Good Grief.

Over Christmas I lost my baby bunny, Roger. When I say lost, I mean he died. It wasn’t completely unexpected. We had been spending enough money for me to have needed to take a job just to pay for his vet bills. First, it was pneumonia. Then his teeth started growing in the wrong directions. Then he got an abscess in his jawbone that may or may not have been cancerous. As the infection spread, he got a second round of pneumonia in his already damaged lungs, and in the end he couldn’t breathe long enough to eat. Three years of at least monthly vet visits. Three years of intermittent tears as I worried about him. Would this be the last visit? Would the procedure turn out ok? We were trying to brace ourselves for one last and incredibly risky surgery on his jaw when we got the call on Christmas eve that things weren’t going well with him. That Friday, the vet said it was unlikely that he would last the weekend. We cut our trip as short as we could without offending my family and we sprinted back to PA. That Monday we said goodbye.

I had hoped that maybe since it was before the new year and since I had so much time to prepare, my grieving process would be short. My workaholic brain planned and calculated and estimated that if I journal daily and was very open with my feelings, if I exercised regularly, ate well, got enough sleep, and took time for self care I should be done grieving in a month, maybe two. If you want to know what intellectualized denial looks like, I think this is pretty much it.

I thought that two weeks of studying would have been enough to keep my mind relatively occupied. I picked up extra time at work to help pay off the final vet bills in the interim. In total, I studied about eight hours in the two days before the exam. I spent the second week of “studying” trying to drown myself in enough self-care to get myself to study, but any time I tried to really focus on work I would burst into tears and spiral back into this grief pit of despair.

The problem with self care is that you have to have the motivation, energy, and desire to do it. I’ve found that grief leaves me irritatingly incapacitated and unable to do anything that remotely resembles self care, with the exception of eating large quantities of chocolate. I find myself ecstatic to fill any gaps in my schedule with just about anything (fun or work), but then dreading it every moment until it’s over. I want to sleep, I’m exhausted, but I can’t.

There’s a Roger shaped hole in my heart. I keep trying to fill it with things, with work, with care, and it’s not helping. I’ve heard that grief tends to snowball. Every experience of loss digs up every previous experience with loss to create an avalanche of past hurts that can overwhelm you.

I’ve been told that the only real way to grieve it so sit with it. To focus on the memories, to relive the good and the bad. Set aside a specific time every day to focus on those you’ve lost, use symbolic imagery like lighting a candle. The problem is the recovery time. Experiencing grief feels like running a marathon to me, so how do I get back to work? How do I balance grief and continuing on in life?

I think the most surprising aspect of grief is how it’s linked me to others. As I mentioned before, I threw myself into my work to try and distract myself (and cover the bills). Unfortunately massage therapy left me with hours of time in silence with little protection from everything I was trying to escape. I’ve mastered the covert (and sanitary) tear wipe that is undetectable to a client. I managed to control the urge to sob and curl up in a corner, though I did spend a few breaks crying in my room in the dark. I firmly believe that if you don’t let it out, it will find it’s way out when you want it to the least.

I got distracted, the surprising part is that my grief connected me to my clients in ways I never anticipated. I find my grief resurfacing with a client unanticipated, only for my client to confess to me that they recently lost a loved one. I’ve experienced the anger of a client, the sadness of a client, but never grief. It’s opened up a whole new dimension for me and for my practice. I think that we as a society don’t have good supports for people who are grieving. We expect those left behind to put on a show and a brave face, to handle an endless flow of well meant derogatory comments and suggestions all while hosting a slough of hungry relatives and keeping things together at work. Why don’t we let our people grieve? Why do we expect anything other than wailing puddles of the human experience? Why not come around the family and let them fall apart for a while? Why don’t we take care of them?

I find myself becoming more agitated and resentful every day. I wish there was more of a road map for how to do this right. I hope that somehow my experience will translate into a better understanding of someone else’s experience, maybe I can provide an example of how to cope with my grief to my children. To show them how to take care of themselves and each other when things go wrong. Maybe my experience can help make the world a better place someday.

Until then, I still miss him. I ache for him, and I don’t know what to do. Talking to people seldom helps because few people understand how a rabbit can be meaningful to a person. I think about him often, and I don’t know where to put the pain. I don’t know how to ask to be taken care of, or even what that looks like. My goal until I figure it out is to try to keep myself from filling the void with random activities, food, or purchases. I will continue to try to keep the resentment I’m feeling out of my relationships. Finally, I’ll try to keep from hating myself for needing to grieve. I will allow myself time and space to grieve and not hold myself to the same ridiculous standards I hold when I’m well.

 

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Up All Night To Get Loki

Usually when I’m massaging someone I spend my time planning what needs to be done to allow the most relief to my client. However, every once in a while I have a client who only wants to relax and has absolutely no issues. It’s rare, but it does happen! During these rare moments, I often contemplate the most difficult questions of life. For instance, what would it be like to be the massage therapist for the Avengers?**

Come with me down the rabbit hole.

Walking into the grandiose and pristine Stark Towers, being escorted to the inner sanctum where some of Earth’s greatest heroes live and train, being surrounded by the grandeur, the technology, the power, soaking up every single detail… would be incredibly dangerous. What if I was captured and tortured? The enemy could learn some critical detail about my clients that would undermine their safety, and the safety of everyone on the planet! I would need either a secret passage into the tower or to live in the tower itself. (If you give a geek a cookie…) Tony Stark has more money than god, right? He could afford to set me up with a sweet apartment AND a sweet massage room in the tower. I mean, it’s for the safety of the team, right? That way anytime someone needed to work out the knots after beating the snot out of an arch nemesis, I would be on the scene, ready to defeat even the most stubborn fascia!

You know what? If I was the Avengers’ massage therapist, I would end up developing a really close relationship with them. It’s just the natural progression of events as an LMT. Working out tough areas often brings up emotional memories, things that need to be worked through for both emotional and physical health. I might help Bruce Banner come to terms with his alternate personality. Maybe accepting the Hulk will help him lead a more fulfilling and rewarding life? Maybe Black Widow could work through some of her childhood trauma and come to forgive and love herself? Perhaps Hawkeye could overcome some emotional distance? Captain may be encouraged to reintegrate a little, make a connection with someone again. I’m not sure I could convince him it’s appropriate to get on the table, though. Massage had a very different connotation in his time than now. Tony… well, he’ll still be a narcissist no matter how loose his rhomboids are. Thor. Just Thor. He would be a test of my ethical tenacity.

Would I massage Nick Fury? Absolutely not. The man reeks of danger, paranoia is a job requirement, and I have to imagine he would be ready to “secure” me if he suspected anything at all. Nnnnnope. He lives in a world where people have special powers, and they don’t always use those powers for the best. What if I was so good at helping folks that he suspected I was telepathic? What if I was a latent telepathic? Would I want to see into his head? (not now, not ever!) Would he try to use and manipulate me like he does the Avengers? (probably.) What if he decided to use me instead of one of the Avengers to simply read a criminal’s mind and figure out his/her plan? What about Loki?

What about Loki. What would I do if I could read minds and I was put in a room with Loki to try and figure out some critical, time sensitive information that could mean the difference between life and the total obliteration of the planet. Would you delve into the depths and risk your sanity to save the planet?

I wouldn’t. Not because I particularly value my sanity, but because it would ruin any chance at establishing trust. Here’s why I love Joss Whedon. His tales involve wonderfully rich and complex characters that really fit their back stories. ***SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven’t seen The Avengers or the original Thor movie, WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING THEM RIGHT NOW?!? FIX IT!!!*** Loki must have always known he was different as a child. He doesn’t look Asguardian, necessarily, he has powers that others don’t seem to have, and he really isn’t anything like his brother. His father is emotionally distant, and Thor seems impulsive and a little naive. As he’s growing up, he has to be surrounded by his people talking about the frost giants and how inferior they are. How they should be eradicated, they are evil. For a child who feels different, seeing that differences make you less than others to the point that genocide would be welcomed doesn’t make you want to open up. Now we have a child who feels different, and feels like he needs to hide his differences to be accepted. He feels that he has to put on a mask every day just to be loved. But can someone really love you if they don’t really know who you are? The solution here is to try and earn love, to prove that you are worthy. Loki’s best skill is his ability to plan and manipulate. Unfortunately those aren’t necessarily loveable attributes. Well, I can use my skills to seize power, and then when people see how well I do they will love me! And when my father sees that I can handle the responsibility, he will be so proud and love me as much as he loves my brother! (At this point the subconscious ideas are so ingrained it probably doesn’t feel like searching for love on his part, but the foundation is already set.) Then Loki finds out what he already deep down knew was true: he is a child from the land of Frost Giants, Oden essentially kidnapped him and raised him as a son. There it is. I am that which all my loved ones despise. I am unloveable. I am feared and hated. No one who truly gets to know me will love and accept me. My biological parents didn’t see enough value in me to rescue me, and my adopted parents are so ashamed of my very nature that not only were they unable to tell me about it, but they also did not try to save me by protecting me from the prejudice against my people. All of those years internalizing how evil frost giants are, fearing being different, only to find out that the differences he worked so hard to hide are attributed to the creatures who are considered so much less than the people he was supposed to call family.

No wonder he views humans as ants. If Loki’s only loveable attribute is his ability to seize power, then a relatively powerless group of people (like frost giants) are meant only to be subjugated and eliminated. If he can not find love in his family, and he can not trust his family with knowledge of his true nature, then how can he survive his existence without trying to devalue love? “Sentiment” becomes a weakness. It’s the root of his pain, the one thing he can’t have, so it must be expelled from his life. However, when he speaks of conquering the human race and removing free will, he says he’s doing it for the benefit of the very people he minimized before. Can you think of a people as insects and still want to do something for their happiness? He still seems to have a drive to love, to care for others, and maybe to earn their love in return.

Loki is a child who grew up in an invalidating environment where he would never be enough to earn the conditional love of his family. Could he be anyone other than he is? Is he a villain, or an anti-hero dedicated to helping others in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons?

The more I muse about Loki, the more I imagine what it must be like to grow up as a homosexual child in an overly religious, homophobic family. Can it be different? How do you find love when you are made to believe that your nature is rooted in evil? What an isolated, invalidating environment. What happens when these children finally find acceptance? How do you reconcile believing that you are a good, loveable person who can’t find love in your own family? How do you learn to let others see the real you after so many years of camouflage?

How many Lokis are in your life, and do you think you could coax them into trusting you and eventually learning how to love?

Love,

Ivy

 

 

 

**DISCLAIMER: I’ve not read the comics. [Before you judge me, I wasn't allowed to read comics as a kid and I'm a little short on funds at the moment, so I'll be a long time in catching up. If you have a particular comic to recommend, please leave it in the comments! I'm sorting my way through the various Batman comics at the moment (holy variety, batman!) and plan on starting in on Deadpool in the soon times.] All my information comes from the cartoon and the movies. You’re more than welcome to quit reading out of disgust if you like, but I am a proud geek activist. I firmly support that people are allowed to be as geeky as they want to be in any realm of geekitude that pleases them and still be counted among the plethora of individuals that make up the most unique and creative community I know. (Yes, that means us, the geeks!) Also, everyone has to start somewhere! Noobs need to be encouraged in their geekitude, not shamed! WE MUST SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS OF INDIVIDUALITY AND IMAGINATION!!!! The main point here is that my resources for these daydreams are limited, and my assessment may not hold up to comparison to the comics. I will be drawing solely from the movies and the few cartoons that I’ve been able to catch. If this infuriates you, feel free not to read further, but I would encourage you to talk about your emotional reaction to a person’s daydreaming with your psychologist. If you don’t have a psychologist, you should find one now. Everyone needs a psychologist at some point, better to know where you’re going when you need it then to have to look for one when you’re already at your worst.

 

It ain’t easy being geek

I remember my first con. It was Dragon*con in Atlanta, 2008. I remember walking down the street, looking around at all of the other happy people who were dressed in various cosplay, and I felt this sense of peace I had never experienced before. It felt like I was really home. Here I am, surrounded by people who are so much more like me than the people I know, people who love what I love and experience what I experience. I felt like I was finally in a place where I wouldn’t be judged.

 

That’s not always the case.

 

About a month before I began constructing my very first Ivy costume. It was simple and not at all accurate. I sorted through a variety of shirts and dresses and finally settled on an off the shoulder green dress with some simple high heels. I was so excited! When I arrived, I had a friend paint ivy leaves on my arms and legs, and at the last minute I made a sign saying “Poison Kisses, $1!”

Day 1 was AWESOME! The vendors were super sweet about my attempt at cosplay, and they all knew exactly who I was trying to be! I felt like I was on top of the world! Then the other Ivy’s showed up.

You would think that a love for a character, especially one that so many others harbor a sense of disdain for, would be enough of an icebreaker. I spotted a group of about 8 Ivy’s sitting together having lunch, and I could barely contain my excitement! These were my people! As I approached, it was like they were a part of some weird telepathic collective. All of their heads swiveled in my direction, matching looks of haughty derision on their faces, and I turned right around on my heel and tried my best to be invisible.

