We encourage you to find more of Teisha’s writing at the blog http://betterthansleepingalone.typepad.com/my_weblog/Comment
August 25, 2010
I don’t know what to say.
The donor program has asked that I remain anonymous, if I write something inappropriate, they will block it out so I won’t worry too much about what is and isn’t okay to tell you. I live in a beautiful little city an hour and a half from the beach and an hour from skiing. I live in my hometown. I come from a big family. I am a high school and college graduate; I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree. I bought my first house with the gift money my mom gave me for graduating from college. The woman who owned the real estate agency who worked for me when I bought my first home later hired me as a Realtor. I love houses and people and driving around listening to the radio. I am also a musician in a band. I sing and play the drums and I’ve been learning how to play the guitar for many years.
That said, please let me tell you a little bit about myself. I live in my hometown. I come from a big and happy family where our Christmas celebration includes at least 45 people. My family is very musical. I live in a beautiful city close to the beach and the mountains. I have two gregarious and beautiful dogs and we live just a short walk to a park overlooking the city.
What made you decide to be a donor?
Where do you live?
What do you look like?
What was it like letting them take the blood cells out of you?
How did they notify you that you were a candidate to donate?
Did it hurt?
I know you don’t know me but know that I try to be a good person that I love life and feel like I still have a lot to learn and your donation has given me time I would not have had. I wish you could see the happy and hopeful faces of my family and friends as they watch me recover and work on making the best out of my new normal so that you could see that what you gave didn’t just have a massive and important affect on my life, you touched many people who (despite my various idiosyncrasys) like me better alive than not!
If you ever want to talk please feel free to call or email me and if not, that is okay too of course. Either way, I hope you take time to consider what a huge difference you made in the life of someone who hopes she can live the rest of her life in a way that illustrates she deserved it! You have shown by your actions what it is to reach out into the world to try to help someone who needs it.
Today is the first day of the year. There’s only one first day of the year. It is an annual event and it is not a matter of what you know or who you are or where you are or even (thankfully) why you are. Today is everyone’s first day of the year. Well maybe not this very instant but in certain time zones, for sure. This morning I have taken my medication, eaten a baked potato, let the dogs outside, twice. Luna barks every time someone comes to the front door and I yell at her to stop. Mom said “when Luna barks at the door, that’s her job, she’s a DOG.” Live and let live. I’d like to write a song today, I’d like him to come over to watch the game, I’d like to go for a walk and all of that makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. And I might. Why, you may ask, am I 99.7% cancer free AND nauseous? Thank God for my counselor Sara because there is a shit load of processing I have to go through.
Where is my printer? When will my puppy be potty trained? Maybe he just doesn’t love me., That can’t be true. That makes me cry. Like talking to the Dad who told you he loved you, but you knew, he didn’t know you. A gentle reminder to you, gentle reader, I am writing for my own good. I’m not trying to tell or teach you any single thing. I show up here on Day One of the New Year, 2010. Sometimes I cry. This may really be it. I need something I’m not getting. period. Time to make a change. I just can’t really LIVE like this. My life feels worse and better than it ever has, on the same day. Day One. Today is the day to live up to my resolution to write 500 words a day and I’m only halfway done with today’s post? Eke. Faster, faster, faster it goes. Go, Go, Go.
Now I know why real writers don’t want you to see any shitty first draft they ever wrote. Goddamn. I have 147 more words to go. I almost flunked out of high school geometry and were it not for the balding, pudgy, commandeer Mr. Casey who worked all afternoon, the last day of school, so that I could actually “Graduate” who for heaven sakes knows what turn life would have taken. I feel like we’ve already broken up but I’m the last to know. Is it time to reevaluate our relationship? Do you miss me? Are you seeing someone else? Do you still love me? I’m sorry for how hard it was.
in the shed
tackled to the hill
where you’ll be buried
when you’re dead
with no more time to kill.
my stomach really hurts and it’s hard to see and I’m afraid.
