Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Disagreeable Woman

I couldn’t do it.
I would die.
I would just curl up and cry and want to die.

People seriously say these things to me. I know they’re speaking from a place of shock, flattery, pity, moral support. It’s usually followed by a “you’re so strong” sort of comment. What I really notice is the expressions on their faces. They become almost trance-like, staring off in deep thought, forehead wrinkled and distraught, looking concerned and empathetic.

I don’t always know how to take that. I don’t feel strong. In fact, if you know me in real life you know I’m pretty damn lazy. The truth is I usually need a decent fire lit under my ass to get things done. I’ve survived having a stroke because having half your body taken from you overnight makes for a pretty decent fire under your ass. I also have a short fuse and little patience. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, right? I’m learning to cook because I need to eat healthy and it’s on me to make that happen. I’m learning to walk because I need to be able to get my own damn tampons off the shelf at Target. (OK maybe TMI, but have you tried sending your husband to do this? Ah hell, you would think I asked him to carry a burning stick of dynamite across the store.) I don’t take much shit because I’m impatient and I don’t have time. I can’t stay on my feet long, so if you’re in my way you’ll find out real quick that I need you to get a move on. I can be tenacious, but it’s out of necessity.

When we were kids, my father had an old Webster’s Dictionary. I don’t know what edition or year it was, but we knew it was old as it had a binding unlike any other book in the house. The binding was a faded old green fabric that was slowly stretching apart at the seams. The pages were thin and crinkly, like that of a bible or rolling papers. We had to maneuver it with two hands and drag it across the table, as it was too much book for our little hands to work with. Surely this was a special book. Surely this book would have swear words in it.

Sadly, the great big book of words did not have what we had hoped for under “F” or “S.” We held out hope for “B” and alas there it was: Bitch. The definition of course started with “a female dog” – duh! Boring! Skip ahead. The last sentence, ah yes, there it is: a disagreeable woman.
I was 8 years old and my brother only 6, but we thought this was the funniest damn thing ever. Twenty five years later, we still find ourselves snickering over drinks at the phrase. Lately I find myself embracing it. When I think about how I’ve coped so far with my medical trauma, I have to attribute it to being a disagreeable woman.

The doctor said I wouldn’t walk with a cane. I disagreed. They said I wouldn’t be able to do much on the computer. I disagreed. They still say I may not be able to drive or work or take care of my son. I disagree.

I can tell you the exact moment I felt something rage in me that made me take charge of this. It was Day 3 in the hospital. We had been told on Day 2 the stroke was over. At this point, I could still stand, walk, and sign my name. Yet I woke up that 3rd morning at 4am, attempted to roll over in my bed, and I couldn’t. My left side moved, but my right arm wouldn’t budge. Naturally, I panicked and thought maybe I was just hazy from sleep. I tried to use my leg to push my body to roll over, and that wouldn’t budge either. I was fully awake now with panic and horror. A moment later I had gone from pure fear to super fucking pissed. That was it. I’d had it. 

Three days of family and doctors convening over my bed, making assessments and decisions about my care and here I was, lying alone in the dark, suddenly completely paralyzed on the right side of my body. Time to light fires of my own under several asses. I started with the night nurse. I was calm but commanding. I demanded a Neurologist come to my room and look me in the eye to tell me I wasn’t still having a stroke. If I was still having a stroke, why the hell wasn’t I being treated for it? My mind was so clear that morning. If being a bitch was going to save my life, then look out.

I can’t explain where this comes from. I don’t think it’s that I’m special or stronger than anyone else. I’m just a cynical sarcastic bitch who gets bored easily. I can’t sit in a room and cry forever. That shit just gets old. I’ve prevailed because there isn’t any other option. There just isn’t.

Those of you reading this that think you wouldn’t be able to deal with waking up one morning paralyzed, I disagree. I used to say that too until it happened. Yeah it sucks. I won’t lie. We all have our baggage and our crap and our darkness and our light. You have to give yourself a chance to acknowledge all of it. If you dwell in the darkness, you’ll never see the obvious: listen to your body, and it will listen to you. (And so will everyone else if they know what’s good for ‘em.)

