juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Back around around Hanukkah time—I'm so late to write any sort of journal post—my parents and I went through my paternal grandmother's collection of jewelry. My grandparents used to make regular visits to New Mexico, so she wore a lot of turquoise; she liked big bulky statement pieces, chunky rings and earrings, dyed coral, brass and gold. But she didn't have a signature piece, something worth keeping for pure nostalgia. She just had ... a collection.

I've never been in the habit wearing of jewelry, but whatever my personal tastes are, they're nothing like that. But I managed to find two pieces which were smaller, less chunky, in neutral metals. One of them is a copper chain-link bracelet that doesn't particularly fit her statement-piece style, but came to me missing links and with some small dents, so it had obviously been worn.

So I started wearing it too. Every day, literally all day. It was weird to adjust to the feel of it, especially in the dead of winter—my wrist always felt cold. But now I wear it all the time except when I shower; I even sleep with it on. There's redundancy in the dash-shaped links, which is why it was still wearable when I got it, and a good thing too, because I've lost another link. At some point, I know it'll stop being wearable, it will literally break, but I'm okay with that. These aren't treasures, really; they're personal relics, and this one's serving its purpose.

I wanted something to connect me to my Jewish family, and ancestry, and dead grandmother; to ground me in and validate that while the world outside endangered it. And this has done that. (I'm still not being the Jew I want to be—in many ways, fuck knows—and there are still no outside answers to cling to. But there is this one physical thing to literally be attached to, to use as talisman and a private sort of proof and comfort; and that in itself is valuable, and it's a step forward just to disentangle from some of the anxiety.) I'm not sure what I'll do when it breaks—my wrist will feel so bare—but on some level it will feel like an external sign that I achieved that goal of engagement and remembrance, and can shift my focus elsewhere.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
There have been a number of interim posts since my last post that have not been written outside my head, because I am a perpetual bundle of busy and tired, consistently overstretching my limited capabilities to do politics and be scared about the state of the world.

One post: I did skip Thanksgiving, and my parents didn't come up after because inertia is a thing. But Dee went up to Washington for the holiday and Devon did drive up to see me for the day, just for a few hours. We made in-no-ways-traditional vegetarian hot dogs and mac & cheese (with hot dogs in it); it wasn't enough, but it was significantly better than nothing and I'm grateful.

Another post: practicing by doing the easy political phone calls on answering machines does (barely) make it easier to call real alive people. Somehow, that doesn't make it any less terrifying to forget about time zones and call places which are still open and unexpectedly staffed by alive people.

Another post: I have managed to leave the house, once or thrice. Snow helped (as sidenote: cats staring at snowland), because I missed the end of autumn and refuse to miss winter, too. We had snow + freezing rain, but then snow that stuck around, approximately pristine, for a few days. The latter was lovely.

* * *

Today my parents came through Portland and had lunch with me; they're headed northbound to spend the holidays traveling, including a trip to see my sister in Seattle. It was exhausting but in productive ways, almost entirely my fault—because over coffee I nonchalantly asked why I had which aspects of Jewish upbringing and how my extended family/various cultural aspects affected it, as one does.

I have, for obvious reasons, but especially as Hanukkah approaches, been thinking a lot about what it means to be Jewish and particularly to be Jewish in the face of forced assimilation and, you know, facism (how are these are sentences I'm writing and why is this the real world and can it stop), and also of the narrative of "Hanukkah isn't our most important holiday, and its cultural importance is actually a symptom of forced assimilation, but this year it certainly has extra thematic relevance"—because I was raised with Hanukkah and Passover and not much else, although my parents say there was an occasional Rosh Hashanah, which I think I remember; for me, there was no "more important holiday." It seems like some of that was because of how things lined up with Christmas/Easter and thus with school schedules, but it's also because that's what my father grew up with; his experience was inconsistent (Sabbat sometimes, but not always; Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah for him but not his brother; Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah was all he celebrated, too) which has passed through the generations (Allie and I never had any formal religious education; our cousin did).

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from my Jewish grandparents, who always wished they could see us more often, who tried to cram a lot of Jewish Things into the whatever contact they had; they sent me Jewish novels and celebrated holidays with us less, I think, because those specific things were important—they weren't religious, their own practice was inconsistent—but because the identity was important.

