Monday, August 09, 2010

Unknown: that dread which will kill me, but also keep me going, alive.

The most important aspect of our trip was that….I left the apartment, and I have Raccoon to thank for that. I said to Raccoon that I would come to comi-con this year (not quite understand that comi in comi-con stands for COMIC – but it is more than that, it is a manga, publishing, film, TV, media, cinema film festival event). But as the time came closer, I had fundraised to go but I did not want to go. I told Linda that every day.

I was scared.
When things go well I can go outside with someone once a week, I can be awake 12 hours a day but 4-6 of those hours on average are spent doing body tasks to keep me functioning and alive. So, move from bed to computer, and shower once a week, and be on oxygen all the time and be in pain most of the time, but a level of pain where I can function after the first hour or two awake. And with DVD’s, manga and on the weekend postcards, there are aspects of pleasure. With Japanese works of Fiction like the Story of Ibis, or Harmony or Manga like Ooku, DVD sets from the US/UK like Life, Luther and Burn Notice, or films like Bajo la Sal I have the mental excitement again of engaging a mind which is smart, clever and taught me something by bringing me up to a new level. Because who doesn’t need to know how to make a cheap tracking device and set off explosives (Burn Notice, the McGuyver of spy gal). So, good days moments of engaged and alive, and mediocre days, DVD’s like Sanctuary or manga like Otomen or Honey Hunt to keep pain’s claw marks ignored another second and some vocab intact even if I don’t know what city I am in, or who is President/Premier.

It is a cocoon of habit which lets me remember what to do, where to go, and to stay alive while doing it.

What terrifies me is the unexpected, the uncontrollable, the random because that is what makes something which is a painful dangerous condition which will eventually kill me into mind exploding agony where even WITH help, I could die that night, that hour. So when a ‘month of rest’ to get strength for the trip turns into one problem after another, and I am passing out all the time, then hit with a heat wave which leaves me trapped and terrified. Heat hurts. Imagine those hot dogs on the grill or in water as they swell and swell until they skin splits open. That is me. I sleep and all I have are nightmares where my limbs and torso is razored off in layers like a butchers shop does with sandwich meat. And I can’t wake up because I am now in a heat coma (the heat of the blood to my brain is hot enough to give me seizures, but I am too weak to wake up), and if I do wake up, I am paralyzed. That is summer.

And if that pain is not a minute but hours and days and then see what the unexpected and the uncontrollable becomes: pain, terror, loss of function, loss of life (I don’t mind dying for an ideal, I do mind dying because of a heat wave).

A trip to comi-con offered infinite possible problem, like Borges’ shop of mirrors of ‘possible’ from breaking down in a hot California plain desert stretch of highway to a blood clot or stroke (and it WAS in the 90's for several days). It was UNKNOWN, that was the fear. Add in that my medication was running out, and Linda’s job hunting had not resulted in a single short list (problem when over 1,000 managers are let go on an ISLAND where the main employer IS the person who let everyone go – and then they retroactively hired back all of the levels of workers BELOW her, without letting anyone including her apply for the jobs – welcome to British Columbia) or interview. Scary. And of course, being B.C., unemployment is capped far below the poverty line. Scary.

So I cried and begged her to go without me, into the unknown without me, she could take a friend. But I made a promise. And I keep promises.

And the first day I slept 6 hours, the next I slept 4.5, the next 4 hours, then three hours. The damn maps were off and the driving times we planned on were all wrong. There was (surprise!) rush hour in San Fran, in L.A., in San Diego, in empty highway. There was road construction. We pulled up at 1:00 am or 2:00 am and THEN I had to go to the bathroom, finished at 8:00 am, awake at 10:30 am. I almost went to the hospital three times to San Diego. An sane person would have. Except I knew we didn’t have the money and since I figured I would die anyway.... (maybe not a 'sane person').

I made it to the finish line, to opening night, for a few hours seeing steam punk and the sights, and then I wasn’t really human anymore, unable to move, to speak, out on the bathroom floor. For 12 hours, I didn’t know what ‘words’ were, I had nothing going mentally and couldn’t move, I couldn’t even moan my pain.

So a day in bed and when I went out the following day I used Indy and I went to see Moto Haigo, the mother of shojo and yaoi manga, who wrote about things in the 60’s and 70’s wrote about things which aren’t even talked about in the west today, 40 years later. One early manga series was about a young teen whose mother remarries and the step-father sexually abuses him in a brutal and systematic way, while the step father leaves his own son alone. The only way the teen can find a way out is to rig the car to kill the step-father, only to have his own mother in the car when it crashes. His step-brother doesn’t understand the mixture of grief and relief he has at the double funeral and hates him. That’s not an uncommon story, not when churches are giving out payments for tens of thousands of abuse cases, just not a story WE talk about.

Haigo showed a story, Lizard Girl about a woman who gives birth to a girl and to everyone else, the girl is a girl but to the mother, it is a hideous lizard. This was Haigo trying to understand why her mother was active in her disapproval of her career, her life, of her. That classic question of ‘Why? Why can’t they see me?” is answered in an elegent manga.

I went to the Yen Press panel, and found they are releasing another in depth historical manga by the creator of Emaa. I went and got a book signed by the author, for free: and given to me. They promoted Beautiful Darkness, a book on my book list by having the authors sign and give away copies. Score!

And due to crowding I was left in the sun waiting for a trolley for over 30 minutes, and ended up with heat exhaustion and a fever. That's the unknown for ya. We can't know until we go to look, and that's the risk and reward.
But I wasn’t afraid anymore. I had gone BOOM in the redwoods and this is part of what it looked like, and I laughed (and later cried). I went to a museum and had a seizure, I went to old Town San Diego, I went up and down in elevation and my lungs hurt, and I was passing out daily. I was stopping breathing when passed out. But I wasn’t terrified, I was doing. I was seeing.

I realized that for me, the great luxury is in doing. To experience something, to see flowers, or oceans, or forest, or cities, or shops would have bad experiences, and okay ones and occasionally great ones but they are all things I cannot get inside a room. I can’t talk to Nene Thomas inside my room. I can’t see antique original stagecoaches in my room. I could not eat at a mexican surf shop and restaurant in my room. And while I was hurt, emotionally and physically, I was reintroduced to....well, me, or the type of me I prefer: dream it and do it.

A year ago, I risked all to see lava. Now I might need to risk all to see a historical street, or to go window shopping or buy specialty tea, or get turned away as a homeland security threat at JPL (for asking security booth of Buck and Bob where the visitor center we were cleared to visit was located) for trying to get postcards. Just a tip Jet Propulsion Lab, the place where unmanned probes of spaces has info and images rendered: if you DON’T want people to know where you are due to SECURITY then you might not want signs directing us off the highway right to the entrance, and you might not want to fly a GIANT American flag larger than the building on top of it. Just a little security hint.

So do I want to get outside for a wheel and see the stores, or go for a picnic or do I want to live as long as I can?

I want both. But if I don’t get out of room, out of the comfort and fear zone, then I won’t get either life OR living. Winter will be here soon and then I really CAN’T go outside (I get frostbite indoors). I needed to get back in the game, that friction called living. And I wouldn’t have done that without Raccoon.

I could not have gone and keep going without a lot of people: every person who gave florestar, dishes, utensils, medications, in order to give me a baseline of a life. And every person who sent a letter or card that kept my spirits up, who sent stamps or postcards to keep me able to reach other to others, who sent manga, DVD's and gift certificates to allow me to engage in intellect, and for those times when I just need to sit, stare and recover. Because out for 4-5 hours and a day recovering is me living on the dangerous edge of going wild (my 4-5 hours is like your 48 hours without sleeping having a party!). So after 5 hours, even after sleeping staring at Sanctuary Season 2 and watching 'Sanctuary going to Comic-Con' extra makes me loopy and smile and go, "I'm here, they're here, we're all here!" (yeah, just in different years - just keep lying there space cadet girl!) Thank you each and every one who helped me in all those ways.

