The Best Life Yet

Tinwen

Active member
Absolutely amazing!
 

Petunia

Moderator
Staff member
I'm so glad you posted an update. What a year it has been! I'm so happy for you.
 

Reverie

Active member
I said maybe I'd make another update in another year, and I guess it's been a little over that. A lot has happened again!

I got accepted to my first choice of grad schools and start this coming August. It's an online program so I don't have to leave town. I'm currently finishing up my last semester of undergrad classes that I took to prepare me—four semesters in total—and I have a 4.0 in those.

I started working for a fledgling organization as a volunteer early last year, and somehow I ended up running it and turning it into a nonprofit. It's taken up a lot of my time but has been a rewarding learning experience. I am about to hand it over to the board to find someone else to run it around the time that school starts, so that I can focus on my studies.

I got two raises and a promotion at my job last year, even though I have been open with my boss about my plans for an eventual career change. I'm now making 50% more than I was making when I first moved back to L.A. at the turn of 2015-2016. (It still isn't much for this area, but it's more than I've ever made!)

Rider and I are friends again! Kind of ironically, we actually bonded over the pain in the ass of our divorce paperwork. It bounced back to us to add additional paperwork and resubmit, and we got together and figured it out and . . . harking back to the days when we could make scrubbing toilets together fun, we somehow made going to the courthouse for divorce processing fun. We are not close friends, and we haven't hung out that many times, but there have been a couple, and it's been nice. He is still dating the woman he started dating shortly after I met Dustin—Annie. He told me she's his only serious partner right now, and, sadly, she actually now has cancer that is probably terminal. I feel bad for her and bad for him and bad for her kids, especially.

Dustin and I are still together, still monogamous, still happy. We did four months of relationship counseling to work on some of our bad communication habits at one point, and it really seemed to help. It also helps me to know that we have that therapist in our back pocket if we ever need help again. It was sheer fortuitous coincidence, but we finally moved in together literally the same week that the COVID-19 stuff started to get crazy, as in, viewed the apartment on the 1st, signed the lease on the 4th to start the 10th, and they declared the pandemic on the 11th. The day after we hired our U-Haul truck, they started shutting things down.

So we went from being together for over 2.5 years while living apart and still having kinda opposite schedules that meant we often spent 3–4 nights per week apart, to suddenly being together nearly 24/7 due to my job transferring back to working from home and his gigs totally getting canceled. He still has a bit of horticultural work that he goes and does 1–2 days per week, and does the overnight there in between if it's 2 days (in fact, he's there right now and will be staying overnight). So at least he still has some small income.

I really lucked out in finding the place that I found for us. I purposefully chose a place that I could afford on just my own salary . . . just in case something went wrong between us that I couldn't have foreseen. (I guess after two failed marriages, even after almost three years together, I am still a bit gun shy.) And even though living together has actually improved our relationship, I am super thankful that I made that choice because now that his income is so much reduced, knowing that we can still survive even if it disappears entirely is a comfort. We have a one-bedroom apartment in a duplex back house above our own two-car garage. It has a small yard and a balcony, and we've made a music room by partitioning off half the garage. Having that extra space has been key to transitioning to living together, as we can spend plenty of time apart even while living together if need be. Dustin goes down there and plays guitar sometimes for hours at a time, and I really can barely even hear anything.

The other thing I made sure of when choosing this place was that the bedroom be big enough to hold both a queen bed and a crib. Our original plan when we started apartment shopping was for me to get my IUD out right after we moved and start trying for a baby. Then the pandemic hit and for a while the OBGYN offices nearby weren't seeing non-pregnant, non-emergency patients. But then they started taking appointments again, and mine is set for May 12. (Because I am a foolhardy DIY renegade, I'd also ordered a pair of ring forceps and some hospital-grade disinfectant just in case the lockdown lasted 18 months and appointments never opened back up.)