White-passing half-Jewish cultural Jew is approximately as distant from the thing as one can be, and I understand the factors, the time, the literal distance, the way that assimilation works and why I have the background that I do. But I also have that identity, and its ... cultural expectation, I suppose, of persecution and persistence. My ancestors came from Russia, and immigrated before the Holocaust; that was not their personal story but it was their cultural story, and they taught me that, too.

I suppose I wanted an easy answer, an, "ah yes, your grandparents always wanted to practice these aspects of the faith with you, and you can now cling to them at least for their cultural significance even if you don't believe." But I didn't get that, I didn't get a "more important holiday" that can enable to me a real Jew. And I don't know where that leaves me, except that this diaspora experience is as real for me as it has been for my father and for his parents, and they are real Jews, so, maybe, I am too.

We also talked about how, for me, politics et al. isn't something to be countered by optimism or hope; that I live within communities where everyone will not (and has not) survived difficult times, and that but for the grace of Devon and August and my parent's financial support that could include me; and I think it's the first time I've ever mentioned suicidal ideation to my parents. My sister's cancer changed things for my family; we've learned to proactively accept and value of each other as we are, and the way that's effected how my parents view me—that they take me at my word when I talk about my experiences and health—as been huge. These are not things I would have felt comfortable sharing, years ago. I'm glad I can now, and the conversation wasn't all politics and Judaism and fascism, I also told them about Dare's antics and Dad showed me this video of him falling off his bike on the way to work. It was a worthwhile afternoon. But I am now very tired, and nothing really feels better.

I'm headed down to Corvallis soon, but we put it off a day and Devon is coming to get me, at some crazy early/late hour when we can skip holiday traffic, so that I can still see him and get my gifts without trying to navigate Amtrak/exhaustion/crazy.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Things what happened recently:

August went in for her dental surgery, had four top molars removed, and recovered with no issues. She went back to eating just fine. I still need to tackle the issue of how to brush a cat's teeth, but the immediate problem was resolved.

Dee and I went to see The National on a rainy evening in September. It bucketed rain during most of the opening band Frightened Rabbit but the temperature was fairly mild, so we just got soaked and dealt with it, and were mostly dry by the end of the show. Neither is a band I listen to on my own, but the live show atmosphere (and the other attendants determined to enjoy themselves despite the weather) was phenomenal; a very Oregon evening.

My mother's father died on September 29th; I opted not to attend the service in mid-November. I'm okay! Death doesn't have a profound impact on me; I'm mostly concerned for my mother and sister, but my grandfather was able to talk with my mother while still lucid the day before he passed; he'd been having health issues for some time, so this was not unexpected and did bring him peace. I know that traveling down for the service would make me miserable, and that's not how I want to remember him. This feels like one of the first times that someone asked me what I wanted to do, and I responded with my own desires and best interest, not with the answer that was expected of me; as such, I'm entirely content in my decision not to go.

Dee got a kitten! Here be the beastie; I will start taking more pictures of her probably when she moves into Dee's room (she's currently living in the downstairs bathroom, which is a bit small and lonely). Her name is Loki, she's tiny and young, purrs super loud and is full of energy. I'm not actually much of a kitten person which is why I only ever wanted to adopt grown cats, but a kitten to which I have frequent access is a fantastic pleasure.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Sometimes I want to give people a sign that says I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE DEPRESSED (slash ANXIOUS slash MENTALLY ILL) and then have them wave that around instead of talking.

This is directed at no one; it is a whispered response to a complete internet stranger that wasn't even talking to me. Just so as that you know.

I'm still not doing great. Two weeks ago my sister graduated from the University of Oregon, so I went for that—and Father's Day, as it was the same weekend; and attendant extended family (uncle and his family, grandfather with wife) activities. To my surprise I was happy for her almost entirely without jealousy/resentment (on account of my failed college experience), although graduation itself was mildly triggering. The whole weekend went fine and it was absolutely exhausting, in part because events like that always are, in part because of some specific circumstances, in part because I'm still just not doing well.

It's depression, mostly at this point. The back is still bad, more or less, but it's plateaued at this new level of always this bad and so I'm learning to live with it. That was hard to do over the graduation stuff, so I ended up trying two new happy pills. Verdicts: Vicodin (hydrocodone/paracetamol) was moderately effective but had more side effects, largely spaciness—intense, emotionally non-responsive spaciness. Neurontin (gabapentin) was extremely effective, rendering all my muscles (all of them! even my shoulders, which hold tension, not pain) into limp noodles and me likewise; I experienced some moderate unsteadiness but Devon, who would better know, says it did less to my cognition. Neither were as awesome as Tramadol, but 1) they were out of Tramadol and 2) much of my love of Tramadol stems from its side effects, which worries me. Would I take Neurontin again? Yes, but I'm not constantly thinking about how badly I want to take it again, which makes me think it's the better drug for me.

After graduation I stayed a few more days in Corvallis and just spent time with Devon, and they were good days, but the monotony of depression is a mire, it rises over anything good and renders the entire landscape a bland sort of miserable. It's been months of this now, it's dull and not worth recording, and I invite it to fuck off, please and thank you, at its earliest convenience. This time around it's killed my appetite, which is fantastic because I just didn't have enough food-related neuroses; but no one wants to hear about how hard it is to shower or do laundry, and I don't want to write about it.

Dee and Devon both have been angels, in their limited possible capacity—further "it's not you it's me." I could write about August but I don't know how to do her justice. No spoons these days, so evenings when she's whining for food can be torture, but when I got back after a week in Corvallis ... she always demands immediate snuggles, and we had that, but seeing her again also rekindled this love affair and we've been head over heels for each other since. She is my cat in this devastating, heartfelt way, and I have never known a creature so beautiful. That doesn't idealize her, and I don't think she's half the cat I was expecting when I adopted her, but even at her most annoying I would not change her for the world. Even when the intensity of this love fades down, again, to background noise, the truth of that will not alter.

And everyone should have an overenthusiastic wigglebutt of a puppy come to meet them at the train station.

It's not awful but it's not good either, these days, and at this point I'm just waiting them out, but I might as well mention that they exist and so, still, do I.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Thank you all for your condolences. As always for this sort of thing, that's what I'd be saying each time: Thank you, thank you. I am grateful. I'm just also tired.

So here's the thing. It wasn't until the last year or two that the fact of my grandmother's death really hit me. She'd died some five years before. I've written about this—in some depth when Dink died, and in passing mentions when Alfie died, and I keep meaning to sit down and really explore the issue but, no surprise I suppose, it's one I don't want to explore while I'm coping with it—but: I don't miss people, and as such I find it difficult to comprehend death. I tend to see the past as a bad memory and the future as a terror, but the bulk of my brain lives chronically in the here and now. I don't have a good grasp of trends over time or general histories, and there are some things I find it hard to project forward. And I don't miss anyone. I have a healthy sense of nostalgia and can get lonely, and I can miss the stimulation associated with certain social interactions, but with the exception of Devon I don't specifically miss anyone when they're not there. I can go months without remembering to contact my immediate family, and it's not them, it's me: it just doesn't occur to me that I should. I suppose it's a little hard to explain.

Death is the knowledge that you'll be missing for the rest of your life. Without missing, and with a poor concept of the past and future, I don't really understand death. People go away, but I never really need or expect their return, and there's no sense of loss.

But December last year or so I was talking with my mother about the upcoming (second) cruise and realized that my grandmother was dead. She died when I was a freshman in college, and I went to her service with almost no trace of emotion; there's some uneasiness between my family and my grandfather's second wife, because of how soon he remarried and because she's so insistent on the ease with which we (grown) grandchildren should adopt her as replacement grandmother. I saw those grandparents about twice a year as a child and biyearly as an adult, and (socially) I take after that side of the family, which means we were relatively close.

And it bothers me that my grandmother is dead. It bothers me because of the fallout it's had on my family and my (lack of) relationship with my grandfather, but it bothers me also because while we didn't have the emotional resonance that some people have in these relationships, I was always so much my grandmother's kin; and while she wasn't remarkable in any expected sense of the word, my grandmother was a memorable and irreplaceable woman who I will never see again. It's not a keen sense of loss, it's not like I'm finally cognizant of that loss and just now beginning the grieving process. It's that the grieving process was, for me, all number of years spent not knowing it was going on, and then I came out somewhere near the other end going: Oh. This death upset me.

