Recovery Road

Hello!

I’m back from my surgery and finally back to work. This is day 10 post op, and everything went well. Here’s a recap of what happened:

The Sunday before my surgery I had some roommate drama where I was very specifically excluded from a birthday party that they knew I wouldn’t have been able to attend anyway. This made me feel super shitty for many reasons, most importantly that this is a signal to me that any potential friendship is now off the table. Our partners are best friends, so it’s painful to see that we have no way to even be civil to one another. I broke down in tears Sunday night as I arrive home to find several cars and a text from my beau that he’s having a great time at the party (I’m not welcome at). Nice.

Perhaps it was the impending surgery, perhaps it was just the feeling that every time my beau hangs out with his best friends I won’t be welcome. Either way, it was shitty and is shitty, and it challenged me to dive inside to see if there was anything more I had to give to the situation.

Turns out I can’t find any places I could have changed my behavior to make it better. It just is what it is. So until my beau finds a permanent job and we can move it looks like I’m stuck in a home situation where this person and I passive aggressively pretend the other doesn’t exist. I’m done trying. She clearly doesn’t care. Things are actually feeling better this way. If neither of us attempt eye contact we don’t have that need for awkward and obligatory small talk.

Ok, so one problem down. That still left me in an emotionally raw place Sunday night, and after coming to the conclusion that the roommate situation is at a stalemate I was able to turn my attention to my immediate future.

This surgery was the first time in my adult life that I had to consider my mortality in a real way. While the chances of something going horribly wrong are very small for laparoscopy there is a much higher chance that I could die from this event than any other chosen event when I consider that life is a series of chances most of which I cannot take into account the actual odds of dying from. This felt like a big deal. Sunday night after crying about my roommate and future relationship challenges I began to realize that a lot of my emotional grief stemmed from the idea of choosing an activity where mortality was on the table (see what I did there, ba-da-bum).

Knowing in my logical mind that this would turn out fine does nothing to tame the beast in my emotional mind. So more tears, more self-inflicted trauma. Oh man, I sure know how to beat myself up sometimes.

Luckily though, all that crying (which if you know me at all is something I rarely do) really helped create a sense of calm about it. I had basically already experienced my emotional limit of abuse for this situation, and by the time we got to the hospital on Wed morning (5:30am) I was calm.

My only instructions were to wear/bring comfy clothes to go home in and no eating/drinking after midnight (because apparently surgery is a lot like being a Gremlin). Ben drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until I was headed into surgery. They took his number to call him when I woke up (which they didn’t actually do btw).

The nurse was pleasant enough, minus the IV insertion. She had told me earlier that she has been a nurse for 17 years, and the 6 minutes it took her to fish a needle around under my skin in 2 spots left me with the thought “you’ve been doing this to people for 17 years???” I ended up with a bruise that covered the entire back of my hand, and that was a type of discomfort I hope to not have to repeat anytime soon.

The anesthesiologist came in and I asked “how do you know how much to give people?” and his reply “don’t you worry about it sweetie.” only made me worry much more. I mean say math or science or education or maybe, I don’t know, actually give me a general version of how it works? Well, whatever he did, it worked quite well.

As they wheeled me down the hall to the surgery room I put up my arms like I was on a roller coaster. You might think I was already loopy, but more likely that’s just what I would do in that situation.

We got to the center of the sun, I mean the operating room, and I was completely coherent and able to move myself onto this squishy memory foam table that looked like the only thing in the room that was purchased from Walmart, and within seconds of lying back down I looked up to notice a clock that said it was 9:03am, a little under 2 hours from when I blinked. Slowly I notice there’s an angel singing to me, and oh yeah, I’m in a different room, and oh yeah, I’m not in the center of the sun anymore (this room had regular lighting). The nurse who’s singing tells me her name and reminds me I just had surgery which I thought was a little strange because I sort of expected the 3rd degree on all the “What day is it? Where are you? Who’s the pres-” (let’s not think about that one actually).  So it sort of felt like I got cheated out of proving I was sane, but I suppose when I’m not driving myself home they don’t have any fucks to give on this topic haha.

At some point of my waving in and out of coherence I end up back in the room I started in, but with a different nurse. This one has ice chips and I’m pretty sure I love them for this. I was dying of thirst at this point (almost 12 hours without water is an eternity in my world). Ice chips were so nice. I had to prove I could pee before they would let me go, and oh yeah, they had to deliver my drugs too. How convenient. I sort of wish all drugs were legal so I could have all the ones I want brought to my house whenever I don’t feel good. Don’t worry, however legal heroine is, I don’t want it.

Meandering back to the story…

They bring me 800 mg ibuprofen (60 fucking pills worth), and hydrocodone (or whatever the generic version of vicodin is) this one I get 5 mg doses of and 30 pills. I had been reluctant to take a prescription at all, and I asked for the smallest and lowest number of pills I could reasonably get away with. I can see a bit more now why there’s an opioid crisis. Thanks Doc for giving me more than 10 times what was actually needed.

By 10:30am that morning they let Ben take me home, and the next few days are pretty much a fuzzy drug induced blur. Whatever they gave me at the hospital lasted almost 12  hours, so the first day was pretty cake. I sat in bed and watched Chef & My Fridge (which is amazing and you should watch it) and played my monkey game on my tablet (super poorly) to pass the time. By 7pm I realized “Oh, that’s what it feels like now. That really hurts.” (did anyone else just read that in Charlie’s voice?)

I ended up taking half of a vicodin and a full ibuprofen that night, and over the next 4 days I took three more half doses of vicodin (a total of 2 full pills/10 mg) and six of the ibuprofen. The rest was pot edibles and my homemade pot salve that helped SO much. Thank goodness I made time to finish that project.

By Monday I stopped all outside help except the pot salve so I would be clear headed and able to drive on Tuesday (day 6) for my recovery party at work. It was nice to see people and have time to chill in the studio.

Wednesday I wound up babysitting for 2 hours, and Thursday I wasn’t quite ready for sessions. Kira took over mine (she’s the best!), and I spent half the day catching up on stuff and the other half randomly having to stop and rest because everything is exhausting still. Friday I was back to work and had my first session back. It went fine (mostly because I wore my batman onesie due to pain on my belly). Today I have two sessions and while my belly isn’t quite back to normal it does seem that I can be comfortable enough to start my regular hours next week again. Good news there.

I’ve got my follow up appointment on Monday which I’ll post about on FB. Other than that I’m just working through this exhaustion, lack of good sleep until my wounds no longer pull when I straighten my legs, and trying to get back into the swing of things in a way that allows balance and forgiveness to me for not being my standard overachiever self.

So for now I’ll sign off saying thank you for all the kind support and caring well wishes. I am so grateful for all of you, and I am happy to have this in my rear view mirror. I’ll see you soon to share some of the projects I’m working on. Lots of new things in the pipeline!

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess

 

Health Update

*As is often the case, this post has some highly personal details, so if you prefer to not know what’s going on in this capacity please feel welcome to skip this post. Sending you lots of love!

Tuesday I had my 6 month check up for the pain I’ve now had for about a year and a half from some ovarian cysts I have. As I laid in bed that night unable to sleep I did that thing we all know is a great idea, I looked up what will happen when I have the surgery required to resolve this still present issue.

It took me like 9 months to go to the doctor in the first place because the pain was infrequent and well, pain is normal in my world. I got referred to a specialist to have an ultrasound done to see what was going on. That’s when I found out about the cysts. They were big enough and around long enough that the doctor decided to replace my IUD early and put me on 3 months of birth control pills (a typical resolution for this issue). I spent 3 months on this path complete with mood swings, weight gain, and a general loss of empathy while the additional estrogen flooded my system and I hated everything for awhile. I had forgotten how horrible birth control pills are. I’m so glad this was only for 3 months. Yuk.

