Thursday, March 23, 2017

Now, in Nashville

I was sick for a month and was convinced I was dying. I woke up one morning with a runny nose, and this was all the evidence I needed to substantiate my suspicion that a decade of seasonal smoking and a year of Nashville hot chicken were finally catching up to me. My friends reassured me it was just Tennessee allergies, or the flu, but my anxiety knew the truth: I was happy and in love, so the next logical thing to happen was that my life was going to fall a part, like a twisted Greek tragedy or the American political system. In an attempt to get my affairs in order, for posterity, I deleted any tweets that didn't get at least three re-tweets and I created a YouTube highlight reel of all my best stand up jokes. If I was going to die, I wanted the world to remember me as I was, an obscure female comedian.

It happened like this: I woke up alone one day because my boyfriend was out of town, doing comedy. Normally, I like it when he leaves because I can do things I can't do when he's around, like watch chick flicks or cheat on him. But my favorite thing to do when he's gone is stay up late and play on my phone. I did this all the time when I was single in Toronto, and I like to treat myself to this indulgence now, when he's away, because I feel like it's rude to shine a bright phone screen in his face when he's lying beside, me trying to sleep.  On this particular morning, however, I woke up and my eyes were predictably sore from late night scrolling but my head also felt groggy and I couldn't breath through my nose. It's unfortunate that my mind is super cool like this, but I instantly jumped to the conclusion that I was dying.

The thing that I couldn't stop thinking about was how terribly timed my death was. I'd have to go back to Canada, get free health care, move back in with my dad, which was awful, because my dad doesn't have cable. I'd have to leave my boyfriend, our cute little life in the south and he wouldn't be able to come with me- I wouldn't want him to have to make that choice- so I'd break up with him, crying, please no this will destroy us, let's just walk away now before things get too painful! I imagined it like that Party Of Five episode when the older brother gets cancer and he breaks up with his girlfriend because the stress of the sickness was too much for the relationship, only my breakup would be much more dramatic than that because I'd be sick and have to go through US Customs.

It really broke my heart that I had to leave my boyfriend because I was still in love with him and I figured that losing him would but such a strain on me emotionally that I wouldn't have the will power to beat whatever illness I was fighting. I'd die quickly, from cancer, but mostly heartbreak.  I thought, of course! Of course this is the way my life plays out. I was an emotionally stunted, career-driven woman, but then fell in love, realized that there was more to life than money, fame and Instagram followers, but then just when I become enlightened, boom, ebola strikes. I'd come full circle, all my nine lives were up, I'd learned what I needed to learn, time for me to go, and it made sense, but it still sucked. I was almost comfortable living in America. I mean, I just started saying y'all with out being self conscious about it. It was all so unfair.

My impending death and break up were torturing me. Even if I went to Canada, and I got health care and I went into remission, my boyfriend and I would still not be able to be together because even if we got married I wouldn't be granted a green card because part of getting a green card is a medical examine and I would fail the examine because of my illness.  So my boyfriend and I would have to break up, never be able to be together, torn apart by sickness and my Canadian passport. I would have to quit the entertainment industry and social media because it would be too painful to see everyone continuing on with out me, with their careers, relationships and political opinions. I'd move into a small apartment, somewhere depressing like Barrie, ON, become a recluse and weather the cold Canadian winters alone, a shadow of my former self, not answering phone calls, even if my agent was like, the CBC wants to shoot a pilot with you, I'd be like, no, I don't even know what life is any more, let alone what it means to be Canadian. Even if a new hot guy loved me and wanted to take care of me, I'd be like no, I will only love my ex boyfriend but we can't be together because I'm sick and Canadian and he's an American road comic.

I felt so guilty and angry because my sickness was going to ruin my boyfriends life. He's not like me. He's doesn't worry, he's always happy, he's grateful. He's simple in the best ways. He enjoys life, he's just happy to be alive- which a very hard concept for me to grasp. I started thinking about how after I died, my once sweet, happy boyfriend, after years of sobriety, would start drinking again, he'd become mad at God because once I was gone, it became impossible for him to be or pretend to be happy. In my mind, of course, in our break up, Tinder doesn't exist and my boyfriend has never heard of rebound sex.

I had a headache. For four days I was sneezing and had a runny nose. Then, I felt better, worked a weekend in Chattanooga, didn't sleep much, returned to Nashville, and felt tired again. This cycle repeated itself for a month, with intervals of feeling slightly tired and stuffed up and times when I felt perfectly fine. All during this period, back and forth in my mind, I kept thinking about how I was dying, and I'd have to go back to Canada, and I was going to ruin my boyfriends life, and how when people would talk about me in the future, they would say "It's so sad, what happened to her." or "Hannah lived in Tennessee? Why?"

I didn't want to go down like that, so in a last ditch attempt to get healthy, I made some changes. I stopped eating cupcakes three times a week, started taking vitamins, and drank more water. I went to the gym. I sweated. I stopped checking Facebook. I listened to country music. Conway Twitty. Merle Haggard. Margo Price. These angels lifted me out of my cold, and back into the light of tranquil, anxiety free, sweet tea, living.

I still struggle with sleep, but I try really hard, when my boyfriend is gone, to not stay up on my phone. I attempt to just close my eyes and rest. Sometimes it's easy, and other times I think of remarkable ways that my life is going to implode.  My boyfriend tells me all the time that instead of using my imagination to think of terrible things, use it to think of jokes. I've started doing that, and he was right, it's a much better use of my creativity. He's so sweet. I don't know what I'd do with out him.

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