I pretty much forgot this blog existed until Arthur’s dad mentioned he read it a couple weeks ago, and then I remembered my last entry was terribly sad. So here’s something a little less sad to drive it off the front page of this mostly-defunct website that mostly-exists to slam into gear if I ever manage to sell a novel.
We went to China! Arthur told everyone he was going to do it and so we did it. I vacillated between anxiety and excitement – I went to England once to visit family when I was thirteen, and Toronto once on a school trip, and that’s the extent of my world travel experience. A high school senior class trip to Spain was canceled due to the beginning of New Improved Iraq War Part Eleventy. I was going way out of my comfort zone, speaking exactly zero words of Mandarin and unsure whether my pain meds would raise alarms with customs and be confiscated (they didn’t and weren’t, thank goodness).
We went to Beijing and saw the Great Wall and the Forbidden City (obligatory). I did not know it was a national holiday week, but in retrospect there’s no way anywhere in the world can be that crowded all the time, right? I managed by dint of extreme paranoia to only get glutened once or twice, and the reaction was pretty mild. I bought my grandma and mom and sister jade pendants as gifts and don’t THINK I was ripped off (the world may never know). We ate Peking duck at a fancy steakhouse-style restaurant in the city that made it famous. We took the high-speed rail to Shanghai, which I think I liked a little more, maybe just because I was finally getting comfortable being the big white idiot who couldn’t read or talk and had no idea what was going on at any time. In Shanghai we took the ferry or metro’d around and saw historic gardens and looked down on the city at night from fancy observation levels. We flew to Taipei and were wined and dined around the city for almost a week by Arthur’s incredibly nice and cool relatives. We took a 4-kilometer gondola up into the mountains and drank fancy tea on a fancy deck overlooking the entire city. The whole thing was fucking magical and I’ll remember it the rest of my life.
We came home to flat tires and drafty windows and fall in full swing. I grumbled, but I hold those memories close. I don’t know if I’ll ever write up an exhaustively detailed report of the trip for public consumption, because much of it was pretty generic tourist stuff that nonetheless felt intensely personal and adventurous for boring old me. I have a lot of photos that I’ll be showing to family and backing up everywhere I can think of.
I discovered I really love the old wall-scroll landscape paintings by Chinese masters from centuries past – not a subject I’d ever really thought about, but the beautiful detail of the mountains and trees, usually with just *ooooone tiny guy* hanging out in there somewhere, really meshed with how I have felt standing in awe of nature. I discovered I want to learn Mandarin – like, for real, thinking about some kind of immersion program – because I want my future kids to be able to understand the half of their heritage that I can’t, not fully. I discovered I was enjoying myself, dragging my lame ass all over strange cities, wearing a huge callus on my right hand from the cane. (At the Shanghai Museum, I traded my passport for a wheelchair and made Arthur push me. I felt hugely conspicuous but also hugely satisfied that I managed to avoid several hours of standing in intense pain.) People stare at a girl with a cane in China in a way I’ve never quite experienced in the US – maybe it was partly that I was an obvious foreigner, who knows.
I guess that brings me back to my last post. I’m not totally convinced my short-term memory is ever going to be 100% of what it was. That’s just one of the risks you run when you’re trying a bunch of different meds for an incurable condition with no one accepted treatment. But the NSAID I mentioned last time actually did kick into gear, eventually, and it’s cut my pain a great deal at the mere cost of probably taking years off my life if I stay on it long-term. I found another drug that has boosted my energy immensely in short bursts, as long as I keep taking it indefinitely, kind of like a super-caffeine without the addiction or anxiety side effects. I started a garden this year, christened The Shittiest Garden, which even produced a few things, and I’ve never stopped fostering cats, and life is pretty good. We might even buy a house soon.
I struggle with frustration over my disability. I probably always will. I found myself in a long line at the bank the other day, and started wishing I’d brought my cane to lean on, and remembered how the people in China stared. Remembered how fucked up my bum leg got after a couple years of using the cane everywhere and how I sternly told myself it was only going to be for emergencies and big events from now on. Even on a meds regimen that works all right, I still have energy crashes, still turn down social events due to exhaustion, still stare at the blank page or the half-finished novel-length work and feel despair. But I’ve got some stories out there, now, circulating, some old, some new. I’ve got hopes. I’m thirty and I think my thirties are going to be better than my twenties, no matter what. I just have to hang on long enough for it to happen.
The mentoring nonprofit never placed me with a kid. I don’t know whether they forgot about me or whether they had some kind of organizational problem. However, they’re starting a new program with a local school where mentors teach programming to small groups of teens, and I told them I’d be good at that. (I was good at that, once. A long time ago. I think I could do it again, maybe.) With the energy-booster I might be able to get a part-time job, even if it’s something simple, retail, secretarial. I’m not too proud to try that, after regulating million-dollar products at the federal level. I’m desperate to feel like I still have something to contribute. Hugging cats does not pay for cat food, more’s the injustice. (Maybe if we buy a house I can set up a kitten webcam.)
I’ll never stop writing.