I went back after the 3 months less than hopeful as the pain was still persistent at this point. For those of you who haven’t had this issue here’s what it feels like to me: a very sudden an enthusiastic twisting stabbing pain in my lower belly that lasts from seconds to hours. Super fun. Ok, full disclosure, I’ve never actually been stabbed, but I believe it would be about that intense. It’s the mind numbing, tunnel vision, double over, tears streaming down my face sort of pain that rates an 8-9 on my scale  (click the underlined blue for a link to the post about my chronic pain and my pain scale).

The results of the 3 month checkup, a year into the pain was an uncertainty that left me feeling a bit lost. The doc said one was bigger, one was smaller, and one was too hard to determine the size because of the bigger one (at that point measured at 3.4 cm). I left the doctor with the option to have surgery which may not be necessary or to wait…for 6 months. Oh, and if I’ve failed to mention it ovarian cysts also have this caveat that at any time one of them could explode inside of me and create the most intense pain of my life followed by life threatening internal bleeding “so be prepared to go to the hospital immediately if that happens. And don’t worry, you’ll know if it happens.” Wow, thanks. Good to know that I may die at any moment and the option is to have surgery that won’t be covered at this point because it’s not necessary or to wait and hope I don’t die. Nice.

So Tuesday the verdict was that after seeing them still in there, and still growing (no actual measurements, but one of them looked to be about half the size of my bladder) it’s now necessary to have surgery. Deep breath Sam.

This will be the second surgery in my life, the first was when I was 4 or 5 (preschool age) that was on my eyeball after somehow getting a piece of metal stuck in it.

After reading the internet here’s what I can expect:

  • they will have to put me under
  • a breathing tube will have to be inserted in my throat
  • a catheter will have to be installed for the surgery part
  • three half inch slits will be made above my hips and in my belly button
  • gas will be blown into my belly to give them room to work
  • they will attempt to remove any and all cysts without damaging other parts of me
  • no stitches, but small scars that may go away at some point
  • 3-7 days of pain and soreness, constipation, and general grumpiness
  • which means 3-7 days of not taking appointments
  • after 2 weeks my pain from all this should be completely gone

So that’s where I’m at. I have to call to schedule the appointment still, but hopefully that will happen today. I am nervous and scared, but I’m relieved to know that the pain wasn’t just manufactured in my brain and that it can be resolved. I’ll be okay. Taking a week off of work is probably the scariest part. My brain immediately goes to “oh that will be the perfect time to work on the book.” We shall see. Maybe I will actually give myself a break (willingly or not). Maybe.

For now I will press on, work hard, try not to think about it too much as it’s currently a “gravity problem” (that’s a Designing Your Life reference which I am part way through and really like so far).  Send me some extra loves if you have it, and I’ll take all the well wishes you’ve got. Sending the same out to you for whatever you’re dealing with. Thank you for being here, and thank you for allowing me to shine the light. With your help I believe we are making the world just a little bit brighter.

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess

October.

October is a hard month for me. This morning I was sitting at my desk working on payroll when out of nowhere I started crying. I am not a crier. The first time I remember getting in trouble would cement in tears as a signal of abandonment. I was in preschool and the teachers thought I was crying. I wouldn’t stop, and after multiple attempts to shame me into stopping they eventually gave up and forced me to sit in the hall all alone until I was ready to be a big girl. The trouble was I wasn’t crying the  emotional tears of a distraught 4 year old over someone yanking a toy away, no, my eye was watering because of the piece of metal lodged in it. My doctor had to miss her flight home for Christmas to perform emergency surgery on my eye. It took me until last year to realize this was the reason I didn’t want to let others see me cry. I am learning. Logically I know that crying is a good thing and so is letting those around me support me through those moments. Rewriting something so long reinforced such as this takes work and time.

Anyway that wasn’t really the point I was attempting to write about. Perhaps I’m feeling a bit more exposed than normal today due to this crying extravaganza.

I was sitting here and feeling overwhelmed by all these deep emotions of gratitude, bitter heartache, and loss.

13 years ago one of my dearest friends passed away at the age of 20 from a plane crash. October 29th was the day it happened, and every October since I have felt that pull of unrecoverable loss. She was a fearless, strong, independant woman who was on a mission to take the world by storm. A big part of my drive comes from the loss of her ability to do so in this world. I want to carry that torch and bring the light she was meant to bring. I want to honor her by embodying the qualities she held and stove for in her short life. She lived every day to the fullest and she was stubborn as hell. Damn I love that woman. I miss you Kai. Sigh…

The other major thing that happened in October happened almost 2 years to the day. If you go to the very beginning of the blog archive you can read the story of what happened, but for now I’ll leave you with my current feelings about it all.

I lost my mind. Tumbling in a sea of ever churning waves and chaos my mind took me to depths of bewilderment I never could have imagined before. The circling thoughts that I couldn’t stop…it brought me to the back of a police car numb, cold, empty, broken. The officer took me to the hospital where I had to explain why I was suicidal and what my plans were over and over. Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. Terror. It was a horrible event that has left another scar on the emotional skin we all wear inside. As you can see, I’m here. I made it through. I am better and stronger and more capable for having gone through all that.

Sitting here I felt the gratitude of someone who has been shown true and undeniable unconditional love. There were 2 people in particular who were there for me in ways that I could never express the extent of help and support they provided. Melon, my best friend, and Ray, one of our cuddlers who has since moved away. These two people put in so much time, effort, and energy without even being asked. They reached out and took care of me, spent time with me, made food for me, talked to me, let me cry on their shoulders, helped me keep the business from crumbling as my whole world just had. Knowing that those people were here not because it was me, but because I was human and I mattered…it’s what makes my life what it is. It’s what makes me who I am. I am honored and humbled by this experience of unconditional love, and my life is devoted to showing others this same miracle. It is our birthright and our responsibility to be, do, and feel this love for ourselves and those around us.

Today I am grateful for Kai, for Melon, for Ray, for those who have hurt me, and those who have helped me. I am grateful for those who tear me down, and I am grateful for those who build me up. I am grateful for my life, my work, my family, for you.

Life is a series of challenges of varying, size, shape, and outcomes. October is my reminder that there is vast knowledge in the depths of our experiences, and that above all else, love wins.

 

#Metoo

I’d like to start with a cautioning that this post will have highly personal and traumatic event described. Please know I am ok. If this is something you would rather not know please skip this post. Thank you for taking care of yourself too.

What we are talking about is the #metoo movement and the amount of sexual harassment and abuse (read more here). This hashtag has gone viral, and humans are speaking about this taboo subject in order to show support and help all of understand the extent of the problems. Here is my experience and the reason I am a #metoo.

When I moved across the country to Jacksonville, NC in 2009 to be with my now ex-husband I never could have anticipated what was to happen. My ex was in the Marine Corps and stationed at Camp Lejeune. Having just completed my degree in Portland I moved across the country to live away from my family and newly built support system of friends. All I had was my husband, who being a rifleman, spent a lot of time away from home.

I spent a lot of time on my own the first couple months until I found a job, only really making it out of the house for groceries and early morning disc golf before the humidity kicked in. Life became normal I suppose. Weekdays all alone, every episode of Lost, lots of functional training workouts in the house, and internet research of adorable cats, fail videos, and how to get my tap water clear quicker than 5 times through a Britta filter.

It came time for my annual check up…

My whole adult life I had gone to the clinic for my exams, so I was used to seeing different people for this awkward experience. Back then the annual exam was typically a breast exam, the stethoscope deep breath thing they do, abdominal taps for who knows what, and the dreaded duck bill lady part exam. Bleh.

