Struggling & Surviving

I know it’s been awhile. While I don’t like that it’s been so long, I am doing my best. I’m not going to make promises to do better because… I don’t want to set myself up for failure. If I can do better, I will.

I don’t even remember where I left off…

We did find a place to live, it’s in Burnsville. I’m so happy to be going back to that city. Even though I don’t care much for the name… BURNS-VILLE? Who came up with that? How? WHY? Ok, I couldn’t take it anymore. I did some research and if you can believe Wikipedia, “The name Burnsville is attributed to an early Irish settler and land owner, William Byrne. His surname was recorded as “Burns” and was never corrected”. Hmm. The city council must’ve been Irish too…

Anyway, we’re moving into a townhouse. It’s close to just about everywhere we go. I’m really excited. I think moving day will be July 28th. Now, if I could find the energy to start packing up boxes…

Work has been slow (and partially nonexistent when my car was out of commission). So, at the request of a friend, I applied for another job (to do in addition to, not instead of). Not many hours, which is ok with me. I’m still doing physical therapy for my back and am not 100% yet. It is a PCA job and while it’s nothing I’ve done before, the fact that my friend thought I would be good at it, really means a lot to me and makes me want to do my best.

Still, making ends meet is difficult. I know it is for most people. So what else can I do?

I can write.

I subscribe to a lot of writing newsletters, calls for submissions, writing groups etc. And I’ve found many writing projects, all of which pay. There is at least one a month, to keep me busy until November.

In May, I answered a call for submissions from “Chicken¬†Soup” for the _________’s Soul about stepping outside your comfort zone. Trying something new. So I wrote a piece called “Mic Drop”. They say the selection process is a very long one, so not sure if/when I’ll hear back on that. I was just happy to have written and submitted something.

For June, I submitted and essay and a poem to a woman who is putting together a book called “Celebrating Sisters”. If you follow me on FB, I’m sure you saw the call. I wanted to do it. I wanted it to be an uplifting story. I wanted to let people know that even though Natalie is gone from this earth, she is not gone from my life. In some ways, I feel our relationship has gotten deeper. Stronger maybe. I believe she is ALWAYS with me. That’s really what I need. Someone who is totally focused, 100% on ME. ūüėõ

I shed a lot of tears. I listened to her music as I wrote. I went through pictures. I cursed her. I told her I loved her and still love her… it was exhausting.

For July, I’m attempting to write for “Nevertheless We Persisted” about a turning point in our life.

2016 was such a terrible year for me… and there were many gifts that came along with the grief. I’m going to write about that. It’s due July 7th, so wish me luck!

August is about Risk. September is about Setting Boundaries. October about Mother’s of Angels and November on Redemption.

So that’s what’s been going on over on this end…

What have y’all been up to?

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Acme’s Funniest Person Contest

Many of you know that last night I participated in Acme’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Contest. This is my third year entering and I’ve got to say, I LOVE it. I love Acme. I love the stage, the people, the crowd, the atmosphere… The headlining comedian last night said that being on the Acme stage was a dream come true. Some people laughed, even though I’m not sure he was joking… maybe but I didn’t laugh. It is a dream come true. This stage has hosted some of the hottest comedians today.¬†Lewis Black, Arj Barker, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and Louis C.K., not to mention two of my favorites: Chad Daniels and Jenny Zigrino. So, yes, standing where they stood? It IS a dream come true. Next dream? Stand on that stage and get paid. But, that’s a ways off, I know. Something to strive for, right?

Yesterday was a difficult day. I woke up not feeling well. Physically I ached. I was tired and sore. Mentally, I felt unprepared. Unfunny. Unworthy. I texted my best friend Shar, “I don’t want to go tonight. Not feeling well.” She asked what the real reason I didn’t want to go was and I told her. She did her due diligence, assuring me I am funny. I am good enough and she loves me, despite how I may feel about myself.

I went over and over my routine. Timing it, deciding I didn’t like it. Changing it. Timing it. Changing it. On and on… before I knew it, it was time to go.

Ugh, no matter how many times I do this, I get scared sick. I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t concentrate or sit still or listen…

I met the three other contestants. One guy, Josh, it was his 4th year entering the FPC. I believe it was Brandon’s second year, it was Brian’s first year and my third. Everyone was really nice. Brandon especially. He was quirky behind the curtain, funny in front of the mic and an all around encouraging person. I was definitely ok with losing to him!

