Monday, September 21, 2009

Boulder Marathon – triumph!

I’m up early every (almost) day. On Saturday morning, during my writing time, I sneaked a peak at my Facebook page and saw a post from Naomi saying that there had been an injury and that they now needed someone to run one of the legs of their relay team for the Boulder Marathon. I jumped right in it.

So, yesterday I got up early, and instead of writing, I stretched while the coffee was brewing, changed into my running clothes, took my coffee with me in a to-go mug and arrived at 6:30 am at Breakworks to meet Naomi, we then drove to the Boulder Reservoir. As we walked from the cars, the sun began warming the morning air, I had butterflies in my stomach as I always do before a race (I don’t know why, this was definitely a low pressure race).

The relay was divided into four parts the first leg 6.5 miles was run by me; the second leg 7.3 miles, which was the most difficult leg, was run by Elise; the third leg 6.3 miles was run by Kate and the final leg 6.1 miles was run by Naomi. Our total finish time was just under five hours.

The course begins and ends at the Reservoir. Naomi and Elise cheered me off as I ran across the start/finish line with my “I ♥ Gluten” tee-shirt (we’re running for Breakworks Bakery & CafĂ©).

As we headed west, the foothills standing before me, I smile. I hear the rhythmic sounds of hundreds of feet as they run in front of me, next to me and behind me and I smile, because I’m running. In March 2005, when I had my last bad flare-up of pain, I could barely walk. I had trouble with stairs, I had difficulty doing physical things when the pain was like that and now I’m running! And I begin my prayer, “thank you God for giving me a strong, healthy, pain free body and the ability to run.”

We head north on a dirt road and the crowd spreads out. Most of the rest of the course is a pleasant meander through the back roads of Boulder County. At mile one, my time is 11:19. I’m pleased. The long hill leading to mile marker one only put me back a little. At mile two, my time is 22:00. Yes! The rest of my leg of the race is great. I arrive at the first relay point and Elise is waiting for me. My total time is just under 75 minutes, which is about 11:30 minute mile. I thought I’d be able to finish at closer to an 11 minute mile, but I’m pleased. This wasn’t my fastest race, but it was one of my best in the few short years I’ve been running again.

Just before the car accident I’d been running 25 to 30 miles a week at a 8:30 mile pace. My long runs on the weekends were about an hour and a half. I had just finished my first half-marathon at just over two hours, which is about a 9 minute mile pace.

I didn’t run for a couple of weeks after the accident because I was sore all over. I actually don’t remember much of this, but from what I wrote, when I’d run I would fatigue so quickly. Then a strange thing began happening which scared me—a lot! I would get shaky and off balance every time I ran, like a drunken sailor. I asked my physical therapist what was happening to me and I don’t think he knew or I don’t remember what he said. Then the more I ran the more pain I experienced. The neck pain and headaches were debilitating for days and days. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed the pain was so bad. Running seemed to bring on an exacerbation.

Running of the Green, an easy 5K in Denver had been the first race I had ever run. And in March 1999, it was the last time I ran. It was an awful race, I had to walk most of it. But, triumph reigned! My daughter Meghann and I ran it this year and we had a great time.

I’m going to run the whole Boulder Marathon one day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life changing moments- September 17

In the small hours of Saturday morning September 17th 1983, I got to meet the small child who had been sharing my body for the last ten months. Gestation for a human baby is thirty-eight to forty weeks, which is more than nine months.

She arrived three days before she was due. I’d been sleeping poorly; there is no good, comfortable position for puffy, swollen, large pregnant women in the days before delivery.

It was a Friday night and we’d just finished dinner when she let us know we’d be meeting her soon. We arrived at Boulder Community Hospital around 11:00 pm. The labor and delivery floor was packed. There had been a huge blizzard around Christmas and we knew we weren’t the only ones spending some cozy hours at home on those snow packed days.

The sweet sound of her first cry was quickly followed by an overwhelming tenderness, then a love I had never felt. It was different, part animal instinct, part motherly love. I would do anything for this child. Then she was handed to me and I kissed her wet face and examined her fingers and toes and placed her on my chest and then cried tears of exhaustion and joy.

At the moment of her birth, I was changed. I became a mother.

Happy 26th birthday honey!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lucky 13

Thirteen is my lucky number.