This year was my first exam with a male doctor. I didn’t feel comfortable going to the military base doctor because I hated passing over the giant gate at the base entrance where I knew I could be locked in at anytime for any reason and with no ability to do anything about it. It creeped me out. Turns out it probably would have turned out better.

The nearest doctor who accepted my insurance off base was about 45 minutes away. The roads were all pretty quiet in that part of the country, so getting there was pretty easy. I went inside and gave the receptionist my name to check in. They took copies of my cards, and eventually I was lead to a little room just like all the other little exam rooms I’ve been in before. Sterile, brightly lit, nondescript decoration that leant toward the morose I was about to experience.

The exam goes pretty much as all the others do. The doctor does the stethoscope thing, the belly tapping thing, the circly breast exam thing, and the awful duck bill pap smear thing. As I lie there on the table with my legs still in the stirrups the doctor catches my eye as he slowly takes off his gloves. I begin to relax a bit believing he is about to tell me the exam is over and to get dressed.

*Please stop reading here and skip down past the lines of asterisks if you would prefer to skip the icky part…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead he holds my gaze as he slowly and deliberately puts down the glove on the table, moves his freshly ungloved hand back towards me, and still holding my eyes sticks his finger in my…what’s the polite way to say this? My, umm bud da bum…yup. In my exit only, never even attempted to experiment on my own, and don’t want anyone in there b-u-t-t. Butt. All while maintaining eye contact. At first I wasn’t really sure what was going on. My initial reaction of “Umm, what is he doing?”  Goes into the horrified “Oh holy bananas I feel something I’m not supposed to feel and this is NOT OK AND I’m F-R-E-A-K-I-N-G OUT!!!” My heart is beating out of my chest. My throat closes up. My voice is as lost as all those socks I’ve never gotten back from the dryer (#jokesofdeflection), and as it turns out my fight or flight response in this instance is to freeze.

I am cement.

Unable move, speak, breathe. Not ok. Not sure I will be.

And just like that, SWOOP, he pulls back out, takes off his other glove, and tells me the exam is over. He wants me to get dressed and meet him in his office.

If I could shake I would, but I am numb. Somehow I manage to get dressed and with my pulse beating so loudly it’s about to jump out of my skull I hazily walk the few steps to this man’s office where he is sitting with a FUCKING smile on his face. I don’t know what else to do, so I sit down. “So, do you have any questions?” he says. My eyes are welling with tears, my heart beating so loudly now I’m sure he can hear it, shame and terror on my face, but still somehow every thought that comes to mind HOW COULD YOU! HOW DARE YOU! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DID YOU? YOU VIOLATED ME! I HATE YOU! stays stuck in my throat. I can’t even manage a “no.” I shake my head and am given permission to leave.

I am sick. I practically run out of there, and as soon as I’m in my car I burst into deep mournful sobs of a person who has suffered a thing that can never be undone.

For at least an hour I sit there in my car crying, screaming, sobbing, hating myself. I try and figure out if there was anyway I could have misinterpreted what happened. “Maybe they do that normally over here? Maybe I just imagined it?” I think to myself. But no, the experience of this was real, and after later extensive internet research I can find no evidence that this is normal, especially ungloved.

 

 

 

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Finally I call my husband and choking through the sobs I try to explain what happened. When he gets home he holds me and tells me it’s going to be ok (after I convince him that he can’t kill the doctor because then I’ll have to deal with all this alone while he’s in jail). In this moment I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. He listened to me, supported me, and in the end, didn’t try to fix it or blame me for what happened.

The feelings of shame and self hatred were strong. Knowing that the feelings were irrational and unhelpful didn’t make it better. What did make it better were affirmations, regaining control over my boundaries, learning to speak up for myself, and learning to forgive even when someone does something unspeakable.

As an oversharer and an extrovert it was such a challenge to have something I didn’t want to share; a secret. This was something that made me feel isolated and alone. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed to talk about what I had experienced forced me to overcome this in new ways. I had to to become comfortable in my skin again, and that meant learning how to deal with this minus my external support system. Exercise, filling idle time with positive experiences, and moving forward with exploring who I was now all helped.

I wish I could describe what it feels like to experience that kind of violation so that you could understand without actually experiencing it.  Alas, words are a rudimentary tool for such things. The truth is though, that even if I could it wouldn’t really make it better for either of us. Knowing that other people have and continue to experience abuses like and so so so much worse than mine doesn’t make it better. Nothing can undo these things. Nothing can dull the pain or recover the trust better than time.

This experience was so traumatizing that I somehow managed to block it from my memory completely for several years. It came flooding back in one morning about 2 years ago, and I had to deal with it all over again. Luckily this time I had better coping skills. I was able to recognize that I did nothing wrong and that no reason could fill in the blank of why. It didn’t matter in the end. Realizing I am a good person, and that I can decide to have faith in people regardless of mistakes, choices that caused me pain, and even trauma.

Where I ended up is a place that I think is just as vital as having this conversation and is also a place where we aren’t allowed to have as far as social norms. Yes, I was taken advantage of by a man who made an active decision to do this to me. No, he is not a bad person. In my world there is no such thing as a bad person.

There is no way anyone can understand our own path better than ourselves, and if I were to judge this man as bad from this one interaction I would be missing the point. It’s my place to judge me and my actions, not others. In our society men (and many other groups) are treated as predators until proven innocent, but often don’t get the chance.

They miss out on  chances to be known and proven as worthy individuals based on the way they look or present themselves, but look at my story. I judged this person to be trustworthy based on superficial circumstances and it turned out very badly for me. What’s to say the person on the street is any better or worse? If I don’t give those around me the chance to teach me about who they are and why they do the things they do I will miss out on my own chance to learn emotional diversity, balance, and trust. I will miss out on chances to know and hold my boundaries. I will miss out on so many wonderful people.

My world is one where trust is required every day and without cause. If you show up, I consider you trustworthy first and decide after getting to know you if that trust was placed wisely. I have to protect myself, know what is okay for me or not, know how to say no, but mostly I have to know how to be vulnerable in the face of danger. Life as a professional cuddler is anything but safe according to social standards, but here I am, 4+ years in, still never ended one session early, never had to stop anyone from a serious personal violation against me, and by placing my faith in those around me I have gained more than I could possibly express.

So many people come to be and tell me stories of how they have been treated as someone unworthy of even basic human decency because of superficial bullshit. It breaks my heart. Yes, SO many people have been taken advantage of in endless ways. No, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be viewed through the microscope of shame, judgment, and guilt.

Each of us needs to create safety for ourselves. Each of us needs to be responsible for our self care, our healing, our reactions. Life is trauma. After speaking with thousands of people I have deemed this much to be true: we all suffer. Every single one of us. Let’s talk about how we can love, learn, and grow from each other instead of putting up walls when we get hurt. Let’s get back up, and try, try again. Let’s be the reason the world is good.

My call to action: 

When/if someone expresses a trauma to you in person, online, over the phone, etc, listen.

Hear them.

Thank them for their willingness to be open about something so challenging.

Accept them.

Know they are the same person they were before they told you.

Don’t try to fix it.

If you are someone who needs to do something, ask. “How can I best support you? Is there anything I can do? or Are you aware of anything I can do to help?” are all ways of phrasing this that are unlikely (but not impossible) to make it worse.

If you feel victimized in anyway please feel welcome and encouraged to comment publicly below or send me or someone in your life a private message.

Let’s talk about all the things we keep in the shadows.

My purpose for starting this blog, and my continued reason to write is to shine light on the dark parts. To overcome fear and insecurities and    to  be     vulnerable. If you are here, you know this by now. I am Samantha Hess. I am real, and I love you exactly as you are. No one needs to earn that in my world. I hope I can get others to join me in this. Are you with me?

