Sunday, August 25, 2013

Free cable, nostalgia, and bead geckos

My husband and I have "free" cable right now. The internet is an extra $10 per month, so technically... the cable is $10 per months... but the bill says "complimentary cable" or something like that. Whatever you want to call it, it's allowed us to not only avoid re-re-watching out extensive collection of Disney movies VHS tapes, but we can now watch shows that have not been previously experienced. So far this summer, we've watched the first eight seasons of Grey's Anatomy. I initially started watching it because it's based in Seattle, and I miss home terribly. First I loved it, then I got Joey addicted too. We're waiting to see if they add season 9 on Tuesday, since that's when it comes out on DVD.

This week I started watching a new show. Er, a show, I've never watched... um... I started watching Felicity. You know, the one about the quirky college girl with frizzy hair. Stars Keri Russel. It's funny that I'm even explaining it, because I'm probably one of the only people on the planet who's never watched this show--the same way I felt when I first started loving Grey's. 

I'm always the last person to jump on the bandwagon. To be honest, when I first started watching Grey's, I thought the show was over--as in, no more seasons, no more episodes. Boy was I wrong! But, Felicity started in 1998 and ended before I was even through middle school--which is great, because it means I can experience all of the nostalgic feelings I get when I think about 1998, without worrying that I'm going to start hating the show once they introduce iPods.

But, the weird thing about Felicity is that it makes me miss a whole lot of other things too.  I'm not talking about late-90s cultural souveniers, like a Tamagotchi (now available as an app!) or bead geckos or that weird wave of platform sneakers.  I mean, it makes me miss things I shouldn't miss. Okay, let me explain that. Let me explain the whole thing.

Here I am, a married almost-25-year-old with a BA, a decent apartment, a respectable collection of books and shoes and normal adult junk, and a cute dog. (see below.)

Here are some things, as that person that I am allowed to miss right now:
1. My parents, brothers, and other family members.
2. My home state. (Washington)
3. My friends in WA.
4. Friends that have graduated/moved away/etc.
5. People who have died.
6. My childhood (ages 0-12)
7. My first car.

Things I'm not allowed to miss right now:
1. College.
2. High school.
3. Wedding planning.
4. My husband, dog, or anyone who lives within one hour of me.

Here are some things that I am not allowed to miss EVER:

1. Ex-boyfriends.
2. Having the chicken pox, or bronchitis, or other painful sicknesses.
3. Old places of employment from which I was fired.
4. People who beat me up or called me names.
5. Being single.
6. Living with my parents.
7. There's more to this list, but it's not important for this post.

But since I've started watching this show I have started to miss. A. High school. B. People who beat me up or called me names. C. College. How and why is this happening?!

A. During the first episode, Felicity is graduating high school and I though, man, that must be nice, to have your whole future ahead of you, nothing to worry about yet. I thought, man, what a great time that was. And maybe, just maybe, it was a good time but this (this being the life I am currently living) is supposed to be better. I hold onto a few enjoyable memories from high school but there were also many periods of misery and depression. I do not allow myself to miss high school as a whole, as an entity or concept that is worthy of my thoughts. People, certain circumstances, yes. But not the whole thing.

B. Yesterday I watched an episode where one of the main characters, Julie, gets raped by her boyfriend. (Calm down. You don't watch it happen. She confesses it. Sheesh.) Now, thankfully, I didn't think about any ex-boyfriends. Rather, for some inexplicable reason, I thought about another guy I knew in middle school and high school and I thought, man, he was a real jerk to me even though we liked each other. We were mutually "in like" with each other, but this one time he pushed me into a stack of chairs, and he said really demeaning things. We were friends by the time we graduated, but still. And then I started to get really sad, because he won't be my friend on Facebook, and won't talk to me. I should not miss him! I should not feel sad that he's not part of my life! And that horrible episode should not have brought on these feelings.

C. Today. Today I don't know what happened to cause this nostalgia. The whole show is about college, but it is MUCH different from my college experience. (For one, Felicity's dorm room is practically the size of my whole apartment.) But there I was, half-paying attention to the cluster of freshmen watching football on a TV with illegally installed satellite reception, and then half-paying attention to the crazy roommate with an infected nose piercing, I thought to myself... man... I miss college. And then, all alone in my apartment, sitting on the floor making paper bunting for goodness' sake, I laughed out loud. It took me five years to get through college, and I graduated just over three months ago.