I'm afraid this will happen with Madison.

It's not unfair to compare a cat to a grandmother. Animals are people, to me; I spent more time with Madison than with my grandmother; I know from my experiences with losing Dink and Alfie that while the circumstances are different, the basics of my grieving process is the same. I also know—especially with the loss of Alfie—that I am better, now, at conceptualizing loss and death, and I know what helps me do that. I know that seeing his body freed me, not because it released me from my pain but because it triggered it, allowing me to experience a more immediate, intense, and timely grieving process. I'm not at peace with his loss now, but I'm so much closer to that than I would have expected to be. Where my sister can still mourn pets we lost ten years ago, I can finally comprehend those losses ten years later; that I have come so far in understanding Alfie's death is remarkable.

Madison is dead and buried. I have no control here, no immediacy. I can't trigger and embrace my grieving process. I barely feel like I'm entitled to one because of my lack of involvement—Devon didn't even tell me that she had died until they had already buried her. I understand that that seemed like a reasonable response of their end, and they're entitled to it. Not everyone finds solace in freezing a corpse for later inspection which, and let's be frank here, is pretty reasonable. And I know it's not as feasible with a cat, no matter how small. I know that she wasn't my pet in the way that the pigs were, and so I can't make demands about the disposal of her body.

But I love this cat. I suggested her name—an M name for a tabby with a classic M forehead marking, and also one of my favorite names, a name I'd always wanted to use for a pet. When she was young she used to be a wild beast (they nicknamed her Kerrigan), but I used to pick her up, hold the scruff of her neck so she couldn't bite, and enforce socialization—and bit by bit it began to work. When they finally spayed her (after years of reminders and promises that it would change her behavior), she became an entirely different cat—calmer, tamer, and fonder too of soft bedding and warm corners. It got to the point where she would purr when I picked her up—she, this half-feral five-pound wildbeast. I was the one that groomed the mats out of her cheeks, and she didn't even mind that.

Madison is the cat that taught me to be a cat. Dude is the lovable confident man of the house, and he and I get on famously—but in Madison I saw myself: not specific character traits, but the existence of character, the knowledge that each cat is a life, entity, person onto themselves, that they don't always (or often) conform to feline clichés but are nonetheless wholly themselves and wholly cat. Madison was my sister-cat, who taught me about sleeping in a circle and finding hidden corners and having tufts of fur in the ears and a poofy tail.

Intellectually I know that she's gone, and clearly some of that hit home because she I first heard the news my fingertips went numb—there was something there, some realization. And now when I run idle for a few minutes my thoughts come back to Madison is dead or and we found Madison dead earlier and they buried her with this sort of dryness—it's literally just the words, like a line of black type in the middle of a white sheet of paper. I don't know what happens after that, because I just get the white, the blank, the rest of the naked page, or I find something to do (which, today, apparently isn't sleep) so that I'm not thinking about it any more.

But that's it: a few words on a blank page. I cried on and off when Devon first told me, but I've been numb since then and I'm not sure when that will change. I'm worried that it won't. I'm on the fringes of this and not allowed in. I wasn't there, because I'm not her family. I can't turn to Devon for help because he was there and he's hurting from this too, and it's not right to compound or to trample over his grief. I can't engage with the rest of the family because I blame them and I don't want to recieve their comfort or share their grief—they were the ones that decided to make Madison indoor/outdoor and while I know that wasn't malicious, and that you can carry the the guilt of a death and still be a decent human being (as I feel about what happened with Dink), this is still something that could have been prevented and so yes, there is anger there. I will never see her corpse, and never say goodbye.

When I think of her I remember her sleeping curled, but when they found her she was on her side, dead, with blood in her mouth.

I'm angry about what happened, and I feel isolated and denied by my lack of involvement, and I don't want to be brokenhearted and grieving too but I would rather have that—violent and miserable and cathartic—than feel this hanging over my head: the loss I should feel, and can't understand; the experience that I don't know I'm engaging with, and may not resolve for weeks or years. And then I'll finally go: Oh. This is what it means that she's dead.

