Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Anniversary

My parents called me tonight to remind me that it was a year ago today that Jenn called them to say I'd been brought into the hospital in a diabetic coma.

My condition was "stable," but though Jenn knew that was better than the condition under which I'd been brought in, the doctor on duty told my mom that I was the top priority case brought in that night, and it would be in my parents' best interests to get on a plane to Chicago.

My mom remembers this because she'd seen Jenn's number on the caller ID and thought, "Oh, let them sweat. Kameron forgot to call me on Mother's Day!" and then felt absolutely miserable about it later when it turned out the reason Jenn was calling them at 11pm west coast time, 1am Chicago time, is because I'd been hauled into the emergency room.

It's a funny thing, because I've never known which date to count it from. Should it be the 14th, when Jenn had actually called the paramedics? (at around 11:30 pm or so) Or should I tally it from the 15th, when I actually arrived at the hospital? (it was just after midnight on Monday the 15th).

I supppose my mom's way of reckoning it is probably the most accurate.

I could remember today as the day I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, the day my whole life changed, the beginning of the end of a very good friendship, the beginnging of the end of my life in Chicago.

But mostly, it's the anniversary of another chance at living.

By all rights, I should be dead, and if Jenn hadn't stayed up that night, worrying over my increasingly delusional state ("I need to do my taxes...," "There's a little black dog...") before finally finding me standing up but completely glassy-eyed and nonresponsive in the bathroom, well, yeah, hey, I may not be here.

After realizing the seriousness of my condition, much later, I thought a lot about whether or not I would have been OK with the idea of my life ending that night. And you know, I would have been OK with it if that's how it turned out. I wouldn't have done anything differently up to that point. I'd had a fucking good run.

I had left home three days after turning 18 and shacked up with my high school boyfriend. I dumped him six months later after he ran off to join the Marines and I was evicted from our apartment. I had to pawn my books, the tv, the vcr. I had to call my parents from a pay phone to come and get me and the last of my stuff.

I started over and rebuilt things. I had failed pretty completely. I had nothing. I remember thinking that I'd died. Everything I'd tried to build, wanted to be, was dead, so I was going to break it all down and start over. When you hit bottom, you've got nowhere to go but up.

So I jumped off a bridge, bought a one-way ticket to Fairbanks, went to school at the U of Alaska, took a semester writing course with David Marusek who encouraged me to reapply to Clarion... and life just got bigger and brighter. It was like I was living someone else's life, this life I always wanted to live... I went to Clarion, went to grad school in South Africa, started selling stories, moved to Chicago, got a grown up job and a corporate card and started traveling to all these cities... I started lifting 30 lb weights and taking boxing and martial arts classes... I started blogging, started a long distance relationship and started spending one weekend a month in New York City...

It was a big, great, surreal, big-city life. And I loved it. I loved living with Jenn. I loved selling short fiction. Loved building who I was going to be. Jenn and I getting together felt like a natural progression of a great friendship.

But the first five months of 2006 were dark months. So fucking dark. It was like the spring would never come. I was sleeping all the time, terribly hungry and thirsty, traveling too much, sleeping too much... so dark.

It's the six months before and after today, one year ago, that I want to take back. I want to do over. I want to do better. I want to do smarter and saner and more rationally. I want to go back and explain myself better and understand my illness better. I want to go back and do it again because I honestly think that maybe I'd have hurt fewer people - I want to go back and fix it so I didn't hurt B, so I didn't hurt Jenn and destroy the friendship. I want to go back and understand how sick I was.

Those are the parts I want back.

But the rest of it? Tanking at 18 and starting over in Alaska and going to Clarion and getting a grad degree in South Africa and playing Career Woman in Chicago? The writing, the boxing, the cons, the traveling. No, I loved all of that. It was a fucking fantastic life. It was amazing. And if I would have died that night, one year ago today, I would have had no regrets.

For better or worse, though, I didn't die a year ago. I kept going. Because of Jenn's courage, and my own stubborness.

Now I have another shot at life, and I'm at another point in my life where I've blasted out everything, where everything has fallen apart and broken down. My friendships, my finances, my health, and to some degree, however small, my spirit.

There is a glorious thing that happens when everything is stripped away, though; when you break it down. You get to start over. If you've got nothing, you have nothing to lose.

I may not be able to go back and fix what I did wrong, but I have the opportunity to go forward and build something better; to learn from what I did wrong last time and come out of it a stronger person.

I can't guarantee that I'll do anything better, or that I'll never hurt anyone again. What I can say is, I think it's going to be an interesting run. The last time I hit this place life turned out to be far bigger and more beautiful than I'd imagined, and I have a feeling it's not done surprising me yet.

So, for better or worse:

Happy anniversary.

The Joys of Home Renovation

Ian and Stephanie bought this little house here in Ohio and they've been fixing it up since they moved in back in September. It wasn't a shithole, but it wasn't exactly the tidiest, most up to date place on the block. They replaced all of the windows, tore up all the carpet and had the hardwood floors refinished, cleaned it top to bottom, repainted the whole downstairs, and we've been working on scraping, sanding and repainting the doors.

They hired a contractor to come in on Monday and pull out the shitty rotting half-insulated crap in the big room upstairs and put up new drywall, so the house has been full of dust and rather messy this week cause all the stuff from the upstairs (which they use as the Master bedroom) is now in the living room and Ian's office.

So Stephanie and I spent most of today covered in paint and primer, working on the upstairs room now that the drywall's done.

What we realized after the contractors left and we started to prep the room for painting was that... they had done a really shitty job. Not knowing much about drywall and wanting them to get the hell out of the house after 3 days of work on a job that was supposed to take "a day or two" we pushed them out of the house without insisting that they reputty the walls and fucking sand them properly, and then the three of use found ourselves staring at the cold, hard reality of unsanded drywall paste, loose tape seams, uncovered nail holes and divets in the drywall.

Steph, Ian, and I spent the morning hand sanding and puttying; then Steph and I started putting on the primer.

After the second coat, we realized things weren't looking much better.

"Oh dear lord this is bad," I said.

"Well, they practically did it for free," Stephanie said. "Five hundred in labor for three people over three days is, basically free."

"But you did pay them five hundred dollars," I said.

"Let me keep thinking it was free. If I admit we paid them for this shit I'm going to cry."

We slathered on some more paste after the first coat of primer, put on the second coat, made a couple runs to Home Depot for more paint, and then put on the first layer of paint.

Ian arrived home, went upstairs and took a look and said, "Um, you guys realize this looks like crap, right?"

"Yes," we said, "Yes we do."

"But they practically did it for free," he said.

Ian suggested we rent a sprayer and texture the walls. Maybe it'll make the bad paste job sort of, you know, blend in.

I mean, it's not a bad job really.

It was practically free.