I admit, in the future, I will allow myself to miss college--as a whole! I will miss the place, and the people, and the free internet. (I won't really miss the cafeteria food.) But right now, that makes absolutely no sense.

So I'm going to ponder this some more, maybe watch some more Felicity, and perhaps, if I get bored enough, I'll try to make one of those stupid bead geckos, because, hey, I do what I want. (I also only ever successfully made one of them. I just don't like geckos very much, I guess.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A different kind of birthday list

A week from today I'm going to be 25 years old--that's 1304 weeks (rounded down), 9131 days, 219,144 hours, 13,148,640 minutes, or 788,918,400 seconds. It's a quarter of a century. It's also the last "exciting" birthday I'm going to have for another five years. Although, somehow, the prospect of turning 30 is not very exciting right now. There's a lot I want to do before then. I want to move back to Washington, get a teaching job somewhere I love, and have children. Mostly I just want to have children. But, more on that some other time.

The point is, whether or not 25 is a big important number, it is the last time I can really be thrilled to get older. After this I just have THIRTY looming ahead of me like a grubby cloud of boring adulthood on the horizon of responsibility. Not that adulthood or responsibility are necessarily bad things, but I certainly do not like associating them with something as lovely as a birthday. And birthdays really are lovely--so lovely, in fact, that I wish I could compile all of my favorite birthday memories and relive them next Tuesday. Of course, I wouldn't have time for all of them, so here are 10 of the memories I would choose to relive.

1. 1993, my 5th birthday. It was the same year that we moved from the tiny town of Trout Creek, Montana to West Seattle, Washington. In Montana, I didn't have a whole lot of friends outside of my family--although I do remember them: Katie (yes, I had a best friend with the same name!), Micah, and Abby. I missed them when we moved but I was so preoccupied with suddenly living close to more of my family that it didn't bother me too much. Needless to say, I didn't have much of a party. But there was an elderly couple down the street, whose names I have forgotten, that gave me some wonderful gifts: a doll, dressed like she was going to boarding school, and a matching outfit for me. I felt so special, so loved. Five-year-olds feel special pretty much 100% of the time, the world is just becoming real and everyone is always impressed with how much you've grown and the new things you're learning. But that day I really felt special, like I was valued, and worth love and attention, even from people who barely knew me.

2. 1995, my 7th birthday, possibly the first birthday I had actually lived somewhere long enough to have a group of friends. I was about to go into 1st grade (the curse of summer birthdays means you're always the oldest or youngest in your class; I was the former) and I had established several good friendships at school and in my neighborhood. I invited all these friends over, and we had a mini scavenger hunt. Despite being a moody teenager, my oldest brother planned it out. We had to find clues around the house and in the yard, and ended up with a cardboard box full of candy. Any 7-year-old would love such treasure!

3. 1998, my 10th birthday. I was finally in the double digits! But the day was quite miserable, to be honest. My grandma, Virginia, took me shopping for some new clothes. Sounds great, right? What girl doesn't want new clothes for her birthday? Except that she was also going shopping for someone's baby shower. All I remember about that day is trying on clothes I didn't like, then Grandma buying the clothes I didn't like, and when we got home I tried to peek at the cute baby stuff she'd bought and I got in trouble for it. So I sat alone in the hallway and cried. I know eventually she came to comfort me, although I couldn't tell you what she said. My reason behind loving this birthday is that it included spending time with Virginia. She was my favorite person. My 10th birthday is the last one I can remember her actually being "all there." (She got Alzheimer's a few years later, and passed away in 2010.)

4. 2003, my 15th birthday. We had moved again, but after 2 years in my new school district I had plenty of awesome new friends too. I was looking forward to being in high school with all the people I'd grown to adore. This was the year I decided my new favorite color was orange, so my three best friends bought me ALL orange things for my birthday--I still have some of those sticky notes. It also happened to be the year after I started taking Spanish, and I discovered La Tomatina. My parents wouldn't let us throw tomatoes, but we did have a sweet water fight with hoses and balloons. 