My car accident happened on June 13th. I faced death again (sigh) on November 13th when I choked on a pill. My swallowing has not been normal since the accident. It may be neurological, but my guess is that it's trauma based (more about that in another post). There are many other significant thirteens.

It was Saturday night, November 13, 2004. I had just come back from seeing a play Meghann was in at school. It was her senior year of high school. She was at the cast party. Shannon was living home again and was out with friends. I was alone. I’d been doing a dietary cleanse with some herbs someone suggested—I thought a detoxification might help with the chronic pain syndrome—I was in day ten of a fourteen day program. I swallowed eight pills twice a day and was having very few problems. I was being careful. As I took my nightly dosage, seven pills went down just fine and the eighth got stuck. I started coughing right away and I could feel the pill in my throat. I continued to cough hard and realized it was not coming up. I began to get alarmed. I coughed and coughed but, made no progress. The pill was stuck. I realized I needed help and reached for my cell phone to call a friend who lived down the street, but the phone was turned off and I was getting more and more frightened as I continued to cough and struggle to breathe. I phoned 911. The voice said, “What is your emergency?” I started to tell him, when I realized I couldn’t talk. I knew this was bad. The panic mounted. The 911 guy said, “Ma’me, what is your emergency?” I coughed out the word, “Choking.”

“Ma’me, is someone hurting you.”


“Ma’me, is someone there with you.”

I was in a full blown panic attack by this time. A wild animal struggling to survive. I realized I was getting nowhere with the 911 guy and needed someone right then. So, I went to find a neighbor. It was 9:30 that cold Saturday night in November. I was in my pajamas, white terrycloth robe, wool socks, but no slippers. As I put my hand on the front doorknob I felt myself blacking out. “Oh no! We aren’t going to have ‘dead mother in the door way.’ My kids are not going to come home to that scene!”

I ran out in the street still gasping and coughing and looked to the left but, the neighbors lights were off. I looked across the street. The neighbors lights were on and I went there and pounded on the door.

Poor Allen! I scared him. He and his wife Pam are great people! We’ve since gotten to know them well through Bridge. Allen’s a master at it and taught some of us neighbors how to play. I thought Bridge would be good for my brain. It’s a great game.

Allen opens the door to me sputtering, coughing and hysterical in my PJs and robe holding my throat as I gasp for air. He yells, “Oh my God!” I indicate that I want him to do the Heimlich maneuver and he does it but, it doesn’t work. Pam comes over and I fall to the floor. I hear Allen on the phone, “My neighbor across the street is choking.” Pam rubs my back gently and I calm down. I was reading an article earlier in the day in Yoga Journal about relaxation and breathing. As Pam rubs my back in soft circular motions, my mind was instructing me, “In breath, out breath. In breath, out breath.”

The police were the first to arrive. “Ma’me has someone hurt you?” I’m brought back to the trauma of the moment. I try to answer him and can’t talk and feel the pill in my larynx and I panic all over again.

The fire guys come next-all ten of them, strong and young and gorgeous-and the Heimlich maneuver is tried and again it doesn’t work. They all stand around watching the coughing, struggling, slobbering mess I’ve become on the floor.

The paramedics come. A guy with horn-rimmed glasses pushes his way to the front of the crowd that has now gathered in Allen and Pam’s foyer. “Finally,” I think, “Someone is going to take charge of this situation and get me out of this mess.” He looks me straight in eyes. We are communicating telepathically. I knew if one more person tried to get me to talk, I’d lose it. He asks only yes-no questions. “Ma’me, would you like me to try the Heimlich maneuver?” I shake my head yes. When it didn’t work he said, “I’m going to hurt you if I keep trying this. Since you’re coughing, I’m going to just let this take its course. Is that all right?” I shake my head yes, drop to the floor coughing and gasping some more, but felt safe that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. In just a few more minutes I say, “Oh, I think it went down.” I can taste and I’m coughing up the power from the pill. I guess the gel coating finally dissolved.

I looked up to find two good friends from the neighborhood standing there. Pam must have called them. Sharon sees I’m breathing again and sitting calmly (somewhat) on the floor and offers, “Kathe, this is a hell of a way to get a date.” We all laugh.

