Friday, March 21, 2008

Here It Is, There We Go

I figured out where Harbor UCLA Medical Center is located. I mapped the space between Santa Monica/UCLA's main campus and San Clemente, so that people from San Diego and other places would have an idea the distance from there to anywhere relatively important and nearby.

This is Next:

(pretty neat interactive map, huh! I heart Google)

View Larger Map

Exactly three months from now, June 20, Justin will begin his residency program there. In the words of another resident-to-be he'll finally be getting paid for the pleasure of working, rather than paying to work.

So today I Rise with a lot of information to use as I work toward our future. I know what I can shed and leave behind, I know what I must take with me, and I have a few tings in the undecided pile. But I can start packing now. I can give things away now. I can let things go now and know I will not have to try to find a way to keep them.

When we moved into this wonderful apartment in Hillcrest (From the County Animal Control saviors I learned that we are actually so on the border that the bungalows next door are in a different zip code; mean Corner Guy lives in North Park.) I participated to the capacity of which I was capable. I was pretty incapable of doing much.

I was so sick then, spinning and nauseated from my new medications, so depressed I could hardly move, leave alone make important decisions about possessions or even whether to eat. I remember now that they hospitalized me then; I told them, "No! I can't go now!" I think it was a Wednesday. "We have the garage sale on Saturday and I have to sort through the house to get stuff ready. Plus today I have to pack the bookshelves up." I always pack my books in the logical order in which they are shelved--favorite authors together, women authors together, letters and memoirs together, Greek lit together, Shakespeare, poetry... you get the idea.

"That sounds like a lot of work, a pretty stressful time, and you need to rest."

"I cannot rest now. I have to help my husband. He's got exams now and I can't let him have to do all that on his own. I have to help."

"You are very vulnerable now," the doctor said. I told him about my plan to escape the failure of having recovered, finished this miserable project of reaching a healthy life, of mental health. They knew my over-achieving past. My disappointment and frustration with working for three months on fixing this mood disorder was unacceptable to me. I was going to end the infliction that I felt and radiated to others. I knew a way to finish it quickly, and they knew I didn't like to fail. I was likely to succeed. So they hospitalized me.

Justin did the garage sale with the help of a then-friend. His medical school class helped us move. I was home for that--a couple of weeks earlier I had sat in the car trying to still my spinning head and creeping-up stomach while he drove us methodically from apartment to apartment and we eliminated the scary ones and the expensive ones. But I essentially watched these generous men and their friends carry our lives out of our house (including my teaching-related boxes) and into the U-Haul. Some of them even helped us empty the truck. My job was to hold myself together and do my best to tell people which room to deposit our goods.

We began to unpack and Justin left for a study session before his next final exam. Alone in the apartment with trays of kitchen utensils resting on the kitchen table, I made a barrier to the kitchen of boxes and bicycles, hoping that if my mind floated out of my body with its "good idea," its necessary next step, I would have so much work to do to get there that I would snap out of it, wake up before I could act on the devil's whispers. I sat on the couch waiting for him to return, refusing to move from my safe island. Maybe I rested or slept or watched TV if it were already attached to the wires that make it live.

I made it.

I never fully unpacked from that move--what after all would I have done with all those school books and lesson plans and records? They remained boxed, waiting for my inevitable recovery and return to the profession that gave us the paycheck that would carry us through three more years of medical school.

I am officially resigned.

I will take those boxes that might be relative to a high-school-in-need near this neighborhood. Maybe on Monday.

I am determined to fully participate in this move and settling into our future home. It will not be filled to the gills like this place; I will get rid of all we do not need. During the fires I quickly emptied my closet of items other people needed more than I do, clothes, shoes, games, toys all went to others. During this offloading of the old life (teacher, carrier of reminders of the past, keeper of photos I might one day paint...) I will make choices, I will pack, I will sell, I will help us move and always feel like where we have gone is our place; not the place my parents helped us move into because Justin was warding off death by amputation related osteomylitis bone infection white cell killing antibiotics, not the place our friends helped us move into because I was warding off death by reason of mood disorder--clinical label irrelevant, human experience extraordinary.