It is Christmas Eve day. I am at mom’s and her house looks out on her small field full of large animals including two not enormous Nubian goats, a chicken, two emu’s, five or so Llamas and several other goats. It is 2:15pm in the afternoon and the sunlight filters through the branches of the cedar tree next to the field. The sky is bright blue and the air is crisp and cold. I just spent some time looking through the many cards I’ve been given over the last year and I got choked up, as I sometimes do, when I think about life and the living of it. I told me with a teary face that I needed to go take a nap, came up to her room where she lets me sleep and she hugged me so tight and I don’t know how she does it but she does. She gives me strength when it shows on my face that living with illness kind of hurts. It doesn’t always hurt and it is true that it could almost always be worse, that we live and we learn, that “attitude determines latitude” as some wise folks have shown. I am 99.7% cancer free. Moving in the right direction, toward being cured and while it is not a perfect picture and a rather bitter pill, I am alive and kicking.
6:14 am Christmas morning. Seems like I have been waking up early morning every year of Christmas and again, this year I feel the inner elation of the anticipation of getting and, even better, giving. Good news. My dream last night was about a place where people were staying and going to (I think Australia). Mom has a house full of pets this Christmas. Three cats, one dog and a puppy roam around her house happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. I love Christmas.
It is 8am on Christmas morning. Daisy, mom’s light cream kitty is lying next to me in mom’s bed purring licking her legs and the tips of her feet. Rusty who is Daisy’s brother is sort of rust color with stately patches of fluffy white. He was a regular sweet kitty and now he is Huge. He is also giving his belly a bath on the left corner of the bed. I said a prayer out loud to whom I’ve always prayed. I felt the presence. I felt grateful for the sky and trees and warm blankets. I felt inspired at the world we live in and the lives that we live through. I’m not sure any of us have the absolute answer but we are supplied with the endless push and pull where the ocean meets the sand. My hope for this day today is just that I spend today in today.
Written Christmas 2009Comment
Today is Saturday the 3rd and Gia asked me to come over. Liz asked if she could come over. The Music room needs work. It is only 8:45 a.m. and I’m already dreading the day. Why? Because I don’t feel great? Because I’m lonely? Maybe it is because I am ashamed of having cancer. Of being ill. But then, what are you going to do?
It is 7 a.m. or so in the morning of the 4th, that leaves me a little under a thousand words to fill in yesterday and today, daunting but doable. Yesterday I woke up feeling tired still and slightly lonely. My stomach was queasy. I called Thorne Ann and she agreed to come help with the house. I went back to bed. Some parts of me felt depressed. It seems the most reasonable approach to dealing with a dark day is to just take it one day at a time. One second, one minute. It doesn’t all have to feel exciting and bright and it doesn’t all have to feel like the end of the world. There is mystery in love and there is love and the more you know the more you know you don’t know anything. I think my dreams last night were not horrible. My mind is going at one speed and my body at another. The importance of hope but not be understood by those of us who’ve never not had it. Although it seems that culturally, it is part of our design. As the story goes, they live happily ever after. When the end of life has come for ourselves or someone we love, we hope for heaven, for peace of mind or, for some of us, just a change from what we’ve experienced in this life.
She woke up early, it was going to be a long day. By 8am her mom was there, cooking in the kitchen, keeping her hands busy. Together, they waited through a cold December morning and into the early afternoon. Finally, sometime in the very middle of the day she just decided it would be better to call than to be called and when she did, after being put on hold by a well meaning and totally unhelpful administrative assistant, the Pathologist picked up the phone at a desk somewhere she would never see and he called the diagnosis “favorable” and this was immediately incomprehensible to her. It would never have occurred to her to characterize any sort of cancerous- ness as favorable and so, she hung up the phone where she sat up in bed still achy from the biopsy stitches and the world fell away and she wasn’t stoned anymore so if fell away hard and fast. And after 33 years of working on it, she had completely lost who she thought she had become and she did not understand life even a little and, despite the sickening diagnosis of a life threatening illness which saddened her in a places heretofore hidden away- she wished for a moment she were dead. It was simply a very, very sad afternoon. A total disappointment.
