Today, November 21st 2016, is my 29th birthday.
My birthdays are different now—this is the third year in a row that, as my birthday approached, I wasn’t just excited for the endless birthday attention and validation but I was excited about the potential for a healthier year. A happier year. My birthdays now come with a newfound hope—hope that painfully evaporates as the year plays out as hard as the one before it.
I got bit by a tick on November 17 2013, 4 days before my 26th birthday. That was my last amazing birthday. However, in my memory it’s tainted with the knowledge of the danger that I now know was lurking.
It was a typical birthday for me. Filled with mini adventure and friends. I took a trapeze class and then unapologetically karaoke’d until early the next morning.
I had no idea that bacteria was scurrying through my body just waiting to make a formal attack. I, in fact, thought I was gearing up for the best year of my life.
About 3 weeks later, spotted with strange rashes, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
By my 27th birthday, 11 months later, I was falling apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The ten months of antibiotics I was on had failed. I was so sure I’d be well by my birthday, but instead I was very sick. I was lost, it was lonely and dark.November 21st, 2014 was my worst birthday yet. I went to an audition and it was one the first times I couldn’t sit up without support. I sat in the casting office holding back tears and using all of my strength to keep my head up and to keep my back straight—lifeless. I cried the whole way home. It was rush hour in Los Angeles so the “whole way home” was—not exaggerating— two full hours of torture. I had plans to go to the shooting range because I had never shot a gun before and decided that was what I wanted to do. Probably because I was really angry. I never made it which is probably for the best—I didn’t have the strength, I couldn’t stand up, no matter how much I wanted to fake a celebratory experience, I didn’t have the will. I surrendered into my dear friend Gina’s arms. I burst into tears and collapsed at the top of my staircase and she held out a cold piece of cake and an unlit candle. Which seemed apropos. She held me. She changed me out of my clothes and into pajamas. I took an ambien and went to bed devastated.
That year was a hard one to swallow. But all of the holistic healing I did left me much better by my 28th birthday. I wasn’t 100% but I didn’t cry all day. We had a little house party. I had fun. It was mellow.
This year, I’m even better, albeit terrified to rejoice and trust it.
Reflecting over the last few years is painful. Thinking about the hope that came with each birthday and the incredible hardships (physical, emotional, financial) that followed breaks my heart. Denial is a coping mechanism. A good one. Sometimes, it’s the only way to stay alive through the hardest times. The denial has mostly cleared now that the pain is more manageable. And I can look realistically at the last few years.
I’ve been laid up.
Unable to hold my own head up.
Under 100 pounds.
Mad at my family.
Getting poked with needles.
Eating pounds and pounds of raw veggies.
In a wheelchair for any extended periods of walking.
Screaming out in pain.
Learning a LOT.
Nurturing a beautiful romance
Touching on radical acceptance and next-level patience.
Finding new passions.
Getting fired up about those passions.
Gaining a level of intimacy with my friends I never knew existed.
And this year as the “lyme-anniversary” approached with my birthday following, I decided to take my first vacation in three years!
I spent November 17th, 2016 on O’ahu.
I was tired that day…because I did a five-mile hike.
I haven’t walked more than a couple of miles at a time in over two years. I conquered this rocky landscape under the afternoon sun without water. That was a horrible mistake, but I survived it!
Oh, hahahaha, it wasn’t the only five mile hike I did. But it was the only one I did with shoes on. I took on the five-six miles Aiea loop trail… barefoot…like an idiot.
When I lived on Maui —four years ago—I would hike barefoot all of the time. In fact, I would convince others to go barefoot—“it’s much better. You’ll be fine. You can feel the Earth. You can grip easily and if it gets wet, you don’t have to worry about shoes.” No one was EVER happy about the decision, and I laughed at them and called them names. Because, once upon a time, I was a big asshole and I thought anyone who couldn’t hike barefoot, jump off cliffs or do something equally as dumb was a “wimp.” Then I got sick and couldn’t even stand up and got some compassion for our fragile humanness. I softened. I would never “force” someone to go barefoot today. Except myself.
Guess what? I couldn’t handle it. I held back tears for the last mile of the hike. Every time I took another step and felt the million tiny stabby rocks break the surface of my skin, I squealed. I thought of my friend who told me in a fit of anger four years ago that it felt like he was walking on a cheese grater. It DOES feel that way. I thought of the 12-year-old that I made go barefoot on a hike called “swinging bridges.” Poor thing was so miserable. Now I know why. I owe him a big apology. Also, I realize that I sound like an insane human right now, and I have no defense. I was insane. And I am deeply sorry that I ever made anyone take their shoes (AKA FEET PROTECTORS) off. I will never do that again. I am proud to say that I, too, cannot handle it.
But, still, before all of the intense pain, I was beyond happy to walk through the mud, climb the trees, and smell nature. I almost forgot how wonderful it is to move through the wild.
That wasn’t even all I did that day! Later that day, I got on a horse. It was my first time riding English. It was my first time posting. And it was my first time on a horse in over three years because that was something else I quit doing when illness came along. I got back on the horse, literally and figuratively.
We spent a day at Pearl Harbor. December 7, 2016 will be the 75th anniversary. Pearl Harbor is beautiful—the last time I was there it was December 7, 2011, the 70th anniversary. It’s yet another reminder of how lucky we are each and every time we take a peaceful breath. As I stood over the USS Arizona where hundreds (maybe over a thousand) died, I felt the luxurious breeze, the hard sun, and my lover’s presence. I felt grateful to be standing on my strong legs, to be smiling again, able to hold my head up, able to walk. So lucky to feel alive. And I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for all of those who came before me fighting—and dying— for my rights and my freedom. Thank you.
We made a stop at the USS Missouri where many less tragic stories took place. The main story being that it was the ship where the official surrender document was signed by the world powers bringing an end to WWII.
The USS Missouri is a giant maze of a ship. It holds thousands of men at a time. But, to be clear, it holds them uncomfortably. It’s no cruise ship; it’s a war ship. The cafeteria is uglier than the one you ate at in grade school and the sleeping arrangements are cramped, smelly and itchy. The stairs up and down the countless decks are steep enough to kill, and the chains that hold the anchor have more girth than an elephant. It’s intimidating, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit afraid of A.) the ship accidentally launching while I was on it B.) getting lost in the lower decks and never being found again or C.) hitting an iceberg suddenly and sinking into the shallow waters of Hawaii where I’d swim safely to shore (I’ve just seen Titanic too many times.)
Before you “board” the husky ship, there’s an opportunity to take a photo in front of a green screen. Because apparently we all just want to feel like we are Disneyland. I was into it. Our hosts knew all about the secret prop table of army helmets so instead of some boring ol’ smiley photo in front of a war ship, we took this:
Apparently, I will go to war with my coconut water. And also this photo suggests that none of us should ever sign up for war since apparently all we would do is scream and take cover.
I thank god for our army—truly. I don’t know how they live without things like coconut water and duvet covers.
The trip to Hawaii showed me just how far I’ve come in my health. It was amazing to be back in my body like that, and I’m so grateful.
And today is my birthday. I’m feeling the love big time. I’m faced with a choice about how I want today to go as I sit here in a shitty mood. I’ll keep you posted.
With fun and love,