The crowd begins to dissipate and the lead paramedic guy says, "Well I guess you’re OK," and begins to move toward the door when my good friends Paul and Sharon simultaneously yell, “No, she’s not.” They take me to the ER in Boulder. I’m still not breathing right. My chest is tight. I’m so hoarse I can barely talk. They give me a couple of nebulizer treatments which help tremendously and send me home with an Albuterol inhaler.

I’m traumatized. I can’t sleep. I can’t stop playing the scene over and over. I can’t eat. I’ll never swallow another pill.

I had a planned business trip to North Carolina for that week. As I’m flying home that Sunday, replaying the scene in my mind (it took some work to get that to stop), a thought occurs to me. It was sudden and definite. “Huh, I’m not dead.” Once again, death came knocking and I didn’t answer the door. I smiled. I was swept away by the thought. “Huh, I’m not dead.”

The most natural next thought came. What do you do when you’re not dead? When you could have been dead a couple times over and you’re not, what do you do? I asked all my friends. Finally, it was Melinda who says, “Well, you haven’t had a date in about ten years, why don’t you start there!” Great idea!

I got busy. She made me get online. Oh no! I’m not going to do this. “Where the hell else are you going to meet someone?” she barked. So, I did. I posted my photo and profile. I got three thousand hits. I had three dates in one day one Friday.

Kevin was the gem that shone brightest. As you already know, we met on January 13, 2005. I called him ‘beautiful Kevin’ (he’s going to hate that I’m writing this), because he is! He is the calm blue water to my hot red fire. He is the introvert to my extrovert. He is the Felix to my Oscar—we really are an odd couple in so many ways.

At first it was every June thirteenth that I celebrated life. Now, every thirteenth of the month we celebrate life, love, health and happiness.

Today is our anniversary—four years and eight months. Aw!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laughter, glorious laughter!

I don’t recall exactly when the laughter returned, but it’s been in full season since Kevin came into my life.

When my scrambled eggs for brains (a chapter title in the first draft of the book) began turning into more properly arranged axons and dendrites (the gray matter of the brain) and I was working more regularly and earning a more sustainable wage (yes!), a friend of mine said, “Well, now, how about your love life?” There had been several dates here and there, but I guess ultimately I wasn’t ready for love. I was still far from well.

While the brain was clearing up, the body most certainly was not. My cognitive-, speech-, and psycho- therapies had concluded sometime in 2002, I believe. I then began working with a new physical therapist that my new physician, Chris Centeno, MD had suggested. I was being instructed in how to use a therapy ball, foam roller and a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) to manage the pain. Dr. Centeno offered a variety of other therapies and procedures that made an enormous difference in my life. He explained that the chronic pain syndrome I was experiencing was a direct result from the trauma to my brain. He used the term central (autonomic) nervous system dysfunction (fibromyalgia) and explained that my brain over reacts to stimuli from my body. This seemed bad! I hated the word fibromyalgia (although he didn’t use it). I knew enough about it from my patients over the years and from a dear friend who suffers from it, and I definitely did not want it myself! I hadn’t wanted a brain injury, and for that matter, I had wished the whole damned thing hadn’t happened to me.

The pain was awful. Walking, sitting for too long or even lying down all hurt. The pain woke me up. I slept a lot, but still never felt rested. The only place it didn’t hurt was in a warm bath. And one of the most maddening things about the chronic pain syndrome (I still won’t use the word fibromyalgia) was the exacerbations and remittances. There would be hours (at first), then days, then weeks of no pain and every time that happened-every time-I’d think, “Oh thank God that’s over.” Then I’d be struck again and it would rock my world. It would tear me apart emotionally. It hurt so much. I took so much ibuprofen it negatively impacted my health in other ways. I never took narcotics. I couldn’t fathom adding another problem (addiction) to the laundry list of problems I was already facing.

When I met Kevin in 2005, I was not well physically. I was still out of shape (I hadn’t run in seven years), but he didn’t seem to notice or didn’t seem to care or just decided not to mention it, and I am forever grateful for that.

It was a cold January night, a Thursday, the thirteenth. He was fifteen minutes late. On our second date, he was thirty minutes late. I thought to myself, if this thing works out, I’m going to have to let go of needing him to be on time. Kevin is time-challenged. It’s humorous sometimes, but mostly not.

