Category Archives: AyGee

Pretend There’s an H

Growing up with an Irish father and an Irish-American mother comes with it’s perks.  The greatest of these being that I’ve spent a pretty solid chunk of my life in Ireland.   I always liked it a bit better.   When my aunt passed away, the priest at her funeral talked about “thin places” in his homily — thin places being those places or people where the barrier between heaven and earth isn’t quite so thick.  Even non-religious folk can identify with this feeling:  like you’re rooted to the earth but gravity doesn’t seem so heavy (metaphorically… or something). That’s how I feel when I’m there.

Plus, everyone can pronounce my name.

Taking a three month hiatus from blogging is probably not the best way to exercise my writing muscle, but listen, I’ve been really busy doing absolutely nothing.   Some things have changed in my life, one of these things being that I have a boyfriend now, which means I’ve had to pretend that I am an “adult” who doesn’t hide “feelings” behind “sarcasm.”  (Lol, I know.)

I ordered him on the internet.   Which is funny, because I kind of did.   I joined OkCupid (for the craic) and he was the first person I messaged and the only one I actually wanted to respond.  One of the stranger things about meeting someone on the internet before you meet them in person is The Introduction.  Introductions are always awkward for someone like me, who has a name that isn’t easily pronounced in the English language.  My screen name didn’t even have my first name in it.  This was in part an effort to avoid serial killers and in part because I know it’s easier to pronounce my middle name.  So, since Boyfriend’s screen name was actually his full name because apparently he is not concerned about serial killers,  I felt I should probably give him mine:
My name is Aislinn, pronounced like Ash-lynn.  I’m assuming your name is Winston Poundsley because your screen name is WinstonPoundsley.  (Disclaimer: not his real name.  When I asked him what his code blog name should be, he answered this with concerning immediacy.)
Thinking on it, it may actually be a bit easier to explain via text than in real life.  Usually, that goes something like this:
Person:  Ace….Ayz….Ice… Ms. Gavin?
Me:  It’s “Ash-lynn”!
Person: Oh, we have it spelled wrong.
Me: Oh, you don’t, actually!  It’s Irish.
Person:  Are you Irish?
Me: My dad is.
Person:  Why don’t you just spell it Ashlynn?
Me: ….. Because that’s not my name.
Or trying to explain how you spell your name to someone who has only heard it spoken:
Me: It’s A- I – S – L—
Person: Wait, I think I spelled it wrong! Where do I put the h?
Me: No h!  Pretend there’s an h.  It’s invisible, it’s like the exact opposite of a silent letter.

As you can imagine, Starbucks – which truly is a language in and of itself, for example: one time Melanie’s cup said “Melony”  as in “this punch tastes very melon-y.”  – is really fun for me.  I usually go by “Gavin” in an attempt to make things easier.  My cup generally says “Gavan,” “Devin,” or “Alicia.”  I don’t mind all the confusion, though.  It comes with the territory of the Irish name.  Just ask my friends Caoimhe (pron. Kweeva) aka “Cay-oh-me”  and Roisin (pron. Roh-sheen) aka “Raisin.”   They go by “Beth” and “Tara” at Starbucks.

As a kid, everyone knew how to pronounce my name.  One of the great things about being a child is being your very own thin place: you aren’t fully blemished by how things “should” be and accept them as they are.  I still remember the teachers in class mispronouncing my name and every kid in class in unison saying “ASH-LYNN. Jeez!”  This is, of course, omitting the month long period of my life when I refused to respond to any name other than “Dorothy.”

Ruby slippers and munchkins notwithstanding, I did always like my name.  I liked how it sounded, I liked how it was spelt, and most of all I liked what it meant.  As a derivative of the name Aisling (pron. Ash-ling or -lynn or -leen), it means vision or dream.  Talk about the right name for the little girl who loved (and still loves) all things fantastical and dream-like.  Sometimes, I wonder if my name defines me just as much as I define it.

In the meantime, I think I’ll wait for George R. R. Martin to name a character after me.  It’s bound to happen one of these days.

The Sperm Tie: Adventures in Neurology

I’ve always liked bowties.  Bowties can look dapper, sleek, hipster, or just plain silly.  I prefer silly.  I picked my neurologist based almost entirely on the fact that he wore a bowtie.  He had an “emergency bowtie” on his book shelf.  I thought this was weird… in a good way.  I was pretty sure he, like, knew things, too.

I think his bowtie had a sperm design on it.  I’m really not sure because I couldn’t ask him.  You can’t just ask someone if their tie has multicolored sperm on it. That could go one of two ways:

Me: Yes, I’m paying attention, areas of inflammation, etc.  Quickly, though, DOES your bowtie have a sperm design on it…
Dr. Brainy:  Um… no? These are just squiggly lines with pointy oval shapes on one end.
Me: Okay, sorry, but it looks like you have multicolored sperm on your tie.
Dr. Brainy:  Oh.  Sad. 😦 I’ll probably hate you forever now.

or

Me:  ….does your bowtie have a sperm design on it?
Dr. Brainy:  It does!
Me:  Okay, yes, carry on.

I spent the majority of that appointment staring at his neck like a serial killer.

I guess I should explain the neurology thing:  I have malfunctioned.

On November 23rd, while I was watching Doctor Who and his bowtie save the universe with my friends, I suddenly smudged my glasses.  I couldn’t get the smudge to go away, even though I’d cleaned them.  When I got home, I went to change into my contacts to find that I hadn’t smudged my glasses at all.

The entirety of the central vision in my left eye was gone.  In it’s place was a fuzzy, grayed-out almost-circle, like when someone takes a picture with a bright flash and there is a spot where you cannot see.  I completely panicked, as you do when you suddenly go partially blind.  I can’t see. (Insert alarm bell noises here.) BAD. VERY BAD. 

And so began the two weeks of my life that I existed in a near constant state of fight or flight.  That night, I chose flight.  I decided that it would go away and went to a party.  I stand by that decision. It didn’t go away.

Since then, I’ve chosen fight.  Two MRIs,  four doctors, five botched spinal tap attempts (and one blood patch,)  twenty seven needles, and five thousand milliliters of steroids later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Essentially, what that means is that my immune system has gone rogue and occasionally attacks things it should really not attack.  Asshole.  In my case, it appears to be rather fond of my optic nerve (which has since been kind enough to stop being inflamed, allowing my vision to return to normal.)

I debated writing this post for a long time.  I have this really intense fear of people thinking I’m playing the sympathy card for attention, of being defined by it in the eyes of others, or of making people upset.  Really, I would prefer if everyone would just NOT act like anything because I have to live another sixty years with this.  I can go to work, I can get married, I can have babies, I just might sometimes have a little trouble seeing out of one of my eyes (or some other symptom but we’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.)

I allowed myself a one day pity party.  Clearly, the list of things I wound up stressing about did not include actually having an autoimmune disorder.  I didn’t even make it through the day.  Feeling sorry for myself was so incredibly boring.  Plus, I was on steroids and much more interested in yelling at everyone. Roid rage is real.

The way I see it, things can always be worse, way worse.  I don’t see being diagnosed with M.S. as some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing that’s happened to me.  Now I know.  I know why I get tired easily.  I know that if I ever lose my sight again, I don’t need to be scared.  I will have medicine that tells my immune system to calm the hell down.  And at the end of the day, I know that I’m going to be okay.  So many people don’t have that security.

This is probably the last post I’ll write explicitly about M.S., for the reasons I state above.  But now, perhaps my life and attitude towards it may make a little more sense — even if it was just a post for me to gather my thoughts and make a little more sense to myself.

My Pop always said “Live the shit out of life.”  That’s the plan.  I always liked adventures and bowties anyway.

P.S. Going to see Dr. Brainy now.  PLEASE PRAY FOR MORE SPERM TIE.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Twenty Four is a great number. I like it not only because it is a nice even number, but because two times two is four. If you don’t understand that statement immediately I can’t explain it for you. When I turned twenty-four, I was pretty excited because, as I say, it’s a nice number. Way nicer than twenty-three.

Twenty Three was lame. My first “real” boyfriend broke up with me about six months into my twenty-third year. I say “real” as opposed to “fake” because he actually wanted to waste my time AND refer to me as his girlfriend to other humans, so this was really a step up for me. I assure you that every “fake” boyfriend I have ever had has been a real person who was aware of the fact that they were “dating” me. “Fake” boyfriends freak out when the words girl and friend are mashed together in a sentence in order convey that he “likes” you.

My twenty-third year for other people went well, so it was, at least, exciting. We had some big family changes. My brother got married a month after turning twenty-five, which obviously sent me into a tailspin of inner panic. When the people you grew up with from the womb start getting married and you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up or why boys are stupid, several questions tend to incessantly plague your mind. So, your mind starts sounding like this:

Me: But really, is there ACTUALLY something wrong with me?
Also Me: Probably, you are really weird.

Me: What am I doing with my life? Should I go to grad school? Should I run away to Europe…again?
Still Me: Euagggghhhhh. Too. much. deep. question… Let’s watch Dr. Who.

Me: Hey, this new guy seems to genuinely like me as a person.
Me: Nononono. There must be something wrong with him. What about that guy?
Me: Oh, that guy who texted me “How are you?”? My response was well-crafted. A short, but sweet “Hey 🙂 Good. How are you?” He ignored me.
Me: Yessss. Good. Him.

Me: More wine?
Me: No………………………..Yes.

Welcome to my brain. It’s a weird place. But it’s also kind of funny sometimes. I kind of like my little brain. I like that it decides to like things on fairly random criteria: the number Twenty Four, for example. I’m not sure, but I think I’ll keep it. And here-in lies the problem. What do you do when you like yourself, but the world around you tells you that you don’t have your life right yet? As if you didn’t know.

Well, if you’re me, you freak out, which looks a lot like not doing anything. And a lot like pushing people away. And a lot like bone-crushing anxiety.

So at Twenty Four, I moved back in with my parents. I realize how lucky I was that I could do this. After almost seven years of living in New York City, I moved home, I got a full-time job I actually like, and I still have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on.

On moving back home, some of the pressure I felt to be a “real” grown-up dissipated. Some new pressures arose, however, from not being on my own anymore. Like this:

Parent: Where are you going? What are you doing? Who with?
Me: Out. Not sure. Melanie. She is my only friend here, remember?
Parent: True. What time will you be home?
Me: Stop.
Parent: Don’t drink and drive.
Me: I am getting picked up.
Parent: Don’t drink and drive.
Me: What? I just said I’m not driv-
Parent: Don’t dr-
(I walk away)

Parent: Clean your room.
Me: This is organized clutter.
Parent: It’s being too lazy to put things in drawers.
Me: Yes, yes it is.

Living with your parents automatically makes you a grumpy teenager again. Even when you get along with your family like I do. When I was little and played house in the same room I sit in writing this, I thought I’d have had five boyfriends by the time I was sixteen. When I was eighteen and left for college I thought I’d have my career figured out by twenty-one. When I was twenty-one, I thought I’d be in a long-term relationship by now and be engaged by twenty-six. Because that’s what everyone else’s life looked like.

At some point over the past four months I finally decided to stop comparing myself to everyone else and once I did, I realized like 95% of the people my age have no idea what the fuck they’re doing either.

I’ve begun to wonder whether I’ll ever know what I’m doing and I’m kind of okay with that. I don’t need to have a ring on my finger. In fact, the thought gives me a feeling of claustrophobic panic… similar to being buried alive but, like, nicer. And I don’t need to know what I want to be when I grow up yet. Actively working on it is enough. Because I’m ONLY Twenty Four.