It's such a weird notion to call yourself a writer when you don't seem to find the words to write. So much has happened in the past few months, it's hard to wrap my pea sized brain around it. It all started with an idea, a momentary notion that I needed to take control of some of the parts that added up to the life I have and the life I was being handed.
This past summer Mike and I were talking about the upcoming merger, when I told him we needed to make a plan for ourselves. I had to seriously look at the economy, something these days no one wants to do and I certainly did not want to do and find some way to try and protect myself and him from possible calamity. I will tell you that the reality is none of us are protected, but by being proactive, I thought we might at least feel better.
I knew it was time for me to go back to work, out in the world away from my computer and all of my favorite pens and notebooks. These tools that I had come to depend on were now the only things holding in me in the outside world and I was becoming a little reclusive. I knew I could not do the work that I had depended on my entire life. My days in the medical field were O-V-E-R. No amount of happy thoughts or positive thinking would change my diagnosis I had gotten a few years ago of bilateral carpal tunnel, so I had to find a job where I didn't have to stand on my hands for hours on end.
With great trepidation I sat down and made a list of how I could dig into my community, work a job I didn't despise and be with people again, since that is where my personality shines. I'll be honest, I applied to every store, every job that I remotely thought I might be able to do. With no degree, or advanced training in anything but medicine, my options seemed very limited. I wanted a specific feeling about work, not so much a specific job. I wanted to start doing things that would force me way out of my comfort zone. I wanted to push myself so much, so hard that it made pee a little. It was time to do something so far out of the box I could no longer use the box to lean on.
1)Find a part time job.
2)Get back out in the performing arts
3)Make some new friends
4)Live more of my life than I write about, so I could write more about my life
5)Be more independent from Mike so when he goes 938 miles away I don't fall spectacularly apart
My list was comprised of all the things that secure my place here in Houston if Mike had to move to Chicago. We thought we would not be able to afford to move to the big city of Chicago, but we weren't 100% sure. We thought we knew enough of the facts of the looming change in our lives that we had better take some kind action to try and prepare. The thing about big looming life changes is there is never really a way to totally prepare. My divorce, Danny's death, our move to Houston from Cleveland, Ohio taught me that plans are great, and they always change.
I spent June putting out my resume, again, applying from everything to call centers to grocery stores, wall papering the internet with all of my vast experience with people. My biggest talent is empathy and compassion. Those are the skills that I carry with me. I like taking the time to really see people. I think that is why I excelled in hospice care and working with the elderly. I loved talking to them, spending time hearing about where they came from, what they thought and trying desperately to make some kind of impact where I could help them to feel better if only for a mere a moment. The job being first and foremost on the list, that is where I focused my time. My writing became weak and distracted and I found myself not wanting to write until some of this was resolved. Let's keep it real for a moment and be totally honest. Writing when I am in a bad place makes me sound whiny. I read my stuff and I could not stomach the drivel, so I wasn't going to subject my readers to it. I do not believe every word I put out in the world is gold, quite the contrary. I know for a fact that most of what is in print online or on paper is crap.
Those amazing little nuggets that sing are rare, so cranking out page after page doesn't mean you are a good writer, it just means you are a prolific one.
I did not have one response to my job hunt. For weeks I would check my phone, my email, every type of communication I had to see if anyone out in the world had taken to try and see me.
I had started to feel despondent, sad that my life's work amounted to nothing to the rest of the world. All of my experience seemed to amount to bupkis...until I got a single phone call. Could I come in for an interview at the community college? Why yes, I am free to do this, I am available to sit with an actual human being and talk about a possible job. It's all I ever wanted was an opportunity to actually see a person rather than all the correspondence by electronics.
I had the interview and got a job in financial aid. The hours are perfect, the people are nice and I am happy. I am happy to work again, happy to help students who need money for school, happy to be a part of something bigger than myself. As if it were tailor made for me this job is one I am proud to work. I haven't always felt that way about my jobs, so this is a very good thing.
While working, I saw a notice for auditions for The Vagina Monologues. Although I had never seen the play, I was very familiar with the writer's work. Eve Ensler was a hero to me, a woman who wrote in a raw and real way that had me fully engaged. I told Mike about the auditions.
"You should do it", he said.
"I should, but I am scared. I haven't performed in 372 years."
"Kel,"he said, "what is the worst thing that could happen?"
I thought about it and said this, "I could get cast."
We both laughed at my ridiculous insecurity. I knew I was being ridiculous, but it was so scary to think of standing in front of people I didn't know whose only job was to judge me. Terrified, I went in and with Michael waiting outside for me, I gave it my best shot. I shook as I read my prepared monologue, my mouth dry like the desert sand, my entire body feeling more like a gelatinous mass rather than sturdy flesh and bones.
As I left and went back to the security of my beloved, I felt relieved that I had at the very least stepped outside of myself and tried. I seriously doubted that I would make the cut, but this wasn't really about whether or not I was an actress, but more about being a human being feeling things I hadn't felt in a very long time.
I did get cast. I got a part that was originally written for Whoopi Goldberg, The Angry Vagina. While in rehearsals I started feeling worse and worse. I was exhausted all the time, I coughed all night and I had this gurgling thing when I would breathe. Every morning I went to work, I went home and slept and then to rehearsal. I thought maybe I was merely too old for all this sudden surge of activity. One night I started coughing after I had laid my head down on the pillow. I coughed so hard I grabbed a Kleenex to cover my mouth. Once the coughing had slowed I looked inside it. It was saturated with blood. Worried but not panicked I figured I had burst a blood vessel. I told Mike about it and I saw the very concerned look on his face.
"Look, if it happens again I'll go to the doctor. It's probably nothing." Michael unconvinced knew better than to argue with an old nurse.
"Next time you go, promise?" Michael pleaded more than asked.
"Yes, of course. But I really think this is nothing."
The next night after rehearsal I felt more tired than ever and laid down on the couch. I began coughing almost immediately. I grabbed a tissue but this time the blood came up gushing through my fingers and dripping off the meager tissue. Great splattering pools of blood came up through me and I ran to the kitchen sink. I could not breathe through the thick, metalic tasting liquid. I could not clear my own airway. I coughed harder as the blood poured out my mouth. I began to panic. I forced myself to keep coughing up the bright, red blood to clear my lungs and then immediately ran back to our bedroom to get Mike.
"We have to go to the hospital, I am coughing up blood!" Mike jumped out of bed and we headed for the emergency room. In minutes we were sitting with all the other broken people waiting for treatment. It looked more like a bad "B" movie set than an ER. They had given me a bag to cough in so I didn't dirty up the already filthy place. The night time showed all the grime from the day so evident in hospitals. I sat perched on my chair until hours later I was seen.
I was diagnosed with pneumonia, after blood work, chest xrays, and a CAT scan with contrast. I will tell you I had a moment when I got very introspective when the staff nurse had said "If we see something on the xray, we will have to do a CAT scan." I laid there thinking because I had been there so long I was out of woods when the CAT scan guy came in to take me away.
"I take it they saw something on the xray," I said laughing, but not clear as to why I found it funny.
"Uh, yeah, there is a shadow on your right upper lobe."
When I had filled out my paper work I had to tell them I had been around active TB when I was a nurse. I had never tested positive, but TB can lie dormant for a long time, it had occurred to me that maybe I should be a little worried.
I got antibiotics for my bacterial pneumonia and did what I was told to do. I was back at work and the play within a couple of days. I still felt fairly awful, but I didn't want to lose my spot in either place so I trudged along until I eventually felt better.
The play has been difficult and wonderful. I have seen first hand what college life is about and have gotten to know all my vagina friends. I have made several good friends at work and through the play. Friends that talk and support and laugh with me. I have now the kind of friends that are rare and beautiful and only come along once in a great while. The play went to a festival where they compete for scholarships and can be sent to regionals. We got advanced, our director won an award and several of the vaginas got scholarship opportunities.
I blinked and Halloween was over and November had shown up, so here we are months later and I am still happy. Michael is still being transferred, I am now working and much of my list is complete.
I am now making a new list since the last on was so successful. The biggest item is to spend as much time with my beloved as I can. Losing him to another city breaks my heart, but our love, the strength of our marriage is one that can survive even the really scary stuff, so whatever happens I know we have each other. The pneumonia taught me that anything can happen on any given day, so I had better be grateful for now, and I am. That's really all there is, isn't it? The now, the moment in which we find ourselves, so I plan on keeping my eyes, hands and heart open, because the real tragedy would be if I missed it.