So 2014 sucked.
It did for a lot of people I know. Like, it was a really, really tough year. Family members died. Pets died. People had cancer. I thought last year was pretty terrible when my job went up in flames rather spectacularly and I went writer/freelancer full time, which continues to be utterly terrifying. Then 2014 said “AHAHAHA LET ME SHOW YOU” and boom, shit got worse. For me, for like everyone I know.
It’s easy to focus on the bad. But it’s also not much fun.
Instead, I’m looking back at the things I’m really grateful for.
It’s a long post. I expect it’s mostly for me to look back on now and then, but you’re welcome to skim along if you’d like.
So. Gratitude. That was a big thing to learn. I mean, we’ve all been through stuff, we’re always reminded to be grateful for the things we have, but sometimes something knocks you so hard, it changes your whole perspective.
There’s remission, for one. Before 2014, I didn’t think remission was even a thing I’d ever have to worry about and then this year I got horribly sick, and I will likely get sick a bunch more times in my life with this disease. But I’m glad I can appreciate now how fantastic it is when the body is working properly. I’m not just grateful for my clinical remission but for that of friends battling chronic illnesses, and friends of friends dealing heavy things like cancer. It’s easier to live in the moment when you know the wheel will turn and you’ll have bad days in the future–they’re inevitable–so you make the most of good days (and spoons when they are more plentiful).
I lost my beloved eldest cat, and my mum lost a dog and a cat as well. But so many of my furry brats are still here. I’m glad of the time I did get with Jilly-bean, and that despite some ups and downs the rest are alive and kicking. Sophie will be fifteen in May. She won’t live forever, despite all the dark magic rituals I preform to the contrary. I love all my furbrats and most of them survived the year. Even the bunny is still kicking and she’ll be twelve soon.
Y’all helped out tremendously with Doombuggy recently (and I will tell you now, leftover pennies helped with Vincent’s abrupt medical expenses from the end of last month, which came out of nowhere and still had me scrambling). Strangers, acquaintances, friends. It was really hard for me to admit I needed help and you didn’t make me feel bad for it. One of the major lessons for me in 2014: asking for/accepting help from people who care is so much easier than just freaking out and martyring myself. I will still try not to do it again, or at least not very often, because I value self-sufficiency. But I know there is help available and I haven’t necessarily failed as a human being if I need it. So I thank you.
My mum deserves a post all of her own.
I don’t know how people, adult or not, get through any serious illness without their mothers. Or, more specifically, mine, because I know a lot of mums actually kind of suck. Part of it required me letting go of control and just letting her be my mom and take care of me. And once I did, she did her thing. She went to doctor appointments, she yelled at receptionists to get me more appointments when needed. Took my garbage out, helped out with my dog, bought me clothes when I shrank and nothing fit. And reassured me I wasn’t crazy when someone told me I was.
Speaking of…thank you, “NP Sam”, for telling me I was crazy and that my illness was all in my head and I just needed magical antidepressants. Yes, this was an extremely dangerous and monumentally stupid thing to do, to not listen to a patient in distress but decide You Know Best after spending all of ten minutes with her and seeing a psych referral request in her file.
So why am I thanking her? Because my greatest fear, one of the main reasons I always have avoided doctors/hospitals, is because I’m afraid of being told I’m just crazy. I mean, a real deep fear that’s burrowed right into my marrow. I have been gaslighted and manipulated before, and taught not to trust myself. I imagine a lot of crazy people live with this fear–it’s pretty reasonable. Now, though? Now I know I wasn’t crazy. I know I can trust myself; I know me, I know my brain, I know my disorder, and when I have symptoms that have nothing to do with my brain, I know I’m not making them up. I know how to advocate for myself or ensure, when I’m vulnerable, that I have an advocate with me (my mum). I am very well prepared now to navigate all the doctor shit I will have to deal with the rest of my life. So thank you, Ms Nurse Practitioner, for bringing my worst fear to life and teaching me that the biggest concern is not me wasting a medical professional’s time, but them wasting mine.
(Also, should I ever see you in person again, I am going to scream “I TOLD YOU SO” right in your face, so be prepared for that.)
There are competent medical professionals, however. Most of them reside in my veterinarian’s office, who are always so kind with me and my pets. A handful also reside at the Day Surgery Unit at Campbellford Memorial Hospital–everyone from the general surgeon to the nurses to the delightful anesthesiologist were amazing. They treated me like a human being, which–at that point–I’d kind of stopped feeling like when it came to people at the hospital. Likewise, I’ve met with my specialist Dr. M just twice now and I want to keep her forever and ever because she’s on the ball and I’m in very good hands. And Shelly at the lab who gets my blood first try, every single time even now when when I go weekly for tests. I’m prepared now, when dealing with HCPs, to be clear about what I will and will not tolerate from them, and not feel bad for it.