Then the laughter started. He is so funny. Silly really. It’s been an ongoing circus, a lunacy, a King of Hearts, a play date with a five-year-old.

One time, he was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. He was going to make scrambled eggs. I was in the living room stretching after a run and I could see him crouched down in front of the cabinet below the island where the mixing bowls, cups and serving platters are stored. “Which vessel should I use for these eggs,” he called. “Kevin, ‘vessel?’” I roared.

The other day, I called him (as I often do during the day) while I was on an errand for work. I heard some muffled crackling noises and he was slow to say, "Hello." I figured he was struggling with the phone, because he was right in the middle of something. He said, “I’ll have to call you back. I’m transacting.”

Now, that may not seem funny to you, but I had to pull the car over I was laughing so hard. My eyes watered. I couldn’t see. My belly ached. My ribs hurt. I was still laughing uncontrollably when he phoned back moments later. “Kevin, ‘I’m transacting,’ who talks like that?” Kevin does. He’s precise. He’s exact. If you need a picture hung, he’ll whip out the level and measuring tape faster than you can say, “Jack Robinson.” He carries hardware in his pockets at all times; he’d put his level and tape measure in there if they’d fit. You never know when you’ll need a flashlight or pocket knife. He’s a boy scout without a troop, list in hand, items labeled and accounted for. He is precise and exact in word and deed.

Kevin is also multi-task-challenged. We were preparing dinner. He had a drink (I think it was limeade, his favorite) in his hand and I looked over at him, and a few minutes later I looked again, and then said, “I thought you were going to start chopping this onion.” He looked at his drink, then he looked at me and said, “I can’t possibly chop that onion right now, I’m sipping my limeade.” Another roll-on-the-floor fit of laughing erupted. And there’s more, much more.

I had my last big flair-up of pain in March 2005. It was Tuesday, March 15th, the ides of March. The pain was so bad that day that I couldn’t work. I had trouble walking, driving and thinking. I called a spiritual friend whose opinions matter greatly to me. I consider him someone who explores the inner workings of his heart and soul and he follows a path that looks beyond what we can feel, hear and touch with our physical senses. He suggested I pray. He suggested I be grateful for the experience I was having. I wanted to choke him! But, I was too weak to drive over there. We talked for quite awhile when I began to realize what he was getting at. What did I have to lose? I thought for a long time about what he said, then I began this prayer, “Thank you, God, for this pain. I don’t know why I have it, but if it serves some purpose for you now, thank you for it.” I’d say that prayer hundreds of times a day.

I guess I now know the purpose. Gratitude is an antidote to pain. Whoa! I wouldn’t have figured that one out on my own.

I hold hope in the palm of my hand and I freely offer it to you by sharing my experience, journey and this story.

Now, every time I run I pray, “Thank you God for giving me a strong, healthy pain free body and the ability to run.” I say it over and over while I run. I am strong. I am healthy. I am a runner. I’ve been relatively pain free since May 2005.

Maybe it was the laughter that healed the pain. Maybe it was the prayers. But, I do know it had something to with some outstanding, committed and knowledgeable people on my healthcare team.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Chapter 3- Mexico—Salvatore

Azucar was tucked into a cul-de-sac off the main avenue on the north end of Cancun. Camryn and Cynthia discovered it several vacations ago. The lighting along the bar invited a fantasy of Havana nights of the 1940s. Her parents would have loved this place. She wasn’t aware if they’d ever been here. They too, had come to Cancun frequently. Elizabeth and Ken were great dancers. Every decade, on their wedding anniversary they’d throw a huge party and on their last one, their fortieth it was no different. Camryn loved dancing with her father, but it wasn’t quite the practiced steps that Elizabeth and he shared.

The matre’d, Enrique seated Camryn and asked if he could join her for a drink. He called the waiter over, bought her a drink and they talked briefly before he had to return to work.

Loneliness settled in as she watched the club fill up with couples and groups of people, laughing and talking as they pasted her unnoticed. Here she was alone, again. It had been years since romance put in an appearance —there wasn’t time in her life or a place in her heart for it. She finished her drink and thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have come here by herself. She stood, smoothed the wrinkles on the front of her white gauze summer dress that contrasted nicely with her gently tanned skin from earlier in the day, tucked her clutch purse under her arm and headed toward to door.