Earlier in the week, as they anticipated the results with hopeful abandon, she had called it “the friendliest case of cancer” that ever was- if it was at all. It hadn’t let on a bit. No weight loss. No unusual infections, illnesses. Successful yearly check ups, hours at the gym, no significant family history of illness. Not a whisper of what was to come.
Girl is born. Father, black American. Mother, white American. Late 1960’s. Late. She sings, the little light skinned one. She is drawn toward languages and people with character. Her laugh is loud and during college she experienced a deep bias against girls who ate mainly salad. This gave her pause and angered her. Eat some fucking food, she might think or sometimes say. The competition in a (I almost said boarding house) sorority house is keen. Smiling, tugging cowboy boots up not quite under the bottom of a mini-skirt. Charming and lethal and steely, a casteless masquerade. Hopeless late night songs, trampling steps toward the phone. Oh, the wai, ai, ting, Tom Petty sings, is the hardest part. Then, or later, the shock of bodies loudly brushing up against itself. The breathing a frenetic dance between voluntary and, involuntary. With any luck at all, a full moon or a dark night, there would be less than a little thinking. Just woozy and amorous. More college. More men. Exotic locations and black cars. Long soundtracks and puckery first time experiences. Hangovers and hordes of fried food. Predictable and delicious. Here she sits at the real estate desk at 33 wondering about it. Still unaware of herself settling instead for a compulsory education in personality. How to assume one and with whom. All of this is plot. Or is it?Comment
Following my inner voice used to be easier but things are starting to heat up between us. And while I don’t doubt for a moment the truthfulness of what it’s telling me or the notion that the harder it is for me to do what I know I should, the more important it is for me to do just that, I’m still more than a little put off. And following my bliss, that’s getting trickier too. Not so much for feeling indulgent but because the price of following my bliss will be paid, in part, with tears. There will be joy and sacrifice. And so the cycle will continue. The cycle of growth. And ultimately, the gentle irony of letting go of what listening to that inner voice got me, will come to pass. Never has this been more true than with my house. My home.
Eight years ago or so, when I got the call from a relative of that the old house, I’d known as a child, was going on the market and my help as a Realtor was needed, I knew right away I would be the new owner. Even before I came to it again and saw the wear of many unkind years I remembered the look of the light through the windows and the memory of Sunday afternoons in summer here in this bungalow. And, when people came to look at it and wondered out loud, and sometimes with sincere fright, why I would want to do so much work. How would I manage it all? What had gotten into me? It was my inner voice that gave me told me there really was no choice in it. “Dive in,” it said.
And dive I did, and, in no place with more purpose than in the dining room. I just had to. Because my inner voice said so and she wouldn’t can it until the work began. White paint covering the wood built-ins hutches, flanking the door to the kitchen, and the three sided bay window whose leaded glass sun let the real thing through to caste rainbow circles all over the place and box beams against the 9’ ceiling and fancy wainscot skirting below had chipped with each bump. Yellowed a little every year for many years. Twenty-five maybe. There was no lightness there. It was heavy and sad because it was beautiful underneath it’s own history.
So first with a heat gun the thick layer of paint melted away and fell to the floor in warm curled up pieces. Throughout that summer the heat gun hummed and the paint fell away a small section at at time. It was fun but too much of any one kind of fun is, well, less fun. By fall though most of the white was now a sticky looking brown.
Soon all the white was gone and the wood could breath but it was still sickly and sad. About this time, I wasn’t very pleased with my inner voice. It seemed to have lead me down a path that was too long. However alluring the promise of completion, the reality of the work required things of me I wasn’t sure I had enough of. Namely patience. Several months into the process working several nights a week with nobody in their right or wrong mind willing to help save a boyfriend who had come and gone and really only helped because what else could he do without looking like the worst boyfriend I’d ever had. And my mother who probably would have been at my brother or sister’s house (poking fun at my wild ideas and foolishness) had I had any. But being her one and only meant she had one and only place to go to get that mother love fix that comes when a momma is with her baby. She came like a trooper after declaring (quite seriously and very uncharacteristically as she is almost always the epitomy of supportive) that I could take on such a mammoth undertaking “over her dead body.” She came in the evenings and side by side we worked and I wonder now what on earth her inner voice was telling her all that while.
