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User Journal

Journal Journal: Learning to Cope with Change

The biggest problem I'm having with life right now is simply that the rate of change far exceeds my ability to cope. Fortunately, things are changing *so* fast that the rate of change also exceeds my ability to freak out, so at the moment, I usually just feel mildly disoriented. Once things quiet down a bit, I'll have time to panic.

Two weeks ago, I went to secret church with a friend. The story behind that is long, poignant, and heartwarming, but I can't tell it yet.

In case you're wondering, the difference between secret church and regular church is that at secret church they don't take any particular notice of aliens, whereas at regular church they often react with confusion, anger, and a detailed but ultimately incoherent explanation of why all aliens inevitably go to hell.

It's probably also worth pointing out that, no, I don't usually go to secret church *or* regular church. Secret church is, at the moment, a special project; I'll probably be going for a little while, and then we'll see what happens. Before this month, I hadn't been to church in, oh, maybe twenty years.

Last weekend, my secret church friend had a prior commitment, so on Saturday went shopping instead. I found the store I was looking for, had a lot of fun hanging out with the other women, and now, apparently, I'm making a needlepoint penguin. (No, not Tux.) I haven't done any needlepoint in probably thirty years!

Then on the way home, some guy on the bus called me the dreaded s-word. Twice. It made me cry, right there on the bus. I was afraid the trauma might ruin my penguin, but I still think the penguin is reasonably cool, so I guess it didn't. I don't think there was any malice in his choice of words, but that almost made it hurt worse.

On Sunday I went to Wal-Mart to look for bead stuff and needlepoint stuff, and managed to find some of both. Then, in an effort to restore my karmic shopping balance, I went to one of the few independent bookstores in the city, a sci-fi specialty store. I'd never been there before but had heard of it and had always wanted to visit, and somehow found myself having lunch in front of it! So I went in, and it was a pretty cool place. I almost bought a copy of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, but decided I still felt too vulnerable for something like that after Saturday's s-word incident.

Last night, I went to see the new Lemony Snicket movie with a bunch of people. I enjoyed the movie, and I also enjoyed hanging out with the people, but I felt a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. On the mailing list setting up the outing, someone asked how to find the group, and the answer was basically: oh, don't worry, this group is hard to miss. This was basically correct. So, after a month that included secret church, a penguin, and the s-word, and after a long day at work, and wandering through a large, confusing, Christmas-crowded mall that I'd never visited before, I was faced with the prospect of trying to meet two dozen moderately strange strangers in a dark, crowded movie theater, and my brain just said, ok, I've had enough. After the movie, we were all hanging out, and I'm sure people thought I was really unhappy, sitting off to the side by myself, but the truth of the matter was that my brain was full and new stuff was just bouncing off. I sat there in a daze and watched the pretty colors. Did I mention that some of the strangers had blue hair?

Tonight, I made a new friend on the bus, coming back from my visit with P. It was cool to make a new friend, but... well, some stuff was just kind of odd, and I don't have enough experience making new friends to really understand what, if anything, was actually odd. The conversation sort of started with "I'm an alien", so that was out in the open. Sigh. Humans. Who can figure them out?

This week, a friend and his dog are coming with me to visit my Dad and stepmom for Christmas. This will also be new; I've never invited any friends to come home with me for Christmas, and I haven't been home for Christmas myself in several years.

I'm still struggling with a variety of big picture questions. Things like "Who Am I?" "Where, if anywhere, do I fit into society?" "Where am I going in life, and how am I going to get there?", but fortunately, coping with the bewildering array of changes in day-to-day life has put the big, scary questions on the back burner for now. Which, really, is a good thing.

Looking back over what I've written, I realize that some readers may be thinking, gee, that's not really *that* much change; what the heck is her problem?

It's hard to describe how different my life has become. Three years ago or so, the average evening consisted of staying home and watching tv. Weekends were basically the same thing, combined with whatever seemed necessary to combat the pain and loneliness. Basically self-imposed solitary confinement. Meeting new people and going new places were quite rare occurrences.

Compare that to the last couple of weeks: I was probably introduced to at least 20 people at secret church, and another dozen or so at the movie, plus two at the needlepoint store, and one on the bus tonight. And then there are the people I've met through my journal entries. And three old friends I reconnected with via email this week. People are entering my life at an astonishing rate, and that by itself is a challenge after a decade of isolation.

I'm also going to new places at an astonishing rate. A needlepoint store I'd never been to. A supermarket I'd never been to. A Wal-Mart that I'd never been to. A bookstore I'd never been to. A game store I'd never been to. A mall I'd only been to once. For other people, these would be very ordinary trips to very ordinary places in the city, but for a person whose life, for a decade, was designed around a triangle consisting of home, work, and the grocery store, the notion that you can find out about a place and then just sort of go there is something that takes a little getting used to.

P has told me more than once that she's never seen an alien who's so afraid of change. But of course, change is the very heart of the alien experience. Yet another paradox about my alien self.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Not a Meme Thingy

Why are we doing this? Oh well, ok...

spell your name backwards: neilAnnAharaS

  • have you ever had a song written about you? Well, I wrote one last week called, "I can't feel my fingers anymore". It was kinda cold that night. The second verse started with, "I wish I'd put my mittens in my purse..."
  • what song makes you cry? Almost anything, in the right mood
  • what song makes you happy? Almost everything, in the right mood
  • what's your all time fav. song? I don't think I have one
  • what do you listen to before you go to sleep? My iPod, sometimes
  • height? 5 feet, 6 inches
  • hair color? dark blond/light brown, with some lighter streaks
  • piercings? Two, one in each earlobe
  • tattoos? No

r i g h t _ n o w . . .

  • what color pants are you wearing? loose black tights
  • what song are you listening to? the washing machine
  • what taste is in your mouth? peanut butter cups
  • whats the weather like? a little warmer
  • how are you? fine, thanks, just a little tired
  • get motion sickness? not usually
  • have a bad habit? maybe...
  • get along with your parents? yes
  • boyfriend/girlfriend? no
  • have a current crush? no
  • have a big regret? yes, many

f a v o u r i t e . . .

  • tv show? none at the moment
  • conditioner? the one in the pink bottle, followed by the one in the orange tube
  • book? no favorites right now
  • non alchohol drink? diet rite cola
  • alchohol drink? no, thanks
  • things to do on the weekend? spend time with friends, shopping, housework

h a v e _ you _ e v e r . . .

  • broken the law? only to save my life, or save the world
  • snuck out of the house? not really
  • ever gone skinny dipping? no
  • made a prank phone call? no
  • tipped over a port-a-potty? eeew!
  • use your parents credit card? not without permission
  • skipped school? only with permission
  • fell asleep in the shower/bath? not that I can recall
  • been in a school play? I played a frog in kindergarten, I think. I still remember the song: "Jump, jump, little froggie/Jump, jump, little froggie/Jump, jump, little froggie/Jump into the pool/Splash!" Oh, and I played some sort of vegetable (a bean?) in another play. My line was "I'm growing!" We were even on TV! If you were on the island of Guam in 1976, maybe you saw it? I think I was the second bean from the left.
  • had a boyfriend/girlfriend? sort of... sort of not... that part of life is very, um, well, complicated for me
  • had children? no
  • been in love? yes, sort of...
  • have a hard time getting over someone? yes
  • been hurt? sort of...
  • gone out with someone you only knew for 3 days? no

r a n d o m . . .

  • have a job? yes
  • your cd player has what in it right now? powerpc g4
  • if you were a crayon, what color would you be? pink, or tan
  • what makes you happy? friends
  • the next CD you're going to buy? probably none

w h e n _ was _ t h e _ last _ t i m e . . .

  • you got a real letter? last week. It had a check in it, too!
  • got an email? a couple minutes ago
  • thing you purchased? salad, peanut butter cups
  • Tv program you watched? dunno... maybe Stargate?
  • movie you saw in the theaters? Return of the King? Harry Potter and the Something of Something? Not sure...
  • kissed? Too long ago
  • hugged? Sunday
  • song heard? One a friend is composing
  • place you were [besides home]? Work, then Grocery Store
  • phonecall? Last Night
  • you were depressed? A little? Maybe last week. Major depression? Around 2002.
  • you were in the hospital? Hmm, probably earlier this year, for tests. Trans-esophageal echocardiogram. Multiple MRI's.

w h a t _ comes _ t o _ mind . . .

  • car? no
  • murder? nightmare
  • cape? orange
  • penis? koala
  • cell? phone
  • shoe? shopping
  • fun? family
  • crush? kill, destroy
  • music? weasel
  • chalk? crayola

n u m b e r . . .

