Yesterday, I stumblr’d (as of right this moment, “stumblr’d” means “a thing i stumbled across on tumblr when i was really just in the mood to look at pretty gifsets and fanart) across a reference to Laurie Anderson’s “Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: write 15 minutes each day in September.
2010 is officially over now. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it for months, but life got in the way. It’ll be a bit more concise now. Lucky you.
If the second half of 2010 had a theme, it was Challenge is the New Black. A couple of months ago something snapped and I realized that who I think I am isn’t set in stone and even though I’m 33, I can still redefine the things about myself that I’m not down with. Continue reading A Look Ahead: 2011
perhaps all the olympic competition has brought this to the forefront, but i’ve noticed an unhealthy trend in how we define our personal happiness, self-worth, goals. competition is healthy, yes. i know that we need archetypes to place ourselves on the spectrum. we need examples of what not to do, of what to do. we need role models. i get it. we need other people to define ourselves. that’s not the problem. i’m not suggesting we take it to such an extreme that we eliminate professional sports and personal choice. i just think as a society/culture/collective group of free-willers we’ve take it too far.
what i find alarming is the part that involves finding satisfaction in being better than someone else. it’s not enough that i make plenty of money. i want to make more than you. it’s not enough that i’m good looking. i want to be prettier than you are. i want to read more books than you have. i want to have a better weekend than you had. we’re not satisfied with being rich, successful, attractive, healthy, learned, content people unless there’s someone near by we can point to and say “i’m doing it all better than that person is.” for some people it’s not even enough to be better than that person. They have to be better than everyone, or at least everyone they know. for some people they’re miserable if someone else is perceived as being more than they are. it’s an epidemic, and i’ve discovered that having a small child, with an entire new set of things to compare and assess, makes it even harder to avoid the impulse to compare and preen.
well, i’m sick of it. it’s to the point that my stomach turns when i see it happen around me and i verbally lash myself when i feel it creeping in. i want to be happy. i want you to be happy. i want it to have nothing to with the relative happiness or success of complete strangers. i don’t want to feel better because someone else isn’t.
i’m trying really hard to avoid the feeling of “and i’m not doing it any more and that makes me better than you” because that sort of masochistic pride is the kind i hate the most. i’m well aware of the hypocrisy/paradox of implying that i’m “better than you” because i’m going to stop defining myself by being better than you, but there has to be a way.
there has to be a way to simply believe “this makes me happy” and i’m going to keep going until that becomes second nature for me.
while ryan, charlotte, and i were walking back from the lincoln memorial, we stumbled across a scene that surprisingly moved me to tears. at first, we wondered if it might have been staged, but after considering the likely-hood of the random events (high), and confirming with gina, apparently these sorts of things happen all the time.
it started with a limo, a wheel-chair bound veteran in dress uniform, his family, a couple of handlers, and a 2 person camera crew. I fail at wars and timing and determining people’s ages, but i’d say he were probably from the korean war or WWII. i’m not sure what their purpose was, but if i had to guess, it was some sort of documentary or perhaps anniversary celebration. nobody was making a big deal about it, so he must not have been someone “famous.” the group slowly made their way from the limo to the washington memorial. on the way, they were interrupted by 3 marines who were jogging along the mall. one by one the men stopped, bent over the veteran, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service. as they resumed their jog, one of the handlers stopped them and thanked them, saying how much their gesture touched the vet. the marines were as humble with the handler as they were respectful with the vet.
the cynic in me wondered if it was staged, but the amount of randomly jogging marines and other military personnel makes the random occurrence highly plausible. except for the marines, who logically moved with purpose, everyone else who took part in the scene seemed slightly disoriented by the interruption. i then attempted to make sense of it by convincing myself that the amount of conditioning that comes with belonging to the armed forces was the major reason the marines stopped. there were simply trained to. i couldn’t shake the look on one of the marine’s face or the sound of his voice from my mind however, and i finally gave into the feelings i was trying to avoid. i’m still not sure exactly what they were. i think that patriotism, or just a general feeling of pride in the military specifically, is so alien to me that i really didn’t know how to express them or feel them properly. i experienced something similar to when i see or hear something that is overwhelmingly beautiful. it’s a sort of this primal, almost painful, burst of “something” in my chest/throat that causes me to tear up.
as i suspected, being in DC made me wish i was a better student of american history, civics, and current political issues. there was no moment that i felt that more keenly than watching the marines and the veteran in the shadow of the washington monument.
wherein kelly throws herself a whiny pity party and decides upon review that she really doesn’t care about the tense shifting and inconsistent capitalization enough to do anything about it.
let’s recap, shall we?
