When “What Are the Chances” Means Nothing

This week alone, I’ve diagnosed myself with three cancers: brain cancer, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

I get this way whenever I have doctors appointments. I had an eye exam yesterday, and during my last two eye exams I was diagnosed with a pseudo-tumor and a nevus of the eye, consecutively.

The latter is simply a freckle on the eye that one has keep out of the sunlight and generally keep an ‘eye’ on (ha) so that it doesn’t progress into melanoma.

The former, the pseudo-tumor, was a bit more…daunting? It presented as swelling of my optic nerve (we later learned this was likely an effect of chemo, as it occurred a month after my last treatment).

But, of course, to save the asses of the PHDs, I endured a brain MRI (LOUD AF), a spinal tap (which I strangely enjoyed), an awful medication called “acetozolomide” that made the simple task of walking up a slight hill nearly impossible, and the “Maleficent” of all neuro-opthamologists.

But brain-tumor testing yielded no brain tumor…thus, a “pseudo-tumor.” A term I only wish I had made up.

I am guilty of letting a few too many years go by without going to the eye doctor. I don’t like doctors, and I try to limit my visits to the ones that seem the most important (don’t even ask me the last time I went to the dentist). And with a make-up caboodle’s-worth of free contact lenses from my ex-boyfriends mother who worked for an eye doctor, I stretched those lenses to last until now. So…four years.

Which means, yes. The only reason I even entertained going to the eye doctor again was because I ran out of contact lenses from my ex-boyfriend’s mom. Irresponsible, I know. But I’m getting better and better about going to the doctor, and that’s all I can do.

Regardless, I was certain I was about to head into news of either a brain tumor, a pseudo tumor, or melanoma of the eye. None of which, it turns out, I have.

What were the chances anyway?

Next week I have to go to the gynecologist. Always fun. Always delightful.

And having received abnormal pap results in the past–although very common in women–I’ve been prepping myself for cervical cancer.

Silly? Yes, probably.

What are the chances?

Hmm. That’s often the phrase I’m presented with when I express on any given Monday that I believe I have a brain tumor, melanoma of the eye, and cervical cancer.

“Those chances are slim. Those cancers are rare. Besides, what are the chances you get struck with another cancer?

But that is entirely the point.

I have had cancer. And one day in 2008 I whispered to myself, “what are the chances this is nothing more than a sore hip?

The chances were slim.

But it was more than a sore hip.

Ask any cancer survivor and I’m sure they’ll agree. One of the only things worse than living with the fact that you have cancer is the feeling you had when the rug was pulled out from underneath your feet. When you’d been preparing yourself for the likelier chance, and you were granted the unlikely.

When you became the “slim” in “slim to none.”

You remember that always because it was the exact moment you lost control. You never want to lose control again. And “What are the chances” means nothing.

So, you try (however silly it may seem) to prepare for the worst in all cases. You ready yourself for brain cancer, and melanoma, and cervical cancer. Because what are the chances?

It doesn’t matter. There is a chance. And you will not lose control again.

Which brings me, finally, to the proper point of this post: you.

I’d like to ask you the question, that you–specifically those of you who’ve never faced debilitating disease before–often ask me.

What are your chances?

What are the chances that you or your loved ones will get coronavirus in the coming months?

I’ll tell you, they are a lot more likely than my chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer next week, and yet here I sit mentally preparing myself for the worst.

And there many of you sit at the pub, or at brunch, or preparing your normal Thanksgiving feast for twenty.

I’ve mostly held back my “cancer survivor’s view” of the coronavirus pandemic in favor of the more typical one: do your part, wear a mask, rah, rah, rah, stay at home.

But now I’m here to say this. I say it not as a Democrat. I say it not as a Republican. I say it without deference or feeling for Donald Trump or Joe Biden or Queen Elizabeth or Joe the Plumber: the control you might feel you’re having exerted upon you by being asked to wear a mask is absolutely nothing compared to the control you will LOSE in the midst of serious disease.

It’s the same loss of control we, as cancer survivors, felt in the moment of our diagnosis. The same loss of control we fear so vehemently that instead of looking forward to getting a new pair of glasses, we try to be mentally prepared for melanoma of the eye.

That loss of control then gives way to a loss of dignity.

Your bodily functions, however personal or embarrassing, are now charted and monitored and are more than just your own business.

Not being honest about your last bowel movement could possibly kill you.

The color of your pee is now of utmost importance and a matter of life and death.

At least you are in isolation, so the only people exposed/interested in the consistency of your bile are the nurses risking their lives to care for you.

It’s disgusting. Yes, disgusting. And humiliating. So disgusting and humiliating in fact that you can’t help but feel as though you’re nothing more than the sum of your creatnine and bilirubin count.

You’re a biology project.

At least when I reached this point, I had my mother and father there in the room to hug me and remind me who I was.

I can’t say this would’ve been as effective via Zoom.

I’m not trying to find out.

I’m going to stay inside. I’m going to wear my mask when I can’t. I’m not going to have a big holiday celebration.

So that my chances decrease.

I have control. Of those chances.

Not total control. But some control.

I’m not an influencer. I don’t believe my little rant here will reach millions. I have a nice little following here, of which I’m grateful. No matter the walk of life you come from.

But I have no delusions of how many people I can reach with this message. I do hope, however, that some of you will pass this on.

I don’t want you to die from coronavirus. I don’t want your loved ones to die from coronavirus.

