ten years gone.

It's hard to believe that it has been ten years since I've moved from Austin, TX to Greensboro, NC, this Thanksgiving weekend in 2003.

I had extensive life saving surgery for cumulative years of severe Crohn's disease in December 2002 in Austin, which included four feet of intestines removed, a hole in my bladder repaired, and a fistula repaired. My immune system was completely shot at that point and I was very weakened and susceptible to other difficulties, and it was a domino effect in the worst way. I recovered the best I could but it was not ideal conditions, looking back. 2003 was a hell of a year.

I developed C. diff (Clostridium difficile) from that hospital stay unbeknownst to me, and muddled through work for months wondering if this was how I was supposed to feel. I drove myself to the ER after my ankles swelled up enormously one day and my co-workers feared something heart related, parked in the front, and didn't come out for a week. I also developed a sulfite allergy that summer, and had another trip to the ER as my throat closed up listening to R.E.M. at the 2nd Austin City Limits music festival!

While on disability from work for a month recovering from the C. diff and everything else, I came to stay with my family who had just moved to NC and made trips to Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, and Johns Hopkins. I was glad I did because at 3 out of 4 places I got new answers to the various befuddling complexities I was dealing with. I discovered I had terrible latex and formaldehyde allergies that were breaking me out all over my body, and I had experienced an allergic reaction to Remicade, which was a newer drug at the time with side effects not being reported by its maker yet because it had been administered to less than 5,000 people.

At that crossroads, I remember weighing the pros and cons of moving from an amazing city that I hadn't really had a chance to fully appreciate or enjoy because I was too ill, to somewhere near my family that had many big medical institutions in close proximity. I was genuinely torn and heartbroken about leaving Austin (considered leaving my stuff in storage there), but ultimately decided to just pack it all up and come here where I had found at least some of my answers.

I had tried everything humanly possible to get well in Austin, but I was too sick ironically for any of it to have a chance at working. Painstakingly slowly, over this past decade in NC, I have had the opportunity to take baby steps towards getting well (two forward and one back), and have built up a dedicated health team army in the process.

As much as I've begrudged being "banished" here from the cool city to get well, incredibly, I do not regret the decision.

Just came across this sorting through files from that move...
photo
11.25.03 - back when photos had printed timestamps...
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Ten Years Gone.
10yrgone

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thanksgiving.

We are all auditioning for various parts in each other's lives. Figuring out how we might best fit. Sometimes there is so much love there, and we just can't figure out how to make it fit (square peg in round hole). The beauty, I've finally realized, is in the noble trying. The fact that there is that much love there in the first place. I've been blessed beyond comprehension when I stop to think about it, how much love I've received in this life. Instead of focusing on how it hasn't worked, or why it didn't work, focusing on what that relationship gave me just fills me with gratitude. Things didn't work for a reason (sometimes more than one). It doesn't mean they didn't work, period. No, they had a purpose, and many of those loves are still in my life, still my dearest, most trusted and valued friends, because that is the purpose they arrived in my life for.

If only we could helicopter over our lives 10 years down the road and see the timeline, the path, as it should unfold, instead of stumbling blindly about every step of the way- we'd go, ohhhhhhhhh, I see! OK! I'm not gonna hold on to that so tightly! It had a beauty and a purpose even bigger than I could have imagined. Wow. But of course, the living part, not knowing where things may lead and trusting anyway, is what creates the depth of who we are. All of these relationships have made me better, and have slowly pushed me towards being the person I need to be. They have been a gift.

