How does one recover a sense of identity if she’s never really had one?
I’m a paradox. A gaggle of paradoxes.
I am the girl with the Manic Panic hair who sat at the back of the class; the black hair, black boots, and black lipstick paired with a baby-powered face and listened to Garth Brooks. Loudly and proudly on both accounts.
I am the woman who shrugged when asked if I were straight–by a medical professional–and then if I were gay, only to answer “Sure,” when she finally said, “But you’re straight, right?”
One of my biggest accomplishments was determining the difference between what I am and what I have.
An in-depth discussion best left for another day, perhaps.
In terms of personal identity, I’ve found that there is a difference between something I have and something I am, a difference between saying, “I have a disability” and “I am disabled.”
Another was determining that, when I write, I am a writer. When I do not, I am not.
This book though, The Artist’s Way. Still struggling with this book. Something isn’t sitting right, and, to be honest, there is so much chaos that I can’t even take a breath to further explore it.
On second thought, it might be vacationing in Tahiti.
I’ve lost days; I’ve lost days’ worth of medicine, only to find them where they were supposed to be, only not taken as directed.
Cause mind fog. It’s a thing. Mind fog–or brain fog– is the general term for cognitive impairment that often goes along with chronic illness. It could be caused by the disease itself, by the fatigue associated with the disease, or the medications used to combat it.
But it’s a thing. A real thing.
I have a touch of ADD as it is–and by a touch, I mean a heavy, back-handed slap–anyway. Even with medication, I’m likely to find myself distracted by simple things, only to be reminded that I’ve diverged onto the lesser path. Or something.
Last night was a perfect example.
Deep in conversation of very important stuff with a friend, I noticed that a leaf, brown against the green of the still-growing foliage–looked like a mushroom that had been transported by some sort of teleportation (a T.A.R.D.I.S. perhaps?) to its place amongst the green-laden stars. Only less mushroom and more like funky-shaped genitalia.
Important stuff. Stuff I needed to pay attention for.
And then a very sad penis riding shotgun with the Tenth Doctor.
He was more amused than hurt, and for that I am grateful. It was very important stuff.
But then we were two. Two of us left from the Arizona days, the days so bleak and black in the Valley of the Sun that I thought I’d never see a shine again.
Jitterbug. Mardi Gras. Tumbleweed. My Phoenician felines who, had they been more homo sapien than feline perfectica, would be old enough to vote now.
My little Josephine to the cow-cat’s Napoleon, the lover of dogs and of sunshine and behind-the-ear scratches. My turtle sundae with far more ice cream than topping, and a tail that makes me wonder if Picasso has any creative influence in heaven.
Her tail though. A chocolate hue pressed between her orange tabby mash-up and black raccoon rings. Her tail was a scrap patch-work version of Spawn’s sentient cape. Protective and communicative and far more fierce than the rest of her.
I’m not entirely sure she was missing the chains.
I may have mentioned I love my vets and my vet clinic. I love them for their affectionate techs, techs who sit with our four-legged children post-op. I love them for their laughing office staff, staff with puns that are so bad that they spread sheer perfection when you’re having a really bad day.
And I really, really, really love the vets. Dr. Dennis Selig and Dr. Julie Parks, with their never-ending depth of knowledge, from whom I receive some of the most insane trivia to shock and awe my friends, and a fount of compassion, both toward pets and their parents, that is triple their depth of knowledge.
Had someone asked me what they did best, I would have had a different answer every time. I feel like Elouisa in The Shack when she said that she loved each of her children “especially.” They are especially good at communication. They are especially good at dealing with less-than happy pets. They are especially good at comforting both pets and pet parents.
I especially love Dr. Selig: He is the insane-cat whisperer, the creative force that made notes in the margins, calling such less-than-happy pets “heavenly and prized.”
But I especially love Dr. Parks. It was she who saw my dog for her second post-op check up. It was also she who helped me say good-bye to Mardi Gras.
She made the hardest thing I have ever done so much less traumatic than it could have been. From the way she gently touched Mardi Gras’s toes to the way she stroked her as she was falling asleep from the sedative. She was especially good at talking at the right time, cooing and whispering to my girl as she fell asleep.
Mardi is the first animal I’ve ever had to put to sleep. And Dr. Parks was perfect. I think “perfect” is one of those few absolute words that do not need a modifier–ever.
And yet Dr. Parks was especially perfect.
Mardi is the first animal I’ve ever had to put to sleep. The first animal I’ve sat with as the light left the eyes.
The first death I’ve witnessed firsthand as it was happening.
And I felt like a murderer. Add that to my identity.
She couldn’t breathe. What may have been strep throat apparently activated some sort of growth in her nasal cavity that left her gasping long after the infection was gone.
In the midst of this grieving, there is something incredibly beautiful in watching someone do something so well, as if they were born to it. The grace of her movements as she prepared us to say goodbye. The precision with which she inserted the needle. The efficient calm she exuded as she stood with us.
“I thought it would get easier,” Dr. Parks said, “after doing it so much. I was wrong.”
But I felt like a murderer.
Me, who apologizes to spiders and roaches as I smash them, flushing them down the toilet.
Me, who knowingly and purposefully put my cat to death.
How does one create an identity with those threads? Shy yet vibrant; disabled yet working; undefined yet queer; undisciplined sometimes-writer; inattentive friend who wants to be present and there for others; murderer.
There are too many elements when one has never purposefully crafted an identity. Too many threads making too many ropes.
I suppose it’s a start, though, it really doesn’t feel like one.
The chat for the book is #SpoonieWay on Twitter. Not that I’ve been good about checking in.
Mike Erhmantraut: https://gotdegrees.com/2015/01/21/breakingbad/
Phil Coulson: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/21-things-quickly-learn-nyc]