Articulating Christmas, and the No Gifting Challenge Complete

I’m having a hard time being a human right now.

I sit at my desk back in New York City, and various body parts hurt: hip joints, neck, head, entire digestive track. Things burn and throb and cramp. The entire sack of flesh and spirit that makes “me” is tired.

She has been for days. I do not know exactly why. I do not know why I wake thinking, “Today is going to be better”, and then symptoms get worse. I know this string will pass–it always does. But as I’ve attempted to wrap my brain around what Christmas has meant in my head and heart, all I land upon is, Why am I not a better “sick person” by now?

This journal entry is supposed to be about having made it through Christmas in Connecticut without any gift giving or receiving. Which I did. Which was easier than I’d expected. Partially because my family didn’t go crazy this Christmas, exchanging one gift to one person, rather than the no-holds-barred way we’ve gone about it every year of my past. But mostly because this whole period of my life — largely due to this project — is about observing and connecting with those around me.

Sober and eating little, I listened as people feasted around me. I prepared food and assisted my grandparents and tried to be helpful. I let people cry on my shoulder and get angry and say ridiculous things, without contradicting them. I forced my body into a mass of energy for forty-eight hours, then pathetically drove it home, hoping it would bounce back. It didn’t.

It hasn’t.

Now I’m alone. I’d planned to revel in this solitude, focusing my brain and eyes on work. To a certain extent, I am; yesterday I awoke early and got several hours in before the body fully rebelled and won me over to the couch-side (RIP Carrie Fisher). I just don’t know how to be me right now. How do I invoke energy to complete tasks when the acts of rising from bed, making tea, tending to the animals, changing my clothes, and walking the dog wiped me out again? How do I work when words aren’t coming together clearly, let alone with inspiration? When my heart is heavy and sluggish?

I never know how to articulate this out to the world, either. How do I ask for help without sounding whiny or pathetic? How do I connect honestly with others on social media about where I’m at? I write Tweets and, feeling foolish, erase them ten minutes later. I am embarrassed at how many “in bed sick with dog” photos flood my Instagram feed (if Mitra weren’t so damned cute!). I have no one in New York right now who I feel comfortable calling for things like warming me up some broth, digging through my medicine bin and delivering to my prone body whatever might fix it in that moment, or walking said damned cute dog so that I don’t have to burn spoons I don’t have on venturing outside (though the air is cool and crisp today).

Here are the realities of my life; the ones I’m facing as we cross from one year into another, when New York is still empty and quiet and inspiring reflection:

  • I’m thirty-five years old.
  • I’m single, despite working my ass off producing and co-hosting a radio show that studies dating and relationships with gumption and heart.
  • I’m sick, and nothing I’ve done for the last several years — no cleanses or diets, no Western blood tests or drugs, no alternative therapies or meditations or essential oils I’ve tried — has taken that away.
  • I’m in debt; a combination of the realities above (working freelance from home is the safest, physically, and why I gave up the performing arts and teaching altogether), plus the changing market of freelance writing and some big projects just not moving forward.

If things don’t change within the next few months in one of these respects… I don’t know how I’m going to keep in the zen-like energy I evidently possess. The one that had one of my oldest friends tell me on Christmas Day that she looks up to me (which shocked me and meant a lot). The one that had a digital-writer-podcast friend nickname me MalaPearls (which is hands down the most badass nickname I’ve ever been granted — I’ll take it!). Every time someone remarks at my zen-like nature, I explain that this lifestyle was forced upon me. Being sick is not a choice. Yes, how you handle it is. But nothing about living in this body when it hurts is romantic, spiritual, or zen-like. It’s sad. It’s painful. It’s confusing. It’s needy. It’s vulnerable.

After more than twenty years, I still don’t know how to best be a “writer with an illness”, a “breadwinner with an illness”, a “dog owner with an illness”, a “sister/daughter/granddaughter/best friend with an illness.” I can see someone out there stumbling upon this and wanting to warn me that if you identify as a person with an illness, then you are a person with an illness. I know that philosophy too well. One of my favorite spiritual teachers spoke often about this idea of projection. On the whole, I do believe in positive thinking as a tool towards making positive choices.

But I’m also a realist. I don’t feel pain all day, every day. There are blessed stretches of time where I marvel at what my body can do, and in those times I thank and praise it. But then there are these times, when I rise with pain and it walks with me, then rests with me again, only to wake and greet the next day together once more.

So how do I do this? How do I get the project in my head out when I’d honestly find more relief bashing my bones to release the pressure inside of them? How do I move work along when I can feel blood and fluid stagnant inside of me? How do I change and fix things in my life with bravery and badassery when I am so so tired… and it’s only 10:35am?

I loved this Christmas, in its sore simplicity. In its simply passing. In the fact that our prayers of thanks were merely, “We’re all still here”. Because that’s what my family had in us, and recognizing that was huge. I stare out my window, now, trying to figure out what the “great lesson” in the no-gifting challenge was. And little wins are coming, when this weary piece of flesh pulls herself out of this mire. For now, I’ll repeat that Christmas blessing to myself: I’m still here.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.

I’m still here.


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