I talked to an old friend and his sweet family recently, an example of someone who tells it like it is and brings out the best in me every time we communicate. That is special and rare. We tell each other we love each other and it feels good and true. I know that I'm on the level with him, all the time, and he will go down in my all time inner circle club, always in my corner, fighting for me and cheering me on. He inspires me, and inspired this post.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst with love thinking about all these special people that have graced my path. I was born with an extra dose of feeling genes and a heart on my sleeve, for sure. That too was for a reason, no doubt, which I'm working out now, day by day. I only see my story from these eyes, but these people I've loved have a story too, that I touched, and made an impact on as well. Maybe that is the reason I'm "special." Maybe I've given them wonderful things that they can't put into words. We don't think about things from other's perspectives- its too hard, its all speculation, etc etc. But why not? Why not assume the positive instead of the negative? If these people have had such impact on me, why not assume I have had the same for them? Just food for thought.

We could wait until someone dies to share how much we care about them. But why wait? Why not share what's on your bursting heart now? It feels really good. It's also contagious, and it grows on itself- giving is expansion, and when I give and share my good feelings, it makes me just want to do it more.

It feels like peace, and like I won't have the regret later that I wanted to but didn't. I'm committing right here to giving my all now, while I can. I've wasted enough time. I don't want to waste another minute. Will I be perfect? No. I'm gonna get out there and tell you I love you. Happy So look out!

Have I Told You Lately

Hammy (Brian) and I, Dec. 2002. Caption is from my movie "story" I did for a
support group (only copy of photo I could find at the moment). This guy has
been there through all my worst times for nearly 20 years, and
I'm very lucky to have him on my side now for all the good!

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 8.40.16 PM
This picture also shows, at my sickest point - even though I hadn't had sugar in a year,
my teeth were still rotting out and yellowed- major systems were shutting down.
I'm unbelievably thankful to be here, and Thanksgiving Day is a hallmark for me.

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val's in da house

So, it's back to the house. Teresa, my friend of almost 10 years (gulp- cannot believe it has been this long!!), and her beautiful daughter Skyler, have resurfaced in my life at an opportune time. They are thoughtful, funny, caring, hardworking and dedicated to a fault. Where I flounder and freak out in overwhelm, Teresa lays down the law and "gets it done." She is hardcore and actually accomplishes things and moves forward in life- what a concept! Laugh

For those of us that are Ns (iNtuiton in the Myers Briggs type indicator), we envy these results-oriented Sensing types. They DO things and are known as the masters of action and implementation, out there living life, whereas iNtuitives are more abstract in their worlds of ideas and reflection, and we may take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to actually do anything concrete... and may not realize it because being in our heads, making connections and philosophizing feels like doing something to us! Being pushed into motion feels exhilarating to people like me and I highly value the support of my friends, and the other fellow Ss in my life (my Mom and Grandma), even though we spar over this key functional difference sometimes of course.

Thanks to Teresa and Skyler, I am in motion again after a longer than I would have liked hiatus. We tackled ONE drawer, and then cleaned up and restored the place to previous order. Definitely not the way I would have worked if I was running the show, so I was very grateful for some guidance to keep me in check! It's great to have a team - Skyler very quickly shred a ton of old bills and statements, put things to keep in clear plastic sleeves, and filed folders. Teresa challenged me on items that I might have contemplated keeping, (mostly things years old that I haven't read, probably never will, and that are only making me feel guilty- what's the point of continuing to lug that shit around?) with "It's 2014 Valerie!"

Huh. You know, clearly, as strange as it sounds, I do not yet have a grasp of year or decade. It's that Rip Van Winkle syndrome thing I have from feeling like I've missed years of time due to survivor mode illness- I just feel like it's earlier than it is. This process makes me feel good because it gets me one step closer to the present, which is the real gift. Punny but true! We also made lists so I can cross off the drawers/boxes/bins/cubbies as I clear them, and celebrate my progress catching up! Incredibly, in doing just one drawer we uncovered some important and very relevant writings and other finds that will help support me on my next steps.

Goodbye 1997 John Cusack! It's been a great 17 years...
(I can't believe I got this when I was 19!! Now that feels like a long time ago...)
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Waking Life (Richard Linklater) movie rental, 2004.

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Super efficient filer and shredder Skyler at work
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1 drawer cleared= 1 bag of shredding and 5+ pounds recycling!
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