Why such an extreme rush that I'm willing to take it into my own hands and to try to get pregnant in the middle of a pandemic? Well, back last June, I got a fertility test done, and they told me that my numbers were worse than they should be even given my age, which, at 38.5 is pretty old for this sort of thing. Basically at 37 I was testing to be about equivalent to a 42-year-old. The doctor told me that every month counts in a situation like mine, but I wasn't situated yet—was still paying off debt and still wanted to do our therapy before doing something permanent like that. So I waited and got on a regimen of expensive supplements that are supposed to improve egg quality and balance hormones if taken over time. And then the world exploded.

With my May appointment and the way my cycles run, there's no chance of conceiving until June—a full year after my crappy test results. So, honestly, the baby thing might not happen at all. I can't afford fertility treatments beyond the supplements. But I'd regret it forever if I didn't at least try. I guess it's up to the universe from May 12 on—will I get pregnant? Will it be a successful pregnancy? Will I avoid contracting the virus and survive? Will the baby? Will the father? Will all the grandparents? Kind of a crappy set of dice to roll, but it is what it is.

Overall, though, I have very little to complain about in my life. I'm enough of an introvert that I really don't miss seeing other humans that much. Once in a while, but it's rare. I'm really enjoying working from home again like I did in the Florida days. I'm enjoying my online classes, too, which were already online before any of this started. I keep plenty busy and still have no idea what boredom even is. My cats are enjoying all the hooman-time for sure. The only real negative effects on me personally so far is that I don't get as much exercise (and so am gaining a bit of weight) and I hate how uncomfortable all the apocalypse gear is that I have to wear on my rare grocery shopping occasions. And, of course, all the sickness and death are very sad, so occasionally that all just hits me with a big wallop of societal sadness and empathy.

I've been kinda wondering how the whole poly-world has been dealing with the distancing, and I've done a little lurking here but not a super lot in order to get some idea of that. Rider has said that he's mostly very cuddle starved. He's roomies with Constance now, but they are not cuddle buddies or anything like that, just good friends. Annie is super distancing due to her underlying illness, and no one else he'd been casually dating is enough of a partner to quarantine with. I don't think I could have handled poly through this. Of course, I couldn't handle poly through not-this either, so . . .

Speaking of that, as Dustin and I creep up on the three year mark, and over two years of monogamy, I have absolutely zero regrets about that decision. Usually, the 2.5-year mark is where my libido starts to crash for a partner, but we are still blazing hot even past NRE. I still barely even find other people attractive at all. I've had maybe . . . two? . . . fleeting, 5-minute "what if?" thoughts about other people in all this time, less a spark than a cooling ash fluttering away on the breeze. It's kinda surprising even to me how effortless being mono has turned out to be, when I used to struggle so much with it. Maybe it really is just that I finally found someone compatible in all the ways I need.

He's amazing in bed and wonderful to live with—keeps a very tidy house, does more than his share of chores, plays with the cats so much that they are in their heaven, still calls just to hear my voice on the rare nights we spend apart (actually did while I drafted this!). Still comes up behind me to kiss my neck while I cook, still calls me into the room just for a kiss, still brings me coffee in bed. He's my perfect fit and my everything.

It's not that our relationship is 100% without conflict. We have had our disagreements and our cross-purposes and our bad habits and work to be done on both sides. But at the end of the day, we just keep wanting the same thing, this life we're building together, and we both keep showing up whole-heartedly.
 
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Petunia

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for the update, Reverie. I've missed your beautiful writing. It's nice to know your life is going so well. Good luck with the pregnancy attempt.
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
I'm glad you're doing so well! Yes, many of us are struggling to stay connected with partners during the crisis.

As a former lactation consultant and aware empowered birth advocate, something stood out to me. You said you bought some forceps. Are you planning on a homebirth?

I've had 2. Forceps are not part of a home midwife's kit. Who would pull your baby out of you, Dustin? There are many ways to increase your ability to birth a baby normally, and not need forceps.

If you really needed medical assistance to get a baby out, of course you'd call an ambulance. I assume birthing mothers will still be a priority, no matter how the disease progresses! And EMTs love to help birth babies. lol

I highly recommend hiring a doula when you get pregnant. She can help you be as prepared as you can be to birth as easily as possible. And of course, I recommend mothers breastfeed to create the normal healthy gut bacteria and immune system in their babies, and to confer their own antibodies through their milk.
 

