Touch Not The Cat

Recently, I was catching up with a friend. I have to imagine catching up with me is a miserable experience, as it mainly involves a list of weird health problems delivered in a practiced yet grumpy matter. After I finished the spiel, my friend paused, then asked, “So, are you seeing anybody?”

To say I was not expecting this question is an understatement. She may as well have asked “So, are you currently orbiting Jupiter?”

Dating is a miserable experience at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. I don’t want another person expecting me to do things when I can’t do things. I don’t want another person to worry about offending with my general crankiness. I don’t want to love any new people; I want to hold on to the few I tricked into caring about me back when I was a functioning human, but I want to do it in a text-messages and g-chats kind of way. Do not touch me; I am a porcupine.

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Or this cat.

But back to lunch with my friend. “No” didn’t seem like a thorough enough answer, but what could I say? “Yes, I met someone in the waiting room of one of my many medical appointments. We have so much in common. He is 84 years old.”

Before I could say anything, my friend took in my nonplussed reaction and clarified.

“I mean like a therapist,” she said.

This made so much more sense that I immediately started laughing at myself for ever thinking she meant something different. Because she’s met me; she knows that even before I became a prickly pear, I would rather talk about 90s boy bands than actual boy problems. All of my friends seem to get this about me, and I love them for it in my cold, distant way.

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I am this Model T.

(And yes, I have a therapist. Are you kidding me? Of course I have a therapist.)

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Rebooting (with spoons)

A few years ago, I was getting ready to host my family for Thanksgiving when I realized I didn’t have enough forks. I did all the dishes, looked in all the drawers and came up with exactly five forks. I fretted for a few hours, until I remembered there are only five people in my family and as long as no forks disappeared mid-meal we’d be fine. I still fessed up to my family, and my fork shortage became a running joke. (My mother gave me one fork in a jewelry box for Christmas.) Now that I’m no longer literally running out of forks, I find myself counting my metaphorical spoons.

There’s this thing called The Spoon Theory.  If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an explanation of life with a chronic illness as illustrated by a bouquet of spoons. Why spoons? Because they were the closest object to the storyteller at the time. It’s a weird metaphor, but it caught on long before I came to the chronic life scene, so I’m rolling with it. I have now joined a gang called the Spoonies. (Like the Goonies, except instead of searching for pirate gold we might eat some soup later if we can get out of bed.)

It took me a while to admit to myself that I am a spoonie, and even longer to admit it to anyone else, even the people to whom it is painfully obvious. I am speaking here specifically of Lacy, my best friend and roommate who has become my accidental but eternally patient caretaker. Well before we knew what was going on, she took over grocery shopping. She accepted my total domination of the couch. She accompanied me to several late-night ER visits. And she makes great coffee.

Lacy and many others have been there for me over the past year and a half, particularly during what I like to call the Hard Reboot of Rachel. My wonderful workplaces and school let me take several months off to attempt to “get better” or at least figure out what was wrong. Basically, I watched everything on Netflix in between doctor’s appointments, and even though I am not better, I’m so grateful to everyone who let me take that time and supported me through it.*

I’m still Rebooting. I’ve had time to come to terms with the pain of ON, but it’s harder to accept the changes to my life. Knowing my supply of spoons is limited does not stop me from trying to do everything I used to do. It’s kind of like deciding to have another beer and knowing you run the risk of a hangover the next day, except instead of having a beer, it’s reading a book. Or taking a shower. Or working a full day. And instead of a hangover, it’s…actually, that is what it feels like sometimes.

I’m trying to spend my spoons wisely. Work. School. Seeing friends and family in limited ways, even if I know it will cost me later. And the upcoming Women’s March Minnesota.  That one is going to hurt in so many ways, but it’s necessary in so many more.

*I’m especially thankful to the people who went above and beyond to bring me to or from ERs, hospitals, pain clinics, and more: Aimee, Bryan, Lacy, and my family.