 

 

 

The Price of Guilt

Yesterday I was a bit out of sorts. Exhaustion had set in, and guilt wasn’t far behind. Lately my life has felt like a series of struggles where the end result of my efforts lead to neutral feelings and minimal output. Everything is harder lately. In fact, since my body had a chance to relax a couple months ago I haven’t been quite the same. In the last 4 plus years since starting my business I have worked an average of somewhere around 75 hours a week. There’s also been more weeks than I care to count that I topped the 90 hour mark. My business is my life, and I give to it freely and happily. The thing is though, my typical 2 hours of daily self care has brought me a net loss in my functionality as of late. 3 hours is what it’s been taking to get neutral again.

This is so unlike me. I am a GO! GO! GO! person. It’s the only way I know.

15 year old me was the exact opposite, and she seems to be attempting a coup right now. When I took that mini vacation a couple months ago I took time to be unstructured, unproductive, and relax. My mind began to remember all those days as a 15 year old when I would sit on the edge of my twin bed with a giant bowl of ice cream and watch Scooby Doo marathons swishing my feet back and forth (surrounded by far more Elmo stuffed animals than I’d like to admit). That time in life where I felt no responsibilities (even if I had many), when I considered my own wants and needs and acted on them without hesitation, and  when the simplest things made me SO HAPPY! Ok, that last part has maybe become more prevalent over time, but the other two have been stifled by guilt so intensely that I’m sometimes afraid I’ll never get back the ability to care more for myself than those around me. Bleh.

Here’s what happened yesterday: I went to soak with my best friend,  we had lunch, and we cuddled up for a nap with her cat. It was lovely and exactly what I needed. After maybe 45 minutes of cuddles and purrs I got this motivation in me that used to be my normal. I was ready to take on the world. My brain fired up and all the switches were switched, wires were connected, and the countdown to the first of many activities was on the countdown.

I got up, gave her a kiss on the top of the head, and walked down the street to my car. It was pouring rain. The kind of pouring rain that brings joy to my inner 15 year old who grew up on the coast where it rains most of the time and I feel at home. I smile this huge smile and look up to greet the rain on my face. This being Oregon, the one person who saw me obviously underdressed in my little lace shawl and short sleeve dress, said “Isn’t it nice to have the rain back?” instead of something along the lines of “isn’t this miserable or aren’t you freezing?” This is something I love about it here. But back to the story at hand. I got to my car drenched and decided that I needed to stop home to change if I was going to be ready to run errands.

I bring in the glass recycle bin, give the roomy’s dogs some love, and plop down on my bed to rework my plan. As I lie there it hits me how exhausted I am. It’s somehow as if my bones have been turned to cement while my stomach has been flipped upside down at the thought of ever moving again.

My brain goes on strike as my eyes beg to cry from the need to go, to do, to be something I can’t. The eternal struggle between I must and I can’t fight it out while I lie there attempting to make sense of it all. “It’s my day off I should do whatever I WANT to do.” is followed by “Look at this mess. Look at this and this and remember this and what about these 12 other things?” from the driven part of my guilt-ridden, nothing’s ever good enough just ask your dad, portion of my brain. My logical response to the obvious emotional outburst of my guilty mind is to listen to my body, and lately it wins. Not by overcoming the silly guilt response I have oh so naturally built into me, but by the immense overpowering lack that I am consumed by lately.

I am tired. I have given too much. I am broken and numb and oh so exhausted. I lie there through the torture of this back and forth getting up only when the guilt wins. I do laundry. I take dishes to the sink. I straighten out the bed again. I lie down. I look around. I see this and that and all the other things that I have gone so long ignoring because there’s not time nor energy to person AND business, so business wins because it has to.

This all comes to a head when I, for the eleventeenth time stop myself from resting (as the guilt is SO winning today) to take the air conditioner out of the window.

It’s been sitting there unused for weeks and the light that gets in from that window prevents my sleeping in, and that’s important enough to do something about. Of course I don’t have the energy or brainpower to make a legit plan, so I hack together bits and pieces of common sense to make it work. “Ok, move the laptops off the table. Now clear the crap off the chair so I can climb on the desk. Move the plants. Ok, good. Umm…there might be water that leaks out I’ll put a towel over the desk.”

I climb up on the chair and then the table. I open the window further after I toss the plexiglass on the bed holding onto the ac with one hand. I grab the ac from the back and from the front and tip it to see how heavy it is. It seems fine.

As I grab onto the back my fingers dent into the metal mesh backing that (as I later found out) slices into my fingers in tiny precise lines across the tip of my nail beds, I lift up and sway backward slightly from the uneven weight. I look around, realizing that the place I was going to put the air conditioner is now the space where I’m standing.

The bed is too far away. Crap I forgot to unplug it. I’m feeling so weak. I swivel and began to feel like I’m going to fall so I stagger myself somehow onto the chair as I thud the unit onto the desk where I had just been. As I do this I spin around and step off the chair just in time to hear the crash of my great grandmother’s cookie jar falling to the floor, splitting into a thousand heart-wrenching pieces.

The same as my great grandma’s jar

I think to myself “How did that even get there? I swear it wasn’t there when I started this. Oh wait, yes it was. I just didn’t think about it because it was so far over. Oh my god. I broke the only piece I had left of my great grandmother’s belongings. The one thing that linked her to our family. I was the one who was keeping it safe. I broke it beyond repair. It’s gone, fading away, like so many other memories.”

I am devastated and distraught. I am so exhausted that only 2 tiny tears make their way to the surface. I sit, heart racing, brain crying in agony. This is what I get for letting the guilt win. For not resting when I know I need to. For knowing better, but not doing better.

Deep breath. Oh yeah, I realize now that my fingers are throbbing too. Oh, I cut the backs of my fingertips all up on the back of the stupid thing. Now I have to deal with another thing I don’t have energy for.

I can’t convince myself to make it all the way to bathroom to get the hydrogen peroxide, so I go in my back stock and find some antibacterial hand wipes. I clean my hands. Luckily not much blood, and somehow because of the sense of shock I’m experiencing I barely even notice the pain of alcohol mixing with the bits of open flesh on my hands.

I assess the damage to the jar. It’s toast. At least I had taken the time to put a post it inside with the name and maker of the jar a few years ago. It will never be hers again, but at least I can replace it in some small way and keep that feeling of her with me.

In the last few years, doing this work, I have learned better ways to cope. Unlike many other times in my life where I would beat myself up endlessly for this I was able to acknowledge my mistakes, accept what had happened, and instead of blaming myself endlessly or beating myself up I took a deep breath and moved forward. There’s no undoing this, but there’s no sense in causing myself more pain either. I have my memories, and when I don’t the thing is what will there be to miss anyway? The whole I don’t know what i don’t know concept. Humans equals mistakes equals acceptance. I acknowledge and accept who and where I am at. It’s ok that I made a mistake. It’s ok that I’m exhausted. It’s also ok that I don’t’ have it in me to always do so much. It’s ok that I don’t always know how to best care for myself. It’s ok that I have WAY more to do than I can ever get done. And it’s ok to take a break anyway.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment to make sure I didn’t fuck up my adrenal system, to make sure my thyroid system isn’t the cause of the exhaustion, and to generally attempt to confirm that all of these symptoms of fatigue and brain fog are all due to a long term and powerful drive to always do and be more. Hopefully everything is fine. I don’t feel depressed, but I do feel fatigued to the point where I have very little interest in just about everything these days.