So I didn’t win my night, but I had fun … a lot of laughs and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my score was high enough to make it to the top 25 and I’ll advance to the semi-finals in August!

Oh, I almost forgot! Natalie was there too. We parked behind a car whose license plate read HELLO. I thought “Um, hi” whoever you are… Then, in the bathroom, there was a door in the back. It looked like it had said Natural Disaster Shelter or something like that but the sticker had been ripped and now just said Nat. The final (because they come in 3’s) was when I was telling Don about the signs and I looked up and Shar and my mom were standing on either side of the parking spot 444. (A sign that angels are around)!

Oh Look, More Growth (gag)

Two steps out of Darlene Merchant’s office I thought:

“Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep coming here when I know it will rip me…”

“Because” I interrupted “you know it helps”.

I lost my argument and won, I guess.

I had another Accelerated Resolution Therapy session today.

It had been awhile but I remembered exactly where we’d left off.

Each of us experienced an individual loss of Natalie. I lost a sister, my parents lost a daughter, so many people lost a friend… I think all of us were so in shock, I don’t remember hugging anyone. Except for Enid, right when I walked in the door. In the ART session, I needed a family hug. I needed to honor the loss of a family member, not just a sister but our entire family dynamic was forever changed. There was now a huge hole in our five person family.

So today we processed what happened once we got to¬†LaSalle Apartments. It was the most agonizing wait. I can already feel my chest tighten, just thinking about it. What a contrast… it was a gorgeous day, the building was bright, clean and classic.

I remember sitting and holding myself. Pacing. Wondering what the fuck was taking so looong.

It was a nice conference room, big enough to accommodate¬†all 10 of us. Room to roam but every second spent not talking to anyone who knew what was going on… It felt like my skin was on fire. I was fully awake, alive and still burning in Hell.

Finally, the Medical Examiner came to speak to us. Asked about her medical history etc.

It was when the detectives took my parents up to see Natalie for the last time that I lost it. It’s when reality set in that I would never see her again. Not the way I remembered her.

How we’ve been doing the ART in my sessions, is I go through the scene in my mind a couple of times. I do some body scans, notice what I’m feeling. Sometimes I sit with it then try to move it, other times I just move on to the “director’s scene”. I knew I was ready to move on because the director tried to jump in at every chance.

Here’s what happened once I “re-wrote the scene”.

Jessica let me into the apartment. I started yelling at the M.E. and the cops to get out. Just GET OUT. Once they were gone, I laid down on the bed with her. I held her. I cried into her hair. I told her I was sorry. When I looked up, Justin was on the bed too. The three of us held hands. At this point, I know my brain was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do because I saw my parents near the bed but they were like holograms. They were flickering, like I wasn’t sure if they should be there or it should just be us siblings. I ran through a quick log of memories, of the three of us. At the cabin, on vacation, when Justin was just a little guy…

God, it hurts.

Then I was down in the conference room. The M.E. started to name “the name of the deceased is…”

I flew towards him.

“Stop! Just stop.” I clamped my hand over his mouth.

“Not today. Don’t do this today. We need just one more day.” I told him.

By now I was sobbing.

We did a body scan and at first, I saw myself trying to push this mountain of grief away. It wouldn’t budge. I heard Nat laughing.

“You won’t get it to go that way,” she said.

Clouds appeared and parted. Sun rays came down, spilling onto the pile of unimaginable sadness and melted it. It looked like lava but quickly cooled and turned into a river.

We ended, as we always do, going across the bridge. Towards grandma’s fountain.

I started with my hospital blanket (because of the rough texture) around my shoulders and I leaned over the bridge to feed some koi fish. It was peaceful.

When I was ready, I finished crossing the bridge, taking my seat in front of the fountain. I tipped my head back, indulging in the slight breeze that blew before the sun set and the multi-colored lights of the fountain came on.

I felt almost… content. There was still a sadness. Originally, my body had felt heavy. Tired. Weighed down. Now, I was still tired but not in the same way. I was exhausted from feeling and working. I felt sad, but like the first few layers of lead had been lifted.

I’m not really looking forward to going back next week but I know I will.

I know I will and it will help.

 

I Know It Was You…

This past Friday, May 19th marked one year since my sister passed away from addiction. I’ve been pretty preoccupied with it, with her… as usual.

