Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kristina is twittering.

I started "twittering" this week. Twitter is kind of like a blog, only you are limited to 140 characters. This keeps you to 1-3 sentences, so the idea is that you update it more often than you might a blog with clever little musings throughout your day. It is a lot like the status on Facebook, and you can even connect the two so when you post on Twitter it also shows up in your Facebook status, AND you can post updates by sending a text message on your cell phone. Also like Facebook, you can follow your friend's twitterings, which show up on your Twitter homepage. (I am tealrat on Twitter so you can look me up if you're on there.)

I'm trying to focus on blogging more regularly, and twittering during the week. This has been difficult for me lately because I've been feeling irritable, resentful, and angry. I don't like writing when I feel like that. It doesn't make me feel too good about myself, and I certainly don't like to share my crabby with other people. I like myself better when I'm fun and uplifting. I don't like to be a downer. I’m manic pixie dream girl! (This is from a funny story on NPR about one of the many female stereotypes that show up regularly in movies- the irreverent kooky spontaneous girl who lifts the overly serious guy out of his self-absorbed rut. This term was coined in reference to Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown. Think also of Natalie Portman in Garden State, Melanie Griffith in Something Wild, and Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Audrey Hepburn). The problem with manic pixie dream girls, as the website referenced above so diplomatically points out, is that they are marked by the "lack of an inner life". It’s hard to maintain a real life (with a job), acknowledge your own problems, and generally be a real person who is not happy all the time, while trying to keep up a free-spirited, charming naïveté about life and amusing everyone around you. Believe me, I’ve tried. There’s a reason “manic” is usually paired with “depressive”. Maybe Kirsten Dunst in Crazy/Beautiful is slightly more realistic. Slightly.)

I'm trying to figure out a happy medium between dealing with my feelings and wallowing in them, and on the other hand, between keeping a positive attitude and being in denial. It's good that I'm working through unresolved crap from my past, not so good when I start feeling distrustful and suspicious in regards to my life now. I would like to make some kind of New Year’s resolution to not be bitter, but how can I do that and be sure that I won't just go back to suppressing any feelings I have that are distasteful and negative?

I don't like anger, but anger is really just the tip of a huge betrayal iceberg. I could live with the anger at my parents if I could just let go of all the seething resentment towards the people that I felt could have helped (or just paid attention) and turned their back on me. My parents are just two people- I know who they are and I never have to trust them again. I hate the feeling that I will struggle to trust anyone (or anything) for the rest of my life. Friends, situations, my job, money- I'm always waiting for the bottom to drop out from under me. I hate feeling this way. I was starting to feel more confident about the life I have now and that I might finally be ready to accept my brother's death, and then my co-worker committed suicide and I started questioning everything all over again. You just never really know what's going to happen, who people are, and what they might do. Other people can live with that uncertainty. Sometimes people surprise you in positive ways. I have too much awareness of how things can go wrong. I can usually focus on the "glass half full" but right now I'm in the empty.

This is why I’m trying to blog more, even twitter. One of the happiest surprises of my blogging experience has been the support and warmth I have received through this blog. It gives me hope, both that I will work though this and not get stuck in depression forever, and that there are a lot of people, friends and well-wishers, who are there for me and understand, and who won’t turn away. Who listen and sympathize. I really appreciate that. Especially when I am feeling crabby and mad, I suspect that I should be quarantined until I can be sweet and pleasant to be around again, but people still read my blog. I don’t ever feel alone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's cold here, I swear

I feel like I could stop talking for the rest of the year. I am sure of it. I mean, I can talk at work about work, but I have somehow lost the ability to make small talk. I can talk about hockey just fine as long as it’s just about hockey.

About a month ago, I was playing in a pick-up game and I was knocked out. The puck got loose in front of the other team's net, and I was about to shoot it when I saw a hunter green jersey coming at me out of the corner of my eye, and then I was lying flat on my back. The goalie was asking me if I was okay, but the lights seemed too bright and all I could think about was closing my eyes and taking a nap. There were voices around me but they seemed very far away, like I was listening to the TV while dozing on the couch. I thought about the green jersey, how white the rink looked before I closed my eyes, how my head hurt but I was still grateful to my helmet even though I did not remember when it hit the ice. It was surprisingly comfortable at that moment lying there, and I felt safe with the black cage protecting my face and my head resting against the padding. I could feel the hard, flat surface of the ice under me, the padding around my body, and the stiffness of my skates around my ankles. I was in a hockey cocoon.

