Category Archives: On Reflection

Carved: a vignette

I haven’t been eating enough. I know it. Snacks nest at the bottom of my hulking work bag, they nest in my desk, left to exist and expire in peace. What do you do when the thing that keeps you alive was the same thing that was destroying you? When it caused your body to wage war on itself.

Bruised and splotchy, I examine the latest apple I found at the bottom of my purse, the one I knew was there but tried so hard to forget. Finally, I bite into it, eating around the bruises. Some stretch all the way to the core, creating pathways of pain to the apple’s center. I feel like this in 2016; bruised to the core, waiting to heal from wounds that exist much deeper than the surface reveals.

My elbow rests on my hipbone as I drift to sleep; sometimes it fits there a little too well, chronic illness and a tired year carving away at my existence.

An illusion of running in place

cupcake

This is 24.

The treadmill cheerfully beeps at me, as if we haven’t been on a year-long break, as if I haven’t been avoiding it for months. I enter my age, now 24. My weight, now 120. At this time last year, I tapped the numbers of 23 and 105. I remember my pale reflection in the TV as I watched “Boy Meets World,” subtitles and sounds swirling into a dizzy cacophony, one I couldn’t keep up with.

It whirs to life, and I cautiously tap the “up” arrow — a sneering icon in a year of downs. Five minutes pass and I am still running. This time, there are no glowing orbs in my periphery, little lights that tell me to slow down, slow down, slow down. Or black out. This time, I can breathe; full, borderline-greedy breaths. The starting and stopping, five minutes of running, 10 minutes of blurred lumbering as the treadmill belt whined with inactivity, they’re all gone. Continue reading

I survived 23

birthday-blog-postWords nest on my phone by the time it’s November. Scribbled in the skywalk on my way to work. Typed furiously between meetings and happy hours and volunteering. Words that naturally mold into ideas and lessons throughout another year, culminating in my annual birthday blog post.

I’m almost out of words this year. The words I have left for 23 are fragmented at best. They exist in the infusion room, doctor’s offices, the beige and maroon waiting rooms that blur into the muted color of anticipation and silent hand squeezes.

November woke me up with a nightmare, a subconscious convergence of 2016’s lurking badness. At 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, I poured a mug of peach tea and nested not in my orderly life lessons but in the dull throbbing of a dark year. Even in my aggressively neat apartment, I felt unkempt.

I swirled the tea bag in my cup, watching the orange color form a tiny tornado before staining the water, the two indistinguishable. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing the good from bad in 2016; it all steeps into a murky, steaming blend that stings my lips if I sip it too soon. I am still letting 2016 and 23 cool. Maybe they never will. Continue reading

The supermoon and splintered glass ceiling

supermoonI will myself to stop shivering; I want to be here, unabashedly here, the kind of here that renders me still and silent. The motion of the lights reflecting on the water is enough, rocking me into a quiet calm. A supermoon gazes down at me, a reminder that the election isn’t all-consuming, that it hasn’t dimmed the glow of the moon. Or me.

This year has splintered me in a lot of ways, like the rippling water splintering the supermoon’s reflection on the water. But then, everything is calm. It’s like the universe put the fragmented reflections back together, put me back together. Or a bit of me, anyway.

Ripples pick up again as the breeze whips at my foolishly bare feet; I should have worn boots rather than flats. The water below splinters the light of the supermoon once again, reminding me that healing isn’t a steady process. It comes and goes, splintering me as it puts me back together.

2016 aches. 23 aches. This election aches. I look at the water and give myself permission to be a mess. Until all is still and calm. There’s work to do, a glass ceiling to splinter. Maybe I’ll be the one to break it.

Running, in all its gritty generosity

Picking up my race packet last year.

Picking up my race packet last year.

I will run my third half-marathon on Sunday, almost one year after my first. My body is in drastically, almost frighteningly different shape this time; my mind and motivations are, too.

Running through a failed relationship and post-grad angst, I relished the psychological aspect of miles and miles and miles. I logged 60-70 miles in a single week sometimes, running 12 or 13 miles after a full workday, perceiving it as the pinnacle of dedication to my health. The folds in my clothes multiplied that summer and fall; the more miles I ran, the less of me existed. I weighed 105 pounds when I crossed the finish line Oct. 18.

I felt invincible; running was the closure I needed, the structure I needed while adjusting to my first big-kid job. It’s not what my body needed. Not then, anyway.

Running is a hobby, coping mechanism, lifestyle and obsession for me. That spring, summer and fall, it was also a trigger. Training triggered my then-dormant celiac disease, shocking my body into losing 20 pounds and into months of crippling exhaustion. Continue reading

I’m better now and I think I believe it

The pink sunrise reflects in the glass of my end table as I reach instinctively for my tea, the black surface brightened by coral tufts. I am aware of my own awakeness this morning and every morning, relishing the ability to write a simple to-do list for the hours before work.

Read book. Pack bag. Pick out necklace. Pour tea. Pack lunch. They are, of course, tasks I would have remembered to do anyway. Once routine, they hold new significance and reverence, maybe, quietly reminding me to relish the sustained energy and the awakeness of it all. To worship it, even, taking extra care to monitor the minutes my tea steeps, to line up the corners of my favorite blanket, to awaken without instantly wanting to sleep and sleep and sleep.

I'm a bad millennial and don't have Snapchat, but look at my cute friends!

I’m a bad millennial and don’t have Snapchat, but look at me and my cute friends at Drake!

I shed the memory of chronic fatigue with almost rebellious abandon this past week. I danced and sang and drank wine at (and before) The Wombats and Drake in concert. I saw the U.S.A. gymnastics team (Simone Biles!) in a live showcase. I ran miles and played tennis and stayed up too late and read books. I wasn’t living nap to nap anymore, but I needed to convince myself of it, still.

At the height of my exhaustion, I did all of those things, too, I suppose, assuming that if I willed my body to be alive and awake, it would listen. It would let me go out two nights in a row. It would let me stay up and finish the chapter.

I’m better now, and I think I believe it.

Like awakeness, betterness takes a while to settle in again. Texts read, “I’m better, don’t worry about me so much,” for months, as exhaustion tugged me back to my bed. I resented my favorite blanket. Continue reading

I forgot how to be well

I look fine but I don't feel fine, a 2016 memoir.

I look fine but I don’t feel fine, a 2016 memoir.

Blue Moon was the last beer I drank, at my favorite campus bar. I left the orange perched on the rim of the glass; I needed beer unbothered. It’s unpretentious, tame beer; I needed that, too. As if a mundane beer choice could somehow balance the blow of it being my last.

Last week I awaited a different kind of last, one infused with cautious optimism and cruel pragmatism. Monday was my final hematology followup, a return to the land of bad blood and beige chairs. “Sooooo, we’re going to have to draw some blood today,” the nurse said as I walked back to a room furnished with a blue chair in each corner. As if they worshiped the wall-mounted display of needles, gauze and tiny tubes. As if I didn’t know what was coming.

I sent my infusion room nurses a thank-you card in May, gratitude and pain weaved together in awkward prose. I wonder if it nests among the cards taped to the cupboards. I wonder what’s inside the cupboard beyond the cards; syringes and Band-Aids and maybe the tacky, tan wraps that leave my arm indented for a few minutes after I unwind the bandages.

No more weekly infusion room visits, hematology appointments or hazy wandering the hospital hoping for casual eye contact with a hot medical resident. I forgot how to be well. Continue reading

Black tea and the dull warmth of a dark year

The derpiest cactus in the world guards my books.

The derpiest cactus in the world guards my books.

I hold my tea mug to my chest; heat radiates from the ceramic, warming my body. I set aside the book I am reading. I take a sip of tea. I set aside the mug. I take up the book. It is comforting to focus my thoughts and attention on a single thing. The quiet in my mind is alarming, almost, the quiet of things finished.

It was anticlimactic submitting my law school applications; I clicked and checked boxes and double-checked my information. Bizarre, it is, checking and double-checking your own story, as if some biographical tidbit could emerge in the questionnaire. My story feels disjointed this year. As I moved forward on the LSAT and law school plans, I backslid into poor health and chronic fatigue, the kind measured in sick days and tea refills. Continue reading

Comfort zones & tie-dyed colors: Why I’m leaving DSM

I will go wherever there's a tennis court (and a law school).

I will go wherever there’s a tennis court (and a law school).

Anxiety and excitement swirl into a single, murky color, like a tie-dyed T-shirt gone wrong. I am anxious for my hematology followup tomorrow, excited to go to law school, anxious awaiting application decisions, excited to (potentially) be done with doctor’s visits. I let the colors and emotions bleed together.

Balance exists in rare clarity these days, a year teetering between prolonged lows and punctuating highs. Months of agonizing, tedious illness, fueled by uncertainty and specialists. I took the LSAT. Six weeks of iron IVs, hospital bracelets and dizzy walks from the infusion room. I applied to law school.

Departure and dichotomy are real when they exist on the page, when they cease to rattle solely in my mind, only to fade away when it’s all too much. I often write to remind myself of what’s real. I’m going to law school. I’m moving away.

Continue reading

So I don’t totally hate 2016

2016 has its moments, like a rainbow outside my window.

2016 has its moments, like a rainbow outside my window.

Be with the person who touches your arm and says, “I didn’t notice,” when he sees you tug at your sleeve with embarrassment, covering the IV bruises that lurk under wrinkled fabric. For months I didn’t notice. How sick I was. How tired I was. How I craved the kind of relationships that exist in fleeting, intoxicating clarity, blurred by drawn-out time and undefined boundaries.

I notice too much now, maybe. I notice that different doctor’s offices include or exclude my middle initial in the address line when they send me bills. “O.” Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t.

I notice the asterisks on menus; I am one, I suppose, a living, existing exception.

I notice how happy I am now, too. My hair is growing out, finally; I didn’t notice, even as I snapped weekly selfies from my infusion-room chair. The Olympics have helped me make peace with 2016 and 23, creating a space for togetherness in a year that has broken me apart. Oh, and Leslie Jones’ kick-ass commentary. Continue reading