Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Season

blustery, adjective, It looks like a rather blustery day, today
-(of weather or a period of time) characterized by strong winds

I lulled in bed as usual this morning--suspended in that lazy rocking motion, that back and forth between laying down and getting up. After changing my mind a dozen times, finding reasons to snuggle down below the covers, I finally sprung up and my cheeks were the first to feel it. The cool crispness in the air of our house. Not stuffy, or artificially cool, but naturally chilled. Air freshened by the arrival of Fall and all things Fall. Three plump pumpkins on our front porch. Colorful bunches of crunchy leaves in the backyard. That first slap of cool that air smacks your face and neck in the morning, catching you off guard. Almost knocking you off balance.

I felt it this morning on the sidewalk, my scarf trying to catch the flow of the wind and slip off my neck, and it made me stand up straighter. Ah, I said to myself, hello there, old friend. You've come back. After a summer of sticky and sweaty, sunburned and never quite ready for bathing-suits, Fall has tip toed back on stage, puffed up its cheeks up for a string of blustery days, and now stands behind us, or beside us, red in the face and exasperated, ready to blow.

This fall I am feeling differently from any other season I've experienced. As I pull thicker layers out of storage, and make note to put the heavier comforter on the bed, I'm wondering what the heart does to ready itself for the harsh months of a winter full of unknowns. A winter whose white blanket of snow cannot guarantee the continuance of bright green life below. A winter who promises to grab on to each inch of bare skin that peeks out from under warm layers and send you on your way shivering. A winter that will eventually give way to summer, who can't guarantee any specific life either. The change of seasons propels the cycle, assuring us that the bulbs we planted will emerge--seemingly defiant, but not--from the ground and a row of furry babies will be spotted in a nearby pasture. But when they change again, will we all be there to touch one another and breathe in deep sighs of relief. Will we open our eyes again and say Ah, you're still here, too. Thank God.

This pair of seasons approaching is a harsh duo. They are not the sunshine seasons, the emergence-of new-life seasons. They are the brace-yourselves seasons. They bring with them the darkness, the chill, the weakening of the body's defenses. What's the equivalent of a warm sweater for this heart? How do I tell it to rest easy and warm on the inside despite what might happen out here in the world? I know God is the answer. This isn't my "duh" moment. Each verse of encouragement I read, or quote of the virtue of a beautiful life well-lived, provides me momentary relief. A moment's distraction. But I am still anxious, still worriedly making lists in hopes I can achieve my way out of this dread I feel. So if I linger too long in bed, or get caught standing absentmindedly on the sidewalk in the morning, understand I'll be back soon. I'm just sneaking back inside myself, deep down, searching for warmth, pasting scraps across the surface of my heart in a pathetic attempt at armor. Give me some time, forgive me. And please know that I understand only His presence here can lift me up, only the warmth of His hands cupped around my heart can protect it from the worst possible outcome: that when the snow melts, slinking lazily down into the street, an empty patch of ground will appear where grass used to grow, breath used to move in and out, and life used to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Club

You sit on your couch rubbing your own elbows, or you sit in your chair staring at the computer screen, thinking and feeling out this new pain you have acquired without wanting to. It makes you feel heavy, so heavy that after a day of carrying it around, you long for bed. You long for the kind of silence and darkness that numb you. And in this pain, with this pain, surrounded by all of it, you feel so alone. So separate from a greater whole of bodies stamped in imaginary ink with the word "healthy." You feel so singular, so isolated, maybe even unique.

But you couldn't be more wrong.

I mean this, not distastefully, but truthfully: I feel like I have just been accepted into an exclusive club. From the first dear friend, to the last stranger who found out about my grandmother's illness, the reception I've felt, the comfort I've received is rooted in a painful understanding. A too-close-for-comfort grasp on what it feels like--that slight yet piercing ache--to learn that you or someone you love has cancer. I know I have been so blessed, that God has shielded me and much of my family from illness, but I didn't realize until now just HOW blessed we have been and continue to be.

My friends have lost friends, grandparents, cousins. My friends have been fighting cancer battles, wars against mortality, for years. I just never realized it. I was never able to comprehend it. I never even thought about it.

Loss of all shapes, sizes and magnitudes is happening every minute, every second. As I type these words, breath is slipping out, a body is losing its footing, a fragile hand is going limp. We are constantly losing those who mold us, inspire us, challenge us, even those who give us the hardest time. And none of us is alone in our loss. None of us is alone in our fear. I feel the perfect opposite of what I thought I would feel.

I feel bonded to new friends, old friends, strangers in a way I struggle to describe. We are so many different people, living in so many different places, under varying circumstances, but don't we all love the same? Hurt the same? Ache the same? We cry the same. When we lose someone, the loss we feel is the same. And I find so much comfort in that togetherness. Despite the fact that it was born out of shared tears and heartache, it is so secure. Is it possible that our collective hurt is so tightly weaved that we produce warmth? All I know is that my heart is warmed at the time an old friend takes to share her story, or the thoughtfulness of a quick call just to check up on me. The strength of that kind of love amazes me. It restores my faith on days when I'm feeling like I just need some inspiration. It ignites the passion within me to write. It makes me so thankful to be blessed with my family and friends. And despite the circumstances, to now be a part of a group that is filled with such tremendous love and support that I feel anything but alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Word Play

P.S. Miss Triple Word Score Lost lost to David at Scrabble on Saturday night. I'll chalk it up to the fact that he's brilliant (a 54-point word!). Regardless, must marry him now. <3

Amazing Grace

phantasmagoria, noun, what happened next was a phantasmagoria of horror and mystery.
-a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream.

It's been nearly a month since my last post. I have no excuse for that, except to say that I go through intense cycles of obsessing over and then hiding from this thing. I'm finding that I'm a lot lazier than I ever imagined.

A lot has changed over the course of a month, and from where I sit today, I honestly wish I had written earlier. I wish--per Emily's request-- that I had a blog entry for every day since I got engaged. I GOT ENGAGED! I have dreamed about marrying David forever, and it's all coming true. Each day that I make small decisions or big ones, or look at wedding photography, I close my eyes and envision our day--envision myself as Lia Dangelico--and it's such a beautiful, powerful feeling. There is no one I would rather grow old and wrinkly with. There is no one who makes me feel more beautiful and intelligent. There is no one who makes me feel more safe. September 4, 2010 we'll be married down on the Carolina coast. :-)

I wish I had written sooner because this sort of thing deserves no damper. No overshadowing. But a thin gray cloud has inched its way across the sky overhead. My sweet Grandmother Grace has been diagnosed with cancer. Last night I sat on the couch talking to her and her voice sounded the same. It was smooth and strong, sing-songy as it always is. In my perpetually 10-year-old mind I was shocked that she sounded the same. Shouldn't she sound weak, sick? I thought.

No matter how much you study cancer, or wear the pink ribbon or run for "the cause," you can never be prepared enough to hear that word attached to someone you love. Cancer belongs to your co-worker's mother. Cancer belongs to the girl who sat in front of you in poetry class with all that pain. Cancer is ugly, tacky and my Grandmother is the picture of beauty and elegance. My Grandmother can separate one classical composer from the next. My Grandmother can tell you which flowers bloom along the George Washington Parkway and when. My Grandmother can carry out a conversation in French with the most remarkable accent. My Grandmother says words like "phantasmagorical." Her house is filled with stunning glass birds in every color that catch the sunlight when it pours in the windows and send rainbows dancing around her living room. When we were young, she would gather my sisters and I together on the couch or in bed and tell us enchanting stories of Herkimer, the boisterous mouse who lived under her steps. In her tales, Herkimer only emerged at night to go rummaging through her kitchen cupboards scavenging for snacks. But he was everywhere. Anytime there was a spill or one of her precious birds turned up missing a beak or a wing, she would smile kindly and whisper down to us. "Herkimer, that rascal! He must have taken a bit of Ruby's wing to give to his wife for their anniversary!" And she would dry our premature tears and rub our backs until we had forgotten the moment of fear.

I am trying to breathe deeply and patiently wait to hear what the doctor says on Thursday about treatment and a plan of action. But I am anxious at the thought of losing her. Anxious at the thought of eyeing an empty seat next to my Grandaddy Bill on my wedding day. Scared to imagine my own mother without a mother anymore. I know this is moving too quickly, but even she has said, "if this is my time to go and be with the Lord, I couldn't be happier." I guess, as always, my only fear with death is for who is left behind. Grandmother Grace and Grandaddy Bill are a package deal. She flutters from place to place, singing her praises on each person she talks to, her eyes twinkling, her voice just above a whisper, while Grandaddy Bill plops into a chair in the corner, one eye squinting to look into the viewfinder of his camera, his nose and mouth hidden as he bellows out "One, two, three" and snaps one of a million pictures. There is no one without the other in my mind. And yes, despite their fussing and his grumpiness, the idea of him standing alone just makes my heart ache. Would one still exisit without the other? Will Grandaddy Bill still take pictures? Will Granddadyy Bill still crack stupid jokes just to make us giggle? I know God brings the joy in his heart, but I also know that my Grandmother has brought him more wonder and happiness than one man deserves.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but I know no other way. I'm afraid of an attacker so strong, one that has taken so many lives. I'm trying to find rest in God, find my center, my peace in him. I know he has the power to move any mountain. One far bigger than this one. In the meantime, I'm planning to be by her side often, smooth the soft creases on her hands with my fingertips, listen to her fingers dance up and down the piano. And when I think of her there in her livingroom, in their home of so many warm memories of first borns and holiday meals, playing her piano, I imagine her face tilted up toward the window, completely aglow with early-morning sunlight. Her whole body is singing, from her eyes to her fingers. And as she gazes out into the day unfolding, up, up into the sky, I know her ears are piqued to hear that Voice--whether calling her name, reaching out for her, or fading a bit and gently easing her onward. I know no matter what, the music will remain, playing over and over again, and we will always feel her there.