bad: found out my dad’s “spots” were very terminal pancreatic cancer
good: *finally* sold our damn house.
bittersweet: found out friends were pregnant (what? i’m not allowed to be happy and a wee bit jealous?)
bad: work-related stress comes to a serious head, resulting in more than one panic attack.
bad -“the flood” -work falls to bitty, bitty chaotic pieces
bittersweet: found out my cousin was pregnant (see above)
good: found out I was pregnant
(it should be noted that the flood, rachel’s pregnancy and my discovery were all the same damn day)
bad: dad spends the month in and out of the hospital thanks to pneumonia, random fevers, and life-threatening blood clots.
bad: low progesterone issues threaten my pregnancy
bad: trip to new york is cancelled.
worst week so far: the one where it looked like i was going to miscarry, my dad was going to die, and we should have been spending a great week in newyork with my inlaws.
good: low progesterone issues taper off as i enter the second trimester
bad: my dad dies.
bad: my dad’s first not-birthday
good: the first annual “Bob Valentine Memorial Day at the Casino”
bad: Nancy (my mother in law)’s cancer has spread to her brain.
fuck the hell out of may.
good: baby and i pass the 18week checkup with flying colors, even if we didn’t discover the gender
good: trip to seattle with 4 of my closest friends (oh, and ryan)
good: work seems to be turning around with the help of some restructuring/new hires
bad: my mentor leaves the company, leaving me at “the helm” of this new restructuring
bad: my first birthday in 20+ years where my father doesn’t call me at 10:50 to say happy birthday
good/bad: the radiation treatments clearly help Nancy, but greatly fatigue her/cause complications
seattle aside, fuck june, too.
bad: blockage in Nancy’s digestive system is irreparable. she comes home to die.
bittersweet: more rushed than we’d like, we move out of our crappy apartment and into our sexy loft. loft is largely empty as we left most of our stuff behind.
good: baby is officially declared a girl
bad: my grandmother (the only grandparent i have left) is diagnosed with chronic pulmonary distress.
good: looks like she’s just an 89 year old woman with 89 year old lungs. it’s not great, but it’s not life-threatening.
bad: Nancy dies. her wake is 3 months to the day that my father died.
good: we register for “stuff” at babiesrus as a helpful distraction.
good: will and gina arrive a week early.
i’d fuck july if i had the strength.
good: will and gina’s presence in our home makes it feel like home.
bad: the week i took off to support my family throws the restructuring at work out of whack. yes, there were other reasons, but had i been there…
bad: stress of life and work and physical stress of baby causes painful acid reflux and i loose a weekend to feebleness and vomiting. takes a week to get my appetite back.
good: when we can squeeze it in, we move forward with baby things like building furniture and registering at target.
good: we find almost a week where we can focus on our loft and our upcoming baby. there is still much to do.
bad: life and work stress, coupled with the fact that i’m less and less physically capable of doing things, cause me to start having panic attacks again.
good: i start taking anti-depressants after talking with my doctor.
good: surprise trip to peoria to see nickelcreek and fiona apple.
bad: very close friends who’ve been together for 5 years end their relationship.
second worst week of the year: watching a friend grieve over the loss of her relationship and trying to help when she wants to be left alone to die. feeling more helpless than with either death.
good: my replacement at work is a rockstar. it gets easier every week to let a little work-stress go.
bad: nancy’s father (grandpa fritz) is diagnosed with colon cancer.
good: grandpa fritz has a very successful surgery to remove the cancer. is pronounced “good for 10 more years”. he is 91.
bad: grandpa’s sutures fail. he returns for additional surgery. it is successful (thusfar), but requires a ventilator, feeding tube. none of which he wants.
fuck it harder than any other month, in no small part because of all the months that have come before it, weighing it down so heavily.
september – december
good: apple day
bad: the first apple day with no nancy. the first apple day in 5 years with no fritzs because they’re all in chicago watching over grandpa’s beside.
bad: grandpa will likely not see halloween.
good: impending births of many loved children, including my own.
good: declaring myself “pagan enough” to count halloween as the new year and hopefully separating charlotte’s birth from the year that preceded it.
deathly frightening and exiting: charlotte’s arrival
bittersweet: there is still so very much to do.
bittersweet: showers for charlotte, which will have a few palpable absences.
good: will and gina will likely still be in town when charlotte arrives
bad: will and gina will leave days later for their new home in DC.
bittersweet: thanksgiving, christmas and so many alterations to loved traditions.
good: there will be a tattoo on me in some form or another to mark this year on my skin as permanently as it’s been marked on my soul.
may it be that i find the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference.