Yep, that's me, hanging upside down. All the blood rushing to my head, seeing the world from a different perspective. Daring anyone to tell me I am wrong for wanting to experience something different.
Living with MS is a far cry from every little girl's dream, but it is allowing me to see a different side to life. And it forces me out of my comfort zone. Mainly because everyday is outside said comfort zone.
I no longer wilt at the prospect of taking control of my day. I ask strangers for directions and I go out of my way to find answers. I mean...I write a blog that only millions of prospective viewers possibly see. I am pouring my life out to people whom I may never meet.
I talked about basket lists last week. Well, without even trying, my basket is filling up. Just this month this has happened (in no particular order):
*I won my first ever, paid writing competition. FIRST PLACE! For the first 5,000 words of my soon-to-be-published young adult novel Bombs Bursting in Air, I received top prize at the West Virginia Writers Conference. Here is a sneak peak. All comments are welcome.
BOMBS BURSTING IN AIR
CHAPTER ONE: Theater Pee
If one more bomb sounds, I thought, my bladder is going to burst.
“Dad!” Even in my stage whisper, I heard my voice carry throughout the cinema. Dad was engrossed in the action on the screen and obviously mistook my plea as part of the movie script. “Dad, I have to go!”
“Shh!” The hisses from the seats behind us sounded more annoyed than angry, but I still felt guilty. No one liked to waste good money on their entertainment to be interrupted by someone who couldn’t keep their mouth shut and their bladder under control during a public movie.
“You cannot mean it, Meri! You’ll miss the best part. Let me check Theatre Pee. Can you hold it for a second or two?” Dad quickly tuned into his new phone app that was supposed to advise movie viewers of the appropriate time to leave the viewing area. Mom and I liked to tease him about his obsession with his smart phone but he was probably very excited to try out this new function.
“I can’t wait, Dad. Just let me know what I missed.”
“Next time don’t down an entire 18 ounce Pepsi before the opening credits are over,” Dad’s admonishing words were accompanied with a chorus of annoyed shushes and disgruntled noises as I climbed over the viewers in an attempt to quietly reach the theatre aisle.
Another loud cinematic explosion made me nearly leap over the last person in the row. I sincerely began to doubt if I would make it to the restroom in time to save myself another reason for embarrassment. I silently asked myself one more time why I had agreed to come to the matinee with Dad today instead of hanging out at the mall with my friends. Since his retirement from the military, he had become even more obsessed with war movies and the need to share these with his family. After three tours in the Middle East, you would think he had enough of war.
I like hanging out with Dad, but we were going to have to have a conversation about his choice of appropriate entertainment for his teenage daughter. Mom always got out of these outings on the premise of staying home with my baby brother. Since I was their prime babysitter, she knew what my options were. I liked being the big sister, don’t get me wrong. Baby Andy is cute, cute, and cute; diaper duty is a BIG drawback, though. Besides, the alternative would have been to watch Holly and Janie try on countless dresses for the upcoming spring dance for which I had no date and was not planning to go.
“I am absolutely pathetic. My life is pathetic. My Saturday is pathetic. My dad’s movie choices are pathetic. My social life is pathetic.”
“Yea, so join the club.”
I had no idea my muttering was actually audible until the voice from the neighboring bathroom stall interrupted my barrage of personal putdowns. I just couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut today.
“Oops. Sorry. I didn’t know there was anyone else in here. I hope you’re not missing an important scene in your movie.”
There was a semi-amused grunt and the sudden flush of the toilet before an answer came.
“As if. If I ever agree to come with my sister to another one of these sappy chick flicks…Well, there is no appropriate punishment. Guess I’ll just have to invent some ridiculous seven thousand page research paper due in, like, twelve hours when she begs me to come along the next time. I mean, really. We’re in college. Does she really think I want to tag along while she mourns the loss of her last douche bag boyfriend by commiserating in the screen presence likes of the most beautiful actresses Hollywood has to offer? I don’t see how this helps the situation at all.”
I did my own flushing and nearly sighed out loud with physical relief. I did have to congratulate myself on the brilliant idea to consume my entire soft drink so early in the film. This was the second time this month that I had escaped probably the goriest scenes in dad’s marathon of blood and guts.
When I exited the stall to wash up, I was surprised that my secret cohort was still in the room. And, she was smoking a cigarette. Or at least waving a lit cigarette in the air close to the smoke detector. Which obviously was not working.
“I really don’t think that’s allowed in here,” I did my best not to sound judgmental as I lathered my hands with the astringent disinfectant hand soap.
My eyes met those of the smoker in the mirror just as she tossed the cigarette under the stream of water I intended to rinse.
The girl was about the same age as me, but infinitely more worldly. Her eyes were ringed like a raccoon with the blackest eye liner and her hair was a teased, ratty mass of died black curls. She reminded me of the Wildling character in that HBO series I wasn’t supposed to watch. Of course she is smoking in a public place, I thought. That’s what her type does.