When this is all over, those who still believe that masks did nothing to help, that social distancing was meaningless…I welcome your opinions. I welcome your “those masks were stupid” messages.

And if somehow, someday, it’s proven that these precautions were without effect, I will gladly listen to your ‘I told you so’s” and I’ll even respond by telling you how right you were, but how glad I am that we were careful anyway.

Please be responsible. Please be careful. Please wear a mask even if you think it’s pointless. Please reconsider your holiday gatherings.

There is more “loss of control” at stake than just the feeling of the wind on your chin in a public place.

And your chances of knowing this greater loss grow increasingly likely each day.

Tik Tok Will Always Be First and Foremost a Song by Kesha

The title is pretty self-explanatory.

There’s not much else I can say…

My 10-year old cousin tried to trick me into signing up for Tik Tok and when I said, “girl, I do not want to Tik Tok” she said “fine, then let me use your email address to make a Millie Bobbie Brown fan account.

Like…what?

What ever happened to “Wake up in the morning feelin’ like P. Diddy?

Kesha, where are you, girl, and why aren’t you fighting for your legacy?

Tik Tok is HERS. Even the spelling.

And like, I know that was back in the Ke$ha with a “$” days, but just because you outgrow the use of symbols in your name does not mean you abandon your firstborn creation and let a Chinese company turn it into Instagram-but-if-it-was-just-little-mini-snapchat-videos“...right?

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just hold a lot of nostalgia for the days of “Tik-tok on the clock but the party don’t stop, no…Oh, whoa, whoa-oh, Oh, whoa, whoa-oh.”

The first time I heard the song in 2009 was on the way home from the hospital after chemo…and I was like…wow I missed a lot while I was on the inside. This is what the kids are listening to now?

This…

This…

This new “singing”…

No, no…not singing…

This prattling on pitch

It’s genius. I, too, desire to brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.

And I hadn’t brushed my teeth at all that year.

Kesha inspired me to brush again…

She showed me that if I could pull through this crappy time in my life then a bathtub full of glitter and watery mascara awaited me…

Afternoons filled with pedicures on our toes, toes…

Boys blowing up our phones, phones.

All of this would be mine if I could just hold on…

I’m not kidding when I say that I played her first album throughout my whole recovery in 2010. The under-rated “Stephen”….the gut-wrenching, “threw-up-on-myself-at-a-party-thus-effectively-ending-the-party” anthem, “Hungover.”

I know I’m often dripping with irony and sarcasm because I fancy myself a snobby cynic, but I genuinely mean this. These songs returned me to regular young-adult stupidity after a year and a half of big-kid trauma.

“Animal…”

“Kiss N Tell…”

“TAKE IT OFF!?!??!”

NEED I GO ON?

And that was just the first album…

And, to think, it all began with “Tik Tok.”

But “Tik Tok” means something else now…

I know I need to stop living in the past, but it’s hard. Growing up, growing older…they don’t tell you that your favorite songs get turned into apps before your very eyes and there’s nothing you can do about it…

Nothing you can do but take a deep breath and remember the good times.

Growing pains…

Kesha, I honor you, thus:

I’m sick and tired of the mess you made me
Never gonna catch me cry oh, whoa, whoa
You must be blind if you can’t see
You’ll miss me till the day you die…

–Ke$ha, “BLIND”

I Am A Staple in the Nose Hole of America

Yesterday I had a staple in my nose because the night before while I was wiping my face my nose ring popped out and fell into the sink where the water was running…

…and I just kinda stared off into space for a minute or two instead of springing into action and trying to save it. I think I was just so exhausted from literally sitting on my a$$ watching the news all week that I was just like..oh well...if you love something, let it go. Goodbye, nose ring.

And then I said well, better get the stapler. Naturally. As one does.

It’s not the first time I’ve put a staple in my nose hole and it will not be the last.

And no, I didn’t have a back up nose ring.

And yes, my nose hole WOULD start closing up IMMEDIATELY over night if I did not put said staple in said nose hole. (I bruise easily, bruises that take WEEKS to heal, but take out my nose ring for one night and my body is like “REPAIR!!!! CLOSE UP THAT NOSE HOLE ASAP this b**ch too OLD for a nose ring.”)

But I’m not giving up on my nose hole yet, so I put a staple in it overnight as a placeholder. You just clean it and slip it in the hole and then, like, bend the sides around to make a kind of boxy loop and voila! Staple nose!

The next day I went to get a new nose ring and it occurred to me just how funny this world is. Like how funny is it that somewhere in DC or Virginia an exasperated immigrant woman is pleading with the President of the United States to concede an election AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT when, in a mall parking lot in Upstate New York, a 29 year old woman is trying to force a wire hoop through her nose hole while her boyfriend pleads “JUST STOP, THE STEM IS MISSHAPEN AND YOU’RE BLEEDING, IT’S LIKE TRYING TO FORCE A SQUARE INTO A CIRCLE” and she cries—literal crying—“NO I PAID TWENTY DOLLARS FOR THIS AND IT’S “NO-SPEND NOVEMBER!”

One woman’s problem is a little bit more important than the others’ on a more GLOBAL scale, but in our two separate moments, they are both equally real, palpable, and very painful experiences.

I don’t know. Just…how very strange life is. How peculiar. As OMC says,

How Bizarre, How Bizarre.

