Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Upset: I don't especially like orchids, and I don't like feeling like one.

Back in early December–back before I participated in Reverb Broads, back before I jumped into January's National Blog Posting Month...and then February's National Blog Posting Month...before I knew that every damn month was National Blog Posting Month, my Dad did something wonderful.



He offered to send me to Dayton this April to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop. He did this despite the fact that all I had to show for my "career" as a writer was a silly little vanity blog with a following of friends and acquaintances and a renewed interest in my writing. I had not shown such interest, though, since I was a maudlin teenager punching out short stories that read like Catcher in the Rye soaked in peach Schnapps and abridged for Tiger Beat. Maybe this is what caught his attention.

My Dad believes in me. He has many fine qualities, and this is one of the nicest. Especially when you consider that, in his lifetime, I have done things like have more than one child out of wedlock, change career paths as often as my underwear and become a practicing witch.


Truly, I have done lots of things which have kept both of my poor parents on their toes all these years. It's nice that they still choose to see me in the fond and admiring terms that they do. (My theory is that they have no other children, so they can't really shun me, being the nice people that they are.) 

But I digress.

I think my point was that my dad paid for me to attend this conference. Which is way cool. I get to travel all by myself to a real event. Unlike everything else I attend, this is neither going to be put on by child actors or be mandatory for all church members. The purpose of the whole event is to further my writing "career," and I get to stay there all weekend.

Oh, crap.

It's February now, which is very close to April. There is but one month between them, in fact. I have to go to Dayton by myself. It may irritate many of my readers, but this is somewhat problematic for me. Not that I have never flown alone before. I have. But this time, I have to change planes both ways, get a shuttle to and from the Marriott, and survive a conference all weekend despite my weird new physical limitations. 

Recently, the only way I can sit through church, which lasts one hour, is to have my husband brace the back of my head with his hand the whole time. (I don't think they will let him come with me to do this at the Writer's Conference.) I get cold. I get migraines. I get debilitating cramping. I get mental fog. I am not sure I can sit for an hour and a half at a time–much less hours at a time, whether I will need help if I become really ill, or how the stress of the travel will affect me. 

The worse my symptoms are at any given time, the more I become like a sort of penurious orchid, requiring constant care and maintenance to subsist on a basic level. Any change in temperature, light or humidity could be disastrous for me. Travel requires constant adaptation, something a normal organism does with relatively little effort, but which for myself, the orchid, and various exotic frogs, is terribly troublesome. I do not wish to end up a puddle of decomposing amphibious goop stuck to the bottom of a Delta seat.

I don't especially like orchids, and I don't like feeling like one. My deepest fear, I think, is that I will end up hating the whole experience of the Conference, and that by hating it, I will have disappointed my dad, who had the blind faith to believe in me for no good reason. 

I am not great with taking care of myself. I tend to want to control things, to do things myself, and not to miss out on anything. I have adapted to life with the understanding that Serious Shit is relying on me, and I had better deliver, or there will be Hell to pay for it. This has made managing my chronic illness difficult. My personality is great for being depended on, but not for depending on myself. I'm lousy as Hell at that.

Luckily for me, I have great friends who help me work things out by listening to me in a magical kind of way. This kind of magical listening is so rare and special that hardly anyone can do it. But my friend Amy can. She knows how to listen to me be upset, and just let me be. She doesn't try to fix me, give me advice, shush me, or get me to be positive. She listens to me, but she listens not to the me that is the complainer but to the me that is the commitment that I have. And then she says whatever there is to say. I talked to her for some time about the problem of this conference, she listened magically, I talked some more, and here's what we worked out:

I will take everything in my arsenal–every medication, every pillow, every strategy to get me through. I will have it be OK to take breaks, even if I have to miss things. I will rest if I need to rest. I will make my well-being the number one priority of the whole adventure. I am going to get something fabulous for my writing from being there. The place will be jam-packed with excellent humor and human interest writers, so I can't fail to garner some gems of wisdom.

But, if I can get through the upset to my system and still take care of my body and soul, that will be an even larger victory for me. That would be worth the whole damn trip.


Upset can wrap my stomach in knots, give me heart palpitations like a rabbit with an aspirin overdose, sour the flavor of an entire day. Some upset I just don't know how to resolve. But upset can also be an opportunity because I am lucky enough to have friends that can examine it with me, as if entering a cluttered room together, where they help me sort out the contents of my emotions, separating the usable from the waste.

If bravery lives inside of fear, then transformation lives inside of upset.


26 comments:

  1. Reach out when you need encouragement, and we'll all Tweet ourselves silly. I realize that encouragement does not override physical crapola. But it can help distract from physical crapola. So there you have it. And a whole lotta crapola.

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    1. That is a VERY comforting thought! I will have to send out a warning ahead of time so that y'all know that you should look out for me on Twitter. Don't you just love blogging communities? We're like Quaker Societies who over-share and use Social Media. :)

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  2. I really admire your determination and your plans to go to this conference in spite of your anticipation of rough physical problems--I'm not sure I could manage that. (Couldn't your husband go with you, though, if only on the flight?) From the little so far that I've read of your blog, you sound like a very strong person. I've been to writing conferences, and they really do fire you up, so hopefully that emotional sunburst will carry you through. You are a wonderful writer and have a lot to say to the world. So go for it, and best of luck!