Then, she looked up. Her eyes met his. His long dark wavy hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He was dressed in dark slacks, a white shirt, no tie with his light tan jacket slung over his shoulder. They were unable or unwilling to shift their gaze. He slowly walked over to her and took her hand in his.

“Buenos noches, senorita,” he spoke softly as he leaned over to kiss her hand.

“Buenos noches, senor,” she said as she let him.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said in English with an accent Camryn couldn’t quite place. He wasn’t Mexican. “My name in Salvatore and a beautiful woman such as yourself should not be leaving so early. The night is young.”

“Oh, boy, what a line,” she thought, yet, she had to check to be sure her mouth wasn’t gaping open. It was as if he had just walked off the cover of a magazine. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen.

“Please sit down. Will you join me?” She gestured. She realized she was going to stay for awhile.

Salvatore ordered drinks. Camryn had another Perrier. The conversation flowed freely. He was Italian and was on vacation for two weeks with his business partner and childhood friend Benito, who would meet him there shortly. They were staying at the Fiesta Americana just across from Azucar.

A collective rhythm pulsated in the air as song after song played on.

The next dance was a Rumba. Camryn let Salvatore lead her into the sensual moves that hinted at the possibilities of the night.

The band took a break. Salvatore looked over and saw his friend. “Benito’s here. Let me introduce you.” He held her hand and led her to where Benito stood.

“Benito, allow me to introduce the most beautiful woman in the world,” Salvatore said dramatically.

They laughed.

Benito’s English wasn’t as easy to understand. He was polite and formal. Salvatore and he spoke to each other in Italian. After her second dance with Benito, Salvatore suggested they go to another club, Christine’s, a disco, was a short taxicab ride away.

In the cab, Salvatore put his arm around Camryn’s shoulder. She took his hand in hers. She knew where the evening was going. The rules of conduct in the sultry heat of this Mexican resort were left wide open. At Christine’s a photographer took their pictures. Salvatore bought two copies and gave her one.

The three of them found a table and Benito immediately approached a group of women and headed to the dance floor with one of them. The music and flashing lights filled her senses. It was too loud to carry on a conversation. Benito waved them onto the dance floor. They swooned and crooned along to Donna Summers’ I feel the love. Then another song erupted and suddenly the crowd separated and they could see a man going all out on the dance floor. They laughed and howled. Camryn glanced over at Salvatore as he laughed. She paused, studying his profile, then his hands--his fingernails hadn’t seen hard work. He looked over at her and leaned into her. She met him and for the first time that night they kissed. They pulled back. Their eyes met. Then they leaned toward each and their lips met again. He led her back to the table. The music washed away their voices.

“Maybe we should do go,” he offered. But, she couldn’t hear him and shrugged her shoulders. He nodded toward to the door. She didn’t hesitate. He caught Benito’s attention and waved good bye.

Morning was not too far distant as they reached her condo. She held her shoes in one hand and his in the other as they walked along the beach, enjoying the coolness that settled on the night.

“It’s late,” said Camryn.

“You mean it’s early,” corrected Salvatore.

Camryn smiled. “Let’s go upstairs." He didn’t hesitate.

Salvatore put out the do-not-disturb sign. They stood just inside the doorway. He kissed her. He picked her up in his arms and carried her up the short flight of stairs to the bedroom. He laid her on the bed, their lips never separating. She could feel the weight of him on her. She slipped her hands under his shirt and felt the muscles of his back straining. In one fluid motion, he rolled over and pulled her on top of him and his practiced fingers unzipped the back of her dress.

“Oh my God,” she thought. “I’m in a super-market romance novel.”

“Yes,” she uttered, her voice just above a whisper.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ghosts in the Darkness

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in Bookend Cafe, the coffee shop attached to the Boulder Bookstore—being one of the throngs of erudite Boulderites. It’s pretty white here in Boulder. I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s just an observation. Led Zeppelin’s Going to California; “Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems…” was playing over head.

Kevin had some business in downtown, so, I decided to go along. After a late breakfast at Turley’s he dropped me off on Pearl Street. I wanted to finish some writing I had begun earlier.

