An unusual list

Dear world,

Around this time of year a certain obsession tends to take hold.

Maybe it’s the busyness, the crush of Christmas and the anticipation of a new year, but for whatever reason, many people I know begin making lists.

Personally, I’ve often found lists a handy way to organize tasks, subjects, or trains of thought. But since developing anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis I’ve only been writing down essentials (when I remember to).

You see, I feel physically fine right now. But I’ve been told that my memory and concentration abilities may take months to fully return.

It’s a blow to somebody who likes to memorize names, faces, and lyrics.

I felt my memory loss acutely last night, when old friends came to visit and my brain strained to recapture moments that should have come easily to me.

And now, with 2017 approaching, I find myself clinging to the desire to write a different kind of list.

I’m still processing what has happened to me, and today I’m going to write about what I lost and what I found in 2016.

Somebody once told me I should just “write it all out,” so I’m hoping this will be a cathartic exercise (and that it may inspire whoever is reading this blog to do a little of their own writing, even if all they can think of is a list).

So to start:

Things I’ve lost this year (in no particular order):

My great aunt

My grandfather

My camera

My keys

My home

My sanity (at times)

My dignity (at times)

Many tears

My boyfriend (sort of)

Things I’ve gained this year (in no particular order):

A renewed sense of purpose

Some optimism (I hope)

A decreased swelling in my brain

Some very appropriate Christmas gifts

Some understanding

Closer ties to my family

Love from dear friends

A new job

New friends

That’s all for today, much love,
Emily

 

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Welcome

Dear world,

It’s Dec. 24 and I’m sitting here with wet hair, wearing a shirt I bought in India and thinking about life.

It’s been a strange year.

For one thing, at this time, Dario is at home in Ottawa and I’m at home in Vancouver and we’re both with loving families.

Secondly, I had/have an extremely rare condition called anti-N.M.D.A. Receptor Encephalitis that gave me hallucinatory dreams, made me desire certain forbidden fruits, and gave me the strength to spit on a security guard.

I think it started with a move, but it might have started with an incredible vacation or a bad night. All these led to three weeks of insomnia and, finally, a huge seizure.

After that, I saw a series of doctors and spent 52 days in hospital.

Some night I slept and some nights I didn’t.

But the point of this all is that I’m getting better.

So much better that I know it’s going to be a few months until I recover from this one.

And so much better that I still love to write and have learned to love to run

So much better that I still love India and Rwanda and the whole world in all its beauty.

And if this sounds like a simplistic poem, that’s because it’s the truth.

I have more to say, but I might need to leave it to another time.

Lots of love,

Emily

P.S. I’ll leave you with some of my favourite lines/poetry ever written, because I think all good writing should begin with the truth and end with the truth (like a journalist).

“Sorry this is it,

it’s cold and hard and badly lit

and there’s no backing out of it

so forget where you’ve been

it’ll never be that good again

and soon you’re 33 and everything you’ve tried to be

is pulled apart by fear and greed

So I welcome you to it

And say let the God Damn games begin

‘Cause the God that gives deliverance has a thing for disappearing, Kid

and the fighting on the beach is it,

and the 5 a.m. to Winnipeg,

And the nights and fight and poison pits,

And the needle edge of all regret,

But the wind will always shift again,

And the breath beneath your apple legs

is strength enough to carry this.

And young hand could lift you up,

could carve your face in honest rock,

let sunlight on your noble jaw,

let young hands build you up,

I’m happy that you’ve come along

I’m happy that you’ve come.”

– Hey Rosetta!

Time Travel/A post from May, 2016

Dear World,

When I left our Toronto apartment on April 15, I thought I’d never be back.

I’d packed my bags and said my goodbyes to a city I’d alternately hated and loved, and I’d tried to close the door on a year of my life spent “figuring stuff out.”

But one impulsive ticket purchase and here I am, barely a month and a half later, sitting in a living room that still feels like mine.

This spontaneous weekend back in the city is not quite a vacation and not quite a homecoming. It feels like time travel.

I keep thinking about how it felt to move here on a sticky day last summer.

It was June and I was sleep deprived.

I took a Greyhound from Ottawa to Scarborough Town Centre and I got lost trying to find the taxi stand and I nearly cried from the frustration. The cab driver refused my debit card and I didn’t have any cash on me.

I met Dario and his cousins’ apartment and we wheeled our suitcases over to a rented room at the corner of Kennedy and Eglinton, where the landscape was dominated by strip malls and I couldn’t walk outside alone without some man making some comment about my legs/face/skirt. The walls of our room were lime green, we slept on an air mattress, and there was no air conditioning. But it only cost $800 a month.

We left that room on August 1st, at midnight — the earliest possible moment — and drove to this apartment and slipped our keys into the new locks.

This was my introduction to adulthood.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day and spent an hour on the rattling subway. I wrote about shootings and stabbings and fires and politicians’ blunders and children with tumours so entangled in their brains that surgery was not an option. I learned to turn off the comment section when I wrote about immigration, First Nations issues, or refugees.

I was a journalist. And there was something deeply gratifying about finally earning that title.

Being back in Toronto has me thinking about all the selves I have been.

It’s funny how a place can influence who we feel we are.

A few weeks before I moved back to Vancouver, Dario and I had dinner with a co-worker and joked about how different the West Coast lifestyle is, compared to the rush of Toronto.

I asked Dario if he thought I was different when I was home in Vancouver, and he laughed and said yes: When he first met me, I wore leggings and climbed trees and picked bouquets of wildflowers.

I wonder how much of that is who I am and how much of it comes from where I am living. I wonder how much of me is real and how much is unfinished or uncertain.

How much is temporary? How much shifts according to geography? What will be different when I land beside the Pacific in 12 hours?

I’m flying back to Vancouver tonight. I wonder when the transition happens.

Will I feel myself change, mid-air?

Love,

Emily