Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife

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Dear Staph,

Posted by Lucille on January 16, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Please go away. You're not welcome here.

       Sincerely, my tonsils.

       M came over on Friday. I had a cough and a mild sore throat, probably just a cold. He was a little under the weather too, but with the same symptoms, so I figured we had the same thing (making it safe to kiss him). After dinner we played cards with my family. At some point I swallowed, and thought, "Wait. That felt different. Sh*t, this isn't a cold." I went back to Mom's bedroom where she has the mirror that's at the right angle to the light, and sure enough, my tonsils were swollen and covered in white patches.

       This happened at six o'clock on Friday night on a three-day weekend, meaning that the doctor's office wouldn't be open again until Tuesday.

       I'm writing this on Monday. By objective analysis, I've been doing steadily worse, but it doesn't feel that way to me, I guess because my fear abated after the first day. I also have some new perspective. I can eat, and I can breathe. Talk, even. I didn't start out ten pounds underweight having just gotten back from Africa, I'm at home with my family, and I have a doctor who, when I'm able to see her, will take me seriously. One thing at a time.

       Of course, there could also be some weight to Dad's theory. He says I'm just allergic to school.

PSU, Here I Come!

Posted by Lucille on January 11, 2012 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I moved in Saturday. There was the usual chaos of waiting in 3-hour lines, discovering that someone else had picked up my ID by mistake, and running back and forth between offices trying to get all the paperwork figured out, but we finally made it up to my room.

       I love it. I got the best room in the building. It's like an apartment. There's a private bathroom, a kitchenette, and then a huge room with a view of the city skyline. My parents were a huge help in getting all my stuff set up, and some of my friends from high school stopped by to say hi.

       Most of the weekend was taken up with trying to get my ID, all my keys, my buspass, my meal plan card... and then the moment we've all been waiting for: meeting my new roommate.

       She's WONDERFUL. Now, if I got a civil roommate that didn't glare at me constantly and spread rumors about me to the rest of the floor, I was going to be overjoyed. I cannot express my current emotions. She's fantastic. Certainly by comparison to my last roommate, but also by normal standards. In the first ten minutes I spent with my roommate in Berkeley, she complained about boys and how her purse from Europe hadn't arrived yet, and then left without inviting any response from me, much less asking me about my day. My new roommate offered to help me move the furniture around and then showed me how the dining hall works. She's nice-- it always amazes me what a powerful difference things like smiling and looking at someone when they're talking can make-- easygoing about everything in the room, and just generally fun to be around. She's really busy, so she's not around very much, but when she is we spend hours talking and joking with each other.

       I got all my textbooks and found all my classes on the first try. I'll write more about them later, but so far I'm excited about all of them.

       I think this is going to be a VERY different term.

All Roads Lead to the Same Place: Day 4

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2012 at 2:30 AM Comments comments (0)

M came over, and as we were taking off our coats, he asked, "So, what have you been up to the last few days?"

"Well," I said, "This morning I went by a plumbing store and I got three water heater boxes, and I'm going to build a spaceship. I have sparkly blue paint, and bottle caps for buttons, and..." I suddenly realized I was talking like a giddy child.

He was staring at me blankly.

"I'm an adult, I swear."

He suddenly tackled me with a full body hug, lifted me off my feet and spun me in a circle. "That is the most amazing idea I've ever heard. Can I help?"

Some time later, in a sparkly cardboard contraption labeled Serendipity: "Co-captain Lucille, come up to the bridge, we've got trouble!"

"Is it Reavers?" I asked, ducking while the box shook around me.

"No, our primary buffer panel flew off! Oh god, we're going to EXPLODE!" he yelled as he swung me around to the other side of the box and jumped in after me, knocking one of the wrapping-paper-tube supports out and causing the box to fall in on top of us. We both lay there laughing until our bellies hurt as we tried to catch our breath.

My brain didn't like where my heart was going. The whole year had been chaotic, and now I was preparing to throw myself into an entirely new school, a new campus, new people, and although I was excited, I was also extremely nervous and I wanted to be able to give that process my full attention. But my heart wanted nothing more than to hold and be held. Here, with him, I felt lighter than I had in months. The last year had broken me wide open, but in the last few days I’d been able to sense those broken pieces knitting back together again, creating something both new and familiar. My brain was looking for a million ways for this to go wrong, as was its habit. It still tries to get me to shake out my shoes for spiders in the morning. And I decided I was done. Done analyzing. Done planning. I knew it was probably not the right time. But I decided to let go of the vigilance I’d acquired and let my heart take the lead.

