It’s about time for my annual retrospective, and boy is this one a fuckin’ doozy.
Most of y’all know that my birthday, which is mid-January, was followed immediately by an accident that resulted in the loss of my left foot.
I also, in the process, lost my job, my health, and, thanks to the incredibly poor behavior of an ultimately untrustworthy “friend”, the roof over my head.
It is now December, just under a month shy of the anniversary of that accident. I have, in that time:
- Discovered what a phenomenal group of friends and supporters I have. Holy shit, y’all. I could complain about the one person who turned out to be a dishonest shitbag of a garbage human, but why, when I have SO MANY AMAZING PEOPLE in my life? I could not have made it through this year without my friends, and I am so unbelievably grateful to all of them for everything.
- Recovered from a vicious C Diff infection, the results of which still affect my appetite and ability to eat. I’m now up to about two meals a day, from nearly nothing. It’s not always easy or consistent, and the food my body will accept is significantly more limited than it used to be. I’m still experiencing regular unplanned weight loss. But I can eat, and I have energy to exercise and work.
- Survived one of the strongest, longest periods of sustained suicide ideation in my life, sometimes by sitting on my hands for hours at a time. I owe much of the emotional reserves it took to stay alive to my beloved cat, and my beloved friend Eden Gallanter.
- Learned how to function, first without a foot, and then with a prosthesis. This took months of religiously following the instructions of my physical therapists, the determination to work through pain and discomfort to become functional again, and the ongoing support of my incredible friends.
- Busted my ass to recover both strength and physical ability. From workouts at home to kicking ass at the gym, I have spent hours and hours exercising. It’s paid off.
- Found a new job, and then a better job.
- Discovered what happens when two exceptionally well-matched people are extremely open, honest, caring, and careful with each other right from the start (they fall head over heels for each other).
In 2015 I fought my way through hell, and I won’t say I came out of it whole (I mean emotionally and mentally, obviously not physically). But I somehow managed to get my life, which was entirely derailed, back on track (even if on a different track than it was on before the accident). I somehow managed to hold on to my strength and my sanity. I somehow managed to find love with a woman who blows me away on a daily basis. I somehow managed to get to the point where I can face 2016 with pride in what I’ve accomplished, with some optimism for the future, and with a better sense of what I need to do and where I need to be than I ever had before.
I’m not gonna say “Happy New Year” or anything like that. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last handful of years, it’s that it’s a pretty fucking ridiculous thing to say. I will say: Welcome, 2016. If we can just avoid voting Trump into office, we might be okay.
I’m at work, and my new coworker sees my driver’s license photo, which was taken over a decade ago.
“You’ve lost so much weight!” She exclaims.
“Yeah, well, I experienced traumatic injury and illness this year…”
“Congratulations!” She hasn’t even heard me. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’ve lost weight. “I want to do that, too.”
Between the loss of an actual extremity, stress, emotional distress, and a vicious C. diff infection, I lost about 40lbs in the course of maybe 2 months, and I had no power over that at all.
My relationship to food and eating after both intense trauma and gut infection has completely changed, and I have a genuinely difficult time consuming all the calories I need. This is important because I work my ass off at the gym in my ongoing attempts to build the strength and endurance I need to function as well as I’d like with a prosthetic foot.
Today I managed to get down:
- 3 bites of cereal
- a mocha
- part of a bag of chips
- several determined bites of chicken and rice
- part of a slice of bread
I can’t tell you how much I would love to have been able to eat even one full meal. I continue to have very little power over my weight or how much I lose, and that is something I am working on (this is not an invitation for advice, either).
This isn’t every day. Some days I manage 3 squares. Some days I manage seconds (this happens almost never ). Most days I average 1-2 meals.
Every time somebody compliments me on my weight loss, I am reminded of days spent in the hospital unable to find my appetite through the physical agony and emotional shock I endured. I am reminded of days spent unable to function, unable to eat, in despair as I lost even more control of my life and my health. I am reminded that I have not fully recovered, that I am struggling with this daily.
But the fatphobia in this world is so intense, so hardwired, and so fucked up that it would never occur to anybody that my weight loss was anything other than desired.
The entitlement people feel towards the bodies of others is so automatic, and has gone so unexplored, that it is not the fact that they have commented on my body that goes questioned, but the fact that I am struggling to respond graciously.
And the entitlement people feel to graciousness upon the “gift” of a compliment, however unwanted or unasked for, ensures that I must either do the emotional work for them—of fielding their ignorance, their insensitivity, their not-so-subtle programming in patriarchal values—or have my attitude questioned (rarely a safe option for a queer genderfluid person of color) and work harder all around.
This is bullshit.