I woke up Friday morning about 2:40 am. I cried and went back to sleep. I woke up again when it was time to take Tayla to school. I started to listen to some of the songs she sang and decided “nope, too soon”.

Back home I had to get ready for my writing class, which I didn’t want to go to but Jess texted and told me Nat would want me to go… ironically, it made me want to stay home all the more – (why should she get what she wants after what she did?) I was almost ready to go when I realized I didn’t have my glasses. My brand new pair of glasses. The glasses I’ve had for less than a week.

I tore around the house like a hurricane and enlisted Don to help me. After 30 minutes of searching and coming up empty, I decided I had to go without them.

I went on with my day, every so often reminding myself to breathe, not dry heave. Don made dinner, we watched some tv as a family (once again looking for my glasses, this time getting Tayla to help look too) and I went to bed early.

Saturday morning we had an appointment to look at a townhouse in Burnsville. The search for my glasses continued. I’m not kidding you guys, we turned this place up. side. down. Sweeping under the couch cushions, checking in the freezer, under the towels in the linen closet… places I KNEW they wouldn’t be but I’d already checked everywhere else, we all had.

Nothing.

I went to the open house with a backup pair and lived. Barely.

By the time Don had to leave for work, it was driving me CRAZY. I scoured the bedroom. I was in the corner by the window where I keep pictures of Natalie and in an exasperated tone said to her “I could use a little help, PLEASE!”. The corner was empty, as I expected. I flopped down on the bed, too tired to even cry.

A minute later, Don walked into the bedroom to tell me he was leaving for work.

“Hey, aren’t those your glasses?” he said.

“Where?”

“Right there…” he pointed to the wooden headboard which also serves as a shelf.

“Are you fucking serious?!”

I shot up and sure enough, there were my glasses, in plain sight.

“You have to be kidding me…” I muttered to myself.

“Those weren’t there before” Don told me.

“I know!” I said.

“They weren’t there yesterday, they weren’t there 10 minutes ago.”

“I know” I said.

“Well, I’ve got to go to work” he said before I heard the front door click shut.

A tear rolled down my cheek.

“Thanks, Nat” I whispered.

Deja Vu in the Twilight Zone

Friday morning we got our lease renewal form along with a notice from our rental company that our rent is increasing to nearly $1600.oo.

“Do you want to move?” Don asked me.

“To be honest, I haven’t loved the drive… to everywhere.”

“I don’t want to move” he said.

“Nobody WANTS to move, it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t want to sign a lease that locks us in for another 13 months only to get evicted two months down the road if we can’t afford it…”

“I guess we’re fuckin’ moving.”

So, I guess we’re fuckin’ moving’ guys.

I have to say, that while I’ve been visiting my doctors more frequently to “prepare my body for pregnancy” and with the year anniversary of losing Nat right around the corner… I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Moving in itself is a stressful, taxing experience. The hunt for a new place last year kept me up most nights. I don’t want to be in that rushed panic again, taking whatever we can find just so we have something.

Going through all of our stuff, again. Downsizing, again. Collecting boxes, recruiting people to help move, paying damage deposits, first month’s rent and last months rent.

Finding out if we need to change school districts, scrubbing this place down from top to bottom, admittedly that part shouldn’t be so bad.

Moving the cats! That was quite a production last year!

Not to mention baby fever. I couldn’t help it. I already bought a couple of unisex baby things… a preemie onesie¬†that says “Hi, I’m new here” and a big bird baby bottle.

I scan everything that has a name on it and imagine trying it out on our new little one, adding a¬†middle and last name of course. Wondering if it sounds cute now but will it suit an adult or will the kid hate us for being too “progressive” with the name?

I’d mentally turned the office/den area into a nursery.

Downloaded a pregnancy tracker.

Started working out (slowly).

My A1c dropped another 1.2% in three-four weeks since my last appointment.

Do I have the energy for this?

I’m thinking with all the medication I’ve gotten off in the past several months, lowering my glucose numbers and exercising, I will have more energy. I will have what I need.

Which brings us to the 19th.

I’ll be honest with you guys, the past few months? It’s been getting harder.

A year or so leading up to her death, I occasionally thought about what it would be like to lose Natalie.

I imagined I’d be devasted, of course… but this? I can’t believe that some days, I feel like I can’t go on without her.