People were saying my name and telling me to open my eyes, and I did not want to worry anyone, so I opened my eyes a little. It was less bright since the people looking down on me were blocking the lights. I could see the goalie to the right watching me, and I wondered how I had spun around so my head was facing the boards behind the net. People were asking me those stock questions- what's your name, where are you, how many fingers am I holding up? I felt kind of stupid actually answering those kinds of questions, but there were so many vague thoughts swirling around in my head that I was trying to grab on to, mostly to stop them from bouncing around in my brain, that it took some time for me to find the answer and then figure out how to verbalize it. Of course, I know my own name, but so did they and it was a lot of effort for me to repeat it back to them. I could remember driving to the rink, but it took a while to remember the name of the city I was in. I didn't have any problem counting the number of fingers; it just took a moment to remember the word "five".

They helped me up and I slowly skated to the bench, trying not to fall down. I pulled off my gloves and helmet. My head was throbbing so acutely that I could not really think of anything else. I heard green jersey yell from across the ice “sorry” in a sarcastic way, like when you’re apologizing for something you don’t really feel is your fault, or that the person deserved anyway. Her voice floated to the back of my brain, where my head had hit the ice, and stayed there. Almost everyone besides her stopped by the bench periodically to ask how I was doing. I went back to talking in sentences, and explained I had better stay on the bench for the rest of the game. My friend Carrie, who I carpooled with, asked if I wanted her to drive me home, but I said, no, finish the game, I’ll just sit here on the bench and rest. As the throbbing lessened and turned into an ache in my head and neck, the white glare of the lights flickered around me and I started feeling lightheaded and sick to my stomach. I diverted my attention from how I was feeling by watching the game, and talking to the people who came to the bench to rest.

A word about pick-up games- there are no referees and you don’t keep score. They are kind of a combination of practice and an actual game. It’s an opportunity to practice skills and positions in a game situation without the pressure of winning and losing. The pick-up games I play in are Monday nights, and half the people going that week wear a white jersey and the other half wear black. (I'm always on white for some reason.) We start out with five people on each side and everyone else on the bench, and when you get tired, you go to the bench and someone takes your spot. This means someone who would normally play wing can end up on defense or center, and defensemen can play offense. Sometimes there are a lot of beginners, and the beauty of these games is you can make mistakes and do things you wouldn’t normally do in a game, like play a position you’re not comfortable with or try a different shooting technique, and it doesn’t matter. (Shooting can make you especially vulnerable because you have to shift your weight to power your shot so you’re off balance.) In summary, its friends having fun, you avoid hurting anyone, and if you get caught up in the adrenaline or competition and accidentally trip, high stick, check, knock down or even come close to hurting someone, most of the women cannot apologize enough. In fact, most of the women playing that night were totally apologetic and coming over to check on me during the game (including the people on the other team) EXCEPT the one who leveled me.

It wasn’t until I had to be helped off the ice, Carrie had to put on my shoes for me and drive me home, and I was lying in bed that I started to feel pissed off. I’ve only had one other concussion, and it was much worse both in circumstances and effects, but since this has been the year of working through unresolved feelings from the past I got angry about that too. I mean, what happened during the game was crap. I wasn't expecting to be played that hard at a pick-up, I was off balance, and she was trying to knock me down instead of trying to play the puck or my stick. And it was especially crappy to be so unapologetic about it. But, everyone else was really concerned about me, and her and her friend were frozen out in the locker room afterwards. It was obvious that no one else approved of the way she was acting. I didn't get anywhere near that kind of sympathy when my dad beat me. That terror has never left me, though. I thought I was going to die. I lost language that time too. Constructing sentences, especially, but pronouncing words too. Communication was a struggle, including expressing emotion. I was in shock for a while after escaping from my family, and with everything that happened to me I couldn’t even let myself feel what I was feeling, let alone say it.

That Wednesday I had planned to play in a game with the LA Chill, a women’s tournament team, vs. the USC women’s team. As the game got closer I started to feel nervous, even a little terrified. What if it happened again? My neck had stiffened up the next day, and I found myself absentmindedly massaging the sore spots trying to rub out the stiffness and thinking about how some of my friends said they saw my head snap back and my eyes flutter when I hit the ice, things I don’t remember. It’s terrible that I don’t remember. Just before the game I felt like I was going to throw up, although part of that was that I’d never played with the Chill before. My former teammate on the Blue Lady Kings was playing center, and we were on the same line. I realized that she had assisted on all my goals so far. My nerves calmed when I got on the ice, though. In the last Lady Kings season, she had been trying to work out a move with me and the other wing where she pretended to go behind the opposing team’s net, but then kicked back the puck on that same side. We didn’t even talk about it before the game, but she did it, I was there, and I put it in. Less than a minute later we did it again. I was a little shocked. It was definitely the first time I’d scored twice.

My line tried really hard to get me a hat trick, and it seemed like the puck was flying towards me every second I was on the ice, but so were USC. We did win the game, though. Quite convincingly, as a matter of fact. On Friday I played my Blue Lady Kings games, and scored two goals again. So it was the worst and best week of my hockey career so far.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


On October 25, one of my co-workers committed suicide. She didn't work in my department, but she was my HR representative, and the person in HR my team worked with on some of the projects we work on, like ethics training. I used to see her mornings in the locker room at work, where I showered after hockey practice. Of course I felt sad and shocked when my boss told me she had died, but then it really got sad when he told me the company was going to say she died in an "accident" and that I shouldn't tell anyone it was suicide. This put me in the ridiculous position of having to tell my direct reports without saying it was suicide, so when one of them naturally how she died I danced around it by saying "the company says it was an accident" even though I knew that wasn't true. Then the company never did make any sort of announcement that she had died even though she was in HR and practically everyone knew her. Most of our co-workers that came to her memorial service were either in HR or higher up in the company, which I realized later was because unless the head of their department or their supervisor told them, a lot of people didn't even know she died. I was talking to a co-worker and mentioned the memorial service, and she was completely taken aback because she hadn't heard.

Regardless, a lot of people came to the memorial service. I managed to hold it together until someone else started crying, and then I lost it. My co-worker (and friend and fellow hockey player) that I had gone with immediately whipped out a tissue, saying that she knew I would cry so she was prepared. It was sweet.

Two days later was the election. As a liberal and a democrat, I was nervous. I was genuinely shocked when GW was elected the first time, disturbed when he was re-elected, and regardless of my feelings about the competition this time around and no matter how good it looked for Barack Obama, I didn't want to get too excited and have my hopes dashed against the rocks. In California, we also had the propositions to worry about, especially prop 8 (banning gay marriage) and prop 4 (abortion restrictions). That afternoon I was in my car listening to the radio, and they had called Vermont for Obama and either Kentucky or South Carolina for McCain, which meant McCain was ahead 8-3. An hour and a half later I get back in my car, and they are talking about how very, very hard it would be for McCain to get enough electoral votes to win, like he'd have to take normally blue states away from Obama. This was before the polls had closed in California, so they couldn't call the election yet, but when I realized that's what they were hinting at, I started screaming. Obama won!

The propositions were a mixed bag. Prop 4 was defeated, Prop 8 was not. Cue the disbelief here. In a state that's as blue as the day is long (for those readers outside the country who may not spend all their time following U.S. politics, blue states tend to be more Democratic and red states are more Republican) the success of Prop 8 was disappointing, to say the least. And embarrassing. It seems California's liberal leanings were overestimated outside the state as well, and a lot of non-Californian were shocked that the state would pass an amendment to the state constitution which is straight-out (no pun intended) discrimination. You just can't assume anything about how people will vote.

Regardless, Obama's victory wasn't just politically or intellectually satisfying. I felt elated, and the feeling of it seemed to permeate our country afterwards. People were happy. Political commentators were smiling when they talked about it. Even people who voted for John McCain seemed to feel hopefully and magnanimous.

As uplifting as it was, though, for me it was bittersweet. I feel sure that my brother would have loved Barack Obama. Not only would he have voted for him, I think he would have been one of the many volunteers spending all their free time working for the campaign. He would have thought Prop 8 was stupid, and would have fought against it. He might have even joined the protests that erupted around the state. I thought about that as I sat in traffic, trying to get home in the days after the election, with the protests closing streets and taking over parts of L.A. (that I happen to live near). I thought about how this should have been his time, his place, his world. He should be here. I started having dreams where he was talking to me, and then I would realize it was a dream and wake up sweating, and sometimes crying. I miss him terribly.

The fires came back to Southern California, I scored 5 goals, I made it through Thanksgiving and I'm gearing up for Christmas and New Years Eve (my brother's birthday). I've been sick a lot, and I'm struggling to write. It's hard to talk about how I feel right now. Depression doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes. A lot of the feelings I had but couldn't deal with after Jeff's death are coming up, especially anger at the lack of support I had and how people didn’t seem to want to talk to me about it. This has a lot to do with the reaction to my co-worker’s suicide. It brought up a lot of the frustration I felt with other people’s reaction to my brother’s suicide, and peoples’ discomfort with suicide. When the most catastrophic thing that could possibly happen to you happens, and your whole reality is tore down and destroyed, and you feel like the people around you want to pretend like it didn’t happen because it makes them feel weird, it can make you feel pretty resentful. Grief causes intense pain, both emotional and physical, and when you’re going through it and you have no choice but to feel it, and other people are doing everything they can to avoid a little discomfort that doesn’t even compare to what you are going through, it can make you feel intensely alone and abandoned.

These feelings, mostly left over from the year after Jeff’s death, have been resurfacing all year, but the year is almost over. It might get better after his birthday. My birthday is in January, and that week I will be playing in a women's hockey tournament in Las Vegas. Our team is called the Hot Flashes (a little joke about how we are getting older) and we are choosing funny names to put on our jerseys. I could be a lot of things right now- Irritable, Bloated, Crabby, Annoyed, but I went with Sweaty. I may be feeling better by then, but I will still be sweaty no matter what happens.