Raccoon eyes met my gaze in the mirror, causing me to immediately panic that I had spoken once again out loud. Those thoughts were actually more a reflection of Holly’s influence and Janie’s attempt to attract the popular crowd than what I really believed; but I also realized shamefully my attitude toward the Goth, EMO, and basically socially inept school crowd was dangerously close to matching my friend’s opinion.
I understood the need for social acceptance, but silently was indifferent to appease my gal pals. Life could get a little boring around our small town without the company of a friend or two, so it was my custom to not rock the proverbial boat.
“Well, at least your movie will probably end happily ever after with little to no bloodshed or climate destruction,” I checked my teeth in the mirror for popcorn husks and wondered what else I could do to keep away from the big screen.
“Yea, but at least that is reality. I guess you’re telling me that you’re in the exploding film in Cinema Three? We’re right beside you. Daphne, that’s my sister, checked her phone to make sure my potty break didn’t coincide with any good love scenes.”
I had to laugh at that. Evidently the new phone app was a popular item with film goers.
“So, you know that anything you miss will be on instant replay for your viewing pleasure as soon as you leave the theater.”
“Yes, but as my sister likes to say, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”
“I think that was Natchez,” I hoped I didn’t sound as superior as that knowledge made me feel.
“That’s who Daphne thinks she is,” came her reply and our grins met one another in the reflection.
We joined in a conspiratory giggle as we both reached into our individual pants pockets for identical tubes of Burt’s Bees lip gloss.
Tipping our separate glosses in an air salute, we leaned toward the mirror to apply champagne tint to our lips. I had to marvel at the opposite effect of the pale pink lip color. It made me look even younger, but with her wild dyed hair and dramatic eye make-up, she just looked more “out there.”
“I’m Americka, by the way. Meri, for short,” I said as I rubbed my lips together to even out the thickness of the lip application.
“I bet you have quite the story behind that name. Fiona, here. Nice to meet you, Americka. Why do I feel like I’m about to break out into an old folk song?”
And without prompting, I belted out the first verse of America the Beautiful in perfect pitch. Because that’s what I do. I sing.
Fiona sat in stunned silence for less than a second before bursting out into laughter.
“That’s perfect, Americka. You and that song are as one. Americka, freakin’, beautiful!”
I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. SO HARD. This would be classified as what Holly called the Stupid Giggles. The perfect stress release, senseless and uncontrollable. But it was nothing compared to what came from Fiona. The tears running down her face turned to black rivers of eye liner as she gulped for air and we nearly fell over one another to sit on the grimy floor and lean against the cold tile of the restroom wall.
“D-do you think that pee-pee app says anything about a laugh break?” I wanted to say something back to Fiona, but when I opened my mouth only a giant hiccup erupted, causing another round of insane laughter.
I don’t know how long we squirmed around on that filthy floor, bound together in this shared mirth, neither of us too concerned about movie companions. I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard.
Little did I know this would be the last chance I had to laugh in a long, long time.
We did our best to gain control of ourselves, dry our eyes, reapply the champagne lip goo, and put on our game faces. I checked my watch to affirm that Dad’s current war would conclude in less than ten minutes and my arrival would perfectly coincide with the closing credits. Fiona and I shared one last grin and pushed open the heavy restroom door. This hadn’t been such a bad day after all.
Until we heard the explosions.
And the screaming.
And realized our lives were about to change.
Point being, I never imagined that I would be living my dream of being a professional writer. So, this wan't an immediate basket list accomplishment, but it is something I have worked toward all my life. I full-filled a dream.
* My son (I am mother! That is definitely an honor I really never thought about when I was younger.) is away for the third year at a summer camp for gifted individuals. My home-body boy looks forward to this activity all year. He is surrounded by "his people". They all think alike and I really believe he learns more in these two weeks than he does during the school year. Currently fifteen years old, he knows more about mathematics, music, world affairs, and technology than I will ever attempt to grasp.
How does this fit my basket list? I have and will continue to sacrifice my shoe fetish to make this financially possible.
* I really stepped out side my comfort zone last evening and attended my first ever writer's group meeting. I am not at all comfortable in social settings nor surrounded by strangers. Granted I met a fellow author there with whom I share conversation and I kept quiet in the corner, cowering with intimidation, but I attended. And I felt welcome. And I will probably return next month.
* Today I am calling my insurance company. Again. If you truly know me, you are aware of the fact that I really, really detest phones. I do not like talking on the phone. I really, really hate answering the phone. But my desire...no, NEED...to reclaim my Ampyra prescription has become an obsession. That two week free trial in April convinced me that I really do need drug to combat some ill effects of MS. While taking Ampyra, I could WALK. Without a cane. I could lift my right leg into the car without helping it with my hands. Steps were becoming fun. I actually envisioned myself attending WVU games with my husband again.
Ampyra gave me hope. I'll be damned if government issue is going to take that away from me.
So, watch out, PEIA! Here I come!
This is the new me. This is the monster that the MonSter created. No Fear!
Yep, I am that little ballerina on the end. Rebellious and eager to continue my cause, whether I chose to hang upside down or not.
Find your cause. Go for it.
Fill that basket.
We only get one chance.