This is hard to talk about because I know you are worried about me. To be honest, I am a little too right now. No one in my life is a burden to me. My sessions and the people I interact with do not feed into what I’m writing about here. Those parts of my life I still very much enjoy and benefit from. The rest though, the bookkeeping, cleaning, laundry, endless emails, social media updates, book writing, business planning, organization, payroll…all those little things that never end and that I’m always feeling behind on…those are the things that I need a break from. I am getting there. The current plan, if everything is ok at the dr’s, is to complete training for our newest hire, bring on 1-2 more folks, train them, and then, once we’ve been here long enough that I don’t have to worry that we can pay our bills without my income, I will take a full month to spend on unstructured time to rest, recover, and find me again.

For now I will do my best to listen to my body, avoid the guilty brain motivations, and to rest. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for listening to me human. Thank you for letting me figure it out on my own, and most of all, thank you for not telling me how to fix it. I am grateful for the compassionate listening here. Please feel welcome and encouraged to share with me what’s going on in your world as well. Connection through challenges helps me immensely. We are in this together.

Sending love to me and you!

-Intentionally Sam

More Isn’t Always Better

Hello Humans!

Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of my world. I love and appreciate you.

Today I want to share with you some of my personal life and some of my current struggles. As with pretty much all of my posts please consider this as the voice that works out struggles while typing.

My Beau and I have been dating for about a year and half. He is a wonderful man who is kind and caring. This is the first (and only) man who has ever treated me as well as I believe I deserve (which is most accurately described as a fuck ton). That being said, he and I are quite opposite in many ways. This came through in a fight* the other day.

*Fight isn’t quite the right word as we’ve only ever had one actual argument that could even come close to being called that. This was much closer to, well, my irrational/emotional self having a fleeting panic attack that manifested as a bitchy emotional outburst that made no sense. This is what it feels like to be a woman sometimes (don’t worry all humans get this too sometimes, I just resonate more with the woman side myself). Bleh. Why do I always feel the need to explain that I’m not an asshole when I put a gender on something? Oh Portland…anyway…

Oh yes, we were at the emotionally unstable part. It was sort of funny because (some might want to skip this part- move ahead to the next paragraph to avoid intimacy details please) we were discussing our evening and deciding on what to do which typically is the “are we going to have sex?” part. We decide that we can make time/energy for this, but me being me, I say only after a shower. So we go take a shower and while we are in there the emotional brain begins its reign.

I begin to realize that I’m made at him. At first I don’t have any clue why I feel this way. It’s very frustrating to be all emotional and not know why. Anybody else get this way? Rawr!!! We go lay down. He knows I’m mad. I know I’m mad. *Deep breath…”So…I’m mad at you” I say. “I know” he says. Then we sit there while I try to figure it out.

What it ended up being was a bottled up emotion (which I don’t handle well and try to avoid if at all possible) about our lifestyles. What I mean by that is that I am a classic overachiever. Every moment of every day is busy/full/generally overwhelming. When that doesn’t happen I get overwhelmed. Doesn’t make any sense you say? Sure it does. Just be me. haha.

My Beau on the other hand is much more in the minimalist lifestyle. He prefers to have very few possessions, responsibilities, chores, etc.. I am also very extroverted, he is very introverted (in my opinion). I am an optimist, he often lies with the realm of realist.

 

In this particular moment it was becoming clear to me that our difference in lifestyles/personalities also means that I do more. This is sometimes a challenge for me. Not wanting to be a scorekeeper is one thing, being taken advantage of is another, and in this moment the imbalance between what I give and what I had been receiving felt far from balanced.

It’s such a struggle because we have different and opposing life goals. The wants and needs of each of us is quite far apart. He is simple and easy to care for but will also settle comfortably into wearing socks with extra holes, pants with extra holes, shirts that no longer fit, burritos for dinner 5 nights a week, and playing 8 gazillion hours of the same 3 online games (in case you’re wondering which ones: Dota, Pub-G, and Rocket League). On the other hand I get rid of socks when the wear out, buy new pants when they get extra holes, have more shirts than I could possibly wear in a month that fit well, want a different meal always, and my hobbies and interests are always changing (currently my free time shifts from playing app games on my tablet while having something on the tv in the background to Pokemon Go to Silent Disco to chatting to friends or baking or cleaning or meditating or endlessly listing in my head all the things I forgot to do, haven’t gotten to, or come up with to do and won’t get to before the 8 thousand other things I just forgot about when the next thing came to mind… again).

This evening I was feeling rather unappreciated because I am a proactive caretaker and an overachiever. Simply put, that means I do most of the grocery shopping, I do more than my share of laundry, I cook more of the meals, and I end up replacing his worn out, ill-fitting clothing before he does. I. I. I. Me. Me. Me. Do you hear how I speak here? What a self-centered d-bag. Here’s the thing, yes, I do more. That doesn’t mean I am a better person, partner, or human. It means that I am following my natural patterns and doing what feels right to me. In no way does that mean he is being a bad person, partner, or human. It is always my responsibility to ask for what I want. It is always my responsibility to ensure I am being cared for in the ways that matter to me. And it is always my responsibility to communicate openly when I realize there is a problem.

Please do not misunderstand me here. My Beau really is a wonderful man, partner, and person. He works very hard to be present, available, and communicate openly with me. If I ask for something he will make it happen. The difference is that he is never going to be the proactive guy. He’s not going to think about a bunch of tiny ways to make my day better constantly. He will think of plenty still, and he will put in the effort anytime something comes to mind or when I ask for things. He will listen to me go through emotional breakdowns, let me cry on his shoulder, miss sleep to be there for me, and always love me unconditionally.

On the other hand, I have moments where my emotional side wins and I don’t give unconditional love. Sometimes I am mean and bitter and just not nice. In the last 10 years or so I have become much better at recognizing these irrational thoughts/feelings quicker and coping in healthier ways. In this instance I had to first say “I am mad at you…blah blah blah…I do more than you. I do all these things for you without you having to think about them…blame…judgement…guilt…shittiness.”

Through this he listens and holds out his hand for me to hold. He is patient and kind and caring all while I’m being an unreasonable jerk. Eventually I get out all the emotional outburst. He calmly and quietly explains how it feels for him to feel like he never has an opportunity to do all these things for me because I do so much that by the time it comes to mind for him to do, it’s often already done and then he has to feel bad that yet again he wasn’t good enough in my eyes (this is how he is feeling, not me in my logical mind btw). It’s not that he doesn’t want to do the things, he just doesn’t know what’s expected or how to fit it all in because he works differently than me.

And the truth of it is his way is better than my way. My life of overachieving leaves me stressed out, constantly anxious about something, always behind, and in over my head every day. This discussion helped me understand that the feelings I was having about imbalance was, in reality, feelings about not understanding myself or him very clearly.

When this happens my language is often rude, misguided, and ignorant. It sucks. I’m such a dick sometimes. It’s part of me that I work on regularly. More often I am winning before it gets very far. Sometimes long blog posts about how I got to where I’m at happen instead where I have to admit to the world my shortcomings and own up to my humanness. (is that a word? sure, let’s pretend it is). (also my parenthesis is outside of the period so the period I put after it makes no sense and I didn’t capitalize this sentence either that also has improper grammar…this is the stuff I was talking about earlier with the stuff I haven’t gotten to or think of after the fact).

What ended up happening is that my Beau stayed up an hour and a half past his bedtime to work through all this with me, and we came to the conclusion that if I need him to do more he’s happy to do so -as long as I can be proactive (my specialty) about communicating the details of what I’ll need from him at least a day before and remind him close to the time I need him to do a thing. Look at how reasonable this man is. He left room for me to realize that I need to do all the things. Something which had magically escaped my reality until this evening, and he also left space for me to have a custom tailored solution to fit my neurosis. This feels better.