I promise I’m not high, although I wish I was. I don’t allow myself to get high anymore since the tootsie roll incident of 2019 when I convinced myself Chris Cuomo blamed me for global warming and the aliens were coming for me because I knew too much.

It was just a funny little thought that occurred to me in the midst of chaos and nose bleeding.

I’m sure you’re all wondering, DID YOU GET THE NEW NOSE RING IN YOUR NOSE HOLE?

And you can rest assured, I did. I put the earring from my ear hole in my nose hole until we got home. Then my boyfriend used tools or science or magic or something to fix the shape of the stem. We had to lube the stem up with Bath and Body Works lotion and I can’t say I DIDN’T have pliers unsettlingly close to my eyeballs, but we DID get it into my nose hole.

That’ll teach me to buy a nose ring at a place that sells Jo Jo with a Bow Bow face masks. (Lookin’ at YOU, Claire’s).

In my defense, I was unable to go to Spencers because they (SHOCKINGLY) had reported cases of Covid-19.

This is how I know I could never be an investigative reporter. I cannot simply report to you that Spencer’s Gifts had Covid. I had to pass judgement.

“Whether someone coughed on the dildos or sucked on the edible panties, we cannot be sure. We just know we are not surprised. Back to you Stacey.”

But I digress.

So that’s where I’m at. New prez. New nose ring. Same me.

I think as 2020 goes on, my metaphors get weaker and weaker, but, alas, I am quite like that little staple.

I am a staple in the nose hole of America: misshapen and practically useless, but I’ll make it through somehow.

Fin.

The last photo before we lost this little nose ring down the drain. It was an honor to wear you.

How’s It Gonna Be: Dealing With the Prospect of Another Cancer Diagnosis

I’m a young adult cancer survivor.  It’s a label I’m proud of, but obviously a club I never would have willingly joined.

Diagnosed with cancer three months before my eighteenth birthday, it’s safe to say I was not quite a grown-a$s woman yet. So there were a lot of things I said and did…a lot of ways I responded to my diagnosis that I’d like to think I’d handle differently now that I’m almost…(gulp, inhale, exhale)…thirty years old.

Back then I was hormonal, and angsty, and ALREADY mad at the world.  Add a cancer diagnosis on top of all that adolescent aggression and you’ve got a recipe for a big-ole, bald-headed s**tshow.

I recovered…nicely…from Ewing’s Sarcoma, I suppose.  Some kidney damage here, a little infertility there.  But I learned over the years what triggers me and how to maneuver myself through the bouts of depression and anxiety that occasionally pepper my survivorship.

I do not, however, do well with the prospect of having to face another cancer diagnosis.  Through my twenties, it seemed like it would take a pretty drastic twist of the ole “magic wand” for me to get cancer again once I was clear of the usual relapse timeline.  “Lightnin’ don’t strike the same tree twice” was my creed of choice and I felt so normal with each passing year that it became easier and easier to blot cancer fear out.  

So in the spring of 2019, when my mom tested positive for one of the breast cancer genes, I was…how you say…shooketh.

Thinking I still had at LEAST a few years until my first mammogram, imagine my delight when, at my next check-up, my oncologist said that in order to be smart with the information we have, it was probably time to start mammograms and breast ultrasounds.  

OOOF.  

I don’t need to tell you that I was scared and angry and resentful.  

I also don’t need to tell you that after the scared and angry and resentful phase, I eventually got my s**t together and scheduled the tests.  No matter how many times I shouted “it’s my body, and I don’t have to do everything they say,” I knew I’d never be able to live with the idea that I might get cancer somewhere along the line that could’ve been caught much earlier if I’d been more cautious.

My mammogram was quick and easy and, thankfully, unremarkable.

Yesterday, I had my ultrasound and was anticipating a similar level of ease and simplicity.  So when the ultrasound technician pointed at the screen and said, “see this?  This is what we call a fibroadenoma,”  I thought I was going to literally poop on the table.  

She explained that fibroadenomas were common in your twenties and thirties, and that they were benign.  

“This one here is just a bit darker than the rest, so let me see how he wants to proceed…”

She had eased my worry and then slapped me in the face again with it in the same breath.

I was left on the table while she consulted the radiologist, and for the first time in eleven years, I really, truly considered what it might look like to have cancer again.  

If they say you need a biopsy, are you going to fling yourself to the floor and perform a Shakespeare tragedy in this exam room? 

If this turns out to be cancerous…

How’s it gonna be?”

In those twelve brief minutes, there were many deep breaths.  There were closed eyes.  There were speedy heartbeats.

And there were three clear conclusions:

  1. Nothing about my everyday life would change until it had to.  

In my first bout with cancer, as soon as I was diagnosed as a sick person, I IDENTIFIED as a sick person.  I EMBODIED a sick person.  I immediately got into bed or burrowed into the couch.  And I wasted no time victimizing myself.  

I lived like I was dying in a bad way.

This time, there would be no “sick-person-syndrome” until the results of all biopsies and tests were back.  And after that, there’d be no slowing down until my body truly needed to slow down.  If I had energy, I’d be putting it to good use as often as possible.

  1.  Anyone outside of immediate family and s/o who texted or called my cell phone for “updates” would be blocked.

It sounds drastic, but for me, it would be crucial.  

I truly feel like mine AND my family’s boundaries were not respected during my battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma.  I think my parents were too kind to demand it, and I was not mature enough to ask for it in the proper way.  I think we all would’ve fared better mentally and emotionally if we’d been stricter about “dropping by the house” and “calling to check in.”  

