This has been my year, but I’m not claiming it’s the worst. People around the world are having years of suck that make mine look like a fantasy of unicorns and daisies. In the US, many of us are just depressed. If you’re female or gay or black or Mexican or Muslim or you care about the environment in any way, then the election season may have brought any optimism you felt about your fellow Americans to a brutal and crushing halt. Personally, I’ve moved through different stages. Shock, grief, awe, confusion. No real positive or super pro-active stage yet. I guess I have developed an addiction to bowls of breakfast cereal and almond milk that is probably foritifying me with vitamins and minerals I didn’t previously get enough of. Maybe that’s a plus?
I feel like I’m settling on, “My heart is broken,” which isn’t good. I don’t know what to do anymore, as a citizen, as someone with an exhausting chronic illness, to stop the environmental destruction we’re doing on a global scale. Social justice needs a lot of work, but there I feel more optimistic. There I feel I can make a small but noticeable bit of difference, so it sucks but it’s a suck I can at least attempt to bring meaningful change to. But the environment? It just feels like doom. Unending doom. I’m not coping well. We’re killing the planet. I can go vegan, I can drive (or not drive) my Prius, I can reduce my use of plastics, I can do a lot of things, but in the end it just isn’t enough. We don’t have enough people in power caring about this, and it’s going to kill us all.
But it wasn’t just Trump. The year 2016 managed to suck in a lot of other ways.
Jiminy Cricket got squashed
In the first part of the year, a friend stopped speaking to me (and by extension, her whole family stopped speaking to my whole family) after I wasn’t supportive of her burgeoning relationship with an older married man. My whole family was blindsided. She’d been acting odd, but whenever I asked if we were okay, she said that me constantly asking this was wearying her (Really? Tell me about it). She said I was imagining things. Then she told me I was the sister she never had and I should never doubt her affection for me. This is gaslighting, and it’s a shitty way to treat someone.
I stopped bothering her about it, thinking she’d just come around when she felt ready to explain what was happening. Unfortunately, it only got more surreal. She came over to our house for our regular social night and didn’t speak to me. In front of mutual friends. For the entire evening. I actually had a panic attack and had to go upstairs and find my anxiety meds, my hands shaking. I hadn’t been treated to the silent treatment since the 5th grade, and experiencing it now was just as gross and awful as it was then. When she and her husband left (he’d made a heroic effort at small talk with me that night, I thanked him for that later), everyone in the room turned to me and said, “What was that?” If all these people hadn’t just seen it happen, I’m not sure I would have believed what I’d experienced. Who treats someone like that? What has to be wrong with you?
Finally, when she and her new guy friend dropped me on Facebook on the same afternoon (he and I had been friendly acquaintances from guitar camp, and had no conflict), it dawned on me what was happening. Of course. How could I not realize? I hadn’t been supportive of this one thing in her life, and that’s when all the weird treatment started. It was so obvious, in retrospect. But our family was in shock. We weren’t sure how to respond. Are we really not talking anymore? Did she actually just sever connections with all of us through Facebook?
We wrote to her husband something like, “Uhhhh, we don’t know what just happened, but what just happened?” He sent an apologetic and understandably cryptic reply. He said our son was still welcome to email him about gaming stuff. A few days later, I imagine under duress from her decent human being of a spouse to offer some explanation to the people with whom they’d spent two years socializing with every week, my ex-friend sent me an email that explained things had gotten “tense” and she was moving on. Just a notice of vacated premises. The chilly lack of apology, in stark contrast to her warm (very well-crafted) public persona, made me (and us) feel so stupid. How had we gotten so suckered in?
As a public service, and to avoid drama in the future, I made up this handy flowchart for any other married people who may need to decide whether they’d like to share with me any extra-marital feelings that may be developing:
Note on tone shift: I had Greg read this post, as he reads all my posts before I publish them. He’s my feedback guy, my spellcheck. He said, “I think it’s great, but there’s a tonal shift here. You’re pretty serious above this, but you have more elements of humor below. It isn’t something you need to change, but it’s there.” I thought about this. It’s because I’m still angry about how I was treated by my friend, so that part is less funny. I’m generally Chandler-esque, I deal with negativity by using humor. In the case above, I haven’t gotten there yet. Especially after I found out the damage to others, unrelated to our family, that happened because of the choices made in these circumstances. It was truly a long game that was played, and it was very cruel. I was not the worst hurt. So, I’m not finding it funny yet. In time, I’ll be able to joke about it.
And then our kitchen exploded
Most new refrigerators have a water feature. You can push your glass up to the fridge door, press a lever or a button, and water comes out of a little spout and fills your glass with exactly the same stuff that comes out of your sink. [throws up hands] [moving on].