Sometimes I do need him to do things for me, but I don’t want him to feel like he’s not enough just because he lives a different life than I do. His way is pretty awesome. He gets to come home, eat food, and chill out pretty much everyday. I manage to convince myself to have unstructured relax time maybe a few hours a week. Even when I do basic things like play a game on my tablet it’s often done with the active intention of decompressing from my crazy stressful life. I rarely do a thing absentmindedly. This is something I want to work on more. Allowing space for unintentional time is something that challenges me more than just about anything. What a funny thing to be vulnerable about. But that’s me. Silly, goofy me. The girl who can’t get herself to slow down. Looks like I’ve got some work to do. haha. Crap. There I go again. Anybody got any suggestions on this? I’m all ears!

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess

 

Moving Day

Hello All,

Today is moving day for Cuddle Up To Me. This has been months and sort of years in the making. When I first signed the lease for this space I did so knowing it was this or nothing, but over the last 3 years this place has been my home. Not in the literal “I lived here” sense, but I spend a lot more time in this building than anywhere else, including my actual home. A little over years ago I started my business thinking I could make a difference for a handful of people. Here I am, over 100 million people seeing my story, knowing who I am, seeing me grow, shift, and change into the person before you today. I’d like to say I’m a better person for all that I’ve been through. I’d like to say that I am where I thought I’d be. The truth is though that the only thing I can say for certain is that I’m different.

Today I stand at the desk watching as everything I’ve built leaves this space. As I stand here the countless hours I’ve spent here fade away. The next chapter begins tomorrow, and in so many ways I’m beyond ready for it. In so many ways I’m not. While I watch everything change around me I see everything I’ve built, every ounce of effort I’m made and every drop of blood, sweat, and tears that has made me and my business what we are. I am a hard worker, no one can doubt that. I try. Every. Fucking. Day. I do my best (takes a deep breath). I make mistakes. I am afraid. I fail. I even fall apart from time to time. But overall I am proud of myself and where I am at in my life.

The world around me is shifting. Whether I’m ready or not these things happen. Suddenly. Even with months of planning. Today I feel like I’m not strong enough for all this. My body is weak, tired. My brain is an ever goo-ifying mass of grey fuzz that seems to be dripping down the inside of my skull today and beading at the bottom of my skull into a pool of who I used to be. Exhaustion does not begin to explain how I feel. My bones ache. My heart hurts. Emotions are seeping out of every mistake and empty corner of my life up to this point. The feelings of pride, determination, and success will join me later, for this I am sure. Right now it’s misery though. Long sleepless nights, endless tasks and worries. A sea of money wasted and neglected opportunities. If only I had the time. The ability. The interest. To do more. be more. I know, it’s bullshit what I’m feeling. I know it’s only a small fraction of the truth. You know who I am. The girl who giggles and plays dinosaurs and believes that the world is good. I am that girl. And no, I’m not using “girl” in a self-deprecating way. A girl is sometimes the strongest form a woman can be. I have no shame in my girlhood. I wear it bravely as a way to protect myself from the pessimism of the world. As a girl I can, will, and do succeed.

I am all over the place. I know. Thank you for bearing with me. Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing this journey and living with me through all the everything. *deep breath

What I want to say is that I’m excited for the new space (but the reality is that I’m only actually excited about the being done with moving part soon). The possibility of a more balanced future comes with this new lease. Our rent will be about half, and the new space cozy and comfy as something that I can’t think of to be honest haha. Even now I try to put in effort I don’t have to give haha. What today means is a possibility that soon everything I’ve worked so hard for may actually pay off. I am almost to the point where I won’t have to work 70+ hour weeks to keep this going. My cashed in “plan b” is still withstanding. Even 8 months in I have enough to get by on (financially) for at least another 2 years, and with the prospect of finally, after almost 3 years without an income, having an actual real life bank depositable salary on the horizon I am beginning to let go of my breath.

This morning the movers were scheduled to arrive at 8:30am. At 8:45 I called to check on them. The company forgot. Here we are 11:48am and the guys have managed to make it here and we should be all packed up in the next half hour. I have until 2pm tomorrow to get the new space ready, but I’m allowing myself to be of the mindset that I can only do what I can do. The rooms look beautiful. The AC works. As long as I can muster enough energy to put together one room I’m golden. Anything else is a bonus at this point. Today I will take a nap. Today I have to take a nap. I will make time to take a nap. I will forgive myself for any guilt I feel for taking a nap when I have so gosh darned much to do. Sorry, that last part was for me.

For now I will leave my rant of random thoughts here as a post-it for all the other posts I want to write but don’t have time or brainpower to make happen just yet. Know that I am ok. Well, I’m not, but I’m working on it. I will check back in as soon as possible. I will share all the things. For now, I must go as the giant panda face goes, outward, onward, and upward toward the new home and life we’ve been waiting for.

With all my love,
Samantha Hess

Welcome!

I have jumped in and switched from Tumblr to my own web domain. Check me out! Please stay tuned for updates starting in July. Right now I’m in the middle of moving the retail space, and somehow making a website on top of that too. I just can’t stop myself haha. Read my past blog posts below, comment on how excited/proud/happy you are for me and tell me what’s going on with you too! Sending my love for now. I’ll be posting more in July!

 

Tough Memory

Hello All,

I would like to start out with a bit of a warning that today’s post will have some intensity to it including references to violence and deep vulnerability, so please skip this one if you aren’t up for it. Mom, I highly recommend you skip this one, but if you do read it know these are simply the memories I can never seem to be rid of.  

Last night I woke up around 3am with an aching that went through me down to my bones.  If was from the piercing bark of a dog that was quite loud for how far away it must have been. Normally a sound like this would be nothing more than an annoyance, but for some reason this sound, in this exact moment activated me into a memory I hate remembering.

I turned back into the 4 or 5 year old little girl who would hear the muffled yelling of my father and the sounds of clatter that I couldn’t quite figure out the source of. I watched in my mind as 5 year old me walked down the brown carpeted stairs holding the wooden handrail and hiding just out of sight in the shadows of kitchen wall. I watched as my father screamed profanities and endless insults at my mother for whatever the flavor of that particular argument was that evening. I watched from outside of myself viewing what a movie version of the moment would have seen with the black and white tiled floor of the kitchen, this tiny untainted mind peering out from the shadows, the white side by side fridge with her mother pressed against it, and the father, whose breath reeked of alcohol from even this far away, stood looming over this tiny fracture of a woman long since missing from her former self. I watched as she was beaten senseless yet again. The next day she would be wearing long sleeves, way too much makeup, and sunglasses in doors again.

I feel the pain of this moment, this memory for the first time in a long time, and in about 8 years I have anger for my father. The fact that I feel anything at all for him is new. The feeling of rawness, the sourness in my stomach, the aching of clenching everything I am to dull the pain…even now those memories haunt me. They always will I suppose. I have so many fragments of memories like this. So many moments where I see a tiny girl witness unthinkable things. I am shaking writing this still.

Witnessing the type of monsters humans can be is something that runs through the very core of me. It has shaped everything I am, every decision I have ever made. And it has made me who I am.

When I was 12 years old I stopped visitations with my father. A few years earlier my mom got up the courage to leave, finally. My father had been threatening to take us away from her for years, even in front of us sometimes he would tell her how if she left she would never see any of us again, if she saw anything at all.

I am so proud of her for leaving. I am so proud of her for knowing that she was strong enough. That she has what it takes to raise 3 bratty little kids on her own, even after my dad did everything in his power to crush her body, mind, and spirit. My mom is a survivor. She is a warrior and a hero. My father was a bitter, angry man who didn’t understand the slightest repercussions his actions had. He didn’t know that the pain he caused my mother would equate into many lifetimes of pain for those around him. He didn’t know that for the rest of his children’s lives everything he did would be viewed through a lens of pain and fear.

