Today we had our first workshop in my creative writing class. For those of you who may not know, a workshop is where everyone turns in their pieces a day or two ahead of time, they are distributed to the rest of class, we read and write down our comments and ideas, and then come back together to discuss the pieces. It was a lot of fun! It was like a breakthrough point for our class! There are a few of us who’ve been participating a lot in class over the last two weeks, but today we all opened up and everyone shared. We had turned in our hearts for review, and with that knowledge, we became more open.
It was really interesting getting to know my classmates. The variety of pieces was incredible. Our topic, memoirs (personal stories), naturally give you a view at a piece of the author. We had everything from a high-paced and highly entertaining story about playing Risk, to a childhood memory of a Mom packing up everything and moving to LA with no warning, to jail experiences, to a walk in the park. It was fascinating!
I was really gratified to hear everyone’s response to my piece. I wrote about my job at Arby’s, a topic I’ve discussed and thought through quite a bit, and so it wasn’t too hard for me to write. It was, however, therapeutic. I’m still dealing with some of the emotional wash back from that job. I wasn’t too sure if it would be a good enough story for everyone else.
There were a few grammar things that people pointed out, but the one thing that I heard over and over was “I want to read the rest of the story!” I had left the story unfinished because we had a page limit for the workshop, and I know that the final version is supposed to be quite a bit longer anyway. Everyone was really curious to hear what happened in the end!
It was an interesting contrast to the rest of our discussion. On most of the pieces we would offer advice on how they could flesh it out to make it longer, but most of the time the pieces were relatively complete. I felt bad not finishing the story for them, but our teacher let me tell them a few of the details 🙂
The one comment that stuck out in my head went something like this: “I was really impressed with how you never actually described yourself in the piece, but we learned a lot about your personality through how you handled the different decisions and how you describe things. You were working in fast food, you could have just said it was a crappy job because of that alone, but you didn’t, you gave it your all and emphasize that it was this particular place was the problem.” A couple of the other people agreed with her…including another former fast food worker! i was really touched by this, but it also gave me a pause.
I couldn’t help but think back to one particular night working at Arby’s. It was late, nearing 1 in the morning, and we were getting close to closing up for night, finally. John and I were both working that night. John was another assistant manager at Arby’s and we formed a close bond working there, similar to what I imagine soldiers must feel after being in the trenches together. Obviously our situation wasn’t as life threatening by any means, but we daily faced stress and pressure together, and we helped each other to survive.
It had been a horrible day and we were all tired and looking forward to going home. I don’t really remember what about that day had made it particularly bad, I just remember the emotions in the air. I was trying really hard to stay cheerful, and to keep everyone else going. I was in the drive-through having just finished handing out a sack of food, when John walked up and leaned on the counter. I turned around and leaned on the opposite counter, more than willing to take a moments break and chat.
“Damn,” John said, “Sometimes I hate how perky you are.”
“Perky?” I said, “I’m not perky!”
“Yes you are!”
“No…I’m just a bit cheerful.”
“Nope, your perky damn it, and it drives me nuts.”
“That’s just because you love the night and the dark. Perky is the exact opposite of that.”
“I know. Why are we friends again?”
“Because, despite my perkiness (if I am), we have a lot in common.”
He nodded. “Still drives me nuts.”
“All the better reason for me to do it!” I said with a cocky grin.
He laughed at me and we both went back to closing up for the night, but his words haunted me for a long time.
I’ve asked many different people, the people who are the closest to me, if I’m a perky person. They all agree that I am, even if it’s not the word they might have come up with. Occasionally, I can see where they are coming from. I have my moments that take me to a higher level of cheer than most people experience with out the aid of drugs, but in between those super-hyper moments, I don’t see myself as perky.
There’s a song by Evanescence that came out around that time that I’ve always identified with. The opening lyrics go:
” How can you see into my eyes like open doors?
Leading you down into my core
Where I’ve become so numb
Without a soul
My spirit sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home
[Wake me up] Wake me up inside
[I can’t wake up] Wake me up inside
[Save me] Call my name and save me from the dark”
That is much closer to who I’ve seen myself as for years than the terms “perky” or “cheerful.”
I have pain that’s deep within me. Memories that haunt me. In my daily life I face challenges that I often hear people say, “I don’t know how you deal with that.” I don’t know how I deal with it either.
There are times I don’t deal with it. Or I don’t deal with it very well.