This time around, I would designate either e-mail or Facebook messenger to well-wishers/update seekers, and I would be hella strict.  I’d get back to people as I felt able to, and unless my house was on fire and they were texting to let me know, anyone who could not respect those wishes would have their numbers BLOCKED.  

  1. There would be meditation. Every. Single. Day.

I’m not a perfect meditator.  I’m not even a truly faithful meditator.  I meditate when I’m really stressed and feel like I need silence and calm.  In fact, I probably spend more time reading about meditation than I do actually meditating and it’s something I really want to work on.  But from all that reading, I’ve learned that it can truly ONLY have positive effects on your body and mind.  

It can’t hurt you.  And I’ll take any free, non-toxic, non kidney-killing, fertility-destroying medicine that I can should I ever have to battle cancer again.  

The technician came back into the exam room and told me that they just wanted to keep an eye on the fibroadenomas, and to come back for another ultrasound in six months.  

That twelve minutes of planning wouldn’t need to be practiced.  The world came back into focus.  

Do I wish I had left the building with a completely uneventful ultrasound?  Of course.

But I did leave with what felt like a solid and effective outline for battling another cancer diagnosis.  

I think even if other cancer survivors don’t agree with my list, having a little “coping” plan tucked away for a rainy day can be extremely beneficial.  There aren’t a lot of perks to having had cancer.  But knowing how you want to cope with health crises in the future is one.

For a “scan”xiety worry wart like me, it might be even more valuable than a fibroadenoma-free titty. 

-*-

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can you point me toward the self-help books for people who read too many self-help books

AwWwWwwWWWw sh***********************t….

I didn’t post last week. You’ve all been flooding my inbox and text messages and sliding into my DMs like “omgggg Jesse where you been, girl, what have you been up to you’re so fascinating I need to know what series you finished on Netlix and if you solved world hunger and what you’re listening tooooooooooooo.”

And the answers are Bates Motel, No, and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.”

Also nobody asked those things.

Nobody even noticed I was gone.

Not one of you.

And so I was like “f**k them they don’t even miss me.”

But then yesterday I got an email from a total stranger via my contact page saying “hey I found your website you’re really funny” and I was like:

So I decided to forgive you all.

I’m still chillin’ over here restyling and re-imagining myself every single day. Last week I thought it might be nice to look for work on a Christmas tree farm, but then I remembered “hard labor” and “cold” and “outside” and “people” and “axes”.

This week I might be a paralegal and next week could be anything from lunch lady to literally Kristin Wiig’s “Target Lady.”

But actually I’ve been thinking “hey, Jess, maybe the rest of fun-employment should be dedicated to establishing good habits and undoing bad ones so that when you DO go back to work you can be the bestest, most functional d**n lunch lady or Target lady or Christmas-tree-cutter-downer that ever lived.

And then I was like “ooooh, that’s good. Write it down in your diary.”

And then I was like “omg you don’t KEEP a diary.”

And then I was like “I’ll START with keeping a diary.”

So I started keeping a diary, and my next goal is to maximize the time I’m awake between 6:45am and 7:45am.

So my boyfriend wakes us up at 5:45am (for his “j0b”, EYEROLL) and then I fall back to sleep until 6:30am, when he insists on waking me up to “chat” for a few minutes before he leaves (for his “j0b”, EYEROLL). Even though sometimes I can be cruel and hurtful and say things like “I want to punch you in the face with pointy blood-diamonds on every finger.

I am very protective of my sleep.

So anyway, he leaves at like 6:45am, and I always decide that while I’m conscious, I might as well check my email JUST in case, overnight, like, someone found my website and wants to give me a book deal…or I’ve been discovered on YouTube and Casey Nicholaw thinks I’m the only actress who can relaunch Broadway…or like, @vintagespadefashion wants me to collab on Instagram to sell their repurposed fiberglass watches (?).

You never know.

And SOMETIMES…

SOMETIMES! I even GET OUT OF BED, GET A GLASS OF GREEN JUICE, SIT ON THE COUCH, AND PUT ON MORNING JOE.

However, from there…I just end up falling back to sleep. I need to find something to do–something enticing to groggy-wake-up-Jesse–that will keep me awake and keep up the momentum.

Momentum (n) the quantity of motion of a moving body, as measured as a product of its mass and velocity

WHOA. Sorry. Dating a physics teacher.

K, so, like, this morning instead of making a cup of coffee and free-writing, I cuddled up on the couch and checked in on the Ryan Phillippe/Ellen Degeneres feud, of which I am obviously Team Ryan because of the escalator in Cruel Intentions.

Then I decided I should follow him on Instagram.

Then I realized he doesn’t have Instagram.

Then I stalked a bunch of Ryan Phillippe fan accounts.

Then I watched the Cruel Intentions escalator scene on YouTube.

Then nssssglkjlrilsdfkglfdjsgo[rwehgowprh….

It was not a process conducive to starting a productive day. That 6:45am-7:45am hour is CRITICAL for me.

So that’s one habit I’m working on.

Or, rather, it’s a habit I’m wishing to change. I don’t know if I can necessarily say I’m “working” very hard on it.

I’m also trying to work on just staying in the present. Mindfulness. Appreciating the fall colors. Appreciating the people around me, the things I have, yadda yadda yadda…

And, see, the thing is, I know that having a stricter meditation schedule would really help with that.

