Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams Stories

Yet again the A.V. Club has inspired me with their "What's your Robin Williams Story?" post. Mine is pretty funny, actually, though at the time, pretty horrifying. I was 10, and sleeping over at my friend Florence Kizza's house for a pretty innocent 6th grade version of a New Year's Eve party. Along with some other girls, we were cutting up old newspapers and magazines as confetti to throw around the room at midnight and watching Disney's Aladdin (for about the hundredth time). "Prince Ali" came on, and I immediately got up to dance, forgetting all about the clipped paper all over the floor. As I shimmied my way around, I slipped and fell face-first into the arm of couch, squishing my braces into my lip. The laughing stopped when we realized that one of the braces was stuck and needed medical attention. It's important to note that the Kizzas are from Kenya, and while they spoke conversational English, they were in no way able to convey my needs to the doctors at the hospital, nor were they legally able to do so without my parents consent. Mind you this was '92, so it wasn't as easy to get in touch with people back then, and my parents were at their own New Years Eve party, so we could not find them to give consent. Mrs. Kizza, Flo's older sister, and my friend Carrie sat at the ER for what feels like forever, all the while Carrie offering painful comic relief (every time she made me laugh it hurt). Finally, a kindly doctor took pity on our situation and agreed to dislodge the brace from my upper lip. Without Carrie stepping in as the role of comic, I might have panicked, so I forever link Aladdin, Robin Williams, New Year's Eve and Carrie in my mind. Oh, that and how having braces was truly horrifying. RIP Robin.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tougher Than the Rest

It started before the year even took hold. On New Year's Eve day, I found out that my tests came back positive for Chlamydia. I suspected it might as a result of the sexual assault I suffered in August. After hanging up the phone and confronting my boyfriend in the shower to share the results, (and fleetingly holding on to the thought that maybe he had given it to me), I resolved that I would never really know how I got it, but there it was. I thought back to the other men I had slept with since August, and awkwardly called each of them to both wish them a Happy New Year and to let them know they needed to get tested, even if we used a condom. Then I cried. I entered January 2014 determined to succeed in a self-assigned month of sobriety.

Six days later my friend Katy's mother died of complications related to MS. My best friend Sarah's mom died of the same 11 years ago. I went home for the funeral, and saw a lot of old friends, some doing better than others. Three weeks later, my friend Molly died, and again I found myself in my hometown trying to make sense of another loss. I stayed sober until the night of her funeral, almost all of January behind me.

Come February, I was drinking again, and unable to control my emotions. I had no idea how to handle what the year decided to throw at me in just over 30 days. I lashed out at my boyfriend, I ignored my professional obligations, and I cried constantly. I went home again in March, this time for a wedding and my dad's 60th birthday celebration. A better occasion to be sure, but being home again brought so much to the surface that I still wasn't ready to face. Immediately after that trip, I spent a week in Costa Rica trying to understand all that I had been through. I spent each day with close friends on the beach, doing yoga every morning, learning to surf, eating well, journaling, and trying to rededicate myself to myself. I came back renewed and ready to change my perspective. Turns out it's not that easy. A few weeks later I broke up with my boyfriend because I knew I didn't love him and I never would. He didn't take it well. Still being emotionally exhausted, his behavior pushed me into a weary and often hateful place.  

April brought on taxes, as usual, equally as tedious. I don't remember if May had flowers or not. As a cure for boredom, I started seeing an old flame again and remembered why it didn't work out the first time immediately, but continued to date him anyway. In June, I visited my parents in Philadelphia and saw how terribly my dad's alcoholism had progressed, and how it made my mom feel. I heard stories about the effects of mood enhancers and alcohol; about drunken nights that ended in tears and broken ribs. About how concern turned to anger and crept quickly to feed off my mother's inability to be around this anymore, and my dad's inability to control it. I went to Puerto Rico not long after and tried again to ignore the creeping madness my life had become.

Just before the Fourth of July, I broke my arm and learned just how stupid and clumsy I can be in the middle of the day. And just how little my boyfriend cared about my general well-being. I'm still suffering as a result of that. I am drowning in debt, and my spirit is want to wonder down a dark path. I can't say I blame the guy I was seeing from wanting to flee, and I am actually thankful he did, his drinking only further fueled my own. In truth, I am in no condition to date right now. I went home again at the end of July - for another wedding - and lay witness to my mother's new-found hatred. Maybe 'hate' is too strong a word as she still loves my dad, but she most definitely does not like him right now, and I cannot blame her for that. She's been putting up with an alcoholic for nearly 45 years. She blames herself for enabling him, for being codependent, maybe even for staying all these years as she watched it get worse. Deep down I think she knows he would die without her. Who knows exactly, but she finally had the courage to tell him that he is ruining their marriage. He says he'll try. So far, he's failed at even that.

It is now August and I am attending my first Al-Anon meeting tonight. My mom went to one last week. I need to know how to talk to my dad about what he's doing to us, to himself, and I don't know how to do that without making him angry, or worse. He's been there before too. I'm not sure what I will get out of it exactly, but I am not going alone and I am grateful for that.

At the end of this month, and I going to be in a wedding in Pasadena, for friends that I love dearly. In September, the day I turn 33, I am traveling to Copenhagen with two of my three coworkers for a work-sponsored trip. In October, my best friend Michael is going to marry his best friend, Michael. I'll be in that wedding too. I am trying so hard to look forward, not backward, to these events to come that are happy and full of hope, because some days, all I can think about is the heartache and shame that this year has brought so far and it makes me hateful. It makes me want to crawl in bed and hug a man who doesn't love me instead of a man that does and forget all the things I have to do. It makes me think of Molly, and I start to understand how this happened to her. How she must have woken up every morning hungover and hating herself. The best thing for a hangover is another drink, so there she went. You know the rest.

I don't want to become a person who lives in hate. I see what it's done to my father, to my friend, and to my heart. Since I turned 13, any wish I make whether it be on stars, on eyelashes, on birthday wishes, has always been for love. I can't help it, it's just something I always do. My friend Jenny calls me a hopeless romantic, and maybe she's right; but maybe it's more than a Jane-Austen-novel-kind-of-hopeless. Maybe it's because I've never given up the hope. And maybe that's what will save me after all.