Tonight has been one of those. I had a long time talking on the phone with my Mom today. It made me homesick, but it also hurt. We talked about both of my brothers in that conversation, and they were conversations that were good and needed, but it hurt.
Peter is out of the country, I’m not supposed to say too much about it on-line, but I can say that I really miss him. We’ve always been really close, we used to joke about being twins separated by 5 years, and it’s been hard not being able to talk him much. He’s not a very good communicator. He never has been. Not even in person. So when our only contact is e-mail… He’s been through some painful stuff recently, a friend of his back home in Vancouver died, and Mom and I both thinking he’s doing his typical response and pulling away a little until he’s dealt with the internal pain. It means that his usually sporadic and relatively short e-mails have trickled down to almost nothing. I understand, because I know this is who my brother is and how he deals with things, but I ache from the lack of contact.
My other brother, Gordon, has on-going health problems. He’s in the middle of applying for disability right now because of the severity of his problems. Right now he’s facing what, if it ends up happing, his 15th surgery. Please don’t ask me for what, if your a super-close friend I might talk to you about it at some point, but this is one time he doesn’t want us talking about it and I don’t blame him. It breaks my heart.
I think back over the last 22 (almost) years of his life. I think of each of the 14 surgeries that went before. I’ve held him through each of those recoveries. He doesn’t remember them very well, he’s blocked out most of it and he has memory issues on top of that, but I do. I remember them vividly.
I remember him having eye-surgery at 3 and how small he was. Mom went to go pull the car around to the front of the hospital when they released him, and since he was so tiny, they put him in my lap to wheel him out to the front of the hospital. I’m sure that they were at least partially just letting big sissy being a part, but for all I knew he was just too tiny to sit in there on his own and they didn’t want the chair to swallow him whole. I was only 5, but I felt like the most important person in the world, and no Mama has ever felt more protective over her baby than I did over my precious little brother at that moment.
I remember his tears from the surgeries that he had when he was way to young to understand why he was in so much pain. I was always amazed that he continued to love us so fiercely, and to cling to us for all he was worth, I had no idea how he could manage not to blame us for the pain. All he knew was that we loved him.
Not all his surgeries were as traumatic as the others, but every time he’s gone under the knife my heart has clinched with pain, and I’ve lived in fear until he was awake and alert afterwards.
His most recent set of surgeries were scary. Yes, I said set. I’ll never forget being at work and getting a call from my Mom saying that Gordon had gone BACK into surgery. He’d had the initial surgery the day before and there had been complications, so the doctors had to go back in and do an emergency surgery to fix things. I started crying right there in the store. I was working at Cold Stone Creamery at the time, and it was a few hours before the next person came on shift. I was stuck there. I remember having to apologize to my customers for my tears and getting bigger tips because of it. Eventually Mom called me and told me he was ok and out of surgery. My tears started again. My boss showed up not long after that and gave me a bunch of ice-cream for free to take to my family as comfort food.
Now, as he faces a potential 15th surgery, I ache. I’m afraid for him and the pain I know it will cause. I’m afraid for what the recovery will be like for him. And I’m afraid that this will be the surgery he doesn’t wake up from. I know the chances are unlikely that he wouldn’t make it, it’s not like it’s brain surgery or heart surgery or something like that, but there’s always that chance, and I have to admit that it scares me.
I’m also scared for myself right now, for completely different reasons, and maybe not as traumatic. The last time I saw my doctor he gave me a bit of an ultimatum. Pretty much, if I relapse between that visit and the next, I have to move back to the Westside. No don’t get me wrong. I love my family and my friends and I miss them, but I also love my school and I love this town. I like the life we’re making for ourselves here and I’m not ready to move.
The last couple of weeks have gone REALLY well. I’ve had some minor problems, but no asthma problems. No relapse. Well, I have a week left until I see the doc again. I’m sooo afraid that somethings going to go wrong in this next week! That I’m going to get sooo close to success only to have my body fail again. I’m trying not to think about it, but how do you avoid a concern that’s so overwhelming?
Don’t get me wrong, there are things in my life that I’m really happy about right now. I love my husband. Let me say that again, I LOVE MY HUSBAND. He is incredible and he has been so incredibly supportive through all of this. I’m doing well in school. I have a good GPA despite my health problems and I’m joining the honor’s society this week! I’ve even got some wonderful friends, some back home, one in Missouri, and some here, that have brought a lot of sunshine and joy to my life.
Am I perky? Am I cheerful? Tonight I don’t feel it. Ask me tomorrow.