Moving on. My friends were also tremendously supportive. I am going to try to list some and forgive me if I miss a name. But Dina (DINA DINA DINA), Danni, Skye, Lili, Judy, Krista, Adrienne, Mel, Shell, and many more–in a hundred different ways, they threw help my way. Whether it was tossing pennies at me, letting me vent, talking me through stuff, making me go to the doctor and demand help, etc. Even just checking in to ask how I was feeling meant a lot to me, because for so many months I was in bed most of the time and couldn’t even do the few volunteer things that took me outside of the apartment once a week so I had no contact with others. Seriously, I could write entire essays on how fantastic my friends–chosen family–are. All it takes is a few crises to be reminded that I’ve somehow managed to surround myself with the best people in the universe, who I have somehow tricked into liking me.
Many of these people came together for Evil for Julie in the spring. This was definitely Of The Good in 2014. It’s bad that Julie’s husband had that chainsaw accident but I was so heartened to see how many people came together to help the family out. Seriously, the entire ELEW is just amazing, and the writing/publishing community at large is inspiring with their generosity.
My grandfather, who will never read this because he doesn’t understand the internet/computers/etc…my grandpa turned one hundred years old in July. He still lives on his own in his own house. And he has shown so much concern for me, I can’t even tell you. Since I got sick and clearly wasn’t getting better, he called Mum daily to ask how I was and called me 1-2 times a week to check in. He still does. Granted, his memory’s not great, so he forgets everything we’ve told him, but he still phones to make sure I’m okay, and that means the world to me.
Similarly, the volunteer organizations I’m apart of–the Cat Care Initiative and Trent Hills Therapy Dogs. Both are filled with wonderful volunteers who work very hard and both surprised me this year when they were…like, worried about me. I mean, showed genuine concern. And asked my mum about my health when they saw her. Which I didn’t expect, I guess? I still find it a bit startling when some nice person is worried about me (because I automatically think “But don’t know you I’m terrible and probably deserve whatever ill has befallen me?”)
A lot of good happened for those groups this year too. CCI was able to open a new-to-you shop in the storefront below my apartment so there’s a steadier income for the group now AND a lot more kittens seem to be getting adopted. Trent Hill Therapy Dogs is also the new name of an older group that has branched out on their own just these past few months. Big changes for both, all of them good.
2014 also marked the first time in my life I could wish my brothers a Merry Christmas (and them me, except that’s different, because they had the reason of not knowing I existed). It is still a lot to wrap my brain around but it’s A Thing That Is Happening Now, a good thing at that, and hopefully one day I’ll stop making this face o.O about it.
Freelancing, as mentioned above, has been really tough some months. Especially months while I was sick. But I had crazy-patient clients who still hired me and still trusted me with their work when my hours and communication were sporadic. I also have a lot of repeat clients who come back to me project after project, which means a hell of a lot to me–I must be doing something right. I am so glad to be in a position where I can work from home and set my own hours (and boundaries) as trying to work, say, retail on top of being ill would’ve been a nightmare (though drug benefits would be nice).
I am grateful for my Fuck It Moment™. Like really, I would not trade the world for the ability to now say “Fuck It” to stuff all the time.
Not that you’ve seen the fruits of it this new philosophy if you’re outside my circle of immediate friends, but it’s changed a lot for me to just say “Fuck It” to stressors and worries. It will be interesting to see how 2015 develops now that I say Fuck It to everything all the time.
On a non-personal note…TWIN PEAKS IS COMING BACK, YOU GUYS. This is almost enough to make me believe in a deity. Because. Because TWIN PEAKS. AGENT COOPER. Twin Peaks is one of my earliest loves–it first aired when I was seven–and earliest heartbreaks when it was cancelled. This is an actual highlight of 2014 for me, I can barely even tell you. When it was announced, I was still undiagnosed and really sick, and I literally said “OH MY GOD THEY HAVE TO FIX ME. I NEED TO LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE THIS.” It gave me something to look forward to, and I will not apologize for how happy it made me, no matter how silly it seems.
And readers! Readers, my gentle readers.
You funded River. AND THEN SOME. You keep coming back to my blog. You’re patient while I’m going through stuff. You keep picking up my books.
You are few, but you are mighty. To paraphrase one of my favourite writers, I’d rather a hundred people who need to read my books than a thousand who just want to. Although, I mean, I will take money from the thousand too. I just really like the hundred. I’ll be launching a Patreon thing soon, which I’d never have dreamed of doing if not for those of you who keep asking for ways to show more support. Thank you for helping to pay my rent and keep the lights on and honoring me by spending time with my unlikable heroines and the violent things they do.
Writing means living with a lot of pretend people in my head–sometimes it gets very crowded and very loud. And very lonely because I’m so excited about these people and there are so few real people to share them with (and so few real people who also get excited about them). But you do. So I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep hoping you show up and keep reading.
Last but not least.
I love you, food. I love you oh so much. Because you taste good and you are nutritious and you make my brain and body work properly. Whether you are fresh fruit or appetizers or vegan cheese or (now unfortunately decaf) coffee or sweet, sweet nachos. Food, you complete me. Let us never fight again. Everything tastes better than skinny feels.
Now let’s have a little Alanis for the afternoon.
If you want to share some of the things that were good in 2014 for you and your loved ones, or what you’re grateful for, please do.
Have an excellent 2015, chickadees.