Fickle Heart Turned to Stone

It’s a known fact that life can turn on a dime. Life, as we know it, can completely alter its familiarity from one minute to the next. We can receive a phone call that brings us to our knees, forever shifting the proverbial. We can watch a two-hour documentary on the preservation of the Amazon rainforests, inspiring us to completely change our chosen professions.

The point is that seven years ago the below was my reality. I have grown, changed, altered, shifted, evolved and then some since I wrote this journal entry. I can vividly recall the sometimes inexperienced, immature sentiments and judgmental thoughts expressed in the below and it’s a direct reflection of the deep, sometimes painful contrast to my present ideas about each individual possessing nine lives.

The below is somewhere around my fourth life and specific names have been omitted to protect their privacy.

 

7/19/09

My time here is coming to an end. I can’t feel guilty for wanting to go back to Los Angeles. It’s my home now. I don’t belong here and my eyes are wide open to that fact. I recognize more quickly now the reasoning behind things that seem like they shouldn’t be happening. I know that I didn’t get a job right away because my dad was going to be diagnosed with cancer and I wouldn’t have been able to come home and be with him through his treatments. I’ve learned that I had to come and spend this much time here to realize that I don’t want to spend any more time here. Prior to coming home, I was applying to jobs in the Kansas City area and the first few weeks I was here, I was touring apartment lofts in downtown. I now am certain that I don’t want to spend more time here than necessary. I’ve begun to feel like I’m sixteen again. I have no car, I live at home with my mama with the occasional fights, and I’m watching my dad do drugs again. I left when I was eighteen partly so that I could get away from all of that.

There are some things, however, that I have not figured out the reasoning behind. For example, the intense love that I still have for (ex boyfriend) and the part of me that wants to give him another chance. Rationally, I’m almost certain that that’s a bad idea, but the part of me that loves and cares is afraid to just let go. I don’t worry too much about it because I know what is supposed to happen will happen, but it’s something that I definitely think about from time to time. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I guess I’ll know more once I go home and live with him again. I must say it’s been nice not living with him for three months, though I’ve lived with my mother, and I’d rather be by myself. We were on the telephone for quite some time last night and having a pretty intense conversation. I like to think that he’s listening and understanding and taking the things I say with him and to heart, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t trust him, that is very doubtful.

I know, from experience, that a relationship cannot be had without 100 percent trust being present. I’m twenty-four and I like to think that there’s something bigger and better out there for me. Call me a dreamer, but I believe. There’s also a part of me that thinks settling for (ex-boyfriend) wouldn’t be so bad, though. I cannot even believe my ears and eyes…that was a very difficult sentence to type out, but I have to be honest with myself, therefore I have to be honest with you since I’ve endeavored on this sharing of the past three months of my life. I just want to break that cycle and settling is not the thing to do. I know that. Sometimes love aint enough…it’s true.

Right now, he’s planning on going out with his brother’s soccer team and the team from Milan to do God only knows what. I don’t need to be with a man who makes me feel suspicious or insecure. He’s really the only one who has made me feel this insane. Something else that kind of came to the surface, yesterday, was the golden rule. I told (ex boyfriend): “You lie to me. I lie to you. Don’t fuck with me.” I told him I’m not proud of double wronging things, but I’ve learned my whole life that you treat others the way you want to be treated. If I’m disrespected, I’m going to disrespect you. In other words, that’s karma.

Like right now, almost midnight, I’m going crazy. My mind runs wild, thinking of all the things that he could be doing, looking at, thinking about, ugh…that’s insanity – And a waste of time. I thought my other relationships were “dysfunctional.” Ha. I can’t wait to go to the coffee house. Technically, it opens in five hours…I’m pretty sure they open at 5 a.m.

I went to the other location of Scooters, on the plaza, this afternoon, and did not like it. It was packed and the clientele is very different. The whole vibe was just off – Whatever that means to you. Live in the now. Live in the now, I tell myself. If I live in the present moment, then petty things like (ex-boyfriend’s) actions cannot bother me.

I wish I was holding my baby George right now with Bambino laying by my side. Okay, now I’m just being random. Honestly, I’m tired of the fighting and the discussing, so I think I’m going to give it a “time limit” again. That means I must behave, as well, but basically, I’m going to go back to Los Angeles and I’m going to act as if we are in a relationship. I’m going to give him the same three strikes rule I give any other potential suitor, though we all know he’s well past one hundred fifty strikes. I’m not going to say anything about his meetings or this or that. He’s a big boy. He can make his own decisions, but I will mentally note if he “justifies” not going to one of his meetings. That will be a strike.

He shall that remain unnamed’s birthday is the 22nd but as we all know I don’t have much to say about him. To call or not to call? He told me to give him a call, last time we spoke, when I returned from New York, but I haven’t. Whatever. I’m not in the mood to discuss this any further at the present moment.

I know I’m going to miss my mama and her cats and the coffee shop, but it’ll be all right. It’s not as intense as the feeling of missing my cats. I hope they forgive me.

I’d really like to see my dad quit smoking before I leave Kansas City, though I’m not going to hold my breath. It makes me so sad, but I have to keep reminding the little girl inside my head that I cannot do anything more. I’ve done all I can and it’s not my responsibility. My dad is one of the saddest people I’ve ever known. It’s truly sad because he is a good person at heart. I believe that his next life will be better, happier. I can only hope. I hope a lot. I think it’s a good thing and I hope that that will never change about me. Come to think of it, even if he quits smoking, he still has an addiction to pain killers.   I need to get out of here. I need to live my life. I love my mom and I’m here for her, but I cannot stick around here any longer.

This fucking candle reminds me of He shall that remain unnamed’s bedroom. It smells like his fucking bedroom – the one on Melrose. I wonder where my mama got it. It’s addicting, almost, because I could just blow it out. And I did earlier, but I lit it again. It’s amazing what scents can do to a person. I mean I can literally close my eyes at this very moment and be laying in He shall that remain unnamed’s bed, waiting for him to return from the restroom and/or listening to music drone from his computer while we make love – or have sex. Whatever.

I’ve been very creative today. I worked on a few songs – mostly ones that I had already began. I like it when I do that. I dislike having incomplete work on my hands…perhaps that’s an obsessive compulsive disorder, but if that’s what I’m obsessive about – finishing something I start – then I think I’m doing all right. It’s when I start placing boxes of doctor’s gloves by every single door in my house just so I don’t have to touch the doorknobs, and then I end up with that white, powdery crap all over my sweaty fingers. That’s when someone might need to worry about me.

 

A Failed System

You have mono,” the doctor at the walk-in clinic told my mother in the fall of 2010. She was then bed-ridden for over a month, lost her appetite, was constantly dizzy and nauseous until one very late night, she collapsed on her living room floor, somehow managing to call her sister who then dialed 9-1-1. My mother unknowingly had walked out of that clinic with multiple brain tumors that were aggressively pressing against her skull, stage four cancer in her lungs and a prognosis of less than a year.

It’s just an ovarian cyst,” the doctors assured my twenty-something friend during a pelvic exam. A month later, that cyst had grown into a tumor the size of a grapefruit; she endured countless chemotherapy treatments, a full hysterectomy and multiple doctor visits and hospital stays. Three years after that tumor was deemed “just a cyst,” she unfortunately passed away.

These are just two exemplary stories, two avoidable and disastrous histories that hit close to home, that perfectly demonstrate why I do not trust or rely on our healthcare providers or the healthcare system as a whole. This is not a bashing of every doctor, clinic or hospital out there, but I’m simply stating that our healthcare system is no better than our government or our justice system. It’s an industry designed around crooked politics and dirty money.

I highly doubt the clinic that misdiagnosed my fifty-five year old mother with mononucleosis, a virus that primarily affects adolescents, is out of business or that it’s being held responsible for such an atrocity. The insurance companies certainly don’t give a shit about our personal reasons for desiring to acquire a tubal ligation. And I wonder just how many women out there walking around with ovarian cysts are actually walking around with fast growing, malignant tumors? I wonder if I might be one of them.

I recently had a pelvic and trans-vaginal ultrasound due to irregular bleeding. The report came back revealing a complex, septated ovarian cystic mass and moderate free fluid in my pelvic area. My doctor then called for a cancer antigen 125, also known as CA 125, blood test. This test is predominantly used on patients who have already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and are being treated. The test basically tells them if the tumors are responding to the treatment. My blood test came back in the normal range.

I cannot seem to get my primary care doctor or my gynecologist on the fucking phone for two minutes to ask the necessary questions so I have conducted my own research and I am not content with a simple blood test. I have a history of ovarian cancer in my family and did you know that with each passing generation, one’s chances of getting the disease increase? My great-grandmother on my grandfather’s side died of it. Breast cancer also increases one’s chances of getting ovarian cancer – my maternal grandmother has fought and beat it twice. Did you also know that not having had children increases one’s chances of getting ovarian cancer but that tubal ligation has been known to prevent such odds? Yeah, well, the insurance company has yet to authorize my tubal ligation as they “need more information” from my provider as to why I need this surgery. So, when the old, white men on Capitol Hill aren’t dictating what I can and cannot do with my body, the stuffed shirts of corporate America are.

I want a biopsy. I want to be monitored. I want to have monthly pelvic ultrasounds. Are the cysts growing? Are they changing at all? A biopsy is the only true, surefire method of determining the content of these so-called cysts. Unfortunately, getting the opportunity to speak to a so-called professional about all of these concerns is half the battle. Getting the insurance company to authorize a biopsy and routine ultrasounds is an entire other battle and one that is completely out of my control. But I’m gonna fight like hell to make it happen because I refuse to be a misdiagnosed patient brushed to the wayside, a manila folder lost amidst the many flaws of a failed system.

The Magic of Christmas

The holidays were magical in the presence of my mother and her grand Christmas tree, her abundant decorations and collection of hand painted Santas from around the world. The past five Christmases, since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December of 2010, have never been the same. Every ornament hung, every Christmas card addressed, every cookie baked – it no longer carries that magic. These festivities are conducted within a great void that is heavier than any Nor’easter snowfall and as certain as the Earth is round.

Her favorite holiday was Christmas and that was evident upon entering her home mid-December.   Jimmy Steward in It’s A Wonderful Life could be heard harping in the background while the scent of baked goods wafted from the kitchen. Christmas tree shopping at Vitali’s Christmas tree lot was a tradition followed by the decision of which excess of ornaments weren’t making the cut this year. My mama had so many ornaments even the fattest noble fir couldn’t yield the space for them all.

Every year, I could expect to unwrap an ornament from underneath the tree as my mother insisted her children begin their own large collection of non-traditional, bohemian or oversized ornaments. Most of these unique gifts hang in memory on my trees today amongst my own traditions of twinkling red, green and white lights – how intentionally Italian of me!  And what’s a tree without my favorite hanging from one of its sturdy needled branches?

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favorite ornament since my childhood

As a child, I could hardly understand why the tree had to come down so soon after Christmas day. As an adult, I get it and I wish I could let her know that. My mama passed so many traditions, morals and values on to me, and how to celebrate this time of year was definitely handed from mother to daughter.

I have adopted many of my own traditions over the years, many of which I’m sure she’d approve of, but the heart and soul of this particular holiday is rooted in my mother. She was my Santa Claus, my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my Frosty the Snowman, my George Bailey – she was the magic that ignited the 25th of December, my birthday, with magic. She was what and whom I believed in.

Merry Christmas to you, mama. I miss you with an unruly fierceness and a primal longing and I love you with all my heart and soul.

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Cancer and My Psyche

When I answered the telephone call before 9am and my veterinarian identified herself, I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing as I waited for her to say the words, “I am sorry to inform you that Bambino’s blood work is showing that he has cancer.”

Instead, she informed me that Bambino’s blood work came back completely normal! My kitty does not have cancer! He must only have his right canine tooth extracted by a specialist as soon as possible. This was an enormous relief! All I could think after that telephone call was, “That’s my boy!” He’s so strong and so resilient and my single, steadfast constant comfort for the past ten years of my life. He has been with me through every single up and down since the summer of 2005 and I love him as I would love my human son.

My baby, Bambino, and I post vet visit.
My baby, Bambino, and I post vet visit.

Amongst my best attempts not to sound melodramatic, we have had quite the cancer scare in my household over the past few months. First, it was I and most recently, it was my oldest cat, Bambino. It’s difficult not to jump to the worst conclusions when I am feeling abnormal lumps in my right breast near my armpit and when the veterinarian states that she is fearful that the abscess in my baby’s tooth might not be dental related at all but an oral tumor.

Thankfully, I am happy to report that the palpable concerns in my self-examination were ruled in a mammogram and an ultrasound as swollen lymph nodes due, most likely, to my choice in deodorant. This is yet to be proven as the cause given that I have yet to find an aluminum-free, paraben-free, all natural deodorant I actually like. Tom’s sucks! The first sign of perspiration and I smell like a pubescent boy with a thyroid problem after gym class. And that’s my public service announcement for the evening. Nothing beats the freesia scented Lady Speed Stick I’ve used for probably fifteen years now. However, a new deodorant I must use. Any recommendations are welcomed and graciously appreciated.

Needless to say, the anxiety levels have been through the roof. The fact of the matter is that cancer is sort of a part of my psyche and even though I may be aware of this, there will never be a means for mental and/or emotional preparation no matter how hard I may try.

In Memory of My Buddy, Ali Dellevas

Take me,” I often find myself bargaining loudly in my head every time someone dear to my heart has untimely, unfairly been taken from this world by that ugly six-letter-word: cancer. And I say “every time” because it, unfortunately, has been quite a few times and one, in my opinion, was one too many.