As I sometimes do, I begin by editing some of the book’s first draft. December 11, 2000 was the date on the chapters I was reading yesterday. The book holds my memories, my history (for the most part) of what my life was like back in 1998 through 2000. I had a scheduled trip to Cancun, Mexico with my sister the weekend after the accident. I shouldn’t have gone. I wasn’t well, but I didn’t know it yet. I remember nothing of that weekend except what I wrote as part of the story. I haven’t talked to my sister about that weekend. I think I’ll give her a call.

Here come the tears again. I fight them back. I can’t cry in public.

I haven’t always been such a crybaby. But, I am now. A friend of mind told me that I also laugh more heartily than before, too. The brain injury changed me. I don’t have the same filters I used to. I guess it’s good. I’ve come to accept who I am. And really, when you meet me, you’d never know that I’m different. But, I am.

One of the first classes I took as a part of my PhD was a philosophy of science course. Margaret LeCompte, PhD was the professor. She changed me. I am one of the many thousands of students she has had in her career, and I’m sure she’d say “Kathe Perez who” if I ever emailed her to say “hi.” However, a part of how I see world was developed in that class. She had a tremendous impact on me. The major assignment for the course, which we had the semester to complete, was to write what she called a “Stand Point” paper. We were to search back through our lives our personal histories—our families, education, where we grew up, our culture, our mental, physical and emotional experiences, what we read, and our political perspectives--and write who we are. She said that it is from our histories that we come to the point upon which we stand today, and that would determine the type of science to which we would be drawn. I anguished over the paper. I went to see her a couple of times. And yes, she did mean everything. “You mean my father’s alcoholism?” “Yes,” was her reply. “You mean the poor little Mexican girl who grew up in fancy white Connecticut?” “Yes,” was her reply. “But, but, but,” I protested. “Just write it,” she insisted. So I did.

About a week ago I was going through a small blue notebook I apparently used to keep track of my life. The first entry in that notebook was November 3, 1998. The writing is nearly illegible. I sentences are incomplete. I must have been trying to help myself remember some things that were supposed to get done. I wonder if they ever did.

In another blue notebook (I guess blue was my color) from some years later, I saw that I attended a talk or book signing by Jimmy Santiago Baca in 2001. I have absolutely no idea how I got interested in his work (Chicano jailhouse poetry), but I guess I did. Then, the next day, I heard he was going to be speaking in Boulder in a couple of weeks. So, I did a Google search and came up with nothing. I went to his website, nothing. I emailed him and asked him about it and he emailed me back to say, that yes he was speaking in Boulder on September 22, 2009, but he didn’t say where and I still can’t find it and I’m too embarrassed to email him back.

Yesterday when Kevin finished his business and came to retrieve me from where I sat at a tiny round table barely big enough for my laptop, we decided to look around the Boulder Bookstore for a bit. Now, when you love to read (I need to retire just to read all the books on my list) you simply cannot go into a bookstore and come out empty handed. I had intended to only get To Kill a Mockingbird. On the way home from work the day before, I heard an interview on the radio with Denver’s Mayor Hickenlooper about his project One Book-One Denver and I wanted to get a copy.

Thirty-seven dollars and eighty-five cents later, I walked out with four books and a big smile.

I began reading Jimmy’s book, A Place to Stand (I think I may have read it, the cover looks familiar) and know why I was attracted his story--chronic shame. He’s a little boy in New Mexico and the adults in his life that were supposed to love and care for him failed him. My father was from New Mexico. His dark skin and dirt floor shack that was his boyhood home raked at his soul, but instead of finding the words to tell his story, he found the bottle.

Somehow I blamed myself for the accident. I saw that the car coming up behind us was going too fast. Why didn’t I try some strategic maneuver like in the movies to avoid the collision? Then bang! Smash! Damaged!

The ghosts from that dark, dark time in my life are here again, not to bring me over to the other side, but to take me further into the light. “I want you to be an example of hope in the world,” said the voice in my head.

“Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Dark Mood

My dark mood came knocking Tuesday night. I had a feeling it was she. I haven’t seen her in awhile. I got up, went to the door, saw who it was, thought better of it, but I let her in anyway. We’ve known each other for quite some time.

I’m lying very still as dawn stretches into my room, breathing softly so she doesn’t know I’m awake. My thoughts carry me to a peaceful place--sitting in my comfortable chair, in my comfortable living room with the tapping sounds of my pretty red nails on the keyboard of my lap-top (I love that). Then my dark mood senses I’m awake and slaps me. Hard. Damn her! She’s coercing me to spend another day with her. Boy, she’s convincing.