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    1. Elaine, my husband (who is awesome)offered to buy a ticket and go with me, but we really don't know that he could even get the same flights anymore. He needs to work, he needs to stay with our kiddos and I just feel like this is something I am OK to face on my own, even if I am scared. If he's going to take time off and spend the money, I told him, let's go away for the weekend instead.

      Thanks for the props and for your experience on writing conferences, too. I've never been to one. I'm scared I won't know a soul and I'll feel like a dork (despite my fears of falling apart physically), so I'm jazzed to hear that I'll probably be so high on writing endorphins it won't matter.

      By the way, I liked your piece on Time. :)

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    2. Thanks, Tara. And you won't feel like a dork, don't worry. There'll be people of all levels of writing experience and, I assume, a number of different activitis/workshops, so do the ones you're most interested in and you'll have a great time.

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  3. OK, first... Lucky! What a great dad and a great conference to get to go to! Your solution sounds like it just may work. You are going to put us all to shame when you come back with all of your new knowledge and the experience of having faced your fears and done it.

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    1. Thanks. It may just be a transforming experience.:)

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  4. I'm a believer! I believe you are about to undertake a big ole challenge and I also believe you will make it work. I'm very excited for you. You have a dream, you have a plan and you have a back-up plan. You go girl.



    ps and you have an awesome Daddy!

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    1. He IS an awesome Daddy! He even commented below. Thanks for the love.

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  5. I follow you on Twitter but I don't think I've commented on your blog before, so hi!

    I've definitely been there, contemplating travel with chronic illness, and I think you're making the right decision to go but take it at your own pace. For me personally, as I've gotten sicker travel is the one thing I've refused to give up, no matter how much I have to adjust my plans to accommodate my illness. I hate the feeling of the world shrinking around me, and travel has become one of the things to get me out of my little bubble of illness.

    Anyway, I go to at least one convention a year, and usually a trip or two besides that. It can be difficult, but it's always worth it IMO. When preparing for my first trans-Atlantic trip last spring, I found this blog: http://travelswithpain.com/ It's a great collection of tips on traveling with chronic illness, especially with pain, including some things I worked out myself (stay as close to the conference/convention location as possible, in the same hotel if you can; don't skimp on your meds while you travel; give some thought to your best and worst times of day and plan around that), as well as just a good pep-talk about how yes, we can still travel, even if it's with modifications. I'm sure you'd find tons of helpful info there, maybe even a review of the airports you'll be traveling through.

    The other thing I would recommend is seeking out and reading up on other writers with chronic illnesses. I know it's been a huge help to my motivation and mood to know that, for instance, Seabiscuit was written from bed by a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Hillenbrand Toni Bernhard is another writer I've recently been inspired by: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/31/132675079/learning-to-live-a-full-life-with-chronic-illness?ft=1&f=1032&sc=tw and I'm sure there are tons more.

    Have a great time at the conference! It'll be worth it, I'm sure of it.

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    1. Hi Samantha, thanks for following me on Twitter and for commenting. I have your blog in my Google Reader. I am not a seamstress, so that part is lost on me, but your pictures and writing are worth the read even for someone who can't thread a needle. Glad we found each other.

      Wow! Thanks. I'm really looking forward to checking out that website. I lucked out and am getting to stay at the Marriott, where the evening events are and it is next to the University, where the daytime events are. I thought a lot about that kind of thing and knew it would be important to be close. I kind of poop out around 8 in the evening (if not sooner), so it will be interesting to see how the nighttime events go, but maybe excitement will carry the day. The flight schedule is not ideal. That's a bit of a worry, but I figure I have spent many a sleepless night or uncomfortable day for reasons less rewarding.

      I like your idea about looking into chronically ill writers, too. Thanks for the support!

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I should proofread before posting. Try again.

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  7. Tara, I also have "blind" faith that whatever comes from it will be to the good — even if it was just the preparation or juice leading up to it, I think it already has. So whatever you need to do — however you need to deal with it is fine with me.

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    1. Thanks, Dad, you're awesome. I think I can make it work, barring any kind of medical catastrophe. I am thinking of it as an adventure now. :)

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    2. Tara's Dad, you are awesome! What a cool gift. And now Blogland loves you too. ;-)

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  8. What a great dad you have! Lucky girl!!

    This: "...read like Catcher in the Rye soaked in peach Schnapps and abridged for Tiger Beat" is so good that I barely have words to describe how much I love it.

    Take whatever you can from your trip. You'll get what you need, I'm sure of it.

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  9. Bless you...I have also travelled alone with similar sounding conditions...I can get myself so stressed out I can't breathe and need to have oxygen, yet when I answer a call of my soul I can do it...your Dad can see your capacity to do the same...

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    1. Thanks, Elaine. I am the beneficiary of your experience. I may feel fine when I go, may feel crappy–it's a total roll of the dice from this vantage point in time, but I love the image of going "to answer a call to my soul". Thanks for that.

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  10. All I can say is I just love you and I'm glad you are my friend and you remind me Im not alone in my own strange world.
    Amy

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  11. How exciting for you and how great of your Dad to help you realize your dream!! Have faith, everything will work out OK!

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com/

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  12. yup!! CHEERS to transformation...all one has to do is release it...instead of suppressing. In this..we embrace the truth..i think why we all love blogging!

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