The bargaining swiftly turns into unequivocal anger, then some degree of shock, then back to the bargaining, “Take me this time, instead, you bastard,” anthropomorphizing the disease as if it bares ears that can hear my useless plea, a heart that can fathom compassion and the control to alter the circumstances, to take me instead of the good ones it seems to never spare.

Yesterday morning was no different.

Ali died this morning, dude,” our close, mutual friend, Amanda uttered over the telephone line from thousands of miles away.

No, no, no, no, no…” was all I could repeat as my knees hit the ground, the tears began and I curled into a ball. I may have said this before but it’s interesting that “no” is probably the first word many of us learn as wee ones and the first word that escapes our mouths when being informed of the devastating loss of a loved one.

As babies, we say “no” because we hear it so often and it is often associated with conditions in which we find contrary to what our simple minds desire in that moment.

But I don’t wanna go to bed.

I want to put the small object in my mouth.

I want to play with the crystal glassware left on the coffee table.

And it’s really no different as an adult. Our vocabulary has hopefully expanded into a book’s worth of words but “no” is still the go-to because once again, we are presented with a reality out of our control and for lack of better terms, unpleasant. We only wish it involved our sleep patterns, small, material objects or expensive drink-ware.

I’m not ashamed to admit that there were certainly a few emphasized “fucks” thrown in between my “no’s.” My buddy, as we so often lovingly referred to one another, had a potty mouth of her own. If I didn’t angrily shout my favorite f-word a few times, I would probably have disappointed her. On August 21st of 2012, she accurately tagged me on Facebook in this funny e-card.

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Infectious was Ali’s laugh. It was the kind of laugh that engaged, that was easily recognizable in a room full of people and when you heard it you couldn’t help but smile or even laugh with her, even if you had no idea what was so funny. I heard that laugh today, in my head, as I despondently walked to lunch and with every reason not to be smiling, I smiled. I like to think that it’s her way of letting us all know that she’s okay, that she’s in a better place as the adage goes; A place free of suffering and pain where she can laugh, carefree. Furthermore, I like to think she’s sharing that wonderful charisma of hers with my beautiful mama and they’re keeping each other good company wherever it is that we may go after this life.

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Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 6.48.23 PMShe had an enchanting smile to go along with that compelling laugh, an inspiring, positive outlook no matter the obstacle thrown her way and enough compassion to ignite a fire in even the most merciless heart. Her love for family, friends, Channing Tatum and the usage of the word “heffa” were strikingly evident. Her very presence alone was electrifying. If Ali was in the room you best believe it was happily known.

Those who know me well know that the two years I spent in New York City were unfortunately the two most dismal years I have experienced in my thirty years of existence. Aside from the onslaught of homesickness and relationship woes, I lost both of my parents within four months of one another to lung cancer. My mama was my best friend. I wasn’t much for socializing to say the least and everything frequently appeared glum, miserable from my perspective. On the outside, I may have been smiling but on the inside, I was the lead star in my own personal hell and New York City happened to be the hopeless setting.

My mama always reiterated that if we don’t have hope, we don’t have anything. I would say that my train rides home to Brooklyn with Ali and my hour lunches with her at “Fuck and Spoon” as Ali and I so aptly called it for its outrageous prices were lifesaving. Here was this beautiful, young vibrant spitfire of a woman, unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, still cracking jokes, still laughing that delightful laugh, still fighting, still loving life. If that couldn’t whip shit into perspective for me, I’m not sure what could have. She was the very definition of hope.

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There are several quotes about surrounding oneself with positive people, ridding one’s life of toxicity and so forth and whenever I would come across these, I would do an inventory of the people I keep around me. Ali was always at the top of the list of those who enriched my life with their contagiously optimistic attitude, of those whom I wished to keep near and dear for their uplifting contribution to my existence.

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As I continue to write with a heavy, broken heart, I just keep thinking, “I’m not doing her justice. This isn’t good enough.” I’ve been at quite the loss for words the past couple of days but I sincerely have given this my best. If the untimely loss of Ali has taught us one thing, let it be that time is an illusion. There is no such thing. Right now – that is the only thing that is real and right now, we must be strong and fearless and do the things that excite our soul, that breathe life into our veins and make the right now a better place for others just as Ali made each and every one of our right nows a better place.

Her family and closest friends will continue to be in my thoughts and in my prayers. No parent should ever have to bury his or her child and for all of our sakes, I hope that one day when we go to the paradise where Ali has gone, it will all make perfect sense. In the meantime, fuck cancer.

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I’ll never forget you, my buddy. Rest in peace. Seahorses foreva.

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