Somehow there came to be a leak in this hose on the back of our fridge. Because our house is over a hundred years old and was put together by drunk, blindfolded ferrets, the floors are all uneven. This means that after the water leaked down the fridge and onto the floor, it ran downhill to the dishwasher six feet away. There it pooled, and then gently seeped out into the floorboards in front of the dishwasher. And this meant that for two weeks we thought our dishwasher was leaking, when really, the water was seeping through the floor and creating a flood in a basement storage room that we rarely enter.
But we didn’t know that. because it really looked like the dishwasher was just having some sort of midlife crisis (I hear that happens in your forties). We tried a different seal. We tried cleaning the filter. Nothing worked. We were at the point of discussing a call to a repairman, when the dishwasher caught fire and ended the discussion. Due to (one would assume) the puddle of water it was sitting on, it shorted out. The entire house began to smell like melted plastic and broken dreams. Thick grey tendrils of smoke were pouring out of the dishwasher buttons. It really did feel like watching the soul escape the body. Jason, usually the most safety-conscious of the household when it comes to home repair, bent toward the door. “Let’s just turn it on again and see what it does.” Greg and I yanked him back.
At least we didn’t have to deal with the leak anymore. Agreeing we’d buy a new dishwasher in a few days, we set about getting a dishrack so we could do dishes by hand. But then a couple days later, the floor in front of the dead dishwasher, commenced squishing. And when we stood in the right spot, water dribbled up from between the floorboards and pooled around our feet.
It was at this point we knew something was very, very wrong.
Maybe it was some tiny leak under the sink? We cleaned everything out and searched. Nothing. “I wonder what’s directly under that spot?” I said. “Maybe it’s a pipe? I’m going downstairs to see if I can see anything suspicious.” I looked around and made a mental note of about how many feet the puddle was from the surrounding walls, so I could estimate it from below. But all that thoughtful measuring was for naught because it turned out WATER WAS STREAMING DOWN THE ENTIRE BASEMENT CEILING AND FILLING THE STORAGE ROOM. If I’d realized I’d be writing about this on my blog nine months later, I’d have taken a little movie so you could experience the cascade, and hear my screams.
Panic ensued. There was a lot of cursing. The ceiling was raining! Ceilings are not supposed to rain! Boxes, furniture, blankets, everything was soaked. And that horrible, sickening realization that the whole time we just thought it was a few tablespoons of water leaking out of the dishwasher every day, water was draining literally out from under us into the lower floor. We bolted back up the stairs and called an emergency plumber. He turned off the water to the house, and spent an hour trying to diagnose the problem. Once he realized, he said, “Oh yeah, those hoses are a real problem. I don’t know why people install them. This happens all the time.”
ALL THE TIME.
ALL THE TIME.
Listen up, everyone-who-owns-a-fridge.
The plumber got the leak stopped, and for a few blissful seconds, we stood there in silence. What a relief. Water was no longer filling the basement! Then we looked around, taking it all in. It was dawning on us what a project we still had. Yes, this was going to be a big mess to clean up. Maybe we hire someone to come in and help us with the basement? That’s when the plumber threw up his hands. “Oh no,” he said. “You can’t just clean this up with towels and bleach. You can’t just dry things off. It will all mold. You need …[dramatic pause while all the homeowners in the audience grab their seats]… FLOOD REMEDIATION.”
I think at this point all three of us, Greg and me and Jason, who all co-own the house, were having little aneurysms. Greg and I had left a cohousing development many years ago, after our community suffered a protracted legal battle with the original builder over mold in our main building. We were familiar with mold and water damage, and it was not something we wanted to go through again. Jason is averse to risk, averse to large homes, averse to old homes, and averse to any intersection of these. He had only agreed to buy this old beast because he could walk to a cafe, have a garden, and because when I first entered the house I fell to the floor in a dramatic flourish, grabbed the leg of the current owner, and started begging to be allowed to live here. Not really. Maybe a little.
And I still maintain that this is the best house we’ve ever had. But this was not its best year.
What ended up happening was this:
For weeks we had these fans running. The constant noise was exhausting, but what was worse was not having access to our kitchen. They had to tear out the sink, cabinets, and then the floor. Guess what they found under the floor! More floor. Turns out the previous owners had just kept stacking new flooring on top of old, and by the time we’d peeled it all back, we now had to deal with asbestos remediation. Add on two weeks for that. Then problems with the new dishwasher, with the pipes leading downstairs, with the electrical outlets, with the painting……
This post is already too long, so I’ll just say this: THREE MONTHS LATER, our kitchen was back. I never want to go through this again.
