walked a similar path. We’ve both been hurt, abused, and struggled. We’ve overcome it and come together like puzzle pieces. When he tells me I’m amazing, I know he means it and believes it. It’s not just fodder for my ego or to boost me. He looks at me with this wide-eyed wonder like he just can’t believe the gift he’s been given. He chokes up when he talks about how grateful he is to be able to cherish me, to love me, and to feel the gifts of my love.

For my part, no one has ever made me feel both fragile and strong at the same time. He makes me feel like the finest crystal – perfectly shaped but completely fragile. He holds me and I can feel that he will never let me fall, that I won’t shatter. I have a picture from early on in our relationship where I’m cuddled up against his chest, and he is literally almost entirely wrapped around me, with his hand gently holding my head. Our eyes are closed and the expression of bliss and love between us is a visible thing. That picture moves me to tears every time.

It may prove to be a mistake but I would rather experience an epic love like this than be afraid of it. Isn’t life all about experiences anyway?

Another Place to Fall

I’m an English major and have studied a lot of literature over the past decade. There’s so much meaning in words, in stories and in songs. Music in particular fascinates me. There’s so much depth to music and it can provide so much meaning to our lives. The amazing thing is there’s no right or wrong way to interpret it. What it meant for the songwriter who wrote it might be completely different for what it means to the person who listens to it. For example, K T Tunstall’s song Another Place to Fall.

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