Reverie

Active member
Hiiii everyone! :D

You said you bought some forceps. Are you planning on a homebirth?

Thanks for the concern, Mags! I love hearing from experienced professionals about things that I know little about.

I meant the forceps were to pull the IUD out myself if I couldn't get an appointment to do so. I've done a bunch of in-depth reading and apparently 80% of IUD removals are uncomplicated and can be done with a firm tug with a pair of ring forceps on the string. Lots of people have done it themselves, and there was even a program being considered for how to teach women to do it safely, though it hasn't caught on. 20% of cases are more involved, with the worst-case being that the arm of the T can actually be embedded in the uterine wall. I kinda figured that if it didn't come out super easy, I would then have a valid reason for an appointment. "Tried to remove own IUD and flubbed it" seems like something they'd see people for even if they're not otherwise taking appointments. Wise? Probably not. But I was feeling pretty desperate, and sometimes I am more brave than I am wise. But anyway, I did get the appointment now! So my, uh, apocalypse self-experimentation will be unnecessary.

As for home birth, I honestly don't know. I've considered it, but I'm not sure if my age (I'll be at least 39 even if it "takes" right away, and with my numbers it may take much longer) makes it a good idea? Also, I am not sure I'd like to be entirely unmedicated. I don't think I want the whole shebang, epidural and all, but I've heard good things about nitrous oxide and low-dose ketamine, and I already know that I respond well to those medicines from my own explorations. I have a pretty high pain tolerance for most things, but I've also had bad enough menstrual cramps to know that uterus stuff is a whole different animal than other types of pain.

I would like to hire a doula though! If I can afford one! :)
 

AlwaysGrowing

Well-known member
I have had HORRIBLE cramps my entire life. In my experience that prepares you well for birth. I received one IV shot of fentanyl towards the tail end of my almost 12 hours of active labor in the hospital. I mostly got it because I was exhausted from lack of sleep. It bought me a 20 minute nap, when I woke up I immediately started pushing.

So... looking back... a home birth would have been fine. Resting would have been easier without the frequrnt check ins and general noise that is a hospital (they do try to keep labor/delivery peaceful but there's still machines beeping and people coming and going about the business). If you know your pain tolerance, many home birth professionals are able to give you some pain relieving medications if necessary. The big 'uns aren't an option but barring an emergency you probably won't need them!

Some insurance will cover doulas, at least partially!
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
Thanks for the concern, Mags! I love hearing from experienced professionals about things that I know little about.

I meant the forceps were to pull the IUD out myself if I couldn't get an appointment to do so. I've done a bunch of in-depth reading and apparently 80% of IUD removals are uncomplicated and can be done with a firm tug with a pair of ring forceps on the string. Lots of people have done it themselves, and there was even a program being considered for how to teach women to do it safely, though it hasn't caught on. 20% of cases are more involved, with the worst-case being that the arm of the T can actually be embedded in the uterine wall. I kinda figured that if it didn't come out super easy, I would then have a valid reason for an appointment. "Tried to remove own IUD and flubbed it" seems like something they'd see people for even if they're not otherwise taking appointments. Wise? Probably not. But I was feeling pretty desperate, and sometimes I am more brave than I am wise. But anyway, I did get the appointment now! So my, uh, apocalypse self-experimentation will be unnecessary.

As for home birth, I honestly don't know. I've considered it, but I'm not sure if my age (I'll be at least 39 even if it "takes" right away, and with my numbers it may take much longer) makes it a good idea? Also, I am not sure I'd like to be entirely unmedicated. I don't think I want the whole shebang, epidural and all, but I've heard good things about nitrous oxide and low-dose ketamine, and I already know that I respond well to those medicines from my own explorations. I have a pretty high pain tolerance for most things, but I've also had bad enough menstrual cramps to know that uterus stuff is a whole different animal than other types of pain.

I would like to hire a doula though! If I can afford one! :)


Oh! I entirely misunderstood you. I had no idea what you were talking about with this IUD stuff. haha

Homebirth isn't for everyone. I just think it's wise to consider one in times of plague and other uncertain situations. I like to be self reliant and as responsible for my own health as possible.

