Perfectly Dysfunctional

Pefectly Dysfunctional

Bob and I have been in a committed relationship for more than a year. Our first date occurred on February 28, 2015, and this watershed evening portended more than lasting love. It was followed by respective winning streaks that continued straight through New Year’s Eve.

My partner enjoyed a string of personal records and new achievements in his marathon career, lost some extra weight and celebrated another year free of Crohn’s disease suffering. My own list bordered on embarrassing. So many riches: eczema remission, a loving new home with doggie siblings for Dino, a more satisfying and remunerative day job, a warm welcome into Bob’s family, travel and a teaching offer. I couldn’t lose. And for a writer (already predisposed to darkness) with a stupendously maladjusted biography, the change in fortunes was most welcome.

As 2016 commenced, I felt optimistic but understood that the year was likely to be less fantastically eventful. Settled into the 9-5 position, relaxed into an easy domestic rhythm with Bob and the fur babies, I looked ahead to the new challenges offered by teaching and several trips we’d planned together. For a very long 2015 moment, I was aware that I had everything I’ve ever wanted and worked toward. It was exhilarating and frightening. So much of my life has been conducted on the operating principle that I have nothing to lose. Go for broke became enjoy and protect last year.

Yet the deep, haunted part of me that has experienced sudden, frequent catastrophe remained alert. Things can and do fall apart. I refuse any longer to let dread prevent enjoyment, but there’s very little benefit to Pollyanna-ism either. Hot streaks can’t continue forever.

So it seems only logical that a lengthy dash of “winner, winner, chicken dinner” (as my friend Meg characterized 2015) collided with reality early and often in the first quarter of this year. I welcomed January with viral pneumonia. Within a three-week February span, Dino and Meko died, breaking our hearts and leaving Jude a confused only child. With Meko’s passing, differences between Bob and I were exposed vis a vis end of life philosophy. There was a painful argument and for a brief spell, we turned our pain on each other.

Also in February, my partner’s clan received shocking news about a heretofore unknown family member. This led to complicated reflections on truth and the past. My beloved aunt broke three ribs and punctured a lung. My baby sister contracted shingles. Close friends lost jobs, buried loved ones and battled illnesses. And on Easter weekend, I experienced the first migraine of the year, causing several days of bedridden vomiting, alopecia and a vow to rid myself of my menstrual cycle once and for all.

But it’s April 6, a new month and quarter. With the benefit of limited hindsight I’m grateful for this early wave of challenges. Yes, I’m filled with gratitude. Because honestly? I think Bob and I were just a little too perfect, too untested to know how strong our bond actually was. In the back of my mind lay a lingering taunt that went something like this: “Sure everything’s just ducky now. But what happens when the rubber meets the road? What do we look like when confronted with life outside our love bubble?”

The answer? We’re a little bruised and one of us (Bob) even limped for a few days. The shine is off. We’ve seen ugliness. And it’s beautiful. Lovely even. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes for which we have to apologize. We’re capable of hurting each other. But we’re also absolutely certain there are two of us in this boat, doing our best to row in tandem against life’s tsunamis.

Missing in Action: The Week’s Overlooked News Stories


Ill–received attacks on equality blamed upon business leaders, young people with shingles and why did Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro have to take a stand against anti-vaccers? Here’s what might have escaped your notice this week….

In last week’s Missing in Action column, we talked about a piece of anti-LGBT legislation, known as the “Religious Liberty Bill,” which was headed to the Governor of Georgia’s desk. Thankfully, Nathan Deal vetoed that bill amid outrage from gay rights groups and community business leaders. Corporations like Disney, Apple, and Time Warner threatened to change their dealings in the state if discrimination was signed into action. Well it’s 2016 folks and political gall is in long supply. In an act of incredible and laughable hypocrisy, a conservative group is calling Georgia businesses “corporate bullies,” claiming they’ve “declared war” on religion. Just so we’re clear on their position: it’s completely fine to deny basic services to LGBT citizens, but not ok to object to hateful policy by hitting a bunch of backward state legislators in the wallet. Alrighty then.

This week, a member of the team came down with a not-so-fun case of shingles, an adult reactivation of the chicken pox virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people over the age of 60 get the shingles vaccine. Commercials promoting the shot are all over television. But here’s the rub – our suffering staff member is only 35 years-old. In fact she’s the second person in that demographic personally known to us to contract the painful illness within the last nine months. It turns out, shingles ain’t just a middle-aged disease. There are plenty of 30-somethings afflicted with this “older” people problem. In an article published earlier this year, Fox 5 in Atlanta found three women in their 30s struggling with the painful effects of Shingles, left wondering how they contracted the illness. Doctors don’t seem to have any answers, but anecdotally our staff member is certain the multi-prong stressors of career, family and the search for personal fulfillment are a factor in increased shingles cases (and other diseases) among late Gen Xers/early Millennials.

To continue the theme of item #2, you can’t get shingles if you didn’t have chicken pox, and you won’t contract chicken pox if you were vaccinated as a child. Our staff member is infinitely happy that her kids won’t suffer the way she is. Vaccines are good. They prevent horrible maladies like measles, polio, and diphtheria (does anyone even know what that is?). But there are still those who stubbornly ignore scientific fact. In 2010, Andrew Wakefield was stripped of his medical license for linking vaccines to autism in a discredited 1998 study. And now a documentary about Wakefield has been pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival by co-founder Robert De Niro. It seems this is a long-running controversy that just can’t be put to rest. Where’s Jenny McCarthy?