My dark mood and depression are cousins. She introduced me to depression back in 1999. Depression--now that’s a bitch that’s packing some power! Depression oozed into the hearts of beautiful creative souls like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and quietly had her way with them.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading (actually re-reading) Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird, and she mentioned there was a time when suicide came to some of her father’s writing friends. Last night, Anne suggested that I write about what I know, about my experiences, that I use my history and observations of the world around me, to be the anchor of my stories. She writes about alcoholism, neurosis, and depression. What is this with writers?

You’d think that my dark mood would love that I’m writing. But, she’s secretive. She loves secrets. She whispers in my ear. She turns my fears into truths. She’s good at that!

So, I haven’t written/edited much more on chapter three. We left off with Camryn taking a cab ride into the night club district of Cancun, Mexico. We’ll pick up from there soon.

My dark mood needs to leave now. It's sunny. It’s 63 degrees. It’s 7:48 am. Another amazing Colorado morning. The neighborhood kids are scurrying along the bike path to the elementary school. My writing time is coming to a close for today. I’m going to go for a run. My dark mood hates it when I run.

I feel better. I’m going to ask her to leave.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Joy and Motivation

I’m writing everyday and it’s bringing me joy! Joy: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” (Merriam-Webster Online). I’m in a massive edit of the book. Finally! It brings me joy.

When my kids were young, almost every morning of their lives, I’d ask them about their dreams. In my dream last night, I was in a class my friend Melodie Matice was teaching. The class was on spirituality and how to tap into your intuition. It was on a beach and we, the audience sat facing the water. It was warm, comfortable, just after sunrise. The sun was coming up behind us. I’ve been to this location before in my dreams. It’s along a lagoon and the water is always calm. The beach was rocky. Many of my friends were also in the class and during the break my friend Rosia came over to me and we were talking about how I might go about publishing the book. We were talking about the title and whether to use the current title or something else. Then another friend drew an amazing picture. The drawing, in colored pencil, a scene from that beach, had hidden faces in the rocks. We all loved it and then someone mentioned it would make a great cover for the book.

Writing brings me joy. Reading brings me joy. Reading about writing brings me a lot of joy. Sunday, I picked up a book I bought in 1999 (I keep the receipts in the books I buy) by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life. I now want to read everything she ever wrote. I want to meet her. Ok, Supreme-Being-of-my-understanding, you heard it. I want to meet Anne Lamott. (I’ll let you all know when I do).

Now, there are some special gifts you get when you have (or have had, in my case) a brain injury. You can re-read books (I apparently read quite thoroughly, Bird by Bird as evidenced by the crinkly pages). You can buy your own Christmas gifts, wrap them, put them under the Christmas tree and be surprised by them on Christmas morning (this actually happened and I tell the story in more detail in the book).

I put away all my writings and books in two boxes that sat in the basement for years. I tried revisiting the book a couple of times. But they were false starts and nothing came of it. Yes, the book was crap and it needed so much work, that I doubted that I’d ever find the motivation to complete it. Motivation: it comes from the root word motive—“something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”

What is my motive? I have a story to tell. An experience to share. We all do! And, we all love stories. We never tire of stories.

I’m writing and editing (writing really is more about editing) everyday. And I love Camryn. Is that narcissistic? Because, come on, she’s me, right? She’s divorced; I was divorced. She’s a single mom; I was a single mom. She’s working on a Ph.D.; I was working on a Ph.D. She loves going Mexico; I loved going to Mexico (although I haven’t been there since the accident). Camryn had a car accident and a brain injury; I had a car accident and a brain injury. But, an interesting thing happened. Camryn turns out to not be me. On the outside, some of the circumstances of the life of that character were some (not all) of my own. Then, she began to evolve into her own personality. She developed her own processes for working through the problems she faced. I was surprised and intrigued by that, but as it turns out that’s a common occurrence. Since, I’d never done any creative writing, I didn’t know this. So, back then (from October 1998 to January 2001) and now, I let Camryn tell her story.

I am motivated to do the thing that brings me joy: to write.

What brings you joy? What’s your story? I’d love to know.