By spring, opening the windows was not only pleasant, it helped keep the toxic fumes of chemical stripper from completely overtaking our lungs and corrupting any hope of level headedness. And the work continued. Like the utensils and cookware of any good cook: ladders for climbing, dental tools for picking out specs of paint that hadn’t gotten the message, steel wool and paint coated thick gloves which couldn’t totally prevent the sting of stripper on skin, lay spread over the room. A giant recipe being made on the walls and me, mom, my inner voice and my dining room, yet to be dined in, but not through after eight months together.
Maybe I wasn’t as impatient as I’d thought. How could I be? A really impatient person would have burned the house down. And maybe it was around this time I started to bargain with my inner voice. I started to make earnest deals that included never having to leave this house for the rest of my life. I remedy my pain by proposing that I be allowed to stay there to guard the grains of wood. After all, why else would I be doing something so crazy. Surely this meant forever. And believing in forever spurned me on and the feeling of being a complete freak of renovating nature subsided.
And then summer was here again and the days got long and the task seemed to have and end that I could see. And at night as the sun set and the music played there was a spring in my step. A sense of goodness. More than the cold beer I sipped while stepping back to admire real progress or the fantasy (one day to be reality) of folks coming from far and wide to admire good work while I smiled with humble confidence in a job done well. It was just a sense of goodness in that time and place and I thanked my inner voice because it seemed so wise to me.
By fall the first coats of stain began to tell the story of beauty restored and it was marvelous to watch. And then a second coat all the way around. And then on Thanksgiving day, more that a year after the task at hand had begun, the last lick of varythane went on and when mom came through the door and saw the table set and the warm glow of the wood all around the room, she cried those proud motherly tears and it was good. Thanksgiving it was.
There are more stories of this house. Of painting it and patching it and watching it for clues of how to make it better and of the yard that still calls to me for love and time and money wanting to be given a make-over too like the house it holds.
But inside I hear of other plans now. I hear it when I think of my bliss and where it would have me next. It is not found in this house anymore. It tells me it’s time to go even when it knows that this isn’t what I bargained for. I thought I was going to get to stay because I’d done the work. The house that scared some people was admired and in it’s glow, I shined. I thought I had earned my permanent place here. Instead, what I found constant was the courage to do more listening. Maybe I could live without that kind of courage I think to myself. But what sort of life would that be for me? Where would I be today if this was how I’d chosen to make choices. Fearfully. Tentatively and in accordance with the well meaning expectations of others.
Well, maybe the voice I heard back then has been in some random accident and is laying somewhere warm and safe but unable to move trying to crawl back to tell me that the voice I’m hearing now is not the authentic one and will ruin all promise of a real future if I listen to it’s crazy talk. I wish.
I wish because following my bliss is risky business and I think I thought I only had to feel real risk while I was younger, less experienced and with nothing but a ’77 Green Mustang and a set of used silverware to loose. The stakes are higher all the way around but it’s the same game. More to gain and more to lose but really only one way to play. The philosophy that got me into this great big gorgeous house is about to get me out and not many people, least of all me on some days, thinks it’s a swell idea. But then, they seldom do.
That’s just it. Right now I’m listening but not agreeing and I don’t have to, yet. I’m following my bliss but I’m certainly scared to pieces. I’m certain that I need to move forward but sure it will be sad looking back.
And my house. My home. What about us after all? We love each other. I’ve loved it and it’s loved me back. I took care of it and now it’s taking care of me back. It will give me everything I need to the my new chapter of my life. It’s setting me free. I haven’t left yet. I’m still listening. Some days I ask questions and wait for answers. Yesterday it came on TV with a guy on OPB who said, as I turned up the volume, “Follow your bliss.”
I know I’ll know when it’s time. Just like I knew I had to own this house and work on that dining room. I suspect what I’ll come to experience too is the feeling that “wherever you go, there you are.” I may not be in my house as my new life unfolds but it will surely be in me. Just like that ever present inner voice. My wisdom. My burden. My friend.