My promise to Raccoon and his to me of Comic-con got me jump started back into seeing, doing and being (him showing me how to get rid of that extra fluid, Indy style). Doing, being - I might have spent much of the travel experience in the van, might have never left it but once in Yosemite, but I was THERE.

The very thing I feared was the gift that Raccoon gave me: The unknown. Because it not only contains all things I fear, but all things I will fall in love with, all passions, all excitements and joys. And that I might not remember them for more than a couple days doesn’t matter, the habit of living and expecting more, both in life and from myself is an attitude I want to cultivate. I don't know what I can find, not until I try.
Thanks Raccoon.


Lorna, Bob and Liam said...

Beautifully said and illustrated; wonderful gift from Raccoon (and Linda); graciously, daringly accepted. Your courage is matchless and inspirational... when you live, you LIVE!

Well done, Raccoon, and all who helped Beth do this.

And as always, Beth, beautiful and appropriate photos and manga. Thanks for sharing!

Neil said...

Thank you for trusting Raccoon.

Raccoon: I think (even though we're both guys and I'm straight and I'm pretty sure you are too) that I love you. You're as awesome as Beth and Linda.

And the reason I stopped here this evening is for a Hello Kitty diversion: Hello Kitty bicycle tires! As seen at

Love and zen hugs,

wendryn said...

Raccoon is pretty amazing for pulling you out! :)

I'm very glad you came out of the safe cocoon - it was wonderful to get to meet you and Linda and Raccoon and spend time with interesting, intelligent people. Thank you for the time.

The unknown *is* scary, no question, but it is also where the opportunities come.

Jejune said...

It's wonderful to hear from you, and that you DID all these things that you dreamed of, even though they were scary and hugely challenging. You have my love and admiration xxoo

Raccoon said...

I'm glad I was able to do the same thing for you, now, that you did for me, when I first started reading your blog.

Sometimes, you need to get out of your safety zone.

Your travel, to Japan, convinced me that I could travel, too. That you could exercise, play volleyball and badminton, and race, helped me get going, exercise-wise, myself.

Thanks for coming to Comic-Con.

Baba Yaga said...

Congratulations to both of you.

It's sometimes far easier to do for someone else than for oneself. Another angle on this dratted thing of needing other people to keep us human.

JaneB said...

Thanks to Raccoon Linda, and thanks to you Elizabeth for sharing both the experience and your feelings about it with the rest of us - a reminder that safety, life in a rut, can become a trap and that living life to the full can be much more rewarding, however terrifying it is...

SharonMV said...

Thank you Raccoon! And thank you Linda for going into the unknown,
thank you for once again taking me with you. My own adventures will soon begin - one way or another.

We had a visit from my Dennis' sister & her family. I hadn't seen her for 4 years, hadn't seen my niece & nephew for nearly 6 years. They'd been by, but it was always to meet at a restaurant & I was never well enough to go. I explained to Dennis that he had to explain that I'm not ever well enough to go out to a restaurant as my track record is one time in over a year & a half. So they were convinced to come by the house. We sat outside as brother in law is allergic to cats. We had to switch plans, to use the kitchen deck as the main deck would be under burning sun. So Dennis brought all the chairs out side (we only have one patio chair). They came, we sat ,we talked. It was sunny, but I was in the shade as sun is really bad for Lupus. I got to see my nearly grown up niece & nephew. But even arranging that one visit was a bit of the unknown for me. Fortunately I was sick & had to up my hydrocortisone med to keep my adrenals going, so had more energy because of that.

And that you Beth for telling me about some of the scary, difficult & bad parts of the trip. I knew they were happening. Glad you made it through all that & were able to do & see & dream.

And thank you Linda! For taking Beth. For going out into the unknown with her, for taking the chance and the journey and for bringing her back to us.