Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Crazy Birthday

I wrote this for a few friends, but thought I'd share it with you too. 

I'm turning 42 on September 18. It's going to be awesome because that means I'll be The Answer for a year (geek reference here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrases_from_The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Answer_to_the_Ultimate_Question_of_Life.2C_the_Universe.2C_and_Everything_.2842.29 ). And any year that you're The Answer to the Ultimate Question has to be a great year. So, that'll rock. 

But ...

I was born on my father's 28th birthday, so he would have been turning 70, if he were still alive. I grew up thinking of it as "our birthday", but this will my 20th birthday I've celebrated without him since the heart attack that took him at age 50. So. That'll suck. 

And on Sept 24, I have a settlement hearing for the lawsuit against my long-term disability insurance provider. That battle has been raging for 3 years now, and it packs quite an emotional punch for me. I've been a bundle of nerves since I found out the hearing date. It will be the first time I've been face-to-face with a company representative. 

My lawyer recommended that I arrive at the hearing genuinely showing signs of vertigo. No faking, no exaggerating, but let them see what my neuropsychological testing revealed: severe cognitive impairment after periods of concentration (or motion).

For me, that means I will spend the week before Sept 24, which happens to contain my birthday, doing things that would NOT have made me dizzy in 2008, but which DO make me dizzy now. Action films, crowds, grocery stores, car trips, complicated math, strong emotions, dancing, rapid temperature changes... The list is very very long. There's lots to choose from. 

Usually, I space out my vertigo-inducing activities to give periods of brain rest, and I usually avoid some activities altogether unless I have a free day afterward to recover. But that week, I'll do a bunch of stuff I love, not rest my brain unless I can't keep going, and do my best to remember, "If I'm going to be miserable, at least I should have fun doing it."

The first movie I missed on the big screen was the 2009 Star Trek. I'll be watching that. 

I used to play a lot of Rock Band, so I'll be all  \m/

On the 22nd, I'll be having a birthday party, and while the guest list will be limited to a "light crowd" so I have a better shot at participating for more of the evening (if the house were packed, I'd not last long), I intend to participate in as many conversations involving 3+ people simultaneously as I can without hurling on my guests. 

(PS, I don't actually puke very often - I just feel pukey inside my head, but I will move away from you if I get to tummy-levels of nausea).  

On the 23rd, we're attending a big cookout party, where I will do my best to remain upright, and not make everyone else uncomfortable. These seem lofty goals to me. 

Then we're driving to Chicago for the hearing, which is at 9 am the next morning. 

It'll be a weird week.  I'll be around a lot of people, feeling bad physically and emotionally, but working hard to focus on fun happy things. 

So, if I'm not going to see you, you can help by praying for me to be as vertiginous as possible at the hearing with as little misery as possible leading up to it.

And, you can send me happy words (stories, encouragement, funny blog posts, whatever), because reading in volume works, too, and I love words a lot. And if you grew up with me or my parents, send a story about my family history I may have forgotten! 

If you are going to see me, please don't ask how I feel, or how I'm holding up. I'm gonna feel gruesome, but I'll be attempting to hide it, and I hate lying, so I'll tell you now: I'm gonna tell you I feel fantastic just to keep up the facade, but I'll treat it as a pre-agreed-upon mutually acceptable pretending, not a lie. Thanks for participating in my self-deception. 

Also, here's what you can do to help if you see me in person: tell me an awesome story about your life, then quiz me afterward on the details. I love hearing stories. And memory puzzles wreck me. And I'll concentrate harder if i know you'll be quizzing me, so it'll be a fun way to degrade my cognitive abilities together! (what a weird sentence)

Also, thanks for your understanding in advance if I burst into tears and excuse myself for seemingly no reason. Hopefully now, you understand why. 

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