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." ~Albus Dumbledore

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

The other day I had the rare treat of being home alone. I always cherish those moments of solitude, as they don’t come often. I found myself at a loss for what to do. The world was mine! Well not the world, but the living room was mine!

Should I read? Should I write? Sleep? Make food that no one else likes? Dance naked? No. Those are good choices but not great. This is rare so it must be something special, something just for me. So, I did what many intellectual women in their 30s do in secret, but dare never admit…I watched me some E! Channel!

Say what you will about those skanky Kardashians, but I can’t get enough of them. I realize my Feminazi membership card will probably be revoked over this, but I think it’s important I be honest about it. You need to know you’re not alone. I checked the DVR to see what other guilty pleasures awaited, and was delighted to find the Season 2 Premiere of Ice Loves Cocoa.

Does the fact that I've watched Law & Order: SVU religiously for years redeem me in your intellectual eyes? Oh good.
I got cozy on the couch with a cup of coffee and an odd feeling came over me. No, it wasn’t my IQ slipping away (although I admit a case could be made for that.) It was something else.It took me a minute to realize what it was. As Cocoa smiled at the camera with her striking bleach blonde hair, it hit me: the last time I overdosed on cheesy reality TV, I was in rehab. (No, not sexy rock star rehab, the other one: old folks’ home rehab.)

If you’ve been in the hospital, you know that entertainment is hard to come by. The TV is typically just plain awful. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 1 – maybe 2 – cable channels that aren’t news-related. (Who wants to forget their troubles watching political debates or bombings in the Middle East? Sorry world sufferers, hospital time is all about me.) The main hospital had the History Channel and a flat-screen plasma TV which was awesome. Perhaps they invested more in that unit since it was part of the ICU, and they knew those of us who were unfortunate to be there wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. (Which is also morbidly ironic considering most patients were paralyzed or in comas.) Rehab, however, did not have the fancy amenities. I had a little TV that hung right in front of my face from a long metal arm on the wall. There was no remote. It hung so close to my face, the buttons were on the unit itself. I hated those buttons. They were stiff and almost impossible to push. I was paralyzed so I had to somehow hold it in place and hit those damn stiff buttons all with my left hand just to change the channel or adjust the volume. 

I stole this pic from my rehab facility's website. I stole for authenticity, as this is exactly what my room looked like.

I realize that sounds whiny. Consider this: I was away from my family for 22 days. I had 3 hours of physical and occupational therapy, mandatory meal times, and the rest of the day to sleep or stare at the wall. When you have that much downtime, you begin to cherish what little glimpse of the outside world you have. I developed a love-hate relationship with that TV. As much as I fantasized about getting my strength back so I could punch out the screen with my bare fist, it was also a great source of comfort and connection for me. There were nights my husband would call and we’d stay on the phone while we both tuned into the same channel. It’s so much more fun to laugh when you’re not laughing alone.

There were 3 shows that came on every day, which meant I often watched the same episode more than once: Ice Loves Cocoa, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and The Voice. Those shows are all back again with new seasons. (OK purists, technically not Kardashians but their spin-off shows are back.) It’s just TV. Stupid, unintelligent TV at that. Yet every time I see a preview or am alone for 30 minutes to tune in, it feels surreal to watch from my own couch this time. I can’t explain why. People say that certain sounds or smells can transport them back to another time. I suppose that is what I’m experiencing.

It’s been nine months exactly today. Nine months since I was sent by ambulance for my extended medical stay. It feels bizarre to say that. It feels like forever ago and just yesterday all at the same time. Maybe that’s why seeing these shows again freaks me out. It’s certainly a reality check that this much time has passed.

If you’re at all concerned about my taste in TV, you may be comforted to know I got a Kindle over the holidays. I don’t watch much TV anymore, but when I do it’s mind-numbingly FAB-U-LOUS. Like seriously, I need me a Soulgee.

Soulgee: Fabulous sidekick extraordinaire