I thought the project would be easy. I had already sorted the year’s filing and even put it in order by date. I had planned to do it before I moved, but then I got sick so I shoved it all in a box. All I needed to do was add in the final month’s paperwork, put them into folders, and cram them into the cabinet.
Yet when I opened the overstuffed top drawer, I didn’t want to cram.
No problem. Every so many years it’s time to do a major weeding. Getting rid of all tax-supporting documents more than 7 years old, getting rid of other junk more than a year old, chucking manuals and other crappioka I don’t truly need.
I am an avid chucker, so I looked forward to the project.
I should have known by the tenor of this particular move that intentional chucking would be anything but simple. In the week before I moved, I was struck with the worse bout of flu I’d had since…honestly, I can’t remember. I was definitely in Colorado. Well, this nasty little bug took me down for two weeks straight, and then it was another two before I started having any sort of lung capacity and energy. I was struck with a second round a few weeks later.
The biggest heartbreak of the season was losing my eldest living cat. Dart was twenty, so this was not unexpected. He’d developed a sinus tumor, which is apparently a horrible condition to suffer through, so the Ultimate Decision had to be made.
I also received the news that the four-year book-flirtation I’d been having with an editor from one of the Biggies had at last come to a decisive end. A relief, to be sure, getting the final word on what I had suspected when I re-submitted last summer, but still. A rejection letter from such a dream editor is still a major letdown.
To top it off, I got dumped the next day.
Oh. And I also got my period.
Did I mention that I had to move in the middle of winter?
In spite of all that, my spirits remained pretty darn chipper because I have been through this so many times that I recognize it for what it is: The Universe had just pushed the Purge All Button on my life. Apparently it had determined that I was not allowed to move into this new home—MY home, not a rental—with certain aspects of my old life still clinging to me. It was time to close books.
This year, that required opening folders, manilla envelopes, and overstuffed binders.
I started with hanging folders of manuals to appliances and other flotsam I no longer own. The old credit card statements and other documents I need to prove my Schedule C went next. Then came the stack in the back of the bottom drawer.
This stack includes my diplomas for high school, college, and my martial rank, as well as the plaques for my activities ledger and National Honor Society. These got set aside, along with the three-inch envelope containing the legal proceedings from my first car wreck. I did not take my settlement in one lump sum. Instead, I set it to a trickle I will get later in life to help with the fact that I had been booted off the eligibility shelf for having a retirement fund.
Several other nasty-gram envelopes also get permanently saved, just in case I ever need to haul out documentation against people who have severely fucked with me, and with whom I hope to never interact again.
But you just never know.
That brought me to the folders and envelopes for my divorces. Seeing as how the court decrees live safe and sound with all the other Super Scooby Important Papers, I glanced through those wads of tripe and decided I had no desire to dredge up the details that tore my life down the seams of His and Hers. Twice.
Finally I got to the manilla folders of Old Business paperwork. One of the first I pulled out was full of vet bills.
I wasn’t brought to bawling by the paper reminders of losing the men I had loved so much as to twine my most intimate and functional life threads around, weaving two-tone tapestries of broken picket fences. Oh, no. It was my cats. Those most steadfast companions. Those sources of never-wavering solace, joy, play, and love who had seen me through nearly every step of my adult life.
They were the ones who leveled me.
I took quite some time crying on the paper-piled expanse of my dancey-training floor. I also decided to shred those papers immediately, so I wouldn’t have to repeat the mourning process by coming across them during the demolition process. I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’m not that much of a masochist.
Once that was completed and the other folders had been weeded, there was only one project left in the bottom drawer.
A two inch manilla folder and the Beastly Blue Binder.
Inside them resides the documentation of my two car wreck cases.
I started with the most recent one in 2014. While visiting one of my heart-sisters in Colorado, she and I were rear-ended at a stop sign. Not only were all my old whiplash injuries re-aggravated, but I wound up with new knee injuries and a significant worsening of the spot in my mid back where all the scar tissue prevents my spinal articulation and the ability to arch.
It also gave me a lovely new concussion.
Medical bills, insurance crap, payment stubs, blah. I kept the opening diagnoses and the closing of the insurance case. The rest: See Ya.
That left the Beast.
For the good part of a minute, I stared at that bulging plastic binder. The elastic cords that hold the flap closed have long ago been stretched to capacity. They no longer sproing. They just sort of lay along the backside, pretending to assist gravity.
The only times I have ever opened that binder were on a few hunts for specific documents: the details of my settlement every time I’ve had a legal name and beneficiary change, and the results of my neuropsychological exams.
Otherwise, that binder sits in the back of my drawer, collecting proverbial dust and pretending that it doesn’t exist like the most covert of carpet-covered pink elephants. I would have shoved the thing to the bottom of the stack of Old Business if I could have, but it has to sit on top. It’s too big to fit anywhere else.
When I release the flap, the first things to greet me are the little dual pockets filled with the business cards of my medical and legal team. The folders’ major heading labels stick up like weary soldiers with bent corners for hats: Car Insurance, Medical Authorizations & Payments, Lost Wages, Misc. Receipts, Brain Injury, Physical Therapy, Legal, Photos.
But before I get to opening the files, I see that the front space has been crammed with copies of the umpteen letters I sent.
—Victim Impact Statement for court.
—Request for the removal of my file from my chiropractor’s office for breach of medical confidence by an employee who was once my friend.
—The back and forth stacks written to my entire medical team and their responses sent to my insurance company when my care started to be cut at month 2.
—The six months of gathering notarized letters from students and restaurant owners to prove the other half of my lost wages, because belly dancers don’t get W2s.
—The letter from HER, apologizing for drunkenly ramming my life into smithereens.
I can’t actually read them.
It all comes roaring back. All the things that are not documented. The things stuffing those manilla folders to bursting. The battles on multiple fronts and my list of allies that dwindled with every passing month. The insurance company of the woman who hit me, my own insurance company, the fuckup of the emergency room, the fuckup of the DA’s office, my own mysoginistic, lecherous attorney, half my medical team who gave up on me and told me to accept that I’d never be a dancer again, my “best friend” and dance partner who tried to annihilate me when I proved those nay-sayers wrong and stood up to reclaim my life, the apathy of the disability system…all on chronic pain, a brain injury I had no idea I possessed, and a damaging home environment I didn’t remember until I read my journals, because I’d lost the ability to convert short-term memories into long-term overnight for the first three years.
I also lost the ability to comprehend humor for the first six months.
Anyone who knows me at all will understand how devastating this was for the Eternal Smartass. I still have difficulty with dry humor and the innuendoed nuances of subtle communication.
I have attempted to write about these things since 2002. I took down my first blog because trying to keep up with responses swamped me—and because it was a bunch of partial truths. Silver-linings missing the full devastation of the lightning strikes designed to protect the not-so-innocent. Ever since, I’ve scrapped every version I’ve concocted because it felt like too much whining, not enough light. Too much anger, not enough inspiration. But I cannot tell these things the way I’ve seen others do—in humorous accounts laden with cartoons and funny anecdotes. That’s their medium, not mine.
Don’t get me wrong, some of this shit IS funny. It’s hi-flippin-larious, and I will attempt to bring as much of my beloved snark in to lighten the load, but my stories are not for the reader who wants a little escape and entertainment. Even my fiction isn’t like that.
I have spent so much of my life under cover. So many people tell me how often I inspire them to be their most bold, audacious, and full selves by the way that I do so.
Part of me has to laugh and shake my head because of how untrue that statement is. The two-foot-tall box of miscellanea and bullshit I just shredded is proof I can’t deny. Just like I needed to purge the paper from my house, I need to purge the uncensored depths of these old stories from my heart. There are just too many new ones to be written and I need to clear the space.
I keep asking myself if the best way to do that is to dredge up the old crap. Eh. That’s why I’m not starting at the beginning and telling it in chronological order. Perhaps someday I’ll be inspired to do that again. Until then, if an actual tale needs to be told because something in my current life calls it up, I guess I will give voice to that ghost in its time.
Today’s spectral lurkers have been put through the wringer, divested of all unnecessary mass, and reduced to their functional selves. The Big Blue Beast is still there. It’ll always be there. Among the things I did keep were the useful tools and information I can share with other people. One of my dearest friends has just had her life trajectory blasted off course by her own dance with Dain Bramage, and I have been constantly sharing them with her.
Perhaps that’s why it’s so forefront in my mind. Perhaps it’s just time.
Now if only I could finish restoring the foundational levels of my most basic human needs, I might have the time and energy to blog regularly. But that's the crux, isn't it? I keep trying to document this process, but I simply run out of Spoons.
Welcome to the Hidden Injury. My name is Girl Interrupted and I’ll be your host on this clown-ride.
So…there. There’s a start for the month. This wrap-up is suckalicious. I honestly don’t care, because if I let myself care and put it aside for even a half-hour so I can concoct an overarching theme and full-circle ending, I will lose the momentum. The feel. The initiative. If I do something else, this post will wind up in the Drafts bin collecting dust like that crap in my cabinet, so I’m just gonna tap out. It’s time for the afternoon Reboot Siesta anyway.
Did you know that I MUST reboot my brain with sleep just about every afternoon? I have blackouts, seizures and meltdowns if I don't. Naps are one of my Super-She-Ro Recipes for Survival.
So is regularly purging the things that no longer serve me.
HAH! Guess I had a quick wrap-up after all. And now—Zzzzzzzzzzzz….