It’s contagious, that feeling of superiority. It’s easy for me, as someone who has been tinkering for 5 years on what will hopefully be a creative revamp of Ivy, to look at someone plastered in prefab leaves and wonder how they could dare contaminate my retinas with their inferiority. But how is that different from high school? How is it different from every other form of persecution I’ve suffered? I’ve been called a freak, a weakling, androgynous, a weirdo, I’ve had people tell me that I’m so flat chested they mistake me for a gay man. How can I look at someone who is so excited to be accepted, who worked to express themselves and their love for a character through cosplay, and think that they are anything less than amazing?

And then there’s this: http://www.epbot.com/2013/05/is-this-what-respect-feels-like-real.html#comment-form

We as a geek community need to come together and support and protect each other. This year at Dragon*con I’m making it my mission to seek out every single Poison Ivy cosplayer and tell her (and potentially him) that she is freaking AMAZING! It’s up to us to make sure that horrible incidences like what happened above don’t happen in our community. We’re geeks. We’re smart. We’re better than that.

Love,

Ivy

The Ethics of Being Unethical

Today I was told my job would be terminated if I didn’t sign a statement of procedures. I previously contested this particular document because some of the requirements are ludicrous. One of the listed criteria is this: “Employee must always behave appropriately on all forms of social media.”

What does that even mean?

Does it apply to alter egos?

I demanded operational definitions, and was basically told I’m to small to ask for such “minutia”.

I’ve decided that I have not acted inappropriately by cosplaying as my favorite characters in settings where such things are appropriate, so I will continue to do so until someone tries to take action against me.

What do you think? Should my private social media outlets be censored?

You can’t take the sky from me.

Ivy

If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then I need to have a talk with my therapist.

My alarm was going off. I opened my eyes blearily, just a crack. Just enough to see where to hit the snooze button. I have to go to prac today, that means I need to get my lunch together… I gazed sightlessly at my reflection in the mirror above my bed as I ran through all the things I had to do today, pushing the last fragments of my dreams. Five more minutes. I let my eyes drift shut again as I thought and planned.

Something tugged at my consciousness. There was something on the bed with me. Oh shit. Four distinct footprints. Too individual for a rabbit. Much too large for a cat. Too graceful for a dog. My Catholic training kicked in.

Our Father who art in heaven…

Keep your eyes shut so it thinks you’re still sleeping, like you haven’t noticed.

Hallowed be thy name…

It’s not fooled, and it’s getting closer. I take a deep breath and steal a glance.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

I can see the indentations in the comforter reflected in the mirror above my bed, the foot/paw prints slowly moving up my left side. SHIT.

On Earth as it is in Heaven.

I screw my eyes shut again and hold my breath, focusing all of my energy on my prayer, pleading to Jesus to save me.

GIVEUSTHISDAYOURDAILYBREAD

The thing stops moving

ANDFORGIVEUSOURTRESPASSES

There’s a slow weight on my chest, like it’s sitting on top of me

ASWEFORGIVETHOSEWHOTRESPASSAGAINSTUS

Oh God, what is it doing?

ANDLEADUSNOTINTOTEMPTATION

The fold in the comforter on my chest slowly lifts itself up and covers my face.

BUTDELIVERUSFROMEVIL HAILMARYFULLOFGRACE

Blessed Virgin, save me!

THELORDISWITHTHEEBLESSEDARTTHOUAMONGWOMEN

I use my last breath to scream out the prayers

ANDBLESSEDISTHEFRUITOFTHYWOMB, JESUS

The comforter falls away, but the pressure is still there.

HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH.

Maybe not the best phrase to end on, but the pressure on my chest is gone and I scramble out of bed. I hold out my hands and pray for my life.

GLORY BE TO THE FATHER, TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.

I can feel it, like a presence in the room that is slowly dissolving.

Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

It’s gone now. I’m at peace. In fact, I’m more at peace than I have been in a very long time. How long has that thing been here? How much of my life has it affected?

On Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.

I need to go to church. ASAP. I need to call my mother in law and ask her to pray for me. I need to call my husband and tell him I’m scared. I need holy water and blessed salt. Maybe sage? Would that make it better or worse?

