The Bad-Ass Birthday Blues


The Bad-Ass Birthday Blues:

I woke up at 5 am on my birthday in pain.

My skin was on fire, my husband's space in our bed felt particularly empty and I had just lost 10 pages of my book. I felt so alone.

"Great. F-ing. Birthday."

I do not have lupus and my kidney could not be doing better. In fact, my creatinine (0.4-1.2) is at 0.9, the lowest it has been since the transplant. But it is hard to be in gratitude when you are in pain. So I did what I do now, I got down on my knees and prayed.

A couple hours later, I went to Melrose Mac and worked with the cutest computer boy (god, they make 'em young!) to help me recover the second part of Chapter 12 entitled, "Carmageddon." In the midst of our head-scratching and scrolling, he paused to take in my desktop photo, the one where I am drowning in / surfacing from a sea of pills.

"That is an amazing photo."

Cue awkward laugh. "Oh, that's the cover of my book."

"Is it about what it looks like?"

We talked openly and honestly about my story and then the people in his life suffering with addiction. We were unsuccessful in recovering my pages, but as I began to walk away he said,

"Make sure you come back when your book is done and share it with us."

And my heart cracked open.

He reminded me that I am never alone if I am brave enough to share my pain.

I suffered with renal failure and dialysis because I felt like I was alone. People said the wrong thing or the right thing and I never felt full. I never felt whole.

I suffered with addiction because I thought it was the medicine that would take away my pain, but it only made me more sick. I always felt empty.

Now I refuse to do this alone.

There's a difference between complaining and speaking your truth. When I am quiet about my suffering, my swallowed tears become the poison that keep me ill. I deny people around me the opportunity to help me. I deny that other chronically-sick person the knowledge that they are not alone. And I deny myself the gift of helping them.

But I can't do this without the god that I have found. My god—with a small g.

There are gifts all around me, all the time. My kidney transplant is bad-ass. I do not have lupus. I have a friend who worked with me for 3 hours yesterday to recover those 10 pages. And yet another friend who called me at 10 pm to help me a little bit more. Today I laughed as my husband called me "The Roller Coaster of Hen." There are women who reach out to me when I am sick. And the even greater gift? I get to reach back.

I don't ever have to live through my "Carmageddon" again.

Because here's the thing: Pages can be rewritten. Non-blood borne viruses run their course. And I am never alone. My god helps me find Life's gifts when I have forgotten where to look.

I am 47. I am loved and I love back. I am still here.

Beautiful. What you write about sharing your story and the effect it has on you relates a lot to a piece in the Atlantic I just read for writing class. — Gesa Buettner
In tears now. Happy birthday you wise, wise woman. — Laurie Kingston
Beautiful. I can’t wait to read your book! Happy birthday. — Stephanie Stearns Dulli
Brilliant. I am blessed to know you...And I can’t WAIT to read your book. — Carolyn Soper
What an amazingly beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry you are in pain. I hope this year brings you healing because damn, you deserve it. Thank you for being an inspiration to many. — Ai Cheung