I stopped visitations because my father told me my whole childhood that the memories I had of the terrible things he did were dreams, that I was crazy, or making it up. I also stopped visitations because, even though there was never physical abuse to us kids, there was endless emotional abuse, and every time we went back home to mom we would be in tears from the awful things our father had told us. Nothing was ever good enough, if we spilled something we would be screamed at, and no matter how hard we tried we were always wrong in some way.

This was the day I became an adult in my mind. 12 years old, and something in me knew that this negativity, manipulation, and constant guilt would only cause me harm. I left with an ultimatum- “If you ever want to see me again I want you to admit what you did to mom, and I want you to take anger management classes.” For a preteen I thought this was quite a reasonable request.

To this day my father has done neither of these things, but has instead, from time to time, sent me cards and letters and tried to buy my love by paying for trips to Hawaii for us girls (I didn’t go) or buying me earrings (even though he knows I’m allergic to metal), or buying me (the cheaper, nonrefundable) plane tickets to go visit his family without my consent (and getting very upset with me when I didn’t go). His letters are always filled with some sort of guilt trip, and never anything along the lines of “I am sorry for what I have done.”

At the age of 25 I had a breakdown and almost had to drop out of college from the confusion and chaos in my brain of the emotional turmoil of this decision I made at 12. After years of not knowing if I had made the right choice, I finally figured out how to process and clarify how I actually felt.

What happened was that I finally sat down and wrote. I let my hands and heart do the work, leaving my mind out of it. I sat and typed for a long time. Eventually what came out was forgiveness, acceptance, and closure. It would take me another 7 years to figure out how to let go of the abandonment issues I had gained from this experience, but at least I had a clear understanding that I had made the right choice. I knew that for me, negativity is something that only negates my ability to thrive. It’s not something that helps me strive to be better, do more, or care harder. I already try as hard as I am capable of trying pretty much every day. I am a born optimist, and what nourishes me is gratitude not pain. I had managed to say how I felt (on paper if not out loud) that I felt my requests were fair and that I felt so incredibly unloved knowing that even the simple requests I made were ones I was not worth trying for. I recognized that I was happier, healthier, and more productive in my life since I had left behind the influence of my father’s constant negativity.  And I realized that family by blood does not negate the responsibility we have to be kind, caring, and honest with the people we love.

In my writing I told my dad that I didn’t have space to hate him anymore, and that there was nothing I could do or say that would change his mind on complying with my needs, so I had to let go. I had to forgive, and I had to let go. I said goodbye to my dad in that letter, and I let go. I forgave him, and I decided, I knew and know, that there was nothing left for the 2 of us to share in this life.

All of the bad feelings, all of the bitterness, resentment, contempt, and disgust I had for him vanished as easily as the olive I just ate with lunch. It was shockingly easy when I actually allowed myself to open that bottle and pour out all the unresolved feelings I had to sort through. Not that I think this would be the case for myself or any of you in any other situation (please don’t take this as advice, and please seek a licensed therapist if you want support dealing with your stuff like I did with the abandonment stuff).

And up until last night I had almost 8 glorious years where I could talk about my dad with my family and have little to no emotion at all. It was not like I didn’t care even, it was just that there wasn’t anything there at all.

That was why I was so shocked this morning when that fear, anger, and pain presented itself with the barking of that dog. I have no idea what the relevance is there, but at least I know now how to cope when those feelings come up.

It took me several method attempts before I found the right one, but I did get back to sleep. Some of the things I tried:

  • Telling myself that right now I am ok.

  • Taking deep, slow breaths

  • Checking in with my body and letting go of any stress that was physically present

  • Stretching

  • Checking in with my emotions and reminding myself that most of what I felt was from a memory

  • Reminding myself to be grateful and reaching out for my beau for comfort

  • Listening to Planet Earth (David Attenborough almost always puts me to sleep yay!)

I do feel fairly back to normal about all this stuff again, and I know that when a dark spot shows up it’s important to share it. I need to show the world that I am real. That I am human. That it’s ok to not be ok. And that I am loved just as much as you are when we experience life in its difficult forms too.

These moments give me an opportunity to check back in with myself as I never want to be at a place in my life where I am unwilling to consider something. This got me to ask myself the age old question in my world “Do I want my father in my life?” The answer is still no, but it’s nice to remind myself of the pain, forgiveness, and ability to reconsider my world.

Before I conclude I would like to share with y’all the update on my father as this is clearly not the whole story. My sisters both spend time with him regularly and say that he has softened a lot in the last decade or so. He and my mom are friendly, and he has been in a relationship with the same woman for the last probably 20 years. While my memories show the emotion I felt in the moment, I don’t currently hold that same negativity for him.

Thank you for letting me share this. My apologies for any pain I cause you in sharing. Sending my love.

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess

The Blind Cafe

Last Friday I attended an
event for The Blind Cafe. I went with a dear friend of mine, and I wanted to
share the experience with all of you as it is such an interesting
concept. 

Here’s the gist-a community event where you purchase tickets to
a specific time and upon arrival you are greeted, introduced to all the
information you need to keep yourself and everyone around you safe, lead into a
pitch black room where you enjoy a meal, a Q&A, and a music experience all
in complete darkness and facilitated by legally blind individuals. 

We arrived about 15 minutes early, but the doors don’t open
until the time specified for the event, so we walked around the neighborhood
and found some swings to chill at. It was a nice contrast to begin the evening
by taking in all the glorious spring blossoms and greenery as I swung with my
head tilted way back and started at the world upside down. We chatted about our
first crushes (his a girl with a pink bow and a pink dress, mine MC Hammer). We
meandered back after a few minutes, stopping occasionally to entertain my whims
as I found bright, bold colored flowers in every direction I turned. 

As we entered the space (this event was held in what I assume
used to be church, but is now used for ecstatic dance and other fun and funky*
community events) *some pun intended hehe, we were asked to turn our cell
phones O-F-F, off. Not on airplane mode, not on vibrate, but actually,
completely, 100%, oh my goodness I didn’t realize how attached to this device I
am off. I took a breath, and decided I could do this. I turned my phone off.
Then we checked in and were directed up a little set of stairs where wine,
water, ginger ale, and dark chocolate were available. I still had to drive later,
so I chose bottled water, as did my friend. 

We were greeted by 2 of the event facilitators, both of whom
were blind and very pleasant to chat with. Both of whom, had more interest in
what I do than chatting about themselves, but then again, I’m guessing that’s
not very common haha. We hung out in this little area and were reminded a few
times that we should use the restroom before the event starts (as I looked
around and wondered how the people who bought bottles of wine would fare with a
2+ hour event). There were lots of puns and jokes about blindness that, in my
opinion, all held up pretty well. Of course, I’m pretty easy to entertain, but
still the banter was nice and eased that bit of awkward tension that comes with
a new experience. One of the facilitators mentioned that they’d be bringing around
a live alligator for us to pet later. haha. I thought that was awesome, but
obviously not getting the joke, I was informed that he was only kidding.
Boo. 

As a collective we stood there, awkward and unknowing,
chit-chatting about nothing in particular as the voices we heard aloud were
merely to cover the unpredictable experience we were all so hopelessly devoted
to pondering internally. We all tried to play it cool, like “I’m not
afraid at all. I’m super brave, and this is totally normal…” but inside, at least
for me, it was more like “What the hell did I get myself into? What if I
freak out in the dark? Am I afraid of the dark? When’s the last time I was in a
completely pitch black room? And with a bunch of strangers? What if someone
else freaks out? What if I have a panic attack? What if I accidentally do
something offensive?” And as the thoughts swirled like the water in my bottle I
was suddenly brought to my senses again as my ear caught ahold of a note so
soft and sweet that it actually put to rest all of the concerns of my unknowing
mind. It was the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl that brought the room to
attention as Rosh, one of the leaders of the event, greeted us all and
collectively calmed and connected us. 

