Thursday, August 29, 2013


I am a very angry driver. When someone does something that breaks the rules of the road, especially when it impacts me, I get mad. If someone cuts me off, if someone doesn’t use their turn indicator, if someone drives too slowly I yell at them. Not crazy, lose my head, see red behind my eyes kind of yelling. But definitely the raised voice, a few expletives for good measure kind of yelling.

But the anger that I feel at the drivers who are doing things wrong (and by “doing things wrong” I really mean “doing things that inconvenience me”) isn’t really because of the drivers. Or at least the root of that anger has nothing to do with people’s driving habits.

What I’m really angry about is cancer. What I’m really angry about is chronic pain. What I’m really angry about is the way my parents have been pretty much screwed by diseases and injuries and syndromes that I can’t do anything about. I couldn’t stop my dad’s back from rupturing discs all over the place. I can’t stop my dad from living in pain. I couldn’t stop my mom from getting breast cancer when I was a kid. I definitely couldn’t stop her from getting brain cancer, or stop it from progressing.

In all these things that have majorly shaped my life, I’ve had no control. In all these situations we lived at the whim of the cancer, of the slipped disc, of the damaged nerve. No matter how much I yell and scream at cancer and back injuries, I can’t make things different. My pleas and my expletives fall on deaf… ears? Mutated cells? Weakened cartilage? Crushed nerves? (Notice that all the things I’m yelling at can’t actually hear me.) I can’t even yell at God, because I know God didn’t cause any of this to happen.

So my anger, my pent up rage at all this shit that’s been thrown at my family, lands on unknowing drivers (and sometimes friends, family, and coworkers, for which I am very sorry, and for whom I’m trying to change). Because maybe if I yell loud enough they’ll hear me, and then I can actually effect change.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I love you, Mom. 


I spent the last week in Iowa with my cousin, her husband and their two kids. And now I'm homesick for a home that isn't even mine.

I didn't realize until I left how comfortable and comforting it was to be with family, to be with people who knew and loved my mom. We didn't have any big rap sessions about my mom, and only a few tears were shed. But it was the little things, seeing and sharing my mom in the everyday life of my cousin and her family, that made it beautiful.

Things like telling my cousin that Butterfinger ice cream was my mom's favorite when she picks some up at the store. Or reading any words that cross the TV screen out loud like I used to for my mom, and talking about why I still do that. Or introducing my cousin to the Hunger Games, which my mom loved. Sharing moments of my mom with someone who loved my mom, and who doesn't feel super uncomfortable (I hope!) when I do.

Being with family made the two year mark of my Mom's stroke easier. Spending this past Monday (August 19th) with family, just eating food and playing board games. It felt right, it felt like life, on a day that reminds me so much of sickness of death.

And you know what else was great? Having people to talk with about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (my comfort show when my mom was sick). That was pretty great and geeky too.

Friday, August 9, 2013


SPOILER ALERT: I'm about to talk about the Hunger Games trilogy. Especially the last book, Mockingjay. If you haven't read them and you want to be surprised by them, don't read on. In fact, if you haven’t read them you really shouldn’t read on, and you should instead run to your nearest local bookstore and buy them all. I highly, highly recommend them (but not for children. I don’t care if they’re in the children or young adult section of your local bookstore. They are definitely not for children, and they’re barely for young adults). Plus, it will only take you a few weeks to read the whole trilogy – they’re so engaging you just can’t put them down. Then you can come back and read this blog entry.

Look! Pictures of the books so you can not read the rest of the post if you haven't yet read the series.

I love the Hunger Games books. That sounds a little weird. I mean, why should I love books about children being forced to kill other children? About war and destruction and psychological torture? About a young girl whose life is completely manipulated by the people in power around her?

I love the Hunger Games books because they’re realistic. Katniss is strong, loyal, loving to a select few, extremely cunning, a kickass hunter, and completely broken. She’s imperfect, and she knows it.

Because of all the shit that has happened to her (her father dying in the mines, being sent to the arena twice, having her entire district burned to the ground, watching Peeta’s torture, being manipulated by President Snow, seeing her sister be killed, and on and on and on) she is messed up. She has nightmares and sleepless nights, she lashes out at others, she breaks down at unfortunate times, and she even loses her ability to speak because of psychological damage, not physical damage. The author, Suzanne Collins, presents no illusions about the cost of having to kill, of seeing people die. Katniss is not a perfect hero who just bounces back from everything that’s happened with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.

And that is refreshing. After reading books like the Harry Potter series, or the Eragon series, or the Lord of the Rings series, I always thought to myself, “these people are going to need therapy.” But we don’t see any of that in those books. We don’t see the psychological effects of that much destruction, even though we should. Because no one could witness that much destruction, that much war, without being at least a little messed up.

I relate to Katniss. When I read the books I can feel her need to survive (like when she took care of her mom and sister after her dad died), and I felt that in myself when my mom was sick. I can feel her pain, her grief, her desire to just let morpling or alcohol deaden the pain, because I feel that desire myself. And I feel her wailing, crying, yelling at the cat that Prim is dead, screaming, “she’s not coming back,” because I wail like that myself. Of course, Katniss’ pain and trauma is SO MUCH MORE than I have ever experienced and hopefully more than I will ever experience, so her reactions to the pain are much more violent than mine. I can never fully understand what she’s feeling or thinking. But I do feel the hints of it in my own pain, my own grief. And that is mostly unprecedented in a book of this kind.

So I guess I love the Hunger Games books because they’re dark. They’re painful. They’re violent. But that feels right right now, more right than reading Anne of Green Gables or something else wholesome and sweet.

And I love the Hunger Games books because my mom did. We didn’t get to talk about them much, since I first read them after she was already sick (she had already read them for work, at Hicklebee’s, a local children’s book store), and she couldn’t really articulate all her thoughts about them. But we did get to watch the movie together, twice, and sharing that with her was really special.

She's gone

It took me 3 months, 22 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes to get it. To understand that she’s gone, and she’s not coming back.

Before yesterday at approximately 2:30pm it felt like she was just on vacation. Like some composite of herself-before-the-stroke and herself-after-the-stroke was away for a little while, but would come waltzing in soon, bringing us souvenirs from wherever she was.

It was easier to think that than the alternative: that she was dead and she wasn’t coming back.

I think it’s a sort of defense mechanism – thinking she was on vacation was all I could handle at first. It was my brain, my body protecting me from the truth: that she’s dead and she’s not coming back.

Since yesterday’s realization I’ve slipped back a few times, forgetting that she’s gone. I have to keep reminding myself, telling myself “she’s gone and she’s not coming back.” It may seem cruel to treat myself that way, to be that blunt to myself. But it’s the truth, its reality. I can’t live in a dreamland forever.

So she’s gone, and she’s not coming back. She’s dead and she’s not coming back. Remember that, Katye. It’s time to know that, and to prepare for what that means for the future, from now on.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Comfort in weeping

Today was a really hard day. I had a bad night of sleep. Therapy was hard - all my anxiety about the future (a topic I have been avoiding since I've been immersed in the present) came with a vengeance and without resolution. I cried my eyes out and got snot on my shirt both in my therapist's office and on the car ride home. I was feeling exhausted, but oddly peaceful. I couldn't really figure out why, until I read this quote:

"Those who grieve find comfort in weeping and in arousing their sorrow until the body is too tired to bear the inner emotions."  

- Maimonides, as quoted in "Healing After Loss" by Martha Whitmore Hickman

That's what happened today. I was emotioned out. I was anesthetized to anything else. 

And you know what? It felt really good. Well worth all the excess snot.