Monday, November 24, 2008

Holy Shit, I'm almost done

I've been going through changes. Ch-ch-changes. I've been questioning whether this first draft of the novel would ever happen, never mind the ridiculous word count I had to rack up over the weekend, the deaths of characters I didn't even like, but had grown comfortable with and therefore was crushed to lose, and general silliness on my part.

But I'm 10,100 words away from done. I can write 10,000 words in a day if properly motivated, fueled and intrigued by the story. I'm nearly there and I hadn't realized it. It felt as though I would be writing on this thing forever and terrible things would continue to happen to these people with whom I have spent entirely too much time in the recent months. They are familiar and familial, so even the positive events elicit deep suspicion in my little reptile mind. They just mind their business, the characters really do, they are just minding their business and I know terrible things will befall them before the next page.

It's stressful. But I'm almost done, then I can set this aside and get a little air from all their voices and complex social hierarchies and do something different. Praise god for something different.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saving My Soul

It's probably isn't a great big secret that I've been coming unstitched a bit here. Got a great (tipsy) email from this great guy I don't spend nearly enough time with and it made me feel heard in this big old world.

The other morning things were getting tight around my mind and I wrote an SOS email. Just to relieve some of the pressure, you know? And I got the best message from my new friend Michele. She just said, "You'll make it. Somehow."

I'm laughing, because it funny. There was actually a 4-point plan included in the message, but the jist was "You'll make it. Somehow."

And one of my best friends, her mother died when she was in elementary school so of course all of the adults around her promptly commenced to behaving like self-absorbed jackasses, leaving her to raise herself and battle in the neverending war of children who have been left behind. She's making it. Somehow.

Tonight I went to dinner at this very posh place. It happens on occasion. When it does happen my capacity to consume food is immeasurable. I'm a girl who likes to eat. I can starve if my life is on the line, but if I'm not in immediate danger, I'm eating that lobster mac n' cheese, fuck what cha heard. Anyway, the waiter was just too perfect. Maybe instead of gaydar I've developed cripdar? Dunno. So, I ask him about himself and he tells me in short order that he's in grad school and I ask him what he's studying and he tells me and I ask him why and he says, "Well, last year I was standing near my house and I got shot in the stomach and spent nine days in the hospital. And I saw so many people getting medical treatment, but not being treated like people. So, I want to be a hospital administrator. They took 7 feet of my intestine, and my family was there to advocate for me. But most of the people around me had decisions made for them they would not have made for themselves. I want to help change that."

My awesome Irish pixie of an aunt works for the state of Oregon adjudicating public assistance cases. Her belief is that if a person needs help, they should get it. This, of course, flies in the face of what most people believe. But she talks about going back 20 years in a person's case history to find that one flawed decision that led to them losing health benefits and she says, "if we can find that one mistake, that oversight, someone can get the treatment they need." She also said something that challenged my own assumptions (thank god), she said "people consider Medicaid a poor man's healthplan when it's really one of the best programs in the world."

Most of the people I see on Medicaid are good people. They have lived and they do their best, but in an overinflated economy, that doesn't get you too far. There are the few and far between who are professional system-gamers, but those folks are the same regardless of tax bracket. There is always someone trying to get over.

All this to say, there is so much wonder in the world. I'm happy to be here, to listen to more stories, and tell more stories and to keep learning in this life. Scars and all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"If things around you crumble, no you don't have to stumble and fall, keep pushing on and don't you look back." - Optimistic

I'm listening to Optmistic by Sounds of Blackness. I made an entire playlist based on this song. Things were going pretty badly for me last summer. I'd come home from the hospital full of tubes, holes, and other people's blood. I couldn't eat. I was subsisting on fingernail-fulls of bread and 2 oz. of broth diluted with water. I was in an interesting place where all the superfluous living stuff becomes just that, superfluous. One thing I didn't have much of was pity for myself. I hardly understood what I was experiencing, but I was determined to survive my series of calamities. My mother had assured me I was too mean to die in my one moment of abject terror and I had to just ride with that.

So, one night, in lieu of crying with the fear I really felt, I downloaded Optimistic. The words came into my brain and I knew I had to hear the song. Art is just a way for us to reach one another, soul to soul, and my soul called out for help no one could offer. It called out for solace and encouragement. I listened to Optimistic every night, every day for 3 months. I added songs to the playlist, songs that would help me ease into sleep so I could get a couple of hours before I had to change dressings or empty bags or rehydrate, but it got me through.

And then, when the tubes were removed and I was allowed to move back home and reintegrate into the world as a pseudo-functional human being, I stopped listening. Utah Phillips has an album titled, "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere" and it's the truth. I thought that if I told myself that the illness never happened, and the struggle never happened, that I could forget they happened. I don't think forgetting serves me well. When I erase the memory, I invite the violence of my psyche to play out some truly demented fantasies. It's easier to acknowledge and manage my life as it really is as opposed to the careful PR campaign I wage out of habit and comfort.

My mentor tells me that I will change, my personality will be fundamentally altered. Thus far, that's the god's honest truth. I'm not as mean, but I'm also less tolerant. I wonder at myself, at my reactions. I watch in third-person shock and mild horror when I cannot dredge up empathy for others who are convinced they are having a crisis. I remember being in recovery after surgery number X and there was a woman a few beds down who was coming out of anesthesia, same as me. I was full of gaping holes and swelling body parts and she was screaming for her mother.

This was no spring chicken, either, it was some older lady hollering herself hoarse. "ohhhh mama, come get me mama!" She was so annoying. I asked the nurse to knock her back out. She was ruining my anesthesia high. That's how I feel about so many things now. People talk to me and they tell me about some small event that their limited life experience has made significant if only because it breaks the monotony of their days and I want to tell them to shut up. I have to resist the urge to encourage recreational drug use in others if only so they will sit down and shut up and leave me alone.

I suspect a lot of people out there in the world have real scars they cover up to look nice for the world. One of the most striking things about the medical work I get to do in the Caribbean is the preponderance of physical scars and disabilities. Ever notice how sanitized our streets are of people with visible physical ailments and scarring? I've seen some doozies, too, folks with half their bodies burned or machete welts across their faces. And I have a typical reaction, I flinch, then I feel really, really good. Because I'm looking at another human being who is carrying their scars and I know what that feels like. So, I relax and I listen and I feel the connection of soul to soul.

I appreciate AA folks who declare how long they've been sober. They wear it right there on their sleeve, fully cognizant that one small slip-up could send them back down the river. I wonder if they have an AA equivalent for the chronically ill. Because I know that one false move could send me back down a path of personal destruction I don't care to ever traverse again. Hi, I'm Camille, and I'm 11 months clean from endometriosis. Every day is a lot of struggle and I still don't know how I'm going to make it to tomorrow, but I'm happy to be here today.

And I can hear a roomful of people with their various histories say back to me, "Hi Camille." It feels good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008