“I’m Alive!”

A week ago today, I had brain surgery. But it’s my leg that hurts. It was an intravenous procedure. They reached my brain via my groin. At the fold between my upper leg and my torso, I was pierced and, on the right side of my brain, a coil was inserted into a large aneurysm to prevent it from rupture.

Graphic with yellow background, with red rose, two green leaves and a thorny stem.

Red Rose, graphic by Estela.

My daughter said I was in surgery for 4 1/2 hours, but to me it felt like an instant.

As I was wheeled into the surgery room, a woman asked if I was OK, did I need anything. (I think it was the tech who would monitor my brain waves.) “I could use a cup of coffee,” I said.

She says, “Oh, so-and-so is going to give you coffee. You’ll get your coffee, all right.”

A radioactive substance, to light up the vessels in my brain, and injected anesthesia would be my “morning coffee.”

I was scared, and very sad. I meditated to stay in the moment, to accept my fate.

I was lucky to learn I was unlucky–an MRI inadvertently caught this. Aneurysms have no symptoms. Commonly, it takes a rupture to learn of it. Which can kill you. I’m lucky to live in a time when science and computer technology make it possible to catch them before they rupture, in a time of modern medicine when intravenous surgery is possible. I did not need my head cracked open, my skull sawed through, to access my brain.

I’m trying to remember: there were about five people besides my neurologist. I think there was a nurse in there too. Each one approached me. “I’m so-and-so. I’m the anesthesiologist.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your heart.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your brain waves.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to inject a radioactive dye so we can have a clear picture of the blood vessels in your brain.”

“I’m so-and-so. I’m the assistant physician.”

I was asked to slide from my bed onto the bed of this computerized machine. As I slid over, the brain monitor tech said, “Thank you for braiding your hair for us.”

I said, “Yeah. I thought that would make things easier.” (I had gathered my long hair into two braids.)

“Yes, it does,” the nurse said. Everyone was very nice. It didn’t feel impersonal. It was a very positive atmosphere. I had complete faith in everyone. But I was still scared and sad.

It was so science fiction: the computerized machine with a monitor where they would see my brain; the machine monitoring the rhythm of my heartbeat, brain surgery that would be an intravenous procedure. I closed my eyes. A couple tears trickled out.

“OK, I’m going to attach these to you so I can monitor your heart,” the guy says. He pasted the wires onto my body.

“I’m going to attach these to your head so I can monitor your brain waves,” the woman said, and proceeded to paste wires on my head. Then I heard the anesthesiologist say, “OK, Estela. I want you to take a deep breath.” I inhaled. “Hear it goes.” he said. “There’s no epinephrine in this.” (A nurse had told me to tell him epinephrine makes me tremble and feel panicky. I knew he wasn’t going to use it, but I told him anyway. Just to make sure.) I don’t remember exhaling. It felt like the next moment that someone was in my face, saying, “Estela. Wake up. It’s over. It went very well.”

I opened my eyes. I was so happy! I said, “It feels good to wake up. It feels good to be alive.” Then I asked, “Am I on Earth?” I was, of course, being facetious, although, I sort of thought maybe I’d double-check that. He laughed. This was my nurse who was taking me to ICU, where he’d take care of me.

“Yes,” he said. “You’re on Earth.” There was another guy, an assistant, who guided the wheeled bed from the foot. He laughed too.

My son and daughter walked into the ICU room. (My other daughter was waiting for a phone call at home, or at work, I don’t know–she doesn’t live in the Bay Area.) I said, joyfully, “I’m alive!”

“Yup,” my daughter said. “You’re alive.” She texted a friend who’d been waiting for an update. She texted back, “Tell her I’m glad she’s alive.”

I spent the night in the hospital, released around noon the next day. They told me not to bend, stoop, or squat for five days. Otherwise, I could function as normal, but warned not to over-exert or pick up anything heavy. “Can I pick up my dog,” I asked. “She’s about eight pounds. I’d really like to hug her.” I missed her so much. And she missed me. She didn’t eat the whole time I was gone. Good thing I was only gone a day and a half.

Picture of brown and black Chihuahua with her front paws up on the couch.

Isabel (aka Belly). My charming, precious little diva. I love her so much.

“Yes,” my doctor said, “You can pick up your dog. It’ll probably be good for you. But don’t pick up anything else heavier than that.” The limit is 20 pounds, but since I’m a small person, I guess, he told me to keep it under 10. I had mild headaches the first three days, but my leg still aches eight days later. Ugh. And I have to go through this again in a month, because I have another aneurysm that has to be treated. It’s rare, I’m told, to have multiple aneurysms. I’m unlucky, but lucky, and happy to be alive. Even if I’m gonna have med bills up the kazoo.

I’m so glad to be around to enjoy my little Belly. Look at that precious little face. It’s to live for.   ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣


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blue background, image of woman with three red marks on her forehead.

Ailing Estela, graphic by Estela.

I live here in this room. Alone. Metaphorical room, I mean. You, who read this, are here in the room with me, and I’m speaking to you. While you read this, we simultaneously occupy a speck of space in the universe, this vast, infinite universe. I, the physical person, am on the planet Earth. You who read this are on the planet Earth. (Presumably.) That’s all I know.

I feel as if I float in the ether. That is how the internet feels to me, like I’m floating out in space.

The first time I got online, twenty plus years ago, it scared me. I felt myself floating among stars and planets, and I could see (in my imagination) the earth below me. I felt that feeling of being up, that dizzying feeling of height. It was trippy. Surreal. It still feels a bit that way, but soaring (metaphysically) through the air doesn’t frighten me anymore. It feels like my spirit travels in space and around the world. And, really, it does. My spirit lives in these words I write. Anyone anywhere on the planet (with a computer) can read them, and her/his spirit meets my spirit. We meet in space, an intangible place. I like to imagine my words printed into a book, and future humans reading my words. I like to imagine future humans regarding the images I create, my graphics, drawings, paintings.

I am ill. I feel all right, except when I get a headache. They aren’t severe, though I’ve experienced severe headaches in the past. I must say I’m glad I’m still alive, and I hope to live much longer. On November 6, I’m having surgery. Apparently, I have three aneurysms. My neurologist has an excellent reputation, and is a very nice doctor. He explained in detail. I declined to see the images of my brain, so he asked if he could show me pictures. I said, “Yes,” of course. He drew a diagram, then showed me pictures (drawings) on his

Graphic of woman weeping. Black one third down, then gray. Blue lines for hair, green for face, blue tear drops, black line for mouth.

Sad Estela, graphic by Estela.

computer. He was gentle when he saw tears quietly run down my cheeks. I know I’m in good hands. It’s my fate of which I’m uncertain. Who knows what fate will dictate. And that’s what scares me most. I told him, “I don’t want to fear death, but there are still things I want to do, so I want to live longer.”

He said, “That’s why I do this. I want to help people live longer so they can do those things they wish to do.”

There is 3% risk, but not having this procedure increases the risk. My grandmother died of an aneurysm. My niece was saved by surgery, though she has seven, and some are inoperable. A cousin drove herself to the emergency with a severe headache, and dropped dead as soon as she arrived. Like my grandma, my cousin’s aneurysm burst. Coincidentally, the therapist I recently began meeting with, to work on my agoraphobia and anxieties, told me she has an aneurysm and she had this procedure done. “We have to live with uncertainty,” she said. “We just have to carry it.”

I’m more sad than scared, but of course I’m scared. I want to live more deliberately, now.

I have no desire to change the world. The world isn’t going to change. It’ll shift. That’s what it does. Always has. In spite of fools like Trump, Hitler, Nero, or some “old, mad, blind, despised and dying king,” (um, Shelley’s words, in case you don’t know), in spite of some sick or inept misleader (I hesitate to use the term “leader”), in spite of anyone who wants to rule the world (for better or worse), the world continues. You can look up the stats that science claims about the age of the earth and how long humans have been here, their educated guesses. I don’t know that I believe in evolution, and, no, I don’t believe in Adam and Eve either. I believe in some kind of evolution, but not that humans were once monkeys. Humans are humans, and apes are apes. That’s what I believe. (You don’t have to. I’m not asking you to.) I also don’t believe we live in a civilized world. Doesn’t seem very civil to me. People rise to power, and fall. “Civilizations” and regimes rule, and fall. Technologies change. That’s what history seems to indicate. Sometimes the earth wipes out masses, through volcanic eruptions, tsunami’s, earthquakes, etc. And humans keep on keepin’ on.

I believe the world (the universe) tends toward chaos. The Earth came to be, and from what I read, one day the sun will eat it. I read in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, that the sun will swallow the earth in something like 6 billion years. (Or was it 60? I didn’t memorize the number, but it’s a hell of a long way from today.) As Dr. Tyson says, we are made of the stuff of stars, the same stuff as the rest of the universe. We are stardust. Isn’t that awesome?

I don’t want to change the world, but I’d like to contribute to it. With art. So I do hope it has value. Artistic value. Art matters more to me than anything else. Art is the spirit of humanity.

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A Poet’s Personal Journey

Smiling, yellow sun on light blue background.

“Untitled”– graphic art by Estela.

J was a graduate student when I met her. We were in the same poetry writing class in the mid-80’s. I was an undergrad. (I was in my mid 30’s, divorced, with three children, two teens and a pre-teen.) She is a year older than I am. We were born in the same month, she on the first, I on the last day. (Perhaps that is symbolic only to me.) I just found out that her fourth book of poetry was released last April. I went to the book store to see if they had it. They didn’t; the guy ordered it for me. I’m looking forward to reading her new poems. (It’s on Amazon, but I wanted to support a local independent book shop.) I have her other three books. I’ve read them multiple times.

I also just learned that last year J was named Poet Laureate at the university where she teaches. She writes the most beautiful poetry of anyone I have ever met. Ever. She’s incredibly articulate (her undergraduate degree was in linguistics), very bright, very knowledgeable.

The last time I saw J was in 1990. I was living in Berkeley. I was a grad student attending a state university (that I hated, but it was convenient for me), while she was a post-grad in New Mexico. We went to a book convention in San Francisco. She was going to be on a panel talking about being a lesbian poet and a woman of color. (Her mother was American Indian, though her father was English.) At that time, she gave me a copy of her first book of poems. Actually, she had given me copies of some of those poems when we initially met. I still have them. It was great to see her publish her first book. I hoped one day I would too.

A year after I last saw J, I was having a nervous breakdown.  I was perimenopausal, but I didn’t know it yet. The symptoms had actually begun before my final semester as an undergrad. My doctor said I was too young (41) to be menopausal, when I asked her if that could be the issue. (The lab work showed no markers.) She was wrong. A few months after that doctor visit, I heard the term “perimenopause” on radio news. It had just been coined. Researchers had determined there is a stage women go through before actual menopause. Then they described symptoms I had. Unfortunately, I had quit my part-time job, because of how I felt, and no longer had health insurance. I couldn’t go back to see my doctor. I assumed I’d find work teaching when I got my master’s. Until then, I’d ride it out on my school loans. (It didn’t work out that way.)

Nothing was going right. I wrote a pitiful letter to J’s girlfriend. I’d met her soon after meeting J. She was divorced, with one child. We had lived in the same family student housing, but she’d been a grad student like J. She was (is) a sweet, gentle soul. She wrote back, and sent her (their) phone number. I called, blubbering, like a crazy bitch going over the edge. Which I was. J’s girlfriend was sweet and patient. J was less patient, really, but she suggested I move out there, go to New Mexico. I wanted to. Very much. But I still had one of my three children living with me. My daughter was putting herself through college and working part-time. I couldn’t leave my children, they needed to leave me. That’s how I felt about it. I couldn’t go.

That was the last time I talked with J. I felt my life and myself falling apart. I couldn’t think or concentrate. It was like being caught in the eye of a storm. I just had to hang on until it was over. I didn’t know it would take over a decade. It wreaked havoc with my life. (I didn’t write a thesis; I had to take clerical jobs; but that’s another story.) When it was over, I had to get up, dust myself off, and pick up from there.

The poetry reading and open mic last week (which I attend every month) depressed me a little. Once in a blue moon, there’s a good writer who reads. Occasionally, a writer is amusing. But it’s predominantly mediocrity, and even some downright crap. Some creative writing teachers/professors think the glut of MFA programs has created a glut of mediocrity in (creative) writing. (I hesitate to use the word “literature.”) I don’t disagree with that. Still, I wouldn’t mind having one. It’s still a master’s.

Though I do get positive feedback, I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with open mic. If it’s depressing me, it’s time for a change. I’ll probably attend next month, since there are people I like who attend. But I don’t want to open mic anymore.  I’ll have to see what’s next.

I remember telling J, “I wish I wrote like you.”

“I wish I wrote like you,” she said. This surprised me.

“You do?” I said.

“Yes. I wish I wrote like this,” she said, sweeping her hand down the page of my poem. I didn’t even feel I knew yet how to write. It was practice, getting the hang of it. Today I feel I know what I’m doing. It’s up to others if they like it or not. I do wonder what J would think. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. She went her way, and I went mine. From her poems, I gather she and her girlfriend got married. I think that’s lovely. Especially, since I remember J saying to me, “I’m not lucky in love.”

At the end of the day, life is a narrative already written. It goes the way it was always going to.

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Summer of Love 2017

Digital drawing titled "Self Portrait."

“Self Portrait”
Digital art by Estela.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love 1967.

Maybe I’ll get around to doing a Haight-Ashbury Tour before the summer’s out. Or get out there and take some pics. If I can get passed my agoraphobic panic. I want to do something in celebration of this SOL 50th anniversary. Mainly, to celebrate my life.

I was 17 in 1967, the historic year of the Summer of Love. All the hippie dippie stuff was going on here in San Francisco. (I lived in a small, innocuous town near Sacramento.) I heard about it through media–radio, tv, newspaper, magazines. But I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was in my sad, limited, world. Full of family drama, as dysfunctional families are. For me, 1967 was my Summer of Despair.

I got married in March. I turned 17 in April. My son was born in October. I didn’t officially drop out of high school, I just didn’t bother to go back for my senior year (1967-68). I didn’t want to be in this marriage. But I didn’t want to be back home in that mad house full of drama either. So, I stoically settled into my forever life (I assumed) as a housewife and mother. My son was an adorable little thing. I read Parent’s Magazine and Dr. Spock. I wanted to be a good mother.

Long story short, I couldn’t create an idyllic life. And things only got worse as the years went by. By the time I got divorced, thirteen years later, I was a psychological mess. But I got myself into college and into therapy.

Life is what it is, you are who you are. All you can do is your best. The beat goes on.

Lately, I’m focusing on my agoraphobia. I don’t know if it’s clinically agoraphobia, but I am labeling it that. I’ve never addressed it in therapy. There was too much else to deal with. But I have the space now to look at this, research, and if I have to, I’ll look for a therapist. It’s anxiety for sure, but I don’t know if it’s agoraphobia, because I’ve read that agoraphobics avoid crowds. When I have to catch a bus, or walk somewhere, I feel safer where there are more people around, not less. It’s the isolated places that scare me. In a crowded space, if I were attacked, there would at least be witnesses, if not someone to help. That’s my reasoning.

But I do have this fear of going out the door. I’ve had this “forever.” I don’t want to go out there.

The last few years, I smudge first, and I carry or wear a fetish. It doesn’t get me out the door, but it helps me feel better (stronger, more courageous) once I get out there.

The monthly poetry reading I attend is just a few blocks away, a few minutes’ walk. I am conscious of the fact that it’s an important part of my life, of who and what I am. And I really want to share my work. If I don’t do this, I cheat myself. I’ve actually been pretty good at cheating myself, a good part of my life. I’ve woken to this realization. I try to be mindful of it. It helps me get out the door.

I like this particular poetry reading. It’s been going on for 4 years, at a book store. I’ve attended for 3. (I’ve missed a few, unable to get out the door). Recently, this guy who works at the book store said he thinks this poetry reading and open mic is “the CBGB’s of poetry readings” here in San Francisco. Yeah. Sure. Cool. I’d like to think so.

Pin with peace sign and the words, "San Francisco Focus" and Summer of Love 1967-1987."

Button commemorating “Summer of Love” 20th anniversary.

At the reading, a couple weeks ago, there was a young woman who sat in front of me. We talked during the break, and she said she was visiting from Brooklyn. She said she had learned that day about the poetry reading, so she dropped in to check it out. At the open mic, I read a poem called Nemesis. When I returned to my seat, the young, Brooklyn chick (looked fresh out of college, 20-something) turned around, all excited, amazed, really, I mean, really, amazement was on her face, her brow way up, her eyes open wide, and she says, “I really liked your poem!” I said, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” And she repeated, “I really liked it!” That was a shot in the arm.

In 1967, I had no idea that twenty years later I would be a student at UC Berkeley, studying literature and taking creative writing courses. 1987 was the year Freddie Freeloader was in my life. He gave me a button he bought from a Telegraph Ave street vendor (in Berkeley). “Summer of Love 1967-1987.” I still have it. That’s actually when the Summer of Love entered my consciousness. I said, “Oh, that was in 1967!?” It was a significant year for me, but it had nothing to do with historical times. Heart shaped peace sign, outlined in green, spaces colored white, yellow, red, black on light blue background.

2017 is my Summer of Love. Sure as hell, got nothing to do with historical times. Seem to be the best of times and worst of times. The times are not tidy. Freedom is pretty much down the toilet. Paranoia abounds. But, as Blake wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and hell of heaven.” Or as (the late) Bill Cunningham said, “He who seeks beauty, will find it.”  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Death and Time

Graphic drawing of white cross, with red roses strewn, and yellow stars above on black background.

“R.I.P.” Graphic by Estela.

© 2017

Death and Time

Death loves us.
She is there.
In the shadows.  Waiting.

In our most
vulnerable moment,
she scoops us up
and carts us home,
to that place
of mystery.

She is mother.
She sets us free
for a temporary
earth walk.

We are spirits.
Our body is a vessel.

Our purpose
is to touch other spirits.
To learn and teach,
seek love, joy, satisfaction.

Life is pain, struggle, challenge.

Love and joy is our relief.
Hope, our opiate.

Time is god.
He holds all,
in life,

all knowledge,
and fate.

I wrote these words inspired by this graphic I made. The graphic was inspired by my friend’s grief over losing her mother, and the news about Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden. (Story is he committed suicide.) Man, that made me sad.

I didn’t know what I was writing. I felt my way through it. I guess it’s a poem. So, I titled it, Death and Time.

I had not wanted to post poems anymore. Magazines won’t take previously published work, and posting is publishing. But, what the hell. This one won’t go on the “submit” list.

These days I open mic only once a month, and I haven’t been asked to feature in a year.

To be “legit,” I guess, requires an MFA, MA, teaching, and/or sufficient publication. Or, maybe, a whole lot of ego to promote and sell yourself. (Like Tao Lin. I’m still not sure what to think of his work. Tai Pei felt soulless, and EEE, EEE, EEE felt childish. Yet, I still plan to read more of his work. Because he’s so popular, and I’m trying to figure out what the hell it is about him.)

I only have a BA. I’m super shy. Super insecure. But also have this self-assurance about my work. I got started “late.” (Working toward this goal.) So, here I am at this age, still trying to get there. I’m a turtle, as I’ve said before. I’m a turtle crawling through this life journey, like dump-ti-dump, Image of small turtle.dump-ti-dump. “Dai, is this the right way? Oops, wrong way. Lem’me go this way.” Dump-ti-dump, dump-ti-dump…

I attended a book release on Saturday. Someone I met years ago got a book of short stories published. He’s a beautiful writer. Teaches grade school, little kids. He’s an excellent teacher, too. A beautiful role model. I first read my poetry in public at a poetry reading series he hosted when he was a grad student. (Over 20 years ago!) He finally found a publisher. He used to get depressed about not being published. (If you care who your publisher is, it’s harder to find the right match.) He was so happy at his book release. I’m happy for him. All his friends and family are happy for him. His book release was a joyous time.

Awe, man, I’d like that too. To feel that joy. Go, Turtle, go.

♠        ♠        ♠        ♠

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Walking Shadow

Quote from Macbeth.

Image by Estela. My most favorite Shakespeare quote.

I read that in 1979 there were 79 MFA programs across the country. In 2014, (Flavorwire: “27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA”) there were 854.

I took my first creative writing class at a community college in 1980. There weren’t that many in the class. A dozen? More or less. Everyone else on campus, pretty much–students,  faculty, staff–thought us impractical, quixotic losers. I’m sure especially me. Given I was in my early 30’s, divorced, with three children, and needed to think about career and living independently. Everyone (including family) thought I should have a more realistic goal than a desire to be a poet. And they were probably right. But I couldn’t do it, cuz I’m a fucking dreamer.

Even my creative writing instructor didn’t think much about his students: a bunch of wannabes. But he liked me. I wrote a journal, because I didn’t have a clue about how to write a story or a poem (other than a rhyming ditty). We could write whatever we wished, including journals, and letters, if we couldn’t come up with an idea. So, I wrote a journal. He edited my entries, and commented more and more as I continued to turn in my writing project. He taught me so much. Including about life.

I didn’t get involved with him while he was my teacher. That came later. I don’t regret it, and I do. I regret I was vulnerable. Had I not been, that affair would never have occurred. It lasted a year before I finally said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” He looked crushed, and said, not looking at me, but straight ahead, at nothing, “Yes. I knew this day would come. Of course. It has to be this way.” He was 50. Married. I was 32. I wasn’t in love with him. I liked him because he was a poet.

The aroma of fresh brewed coffee permeated his office. He used a cone to brew his cup of Peet’s. (Peet’s was then a small store on the corner of Walnut and Vine in Berkeley. It was the only place you could purchase Peet’s. It had a rather cult clientele–“Peetniks.” I still prefer Peet’s to Starbucks.) He was six foot, had a goatee, a small mustache, wore corduroy dungarees, and a blazer with patched elbows. His blond hair, in a conservative cut, but long at the crown, was parted to one side, and he constantly swept back the hair that fell over his forehead and his eyes. His blue eyes were like two small beads. He wore small, gold, round, wire rim glasses with a thick lens, and he had a bit of a schnoz. Not handsome, but he looked to me like a beatnik. He was the first college educated man I ever knew. We talked about poetry, poets, writing, writers, and artists. And life.

At a reading a few days ago, a chick I met about three years ago, who has an MFA (as most of the readers I meet at readings), and who I hadn’t seen for a while, asked me, “Are you still writing?” I said, “Of course.” She laughed a little, and said, “Good answer.” She teaches middle school, is probably in her late thirties. Never married. (My youngest child is over 40.) She seems to like my poetry, but since I don’t teach, and I don’t have an MFA, she, and others I know like her, seem to think themselves “the real writers.” I guess they think what I do is a fucking hobby. I don’t even like what most of them write. It’s all the same boring shit. It’s rare, extremely rare, I like any work I hear from anyone with an MFA. Three, maybe four, two of whom I first met twenty to thirty years ago.

It’s my fault. I haven’t pursued publishing adamantly enough. My son goes, “You don’t go to all the readings like they do.” I told him, “Going to readings doesn’t make you a writer.” Besides, I hear most of them say, “I want my voice heard, my stories heard.” That isn’t my motivation or goal. Mine is to create art. My son called me pretentious. I said, “I don’t matter. It’s the work that matters.” He goes, “Psh.” He’s published too, in small mags; he doesn’t have an MFA; he works a corp job, but he’s also a political activist and involved in the community. He’s lived here thirty years. He’s very social. I’ve only been here ten years. I’m more reclusive. I worked on a community project once, seven years ago. I had to put up with egos and condescension. But I really wanted to be part of the project, so I didn’t argue. A couple years ago, I was asked to participate in a poetry book publication, with the same community organization. I started to, but realized it was going to be the same shit as last time. I withdrew, and even told them not to publish my poems. Sure, I want to be published, but I don’t want to be hard up about it.

Anyway, what’s on my mind right now is mostly my mother, and my health. She has dementia, I have heart issues. I see a cardiologist on Friday. I’d been putting it off, cuz, well, I’m scared.

My resentment over my mother’s narcissism has been put on a shelf. I feel badly for her. My sister said my mom got up all night and insisted she wanted to see her mom and dad. She’s 93. My sister was dragging at work, losing sleep. So, she put my mom in a care facility. I hear she gets scared and kicks her feet and refuses to let the staff approach her. She keeps telling them to call my sister’s husband to come pick her up. It breaks my heart. She told my daughter, “My mom doesn’t know where I am.” I don’t want to go there, as that little crappy town is nothing but darkness for me. I told my sister I’m getting a new phone, so maybe I can see my mom via vid call. I haven’t seen her in ten years. I’m doing this for her, not for me. “I don’t know how to use it,” my sister said. I told her, “I’ve never used it either, but I can learn.” So, hopefully my sister will cooperate, and I can “visit” my mother from a safe distance.

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Broken Heart

A Christmas cactus in bloom sitting on a window sill.2017 began on a beautiful note. I saw my beloved granddaughter Jan 2, (whom I hardly ever get to see) who is happy and excited after completing her first quarter as a freshman in college. Seeing her is the greatest joy.

Our furnace broke down on Dec. 29, so we had to use a portable heater until the issue was resolved. After a few days, checking this, checking that, it was determined that it was more economical to replace the furnace than to repair it.

I live in a flat. (In San Francisco.) This is an old house (prob built around 1900, if not earlier) converted into two units. This house survived the 1906 earthquake. (Hell, I’ll bet it once had beautiful Victorian era windows, wood framed, not these modern, vinyl framed, banal things. Bet they’re from Lowe’s.) The guy who owns this house lives

Banal modern double pane window.

Our windows look like this. Banal, double-pane windows. Ugh. Bet this house built in late 19th, early 20th century once had more interesting Victorian era windows.

upstairs. A friend of my son’s, actually.  (I live downstairs with my son. He doesn’t live with me, I live with him. I wish he’d buy his unit. I’m sure his friend would be cool with that. But that’s not my call, darn it.)

It’s the coldest winter we’ve had in a few years. Naturally, the winter our furnace gives out. Our cold weather isn’t severe, like sleet, ice, or snow. But it’s brrr cold. On the third night with no furnace, I couldn’t sleep. I wore two sets of jammies, sweatpants, my warm bathrobe, a scarf, double socks, and was wrapped in a Snuggie under my blankets. (I, personally, would never buy a Snuggie. I think they’re silly. My son won it in a raffle. They are warm and soft, I must say.) Still, my nose felt like an ice cube, and I shivered. Next day, I added leggings and a thermal shirt to my night wear. That helped some. I kept the portable heater on overnight, in the room where Isabel sleeps, because I did not want her to shiver in her crate. Her little feet felt like ice cubes. Better I shiver than she, my precious little gremlin.

Chihuahua mix looking into the camera, looking a bit worried.

Isabel, aka Belly. Chihuahua mix. My precious little gremlin.

A new furnace was installed on January 3. I’m privileged to be warm and cozy and safe.

Unfortunately, last year ended on a scary note. I guess I’ve had my heart broken so often, by love, by life, and sometimes by my own self, that it’s physically damaged now. I said to my son, “Figures, I’d have a broken heart.”

I made an appointment to see my doctor a couple days before Christmas, not feeling well. She was not in (probably vacationing in the Bahamas), but I saw an NP (nurse practitioner). She had the nurse assistant do an EKG. It registered abnormal. The NP had me take a blood test. It was negative for enzymes that would’ve been very bad news. That was a relief. She ordered a stress test, which I took on Dec. 30. Bad news. My heart is misfiring. An echo shows, whatever that means. She referred me to a cardiologist. I haven’t been yet, but that’s coming up.

I’m too afraid to look this shit up on the net. I’m taking it a step at a time. I’ll let the cardiologist give me the bad news, explain what the fuck is going on. I’m terrified and sad.

At the end of November, I learned of a writing fellowship I’d love to apply for. I was going to scramble and apply right away before the Dec. 3 deadline, but I decided to wait until the following year (this year), to give myself a chance to feel prepared. I’m a bit agoraphobic, and I have a fear of finding my way to new places, whatever that phobia is called. I’d have to commute to the University, in a different city. I hardly know much of San Francisco, after living here ten years. I only go where I need to go, that’s it. I don’t explore. Too much anxiety and fear of unfamiliar territory. It’s sad, and embarrassing. People don’t understand. My children don’t understand. “Why are you afraid?” Hell, I don’t know. Cuz I’m phobic.

I have to find my way to CalTrains (which I’ve learned is virtually around the corner), and I have to figure out how it works (I’ve never used it), and I have to find the courage to board it and travel to the University. All these things are easy peasy for the average person. For me, it’s overwhelming. Once I do it, the fear will dissipate. This, I know. The first step is the hardest.

I’ve struggled my whole life with varies phobias. Some, I’ve gotten over. Like riding escalators. Was a time I couldn’t do it. I’d ask strangers if I could hold onto their arm, if I had no choice but to use one. That was so embarrassing. They were always chivalrous and kind. I was young and cute. I guess that helped. I was 37 when I finally conquered that fear. I used to be terrified of dogs. Now, I love them. Very much.

I hope this heart problem doesn’t prevent me from applying for the fellowship. I’m so scared. I want to live many more years. There’s still much more I want to do: be published, conquer more phobias, and I’d love to teach creative writing. If I got this fellowship, it would do so much for me. I’d achieve dreams deferred.

My life’s been a rough ride. I’m still thankful, though. I learn, I grow. I think I romanticized the suffering, starving artist. Surely, that impacted my life too. I’ve had enough of that. I hold on to hope. I’m praying. I do know, what is meant to be, will be; que será, será.

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