5. 2004, my 16th birthday. This was the year I went on my first missions trip, and my circle of friends was ginormous and fabulous. The party was about a week after we all returned from the trip, and I wanted it to be a surprise so badly, but I was awful at being surprised. (Still am. Just ask my husband.) My parents set it up at the local Pizza Hut, but I carried my own cake into the restaurant. That's how much of a surprise it was. Despite that setback, the entire party was everything I expected. I was surrounded by loving friends, new and old, and was completely able to be myself around all of them. 
My dramatic 16-year-old self.

6. 2006, my 18th birthday. This was another time I wanted a surprise party, and sort of got one. A dear friend of mine planned the party for me, although I knew nothing about it save for the list of people I wanted to be invited. It was held at Deep Lake, a park not too far from home. All of the gifts were about an inside joke between me and whoever gave the gift. For instance, a few of my friends and I went up on the church roof once, so my friend Colleen made me a notebook with a roof shingle as a cover. The most memorable part of this birthday was when a friend's girlfriend's car was broken into.

7. 2008, my 20th birthday. At long last, first day of college. 19 had been an arduous and painful year, and being in Illinois all by myself, going to school, was a large step I had not foreseen. But it was a blessing. After a few days of orientation I had already made friends, friends that I hope to keep forever. After a day full of classes my suite had a small party for me and another girl whose birthday is the day before mine. We had cupcakes atop a Disney Princess tablecloth, and it was a beautiful beginning to my life at school.

8. 2009, my 21st birthday. This birthday happened in two parts. I had a party at home before I flew back to IL, and invited all my friends from the camp I worked at as well as old friends from school and church. This was also the first birthday I'd ever had a boyfriend--and he's now my husband! The kicker? He was supposed to bring all the people from camp, but he decided to go paintballing before the party, and made himself and all the camp staff four hours late.

Back at school, my friends threw me a real, bona fide, actual, legitimate surprise party! Under the pretense of going to a friend's apartment to watch a movie, my friends made a cake and rented Singing In the Rain (one of my all-time faves). Of course, the cake wasn't done in time, so then my bff had to stall me from going over there, and I started to figure it out. Still, it was one of the most cherished memories from college. Because it's a dry campus, I got to drink root beer from a plastic champagne cup, haha!

9. 2010, my 22nd birthday. My college has this trip they take at the beginning of every school year. They take a bunch of kids into Chicago for pizza at Gino's East, then a night cruise on a Wendella boat. It includes a tour of Chicago from the river, and at the end there are some fireworks. I had been one year before, but this year all of my closest friends came along. The trip happened to be on the same day as my birthday, so my buddy Pat got them to sing for me--twice. Once at Gino's, and once on the boat. Being surrounded by family is great, but being surrounded by people who love you and don't have to love you is sometimes even better. I also had a new camera that year, making the experience all the more thrilling.

10. 2012, my 24th birthday. Do you have any idea how long I've waited to be 24? Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you. I just like the number. Last year, like a few other years, I started something brand new on my birthday. It was my first day of student teaching. Student teaching (or clinical practice, as they call it in the professional world) was a hurricane of anxiety and breathlessness, but my first day was extraordinary. During homeroom the new superintendent came to the classroom and sang to me, in a chipmunk voice. The principal caught it on camera. This was wonderful for two reasons. One, I was welcomed into the school. Two, it endeared me to the students I would be with for the next twelve weeks. It was one of the hardest parts of my college career, maybe of my life, but it was so worth it. Every time I felt out of place I just had to remember that first day.

So there you go. Ten different birthdays that hopefully conveyed ten feelings that I want to take with me, and experience next week. This is 6th birthday (as in actual day of my birth) that I've spent away from home. I haven't been home in over two years, but it's especially hard on my birthday. With that in mind, these memories keep me grounded, they help me feel the love of my family and friends that are far away. I know it's just a birthday. So what. So it's just my 25th birthday, and nothing exciting happens like getting to drive or vote or drink. But it's the last one I'm going to feel special about. It's my day, I'll do what I want! :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Invisible, Not Invincible

A confession: This post is proving to be extremely difficult to write. I have opened it and closed it every day this week, editing things, changing scenarios and examples, worrying over if I should even say something. So bear with me. I'm going to write about a lot of pain in this post, and you should keep in mind that this is only a fraction of the pain I actually feel.

Today I woke up after 10:00am. My husband and I were up late watching reruns and then we were up late fretting about money and so despite the fact that I set the alarm for 9:30 it was almost 45 minutes later that I considered opening my eyes and another twenty minutes before I got out of bed. We ate breakfast together, watched more reruns, he drove to work, and I quickly sunk into another migraine--the 12th one in 11 days.

The only reason you know that is because I'm telling you, but there's a lot you could figure out without me saying it. If you looked at my Facebook page you would see a Bible verse, and a video about this insane 3D pen that I desperately want. You would see over the last couple of days I've added photos from a trip to the zoo, many pictures of my dog being adorable, and a status about a job I didn't get. If you saw my Pinterest account you would see a version of Bohemian Rhapsody done by The Muppets, and an obscene amount of dresses and craft ideas. This week I have also called my parents a couple times, sent a few e-mails, read some articles, made several reviews on and will soon be reading 9 stories written by my father, which I'm considering illustrating. Check my Goodreads account and it will tell you what books I've read recently (The Princess Bride, Love That Dog, etc. etc.) and that on Friday I was on page 331 of Sentence of Marriage, a story set in Victorian Era New Zealand. I finished it last night before my husband got home. To the world outside my apartment, I am "active" socially and I am fine.

But I'm not fine. A migraine is not fine. The 12th migraine in 11 days is not fine.

Truthfully, my purpose here is not to complain or get sympathy. I will accept sympathy, but it's not my goal. I will not accept advice. In fact, the reason I don't express my pain on "the social network" is because too often all people want to give me is advice. I'll talk more about advice in a minute. The underlying issue here, really, is understanding, and perhaps awareness. Let's face it, people--if you don't see a person suffering, and they don't tell you they're suffering, you probably have no idea they're suffering.

Chronic migraine is an invisible disease. It's similar to diabetes and lupus, arthritis or obsessive compulsive disorder. I can't imagine what it's like to be plagued by any of those things (although arthritis is probably in my future due to a lifetime of typing and drawing and genetics... you get the picture.) But I do know what it's like to suffer silently, I do understand the struggle of depression, of anxiety, and of these migraines that I hide extremely well. I understand pushing through and not telling people and putting on a happy face, and dealing with the whole, "But you look fine!" thing and pretending that it's not a big deal.

But, it IS a big deal. It's a big deal to me, and to all of the people who suffer silently. I can't speak for anyone who has lupus or cancer, but I can speak for "my people": people with migraines, or depression, or anxiety.

So here's how my day looks, if I'm having "issues." I woke up this morning with a pre-migraine--feeling fuzzy, head feels heavy, finding difficulty opening my eyes. This means the first thing I want is coffee. Despite how much I love coffee (which is honestly quite a lot!), I actually don't have it every morning, or even every day. But today, I wanted coffee, which means I also needed to eat right away (I usually wait about an hour to eat), because drinking coffee on an empty stomach gives me the shakes. Caffeine will do that. You know. So my husband made pancakes and coffee and I woke up very slowly, because this migraine is not allowing my eyes to open.

I don't have anything on the agenda for today, which is normal. But if I did, I might consider cancelling. If we needed groceries it would have to wait until tomorrow. I might ask Joey to get groceries for me but he's working until 11 tonight so it will just have to wait. If we had plans with friends it would cause me anxiety, I would take a long time to get ready, we would be late, and they would have to wait. Last Monday I had an interview in the middle of a migraine, so I actually showed up an hour ahead of time because I knew I would have to sit in the car, take some migraine painkillers, and wait until I was calm enough to go into the office. If I have migraines at church I have to into the bathroom for a few minutes sometimes twice during the service, because sitting still takes too much effort and listening to buzzing microphones is too much effort and ALL of it is too much effort. I want to be there, but it's necessary to take breaks.