And so I gained 15 pounds
Thanks to not having a kitchen, eating too much take-out food, buying a lot of snacks, and generally being under a lot of stress, I gained fifteen pounds. I’m already overweight, and with the fibromyalgia, the pain gets much worse with extra pounds. Picture the worst ache you’ve ever felt after a workout. Now picture living with that, every day, without end. Picture waking up every day and feeling like a truck hit you. And now picture that every morning you get out of bed, you’re forced to put on a 15 lb backpack and carry it around all day. See what I’m saying? I’m not saying fat is bad, that being fat is bad. I have a lot of fat love, I’ve worked hard to accept my body. But at this point, extra weight on my chronically-ill frame isn’t anything but extra agony. It isn’t a political issue, it isn’t anyone else’s business, and it doesn’t mean anything other than this: weight means pain, and I need to be lighter. I will have to deal with this, this year.
And then my friend died
Last September, a very good friend of mine called me on the phone, and then told me to sit down. She’d found out she had pancreatic cancer. I don’t want to write more about this, I wrote about it here, and that was enough. I miss her terribly.
So the fibro got worse
I need to write about this more, if only to add to the solidarity of so many fibro folks writing right now. The experience of living with this disease/syndrom/whatever the hell it is, is so taxing to the body and soul. And this year it really kicked itself up a notch. Stress + grief + weight gain = fibromyalgia flare-ups. I had a really awful end-of-summer and fall in terms of pain. I did, however, get on the waiting list for a program at Stanford University that will hopefully help me. I should get the call toward the end of summer 2017, and then we’ll fly down there, do some tests, and see what we can see. My fingers are crossed. In the meantime, I’m dealing with new levels of pain and fatigue. I’m very unhappy about it. And I wasn’t able to go sailing much at all, which deserves its own heading.
Which meant I wasn’t able to go sailing much at all
I love my little twenty-foot Flicka, Elska. She’s my dream. I’ve sailed her maybe a half dozen times in the last nine months. Greg’s new plan is to get good enough at docking that he can essentially take her out without my help. If he can single-hand her, that would mean I could come along and not worry if my energy pooped out and I spent the whole time sleeping in the forward berth. I still really don’t like the idea of going out when I’m this weak. If I fell overboard, I wouldn’t be able to get myself back in the boat. And I know he wants to learn to dock, but I’m such a control freak, I don’t wany anyone else docking my baby. This might be the last year we own a boat, and if that’s true, my heart will break. I had big plans for this part of my life. Crossing fingers here, too.
And then Orange Man got elected
For weeks Greg had been telling me, “Just stop reading the news, it’s fine, Hillary has it.” Election night was sickening. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Watching that map turn red changed my belief about our country, and the people in it. I have friends outside the US, and not one of them could believe what they were seeing. “How can you people elect someone like that?” I kept hearing. I don’t know. I have no explanation. Articles abound on how this happened, I’m not an analyst, I won’t speculate. I just know that it made me afraid. When intelligence isn’t a value anymore, when logic ceases to have influence in an argument, when evidence is reduced to opinion, when all that matters is money and who has the most of it, what will we become?
And then we got sick
First Greg was sick for three weeks. Then Miles got sick. Then I got sick. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, right when all the holiday chaos needs to be taken by the reins and steered into presents, a tree, wrapping, cookies, meals, organizing….was right when we were all laying in bed, trying not to lose a lung every time we coughed. It was the worst illness to hit our house in years. We’re still recovering our strength, and now…..Greg is sick again.
And then everyone died
Seriously, have you seen the lists? Elie Wiesel, okay, he was 87 years old. And John Glenn was 95. But Alan Rickman? Prince? George Michael? DAVID BOWIE? And then we lose Carrie Fisher? And then Debbie Reynolds a day later? And that’s just my heartache of the list, there are dozens of others! If ever the acronym WTF was more apropos, I don’t know when. What is UP, universe? I was praying for God to keep Betty White safe.
There were good things, too
The year wasn’t all bad. I started yoga teacher training! It’s wonderful. I re-discovered two friends I’d had for years, who worked together to get me through my rough patch where I basically wanted to look at all humans and hiss. One of them lives a few hours away, but the other is closer, and I see her every week. She’s part of the family now, she has her own key and just walks in (I love that). She eats from the cupboards freely. I tell her she’s going to retire with me someday, and I’m completely serious. I’m adopting her. I’ll admit I’m still skittish around new people. Especially very friendly people. I find myself thinking, “What are they hiding?” But I’ll get over it.
I also -rediscovered sewing, and that was the best craft therapy experience I’ve had in years. Even better than knitting, and I didn’t think anything could be better than knitting or spinning. It’s right up there with ukulele. Sewing made me feel enraptured, artistic, creative, inspired, and all for only a few gazillion dollars in fabric and a new serger. BARGAIN.
Also, I hated that ugly blue tile in the kitchen, and now I have black and white tile. So that’s nice.
And this year I didn’t lose two dogs to freak illnesses. That’s something.
I’m glad 2017 is here. Knock on wood.