I rolled over to face him. "Will you be my boyfriend?"

"I-- wait, what?! Yes, of course, but...WHAT?!"

I smiled, and then he grabbed me and pulled me into another hug, as much as that was possible in the midst of the cardboard rubble, and we both started laughing again.

All Roads Lead to the Same Place: Day 3

Posted by Lucille on January 1, 2012 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

In the morning I got a text, "Hey, did you need your tupperware back?"

I did. He came over that evening. We walked up to the old playground and sat for hours, telling stories and talking about our lives. We talked for so long that it got dark, and I started shaking from more than the cold. The self I was remembering in these stories felt so alien to me. I had no context for understanding some of the things I’d witnessed, and no idea how to integrate who I was now with the person I’d been a year before. Memories that I normally pushed out of my mind started resurfacing, and this time, I let them sit there, not trying to understand them, just feeling them and letting them be. Tears started sliding down my cheeks. M had taken off his jacket so we wouldn't be sitting on the grass, and we were huddled together for warmth. He held me closer but didn’t ask me to explain.

With almost a sense of curiosity, I realized that I felt safe, actually safe, for the first time in the better part of a year. I had messed up the day before and hurt him, and here he was, holding me. I was crying inexplicably, but he didn’t require me to make sense. I let out a deep breath, and felt something deep in my core relax with it, leaving me feeling lighter. I started laughing. And then I was kissing him. He kissed me back without hesitation, and it was a while before we surfaced.

"So here's us, being just friends," I laughed.

He grinned, and kissed my cheek. "I'm okay with not being your boyfriend, but this isn’t being strictly friends."

"So what does that make us, then?"

"I don't know,” he shrugged, “Unlabeled?”

"I like it," I started to say, but was interrupted by him kissing me. We were both shivering like crazy, though, so we went home pretty quickly after that.

All Roads Lead to the Same Place: Day 2

Posted by Lucille on January 1, 2012 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

M had forgotten to take the brownies we made, which were my Christmas present to him, so I told him I'd drop them off the next day. I did a lot of thinking that night, and this is what I decided. I did like him, at least potentially, to the extent that you can after having not seen each other for so long. But, it just did not seem like the right point in my life to enter a new relationship, not whatsoever. The whole year had been chaotic, and now I was preparing to throw myself into an entirely new school, a new campus, new people, and although I was excited, I was also very nervous, and I wanted to be able to give that process my full attention. It wasn't that I was opposed to such a relationship by nature, but it really wasn't the right time. I wanted to get the rest of my life in order first.

I felt terrible for kissing him before reaching that decision, but there wasn't much I could do about it, just get it over with.

When he answered the door, I could tell he knew what I was going to say.

"So, have you decided?"

"Want to go for a walk?" I explained my reasons, and they were good reasons, all of them, but I still felt terrible and hated every word I was saying. He listened stoically.

"Okay."

"I'm really sorry."

"It's okay."

And then I started crying. I had no idea why I was crying, that was not part of the plan-- but there I was. It felt like walls in my head were collapsing and coming out my eyes. M, after a brief moment of horror, just put his arms around me and held me. "Why are you crying?"

"I have no idea."

"Okay."

"I'm really, really sorry, I don't know why I'm--"

"Ssh. It's okay."

More out of embarrassment than anything else, I decided I really needed to leave.

"Hey, wait. Am I going to see you? I mean, are we going to hang out like normal friends, or is it just going to be letters?"

"I really screwed this up, and I'm sorry. I think you should be the one to decide if/when we hang out again."

"Wednesday?"

"Sure."

And then I drove away, thinking that there is no way I deserve friends like this.

All Roads Lead to the Same Place, Day 1

Posted by Lucille on January 1, 2012 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

When I left for Berkeley, a guy I'd been friends with all through high school (who I'll call M, and who gave me permission to write this) and I decided to exchange letters (yes, real, paper letters), because it was the first time we'd had our own addresses and it allowed us to be more playful than email. We sent each other doodles, drawings, and occasionally cookies... So when I came back to Portland, I invited him over. I'd been so busy with IB that I hadn't seen him much in the last two years of high school, and we'd always hung out in a group before that, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was awesome. I'd always thought of him as the skinny kid from freshman year, and later as the faceless penpal, so it was strange and delightful to meet him anew, grown up and in the flesh. We made brownies, had a pillow fight, talked about the books we'd read, and ended up laying next to each other on the couch, talking about everything that had happened in the last term.