A migraine, for me, is consuming. It sits on top of my head, at the front of my skull, like a very clumsy hat. It fills my vision, its fuzziness covers my ears, it stretches into my stomach and makes me nauseous--except I'm incapable of throwing up, so I just sit there feeling sick. A migraine is a powerful force that should render me useless and helpless and yet I sit through it day after day because it's invisible and nobody understands it. So I don't tell anyone.

You know what would happen if I did tell anyone? They would give me advice. They would say "hold a warm cloth to your head" or "hold a COLD cloth to your head" or "you should get an allergy test" or (my favorite) "you should see a doctor!" [For the record, I cannot afford doctor's appointments. Having people remind me by advising I visit a doctor makes me both sad and angry.]

What people don't realize is that I've been suffering with migraines for half of my life. I have tried everything. I have taken numerous drugs in many different forms, some worse than others. I have had an allergy test done, which was long and painful. I've been to many doctors many times and heard the same speeches over and over again. I do not need advice.

What I do need is coffee (or tea), a quiet (sometimes dark) place to be, and something to keep myself busy and calm. So I get on Facebook and write a status about the delicious coffee I'm drinking. I get on Pinterest and find pins of cats doing something funny. I write in my novel and anxiously hope I can get another 1000 words down before I have to close my eyes. I do not want advice. It does not help me.

I just want you to think for a second about the other people you know who have invisible problems. For instance, I have a friend who is diabetic. Let's say one day she has a low blood sugar, she feels awful, and she says so on Facebook. I would never ever consider commenting on her status with some half-witted advice. I might tell her that I love her, and that I hope she feels better. But no advice. Or let's say I had a friend with cancer, complaining about chemotherapy. Or a friend with arthritis, complaining of joint pain. I wouldn't consider it then either.This is partly because I have never experienced any of those things, and my advice would be meaningless, but also because giving unwanted advice is like noticing somebody's amputated leg and handing them a Hello Kitty band-aid.

So why do people feel like they can offer me advice?

1. Everybody has headaches. Everyone gets them, so they all feel like they can offer a useful tip to me,
2. They think it's the nice thing to do.
3. They are a nurse/doctor.
4. They think I'm looking for attention and they feel advice will make me get over myself.

Let me repeat: I have suffered with these soul-sucking migraines for half of my life! These are not headaches caused by a loud concert, they do not happen because I am having caffeine withdrawals, I don't get them because I eat junk food or have crazy allergies. Whatever the reason is, I haven't figured it out yet, but I am definitely not going to suddenly figure it out because someone offered me advice on the social network.

Of course, now that you all know I don't want your advice, then the real conundrum is why in the world am I telling the social network about my problem. Here's what (I'm assuming. ha.) people assume.

1. I want advice. (nope. covered that.)
2. I want comfort/sympathy. (sometimes.)
3. I want attention. (sort of, but not entirely.)
4. I want help. (no one ever actually assumes this, even if I explicitly say, "help meeee!")

Number 3 is about as close as people get. Somehow, the real answer is just out of reach. You want to know what I'm really seeking when I tell people? It's the same thing everybody wants, no matter what they feel, no matter who they are: acceptance. I want people to see my hurt and accept me. I want them to understand that I'm suffering despite the fact that I'm "socially active."

Here are some things you can do for me, and other people who suffer from invisible struggles. I am mainly talking about things you can do on the social network, but most of these examples can apply in real life as well.

1. Tell the person you love them/care about them/are praying for them/etc. Be simple and specific.
2. Ask the person if there is anything you can do to help/comfort them, but ONLY if you mean it.
3. Offer advice without giving it.
4. Offer help if you have a legitimate means of helping! (i.e., I would love it if a doctor offered me a free consultation, head scan, whatever.)

Please remember these things. Please remember that giving advice should not be your first instinct when someone is struggling with something. Please remember that I walk around feeling like somebody dropped a piano on my head, and that other people walk around with the same feeling in addition to the sensation of being doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze or having all their knuckles broken or an elephant doing the cha-cha in their digestive system. Give me, and these people, your care, your love, and your understanding.