You Gotta Fight for Your Right To Party!
I had just taken the little money I had saved and played the market to invest in a flip house in Florida. I was finally going to be free financially, free from my family obligations, free from my old life to start a new one, just me doing my own project with Kevin with my own design sensibility and wits. Sweat equity – that’s all I got. This is cause for celebration. I booked a gig for my going away party in NYC and planned to ride victorious into the sunset. I’m exuberant in rehearsals. I’m tying up loose ends. I’m checking off my “to do” list. One of them is getting a mammogram. I get called back. I get the diagnosis one week before my show. I am going away, but for a completely different reason. I have to stay with my family. I have to stop the band. My time and resources will be focused on treatment. I’m on a bungee cord of neck-breaking disappointment. The needle rips across the record, with a deep scratch in the victory tune.
Riot Grrrl (photo Alan Rand)
And it gets worse. It’s the night before my surgery. I’m out trying to get some stuff done before I’m laid up. My sister informs me that someone came from law enforcement and left me some papers.
I was served.
A collection agency law office served me with a suit for over $17,000, a leftover debt from my previous marriage. My husband skipped out on me and all of his financial responsibilities after decimating my finances. I moved with him to CO with $750,000 in assets and drove back in a $3800 car and debts from joint credit cards. I have successfully challenged these collection agencies to prove this is my debt, and they cannot. I already fought and won both an $1800 and a $3600 collection so far. I filed the same affidavits with this law firm, and now they think they can intimidate me or better yet, get a default judgement against me when they cannot produce a single receipt or document with my signature on it. I have been battling these collections for four years but the stakes are high for this one, so it’s gonna be a fight.
I have the sneaking suspicion that the stress and pain from that abandonment and subsequent financial ruin caused my current health problems. I reached out several times to my former partner to help me, to make good on a promise to pay back at least some of what he owed. Anything would be nice – a gesture or acknowledgement of any kind. I sent him an accounting, which he requested, a conservative estimate of over $100,000. I asked for $100 a month and he agreed. Nothing came. $10 a month? Nope. $5 a month? Not even that. Now I have this summons for over $17,000. As much as I have tried to move on, my past boomeranged back. I was all ready to fight for my life, and this summons kicked my fight instinct into overdrive.
I felt lucky at the end of my last blog, but not anymore. I’m at the hospital early. I get my free rubber-gripped socks that don’t fit. Radioactive dye injected. It looks like an ink spatter on the screen. The Geiger counter makes its Theremin sound. I’m wheeled in and count backwards but all I can think about is waking up and fighting. I’m getting rid of this tumor from my body right now. And I’m extricating the black mark on my financial life as soon as I’m coherent. And I’m going to the courthouse. And I’m fighting to get my mom’s house cleared out by Friday, as the sale is closing at noon. And I’m going to fight the patriarchy, as I’m planning on going to the women’s march on Saturday. I’m fighting on all fronts. Don’t get in my way.
I’m in recovery and greeted by Kevin’s smiling face and warm hand. No cancer in my lymph nodes. Stage 1, so that’s one fight crossed off my list. I’m sore but I’m mostly smarting over this lawsuit. I call the court where the suit was filed. I ask when the court date is, and what are the next steps. They tell me I have to file a form, an “answer” to this lawsuit, and then it gets a docket number, then a date. I’m trying to keep this all straight. I should be resting. I guess I can take the rest of the day off. I have a busy day tomorrow.
I wake up Thursday morning and it has snowed lightly. I feel pretty good. Sore. I bought a special post-surgery bra with a zipper front and get dressed. I arranged to have a truck come to my mother and take away the rest of the stuff. I don’t have to do anything but stand there and play air traffic control. I have a little pillow to cushion the seatbelt on my $3800 car. I get to my mom’s house and the truck arrives. The driver tells me he doesn’t want to take the box truck down the driveway with the snow. The closing is tomorrow. I tell this to the driver. He is rude, saying, “You shouldn’t have waited until the last minute.”. Those were fighting words for me.
I shouted back, “I called for this truck two weeks ago!”. Stalemate. I take a deep breath. I ask him when will it take for him to take the stuff away. He wants the entire road sanded. I kick into project manager mode and call a sander that can be there within the hour. I call the driver and tell him to come back because I had the road sanded. Now he has to inspect the job first. FFS. This is not getting done today. I had cancer surgery yesterday! I also have other fights.
It’s Friday and the closing on the house is noon. I get the driver back to pick up the rest of the furniture, books and stuff. I hate this snotty driver who berated me yesterday, but I bite my tongue and get it done. Keep moving forward.