It's a narrow couch, so that transitioned pretty easily to me lying with my head against his shoulder. I was aware that it was a semi-romantic position, but I didn't think anything of it because that wasn't the nature of our relationship. We were platonic friends and always had been. I didn't give any thought to whether I wanted to change that, either. There was a silence, so I asked him what he was thinking.

"That I really, really like you."

Oh. I hadn't expected that, and I didn't have an answer ready. While I was lying there looking confused, he leaned over and kissed me. And then-- and this is the part I can't account for-- I kissed him back. He smiled, and then I smiled, so we kissed some more, and all the while the little voice in my head was saying, "What are you doing? You can't just go around kissing people because they said they liked you, you need to decide if you like him back, if this is something you want to go through with..." But it felt wonderful, lying in his arms and kissing him, so I told the little voice to shut up.

"So, does this mean I'm your boyfriend?"

Okay, enough. Decision time. "I don't know. I mean, I feel like we're going a little fast. I know we've been writing letters, but I haven't seen you in ages, and we've both changed so much..."

"Okay." And ZOOM-- he was gone, and sitting by himself at the other end of the couch.

"Wait, what are you doing?"

"Giving you time to think."

I sat there, suddenly alone and feeling very confused. Drats, that wasn't what I wanted either.

Want me to come back?"

"...Yes."

He grinned. "Done." And, ZOOM-- he was back, holding me and brushing the hair out of my face. I realized I still hadn't made any kind of decision, but we were kissing again, and that required all of my attention. He had to be home to babysit his cousins, so a few minutes later, I took him home.

Meeting Again for the First Time

Posted by Lucille on January 1, 2012 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Sorry I haven't been blogging much since I got back to Portland. I would say that, when I'm not learning to fly on silk or running through libraries naked, there's not much going on-- but the truth is that everything in my life here fits into a longer history that makes it hard to write about in isolation. And although I could summarize, substantial parts of this story are simply not mine to share.

These first weeks back in Portland have included a process of reconnecting with old friends, meeting for the first time as our new selves, processing old memories and unanswered questions. We've laughed, argued, hugged, cried, and laughed some more. With every friend, it was different. With one, it was romantic. I don't know where any of us are going. I don't really understand where we've been. Honestly, I have more questions than I know what to do with. But there is a profound relief in connecting these stories, tying my present self to my past, and finding moments with friends where we can face the questions together.

Ignited Spirit

Posted by Lucille on January 1, 2012 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

A New Year's firewalk. I drove miles into the wilderness, through forests thick with moss, to a clearing on a hill where others were already waiting. I met, knew, and came to love a group of strangers, all led here by their own reasons to gather under the moonlight and walk the fire. We shared food and stories, piled wood and lit the bonfire, burned masks and chanted songs as the sky darkened.

       A year ago my friends and I had a New Year's party. We chased each other through the yard, watched youtube videos, and did the time warp. We asked Zach to make a toast. "Men of Gondor, of Rohan-" We all laughed and I got apple cider up my nose. This fragile moment, unknowing, before the world exploded in dust and noise and light. Before fame and loneliness, before knowledge overtook understanding, before subtle shifts started the cascade that ended reason. Before falling in love, before Africa- this word, once my calling, now the only way I can sum up everything that experience entailed. Before Berkeley. This fragile moment, a year ago today.

      It's been a year.

      The fire has burned down to embers. The elder rakes them out into a bed and we form a circle around it. "This is not a trick," she says, "These embers are between 1200 and 1500 degrees, and people can and do get seriously burned. Walking the fire is optional every step of the way."

      I'd worn a white lacy dress. We had all dressed up, like the costumes we had when we were younger, only now they fit and made us look strangely adult. These were my closest friends. These were people I had known and loved for years, grown up with. So familiar and yet- in their fitting grown up clothes- so strange. We were giddy with our new independence, the coming journeys and the ways they would change us, and the chance to act like the kids we had been just one more time. We looked at the moon through a telescope. In this fragile moment, before reality shattered and I tumbled out, through so much chaos and so much joy.