There’s a video I have of her, sitting on her bed and playing her ukelele. She’s singing but the video is a side profile. Five and a half minutes I beg the recorded vision to turn her head and look at me. Please, let me see your beautiful face… Such long, pretty hair she had. Such a pure voice and expansive heart, ever growing with each new cause or request.

One of her big regrets in life was missing the baby shower for Tayla. She apologized again and again for not being there.

The night of the intervention, she took copies of Tayla’s 13-year pictures. I think we found them still in her purse.

I’m so angry and hurt and raw and overwhelmed.

I don’t know what to do.

Keep on, keeping on, I guess.

I’d wanted to blog about something coherent… something focused and useful but I guess what I need to let y’all know is that I’m in kind of a weird state of mind right now.

Here’s to waking up tomorrow in a better place!

Comedy… and Tragedy

As many of you know, last night I participated in a stand-up comedy contest.

I am choosing my words very carefully because even though I don’t particularly care about burning THIS bridge, I don’t know what other paths it may be connected to…

With that in mind, I will not name the club or the contest so I can tell you that I’ve performed there twice and both times it was a bad experience.

Not so much the going up and doing my thang… just the atmosphere and the audience (which I think has a lot to do with the atmosphere).

The first time I was there, all the lights stayed on and it was a weeknight so people were anxious to get home (I think). No one laughed, at anything. It wasn’t just me. A dozen people went up and no one laughed at anyone. It was super awkward but I didn’t take it personally.

So here’s the play by play of last night:

Actually, I’m going to start with Monday night when I got an email stating that there would be extra points awarded to people who brought more than 10 people, more than 15 people and more than 20 people.

Great. So, it’s a popularity contest? Ok, well, all I can control is what I do. Their goal is to fill seats and sell alcohol. My goal is to get up and perform. I haven’t since August and I need the practice. I hope people think I’m funny but it’s not even my main objective at this point.

Last night. I’m supposed to check in with the promoter between 7:00-7:15. I’m (unbelievably) early. I check in and he reminds me I have 6 minutes and to watch for the red light. Got it.

Get inside, order some food, because I’ve been running around all day preparing and my sugar is starting to drop. Minor panic sets in.

No one knows the order of performers. I mean, someone knows but no one is telling. They want everyone to be there on time, so show up- you might be first.

The show starts, the MC did some jokes, complained that no one was laughing, and explained that 13 amateur comedians each had 10 minutes to perform.

What?!?!?!

Shar looked at me and said, “You’d better talk reeeeaaaallll¬†slow”.

I was the second performer on stage.

It was so bright. So bright.

I felt comfortable enough, going through my spiel… until I saw a guy in the front row actually TRYING NOT to laugh. Part of our score is based on audience response, so he was there for someone else and didn’t want to give anyone else any help. Ironically, this made ME laugh.

The time ended up being 6 minutes, instead of 10. I got cut off on my last joke but overall felt good about the performance.

The rest of the show was hard to sit through. Not in an all bad way. I was tired, I had a headache, I was super glad to be done with this contest and there were some really disrespectful people in the audience.

People having conversations with each other, trying to talk over the comedian. People playing on their phones. Arguing.

The worst was near the end. I don’t remember the guy’s name but he was doing a decent job until someone yelled out “nigger”! He was shocked at first. Then there was some banter between the two. This woman had been talking throughout the entire show and other people were getting pissed. Someone yelled out “Go home lady, nobody likes you!”

“Shut up” someone else said.

I could feel my muscles tighten in time with the tension in the club.

“Where’s security?”

Eventually, security DID arrive and escort her out but not before she grabbed a glass and threw it at the manager’s head! All the while, this 50 something-year-old, football player structured woman is screaming at her scrawny boyfriend “Stand up for me nigger!”

A lot of my friends had left early because she had been such a disruption.

By the time the MC was reading the names of the winners, I was relieved to not be one of them!

“Are you ok?” a friend asked

“Hell yeah, it just means I don’t have to come back!”

On the plus side, seven people told me they thought I was great, I did a good job etc. That felt nice.

I have signed up for another comedy contest that will run in June, I think, but I plan on making comedy a more routine part of my life.

Thanks everyone for the best wishes, encouragement, and affirmations… I appreciate the support. I did what I set out to do, I’m not discouraged and I’m already writing new material.

Afterall, who doesn’t need more laughter?