Month: October 2018

Trick or Treat: On Giving Up the Have-Not’s.

My favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert, told me in her recent book that my fear is the least interesting thing about me.  I’ve taken the mantra to heart, whispering it to myself any time my social anxiety spikes, or saying something truthful feels scary, or taking a drive into New York City to have dinner with friends seems monumentally unsafe with the traffic and the violence and the public transportation I don’t understand, anymore…

I, of course, am weighing this mantra with my true fear– the kind that keeps me from burning my hand or falling off of cliffs.

But I am now tempted to also take it a step further– that my Have-Not’s are the second most least interesting thing about me.  I am incredibly privileged.  I don’t fear for my life when police officers are present.  I am certain that if I was completely down-and-out on my luck, someone could step in to vouch for me or give me a lift until I get on my feet again.  I’m not talking about the Have-Not’s that Have To be talked about.  I’m talking about the Have Not’s that commandeer a conversation to a full plummet before someone more sane takes the controls again.

I am starting tomorrow, when I will wear my homemade Coyote costume and go Trick-or-Treating for the first time.

Sure, I won’t be able to sigh wistfully at the topic of Halloween and claim that I have never had the opportunity to celebrate it.  I won’t be able to publicly mourn my lesser-than Satanic-panic upbringing as a point of interest.

But, I will be able to say something more interesting than “I have never…”

I’ll say, “I went Trick-or-Treating for the first time when I was 32.”

Plus, I’ll have lots of candy.

Kidney Stones: On Yelping in Truth.

“Can you just tell them that…”  I couldn’t figure out what I needed.  We were holed up in our camper in our friend’s driveway just outside of Rochester, NY.  I was looking for an excuse for my behavior, for an apology, for an invisibility cloak.  I was embarrassed, and I couldn’t figure out why.  I sat back and gave up.

“Can you just them that I’m sick?” I said.

“You mean, tell them the truth?” my Someone said.


I laid back in bed and held my gut.  I cried.  Somehow, the pain inside of me was far less difficult than having to admit the pain was there at all.

Big girls don’t cry.  Don’t let them see you cry.  Don’t be so sensitive.  You can’t let them know they got to you.  Just ignore them.  Keep your head down.  Keep a stiff upper lip.  Just smile.

I have been trained to stuff it down.  Every social cue, a few pop songs, and even a Supreme Court Justice have indicated that not only is my pain unwelcome, but it is simply unflattering.  Inconvenient.  Unnecessary.  When I am injured and say nothing, I am rewarded-

She’s tough.  Can’t keep her down.  Don’t mess with her.  ‘Atta Girl!

Vulnerability, our most natural state screaming from the womb, is something that takes practice, now.  Partially out of survival.  But the other bit that I’ve lost– that keeps me quiet when I am bullied, or that keeps me from getting help when I need it– that’s the kind I am practicing to get back.  Occasionally, I am screaming for it.

The pain started at once in Michigan, slowly through Canada, and persisted by the time we got to Rochester two weeks later where we were parked in our friends’ driveway and unsure what my symptoms meant.  I had tried everything from my dog’s antibiotics to IBUProfin to yogurt, cross referencing the internet with home remedy books.  My Someone and I regularly discussed public healthcare.  It didn’t make me feel better.

It wasn’t the pain or the faintness or the nausea that had me as nervous as being found out.  I was running against my choice to be seen as ill, or as rude.  I picked the truth.  Then I told myself a few untruths while I waited for my Someone to return–

You’re faking it.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

No one will believe you.

Just buck up.

It’s all in your head.

They’re going to be mad at you.

They’re going to be mad at you.

They’re going to be mad at you.

My Someone popped back in.

“Are they mad at me?” I asked.

“What? No, of course not,” he said, laying a few things down on the counter, “But they did make you something.”

It didn’t immediately compute.  I ran through the options of what they might have sent out to me.  I could only think of an eviction notice.

“But I’m sick,” I said.  “Do they want me to leave?”

“What? No. They want you to get better.”

My friends had put together some research and a home remedy of essential oils.  And a bowl of curry for dinner.  I burrowed further under the covers.  I fought against my untruths.

And then, I decided to keep telling the truth, instead.

The truth has me on the mend.  Like when I had to truthfully tell my Someone it was time to go to the hospital.  I got a couple of tests and a diagnosis of kidney stones, which was a relief from all the untruths I was imagining while holding the pain in.  I’ve passed three in the last month, as near as I can tell.  In Boonville, NY, parked in the yard of some friends, my Someone had to liaison again with the truth that I was passing another.  He returned with a hot water bottle and a smudge stick that helped clear the air and my head.  I was well enough to play our show that evening.

The truth, it seems, is setting me free.  Even if it is dragging itself painfully through me first.  This pain is acute practice.

And these small gifts of oils and smudges being sent my way are far holier– far more useful– than an “‘Atta Girl.”