       "When you feel called, go to the edge of the fire and ask yourself if you should cross. Listen for the answer. It is the listening that changes you, the listening that matters. If you hear a no, just rejoin the circle. If you hear a yes, remember your intention, and walk across."

       I've never been very good at setting intentions. You'd think that as a writer, my intentions would be some exquisitely worded wisdom. Usually they're pretty fuzzy. With everything that's happened in the last year, what on earth will the next year bring? What do I want? My first thought is oddly practical. I want to make my life so interesting that people will want to read about it. It's silly...and yet it's not a bad way to live your life. I want to let the wind carry me and sink in my roots wherever I land. Maybe I won't land this year, not yet. Maybe I'll fly forever.

       I walk to the edge of the embers. I can feel the heat rolling up from the fire, baking my already singed face. The embers are glowing red, sparks and small tongues of flame licking up from between them. Eight feet.

       It seems like a fitting way to start the new year.

       I set my gaze on the mountains and walk forward. I can feel energy soar upward through my feet, burning in my cheeks, lifting my chest as though I could spread my wings and take flight. My feet sink into the embers with each step, slowly moving across, and the heat engulfs me. It burns in my eyes, it is inside me, filling me with a fearful certainty that like a phoenix I will burst into flame, and then-- Damp grass, and the mountain becomes clear through the smoke, and hands welcome me back into the circle. My feet are tingling and my heart is racing with euphoric energy. I walked through fire without getting burned.

I'm a Viking

Posted by Lucille on December 25, 2011 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Well. Apparently I count as a sophomore. Because I'm transferring from a semester system to a trimester system, I get point and a half for everything, plus IB credits and credit by exam... I haven't gotten all the forms in yet so I'm not sure how many credits this is, but the advisor seemed to think it was safe to count me as a sophomore. Dad keeps telling people and congratulating me, but honestly, if I'm planning to major in environmental science, minor in women's health, and do prenursing, I'm more worried about passing the credit limit than meeting the requirement. But it means I get to skip a year of the general education classes, and I get sophomore standing for registration. Cool. I certainly feel like I fit more than one semester's worth in this term.

       So far, every single time I have called an office at PSU, even during winter break, a real person has answered and given me helpful information. I went up to advising to ask some general questions, and they gave me a private advising session with someone specialized in my major. That's a lot different than the "Come back next month," I got at Berkeley. The head of the Honors College wrote me in person (I don't mean when they put your name at the top of a generalized letter, she literally wrote me a letter herself, noting specific classes I was enrolled in) to tell me I was admitted. I like not being a number.

       I got a room in a freshman dorm, on the same floor as one of my close friends from high school. There are two freshman dorms, Ondine, which has more traditional rooms, and Broadway, which has studios. I got in Broadway, so my room has a private bathroom and kitchenette, and it's a handicap room on top of it. I've been emailing my roommate and she seems pretty cool, to the extent that you can tell via email. My old roommate's first email was pages long, full of grammatical errors, and mostly concerning her interest in fashion. My new roommate's emails were well constructed and regarding her passion for early European cultures. She sounds pretty busy, but at the very least, she's polite. I think this is going to be a very different term.

       Right now I'm registered for the sophomore honors course, Intro to Statistics, Intro to Psychology, and Chorus. I might take a one unit women's studies workshop, though it's the weekend before my birthday. (Can you believe I'm going to be 19?! My last year as a teenager!) So we'll see.

Goodbye, Berkeley

Posted by Lucille on December 25, 2011 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I finished my French final, returned the last of my books at the bookstore, bade goodbye to a few friends, packed my bags, and tackled my dad as he came up the steps. I went back in to get my stuff and stood there for a minute in the doorway, with my side of the room stripped bare and the boy band posters over my roommate's desk watching me. "Goodbye, room." I never got to say goodbye to my roommate, and I don't particularly regret that. My friend's suggestion to put Nair in her shampoo was getting increasingly tempting. My favorite baby at the childcare center was sick my last day, and I am a little disappointed I didn't say goodbye to him.

       Then there was a last dinner with my bay area family, and we hit the road-- all twelve hours worth. My uncle gave me coffee, so the first few hours were especially interesting for Dad. The main adventure was when a spider bit me in the ear in our motel room. And then we pulled in to Portland, and my little brother ran out of the house and nearly knocked me over. Welcome home.


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HIPAA Disclaimer

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.