Fuck your fatphobia. Fuck your concern trolling. Fuck your entitlement to my body and how it looks. Fuck you for not stopping to think for a second that there are so very many reasons a person might lose weight, and actually setting out to is only one of them.
It’s time to stop remarking on other people’s bodies, especially when you don’t know the whole story. I would say it’s time to stop making assumptions, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of folks to make that leap. So let’s start with shutting the fuck up and letting people move though their day and their lives without wondering who is going to comment on their bodies next.
As a post-script to the fedora-wearing motherfuckers who think people should just be happy to get a compliment and will comment here and on FB to that effect:
I’m really, really tired of this Boomers v Millenials crap.
What utter bullshit.
The fact is, generation after generation of Americans has been told that if they worked hard and got an education, they would get a job and be successful. That they would eventually, maybe with the help of their parents, be able to buy a house and raise a family if they so desired. Every single generation of Americans has been fed this, and for generations it was more (if you were White) or less (if you were anything else) true—before modern medicine extended lives, after multiple massive-scale wars left even a once-massively depressed country hungry for people to fill jobs. The American Dream relied on more than just the willingness to work hard.
This generation of young adults was bottle-fed this dream, and misogyny, and racism, and toxic masculinity. They were fed the idea of bootstrapping, and their own personal merit. They didn’t come up with their expectations, beliefs, and behaviors in a vacuum.
Poor choices were made. Shit went horribly wrong. We all know this. We can say the Boomers fucked shit up, and yeah—they did. Some of them even know it. Hell, my mom still occasionally apologizes, because she sees the difference between my situation and hers. She remembers a time when you could walk into a place and get hired on the spot. She remembers when education was nearly free.
But shit gets fucked up—that’s what happens, kids. Look at history. History is all about shit getting fucked up. And people having to deal with it and getting cranky at the people who came before. I qualify as neither a Boomer nor a Millenial; My generation sorta fell through the cracks. Regardless, people have been treating Millenials like they are angry children. Well, shit yeah.
What we need to recognize is that the Millenials are the first generation for whom that American promise has been well and truly broken (even during the Depression the government was working on programs to help get people back on their feet, in a way that today’s government is not). We need to realize that the things to which they feel they are entitled are things they’ve been promised since birth by people who believed it because it came true for them or enough of the people around them. And that their seeming petulance about it is really just the disappointment of a generation of people who are actually working hard only to discover that every single one of them just got sent searching for the same, nearly empty, pot of gold that they’d been individually assured of finding.
Yes. There is a lot of fucking privilege in that disappointment. Especially a lot of White privilege. (The American Dream is built entirely out of White privilege, once you factor in systemic racism.) That’s been endlessly explored in articles all over the Internet (no, as a person of color I do not dismiss the importance of this issue—it’s just not for this post). Yes. Millenials do need to grow up. Once that disappointment hits, the next move is to get over it and move forward with what you’ve got.
But to have a promise that affects your entire life broken isn’t actually that small of a disappointment. It’s not like they dropped their ice cream cone. They—we all—have to completely restructure our understanding of what is possible, what they are capable of, and how they are going to succeed within the American Reality, not the American Dream.
That’s not actually a small thing.
So here’s the deal. I am angry. Furious. Enraged. Livid. The fact that it is 2015 and it is still possible for me or any of my black friends to have our lives destroyed by supposed servants of the people simply because we are black makes me truly, deeply, painfully angry. The fact that these careless murderers, these state-backed assassins rarely get punished for murdering black people makes me want to flip tables. All of the tables. I’m right there with the rioters in Baltimore, is what I am trying to say. I want to break the windows of cop cars. I want to set shit on fire. I want to flip tables, throw rocks, pound concrete, rage against this system that has perpetuated itself BECAUSE REMAINING QUIET ONLY FUELS THE ENGINE THAT MAKES OPPRESSION POSSIBLE.
So when you tell me that racism is shitty, but you’d really prefer if people could go back to reasoned arguments on Facebook instead of destroying property, all I hear is: “I have the privilege of waiting for you to receive justice, and your life means less to me than glass and concrete.” When you tell me that you don’t condone the actions of corrupt racist police forces across the country, but follow that up with, “but we need to find intelligent ways to fight,” all I hear is: “I’m avoiding using the word ‘thug’ because I’ve read somewhere that it is racist.” When you tell me, “I feel angry too, but you don’t see me smashing in small business windows,” I hear, “I will never have to worry about my children being shot by the police simply for the color of their skin, so I can afford to show my anger by sharing articles on social media.”
If you are white, and puzzled by the rage and pain of your black friends, family, lovers, partners, and children, then you are part of the problem. If you decry the destruction of cars with the same energy that you decry the destruction of lives and families, then you are part of the problem. If you think just talking about these issues is getting anybody but white people anywhere, then you are part of the problem. If you are wishing for the days when we could pretend to be color blind and the goal was to become a Bill Cosby-approved house negro, your time has passed. Evolve, or you are part of the problem.
If you are not already angry, now is the time to get angry. If you have not already found your rage about this situation—and I don’t mean self-righteous indignation, here, I mean that deep acid burn in the center of your being that threatens to overcome your very existence every time you hear of a new murder, every time you watch a cop walk free, every time George Zimmerman appears on the news, every time one of your fedora-wearing, libertarian-voting, #notallwhatever white friends brings up black on black crime or absentee fathers, then I simply do not understand. If, when another name floats to the surface of your awareness and becomes yet another hashtag (and they do every 28 hours—black men are being murdered by police practically daily and that number does not include women of color or trans people of color), you do not feel like buying a ticket to Baltimore to smash cars with your black brothers and sisters, then I do not understand. I. Don’t. Understand.
But you go ahead and keep telling me there are better ways for people to fight state-sponsored murder, that waiting quietly and voting the right people into office is going to work for us eventually. That white people will eventually just give up that upper hand and stop being racist. After all, we have a black president, right? More importantly, keep telling yourself all of that. In this instance, the lie you believe is far more powerful and damaging than the one I believe. And you can afford to believe it.
You’re the problem. You.
Hello, Gentle Reader. Been a while since I blogged, and odds are you know why, but I’m gonna tell the story like you don’t, so you will just have to sit and listen with the rest of the kids.
On January 19th (that’s the day after my birthday, for those of you playing the Whiskeypants! Home Game™), I decided that I wanted a sandwich from Berkeley Bowl, where the sandwiches are sufficiently delicious that I was willing to brave one of the mid-level circles of Hell to get one. I picked up a few other things, hopped back on Clyde, my beloved motorcycle, and moseyed back home. I was enjoying the sunshine and the clear roads, taking it slowly because I hadn’t been out in a bit and wanted to enjoy it.
If you have never ridden a motorcycle, you might not realize how hyperaware bikers tend to be of their surroundings. That’s not to say we can’t be taken by surprise, but we are also intensely aware that death or severe bodily injury could come from any direction, and the best way to avoid it is to know what’s going on around us at all times. What we absolutely cannot be prepared for is the sheer cluelessness of the motorists around us.
So, when I noted a car coming from the opposite direction that was signaling a left turn, I could not know that: 1. When the driver slowed as I approached the intersection it was not because she saw me; 2. She wasn’t slowing to give me my right of way; 3. She was slowing for some other reason related to her turn.
Thinking she understood that there was oncoming traffic and that I did have the right of way, I entered the intersection. I was wrong; she also entered the intersection. Having corrected her initial turn, she sped right along into her left, and into me.
The map is not included for accuracy, but just to give you an idea of what happened. She hit me dead on. I couldn’t possibly recreate that angle accurately, but as you can see, the turn requires a funky angle to begin with. Her fender definitely connected with my left leg, however, and both my bike and I were flung quite a ways. The green pentagon represents where Clyde landed, more or less, and the yellow represents where I landed.
I went down screaming, body and head hitting the ground hard (were it not for my beloved Shoei helmet I might not be here to write this blog post, actually). I will spare you the details of how it felt. I will tell you that in the time spent waiting for the paramedics, I screamed, I wept, I begged for help, I asked how my motorcycle was [PRIORITIES], and I knew there was something horribly wrong with my leg. They finally got me out of the street and into Highland Hospital in Oakland, where treatment began.
I was several days in the hospital and one operation in before a decision was finally made (a decision I was and am 100% behind) to amputate my left leg below the knee. Basically, January 19 and one very careless driver managed to change my life forever. But I ain’t mad.
I got lucky. That accident could easily have killed me or left me with much more severe injuries and disabilities. In the past two weeks I have discovered that I have a veritable army of friends and family who are willing to step up in ways small and huge. I’m gonna have a badass prosthesis. And perhaps most importantly to my happiness, I can still ride motorcycles. In the mean time, I am learning how to function minus a left leg. I am learning just how annoying a phantom limb can be. I am learning how much my friends love and care for me. And, while it will in no way be easy, and it will take a lot to get me back to the point where I can really enjoy my life again, things are gonna be all right.
Insurance is not going to cover all of my medical expenses, nor all of the costs of the changes I will have to make in terms of lifestyle, living and transportation accommodations, and of course there will be myriad other expenses that will crop up as a matter of course. My friends have set up a fundraiser to help me and if you wouldn’t mind either donating or sharing (or both, if you are feeling wacky like that), I would appreciate it greatly. However, no obligation, Gentle Reader: I love you regardless.
In the mean time, as I heal, my stump is gonna make faces at you.