  • of time you've been in love? not a countable number
  • of girls you have kissed? not very many
  • of boys you have kissed? even less
  • of times your name has appeared in a newspaper? none. well, not associated with me, anyway. But it's a common enough name. I just haven't been me long enough to attract the media, I guess. Probably a good thing.
  • of scars on your body? Too many to count
  • of things in your past you regret? 137

d o _ you _ t h i n k _ you _ a r e . . .

  • pretty? no
  • funny? yes
  • hot? no
  • friendly? yes
  • ugly? no
  • loveable? yes
  • caring? yes
  • sweet? I'm learning...
  • dorky? yes, but less than before

f a v o u r i t e . . .

  • actor/actress? I don't think I have one
  • least favorite day? Any day that involves going to the doctor
  • flower? rock rose
  • jello flavor? Pink Lemonade (well, ok, they don't make pink lemonade flavored jello that I know of, but you can make it with unflavored gelatin and pink lemonade flavored kool-aid)
  • summer/winter? Summer 2003 was very interesting, as it showed me the possibilty that life could be different. Then again, summer 2004 was pretty interesting too, because that's when life started to become ordinary...

p e r s o n _ who _ l a s t . . .

  • slept in your bed? Me
  • saw you cry? Usually nobody sees me cry
  • sent you an email? A Friend

h a v e _ you _ e v e r

  • said i love you and meant it? Of course!
  • went out in public in pjs? 1979
  • kept a secret from everyone? I try not to do that anymore
  • been to new york? First year of my life
  • to california? 1986 to present

w h e n _ was

  • last cigarrete? 18 months ago, maybe?
  • last cry? three or four days ago
  • last book read? The Basics of Bead Stringing
  • last curse word uttered? Heck, I don't know!
  • last beverage drank? Diet Rite Cola
  • last food consumed? Peanut butter cups
  • last phone call? Last Night
  • showered? This morning?
  • last shoes worn? Worn out running shoes
  • last cd played? I don't really listen to CD's, just my iPod.
  • last thing written? This sentence. Or, a long email to my Dad.
  • last word spoken? Um
  • last sleep? Last night
  • last im? 2000 or so; I don't really like im
  • sexual fantasy? Today (And no I won't tell you! But you can try to guess which slashdot story made my mind wander, if you want... giggle! It was only a PG-rated fantasy, anyway, though. Sigh.)
  • last ice cream eaten? No Sugar Added Chocolate Vanilla Swirl
  • last time wanting to die? 2001
User Journal

Journal Journal: Recovering from Thanksgiving 2004

I'm starting to feel better after my little crisis over the weekend.

I made it to work, which is always good. Was pretty productive, too, and a little bummed that I only had a half day to spend at the office.

Then I headed off on my periodic pilgrimage to see P. We talked about my crisis. Things were already better, and talking with her made them better still. I asked her for weekly visits for a little while, though, as there's a lot going on. She agreed.

Transportation was weird today, though. On the way to P's office, I almost missed the bus, because it was the wrong kind of bus (different make/model/color) and it had the wrong number on it too. Thank goodness I thought to ask! It turned out the *correct* number was printed on a sheet of paper taped in the window, but the number on the sign was wrong. When I asked about this, the driver said they were "trying out" this new bus, and if they liked it, they would fix the sign. Uh, ok...

On the way back, the same bus with the wrong number was going in the *other* direction, but this time, it was being driven by the guy who looks like an Elvis impersonator. He's cool, and seems really nice.

Then at the transfer point, I happened to see a bus that had a sign that suggested it was an express bus headed exactly where I wanted to go! I've been making this trip for a year and a half now, and I had no idea there was an express bus! I rather hesitantly went to ask (having learned not to trust the signs today)... and then it turned out the driver had wandered off. So I waited. Finally the driver arrived... and told everyone to get off the bus! As it turned out, some other bus had broken down, and they needed to move all the passengers from that bus onto the express bus, which would take over the other route, and all the people on the express bus (well, all three of us) were going to be put in a supervisor's van for the trip north. So, instead of the big, uncomfortable bus, I got to sit in a warm, snug, cozy, comfy little van with two other ladies while we zipped up the freeway to the mall.

And the whole drive up, the supervisor kept *apologizing* for the *inconvenience*!

The supervisor guy told us he had to shuttle some other people yesterday because of a similar breakdown, and said that one of the passengers had been mentally ill, and had gone a little crazy in his van. I thought about telling him I'd gone a little crazy over the weekend, too, but I decided I didn't want to risk freaking him out, since he was being so nice to us.

He dropped us off at the mall. He got out and opened the door for us. And when I asked, he said, no, I didn't have to pay him for the express upgrade. So not only did I get a quick, luxurious ride home, I *saved* a *quarter* too!

I had a quick salad for dinner at the food court, and then went shopping.

I still need to find a warm winter coat. We've been having a bit of a cold snap here, and I don't own anything warm enough to cope with it. I found a couple coats that might do, but they were a little bit expensive. Plus, they looked like snowboarding jackets, and I worried that they might somehow be too trendy for me. I didn't try anything on.

I've been looking for a warm coat for a while. It's been hard. Most coats don't fit me well, particularly in the shoulders. When I do find something that fits, it's inevitably something bulky enough that I end up looking like a baked potato.

I'm so picky now! A few years ago, literally anything would have been fine. Now, I have to search, and search, and find just the right thing. And in the meantime, I'm freezing to death.

After the coats, I went to two different stores to look at skillets and skillet-like things. Last Saturday, when I was having an especially bad time, I tried to do the dishes, but I was too upset, and I was trying to wash my good skillet with a scrub brush, and, um, well, to make a long story short, it isn't my good skillet anymore. Which was fine, really; I was thinking of replacing it anyway. The fact that it is no longer round, or flat on the bottom, is really just added motivation.

I found a medium-sized saute pan that will probably be the replacement. But I didn't buy it tonight. I'll probably buy it this week, though. There were nicer skillets, but I need something with a good lid. I also found a really nice pot, which apparently is for steaming vegetables, but I want to use it for making soups. It's quite a big pot, but still small enough diameter to fit conveniently into my dishwasher. And it's on sale!

On the way home, I stopped and bought a little chocolate. Which I won't beat myself up for; there's enough going on now that I think a little chocolate is entirely appropriate. And, um, so were the two chocolate bars I had after lunch; it *was* buy one, get one free, you know, so I really didn't have that much of a choice. (Giggle!)

Thank goodness I had small salads for lunch and dinner! Oh well, whatever. The extra Thanksgiving pounds can come off in January too. Sigh.

So, life is slowly returning to normal. I still haven't talked to Dad; I'm sure we'll work things out. I know he still loves me and didn't mean to hurt my feelings. Even *I* was surprised at the depth of my pain. It's been quite a learning experience, really.

There have been some things I've told myself weren't that important to me. I've told other people they weren't important either. These things turn out to be very important to me. Other people won't know that unless I tell them. Lesson learned. (I learned that same lesson six months ago... oops... guess I didn't, huh? Yeah, six months ago I almost fired P because, well... because she believed what I told her.)

I need to work harder to make Dad a part of my journey. He won't learn these things unless I teach him. I have to teach him about my hopes and dreams. And my fears. I can't just tell him that the rules have changed and expect him to pick up all the details on his own.

I have to acknowledge my own hopes and dreams, and fears, before I can tell someone else about them.

I have to accept that the fact that things are going "amazingly well" doesn't mean that they can't fall apart the moment a butterfly flaps its wings in China.

And, despite the fact that things are going amazingly well, I am under no obligation to do everything else absolutely perfectly in order to *prove* things are going well.

Next time, I should probably just go ahead and start sobbing at the airport. Miss my flight? So what? I might have learned even more by sharing my pain with the people who love me. And given them a chance to learn and grow with me.

Then again, learning to deal with all these new emotions is a tricky business. I doubt there *is* a *right* thing to do.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Happy Thanksgiving Apocalypse

Sorry everyone, I still haven't gotten caught up with my email...

I had to call in sick today. It would have been to hard to answer the questions today, the questions that everyone would have asked.

How was your Thanksgiving? And what's wrong with your voice? Are you coming down with a cold?

The truth is, Thanksgiving went amazingly well. The extended family now knows about the alien thing, and they all seem to be okay with it. We went shopping. We went out to dinner. Everything seemed fine.

Then, we were at the airport, waiting for my flight back home, and we were all standing there, chatting. It seemed like an innocent conversation. But... something went wrong.

All of a sudden, I was hurt. Badly. I tried to explain, and was hurt worse. Choking back tears.

The conversation ended when I decided to shut up because every word out of my mouth seemed to make things worse. I wandered off, just a couple feet away, really, and tried very hard not to cry.

Keep in mind, these are people who are *supportive* of me and my little alien journey! They love me. And still, I was hurt.

Then it was time to go, and after some quick hugs, I left. I didn't say anything other than "bye". I don't think they even noticed I was upset.

I only cried a little on the airplane. I was able to hold it in, mostly. Don't you just hate it when you're stuck on an airplane with a crying alien?

Changed planes in LA, no problem. Got back here, figured out which bus to take home. Got home safely.

I didn't even manage to check my email before the sobbing started. Sobbing, and screaming.

I somehow managed to collect myself enough to go to the mall. I had dinner at the food court, and tried to go shopping, but there weren't really any good sales, and the stuff in the stores was the same crap that was there last week. And I definitely wasn't in the mood.

I went home and cried myself to sleep.

I think I must have cried a lot on Saturday. I don't really remember much of it. I remember screaming a lot.

Sunday morning my throat was very sore, but I decided to try to get out of the house. I took the bus to another mall, about 45 minutes away. I had some shoes I needed to return. I returned them without much of a problem.

Then I decided to get lunch. I went to a burger place and tried to order a burger.

But my voice... wasn't working well. My throat was too sore from the screaming.

I tried to croak out my order. The girl behind the counter stared at me. She gave me that look. The slight frown, the barely narrowed eyes, the long pause.

The "you're an alien" look.

For the last couple of years, I had told myself that that particular part of being an alien was no big deal. I didn't care what people thought. It didn't really matter, as long as I was happy.

I don't know if I've been lying to myself all this time, or if I've simply changed. But now, that look hurts like hell.

When Dad had asked me, at the airport, what was going to be next in my little alien journey, I tried to explain about that look, that stare, and what it meant to me. And what I might be able to do to make it go away.

And... he dismissed it. No, that doesn't really happen to you.

And I got to learn a new emotion. It's the one where you tell someone, "I hurt" and they reply, "no you don't." I don't know if there's a name for this emotion, but it's very, very painful.

And so, I spent the weekend sobbing and screaming.

It's been a whole assortment of emotions. I'm angry that Dad would be so arrogant and presumptuous as to assume he understands how difficult this is, and that he would be so cruel as to casually deny that I'm in pain. And I'm heartbroken that he hasn't taken the time to try to understand. I'm frustrated that I can't make him understand that something so simple, and something that is a part of my everyday experience, is so profoundly painful. And I feel helpless because I don't know what to do.

And... I'm frightened. Because I know this isn't just about that tiny little conversation at the airport. There are broader issues.

I'm terrified that I am failing. That my journey is, ultimately, not leading me to a safe and healthy place. A place with a future.

This is *so* hard to explain to people, because, if I were to tell anyone, they would say, "Oh, you're having second thoughts? Changed your mind?"

It doesn't work that way *at* *all*.

People think that I am *choosing* all of this alien stuff, that I am choosing all of the changes that are taking place, and therefore, of course, I could *choose* to do otherwise. I could change my mind. Take a different path. Be someone else. Choose a life with fewer problems.

In reality, every so-called "change" has in reality been in response to the recognition of things as they *already* are and have always been. We are not trying to turn me into a new person, we are trying to turn me into the person I have always been.

The catch is that there has been significant damage over the years, from improper neurochemistry and neglect. As I try to reassemble the fractured pieces of my self, sometimes I find that parts are missing. And I've slowly begun to fear that there are not enough pieces left to form a reasonable facsimile of a person.

I've known for six months or so that something was wrong. Day to day, everything is absolutely fine. I get dressed and go to work every morning, and there are no problems. I go to the grocery store, to the mall, no problems. And if I'm content with all that, and not much more, then everything is fine, and I'll live happily ever after.

But, suppose I want more out of life? Suppose I don't want to get the little alien stare for the rest of my life? Suppose I don't want to be stuck with a job and a career that someone else chose for me? Suppose I don't want to sit home alone every night for the rest of my life, too afraid of going somewhere new and being beaten to death for the crime of being born an alien.

Suppose I don't want to find myself, thirty or forty years from now, dying alone?

I want a life and a future.

And I can't seem to find enough pieces to build a life like that. That's why I'm afraid I'm failing.

I thought "daddy can help" might be a piece, but it turned out not to fit the way I had hoped.

For a while, I thought that it was simply a financial problem, and that if I could find a way to raise enough money, my broader fears would go away. But eventually, I realized that this is not the case. Winning the lottery would help, but the fundamental problem still wouldn't go away.

What if there just aren't enough pieces?

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Alien?

People have been curious about why I say I'm an alien, or why I feel I'm an alien. Perhaps I should explain more.

My situation is, um, a little odd. It's complicated, and difficult to explain. The very first time I tried to explain it to someone, without leaving out any important details, it took about eight hours, and I still left out a lot of stuff. And things are way more complicated now than they were back then.

Clearly, a simpler explanation would be needed, particularly here in my journal. The whole alien thing provides a simplifying assumption, and lets people know that *something* is profoundly different, without getting into the annoying little details. It's shorthand. A metaphor for something fundamentally difficult to explain.

I didn't actually make up the alien thing... a lab tech was drawing blood for a test he didn't know anything about, and when I explained it to him, he said, "you mean, like an alien?" I thought it was kind of funny, but sort of appropriate too.

Now, let's talk about what it means for me to be an alien. What's it all about? Actually, let's start with what it's *not* about.

It's not the "oh, nobody understands me" angsty sort of thing. I think that's pretty common, and I have a little bit of that. But that's not what makes me an alien.

It's not that I don't fit into society easily. True, there are issues in the whole social-integration area, but that doesn't make me an alien. Lots of people have trouble fitting in.

It's not that I'm weird. Yes, I'm weird. But that's not what makes me an alien.

It's not a self-esteem thing. Quite the opposite; I'm astonished at what I've accomplished in the last couple of years. Not that I haven't made mistakes! But, all in all, I've done surprisingly well.

So, what makes me an alien?

I was born with a variety of... abnormalities. Things that doctors thought, at the time, were unimportant. I didn't realize how badly the doctors had botched things over the years until, after ten years of treatment for "depression", I discovered that the assortment of psychiatrists who had treated me for a decade did not, in general, know what the hell they were doing.

I did my own research. I did some experiments. I found something that seemed to fix my neurochemistry. This led me to find better doctors. Specialists. On the correct medication, depression abruptly became a thing of the past. It was an odd sensation to wake up every morning, sober, and not want to die, and to be able to look in the mirror and not hate myself. It was quite frightening when all of these changes happened, literally, overnight! Waking up one morning and seeing someone *else* in the mirror is very, very weird. Especially when that other person looks *exactly* like you, but is clearly someone else.

The specialists have been honest with me: they don't know what's wrong with me. My case is unusual, even among a group of patients who have been described as "typically atypical"!

We have found something that seems to fix my neurochemistry problem, but the fix has a variety of serious consequences. The next decision was up to me. I saw four basic options:

(1) Kill myself.

(2) Leave my brain broken for the rest of my life, and try to find ways to cope

(3) Partially fix my brain, and go to some effort to conceal any side effects that might be visible to society

(4) Fix my brain as best we can, and learn to deal with the consequences.

Initially, I went with choice (3), as it was the least disruptive.

But even with just a partial fix, my brain started to change. Or, from my perspective, the *world* started to change.

The most striking experience came as I was walking home from work one day. Some little pink flowers had bloomed on bushes along the sidewalk.

I stared at the little pink flowers. They were beautiful.

That was the weird part.

Flowers had never been beautiful before. Not to me, anyway. They were always just... there.

I had seen flowers a thousand times before. I had never seen the beauty. My neurochemistry had kept it hidden from me. For my entire life.

I stared at the flowers and cried.

I knew at that moment that I would have to switch from the smallest possible change to the best fix available for my brain. I had to take the chance, to learn what else had always been hidden from me.

For the rest of my life, people will label me. Some will champion my courage, and defend my right to self expression. Some will assume that I've always felt "trapped" and have finally decided to be "the way I want to be". Others will condemn my sinful "lifestyle choice".

But *all* of those people are wrong. This is simply about neurochemistry and it's consequences. Nothing more. The consequences, however, are profound and far-reaching, and few people truly understand that. People assume the world is a much simpler place than it actually is.

There are a lot of really weird things that can go wrong with babies before they are born. Many of them are poorly understood, or entirely undiscovered.

I typically accept one or more labels that people use for "people like me". Not because they are accurate, but because it's easier to accept a label than to teach a short course in hypothetical and applied neuroendocrinology every time I introduce myself to someone. ("Hi, I'm Sarah. Um... how much do you know about molecular biology?")

About a year ago, we began to gradually adjust my medication to find the best possible fix. Sure enough, before long, many things started to change. I'm struggling to learn to cope.

Now, absolutely everything has changed. There is no facet of my life that has not been profoundly affected by the changes of the past year.

But it's not just that everything is different. Almost everything is *new*. I'm experiencing the world, again, for the first time. Everything is strange and exciting! Even the most mundane things are new for me.

One funny example is the story about the pajama strings.

A couple years ago, I ordered some pajamas from a catalog. I hadn't had any since I was very little.

I examined my new jammies. Ok, legs go here. This string is for tying them around my waist. And this other string... oh, wait, there are two of them... these other strings are for... um... hmmm... what the heck *are* these other strings for?

I pondered the mystery. Let's see, you tie them together, and... no, that's not it, now my jammies don't fit anymore. Well, they must go like this then... oops, no, that's not right. Do they tie on to my panties? Well, let's see... hmm, no, that doesn't seem right either. Perhaps I'm supposed to attach, well, I don't know, some sort of feminine hygiene product to them? I don't think so... I can't even figure out how that might work!

What the heck are these other strings for?

I never did figure it out. I just left the other strings dangling. Every now and then, I'd glance at them, and wonder.

About a year later, I was on one of my first shopping expeditions. I happened to wander into the pajama section of the department store. I looked at the pajamas hanging on the rack. I looked closer. And I started to laugh.

The "other" strings are for hanging the pajamas on a hanger. They use them to hang the pajamas on a rack in the store.

I'm sure everyone on earth knows this. I did not.

I'm an alien. I have to learn all these things from scratch.

Some more examples, both profound and mundane:

I was quite awestruck when I realized that every single person seems to have their own different personality! *And* it appears to be necessary to take this into account when interacting with them! Before, people were... different, somehow. They weren't interesting in any particular way. They were just... there.

Movies have all changed, including the ones I've seen a hundred times before. Movies I always thought were "good" are no longer very interesting. Movies I would formerly have regarded as completely pointless now tend to leave me crying and giggling at the same time. A really good movie now requires a lot of kleenex.

Last week, I had a long conversation with someone about socks. Socks, and what kinds of earrings to take on a trip. It was an extremely helpful conversation. Apparently, I'll need more socks.

Did you know that hair is like The Force? It controls your actions, but it also obeys your commands! With a blow dryer, six hairbrushes, and a dozen or so magic potions, it's actually possible to get hair to sort of change its behavior in certain limited ways. I'm only in the early stages of learning this part. But I hardly ever whack myself in the head with the blow dryer anymore!

Speaking of hair, the next time I decide to make chocolate fudge, would someone please remind me to use one of those springy clip thingies to clip my hair behind my head *before* I try to taste the fudge? What a mess!

Today I went shopping, and saw a purse with a light in it. The light came on automatically when the purse was opened. I played with it for about ten minutes, trying to figure out how it decided when to turn the light on and off. Then I found the instructions! It turned out to be a magnetic sensor and a timer, not a motion sensor as I had first suspected. ("Mommy, mommy, why is that woman shaking that purse?" "Because she's an idiot, dear.")

The world has changed in a way that has left me with a childlike sense of wonder which is, quite frankly, really, really cool. My description does't really do it justice. It's... amazing. Simply amazing.

It is, however, a mixed blessing.

Not everything that's new is wonderful.

I've discovered new emotions. Emotions that I've never had before. Emotions that I've never had to learn how to deal with. The learning process is... painful.

I've also discovered new fears, and new ways to be afraid. New threats that I don't know how to protect myself from. New ways to be in danger. New ways to hurt. New ways to die.

The world is frequently scary enough to make me question whether or not I made the right decision.

When that happens, I do my best to remember the little pink flowers.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apologies, Thanksgiving News

First, I want to apologize to everyone who I haven't been emailing lately. I'm really, really sorry. I'll try to explain what's been going on.

Now, if I could just figure out *how* to explain, exactly.

Well, I guess, to put it simply, I had let things get too easy, and had to take steps to correct that.

Or, more (or less) specifically, I had gradually wandered my way into the conclusion that things were just really difficult "right now", and the best thing to do was to just relax and not worry about it! Hang out at home, send a few emails, watch some DVD's.

Which is fine. Except that, for me, it's a trap.

See, the difficult "right now" is going to last approximately forever, and if I let myself simply "hang out" at home until things get better, then I'll be hiding at home every night for the rest of my life, just like I did for the last 25 years. Things won't change until I spend time out in the real world, learning how to cope with the difficult "right now".

I thought about this for a while, and concluded that the only possible solution was to spend more time outside my apartment.

Of course, since, for the most part, I lack an actual real-life social life, I don't really have anywhere to go. But I had to get out, somehow. I decided the easiest and most reliable way would be to stop cooking for a while. I've been forcing myself to eat out about five days a week. Nothing fancy, mostly just the handful of healthy items available at the local fast food places. Being out of my apartment after dinner serves as enough encouragement to make me do something with my time other than sit at home, so I've been doing stuff. Well, ok, mostly, I've been shopping. About 20 hours a week, actually. Enough for a part-time job!

The most important benefit of this has been simply being out in public, dealing with the fact that I'm an alien, dealing with the thoughts and feelings that brings up, and learning to interact with people. The whole interaction thing is proving to be surprisingly straightforward, and I'm beginning to gain a little bit of confidence.

The second benefit is that I'm starting to actually learn a few things about clothing and shopping. This is a totally new thing for me. In years past, shopping was simply a matter of going to exactly one store, quickly locating clothes as identical as possible to the ones I was wearing, and taking them to the checkout counter. Now, I'm growing accustomed to evaluating new possibilities and imagining what sort of things might "go together". Tonight I tried on six pairs of jeans in two different stores before I found a pair I liked. And I liked them! I didn't buy them because they were identical to the ones I had on!

The catch to all this wonderful get-out-and-explore-the-world stuff is that I haven't learned how to apply balance to my life yet. So, while I've been successful at pushing myself out, and forcing myself to extend my physical and emotional boundaries, I've been doing it at the cost of neglecting some of my new friends. Which is wrong.

And that's why I'm sorry. But I hope you'll all understand that I'm trying very hard to learn simple, blindingly obvious things that just aren't easy for me. Like balance. Like building and maintaining friendships. Tricky, tricky stuff.

That's another thing I've been learning to respect lately: just learning to be me is actually a lot of work, and I have to take that into account in everything I do. People ask me how "things" are going, and I usually tell them that it's all been really easy, everything's gone really smoothly, it's all wonderful, etc. This isn't the whole truth, but unfortunately the hard parts tend to be complicated, and it's simply difficult to work that kind of stuff into a casual conversation, so people don't tend to know what I'm really going through, which makes me tend to overlook it too, and then I wonder why I'm physically and emotionally exhausted even though I "haven't been doing anything special."

Sigh. Being an alien is special enough all by itself, thank you very much!

The big news for this month came on Sunday night. Dad called, and we were chatting and catching up. Then he asked, "what are you doing for Thanksgiving?"

I told him I hadn't thought about it much, which wasn't entirely true. I'd been dreading confronting the giant Thanksgiving monster this year, for a variety of reasons.

Then Dad said they were planning to invite... um, let's see, I guess he's my stepbrother. (Dad's new wife's brother? Stepbrother, right?)

Then he asked if I'd like to come too.

I was... stunned.

Dad lives in this really nice small town, in a very close-knit community. A very conservative close-knit community. And everybody seems to know Dad. Whenever I happen to be visiting there, inevitably, if we go out in public, someone will walk up to my Dad and say, "Hi (Dad's Name)!", and then turn to me and say, "And I know you must be (My Former Name)..."

Except for Dad and Stepmom, nobody there knows that I'm an alien. The person they "know I must be" turned out not to be who I was after all. When they walk up to me now, will they say, "And who are you?" Will Dad simply introduce me as his daughter, his daughter the alien, or what? I have no idea. I'm sure very few of them will recognize me anymore, at least not initially. Too much has changed.

And of course, since it's a small town, once the news "gets out", it will spread very quickly.

But all of the above is not why I was stunned.

I was stunned because, knowing all of the above, I had never been brave enough to ask Dad if he would ever let me come visit him in his small town, or if he'd prefer that I keep my distance, to make things easier for him. I'd been terrified to ask, to have the discussion, to risk the rejection.

And then, in a few words, Dad simply toppled that barrier by asking me to come for Thanksgiving.

I hope he knows what he's getting into... no, he doesn't know. Neither do I. But apparently we're going to face it together.

I love my family.

I told Dad that I'd have to ask my boss, but that I'd love to come visit. Dad said he'd pay for the plane ticket, and would also pay for a hotel room!

When I got off the phone with Dad, first I started jumping up and down and giggling, I was so happy! Then I thought about what had just happened, and I started to cry. Full emotional roller coaster! After that, I started to pack!

Starting to pack more than a week in advance may seem a bit silly, but, well, Sarah has never had to travel anywhere before! Not even overnight. Collecting enough Sarah-stuff to last several days and cramming it all into a tiny little bag is going to be quite a challenge. Much shopping will be required.

But, quite coincidentally, I've been shopping like crazy for the last several weeks! Which is lucky. If I hadn't been, I don't know how I'd have gotten everything ready to go in time.

Earlier this week, I worked on finding little containers of soap, shampoo, and whatnot. I think I've got that all covered.

Last night, I managed to find a new suitcase at a local discount store. It's bigger than my old one, but still small enough to carry on, and, more importantly, it doesn't have any holes in it, isn't missing one of its little plastic feet, and isn't twenty years old.

Also last night, the new shoes I ordered online finally arrived. Shoe shopping is nearly impossible for me, since I was apparently born with zero copies of the shoe gene, and consequently have a hard time distinguishing "nice" shoes from the more mundane ones. Plus, my feet are apparently of a size and shape that only rarely occurs in nature. "Shoes" had been a goal of several of my recent shopping adventures, and always a goal I managed to fail to achieve. Now I think I at least have some acceptable, fairly simple shoes to wear. And they're a little nicer than my beat up old sneakers.

Tonight, I found the jeans I was looking for. Plus, socks were on sale! ("Socks on sale" is a surprisingly exciting event in my life right now.)

The plane and hotel reservations I made on Monday night, after getting permission from my boss to take a couple days off next week.

I think I might have all the stuff I need at this point. And I still have several days, including a weekend, to get ready, and fill in any gaps I discover.

Next week will certainly be an adventure!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Building a Nice, Simple Weekend

How to have a nice, simple weekend: start on Friday!

Friday morning started with a short adventure; I decided that, while I really want to move, that now is just not the right time, and consequently, I needed to sign a new lease, and, as long as I was at it, I figured I should really explain the whole alien thing to the nice people at the rental office. I'd been a little worried about this, but as it turned out, it was completely straightforward, and they were very nice to me.

My day at the office started with an unexpected visit by a former coworker. One of the first things he said was, "Sarah, you look *so* thin!" This was a great way to start a work day!

Next, a friend called from out of state to tell me her surgery had gone just fine and she was doing great. I was very relieved; I had been worried about her. At one point I had talked about going to stay with her, but I couldn't really afford to take the time off work, plus I was still a little sick and didn't want to give her a bug just as she was going under the knife. So I had to be content to be supportive from afar.

Later in the day, I ran into a former coworker that I hadn't seen in at least a year or two. Usually, people who haven't seen me in that long just don't recognize me at all. But as soon as she saw me she said, "Hi, Sarah! You look great!" and gave me a big hug. Someone had told her that I'm an alien, so apparently knowing I'm an alien makes a difference as to whether or not people still recognize me. Unfortunately she didn't have time to chat, but she invited me to come over and visit their lab sometime.

Friday ended up being a fairly productive day work-wise, which always seems to make me happier.

Late in the day on Friday, I checked my mail and discovered to my delight that, after several weeks of waiting, the people at NetFlix have finally decided to actually start sending me DVD's for my "free trial". It would have been nice if they'd started sending me DVD's at the beginning of said trial period, but hey, at this point, I'm not going to be picky!

Saturday morning I got up bright and early. (Okay, okay, actually I slept quite late and groggily dragged myself out of bed, but this is about the *good* bits of the weekend). After a quick breakfast (er, well, a half hour of cooking, but there were warm cinnamon rolls!), and a quick shower (another half hour), and a bit of hairstyling (half hour), I was on my way out the door (by lunchtime) and off to the bus stop.

My plans: a quick walk on the beach, a quick visit to the bead store for some shiny pretty things to play with, a light lunch in some cute little restaurant, and then back home by early afternoon. This was the exact same plan I had attempted, with mixed results, a couple weeks ago.

It almost worked out this time, too!

I managed to get off the bus in the right place; it was only my second trip to this neighborhood, so I still don't know the landmarks very well. Having checked the map ahead of time, I was in fact able to find the beach. Well, I could see it, anyway. Actually visiting it in person would have involved leaping to my death, so instead I opted to simply enjoy the view from the top of the cliff. Next time I need to look at the map to determine where exactly the alleged stairs are located. I've now located two different places where they aren't.

Next was the bead store. The first time I had been in the bead store, two weeks ago, I'd been a little intimidated. I expected a tiny little store with a few beads ("red or blue, ma'am?"). I was not expecting a smallish store with tens of thousands of different kinds of beads. I was more than a little disoriented. Actually, it reminded me a little of the cereal aisle at the local giganto-mart.

This time, I was ready. I'd spend a few minutes looking around, pick out a few pretty ones to take home with me, and be done. Then I'd have a late lunch. Easy as that.

So I went in, looked around a little bit, picked out some pretty beads, paid for them, and left.

And then, oddly enough, it was dinnertime.

Apparently the bead store has some sort of temporal displacement field around it. I'm not really sure what happened.

I debated having dinner near the bead store, but I didn't have anyplace in mind, and was going to have to wander around to find something to eat. I was debating whether or not I was too tired for that when the bus showed up, so I decided to just head home.

I finished off Saturday by experimenting with my beads, and watching the NetFlix DVD's.

Sunday had only one item on the schedule: clean the bathroom. This involved attacking the mold monster that had managed to get itself settled in. The mold monster that had eaten my kleenex. The real trick would be to do so *without* inadvertently highlighting my hair, which is what happened the last time I tried to attack the mold monster with bleach.

Things went much better this time! The mold monster is no more! Or, at least, now I'm winning again; I don't think it's killable, given that the bathroom in my apartment was somehow designed without ventilation, other than a "ventless" bathroom fan. Yes, that's right, my bathroom fan does not move moist air out of the bathroom, as it has no vent. It merely sits in the ceiling and makes a comforting humming noise. Comforting but pointless.

Sunday also included lots of dishes-and-laundry sorts of things, but mostly it was a bathroom day. In fact, the bathroom still isn't *finished*; it will need at least another couple hours of work. But now it's significantly less moldy.

So basically, shopping, housework, and a couple movies to watch. That was my weekend. Simple, I'll admit. But, for me, a very good weekend.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Building a Yucky Monday

A really yucky Monday has to be carefully built in advance...

Start with chronic insomnia.

Add a week of being sick, which turns your sleep cycle to chaos.

Add a week of unsuccessfully trying to restore your sleep schedule.

On the weekend, add a nightmare in which several guys stand outside your window at night, getting ready to break in and kill you.

The next night, add a second nightmare in which two guys pound on your front door, and when you look out the peephole, you see they are heavily armed, ready to kill you. Wake up at 3am, shaken, and read slashdot for a few minutes. Try to go back to bed, end up worrying about your relationship with your family, and cry for a half hour or so.

On Sunday night, tell yourself, "I have to get some sleep tonight; I have to work in the morning!" Take the medicine that helps you sleep, but doesn't generally wear off until lunchtime the following day.

On Monday, stagger semiconscious into an office carefully calibrated to a perfect consciousness-impeding temperature. Sit in front of computer. Struggle to retain consciousness.

How to cope? So far: put multiple cold brew tea bags into an appropriate beverage container. Fill with cold water. Brew until tea bags are not visible when immersed. Sit outside in the cold, without a jacket, and drink until awake enough to remember, say, the password to your computer account.

Remember that no matter what happens tomorrow, at least it won't be Monday.

Actually, I feel much better now. Apparently I've been here an hour now. Now if I could just figure out where that hour went...

I don't want to leave anyone with the wrong impression; I had a *great* weekend, both productive (heavy duty bathroom cleaning) and fun (shopping!), but sadly, that doesn't seem to help consciousness-wise on a Monday morning.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Alien vs. Bug II: Lessons Learned

Went to see Dr. S last Monday. I continue to be happy with Dr. S; I had eight items on my list of things to ask him about, and we got through all eight, to my satisfaction, in about ten minutes. This is much better than Old-Doctor-S, who could handle a list of that size in two minutes, but his answers tended to go like this: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Dr. S even gave me an actual piece of electronic hardware. Batteries included!

And someone at the office, probably one of the other patients, also happened to notice that I wasn't fighting off an upper respiratory virus, and just gave me one, free of charge!

I had hoped that since I had successfully fought off a bug in September, I'd be miraculously exempt in October. No such luck.

Unfortunately, I have these weird lungs... they have this standard policy of "Caught one bug? Well, hey, why not collect the whole set!" Any additional random bugs that drift by simply hop in and join the party. Last month, I managed to head off the party before it got in full swing. No such luck this time around.

My lungs are an entertaining diversion at the doctor's office. When I explain, the typical response I get from a doctor is, "A what?". One doctor asked if I had had a lung transplant. And the weirdness is sufficiently obscure that trying to explain the potential and probable implications, which are only weakly addressed even in the research literature, is an exercise in frustration with any doctor. I typically end up receiving an irrelevant canned speech and inadequate medication.

When I saw Dr. M last month, he told me I should find a new internist. Mentally adding up the sheer number of arguments I have to have in order to get a doctor to the "useful" stage, this seems like a daunting task.

So instead of going to the doctor, I spent last week sick, and hoping that the medicine I had on hand would be enough.

Problem number one was a lack of food. No problem, Sarah; here are your shoes, the grocery store is a half mile *that* way. Never mind that you don't have the energy to go from the bed to the couch; a forced march carrying a ton of groceries will do you a world of good. Right.

Oh, never mind, who really needs macaroni *and* cheese?

At least I have enough kleenex... oops, no, just two boxes. And, sniff, sniff, it smells funny. Ugh. Looks like the mold monster got both boxes.

So I spent most of last week blowing my nose with moldy kleenex and eating whatever I could find in the cupboard that seemed vaguely edible, mostly cans of stuff that I'd be embarrassed to donate to charity. Honestly, I'm not sure what I ate.

In short, last week sucked.

But once I felt better, I realized that I had learned a lot.

Why is my life like this? Why couldn't I ask for help? Why couldn't I call someone and say hey, I'm not feeling well, could you maybe bring me a couple boxes of kleenex and something to eat?

It wouldn't have been much to ask. But I didn't ask. I *couldn't* ask. I didn't even *think* to ask until I was feeling better, and, even now, looking back, for every person I might have called, I can think of at least one good excuse why I shouldn't have bothered them.

This is a problem. It's a problem that goes way beyond moldy kleenex.

Being an alien is not easy. I *can't* do it alone. I *have* to have help. Not only does help need to be available, but I need to be able to recognize when I need it, ask for it when necessary, and accept it when it is offered. And I have to give people the opportunity *to* help.

I don't know how to do these things.

I spent too many years in raw survival mode. When things get difficult, my old survival skills instinctively switch on. A grim, solitary death march from one day to the next. No help. Doctors never help. Friends don't want to be bothered. I have to do it all myself.

When things aren't very difficult, I can occasionally ask for help, but I frequently feel disappointed with the results. Why is that?

Am *I* helping others in ways that I am happy with? Am I *able* to offer help?

Am I afraid? Afraid of what?

In some ways, my life is just fundamentally mis-structured. During the dark years, someone built a life for me that was set up so that issues of helping or being helped just didn't come up, allowing the entire issue to simply be ignored.

That person is gone now.

I don't want *my* life to be like that. I have to tear all that crap down, and replace it with something better.

How the heck do I do *that*?

When I discovered I was an alien, I knew life was going to be challenging. What I didn't know was that it would be, for all practical purposes, infinitely challenging! Every moldy kleenex opens a new world of complexity.

User Journal

Journal Journal: DM Rename, Pkg from Hell

I'm thinking about renaming the Doomsday Machine; I'm just a little too paranoid that some relatively clueless person will Get The Wrong Idea and not understand that It's just a name! So now I have to think of a new name. The two names I've come up with so far are "Galvanic Instrument of Democracy" and "Freedom Zapper". I'm open to other suggestions.

The currently-named Doomsday Machine is a black box, about eight inches long and six inches wide. It has two large analog meters on it (am I really an analog girl at heart? Hmm...), two bright red knobs, one big red button, one green light, and various jacks along the bottom edge.

What does it do? It's an alien thing. It offers the promise of a better life, if I can endure long enough! (Long story). It's also a bit retro, as it utilizes 130 year old technology! It certainly won't hurt anybody... except me, unfortunately.

Actually, Doomsday Machine is almost the exact opposite of a good name for it. Doomsday already occurred, an event which I had sort of expected, and to a certain extent planned for, so I wasn't all that surprised when it happened, and the results were significantly less doom-like than they might have been. Still, it was pretty scary, and as a result of my personal Doomsday, the particular problem I needed to solve didn't get completely solved. Building the current machine is an attempt to avoid the occurrence of "Doomsday Part II".

Hmm, maybe "Freedom Zapper" isn't such a bad name after all. I will end up essentially chained to the machine for many hours, so it will sort of zap my freedom! But if I succeed, it will help give me a lifetime of freedom!

In other news, The Package-From-Hell continues to torment me. A week ago I called the Franz Kafka Ground Freight Service (FKGFS) and told them not to bother pretending to deliver my package. They responded with three postcards asking for additional information, followed by an early morning phone call, which, thankfully, went to the office voicemail, and so, unlike the previous call, I wasn't dragged out of bed to groggily debate the relative merits of various shipping addresses.

The nice lady from FKGFS called again about 10:30am. I knew it was her. I almost didn't answer. But, silly goose that I am, I picked it up. She asked if I was Some Other Person, to which I replied, "uh, more or less...", which pretty much set the tone for the conversation. She very happily explained that she just needed a tiny bit of additional information, namely, a different shipping address, after which my three-week-late package would be delivered promptly and cheerfully.

I politely explained to her that she was too late, I don't need the package anymore, and told her to do whatever she wanted with it. I was *very* proud of myself for not making some colorful suggestions about exactly *what* she could do with it. I also found it a great time-saver to simply not explain that since she couldn't deliver the package to my mailbox, my home, or my office, and since I couldn't reasonably be expected to take a day off work to try to find the delivery office on the bus, that we had pretty well exhausted the solution-space of this particular problem.

With any luck, this will be the last episode of package-from-hell. Yeah, right! My next task is to ensure that, in the event the package is returned to the sender, that they don't dare try sending it to me again!

Oh, and I got a phone call at home last night from someone who apparently wanted me to vote for someone or other. Fortunately I let the machine answer that one; I think I might have hurt the poor woman's feelings if she'd been able to hear me burst out laughing!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Random Alien Stuff

I was in my office today, talking with a friend who's leaving our department for another job. Another woman, who I've met a few times, but don't know well, happened to walk by in the hall, and ended up talking with the two of us. At one point, the third woman leaned out of my office to look at the name next to my door, then turned and said, "Sarah... I don't think we've met." I said, "well, sort of... um...". Then my friend explained that I'm an alien. She was totally nice about it, but it's really funny that people who have met me, but don't see me very often, just don't recognize me at all. Then again, maybe that's appropriate; they haven't really met *me*.

I went to lunch with a bunch of people from work today, including the friend that was in my office earlier this morning. I had a good time, and everything went just fine. There were 10 or 12 people, and every single one of them knows I'm an alien (I assume... actually, I don't *really* know that, but it just figures that they've all heard by now.) I thought the food was fine; I ordered half a salad and it was just about too much to eat. But talking with a different friend later, I discovered that the other end of the table had been less happy with the service at the restaurant. I didn't get into any long conversations about being an alien. I was very proud of that; talking about things *besides* *me* and my being an alien is high on the list of skills I want to develop.

I worked on the Doomsday Machine on Saturday. I've almost finished the mechanical stuff; now I just need to worry about the electrical side of things. One more Saturday and I should be in business. Oddly enough, I had never given any thought to what *color* the wires should be, although someone else's journal made me consider the issue. I think, the answer is, in an emergency, don't cut *any* wires; press the big red button! That's the power button. Most of the controls are labeled in classic-trek style; a knowledgable operator will know what to do with it. Even in the worst of circumstances my Doomsday Machine is extremely unlikely to explode, although oddly enough, it would probably be less painful in the long run if it did. (Update 10/6/2004: I'd just like to remind the Department of Homeland Security once again that "Doomsday Machine" is, in fact, just a name! The Doomsday Machine contains no actual doom. In the words of the immortal Douglas Adams, it is "mostly harmless". Thank you.)

Oh, and the package from hell is still wandering the city, which is completely pointless at this point, now that I've got that part of the Doomsday Machine assembled. It's odd that a company so unwilling to make an effort is also unwilling to give up, even when asked politely to do so. Well, I tried to be polite, anyway!

I also paid medical bills this weekend; what fun! It's quite amazing how big a bill can get for a fairly short (15-30 minute) procedure! And thank goodness for insurance too! Fortunately, I think we're done with the big bills for a while now; they ran all the tests they could think of. I've had a variety of scans, and I've had cameras stuck into all sorts of unpleasant places. They found a variety of weird things, but nothing we can do much about.

Of course, I go back to see Dr. S next Monday. He did some more lab work; I'll get the results then. Could be kind of life changing, or maybe not: that's the big topic we'll have to discuss. I'm less stressed about it than I was because we started the discussion last time, so it should be easier this time around. At least it looks like I'll be the one who gets to decide whether we make any changes this time around.

Oh, and I made pot roast this weekend. Yum, sort of. Not my best pot roast. I was going to make it on Saturday but got distracted working on the Doomsday Machine, so it got put off until Sunday. At least I didn't bake any cakes this weekend.

The big news on Friday was that I got my new credit card in the mail! I was dying to try it out. First step: the pharmacy. The pharmacy tech recognized me; she doesn't see me that often, but I think she's a special case. But because she recognized me, she didn't even ask my name, or even *look* at my new card! Not a fair test. So, I went to the video store, and picked up a couple of items that I couldn't really afford. When I paid for the stuff, the woman behind the counter did look at my card, and then asked for ID, which I dutifully (and happily) produced! All was well. So I'm now once again able to charge my way deeper in debt, which I could do before, but now I can do it in *retail* establishments!

Next step on the paperwork parade: the bank. I don't know whether my bank likes aliens or not. I guess I should gather up all of my paperwork, get on the bus, and go find out.

I'm starting to second-guess myself about deciding to move; I think it might be better to have as much of my paperwork in order as possible before I try to move. So it may take a few extra months. But I still don't think I'll sign a new lease; I'll let it go month-to-month for a little while, which is more expensive, but not as expensive as breaking the lease. The rental office still doesn't know I'm an alien yet, and I haven't figured out what, if anything, I should tell them.

I also saw an article that pointed out to me, yet again, that I need to strongly consider living elsewhere! My zip code is the most expensive housing market in the US. Beverly Hills is number two. Ouch. (Okay, technically the expensive zip code starts several blocks down the street, but that's where I work, shop, and have my mail delivered.)

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'd feel safe in any other neighborhood; this is a very important consideration for an alien. Plus, transportation is an issue; right now, I pay quite a bit for the privilege of walking home from work every day, but if I move to another neighborhood, I'll likely trade my rent savings for two hours or so on the bus every day. And I've already checked; I wouldn't save *that* much money. Even the abandoned crack houses are hideously expensive here.

Haven't talked to Dad in a while. I'm a little worried about that. Worried that he hasn't called. And worried that I haven't called him. I need to work harder on that.

I found this quote online, and thought it fit me pretty well: "There's no true category for an object in such limbo."

I was totally annoyed with images.google.com this week when I discovered that while "purple monkey dishwasher" returns plenty of hits, "hello kitty pitchfork" doesn't return anything at all! What's the world coming to? Fortunately, I found some usable results elsewhere. (We're decorating the office for Halloween.) This was kind of funny.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Paperwork Results, Cake-n-Floppy Weekend, Package from Hell

I survived my bug and managed to drag my little alien butt to the office last Friday.

I was very happy to discover that the last little results of my Big Paperwork Adventure happened to appear in my mailbox last Friday. Success! (Actually, it really means we have started Big Paperwork Adventure, Part II, but I'll save that for another time.)

So, it was Friday night, I was finally legal (again), *and* could prove it, and I had a *little* bit of extra money. Time to party! And Sarah *knows* how to party.

So, on the way home from work, I stopped and bought a yellow cake mix and some chocolate frosting. I took it home and baked it, which was great fun, since I don't bake very often. Besides, what's a party without a cake?

And then... well... I ate the cake. By myself.

I didn't eat it all at once! It took all weekend to finish! :-)

Sarah knows how to party, but her parties are, um, nonstandard and very quiet. There are usually sweets, but few actual guests.

It was a *very* good cake. Particularly since I hardly ever eat cake.

The other major activity of the weekend, in addition to cake over-consumption, was backing up data stored on floppy disks. I decided that it was probably time to get that little chore taken care of, given that my laptop doesn't even have a floppy drive! And neither did the last one.

Now, a lot of people, when they hear that I'm trying to save all my data from my floppy disks, look at me as if I'm crazy. "Just throw them away," they say, "you obviously don't need that stuff anymore!"

What these people fail to recognize is that my alien-ness caused me to essentially lose a decade of my life. I'm not sure what happened during that decade. But there are little hints and fragments of what happened during that lost decade, and most of those hints are squirreled away here and there somewhere in my collection of several hundred mislabeled and unlabeled floppy disks. And that's literally *all* I have to show for that decade.

The thought of simply flinging a third of my life into the trash is very painful to me. People who suggest it, and who laugh at me for not doing so, really hurt my feelings.

So, I'm trying to back up the data. This is actually try number two. The first time, a couple years ago, I managed to copy a lot of the data off, but wasn't brave enough to actually throw any of the floppies away. I'm repeating the exercise in the hope that, this time, I'll be able to throw at least *some* of the disks away.

And so, a quiet weekend passed with one large chocolate cake and a sea of floppy disks.

*This* week has been consumed by an unexpected nightmare.

See, I'm building this, um, thing. It's a thing aliens sometimes need. I've nicknamed it the Doomsday Machine. (And if you're from the Department of Homeland Security, don't get your panties in a bunch! It's just a *nickname*, okay? Sigh.)

So I decided that the Doomsday Machine should be constructed in a nice enclosure. I searched, and found an enclosure that seemed like it could contain the guts of the Doomsday Machine (although it would probably need some Hello Kitty stickers or something). I ordered the enclosure online. Everything seemed straightforward.

But apparently, when I got to the screen marked "Shipping", I inadvertently selected the Franz Kafka Ground Freight Service (FKGFS).

The package allegedly arrived in town on Friday, my big party night. They didn't tell me about it. And they didn't deliver the package, either.

The nightmare began Monday morning, when one of the good folks from FKGFS got me out of bed before dawn by calling to explain that my shipping address was no good.

I sleepily confirmed that they had the right address, which they then claimed was not a good enough address. I tried to explain that that was just silly, as every major delivery company, *including* FKGFS, had delivered to that address, and had done so for years. She eventually said she believed me.

What followed was several days of phone calls, emails, messages left, calls not returned, emails not returned, and conflicting information from FKGFS. Can you deliver my package? Yes, we can deliver your package! It will be there tomorrow.... No, we can't deliver your package. Why not? We won't tell you. Oh, never mind, we can deliver it after all! It will be there tomorrow... No, we can't deliver your package. How about this alternate address? No, we can't deliver to that address either. Could you call me so we could arrange something? No, apparently not. Call customer service again. We can deliver your package, it will be there tomorrow! And so on.

Finally, this afternoon, I realized that my package was never going to come, and that continually hoping it would arrive, listening to promises that would be broken, and then getting disappointed repeatedly were just making me very, very unhappy. I no longer even wanted the package. Actually, I wanted to get it and smash it into tiny pieces for all the pain and suffering it has caused me!

I called FKGFS and explained that it was clear to me they would *never* deliver my package under any circumstances. I told them to go ahead and do whatever they wanted with it, since it would obviously never reach me. I don't know what they will do with it, and I don't care anymore.

As I had expected, I felt a lot better once I simply accepted the fact that this was one of those things that was just not meant to be. Now it's time for the healing to begin.

So my poor Doomsday Machine sits, enclosureless. It's okay, I'll find another way. I still haven't found the Hello Kitty stickers, either. :-(

I am a little annoyed at myself for letting something minor like this get to me. I guess it's just because my life is full of big, stressful things right now, and having something so obvious and trivial go so badly wrong for no explainable reason just really freaked me out.

The good news is, the horrible, complicated, stressful bits of my life are actually doing reasonably well. So far it's just the little things that seem to work themselves into disasters.

Tomorrow's my periodic journey to see P, my guide in my alien journey, and I'll probably have dinner with a friend after. No dessert, though! Not until my cutest jeans fit again. :-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Alien Fights A Bug

I've missed work for the last two days in a row. I'm not sure why.

I feel like I have a virus, and I started feeling yucky after being exposed to someone who was out sick for several days. That was last week, and I think I've been fighting that bug ever since. I've been tired and achey. My throat has been sore, and I've been sleeping a lot. Just like a perfectly ordinary virus.

On the other hand...

Mom died five years ago today.

I'm still struggling with that. How do I feel about it? How should I feel about it? Part of me feels guilty that I'm not more upset. Another part of me feels a certain amount of relief that she's gone. She would not have dealt well with an alien daughter. There's only a very tiny piece of me that wishes she were still here. I feel guilty that piece is so small.

And then there's Dad.

Dad knows his daughter is an alien. He says he still loves me.

He recently returned from a big, exciting vacation. I knew when he would be back, and when the day arrived, I waited for him to call to tell me about the trip. Waited. And waited. And waited.

He finally called a week after his return: Yes, we had a good time, yes, everything was fun.

Just a few years ago, I would have gotten a call within a few minutes of arrival: hi, we just got back, we're really tired, we'll tell you all the details later.

I could have called him myself, but waiting for the call was one way to measure the distance that is slowly growing between us.

I'm not sure what, if anything, to do about this.

Part of me longs to tell him how much his little girl needs him right now. But another part fears rejection, whether it is abrupt or drawn out over several years. And this is as good a time as any to start learning to... cope.

So, why have I been out sick? I don't know. I hope it's just a virus.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Doctor Visit, and Things To Know About Being An Alien

I guess the good news from Friday was that none of the tests I've had over the last couple months came back positive for anything in particular, and there are a wide variety of diseases and disorders that I almost certainly do not have. Yay! Dr. M's prescription: take two aspirin, call me in a year, and try not to get run over by any more minivans. (Actually, I don't think he mentioned the bit about the minivans, but it's really just common sense!)

Dr. M also said that he wasn't going to take me off my medications, which I thought was kind of funny. The medications in question have been saving my life for the last year and a half; there probably wasn't anything he could have said or done to make me stop.

All along, my biggest worry was simply that Dr. M doesn't really understand that the medications have been life-saving. I was concerned he would try to pressure me to stop. If that had happened, and I had been meek enough to listen to him, bad things would have happened. I tried stopping one of my medications last spring. I felt just fine, except for the fact that the world was coming to an end, which made me very sad, and I cried and cried. I started taking the medicine again, and somehow, miraculously the world was saved! (Moral: Alien neurochemistry is not to be trifled with!)

Fortunately, I'm not sure Dr. M entirely understands the danger. Actually, I'm not sure *anyone* really understands it completely. Wait, that's not fortunate, is it? Hmm. It sort of sucks to be in the "more research is needed" category. On the other hand, maybe it's just best not to know.

The danger doesn't really matter at this point; we've done and are doing everything possible to make things safe. Now I have to learn to live with the remaining uncertainty.

So, Friday morning's doctor visit went quite well, all things considered. Oh, and it turned out that next week's followup appointment with Dr. S was, in fact, probably a mistake. Big surprise. I cancelled the appointment.

Then, Friday afternoon, I think I may have goofed in a major way.

An old friend sent me an email just to say hi.

I decided to write back and explain about discovering that I'm an alien. So I wrote him a fairly long message, but tried to keep it short.

He wrote back later in the day.

I'm... I'm not sure if he understood or not.

I sent him a followup message right away, trying to give more details. I don't know if that was the right thing to do or not.

I'm afraid the damage may already be done.

There are really two problems here.

The first problem is the issue of the care and maintenance of friendships. Sarah's uncorrected neurochemistry regarded friendships as sort of a nuisance. They interfered with the serious business of sitting home alone waiting for death. Sarah's current neurochemistry regards friendships as a precious gift to be cherished, but exactly *how* that works is almost always unclear.

The second problem is that I have such an almost desperate need to have people *understand* what being an alien is all about. Unfortunately I've been studying the problem for three and a half years, and I still can't entirely explain it even to myself! It's so complicated.

What do I want everyone to understand about being an alien? Maybe I can make a list:

The fundamental theorem of being an alien:

I did not choose to be an alien.

Being an alien isn't...

Being an alien isn't a choice. It's a *fact*.

Being an alien isn't something I'm *doing*, it's something I am.

Being an alien isn't a moral issue.

Being an alien isn't a lifestyle.

Being an alien isn't a game of pretend; I can't stop when I am tired.

Being an alien isn't an exercise in self-expression.

Being an alien isn't the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Being an alien isn't a mental illness.

Being an alien isn't about what I look like on the outside.

Being an alien isn't about who or what I want to be.

Being an alien isn't something to be celebrated, or tolerated, just accepted.

Being an alien isn't about changing; it's recognizing what already is.

Being an alien isn't a secret I've kept all my life. I was quite surprised to find out about it, but probably shouldn't have been.

Being an alien isn't something I've ever wanted to hide; although I have occasionally taken steps to defer the complicated explanations!

Being an alien is...

Being an alien is a lifelong exercise in making difficult choices.

Being an alien is fun, sometimes. Aliens happen to like being aliens. But I did not choose to be an alien! I am not an alien because it's fun.

Being an alien is something I could have covered up, but I decided not to. There's nothing wrong with being an alien; there is something wrong with living a lie.

Being an alien is hard. There's so much to learn!

Being an alien is expensive.

Being an alien is scary.

Being an alien is painful.

Being an alien is exhausting.

Being an alien is lonely.

Being an alien makes...

Being an alien makes me laugh.

Being an alien makes me cry.

Being an alien makes cruel people laugh.

Being an alien makes ignorant people angry.

Being an alien makes life worth living.

That's a good start, I guess. Not that anyone will understand my list! But it brings to mind the one question I'm still not entirely sure I know how to answer:

If you could, would you choose not to be an alien?

Actually, I do know how to answer the question: no.

But why not? I don't know is how to explain my answer.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Appointment Worries

I did get burned yesterday after all. But only a tiny little bit.

I looked a little bit like Jadzia Dax this morning, but it's much better now. Many "you're an alien" looks in the grocery store tonight, though. I would have skipped the store entirely, but I wanted to get something to cheer me up. Solution: Tater Tots. Or to be more specific, their generic equivalent.

Another weird and slightly troubling thing happened: I got an appointment reminder card in the mail from the hospital.

This was not, in and of itself, particularly surprising, as I have an appointment this Friday to see Dr. M.

Only the card listed an appointment for next Thursday, with Dr. S (who isn't the same Dr. S from a couple weeks ago). I didn't make the appointment.

So the possibilities are: (1) screwup, or (2) Dr. M saw something in the test results that made him want me to go back to Dr. S.

I figured, given their record to date, it's just a screwup. So I called the office this morning. No, I do have both appointments. Which doesn't entirely rule out a little administrative scheduling problem. But it seems less likely.

I already have some of the results of the tests Dr. M ordered. They were... normal. Or very, very close. A few of the other tests I *know* were normal; Dr. M was just making sure.

But they did take eleven tubes of blood that day.

Dr. L wrote in six different tests in the spot marked "other". And another test in the other spot marked "other". (Dr. L was "working with" Dr. M; it's a teaching hospital. Dr. L has very cute, legible handwriting. Quite a handicap for a doctor, I'd think!)

I'm sure it's all fine. I think. Probably.

I guess I'll find out on Friday when I see Dr. M and Dr. L.

How does this relate to being an alien? Well, it depends entirely on what they find. Maybe, not at all.

Or maybe I'll have to make a number of really scary life-altering decisions very quickly.

As if the stuff to date hasn't been scary enough.

Or maybe I'm just freaked out. Things might just be ok.

Oh, and Dr. M doesn't seem to know anything about aliens. He asked me about one of my medications; he asked how much I was taking. I told him about eight milligrams a day. He said, no, that's not right, that can't be right, it should be something like point oh five milligrams.

I had to explain it to him. No, I'm not taking that one, I'm taking this other one. Eight is correct. Oh... ok.

And then I let him run at least one test that I knew with absolute metaphysical certitude would come back negative. But I thought that Dr. M would feel better if he ordered it. Everyone seems to want to run that one. Which is silly, in my case. Actually, I should probably be offended, but I know it's just ignorance.

The rest of the week should be interesting. Maybe I should go back to the grocery store and get some chocolate ice cream. Or its generic equivalent. Just in case.

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman