Not Normal

Vermont Gas Company came to inspect our furnace. The furnace looks great and is running well, but the gas guy noticed that we did not have a chimney liner. Like a normal home owner, I asked how much it would cost and he replied, “around $3,000.” Then I stopped acting like a normal home owner. I swore and was extremely sarcastic (weird, I know). I didn’t name call or anything, I don’t do that. I just made statements to make him feel bad like, “well at least when I die because I can’t pay for my breast cancer treatments for the next 3 months, I’ll be happy knowing my children didn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning!” I am not normal. It was a smashing ottomans type of moment.

I lost my cool. Big time.

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Let me back up and tell you how I arrived at this moment.

First, Trump’s inauguration. I have tried really hard not to talk politics on this blog, but it just infiltrates everything I think about right now. The current political landscape is creating intense chaos and I find myself frantically signing petitions, joining in the resistance and grasping at straws to understand why anyone would support a man who is so openly racist and xenophobic. I just don’t get it. On a personal note, I feel worried about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act because if my husband, Jim, for whatever reason needed to find a new job, my cancer treatment would not be covered by his new insurance because it would be considered a pre-existing condition. How fucked is that, you guys? Let that sink in for a minute. This is not normal. My husband is tied to a job (that he thankfully loves) in order to get me cancer medication and treatment. Not to mention, I feel fairly confident that the price of my daily, required-to-live medications will increase, so I just pray that the pharmaceutical companies can show some sympathy.

Next, we are trying to sell our house because we have a contract on another, larger home around the corner. We will remain in our idyllic village and the owners of the house we are moving to are being extremely accommodating and kind. I feel like we were meant to live in that house. It’s easy to imagine my family, settling in and making memories. I can smell it. It’s nearly tangible. However, we have no buyers for our house. I really thought we would have no problem selling. I thought our house would fly off the market. We have had tons of interest, but no offers. Realtors tell me it’s a great property and listed at the right price. So what’s the problem?

This is discouraging.

I’m confused about why the new house feels like destiny and yet our old house stubbornly remains in our possession. I continually try to understand the meaning of this and search for what “life’s lesson” is being taught. I have spent the last year manifesting positivity and realizing that you can do anything you set your heart to and yet, here I sit, in my same old house, with no contract, and not nostalgically reminiscing on the joyful moments my family and I spent here. I am mad, and quite ready to GTFOH.

Additionally, real estate is the most passive aggressive profession on earth. I mean, how do you even know what agents mean when they say things like, “I’m not trying to get your listing, but I don’t know why your house hasn’t sold”? Or when they send you “free advice” about selling your For Sale by Owner property? That is not normal. I’m a truth-teller. I cannot exist here in this land of real estate doubletalk. For now, we have a safety plan where another amazing family from our community who is also searching for their forever home will rent our new house until we sell. #richmondvtisthebest

On top of this, I have this knee/hip/joint injury thing going on and I’m trying to fix that and get back into shape. I know, how cliche for the beginning of the year. It’s basic. It’s normal. Me and everyone else, right? But seriously, remember back when I had that erythema nodosum thing in my leg and my leg swelled up? I think I have some residual effects from that. One nurse practitioner said I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, which means, in a nutshell, that my knee hurts. Seriously? I paid for this diagnosis. Why did I even bother going to the doctor? It’s on the mend, but annoying and a reminder that my body has an expiration date.

And if that reminder wasn’t enough, I saw the breast guru this week. I have been feeling bothered by my left breast. It feels heavy and sometimes gets a little swollen. I knew I had an upcoming appointment with the breast guru, so I thought I would wait and see what she had to say. Here’s a lot of information about my breast (so skip this part if you don’t want to talk about my boobs): I have inverted nipples and now there is a huge dimple next to my inverted nipple.  I think the dimple had just been encased in the inverted nipple before and now it’s independent. But it’s weird and different and the breast guru thought so too.

Side note: when you are doing your monthly self breast examinations, be aware that there are multiple abnormalities that could be visible. My favorite guide is this lemon one. If you need reminders, I suggest you follow @feelitonthefirst on instagram.