Now that we know where we are going, now that I love myself as much as I love Justin, I am going to live this life in the healthy position of taking care of both of us.

I love myself as much as I love Justin. Curious about what that means? I would do anything, anything, to ensure Justin's safety, his happiness, his good health, his own sense of self worth. I am perfectly aware that I am not in control of these factors, or thoughts or feelings in his life, but I can do my part to contribute to helping him live on the positive side of those intrinsic parts of his existence.

Safety: I can warn him if I see a danger zone he is entering, I can encourage him to make healthy choices, I can drive safely with him as my passenger.

Happiness: I can do things that make his life easier: picking colors, ironing, dishes, organizing, love, sharing, appreciating his quirks and his skills, arranging gifts or experiences I know he enjoys.

Thoughts, feelings: I can listen, I can appreciate, I can encourage him.

His health: I can order refills of his medications and take care of his foot (which has even meant changing bandages on the site of his latest surgery, for which I have almost no stomach and during which I cried for his suffering and my fears), I can avoid asking him to do things that I know cause him more pain than necessary--and he experiences pain each day just for being alive, I can cook healthy dishes and encourage our exercise programs.

Self worth: I can tell him why I love him and hope that he sees my love in his mirror, I can remind him of his wonderful qualities when he doubts himself or wishes he could have done more to save a patient, or his mother, or be something more than what he is, or that he could be in Iraq with his Marine unit, or he wants to help his father with his issues or his stepfather with his experience of loss and finding his way out of that dark place.

I know, I really know, that I cannot make Justin feel or experience or believe any of these qualities. But because I love him I can support him in his endeavors to find them within himself.

I know, I really know, that my own experience of those qualities resides in my hands. I also know that I have the blessing of a sweetly, gently, carefully woven net that will catch me when I am falling and help me get back on the tightrope where this performance plays out.

For all of these gifts I am grateful.

For all of these gifts I am growing more and more aware of my own strength and confidence and carefully placed hope. I am also growing more aware of who and what is a strong, beautiful, loving, worthy and reliable part of that net, and who and what is just there for their own benefit but will break at the slightest sign of needing to do the work a healthy relationship requires and which is reciprocal--those that know that reciprocity in a relationship alternates in timing. We help each other when one of us needs help, and when we need help at the same time we stand side-by-side, we lean on each other, and in that small reciprocity we hold each other steady until we nurture ourselves back to strength. That type of relationship is real. That type of relationship is steady. That type of relationship is worthy of the investment of love and time.

These things I have learned here, in San Diego, where I landed because like so many other once-foolish women I followed a misguided heart to a lure that turned out to be a trap. But I am not the fool anymore. Hopefully those other women will gain self-respect, self-understanding, self-esteem and self-love too. But I have it. I know I have more to gain, but I have a healthy dose for now.

These qualities are of my own doing. Yes, my support team has helped me realize that which is in my soul, that which is real and true, that which is healthy. Yes, Justin has been an extraordinarily strong thread in that net. But there have been so many others who were capable of the job--who accepted my offerings and who returned them in kind. Sometimes one of us gave more or less than the other, but the wisest of us knew then and know now that in our lifetime there will be many more opportunities to give and receive love as needed.

I am proud to be there to give my love. I am also not so ego-centric or egotistical as to not accept their support when I need it. Happily, I am also strong enough to let those weak threads remove themselves from the net at their whim and know that I do not need them to stay, that the net is an evolving object with threads that will come and go. That's OK. I will never fall too far and I will always be there to nurture those who stay--who can love and be loved.

The best parts of my net will move to Los Angeles with us. As with so many before them, we will stretch and even grow across the boundaries of state and country lines. Like Doctors Without Borders, Love knows no bounds.

It is only change of location and experience. All of real love remains intact.

1 comment:

Penny said...

Thanks for helping me to figure out where you are going! My brother in law actually lived south of there in Harbor City when we all lived in CA. And, unfortunately, I had another aha moment in that this is the same hospital that they took my niece to when she passed away from SIDS. I'll have to come and visit because it is like going back to the old neighborhood for me!