He chatted with us a bit explaining how it was all going to
work, and asking us for the 11th time to “not be that guy” who only
pretended to turn off his phone. We learned that we will be lead into the room
in groups of 8, holding the shoulder of the person in front of us, and that a
facilitator would be around to check on us every 10-15 minutes, so if we needed
anything or if we were freaking out to wait if possible, and if not to simply
call out for help verbally (using the help of the voices around us if
necessary). He asked us not to check the time, check our messages, or do
anything that would bring so much as a needlepoint of light into the space. He
told us that food would already be on the table, so we should watch out elbows.
We were told there would be a Q&A and music at the end. 

I went to the bathroom in the brief moments in between this
speech and being directed to the event space. We gathered a group of 8 of us,
quickly made introductions before Rosh returned to bring us down, and I
immediately forgot the names of everyone. Crap. As we stopped at the top of the
stairs I gently placed my right hand square on the shoulder of whoever’s black
jacket was attached to the man in front of me (John, Paul, Ringo, Longhorn,
nope, still can’t remember). We were lead, slowly, then a bit quicker through a
thick draping, then through what felt like a dry car wash as the light began to
fade. By the third draping we walked through all light had disintegrated into
the weightless, timeless abyss that would be our home for the next 2
hours. 

We slowly, carefully, made our way to the chairs that were first
to the right, then to the left…then a little more to our left. I sat, and
quietly asked if my friend had found his chair as well. Without too much
trouble we seemed to all find our seats. I then began to explore the void in
front of me. Lucky for me, I was seated at the end of a table, so I quickly
found the edge and carved out my safe zone as I carefully nudged my fingertips
further about. Soon I found a fork, and ooh, what’s that, a spoon? A napkin,
plate, water bottle, a little to go soup container with a lid (thank goodness)
that had contents that swayed slightly as the viscous occupant found
equilibrium in the sloshing of my less than gentle swishing. I am apparently
not afraid of spilling things once I find it has a lid…this has proven to be
overly optimistic many times in my life, but tonight I somehow managed to not
spill. Yay me! 

We began to adjust to the obscurity around us and find comfort
in defining boundaries of this new world, sometimes discovering food, other
times nothing, and once in a while, the comforting hand of another explorative
being. Realizing after a few minutes that I hadn’t blinked much, I asked
aloud to no one in particular “does anyone else feel like they haven’t blinked
in a while?” Getting at least one positive response made me feel a bit better.
My eyes continued to adjust, making every effort to find any needlepoint of
light to grasp onto in the shadowless expanse. With nothing to be found my
brain decided to make an effort sporadically bringing up color-like dots,
dashes, lines, and blurs. Like an unknown language penned in artificial light,
my brain created rifts and tides attempting to create meaning in the
meaningless.

After
several minutes of chit chat about what each of us was feeling, doing, and
seeing, myself and other woman at the table asked if others had begun to eat as
the two of us had been waiting for instruction. The
less-troubled-by-proper-etiquette people around us stated with obviously food filled
mouths that they were half way through the salad already. Realizing that the
etiquette for such an event is only self-induced as long as not imposing on others,
we followed suit. The meal we were provided was vegan, except for the hide and
seek bread and butter that we were encouraged to find and share as a table…ours
found the bread, but sadly the butter eluded us all…or perhaps the butter was a
myth- I mean if I tree falls….haha. You get it.

The
meal for this event was a salad with lovely crisp bell peppers and a dressing
of no particularly discernable flavor other than acceptable, something that may
or may not have been quinoa, and these little sweet fritter type things that we
collectively decided must have plantains in them. As it turns out, when I am
given food, even of the vegan variety, I will eat unabashedly and without
hesitation. It seems that when no one can see you, I still feel the need to
wipe my mouth as soon as I can feel I missed my target a bit, and conversation
in the dark is more come and go as there’s no one attempting to hold my gaze or
convince me with their expression how into this story I should be. I literally
could disappear at any moment and no one would know.

I
promised my friend no tricks for the evening, as I tend to be the type to once
in a while sneak up on him…at his front door…when I just texted him to meet me
downstairs. Hehe. I’m hilarious, I know, but in the dark I felt like too many
surprises might be a bad thing.

The
Q&A went pretty well after being brought back together with the lovely
singing bowl. We got to ask a lot of questions overall, including my less than
perfectly worded “How can we treat blind people with honor and dignity?” I was
hoping to get something more than “treat them like a normal person,” because I
already knew that. The only down side was when one woman decided to be “Too
Portland For Portland” and ask a question that eluded to her believing that The
Blind Café was discriminating against her because she was a woman or some such
nonsense. After a decidedly collective eye roll and internal long groan, they
answered that the only reason they didn’t call this woman before that man is
because they heard his name more clearly and the only reason they didn’t have a
blind woman as a facilitator was because they couldn’t find one, and that yes,
blind women likely do have different challenges than men, but that they weren’t
experts on that. Bingo pajama, that was irritating for me. No miss, The Blind Café
is not attempting to be discriminatory, it’s sort of in their motto. So much of
my view of feminism has been tainted by the version of feminism where they want
to feel equal and entitled at the same time. You can have your cake, but you
can’t eat it too. Ok. Sorry. Rant. Over. Now.

We
were then handed a basket of desserts to pass around which was fun. I was
handed ours first, and proceeded to fish out my little covered dish of some
sort of gritty vegan banana-ish pudding that sort of made me want to gag. I put
mine down pretty quickly. My friend proceeded to search around and gulped mine
right up (he’s used to vegan food). I felt bad because I tasted mine before the
far end of the table got theirs, and I may have ruined the experience for
others with my verbal disgust of this chalky, sand-like disaster. But I wasn’t
there for the dessert. I was there for the experience of going through basic
human tasks without the context of vision, which was fun and interesting.

After
dessert they played some live music, which was wonderful, except for the part
where Rosh (or who I assume to be Rosh playing) kept using self-deprecating language
when he would mix up some part of the music. In my world that sort of talk is
not to be allowed, and it really spoiled the experience for me. All I wanted to
do was go up and hug this man who felt the need to share his lack of self-worth
with us all when, from where I was sitting, his music was wonderful.

On a
side note I think I may have a learning disability around music. Many times in
my life I’ve had people be eternally frustrated by my lack of awe, rhythm, or
interest in most music. Don’t get me wrong, I like music. I listen to a lot of
music, but I don’t seem to connect with it as intimately as most do, and as I
proved to myself yet again this morning in Zumba, the rhythm is only gonna get
me if I turn into someone else who has it already as mine is wherever the
missing socks go.

They
had us sing along at different parts, and at first people were a bit shy, but
being in the dark I believe allowed people to be a bit bolder. By the end of
the singing it was like a beautiful church choir in the joint with loud, strong
voices in all directions.

At
the very end of the evening they did a thing with the thing that makes the
whole thing happen, but I won’t spoil that part for you as it really was
incredible and also because it would sound silly without having experienced it
for yourself.

All
in all I would say that if you have the ability to attend one of these events,
please do yourself and your community a favor and go. Feel the feels. Do the
things. Try. Experience what life is like without the input of vision. I have
learned from this that in the dark we are all the same color, shape, size,
height, nationality, and vulnerability. What really matters in this world is
that we recognize that even something simple, like closing our eyes to gain a
little insight, can open our hearts to the miraculous world of self, community,
and connection. While humility is something I will never master, it is
something I always want to strive for. This experience is one more reason I can
keep my feet on the ground, my heart open to the world around me, and my mind
open to new possibilities.

If
you would like to learn more and perhaps attend an event in your local area
please visit: https://www.theblindcafe.com/

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess