It’s that sun-breaking-harshly-through-the-windshield kind of morning, having risen just enough to be above the hood but below the visor as I travel along the freeway down towards the Houston Medical Center. I used to live right near the heart of the city back when I had a quaint hobbit hole to myself shared only with my pet lizard—a blue-tongued skink named Tiny Tim. In my small, stick shift coup, I’d never struggled to zip around the complex freeways and not so polite drivers of the crowded Houston metro with confidence, ease, and grace. I was probably one of the drivers that these days, annoy me.
Years later, used to the pokey speed of rural nowhere in a high-safety-rated and fuel efficient SUV with a booster seat in the back for my young son, zig-zagging on aggressive highways is both out of reach, scary, and nonsensical. I stick to the slow lane at the exact speed limit, hands 10 & 2, in preparation for my exit, no matter how many miles away it may be. Yes, I’m that driver.
So on this morning, the sun insufferable through a gritty windshield covered in small paw prints that run up, down, and side-to-side (cat), I’m even more anxious while trying to arrive on time and safely to an appointment that’s far away through obstacles that I haven’t trained for in years. I’ll have to explain my elevated blood pressure to the nurse if I make it in one piece.
It occurs to me as I write this that my little blog about donkeys and magic and farm life has taken a stark detour deep into a dark forest with no path: just the beam of a flashlight two or three feet in front of our collective footsteps as we travel the unknown together. Rarely a [digital] hee-haw is heard anymore, it seems. But at the same time, this blog has always been about honesty: about giving words to feelings that haunt us and for over 4 years now, my life has been lost in the woods of unknown, undiagnosed, rare, and chronic illness, rendering me directionless and most days, lonely and afraid (and frustrated, raging, on the edge of something, delirious, appreciative of very dark humor, self-deprecating…). It’s a place the donkeys have not been able to travel with me (try as they might): no one has. I’d love for them to, but at the same time, I’d hate to drag an innocent being needlessly and dangerously through the thorns, muck, and spookiness when they certainly don’t deserve it. No one deserves this.
But then I think about donkeys and what I’ve learned about them since beginning this blog: that they’re self-preserving, strong, cautious, sensitive, protective, and self-respecting of their own, profound intuitions. They never, ever quit—even when wasted to skin and bone, they don’t quit. They’re empathetic—feeling your feels the moment they see you and when you’re their person, they let you lean on them. “Let me take your burden.” Loyal. Loving. Unwavering (almost to a fault).
An 18-wheeler veers suddenly into my lane, forcing me to slam on the brakes. Ugh, I forgot that most people in Houston don’t use blinkers because if you do, then everyone in the lane you’re trying to move into speeds up to keep you from merging. “Don’t get in my lane,” they all say.
I use my blinker religiously now and can’t imagine NOT using it but come to think of it (blink of it?), back in the days of my little coup, I didn’t. Annoying, indeed. It’s a clear sign of a little fish among sharks on Houston highways. Noobs. Don’t get in my lane, nooooob.
The freeways have changed a lot since last time I was down here. I didn’t think this spaghetti-bowl could get more confusing and yet….But you know, it’s like navigating the complicated US healthcare system. It’s bad enough even as a healthy person, but when you’ve got some kind of rare disorder, the metaphor of being lost in the woods isn’t that far off. Scheduling and attending appointments, fasting for bloodwork, tests, procedures, finagling with insurance companies (or often straight up fighting [and I don’t like fighting, I get too much anxiety over being confrontational]) and billing departments, recovering, all while experiencing symptoms and episodes of varying levels of unbearable pain is … well it’s being cold, hungry, scared, lost, injured, alone, and directionless in the deep, dark wood. At what point do you throw up your arms and declare that fine, I just live here now? Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is stuck on the subway? >>> https://youtu.be/xWL0DfKy5NU
“one banana, two banana…”
Because you don’t know if you’ve been walking in circles and you’d give anything to have a voice say that there’s only 2 more months or hell, years of this and then you’re done. You don’t know if you’re walking towards or away from civilization and ultimately, real help. You keep thinking, okay, through this ridge of trees, maybe. Three banana. Over this hill, maybe. Four banana. Across this river, maybe. Or did I cross this river before? Five banana. MOTHER F$&#!R!!
I put on my blinker to exit. Another specialist is waiting. Another summary. Another hill that maybe, just maybe the light will appear on the other side of. Because at the end of it all, what choice do I really have? Just move. Move! MOOOVE!
Or true to form, what would a donkey do? Never get on a subway in the first place, I know that. And steer very clear of a crowded highway. Still, they’d travel.