Maybe it'll make sense the next time I'm in Corvallis and she's not there. I don't know. I feel guilty, as always, about making this about me and my grieving process and my issues instead of about her—because it is all about her. She was a remarkable little beastie and I wish you could have known her. She used to stare at her reflection for hours. She used to suckle on microfleece blankets. She used to curl up so tiny—she was a remarkably small cat, and half of that was still fluff. She was bizarre and beautiful and she's dead, so there's that. But I don't know what to make of it, yet, and it scares me.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Second, let us talk about family. Because the one good thing of the cruise—perhaps the good thing of the cruise, nearly it's point and purpose—was that these people my grandfather married into became, well, people. Introductions always go over my head and I rarely recognize faces; I'd met these folk before, but they were still strangers in every way that mattered. I didn't become bosom buddies with anyone, but for the most part I know and respect who they are now. For no damn good reason, Grandpa and Ilene had seating charts for dinner—grouped by table, thankfully not assigned specific seats—which made sure they were able to sit with everyone but didn't confer to us the same favor. On the last cruise the group of us mingled with ease all on our own; this time, there was one couple I never really spoke to. But I bonded with one uncle-in-law over books, and one cousin-in-law over video games; I can match faces to names to identities now, and that's worth something.

The conversation about books was particularly delightful.

But third, let's talk about me. (Of course.) Spending intense time with people—prolonged time with a group that I'm supposed to be apart of because we're all family now—reminds me just how much I am not people. Sometimes it's little things: I don't like what people seem to like, "nice" weather (sunny and warm) and "luxury" accommodations (which they were not—I'm picky, yes, and was recently on a much larger and plusher cruise ship, but this one had a general second-class feel). I don't take things for granted or float along on expectations—just because it's a cruise doesn't mean it's necessarily fun and relaxing and escapist; it actually has to be those things to be those things. More importantly, there are expectations for behavior and acceptance that I don't meet. You may remember my issue with being photographed on the last cruise, and it held true here: I don't believe anyone has the right to assume they have my permission, and it upsets me to be photographed without being asked. Similarly, I don't think it's appropriate or respectful for strangers to call me "sweetie" or for extended family members to call me by a nickname. People are supposed to be cheerful and optimistic, social and acquiescent, and I, in the back, am none of these things.

I sit differently than other people do, because of my back. I dress differently, in broomstick skirts and long-sleeved shirts, a style which hovers between causal and formal but is suitable for neither. I eat differently, I'm a vegetarian but also I don't drink and, unlike most people it seems, I like good food: I take a critical approach to food as I do to all things, I will reject bad food, and I believe nice plating and froofy descriptions don't automatically make food good. I avoid group activities and loud noise. These are my own quirks and none of them are necessarily anyone's business, but if they want to know what I think of the dish I'm not eating then I will probably tell them: I think watering down opinions in the name of social nicety is stupid.

This is news to none of you, I know, but it is isolating to realize it afresh. I still had a few good conversations. The one about books was personal, fairly private, involved, educated, a discussion in the most fulfilling sense, and I'm thankful for it. But so much of what people do to gather and be social makes me feel like the odd one out—because, of course, I am.

Dinner was the only required family event most days; we were free to dispose with the rest of our time as we wished. Devon and I slept a lot, in part to cope with the constant seasickness that everyone was suffering (smaller boats and rough waters are a bad combination); we watched a number of movies through the awesome DVD service* and he taught me to play backgammon. For the most part, we did nothing social except attend dinner.

And sure, maybe that was a wasted opportunity, but dinner alone was exhausting. Not always bad—sometimes so, like when the third generation was seated together and we 20-somethings were grouped with the little kids, or when the cruise line thought it wise to have a half-assed, painfully loud song and dance routine with the last dinner—but always exhausting, and by the end of each night, especially near the end of the week, it was all I could do to hold out until dessert.

And on the last night, in between rounds of bad song covers being blasted through the speakers, I got into a conversation with Ilene and one of my uncles-in-law about 1) Why if I'm such a picky eater and eat so little of the (on that night particularly shitty) food, I'm not thin! You'd think I'd be a stick figure, but there I am. Ilene then followed with a little monologue about how when she gets back she wants to start finding ways to get skinnier so have no delusions, it wasn't a celebration of my body type. Then we transitioned into: 2) What I eat at home, and why I don't eat breakfast, and why don't I just give a quick explanation of what agoraphobia is and how it impacts my day to day life. Because I don't leave the room much, you see—sometimes I manage a meal before Dev makes it home for dinner, sometimes not, because I can't always stand the thought of sharing a space and risking a conversation with someone just because I'm hungry.