Next stop is the courthouse. I bring the summons and the clerk hands me the form. I fill it out and she stamps two copies, one for the court, and another to mail to the law office. As I’m walking down the courthouse steps, I can’t believe I had surgery two days ago. Moving along!
It’s Saturday, and I’m taking on my third fight – The patriarchy! I went to the Women’s March in DC in January 2017 and here it is one year later, and we’re still dealing with this nonsense. Not only is outward racism getting worse, so is outward misogyny. I’m there with April and Viki, two women I have known since I was 14. April especially has seen all my fights – me at my best and me at my worst. She was there through boyfriends and husbands and has been an enormous support to me getting back on my feet both emotionally and financially. We meet up at her apartment, put on out pink hats and march out the door.
It felt so good to get out and be among like-minded people. These marches are FUN! There was a positive, upbeat feeling. Lots of smiles and clever signs. No angry mob, as the media portrays. I realize women’s rights also applies to women’s health, and how meager the resources are to move this forward. How does 51% of the population, on whom the propagation of the species depends, command so little power in politics? I almost think the billion-dollar cosmetic industry is meant to keep women down, from participating in the capitalist system and building real wealth and power. All of that money, spent chasing the dragon of youth and beauty. I see everything differently now. I’m focusing more on my inside than my outside. First, I’ll worry about survival. Then I’ll worry about what I look like. My extra weight is also a risk factor. For today, I feel a part of something larger than myself. I forget my private battle and take a public one to the streets.
Sisters since age 14.
Even though my friends and family have been amazingly supportive, I have felt in my own head the last couple of weeks. I have a very personal fight for my health, and my very personal fight to get my financial life back. I was abandoned was getting zero support from someone who promised to help me on his way out the door. I fought to get out of bed every morning. I fought to keep a roof over my head. I fought to keep my bar. I fought off $120,000 in debts with no legal recourse across the sea. I was alone to ponder my bad choices which cost me everything I worked for. Now I’ve lost my health. If you are not convinced now I have terrible luck, I cashed out my life insurance policy two weeks before I was diagnosed with cancer, for the sole purpose of paying my bills and starting a new life. How’s that for bad timing?
I have to shake off all negativity as those are poison for the body and mind. I have to let go of anger and regret. I have been pretty good at it so far, but I will make one last ditch effort. I will send a final email, and if I get no action on the promise that was made, I have to let it go and not look back. I vow not to play the cancer card. I’m just reaching out, human to human. across borders and boundaries hoping that there is some semblance of caring, responsibility, or obligation. I compose a very straightforward message, devoid of ire or sentimentality, as a friendly reminder I still exist. No excuses, only action will be accepted. The response is not as hope, but in a familiar pattern of complaints of how hard his life is. I unleash my last blast in that direction, “As I fight for my life, I also fight for my financial future, a mess that was not of my making.” I sent it into the universe and turned my back on it. Keep moving.
Bowing out for now. Photo by Bryan Reesman.
No one from my old rock star party girl life believes that I am broke, desperate and now sick. I do not publicize that I am forced to live with my family, living off the scraps from other people’s tables. I make appearances on The Scene, the triumphant return of Kitty Kowalski to New York, but I wondered if that effort is even worth it. I have a band that I play with for fun, but that’s on the back burner now. Playing shows makes me feel normal even though playing shows is not what normal people do. I can write when I’m in the mood. These are things I will never lose and I have to keep reminding myself that I will get back to where I was, if not only to avoid eating dog food in my old age. I got there once and I can get there again. It was all me. It’s still all me. My optimist self has to look at my fight in the positive – a fight for independence and autonomy. I hate that I need help to get there but that’s where I am now.
The irony is my plan to escape to a new life yanked me back into my old one. My diagnosis requires me to stay put for treatment. Rebuilding my financial future jerked me back into my past ruin. My farewell show put music on hold. All of this experience will kick my creativity into overdrive. As my friend Tracy advised, “Use this time wisely”. Tracy used her chemo time to write screenplays and moved to LA after treatment. Maybe this is a new path of success for me, and not bitter failure as I initially thought. Surgery was the first step in my fight for my health. Filing my answer in court was the first step from finally getting rid of my financial cancer. The march was a step for the civil rights of my sisters.
I can’t forget to fight for my right to party. I said in the beginning I was going to have as much FUN as I could. The stress release, social activity and the corny-yet-true healing power of laughter will be good for me. I even have my own cancer jokes because this situation is so absurd, I kind of have to laugh. I need to let it roll off my back. I have a new “to do” list. Take care of myself. Take care of business. Don’t look back. Fun train is departing shortly, full steam ahead.