Monday, April 17, 2017

Defects and Damage

I wake up early this morning feeling sad and sorry for myself for no reason, which is a typical mindset for me, unfortunately.

Despite a current lack of objective reasons in my life for self-pity, I always manage to find some--even and especially on a sunny day in Juneau, when the blaring blueness of the sky twists the knife of my unjustifiably stank mood.

I’m great at this feeling.

I step on the scale and weigh five pounds more than I think I should, and yet I’m “starving.” I spot a brownie in my fridge and gobble it down for breakfast standing up, lurking in a corner of the kitchen while my kids are distracted with a squabble.

I’m battling my insurance company to get them to cover a “breakthrough” medicine that costs $37,000 a year and will supposedly magically cure my allergies and eczema, thus allowing me to exercise and sweat again without feeling like I just washed my face in battery acid, and give me that elusive "runner's high" that's never been close to as good as drugs or alcohol.

I promptly free-fall down a Facebook rabbit hole, indulging in a depressing perusal of the one-dimensionally happy lives of everyone who’s ever hurt me or for whom love was not enough.

When I lift my head up from the iHunch position, I have nothing to show for my “research” besides a well-deserved neck cramp and the firm conviction of lost and wasted time. Writing feels plodding and laborious today, and like nothing anyone, least of all me, gives a shit about.

Then I see this picture of Becca, and I look back at what she texted me after “Happy Easter, another Jewish parent fail day!”

“You can blog about it,” she said of the photo. “I don’t have it in me!” I texted back to make sure she was serious. “If you want to,” she responded. “It seems rich with possibilities. Unlike my fucking life!”

What can I say? She’s not wrong.

When your husband dies suddenly leaving you with two children under 7, you get diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, start a blog, have multiple surgeries, move twice, obtain a difficult and demanding job, and then develop an unrelated and rare form of eye cancer over the course of seven years, it’s not easy to disagree. So I don’t, and I tell Becca as much when she gets home from her most recent cancer treatment this week.

“I won’t try to shine this turd,” I say, and we both laugh.

Becca always says John’s death was a combination of bad luck and bad decisions, but I guess because I’m not religious, I think that’s true of everything. Each of life's zig-zags is some combination of luck and decision-making--good or bad--and not in an even 50/50 ratio, either.

More like 90/10 luck to decision-making, I’m afraid.

We like to think our friendships are forever and preordained to endure; that we are in the driver’s seat; that we can control outcomes. In short, we like to think our spouses, our jobs, our relationships, and all of our life circumstances were fated and earned on merit, because that makes them feel less likely to be lost.

And when we do inevitably lose them, it’s easier to say, “well, everything happens for a reason,” instead of being honest with ourselves by entertaining the terrifying possibility that everything, good or bad, happens for no reason at all.

This is Becca standing in our local climbing gym, aptly named “The Rock Dump,” at a kid’s birthday party this weekend. She looks like a movie star (as usual) particularly with her post-eye surgery sunglasses on. She’s in a harness and ready to climb a wall, and probably plans to do some of her signature eagle-eyed editing for work with her good eye later.

She keeps saying she’s defective and damaged now, but aren’t we all? And weren’t we always? From the moment we’re born, we’re dying and fucking up along the way. But we’re also learning, growing, and reflecting at the same time.

If Becca is right, and this is what defected and damaged looks like, then I guess I’m less afraid of defected and damaged than I thought. 

I have Becca to thank for that.


  1. Without overthinking a response, and wondering what's the most appropriate thing to say here-- Great read!!! Put a smile on my face.

  2. I love Becca. She's touched my life for over a decade of rear view mirror experiences that show strength and courage and hope. Thank you for writing.

  3. I don't know either of you but as a former juneauite we have many mutual friends. Both of you are amazing and I continue to find strength in your life stories. High fives and an f-yeah from Portland!


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