I'm kind of a do it yourself person, so I took right to homebirth after my first stupid hospital birth. I don't trust doctors much (although they do have their uses, especially now, but in general I think OBs can be arrogant). I loved my midwives and my homebirths. It was a huge milestone and very empowering to have had them.

Being at home in your own space with minimal interruptions and red tape decreases your pain a LOT. Or it increases your ability to deal with in ways that truly help. There's nothing like being in your own bed, or a warm pool, to make birth easier and much more amazing, not to mention get breastfeeding off to a better start.

Anyway, I could talk about this all night. <gets off soapbox>
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
As for home birth, I honestly don't know. I've considered it, but I'm not sure if my age (I'll be at least 39 even if it "takes" right away, and with my numbers it may take much longer) makes it a good idea?

I know that everyone and her grandmother has a birth anecdote, but I'll offer mine. I was 39 and 41 when my kids were born and all was mundane and normal. I think the age thing has been way over dramatized to the point where we consider "geriatric pregnancy" to be a de facto high risk - and that is simply not so. Yes, particularly women will have particular issues due to age, but to sound the alarm for all women over 35 really does us all an enormous disservice. Just wanted to point out that being "older" in an of itself doesn't create a risky situation.

Also, there are many midwives that practice in hospitals. Most urban areas have midwife services that work in concert with and have access to all of the contingency equipment and personnel that an OB would have. I've had two midwife attended births in a hospital and both went beautifully well. As AlwaysGrowing says, period cramps do prepare us for labor pains. There's a lot to learn about the benefits of allowing Mother Nature to do what she does best, so I encourage you to study up on childbirth without intervention. One intervention usually begets another and another and another. Choosing a midwife over an OB does not necessarily mean having a home birth, if the thought of birthing at home is too extreme for you. I agree with Mags that OBs present a whole host of issues that are simply not necessary for most healthy women to even get near. Mose urban areas in this country offer midwife attended births in more medical settings.
 

Reverie

Active member
Thank you all for weighing in on this—that is all really helpful and optimistic information. I do tend to doing things the natural/crunchy way, and I definitely like the idea of not being at a germ-filled hospital at this point in our global health, so maybe it would work out for me. Perhaps I will keep coming back here to chat about it, even though in my case it is not poly-related anymore. :)
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
Thank you all for weighing in on this—that is all really helpful and optimistic information. I do tend to doing things the natural/crunchy way, and I definitely like the idea of not being at a germ-filled hospital at this point in our global health, so maybe it would work out for me. Perhaps I will keep coming back here to chat about it, even though in my case it is not poly-related anymore. :)

You'd just have to think that being home to birth, with your partner and a midwife and her assistant to help, would put you at less risk for Covid than being in a huge hospital with thousands of people in it.

I'm sure there are forums where pregnant women are talking about all this. I used to post a lot on mothering.com, which is a big site devoted to natural parenting. It's still there. I just checked.
 

JaneQSmythe

Active member
Thank you all for weighing in on this—that is all really helpful and optimistic information. I do tend to doing things the natural/crunchy way, and I definitely like the idea of not being at a germ-filled hospital at this point in our global health, so maybe it would work out for me. Perhaps I will keep coming back here to chat about it, even though in my case it is not poly-related anymore. :)

You'd just have to think that being home to birth, with your partner and a midwife and her assistant to help, would put you at less risk for Covid than being in a huge hospital with thousands of people in it.

I'm sure there are forums where pregnant women are talking about all this. I used to post a lot on mothering.com, which is a big site devoted to natural parenting. It's still there. I just checked.

Re: AMA (Advanced Maternal Age - which is defined as a woman who will deliver at age 35 or greater)

These pregnancies, statistically, are considered "higher risk" - but this is based on statistics that don't necessarily apply to an individual person - just to the demographic as a whole. So, for instance, women over 35 are more likely to have other underlying medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) that put them at higher risk - but a young woman with medical problems would be higher risk, in this regard, than a more mature woman without them. Women over 35 are more likely to have trouble conceiving and require "assisted" fertility treatments - which can carry their own risks - but a younger woman who requires fertility interventions may be at higher risk than an older woman who doesn't.

The risk of certain genetic disorders, like trisomy-21 (Downs Syndrome), is higher in older woman, mainly because their eggs have been around longer to collect potential damage over the years (not because of anything the woman has done - just normal exposures to natural radiation that everyone is exposed to.) That being said, an individual pregnancy is either affected or not. Young women occasionally have babies with aneuploidy syndromes, and most pregnancies in older woman are NOT affected (these can be tested for in early pregnancy if desired).

Re: home birth and COVID-19

There are a lot of risks and benefits to different scenarios to be considered - and there is a lot of space between a.) home birth with lay midwife and b.) obstetrical delivery with all the interventions and a hospital with thousands of patients! For instance, nurse midwife at a birthing center (if you are more urban) or family doctor at a community hospital (if you are more rural).

At our hospital we are taking many precautions re: COVID-19 even though our numbers have been, thankfully, low. For instance: Nurses and doctors on the OB/Nursery floor do not work in other areas of the hospital. Laboring patients are allowed only one support person who must be symptom free and must stay with the patient and cannot come and go off of the floor (NO visitors are allowed in any other part of the hospital). Patients with scheduled c-sections or inductions are COVID-19 tested 3 days prior to admission. EVERYONE wears masks and appropriate PPE. Etc.

In my (admittedly biased) opinion, an environment where risk is actively controlled - where interventions are available if needed, seems preferable to risking needing an intervention and having to go through EMS/ER exposures to get a patient to where they need to be under sub-optimal conditions.

Sorry for the essay, like Mags this a topic that I can discuss indefinitely! Hopefully, you will conceive quickly and naturally, have an uneventful pregnancy, and deliver without incident in a world that has figured out this whole coronavirus thing!:D
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
I'm glad to hear how laboring mothers are (mostly) isolated from Covid risk. Of course, med staff and the mother's one birth assistant could have Covid even if they were recently tested. A test is only good for one day. Many women today want their partner, their mother and their doula in their room. They can have that at home.

I'm going to respectfully offer another perspective on the safety of hospital birth.

Risks are often prevented prenatally in homebirth. There is more focus on nutrition, hydration, empowerment, hugs not drugs. No midwife worth her salt will take on a high risk patient, and will make sure those mothers are referred to OBs who can do surgery with a NICU nearby. In my extensive experience, prenatal care is superior with a good lay midwife than with OBs. And risks during the actual birthing time are actively managed. I wouldn't say controlled. The mother controls her birth and makes the choices right for her own comfort, ease and safety.

Midwives can do "interventions," they can give oxygen, do episiotomies, etc. They can offer birthing tubs for the relaxation needed to dilate and push and not need drugs, surgery or forceps. However, interventions are seldom needed. At least 95% of births go perfectly, and babies are delivered vaginally. In hospitals, a large percentage are c-sections brought on by the medical protocols and hospital schedules, and to cover dr's asses as per risk perception, to prevent lawsuits.

A birthing center is a compromise some mothers choose. Personally I wanted my own home, with my bed, my linens, my own bathroom, smells, sights and sounds, food, etc., etc. Women throughout history have chosen a familiar comfortable place to birth. I wanted my own husband and mother, and my other children there. I didn't want to go to a "hotel" when my house was perfect. I didn't want random people walking in and out and near my comfortable space, with strange voices, smells and germs. I know adrenaline robs one of oxytocin in hospital.

I hear you about emergency medical staff and transport, but the likelihood of needing that is very low. 5%. The likelihood of a c-section in a hospital is 25-50%. The choice seems clear about "risk."
 

Inyoendo

New member
Oh! I entirely misunderstood you. I had no idea what you were talking about with this IUD stuff. haha

Homebirth isn't for everyone. I just think it's wise to consider one in times of plague and other uncertain situations. I like to be self reliant and as responsible for my own health as possible.

I'm kind of a do it yourself person, so I took right to homebirth after my first stupid hospital birth. I don't trust doctors much (although they do have their uses, especially now, but in general I think OBs can be arrogant). I loved my midwives and my homebirths. It was a huge milestone and very empowering to have had them.

Being at home in your own space with minimal interruptions and red tape decreases your pain a LOT. Or it increases your ability to deal with in ways that truly help. There's nothing like being in your own bed, or a warm pool, to make birth easier and much more amazing, not to mention get breastfeeding off to a better start.

Anyway, I could talk about this all night. <gets off soapbox>

I'm the same way, after two easy hospital births i decide to have my last three at home. I was 39 when #5 was born.

Regarding the IUD removal it is very easy. If your partner has longer fingers than you he can put the string between his index and middle finger and gently pull it out by the string. I removed my own that way but i have very long fingers, i experienced no discomfort.

Regarding fertility i was close to 38 when i got pg with my last one and hadn't had regular cycles in a few years. I took 18 grams of myoinositol a day (i buy powder form from jet or Amazon) amd got pg a couple months later. They sell this stuff called pregnitude and myoinositol is the active ingredient but buying myo-inositol is way more economical
 

Reverie

Active member
Hello! Checking in for my yearly update. Things are a bit crazy here. I'm finishing my second semester of grad school, which has been a lot, but so far not more than I can handle. I'm doing part-time, so I still have two years left after this.

Dustin and I just went through our second miscarriage. I'm 39 at this point and he's 44, so I guess it's not super surprising that we're having a tough time, but it does suck. I'm supposed to get a workup from the doc soon to see if there's anything wrong with me that's a reason why my body can't sustain a pregnancy, or if it's just shit luck-of-the-draw with chromosomes at my age. Other than the trouble we're having making babies, though, we're doing really well. About to click over into year four and I'm still madly in love with him—no sign at all of the "curse" that used to befall me at the ~3-year mark and make me fall out of love. Even just holding his hand is bliss.

I think that, for the first time ever, I'm really learning the meaning of old relationship energy. I think that, before, in my younger years, when I cheated or poly'd or got crushes and broke up with people to pursue them, the fire of the NRE in the new thing completely overshadowed this delicious subtle ebb and flow of established love to the point where it was imperceptible. Now, with that established love being the only thing in my field of vision, it's very evident. And it's the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. I love every curl of his hair and rough inch of his hands and crinkle of his crow's feet and twinkle of his eye.

We've been living together for just over a year now and it's the best time I've ever had living with anyone. He's helpful and tidy; I'm really busy all the time with work and school, so he does like 99% of the house chores, all the laundry, entertains the cats, etc. We grow plants together and sometimes play music when I have time (I'm learning Maya flute and frame drum), and cook from scratch and cuddle. We almost never fight, though when we do, it's usually throwing down over some ideological differences because he's still a little old-fashioned in some ways that my punk-rock feminist self rails against. He's evolved a lot in that regard, though, so instead of fighting about that stuff once a month, it's more like 2 or 3 times a year.

I've evolved a lot too. I have a kickass therapist who has been helping me work through my shit as it comes up. I've learned Big Things about self-care and letting go of control and the inside of my mind, and then forgotten them and then learned them again. As it goes. With ongoing mindful experimentation, I've managed to rework a healthy relationship with alcohol—something I didn't ever think would be possible when I quit, but it is. I don't drink much or super frequently, and on a limited time schedule due to trying to conceive, but it is nice to have the occasional glass of wine and even the rare girly gigglefest with Oona where we have perhaps one too many but then cut it off and sober up. It's no longer a crutch nor self-medication; it's just another shade in the rainbow of human experience. I've started apprenticing in the most meaningful work, helping people, and I've realized that the process of helping others actually helps me too.

This may come as a shock to those of you who have read along with my sexual adventures, but I also truly found my clitoris for the first time! What I thought was my clitoris was actually all hood—I have an extra long hood, and had never realized it pulled back because I had undiagnosed clitoral phimosis, which I cured myself of by breaking the adhesions up. And then I could finally see the little bean in there that I could always feel. I feel let down by sex ed and parents and every gyno I've ever had that this was never made clear to me. Maybe no one else knows either? I honestly don't think I would have ever realized it without experiencing some keratin pearls and falling down a research rabbit hole that led me to this chart. That chart should appear in every 5th grade school sex ed class in the world. I'm basically identical to the top left under CI-6, and it's hiding way up in there like a little red rocket. Anywayyyy, haha, I felt really dumb and it's embarrassing to talk about, but I'm trying to let the world know about the chart in case there's anyone else similarly uninformed.

Our finances keep improving. The only debt I have left is some federal student loans on IBR (including the new ones I'm adding from school) and we've managed to save about half of a down payment on a house, though that may change if we decide to divert it toward assistive reproductive technology, which I didn't think last year that we'd be able to afford, but now it's looking like we could if we need to. We're really hoping the third time will be the charm. Once we get the baby and the down payment squared away, we're moving back east to be near family and to be able to afford a decent-sized chunk of land so we can grow a great many plants.

Rider is moving to Portland! I actually helped him find the apartment he's moving to because I am a long-distance-move ninja. Annie, the woman he started dating shortly after I took up with Dustin, did not survive her cancer, but there are two women up in Portland who used to live here that he's been dating, and the apartment I found him is equidistant between the two! Sam moved there recently too, so they will be having a reunion. They have promised to do a Zoom concert for me when he gets there. Rider came to visit the cats one last time a couple of weeks ago, and I'm going to go see the bunny next week, I think. We sat outside and chatted for a long while. It's good to be friends. I enjoy hanging out with him, though I must say that it also reinforces to me that it's good that we're no longer together—we fit for a time, and then we didn't anymore. I love him so much as a person, and I will miss him, but he promises to visit L.A. pretty often.

Oona and Toby bought a house together in the fall, then broke up about a month ago. So they are currently in that awkward exes-as-roommates stage.

My cousin who was like a brother to me when I was growing up died of a drug overdose this week. To process it, I wrote this little poem/essay that I titled "Survivor's Guilt." It's not perfectly polished or in its final form, but I figured I'd drop it here anyway. I don't write nearly enough anymore, because it's hard for me to write creatively unless I'm unhappy. I'm not unhappy much anymore. See y'all next year. 💗

I saved myself. As a traumatized, whip-smart, indescribably naive 17 year old, I fled my home as fast as my wits could carry me, as far as I could imaginably go: the opposite coast, the edge of the ocean, from one edge of the continent to the other.

I didn’t even “know” that where I was and what I had been through was bad, not yet, not really, but I somehow intuited it. As I’ve learned how bad it was, over time, it’s made me feel sick in the way that healing sometimes hurts worse than the original wound.

So many of the people I’ve left behind are dead. The cascade of death started about two years before I left, and it goes on. And on.

They die of alcoholism, of drug addiction, of rage, of depression, of murder, of despair. Once in a while, they die of old age or a natural condition. But mostly, it’s circumstantial. It kills them. And they never left, either because they couldn’t or because they didn’t sense it the same way that I did or because they did sense it and weren’t lucky enough to be born with my particular combination of traits that rolled my dice and escaped me.

They were my friends, my relatives, my guardians, my companions, my people. They deserved better, to a one, but they could not get it for themselves, and I could not give it to them. I could barely save myself, and that, by the skin of my teeth, without even realizing I was doing it.
I went away, and when I was far enough to see clearly, I stripped myself down to the bones: learning what hurts and why, picking out the tangled knots in my innards and making space for sanity to flourish. When I rebuilt, it was cleaner, stronger, safer, and with the kind of care and purpose that one uses when they want something to last.

And then I began to armor myself, to pick up weapons and skills, to become a warrior in the service of life. I am still clumsy with my sword. I am still learning. But with these things that I learn, I plan to return. People there need help. Who better than I?

But I’m terrified. When I return, will it warp me? Will it boil me alive, cook me within this armor? Will it warp my children, who may have learned at my knee, but it is only one knee among millions of knees, all pulling down, down, down, to the place that I escaped. Can I be there, in the physical place, without being THERE, the existential place?

And what right do I have, really, to be the one who can, who has, survived?
 
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