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

I hear my roommate stirring outside. We only just moved in together. How much of this should I tell him? Probably none of it. Just cryptic questions. Everyone knows I’m odd, a few more religious artifacts around the house won’t hurt.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I open my bedroom door. How did my rabbits get out? I guess my roommate let them out as he was cleaning? I can hear him sweeping down the hall. “Good morning, Roger bunny!”

My adorable white Angora rabbit turned to look at me. The skin from his face has been stripped away and is hanging loosely around his neck. His jaw is swollen and distended. There are gruesome, misshapen yellow teeth protruding from the bloody flesh around his mouth.

Oh Shit.

Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women

Roger and his brother, Harvey make a break for it.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now

I run after them, praying, trying to work out what to do next but my thoughts are like sand. They head for the door, which my roommate has propped open so he can sweep the dirt out.

“DON’T LET THEM OUT!!!”

“But I thought they could go outside if they wanted?”

“NO THEY CAN NOT! QUICKLY, SHUT THE DOOR!”

I have to stop them from going outside! I have to stop it from spreading! I have to…

Now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

If wishes were fishes

Well folks, I successfully finished my first year of my doctoral program! Only 80% more of my education to go before I will be Dr. Star! The most important things I learned? I’m not the irresponsible, dramatic, failure that on some level I always believed that I was. I managed school, a job, and a long distance relationship with more grace and integrity than I thought I had in me. Self esteem boost much? This new found confidence has left me wondering what else I can accomplish? I’m so near the finish line on my weight loss/fitness goals, I have made some new and AMAZING friends, and I consistently make good progress in therapy (now we’re working on being more assertive. My therapist maintains that yankees don’t see politeness as being nice but as weakness. I’m not sure you can train the Southern out of a woman, but I think we can find a good compromise).

All of this amazing success has really been bolstering my self esteem! It’s bizarre to realize after all these years that I still have that insidious voice in my head telling me that I’m not worth it. It’s not worth trying, because I will only fail anyway. It’s a paralyzing, gripping, incredibly believable little voice that whispers behind my thoughts, and I am going to root it out.

Also, I realized that I AM my father’s daughter! My dad is a chronic workaholic and can often be found with a glass of wine and a stack of papers to grade. I’ve always made it a habit to not do much of anything because hey, if I don’t try then I can’t fail, and no one can be mad at me if I’m not failing! This last year has really tested my capacity to handle stress and a rigorous workload. I turned in my very last paper on Thursday evening at 11:45 PM. Friday morning I woke up at 6AM as usual and stared at the ceiling for a while. Suddenly I didn’t have anything hanging over my head. There’s nothing left. What do I do with all of this time? I’m no longer satisfied with staring despondently at a television or getting lost in a book. I want to DO something! So, I made some goals. Some of these are familiar but my resources were spread a little too thin to attend to them properly.

I want to be more put together. I want to be more inventive with my outfits and more consistent with my makeup.

I want to be able to do 60 pushups in a row.

I want to be able to do 5 chin ups with no support.

I want to entertain regularly. The first party I have planned is a Pinterest party. I couldn’t be more excited!

I want to finish my projects. I have a variety of outstanding projects to get on top of. The foremost being my costume for Dragon*con this year, assuming we can still go.

I want to get into a cleaning routine. Cleaning is so rewarding, but I feel like my system of cleaning as needed is flawed. I’ve seen a variety of daily/weekly checklists that should help maintain the apartment over time and with minimal effort. I think it’s worth a shot!

I’m also going to try to find ways to be more assertive and set more effective boundaries. I’m not sure how I’ll make that happen, but I’ll sure keep you posted!

Love Always,
Ivy

Anger Management

When I was little, I thought the ideal state was a Vulcan like absence of strong emotions. “I am a rock, I am an island” became my anthem. I spent so many hours convincing myself that I didn’t need to feel, and that stoicism was the most enlightened state. Emotions are weak.

In high school I dated a guy who sat very patiently with me for hours as he waited for me to try and spit out what I was feeling. I had convinced myself that I had no feelings, and talking about what was happening was just beyond me. He opened the floodgates, and suddenly I realized I was miserable.

Speed through many years of therapy and cut to today. Today in therapy I got in touch with my anger. I don’t think that’s what we meant to happen, but it did. It’s been starting to poke it’s head out here and there over the last few months, but today I was one with my emotions. And it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t wrong. I have so many years of pent up rage to work through, anger over all the hurt, the dismissiveness, the isolation. I’m done running from my feelings now. I want to be able to identify and commune with them. I want to be complete.

Wish me luck.

Love,

Ivy