No longer floating in the stratosphere of stupid (and other updates).

Remember all that chest bleeding that was going on last time we spoke?

Well.

It didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. I had to see my surgeon again to have him drain it, which meant being juiced while having my left drain removed simultaneously. Neither one felt particularly pleasant, in case you were wondering. We all hoped that, with the compression of an ace bandage and pressure to the area, the bleeding would stop and the chest flap would adhere to my muscle. In typical Elspeth fashion, this did not happen, and my surgeon scheduled a “right mastectomy exploration” surgery. Exploring, what fun!

On Tuesday morning, I went in for surgery and came out with no explanation for the bleeding, plus two new drains. As disheartening as it is, I am hopeful that the extra drain time will help me heal enough so that I may get on with treatment. In the meantime, I’m collecting photos of the nasty (beautiful) things my body produces so that, at some point in the future, I can create a photo collage and make my big break as a modern artist. El oh el.

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Why, yes, those are Larry David leggings! I wore them to the hospital for good luck. All of my nurses loved them, even though most of them thought they were Bernie Sanders. Speaking of nurses- it is Nurse Appreciation Week! Have you profusely thanked all of the nurses in your life? If not, please take the time to do so. I have been incredibly blessed by the excellent care that the nurses of Methodist Hospital have provided for me in the last two months. Without them, I would still be peeing purple and trying to use WebMD to cure my blood balloon boob.

All of this does put off starting the chemotherapy process, though. I need to heal and have these two saddlebags removed before I can have my port placed. It also means that I am doing well enough to start back at work, which I was less than thrilled about. I’ve really enjoyed having time to write, spend time with Justin and my mom, and focus on getting better, as opposed to stressing the fuck out over whether or not we should be purchasing cups for the med office. If I had it my way, truly my way, we would pack up and move out to LA where we could play in the sun all day and I could make my break into the green burial scene. Home viewings! Natural burial! New age death positivity! Woo! I’d even settle to stay in MN and work from home as a tortured writer figure… But since that isn’t happening, I’m back to an 8-4 routine. At least I have good health insurance and some wonderful coworkers!

The last update I have for now is a very exciting one (at least to me)! If you’ve known me at any point during the last year and a half, you know that I’ve been desperately trying to get divorced from an anthropomorphic chicken nugget, and that it hasn’t been going well. But no longer! The final nail has been hammered into the coffin and I’ll be free sometime in June or early July. Hallelujah, hallelujah, thank the dark lords! For months, my attorney had been proposing fair and equitable settlements to him and his counsel, and they kept refusing them, all the while making terrible comments about me and throwing around unfounded accusations. It all came to a head when we had to sit down for a third party-mediated FENE, which is basically financial uncoupling. I won’t go into details, but I will say that I held my ground and walked away satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes things do go my way.

#blessed

If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?

So I went to Burning Man.

I did That Thing in the Desert.

I did it, I adventured, and now I’m home. But what does that mean?

I don’t know, friends. I had this entire post penned and ready to publish, but I instead kept hemming and hawing over it until I hated it. The whole thing was deleted. It’s gone in part because I loathed the way I couldn’t English up a good description of what I had experienced, but also partly because I don’t want to publicly share what I went through in Black Rock City. It may sound silly, but they are memories that I want only for myself and the people I shared them with. These people who accepted me for me, who built me up, and showed me that I am worth loving- I selfishly want to keep that inside of me.

Except it’s not selfish at all.

My last post (I think) mentioned the temple at Burning Man and how I had (maybe) set it as my intention for going out there. The temple itself is an incredible structure, made for the most delightful burn, and is covered in residents’ personal messages of grief, loss, and pain. I wanted to go there and take all of my anger, resentment, and hurt (plus a wedding dress) to burn into oblivion. It was such a small idea at the time but, by the Friday that I actually got out there, it meant so much more.

Avoiding the temple was easy for the majority of the week. I really didn’t want to go, even though it was my one goal. I think I was mostly scared of the emotions I might be overcome by. It’s enough to have your own shit to plod through, but thousands of other people bearing their heart and soul there? Ooof. That fucking temple could move Ted Bundy to tears, I swear. It wasn’t until I spoke to a camp-mate about watching the sun rise that I finally decided to bite the bullet. This human was incredible- a long-time Burner, a Green Dot Ranger, and all-around genuine person- he made me feel like I had enough strength to follow through with my original intention.

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Falling asleep to the EDM jams of our neighboring camp, Ashram Galactica, I dreamed my last dream about the person I intended to burn from my life experience. At 5 AM I woke up, threw on my wedding dress, some leggings, and the only sweater I packed (silly, silly mistake), and rode out with my grey wizard friend to the temple. I let the structure take me to a spot where I felt comfortable sobbing my little face off. Sitting down, I realized how overwhelmed I was by the intense grief and sadness that openly presented itself on the wooden walls. But the longer I sat, the more I took in and realized that we’re all one when we’re experiencing the lowest lows of our life. We can all understand what loss is- and in that loss, there is community, acceptance, and out-pouring love.

One thing I noticed as I sat there, shivering and debating taking that stupid dress off, was the number of monuments to David Bowie. I mourned the loss of the human who made it okay for me to embrace my weirdness just as much as the next person, but it wasn’t until the temple that I realized what that impact meant. Against a beam was propped a cardboard sign with a photo of Bowie and his iconic quote scrawled in black ink:

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

At that moment…at that sunrise…I had no idea where I was going. What I did know was that once I left behind all my negative feelings, once I let go of hating myself, when I truly just accepted myself for who I am…it didn’t matter where I was going because it was going to be fucking rad. I tied my wedding dress around that column and left, albeit freezing, but with a new head on my shoulders.

Later that day, while this was processing in my mind, I met a woman who had worked tirelessly on the temple build. She had come to our camp to receive some healing and had ended up waiting for a few hours to be seen. I originally sat down to apologize to her for the wait, but we ended up talking and got into a discussion about what our favorite parts of the Burn had been so far. I explained my little temple intention and the story behind it and she met me with an incredible bit of humanity and realness. Paraphrasing her words won’t mean to you, my dear reader, what it meant to me, but she told me that she had built the steeple of the temple. In it, she had placed a home-made banner from her own wedding (which had ended like mine), but that she was the only one who knew it was there. She explained that, while she was building, she knew that she was doing the work for someone. She didn’t know who. She didn’t know why. But she knew that the work she was doing was for someone who needed it. And at that moment, this woman told me that she built that temple for me– I was the person for whom she had intentionally worked hard for, and that I was worth it.

I cannot with the sobs. It was hard to work that day. My little, ice-cold heart had just been shattered into a thousand pieces and crocheted back together with random, yet intentional acceptance. This is why I am grateful for this experience. For every person who told me I was worthy of love. For every person who genuinely affirmed that I was intelligent, pretty, and sarcastic as fuck but still a good person. For every human who gave me a chance, and who let me be the weird me I am. Especially for the person who was willing to call me on my self-deprecating bullshit. Thank you.

Temple burn was a mess for me. I was incredibly emotional, but not in the way I though I would be. I was sad, but I was also elated. Knowing that you’re truly whole no matter what someone else has instilled in you for years is cause for laughter and celebration. I didn’t laugh though, I just leaked out of my face. Seeing that fire take over 70k+ people’s anguish was truly one of the most surreal experiences for me. I was happy and I was thankful.

While we’re on the idea of thankfulness, I want to mention how incredibly thankful I am for the HeebeeGeebees and the people I met through them. Never would I have imagined that there would be a group of individuals who would magically appear in the desert and challenge me to be a better version of myself. You made me want to learn, grow, love (myself), and appreciate others. I truly love you all for what you gave of yourselves during Burning Man and I hope I get to be a part of that for years to come.

For years I’ve watched RuPaul’s Drag Race and attempted to internalize the closing statement. I’ve always failed in that regard- I’m not worthy of love because look at me. But Burning Man gave me the chance to take that phrase and actually apply if to my life. I get it now, friends. If I can’t love myself, how can I love somebody else?

I can’t.

So for now, I just love me.

But I also love the fuck out of you all.

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