I try to make it a point to discuss my mental illnesses in the same tone that I would any respected physical illness. My heath isn't necessarily anyone's business, but if I wouldn't feel ashamed to explain how my diabetes impacts my diet, then I sure as fuck won't feel ashamed to explain how my brain crazies do. It's healthy for me to be honest and self-accepting, and if I can make anyone else more honest and accepting (of themselves, of others) then I think that helps us all. And it has helped me, to be more honest; I've also gotten better about talking about these things—a similar issue came up at the end of the last cruise, and my summary and explanation this time was much clearer.

But that does nothing to change the fact that I was still, at the end of this long week, the fat girl** and the crazy girl; the outsider, the not-person. I don't regret being outed: despite all the caveats, and there are so many, I accept who I am, from curves to crazies. I believe that owning the person that I am and being willing to talk about it can only help. And the conversation didn't go poorly—Ilene was sympathetic I suppose but also, as usual, chock full of halfway-correct assumptions which she took to be the absolute truth, and it's pretty pointless to try to correct her (even on the word, agoraphobia, which she called agraphobia, and more importantly on the fact that agoraphobia means you can't even leave the house—nevermind that for a time not to long ago, I didn't—therefore mine can't be "real"); my uncle was surprisingly receptive, excluding an offhand but inappropriate quip about how he hears that that a bit of alcohol can help with problems like these.


But things were so very good before the cruise. I saw [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes, I met [livejournal.com profile] sisterite, and I had a marvelous time. I listened to "Dog Days are Over", and realized it was true. In my own silly way, I took a step towards self-actualization ("Today, being me makes me overjoyed."). I don't celebrate New Year's because the end of a calendar seems too arbitrary a cause for celebration, but for what it's worth I went towards the end of 2010 realizing that I am better—feeling better, being better, better at being me.

And then I was the fat crazy not-person. The cruise didn't destroy me—honestly it wasn't that bad, just exhausting, and that's nothing that some reading in bed can't fix. And part of the experience of isolation (in the midst of a crowd) has driven me to want to combat it: I want to find my own crowd, my clan, my chosen family; I want to see my loved ones again and find more and build on preexisting relationships; I want to spend time in Portland so badly that my skin itches with the desire. It frustrates me that I can't make these things come instantly to pass, but the desires for them are good.

But that good isn't quite enough to erase the bad that rouses it.

Anyway. The cruise was. It was long, and tiring, and did good things, and did bad things, and could have been much worse. FLL wasn't using the backscatter machines when and where we went through security, so the trip ended on a similarly exhausting (flying all day tends to be) but surprisingly painless note, which is an absolute blessing. I came home to news that a handful of you have been going through tough times and experiencing incredible losses, which puts my own familial angst in brutal context and mostly just makes me wish the best for all of you. Above all I am happy to be home—even if I sort of wish that home were up in Portland just now, but still: what matters is that it's over, so thank goodness for that.

* This was one of the few benefits of this particular ship: free movies to borrow as long as they were on shelves. We watched Death Race (not bad for what it is, and we both adore Jason Statham), Mission Impossible (I'd never seen it; yeah, it was fun), A Knight's Tale (pretty awesome, gleeful anachronistic, and the We Will Rock You sequence rocked my socks), Wicker Man (the remake; better in two minutes but still delightfully loltastic), Catch Me If You Can (not exceptional but solidly entertaining), and Shooter (again, not exceptional but solidly entertaining, emotionally rewarding and technically sound—gun-wise, not filmography-wise), and The Bank Job (a little more serious than we were expecting, and so relentlessly depressing; it might have been better at a different time).

** For the record, I wouldn't class myself as "fat," but then I also wouldn't self-apply any similar categorization. I'm short and curvy and moderately overweight; I'm also very bad with visual comparison, and I have no idea how my body actually ranks in the thick to thin scale. For the most part, I also don't care. But this isn't about what I would call myself: it's about how I felt I was being classed, implicitly, by someone else—and, as such and via context, carries the word's negative social implications.


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