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Photo Credit: http://cdn.vogue.com.au/media/file_uploads/1/6/6/0/16609-1.png

This new breast development could be a few things. It could be what just what I think it is; a change in the tumor that does not signify progression of the disease. It could be additional fluid in my breast caused by the inability of my lymphatic system to drain based on the fact that I have multiple healed lymph nodes that created scar tissue and thus, blockage. The breast guru has made an appointment for me to see a doctor at the Breast Cancer Clinic at UVM Medical Center to assess if this is the case. If it is, she refers me to a physical therapist who specializes in lymph drainage. It also could be new growth on the tumor in my left breast, so I will be having another mammogram in the coming weeks to determine if there is new growth to be considering and then we’ll make plans from there.

With all of this going on, you can imagine how the off-handed remarks of an unsuspecting Vermont Gas Technician informing me that I would have to come up with an unexpected $3,000 in the next 30-60 days might tip the scales to the point of spiraling out of control. $3,000 may not seem like a big deal to some, but to a special educator and a part-time social worker trying to start a new business, move, and manage the costs of cancer, it’s a lot.

I mean, I handled it.

After quietly apologizing to the gas guy, I spent the next hour of my life sobbing uncontrollably in the shower until the hot water ran out. I cried for the refugees and for women and for the GLBTQ population and for people of color who are being terrorized by our own government. I cried for our children and their education and because my 5 year old thinks we need guns in school to protect us from fucking grizzly bears. Hot tears ran down my cheeks because I’m worried that the signs from the universe telling me not to buy this house are because we can’t afford it because I am sick and the cost of being sick is that you can’t have nice things. I wept because I might have to tell my children that things are bad again and I’m worried about the impact of that on their spirits.

The day I had my doctor’s appointment with the breast guru, I was unflappable. I’m fine, I told my mom. She knows how I work, so she didn’t push and she won’t be surprised to read this. I texted my friends and family. “I’m okay,” I said. It turns out I am not okay. They knew I would not be okay. I’m okay now. But I’m also not okay. Both. I’m both. About all of these things I’ve listed above. I’m okay and I’m not okay, because I’m normal and I’m not normal.

Normal people are not okay and not normal people are okay. Not normal people are not okay and normal people are okay. We all move in and out of normal and not normal multiple times in one day. “Normal” is all relative and these are trying times. It’s fine to be okay or not okay as long as we have compassion and understanding for one another and for ourself. The gas guy totally gave me a pass. He was okay. We all have different ways of handling chaos and uncertainty and sometimes we smash ottomans and yell at gas guys and cry in the shower. That’s fucking normal. And I’m okay too.

13 thoughts on “Not Normal

  1. I love this. The abiding perfection of imperfection. When people ask, I answer, “I’m okay.”
    And this is what I mean. I mean it’s not okay, but it is. Equanimity is realizing that the good days and the hard hours are all temporary. Okay is forever.

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  2. I get it. And I don’t get it. And you are beautiful whether you’re normal or not normal or both. And all I can do is give you a hug, which I can’t through the interwebs, so you will need to decide to feel it as I give it. 💜

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  3. Oh my goodness Maggie!!! You amaze me. Thank you for writing and sharing yourself so openly. Hugs to you as you navigate these choppy waters.

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  4. Ummm, amazing post! Are you in my head too? I am reading this while rocking my sick baby and listening to my four year old have constant breakdowns over not being able to hand write perfectly (all morning) – all while I think she is feeling the hurt of too much attention to the baby and that she will be scarred for life. You voice so many concerns and fears – when I think we have a tough day I know that we are one of the lucky ones, we are breathing and holding our littles close. So…one moment, one day at a time. Much love to you Maggie – keep up the good fight, even if tears are involved – we all love you!

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  5. Oh Maggie … We’ve had our share of unexpected heat related $3000 repairs, and I too, have shook and quivered and cussed at innocent plumbers/furnace guys. I’m pretty sure they’re used to it. The house? it will sell – eventually. The boob? Prayers for the best scenario. You gave a few. Remember your good meditation days. Take a deep breath. Thanks for sharing your spins.

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