Life as an Extreme Sport

Out with the Old,…

It’s 2007. My instinctive response is “good fucking riddance to 2006, and here’s hoping the next one is better” (but I know better than to taunt the universe by making it any sort of challenge). But Discardian had an interesting tip up a day or two ago that suggested we – and I assume she meant social we, and not just you and me we – have a bit of a binary, black/white, good/bad way of looking at life. We see the highs and lows, and not miss the rest.

Now while I have often told friends that the nice things about the lows is that you can’t see the highs without them, I am often guilty of overlooking that in the middle – the not extraordinary, the not horrible, but that which moves us forward in life. Or holds us back, if we let it.

2006 is always going to be a hard year to look at, even when memory takes the edge off the sharpness of Mom’s cancer, or the loneliness and difficulties my first semester of graduate school brought. And it will round the edges off those highs, too – my letters of acceptance, teaching my first class on my own, reading my first feedback reports that were just about me, writing something as big as my thesis (and finishing on time!), graduating, the fun things I’ve done in NYC and people I’ve met and so on.

But 2006, I think, will also be remembered as a year where I made a lot of forward movement in my life. I see a lot more clearly where I want to be, down the road, and the things I’ll need to do in order to get there, and I’m on my way doing most of them. Yes, life keeps throwing challenges in my path… but Phillip told me something, once – it must have been three years ago? My husband had left me, my best friend had died a horrible death, and I simply could not get my act together. I couldn’t juggle all the balls I had in the air, and I let them all drop. I was sitting in his office, telling him that just as soon as life calmed down I’d have it all together, I’d be better. And with his typical bemused expression, he glanced over the haphazard stacks of books between us and told me that life just keeps coming, it never calms down and never gets better. It’s always one thing after another, and we all juggle; what matters is how we do it.

I learned to juggle, and I did pretty well. But now it’s a new game; the ante has been upped, and the stakes are higher. My sneaking suspicion, though, is that I’ll learn the rules to this game soon enough, and then I’ll shine as brightly as a I did before.

2006 was a bitch of a year, dragging me all over the map, not just emotionally but literally. But if I was pressed to admit it, I would admit that I’ve probably grown more this last year than the past few combined – and that’s saying a lot. I might not look fondly back on the year, but I suspect I will eventually be very grateful for the contributions it has made to who I am.

And so I raise a glass to 2006, and to all of you. May 2007 be everything you wish for, and more.

routines of a sick house

My sister is out, picking up some groceries. My father is watching the Seattle/Tampa Bay football game, and I’m sitting in my bedroom picking silver threads of my mother’s hair out of the scarf I wrapped around her bare neck last night, as we left her stylist. Earlier, I reached into my purse and took out a green hair clip full of her hair, and moved it into a plastic bag.

The hair was wet when I took it, but dried into whispy white and silver strands over the night in my warm bedroom. Now it’s just a mass the size of my hand, tucked behind my socks in a drawer, waiting for the right photos and the right lockets for everyone.

I haven’t been writing much because I often don’t feel like there’s much to say. Life in a sick house has settled into a bit of a routine that varies very little by day. Wake up, clean up, try to eat, take my temperature to make sure the various aches and pains I feel as a normal part of my malfunctioning body are nothing more than the normal, pick up the house where I can, keep the animals entertained and fed, shine positively around my mother, be helpful, keep out of the way.

Eating and sleeping have become challenges. Well, sleeping has always been a challenge, but now the Lunesta doesn’t even appear to be helping consistently, or for long. I had done well at keeping on EST for my first few weeks here, but since feeling a bit under the weather earlier this week have slipped to what friends affectionately refer to as Kelly Standard Time.

Yesterday, I simply forgot to eat. I realized this in the evening, when I developed a splitting migraine, and put together that the cause was the lack of food over the course of a long day. I haven’t had much of an appetite for a while now, not that I ever have a healthy one, and just got enough out of any routine to forget to eat the entire day.

Neither of these things are good; part of living here, being here, is taking care of myself so that I can take care of others (and so I don’t get sick and become a burden, or worse, a risk). So I need to yank myself back on a schedule of eating small meals every few hours, of balancing the nutrition, and back to trying to sleep “right” – medications and bed at a certain time, lights out, rest, relax.

It’s easy enough to type out what I know I should do, but it’s an entirely different method to act upon it.

it’s easier to sing the blues

Information wants to be free.

This was the refrain I taught with for a couple of years, whenever I was sidekicking Phillip in one of his technology classes. It’s a pretty common maxim, and it’s one I actually do believe, especially when it comes to the internet. Put it online, and whatever “it” is no longer belongs to you – it goes wild, and anyone can come across it.

Like your boss. Coworkers. Sister.

I would say woops, except it’s the deal I accepted with myself when I opted to keep a public blog, and when I opted to open it up to spiders and search engines, thanks to Sean being sneaky and finding me prior to that.

The thing is, and to my sister’s credit she understood this prior to talking with me this morning, blogs are often out of context. If you read my last post, and have never talked with me about my sister, you’d have a much different impression than if you’re one of the many people I’ve bragged to about her. And the thing is, she’s pretty cool, and part of the issues that come from being here are because of that – because she did do all the things my parents want, but more than that, because she’s a pretty amazing, and strong, woman. How many people do you know who voluntarily spent their spare time, as a teenager hanging out with young kids afflicted with horrible forms of cancer? Most folks acknowledge that it takes a special person to opt to deal with children in medicine, and the special of the special to do pediatric oncology.

And plain and simple, I envy her. I envy the fact that she lived here eight years I didn’t, and she has habits and routines with my parents that I never will. That she has a closeness with Mom, because of the way she looks and her choices on how to act, that I never will. That she’s seen as the amazing medical person in the family, and when she gets in to medical school there’s going to be an excitement that they didn’t have for me getting in to my PhD program.

There’s a lot of backstory to my relationship with my parents, that I’m not going to get in to right now. But being home, that backstory comes to the front, and it clashes horribly with my sister, not necessarily for anything she intentionally does, but simply because we’ve had different lives, and there are a lot of things in hers that I wish I could have, and I simply can’t.

But just because I want to throttle her half the time, and she can get under my skin like no other, doesn’t mean I don’t love her to pieces, and that I’m not immensely proud of the woman she’s become. In her 25 years, she has put more good out into this world, than most do in their lifetime. And that’s pretty damn cool.

That’s the limit of these things, though, these words in blogs. You get what I think to put down, be it the heat of the moment, the height of frustration, or the flush of a passionate response. And it goes for more than just my sister – reading over the last couple of months of this blog, you’re going to pick up a lot more of my frustration with, say, Glenn and his insane scheduling, than the intense admiration, respect and affection I have for him. You might not necessarily grasp just how much I actually love UAlbany and the people there, both professors and colleagues, or how exciting I find my life in general, or the potential I see in my future. For some reason, it’s simply harder to write about the things that are good. Some of it is self-consciousness; it’s easier to be vague and circumspect when you’re bitching than praising, and some of it, I think, is basic human nature. Besides, it’s far easier for me to write evocatively about the non-positive…which perhaps should be a challenge, instead of something to shy from.

then there is the sister

In the past, I’ve rarely spent more than a week at home for the holidays – or, specifically, more than a week that overlaps directly with my sister. She and I have never been close, and although we’ve been talking more in the last year than ever before, she is still in many ways not only a stranger, but an opposite of me.

We do not get along very well.

Being here brings out intense feelings of competition, like I’m constantly having to prove myself, and constantly failing. She’s always been my mother’s favourite – helped along quite a bit by the fact that she’s always been a spitting image of Mom. On top of that, she was always the good daughter who did what she told and lived life “right”. She was so proud she did things “right” – finished high school and college in the “right” order, has a good “solid” job, and is just living life like you “should”. As opposed to her fuck-up of an older sister, who was kicked out at 15, finished high school early, couldn’t be bothered with college for years or consistently, has changed careers on a now third time, couldn’t even succeed at marriage.

She does everything, and she does it near-perfectly, and simply won’t let me. I don’t dust right, I don’t clean the dishes right or fast enough, I don’t make coffee right, or cookies, or dinner, or anything. She pushes me out of the way, then laughs it off as it just being her – but she gets the accolades and the credit for helping, and I just stand in the corner and try to stay out of the way.

It’s been like this for years, I don’t know why I thought things would be different now. Especially given that she’s worked in oncology forever, and won’t concede I might know something about the subject (I had to pull out a medical dictionary yesterday to prove I was right about something).

And she’ll be able to stay here indefinitely, working from home. If I don’t go back to school in late January, I lose my health benefits, and my parents are freaking out at that, and it’s basically a given that I’m leaving. And she’s staying, continuing to be the perfect daughter. And I get to keep being the black sheep of the family, 3500 miles away and as impotent there as I am here.