My cat became deathly ill in late December to the tune of $3,000, and then a sudden twist of fate (the good kind) came my way when I got an affordable housing unit here in Hoboken on January 1st, which I found out about four days before I was to move in. (I was lucky enough to get a place right in the same city.) That meant I had to carry two rents for January, plus pack up 18 years of my life in four weeks to be ready to move by Jan. 27th.
But alas, at 2 a.m. on that date, I found myself in the emergency room with food poisoning, just five hours before the movers were to show up. Between the puking and the pooping and the moaning, I had to make emergency phone calls to cancel the move, and attempt to cancel the heat/electricity cancellation for that date. After three days in the hospital, I rescheduled the move for Feb. 2nd, which meant I had to sleep on a leaky air mattress in a freezing cold apartment for an additional five days.
Even though my cat and I pulled through our respective health catastrophes, by the time I found myself here in my new place, I was in complete meltdown mode, crying hysterically at the most gentle of prodding.
Moving in and of itself is an emotionally wrenching experience, even without additional drama. After the movers dropped me off here, I went back to my old place to tidy up loose ends (i.e., pick up scattered garbage), and in looking around remembered the exact day the realtor had showed me the apartment 18 years earlier. It looked precisely as it did then, and I literally began sobbing, remembering who I was as an early 30-something, and all that had transpired in that time.
It was all so poignant as I recalled the ambitious musician I was, out to make her mark in the world, moving to this quaint bustling city just across the river from Gotham, yet who carried such buried and awful sorrow. I could kid myself that I was happy and carefree then, but I was anything but, and given the choice, I certainly prefer being who I am now, even with the chronic pain (...I think).
But what I had then—that I don’t have now—was a sense of purpose...a propelling ambition to move forward at all costs, blindly, ably, with a fierce stick-to-it-tiveness that I marvel at in hindsight. I was aware at the time that my ambition was a crazed one...something that drove me and defined me in ways that weren’t particularly healthy, but I pushed ever forward.
I knew then that I so completely defined myself as a musician that if I never made it in the biz, I wondered what I would do with myself in my, say, 50s, which is where I am now.
With all the illness I encountered in my 30s and 40s, I suppose it’s somewhat odd to say that I’m grateful that my troubles completely redefined my values as the years passed, but as I sit here now at age 51, in chronic pain and dealing with continuing health problems (my endoscopy results today were not good, as trouble is brewing for another hemorrhage), I’m somewhat baffled as to who I am or what I should do...issues that I most certainly did NOT deal with when I moved to Hoboken 18 years ago.
To some degree, I’m aware that I still haven’t dealt emotionally with the devastation that occurred in 2004, when catastrophic complications of my blood clotting disorder left me in chronic pain, probably because I’ve been on painkillers for most of that time, abusing them frequently in order to deal not just with the pain, but with my ample confusion about life in general.
One can’t really be on painkillers AND deal with emotions in a psychotherapeutic way. But it’s all been a double-edged sword, of course...trying to keep the pain at bay with painkillers in order to have a life, yet not having a life because I’m on painkillers. Talk about a conundrum.
So after this long, hard winter, filled with trials, tribulations and triumphs of all kinds, my cat and I often lie on my bed amidst the boxes and move-in clutter and wonder what’s next for us.
Of course, I should just speak for myself. She’s perfectly happy just being herself, and is obviously thrilled to have had so many benign tumors removed, as despite being seven years old, she’s acting like a kitten again (which has its good and bad points). I even had to go out this week and buy her some new toys so that she can occupy herself instead of mauling my hand, still her favorite toy, unfortunately.
But we humans don’t have it so easy. How I wish I could just chase a treat, lie in the sun, eat, and look at the birds in order to be happy. Instead, I ponder my existence, yet at the same time am thrilled that I now have so much more storage space. The practical joys of life can indeed have a way of easing existential quandaries.
On Monday, I went to a preliminary session in New York for biofeedback training in order to help me deal with my pain. My brain was hooked up to electrodes for a stress test, and naturally, I failed. Or rather, my nervous system did. Apparently, chronic pain has tapped me out completely, to the extent that I have no reaction to stimulus that would make a healthy person freak. I would think that a good thing, except the doctor told me that there are certain things a healthy nervous system SHOULD respond to, like danger.
Perhaps I should have been hooked up when I got my nose pierced yesterday. It was so freakin’ painful that I’m sure my stress level would have gone through the roof and exploded the computer. But that’s what it takes to get me to focus these days...a big, painful needle through the nose.
I may not have any goals or ambition at the moment, but I do have this shiny little piece of jewelry on my face now, right next to where the worst pain of my life is. I just realized that in this moment. A pretty, little decoration is almost an “x” marking the spot of the bane of my existence.