Wednesday, October 22, 2014


So it is my 34th birthday today....a very sassy 34

My birthday is a weird time of year since I got ill. POTS entered my life in 2011 and things started to go rapidly downhill for me around my birthday that year. I was still pushing through the PhD program and everything hit critical mass that fall. By October, I was fighting so hard to pretend everything was ok.

By the time my birthday hit, the gig was up. I left the PhD program on November 2nd 2011 and life looked crushingly uncertain. It’s three years later and I am in the exact same place, at rock-bottom and gazing wearily once again at a very uncertain future.

So yea, my birthday is always a strange time. I am constantly measuring time and illness—thinking “this time last year I was better. I was able to do this and that.” Last year, we had a party at our house because my BFF and I celebrate our birthdays together since they are so close. We had a good time and danced a little. I had finished my first evaluation as a full time professor and did so successfully despite being putting on a brave face while ill. I felt badass and accomplished. I inhaled some decadent chocolate cake in celebration.

This year is completely different. I'm not working. My new office I prepared during the summer is sitting empty. There is no dancing. Instead, I spend my days asking myself “Can I safely drive, shower, prepare a meal?” "Am I able to walk to my kitchen?" I sit on my couch or lie in bed and ruminate on life, surrendering to this opportunity to recover an authentic self

My goal was to just show up and be present for my birthday gathering this year. I did have to lie on my friend’s bed through part of it, but I showed up and had a good time. I missed everyone else's birthday this year but made it to my own at least. We sat around and talked about the absurd things we always talk about. It was glorious.

I’m trying to remember that measuring is not living. Pretending is not living. 

My circumstances may be similar to three years ago but my outlook is changing for the better. Although this year has been an endless roller coaster of struggle, I’m working on bringing joy back into my life, which has been absent for years now. Climbing the academic career ladder and fighting a devastating illness blinded me from the things I used to love. When your body is just holding onto mere survival, there isn’t much room for anything else. But I am trying to re-discover the things I left behind.

I’m working on celebrating life and finding small pieces of joy in it by reclaiming my creative spirit.

Like music. I finally finished some songs I’ve been writing for years now and even got one recorded this summer. Music has been my guiding light for most of my life. I may have degrees in literature, but music is more important to me than any piece of literature. I desperately miss performing, but I still play and sing almost every day when I am able. I used to play in restaurants, bars, and weddings, and I took being able to perform for granted. Now, when I get the chance I really savor it. My dream is to record an album of all originals. It’s my number one life goal, and it will happen.

You can hear the recording of "Upright," which I wrote as a reminder to myself of my strength despite my limitations. 

I am listening to my records again. I have been listening to vinyl for the last 15 years, before it got cool again (I am such a freaking hipster). I’ve dragged this collection over state lines multiple times. I’m rediscovering records I haven’t listened to in years.
A few of my favorite things: vinyl records, Harry Potter, twinkly lights
I’m drawing and painting a little again. Just a little. 

I studied American literature, but since I left school all I’ve been reading is fantasy literature. I am reveling in reading whatever I want. When your body refuses to let you move, reading can be transportation.

One benefit of being ill (there are a few) is being forced to be still. I’m a workaholic, so this is anathema to my nature. My brain used to be constantly in motion preparing for what was next and what else I could achieve. But now that I’m regularly bed/couch-ridden, I must lie still and just exist in space. I remember the flavor of life and the pulse of community.  I am given time to reflect—to be truly tethered to the present. This has been transformative. I crave the things I genuinely love, relinquishing the trappings of adulthood that can blunt so many of our real desires.

It’s an opportunity to peel away the layers of self we build to present to the world to instead find a truer self, one that has been lost in the saturation of daily life. It’s been a chance to say I survived going over the edge of the cliff, a chance to observe with clarity and then ask myself, “What do I really want? What meaning can I make from this experience?” 
This sounds hokey, but it’s a reality I’m living. It’s brutal and harsh but beautiful and worthy of celebration as well.

I was a writer before I was anything else. I came to music as a writer. I became an English major because I’ve loved writing and pursued an academic career on the strengths of my writing. Starting this blog and writing again feels like a rebirth and celebration of what I still have and what I have learned. It is the gravity that pulls all the random pieces to make them unexpectedly fit together.

Even in the darkest of times, there can be an opportunity for celebration. Today I celebrate what I have overcome and what I’ve endured. I celebrate who I am, those I love, and all that life gives and takes from us that is truly worthwhile.

The even-numbered years seem to have a better track record for me. I'm letting go of the things that don't matter. I'm bringing the sass. Let's do this 34 

I even ventured outside briefly today. The demon in the background appreciates the sass

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthday again, fabulous lady! I'm so happy we get to share our birthday celebration.

    That song is just fantastic.


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