Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Like Starting Over

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

I've always been fascinated by the idea of living a more spare life, finding a way to live without being surrounded by excess material possessions. I try to purge unnecessary belongings. I try to organize and simplify my life. It goes in cycles, every six months or so I am swept up in a fit of frenzy to clear the excess baggage from my life... in this last year that urge - and the sense that I am too tied down by things - has just grown and the need to pare away the unessential comes upon me with far greater frequency.

When I wrote this old post, I was just moving into my current home. It's been a good nest. A place to heal wounds after a painful and complicated breakup. A place to become myself again and get my bearings. But the last year has brought a lot of changes to how I see the world. I don't feel safe all alone in this house. Incongruously, I've gained a fearlessness in my approach to taking chances that I can only attribute to having lost so much - eventually you start trying things because little failures, embarrassments and inconveniences that you once found daunting are small and insignificant in the face of so much tragedy. I overcame my fear of traveling across the world to meet my family. Joined a local performance troupe that does edgy humor - something far outside my normal comfort zone. I'm working on overcoming my fear of public singing. And I think I'm ready to genuinely let go of the life I built in this house and start anew.

I have an opportunity to move to a much smaller space - an unused studio apartment in the back of an old friend's home. The offer was prompted by her desire to help me set aside savings so that I will be able to buy my own house - something I want dearly to do - but the result will be that I spend the next year in a very beautiful but very small space. Right now I live in a fully furnished two bedroom house. In my new home I will be surrounded by gorgeous views and have a private porch and sit in my bed and look out into vast forest, but I will also cook on a hotplate and have to pare away well over half of what I own.

I'm terrified. And exhilarated.

I once told a friend that, when making life decisions, I wait and listen to my gut reaction. I listen for that little thrill of fear and excitement. A singing of nervousness that ripples through me when I stand in front of a change and some part of my knows that this is what I must do. Because that's where the great fear comes from - from that knowledge. From seeing what must be undertaken.

Since I feel like I'm building myself again - from the ground up - I think going through a similar exercise with my life will be just the thing I need. So I am staring at my books. My furniture. My television. My dishes. My rows of shoes... Deciding what I can live without.

So far, I'm feeling like I can probably live without everything except the bunnies, the books and the shoes.

I feel that rush of adrenaline. I think I'm ready to leap.

"A little simplification would be the
first step toward rational living, I think."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, May 20, 2010


So the last year (the last two years, really..) have been difficult and insane and I kind of feel like I'm starting over from scratch. Like anything extraneous about the person I was has been seared away and I'm sitting down and trying to sort out what's left.

In the midst of this, the people in my life have changed. The people who find tragedy too overwhelming (or who don't have the patience for the fact that I average 4 months to return a phone call these days) have fallen away. But the friendships that HAVE survived have become stronger. And some support has come from places that seem surprising. People I barely knew when this happened. Family I had never met before this past year. And teh interwebs! Sometimes it's still funny to me how you can bond with people you never meet... but it makes sense in a way that this place where I put my thoughts and my lessons and my laughter has led me to some amazing people.

Tracey at Beyond the Pale always checks in with me and gives me someone safe to talk to (Thank you!)

And I don't think Greg, Sheila or Nina hane any idea how much it improves my day to hear from them and keep track of them via their blogs.

I drew into myself a great deal this year, and it was often misinterpreted as a desire to be left alone. As I explained it to one friend: I want to connect, but I don't know how anymore. I want to know that my friends are there and care about me, but I may not be able to talk. And sometimes the hardest thing in the world is picking up the telephone. Sometimes talking to the people I am closest to is far more difficult than talking to people who don't know what happened - because I can't hide things from the people who matter the most.

So she started sending cards to me every week. For MONTHS. How amazing is that? This weekly reminder that you matter enough to someone that they will just send you love. And know that you love them back without requiring anything in return? Those cards have been such a blessing.

One friend called me weekly for the first few months after the shooting and just left messages. Crazy messages. He told stories. He went on for as long as the voice mail system would let him. About silly things. Dreams. Monkeys. Anthropomorphic brooms.

My family in Australia had me come visit them and I fell in love with a big group of virtual strangers who took care of me and showed me their world and just let me in and loved me as if I'd been there all along. (I have to write about that trip. I'm not certain I even have the words to write about it. It was so important to me. I found a new home. Part of me feels like I belong on the other side of the planet.)

So I guess I'm saying: If, and when, you have friends experiencing profound loss - I know it's hard to know what to do. It's awkward. You don't know what they need and nothing makes it okay. We all know that. Just love them. The most amazing gift is to be shown love in ways that ask nothing in return. Love without conditions. Love that accepts that you are not yourself. Love that will be there when you put yourself back together again.

Sometimes the only light at the end of the tunnel was knowing that there were people who hadn't given up on me.

There have been people there to give me that and, in that, I am so blessed.

Monday, May 10, 2010


So I'm seeing a therapist.

Four people in my life died violent deaths in the last two years. Three of them died in front of me. So... yeah. TOTALLY not feeling shy about the therapy thing. Feel a little funny when I hear people sigh in relief that I'm finally trying this out, mind you, but feel pretty certain that no one's gonna razz me for getting myself over to see a shrink.

My therapist is kind of great.

He's actually the second one I've tried. The first one specialized in trauma. Oddly enough, this made her pretty much useless to me. I think this is because I'm not your average trauma therapy patient. Since my first session has to start with what is essentially me listing the exhaustive number of bizarre traumatic things that have occurred in my life, I'm not the type for pussyfooting around. It's old hat enough that I'm pretty matter-of-fact about it. I don't need to be coddled. The first therapist was very worried about "re-traumatizing" me by letting me talk about the very thing I had come to see her to talk about.

Trauma is NOT my new therapist's specialty. And that's okay. I'm talking to SOMEONE. Which is good. And I'm sorting through things... which means having to feel them. I'll admit, I'm not 100% sold on this part of the process being a good idea. But in the end I'm moving forward in some way, shape or form. I think THAT part is very good. Instead of being in some sort of grief-shock stasis at all times. I guess it says a lot when crying at the drop of a hat and having lots of nightmares is progress. Buy hey! I'm doing something.

Doc referred to me as a "statistical anomaly" the other day - citing the fact that most people have some trauma and tragedy in life, but there are some oddities who either never experience any trauma or experience a disproportionate amount of it. You know which one I am. I found this oddly reassuring. Like being told you aren't crazy. I wanted to shake his hand. "So it's not just my imagination that this is a little excessive? Ok, good. I was hoping it wasn't just my imagination."

I kind of felt like looking up at the sky and saying, "See? He thinks I've had more than my share, too."

Lately I just find the whole world to be overwhelming. Which makes sense. All my resources are going to just, you know, getting out of bed in the morning. Holding my brain in place in spite of the fact that the last two years are actually real and sooner or later I'm going to have to allow that to sink in fully. All this admirable fortitude and getting out of bed and all takes up a great many resources. Which means that any teeny tiny little additional thing that happens is one more thing than I have the energy or strength to cope with.

You SO don't want to see what happens if I stub my toe or get snapped at by a stranger in the supermarket check out line.

So the other day I'm filling Doc in on my week and whatever I currently feel I am completely incapable of surmounting and he says, "Well, It's just life. There's no right way to do it."

I know it sounds silly, but it was a genuine relief to have someone say such a simple thing to me.

So this is me, checking in. Still breathing and all that fancy stuff. Defying statistics. Muddling through.

And I can do this. I mean, hey - It's just life.