But instead of meditating and focusing on my breath and all that jazz, I seem to prefer READING about mediation and focusing on the breath.

I have read so many books on meditation, mindfulness, and even on habit forming. But instead of finishing the books and then putting the subject matter into practice, I prefer to just read ANOTHER book about the same thing.

Which got me thinking….

MAYBE READING ABOUT MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS IS MY FORM OF MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS.

AND THEN I WENT LIKE

OR! OR! OR! I’m ADDICTED TO SELF-HELP BOOKS AND IT’S WHAT THE SELF-HELP BOOK PEOPLE WANT SO THAT I’LL BUY MORE BOOKS!!!!!!!!

AaaaaAAAAaAaaaAAhhhhhhhhhhhh

aslfkdjslf;hg;jhkjtlsr;mfkdlv;zkvsl;nfkmg;hnbskrt;hjs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

__________________________________________________________

And in conclusion:

I should prolly just focus on getting a job.

PS. I voted! And if Joe Biden gets elected, I might just write us all a self-help book for the end of the Trump Era titled“What the F**K Did I Just Watch”

Also, don’t forget you can SUBSCRIBE to my blog on my HOME PAGE! WHOAAAAA then you’ll never miss a SECOND of the EXCITEMENT!!!

PPS:

Covid Hostage

Jesse, Jesse, come here dear.”

Mr. H is back and hasn’t visited in a month. Of course, he made his reservation half an hour beforehand, and expects his favorite table.

Before his arrival, the hostess comes to inform me that there is no way Mr. H can possibly have his favorite table. It’s been reserved for a party of five all night, and Mr. H is only a party of three. We’re packed and there’s nowhere else the larger party can sit.

Of course, I already know all of this. I’ve got the floorplan and reservation books pulled up on my phone, I saw Mr. H’s reservation appear in real time, and I’m already figuring out a game plan.

Tell Francisco he’s gotta drop the check on table 70,” I tell the hostess. “Put a “reserve” sign on 71. When 70 gets up, I’m gonna turn the tables sideways so they’re longer. Party of five sits there. Mr. H gets his table. We just need 70 to go.

I pull Lucas, the busser, aside. “As soon as the butts are out of seats on 70, I’ll meet you over there with a tray. I bus, you wash, we turn the tables sideways. Capiche?”

It’s “capiche.”

The plan works.

Jesse, Jesse, come here dear,” Mr. H. is seated and ready for “the routine.” I wipe my sweaty brow with my sleeve and march over for my line:

Well, hello, long time no see!” I sing.

Ugh, I know! I was in Florida all last week, and then Toronto for a conference before that! I’m actually only here a few days but I just HAD to show these two my favorite spot!” He introduces me to his guests and I coo a “welcome” as I shake each of their hands.

And Jesse…just…what is new about your hair. It looks amazing!”

There is nothing new about my hair. There’s never anything new about my hair unless the color has changed, and it hasn’t. But I’ve got an answer thought up already because he says this every time.

Ya know, I’ve been wearing the bangs pulled all the way back and I usually have them in front, swept to the side! I’m impressed you even noticed!”

Well you’re looking beautiful as always!

He winks. I curtsy in my mind.

Our dialogue complete, I send three flutes of Prosecco and then head on to fix the restroom door, which, I’m told, has been locked from the inside again with no one there.

At this time last year, this was my life.

I’ve been putting off writing a lot this week. I wanted to write something funny and quirky and weird, but I barely had the inspiration to write at all, let alone write something that wasn’t totally self involved and self-pitying.

So buckle up.

The week started off with a bit of a disappointment. A disappointment SO silly that is doesn’t even warrant explanation. But what it did was it opened my eyes to how much I truly am struggling right now.

I’m proud of myself for how I’m getting through. On good days, I’ve been challenging myself to cook things, and work out more, and keep up chores on a “real adult” schedule. I keep my eyes open for job opportunities that might fit the bill…I look up grad schools and programs that might interest me…I write. I make sure I get dressed each day and leave the apartment even if it’s just to pick up a coffee or a diet coke.

But anyway, I didn’t realize how much I was slipping until this minor disappointment occurred and I was faced with the reality of more status quo. More trying to wake up early, realizing there’s not much to wake up early for and then going back to sleep for two hours. More willing myself to put on a face and do my hair instead of hiding it in a scarf or tying it in a sloppy knot. More trips to department stores to keep me from binge watching another Hulu series, where I end up spending money I ought to be saving.

And I just got so, so sad. It’s pathetic right? And then the feeling of being pathetic just makes me angry with myself…like just FIX yourself, Jesse. You have it so much better than SO many people right now. You have a place to live, and food, and people who love you and will help you. You’ve had ZERO issues with unemployment, and you are getting by just fine.

But at the end of the day, I feel dread that another day is coming where I will likely accomplish nothing. And more and more lately, I don’t try to accomplish much. I don’t look for jobs as much because they don’t pay enough and I’m better off finishing unemployment benefits. Or the careers I’d be interested in require more education.

So I look into more education, but it’s costly, and I likely wouldn’t be able to afford it without a job. And then I’m back at jobs.

And then I think, okay, suppose you did figure out how to pay for a masters or a new certification…and then you hated it, and found that you’d just picked something to pick something…because really, you were already doing something that you kinda liked before…before you were ripped out of your former life by a pandemic.

And then I’m angry. Angry that my life got uprooted. Angry that it got uprooted and turned upside down for the SECOND TIME in my life, this time by a disease that I don’t even have but MIGHT get!

I’m pissed.

In the times of “Mr. H and his favorite table” I was working a full time job as an events coordinator, and ALSO covering two shifts a week as a maitre d’ at a stunning Upper East Side restaurant where I left each shift with at least sixty bucks in cash (in addition to my FULL hourly wage–not a tipped hourly wage).

And yeah, I did it because it felt great to have money for really the first time in my life. But I also did it because I liked being busy. I liked to work. I liked the buzz of NYC hospitality, and I loved the people I worked with because we were all working so f**king hard, together.

I feel like a hostage of this pandemic. So many things hold me back from taking steps forward, and when I think of going back to work, not only do I feel angry that it can’t be what it was in “Mr. H” days, but I feel scared.

Scared of getting Covid19 and spreading it to my loved ones…scared of it further destroying my kidneys.

Scared because do I even remember how to work? How to live on a schedule? How to be responsible for things?

And then I’m like “let’s be honest, Jess. What are the chances you’re NOT selling “Holiday Pine” scented candles at White Barn come Christmas time?

And then I cry.

This is the daily routine. And it usually ends with, “why don’t I just binge watch something to calm my nerves.”

Thus a cycle.

I miss Mr. H and his stupid table.

Sephora Called Me Old

Last week I went to the mall to just kinda like wander around and kill an hour or so of my life.

So I wandered in to Sephora because this summer when I was blonde I read an article on the internet that said blondes should try wearing brown mascara, and if an article on the internet says I should do something, I usually do it which is why I’ve joined QAnon (kidding. Obviously).

So anyway all summer I wore brown mascara but now that I’m a brunette again I felt it was the right time to return to black mascara, (I know, the story is really getting good).

Well, I was a little upset because online it said that Sephora carried Givenchy Phenomeneyes Mascara but I wandered around for at least fifteen minutes and didn’t find it anywhere. ALL of the employees working asked me at some point if I was “finding everything okay”, and it was very awkward because although it was quite obvious I was not “finding everything okay,” I wasn’t going to actually ask for help. Like, what if they laughed at my choice of mascara? Or tried to help me find a better mascara for me?

My womanhood would be challenged.

So I decided to just go with Anastasia brand mascara because that’s the brand the winner of Rupaul’s Drag Race gets.

Duh.

But all of this is just extraneous detail that is entirely beside the point.

So…sorry about that.

THE POINT IS, when I went to pay for my purchase, the cashier asked for my email address to look up my Sephora account. I was V excited to hear what my account would yield because I KNEW it had accumulated a LOT of points because once upon a time in days of yore, I was making bank in the city and would go to Sephora at least twice a week for some made up reason such as “this work event calls for a dark purple lip color” or “this weekend I’m going to see if I can look like a Snapchat filter“.

I knew I must have some serious points.

So imagine my surprise when the cashier’s Kat von D mouth opened wide in surprise, and instead of “congratulations, you have ten million points, your purchase is free and you now own all of Sephora” she said…

“Ah! It’s time to collect your birthday gift!”

My entire life flashed before my eyes.

My day of birth is March 25th.

I tried to mirror her excitement, and then winced….

Oh my god, I’ve been unemployed so long that I don’t even know what month or season it is…

Or…or I’ve gone into mental hibernation…a protective mode to shield me from the chaos of the world.

It must’ve been triggered by the “debate” the previous evening. My senses were on overload and I couldn’t cope. So much yelling, so much “old white man,” so much peanutbutter whiskey consumed…

My true consciousness went to sleep and my body and brain had continued on auto-pilot until the chaos was over and it sensed a safe place to wake me back up…

…like Sephora!

How much had I missed?

Was Donald still the president?

Was Amy Coney Barrett a Supreme Court Justice?

Can women and people of color still vote?

Can gays still marry?

Did I miss the last Christmas where women can sit at the same table as men?

Is it “Handmaid’s Tale” now? Is Britney okay? Did she get any freedom before we all had to don our “Maid” apparel?

WHEN WILL THE NEW BATMAN WITH ROBERT PATTINSON COME OUT AND WHY DO I CARE!?!?

All these thoughts…all at once…

The cashier was looking at me. It was now or never.

Do I tell her its not my birth month? Do I do the honest thing so they don’t run out of birthday gifts for people who actually have October birthdays?

“Y-yeah…ohh…er…yay! My birthday!”

Wow, Jesse.

Just….just wow. Some poor Libra isn’t gonna get their free body cream or free mascara because you are the worst.

Wait…this could not be my fault…she didn’t even ask me! She just…said it. She told me it was time to collect my birthday gift…and I’m not trying to argue in the Sephora store, that’s not part of my zen.

But now I was feeling rushed. Rushed to turn thirty. The pressure and doom I’d associated with that number sent a chill up my spine.

It’s the bags…the bags under my eyes.

She took one look at me and she was like….”this b—h just turned thirty, look at those lines. You can see the young person she was yesterday just being devoured by an old witch with osteoporosis and New Balance sneakers!”

She looked at me impatiently and said, with an evil smirk, “do you want the body cream or the mascara?”

And what I wanted to say was “B***H I JUST BOUGHT MASCARA WTF DO YOU THINK?” and then just RUN OUT OF THE STORE CRYING.

Breathe.

Breathe…

Deep, deep, “Harry-Styles-Calm-App” Breaths.

How could she be this cruel on my birthday!

IT’S NOT YOUR BIRTHDAY YOU PSYCHO!

“I’ll go with the body-cream.” And I’ll rub it all over my hot, young, wrinkle-free twenty-nine-year old body.

Smile. Nod. Thank you. No bag necessary, I’m saving the planet.

So I have this dishonest Sephora birthday gift now, and I can’t bear to open it because I wonder what it means.

What it means about who I’ve become and who I’m becoming.

I wonder if this means no Sephora Birthday Gift in March…

I wonder if it is possible to hibernate my consciousness until after November 3rd, or possibly even until 2024.

I wonder if Sephora is really a safe space or if they’re pushing me to grow up too fast.

And I wonder if maybe they accidentally pulled up my mom’s account who’s birthday is in October, and now my mom will be Sephora Birthday Gift-less…

The world may never know.

Save me from myself.

I’m Losing It Because: A Poem Kind Of

I’m losing it.

I. AM. LOSING. IT.

I am losing it because I flung my Apple watch against the backseat window of the car because it “keeps bossing me around.”

Because it doesn’t count the bike at the gym toward my exercise ring, and my RINGS are my PURPOSE.

I AM losing it because my last Google search was “is it acceptable to eat straight up steak seasoning”

Because the answer was “yes.” And so I did.

I am LOSING it because I’ve gone to Michael’s or Marshalls every weekend since September 1st to buy festive fall decor for an apartment I don’t technically live in or pay rent on.

While the apartment I AM paying rent on sits DECOR-LESS and FESTIVE-LESS four hours away.

I am losing it because I spend, like, 70% of my time sitting at stoplights trying to make eye contact with people.

One of them was “penny nips” from high school. She was called “penny nips” because the rumor was she had penny-sized nipple. Obv.

I am losing it because I’ve wandered aimlessly around Barnes and Noble multiple times in the last month without buying anything.

And have pooped in their bathroom on each occasion.

I am losing it because I almost bought a Tamagotchi at Urban Outfitters the other day.

Because I want something to rely on me.

I am losing it because I almost shouted “NICE MASKS, LADIES” at a woman and her daughter who came to the grocery store without masks even though its state mandated that we wear masks.

Although, I actually kind of wish I had followed through on that one.

I am losing it because I know the solution to “losing it” is to get a job.

But the available jobs pay less than what I receive through unemployment and pandemic assistance, and instead of saying “why don’t employers pay their employees enough“, people say “they are getting too much on unemployment.

This morning I spent 20 minutes in my car examining the differences between (You Drive Me) Crazy on Britney’s original album and (You Drive Me) Crazy on Britney’s greatest hits.

I am losing it.

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The Peak of My Creepy

Seneca Falls, New York is the home of the first US Women’s Rights Convention. We all memorized that somewhere along the line. Declaration of Sentiments, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, et cetera, et cetera. You probably wrote a shi**y essay about it or had to dress up as Lucretia Mott and give a “suffrage talk” about Women’s Rights to your third grade class who chuckled every time you said the word “sex.”

Fans of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life probably know a bit more about Seneca Falls. Frank Capra, the film’s director, spent time there while writing the script, and although the film was entirely made in California, it is said there are plenty of reasons to believe that he had Seneca Falls in mind when he created “Bedford Falls.” The tiny, doll-like train station, the references to Buffalo, Rochester, and Elmira, NY…

This sign hangs from a lamp post on the now-famous bridge in Seneca Falls, NY

…a bridge that runs over the sleepy canal in the middle of town that is now referred to as the “George Bailey Bridge.” Legend, of course, being that this is the bridge Capra recreated in the movie where George jumps to save Clarence the angel.

I’ve had the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life House’ pointed out to me many times throughout my life. “You want the moon, Mary?”

Downtown Seneca Falls is a picture of holiday cheer come Christmas-time, as you can probably imagine. Even a crotchity millennial like me can admit that when the “George Bailey Bridge” is all lit up, and the town twinkles red and green beside the water, it looks like a kind of “dream America.” A picturesque town ripped right out of the same history book you plagiarized your sh**ty paper from.

For me, Seneca Falls feels as much a part of my childhood as Syracuse does. I recently drove my boyfriend down ONE street in the middle of the town (slowly and creepily, of course), and narrated for him:

this house was my aunt’s, then this one my grandmother’s. Across over there is a cousin, that house another aunt, then a great aunt, another cousin…and (as a woman emerges from a car parked up ahead) that’s actually some sort of cousin of mine crossing the street right now. Second, third, removed…I couldn’t tell you.”

My grandmother’s house in the middle of town was a weekly gathering place of the big Italian family every Sunday for pasta and meatballs and homemade sauce. Holidays would sometimes take place at a different family house on the same street, but her’s was always the home base. She was always the star of the show, and she held court from her rocking chair watching Judge Judy, a Stephanie Plum novel dog-eared on the coffee table.

An artist’s rendering of Gram’s house as it was.

I know losing grandparents is essentially a part of life. They are a privilege while they’re here, and they’re oftentimes our first experience with loss and death, (that is, if we’re lucky enough to have our immediate families around throughout the whole of childhood.)

I’m not gonna make this about cancer, because it’s not really about that, per se. The last year of my grandmother’s life was the year of my illness, and I don’t think I’ll ever truly know how it impacted her. I know it took a toll on everyone in the family, if not because they felt close with me, then because my diagnosis was an eerie reminder that none of us are safe from life’s unwelcome surprises, regardless of age.

But my grandmother was already battling a slew of health problems on her own, even before I upstaged her.

She died a week after I was declared in remission.

She never got to see me “being okay.”

Seneca Falls has never been the same since she passed, and I hadn’t spent more than two hours there in years, let alone two whole days.

There are too many ghosts.

But a few weeks back, my cousin needed a dog sitter while her family went camping for the weekend. Me, the “unemployed job-casualty” that I am, said, “Why not?”

I wrote last week about how I’ve been creepin’ around my hometown, scoping out locations of odd memories that stick out in my brain.

It’s muy, muy creepy…this I know. But I have no nefarious intentions and because I’m white I have the privilege of not really raising alarm bells. A sad but true reality that is not at all lost on me.

But my creepin’ reached an all-time high in Seneca Falls that weekend.

I arrived around six-thirty on Friday, tended to the dog, and ordered take-out from a restaurant on Fall Street (Seneca Falls’ aptly named version of Main Street). When I parked in front of the restaurant my dinner wasn’t ready yet, so I found myself wandering to the site of a canal-side bar, previously owned by two of my uncles (one of whom, my godfather, passed away in 2014).

I stood outside the glass door, and peered inside. The space is still a bar, but a different one now. I spied the corner where my Dad and godfather had been seated when I flung open the doors, twelve years old, to announce the arrival of my first period.

It had happened at my grandmother’s, naturally, where everything happened.

My dad covered his face with his hands.

My godfather set me up on the bar stool beside him and toasted my womanhood with a Shirley Temple.

Here, now, in 2020, sat two strangers, socially distant from the rest of the bar patrons. Someone made eye contact with me, and I scurried back up the leaf-covered stairs to Fall Street.

Later, I lay awake on my cousin’s couch, her dog snoring beside me. Twelve o’clock. One AM. Two AM. I had not slept a night in Seneca Falls since 2013.

I felt unsettled, something amiss even with all the doors locked and this giant black lab at my feet.

At two thirty I sprang up and threw on a hoodie and sneaks. The grass outside was already wet with dew, and the crunching of leaves underfoot scared me sh*tless when it cut through the silence.

I jumped into my mom’s CRV, (now my infamous “creepin” vehicle of choice) and drove out across the “George Bailey Bridge,” past the old video store where my cousins and I had hiked to rent tapes, past the pretty fountain in the middle of town, beyond the Women’s Rights Convention Memorial Park where I’d walked my aunt’s dog, Dexter, and begged him not to poop.

I parked myself on the street in front of my grandmother’s house.

Turned off the car lights.

Sat in silence.

I dream about this house all the time. Dreams where I’m fumbling around looking for something, ascending the staircase, or looking out the upstairs window.

In most of the dreams I’m by myself, but every now and then my grandmother appears and I tell her we thought she had died. I tell her I’m so happy we were wrong, but that we should be very careful so she doesn’t die again.

I have never had a dream about my grandmother that doesn’t take place in the house. She never appears anywhere else.

So now I stare at the dark house in the middle of the night and wonder if maybe she’s in there somehow. I know it sounds weird but…I dunno…residual energies, that kind of thing? Possible?

A television flickers in the window of the tiny house next door. I’ve only been sitting here three minutes but I know I should leave. I know I’m being a total creep. I know this is weird.

Stars splash across the sky over the tiny garage at the back of the driveway where my grandfather used to grow grapes. Where he’d taken me once to show me the grapes, but told me not to pick any.

I picture myself sitting on the porch ledge in my navy blue bathing suit with the mesh top that always made me afraid my nipples were showing.

Gram tells me to be careful up there.

I try to feel like me at 5.

Me at 5, wanting to pick the grapes.

Me at 9, sun-kissed.

Me at 12, pimply.

Me at 18, bald.

I watch “ghost me” rip a big green leaf off the vines that had covered the house. I hear my Mom tell me to stop messing with them.

“Sauce is ready.”

“Set the table.”

“Movie’s starting.”

“Is everyone here?”

I know I need to leave, but I whisper into the stale air, “what the hell are we doing down here, Gram?”

She didn’t get to see me being okay.

Am I okay?

The stars, again, distract me with a wink.

“Don’t pick the grapes, don’t touch, just look.”

I feel like Pierre at the end of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, wondering how I got here, wondering what it all comes to in the end.

‘…and there in the middle above Prechistensky Boulevard, surrounded and sprinkled on all sides by stars shines the Great Comet…

I feel better now, and I don’t know why.

I dry my tears and head back.

When my cousin returns, I ask if she’s seen how different the house looks now, although I know she must. She lives in the small town, after all.

My cousin says ‘yes.’

She says she knows the woman who lives in the house now. The third owner since my grandmother.

I told her that was our grandparents’ house, and she asked me if they’d died in the house. I told her they had. She said she could hear and feel things sometimes in the house. Energies. She said it feels friendly.”

“Energies.” Dreams.

Grapes. Sauce. Bathing suit. House. Mom. Period. Bar stool. Shirley Temple. Grandma. Judge Judy. Rocking chair. Bald. Friendly.

All this creepy driving. Past-channeling.

Soul searching.

I’m either going to leave 2020 a haunted soul or a fully realized person.

I’m done creepin’ for a while.