[From February 20, 2016: This entry was written on a quick 36-hour “mental health getaway” to Los Angeles, something I used to do a lot in the days before the shit storm. It’s weird to think that I haven’t been back to LA since.]
Sometimes I worry that I’ve given you the wrong impression. I worry that I’ve somehow glamorized the shit storm, with little stories of toothpaste and oatmeal and acts of loving kindness, all told in an effort to fashion a silver lining when our reality is usually far more ugly. It’s not that those stories are untrue — they are, indeed, part of our experience — but they are bright spot anomalies, which I suppose makes them easier to share than focusing on the fact that she’s losing control of her body and having the sort of occasional cognitive issues that we weren’t yet prepared for. So I couch our fear in romance or humor, maybe over dropped oatmeal or a ridiculously large case of discontinued Crest, in an effort to make it more palatable. Palatable for you, for me? I’m not sure. I play this game of emotional smoke and mirrors, then kick myself for contributing to the bullshit notion that any of it is funny or romantic. It’s not.
I also find myself extremely cognizant of the way the shit storm could end up defining Chelli in the minds of others, particularly those who only know her through my words. Yes, she’s very, very ill and on some level we now know this will — although hopefully far in the future yet — likely be the thing that kills her. Doctors have said as much. But she’s also, often defiantly, so much more than any diagnosis. Some of this concern is residue from years of her feeling like she’ll always be The Addict, no matter how many cushioning adjectives (former, recovering, etc.) accompany the label, or how many years of sobriety she has amassed since. Now, though, I see her struggle with not wanting to be The Sick One. And yet, with nearly every waking moment somehow changed by this ordeal, it’s hard to avoid the shitty Instagram-like filter warping the color in virtually every moment of her existence. The goal, I guess, is to be lowercase sick, but not Sick. This is somehow important for us both.
I came to Los Angeles for a couple days, not to figure it all out, but to organize the chaos in my head a bit. It wasn’t really about the trip’s location — although an ocean, a Varvatos store or two, and the dinner company of one of my favorite humans is not nothing — but it was about interrupting the routine of the shit storm just for a moment, so I could maybe see it from a step back. When you’re triaging a shit storm, you don’t get a lot of moments for emotional organization. It feels too indulgent or decidedly not-the-point, but it’s something my OCD mind craves. After a quick 36 hours, I’m back on a plane, leaving LA with no real answers, but I know I didn’t come here for answers. Yesterday, though, I looked at the ocean and just breathed, really breathed. It was lovely.
Here’s the takeaway: Ours is a love story that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade for anything. It is brutal and honest and painful and lovely and hilarious and not the least bit funny. There is no truthful representation of our lives that includes peril without humor. There is no divorcing the sleepless nights and sadness from moments filled with heartwarming acts of love. We are all of that, sometimes at the same time. It is for better or worse, richer or poorer, in health and yes, in sickness, too. This is who we are.