Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't Quit!

"When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit!
(From Elementary-school memory--but also on a little postcard on my fridge <3)

I'm too tired to move, or pick up the phone or even eat (this is rare). Just drained. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because my little brain has been running on overdrive. So much to take in and process, to spit out answers for. The wedding, my siblings, my stressed-to-the-limit mother, my job, the bills, my sick grandmother, ticking-ticking time bombs, friends, the economy, the dogs, my Love <3, health care legislation, starting a website, freelance writing, MONEY, birthdays, H1N1, oil changes, exercise, chili recipes, laundry and leaves on the carpet (and bills bills bills bills bills). 99.9% percent of all of it, a complete waste of time. Waste of thought, yet I still tossed and turned last night, half praying half freaking out about what today would hold and what hurdle we would be forced to jump over next!

But "It's when things seem worst that you must not quit!" Even though this period in my life isn't "the worst" at all! I am so lucky and blessed! It's just that these days I'm having to play cheerleader a bit more, and I'm trying to stay positive and supportive of everyone and myself, too! Go team! Don't give up! We'll eventually get to right where we're supposed to be!

Rest if you must, but DO NOT QUIT! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Funnel

funnel, noun, a tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.

We knew that this phase of the illness would come. When the tears of joy, the strength, the assuring smile would subside and the anger, the doubt would rise to the surface. After all, my grandmother is young, far too young for her life to be drawing to a close. "It's not fair," she says to my mother. "There are still so many things I want to do. I'm not done living my life yet." And despite long leisurely travels on trains across Europe, and lively evenings spent at the Kennedy Center listening to the National Symphony Orchestra, she is overwhelmed by the incompleteness she feels. She longs for the peace brought on by the assurance of a life well-lived.

She feels like she's watching time, opportunity, all of the things she's always wanted to do whip round and round before her eyes like a whirlpool, plummeting downward through the funnel of her life. What little she has left--that she clutches to-- is circling the small hole in the bottom. There is darkness on the other side, but also, there is the most magnificent light.

Since I was young, I've said I think I'm pretty good at learning from other's mistakes, picking up what's left behind from someone else's mess and committing the lesson learned to memory. But how can I apply something of this magnitude to my own life? How can I see through her eyes and glimpse her life--such a magical, colorful, rich life--as inadequate? As a life left unfulfilled. At the very slow rate at which I'm moving, I can't fathom my life, 40 years from now, being anywhere near as wonderful as hers. I'm not open enough, loving enough, faithful enough. Even at 22, my imagination falters in the presence of hers. What can I do except try to read though her disappointment and decipher the lesson before it's too late and all I can do is circle around the inside of the funnel and wait.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When There Are No Words

word, noun, a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.

My sister Whitney and I play this movie-quote game. We've played it for as long as I remember. I'm pretty sure it started out in the way back of our station wagon on long drives from Massachusetts down to Virginia when we were young. It's easy. You say a quote, the other person names the movie.

-"Clarese, your hair...YOU'RE HERE!"
-It Takes Two

Sometimes we even stump ourselves, and I've been stuck on this particular one for ages. All I know is that Melanie Lynskey says the line, "sometimes life's just hard, for no reason at all." I can hear the twang of her southern accent, the way the sounds of each word glide in to one another smoothly. I can almost see her in some creaky rocking chair on a porch, or in some abandoned field. (I'm suddenly wondering, is it Man in the Moon?) But I can't, for the life of me, pinpoint the movie that it's from.

It gets to me, and leaves me wondering because I find myself repeating it when times are tough. When I get completley blindedsided on a boring Tuesday--the collision of something so tragic, so difficult with the simplicity of a quiet afternoon. Finding out your grandmother has cancer when you're painting your toenails. A phone call on your lesiurely lunch hour from your mother who's hysterically crying. Whether I'm comforting myself or someone else, I just chant that to myself. "Sometimes life's hard, for no reason at all."

I can't directly address my mother losing her mother. I don't know how to grasp that with words, even if I try my hardest and read all of the case studies she emails to me. Not even after all the times she's cried to me. I sit next to her in the car and hear her say, "I don't know what I'll do when she's gone," and all I can do is reach out and touch her hand. I can't change David's face--twisted with worry--and convince him that Amelia will be fine with a line. Even with that line. I say it, then watch it fall flat on its face. Splat! Right onto the ground before me. It's my own mental therapy, but I'm still not getting anywhere, despite it's truth.

Sometime's life IS hard for absolutely NO reason. Whatsoever. You make a plan--a nice one, a thoughtful one--to surprise the person you love, and then watch it crumble to bits. You find out you need four new tires on the same day all of your loan payments are due. You make a promise to someone--something that really means a lot--and you can't follow through with it. Perfectly fine people pass away in their sleep. It rains on the one day you need sunshine. Ticks creep from blades of grass onto a human body and bite.

But it makes no difference how trivial some things may seem to you. "Hard" is in the eye of the beholder. And whether he or she chooses to roll with it or wallow in it, you have to be there with your mental chanting, your hugs and your words--even if you hate the sound they make as they leave your mouth. I'm learning to stop beating myself up for this inadequacy. Sure, there are those with a gift of comforting others, having "the right words" to say, but that doesn't mean they can quell every fear, soothe every ache that stings deep down. There is always a private pain that you take with you into the shower, that you wear even after stripping off all of your clothing that no one can touch. And when someone you love is going through that, you make your own effort. You step outside of your own reach and find the strength to be there. To plug in the empty holes, to provide support where strength is wavering. And when your own resources are drained and you have nothing left, you pray God will give you the substance to hold on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mon Bourgogne

I went to France, once. (I took this picture there.) For a brief moment, I was a world traveler, traipsing through the streets of Paris covered in rain and layers of mismatched fabric. Strolling casually without direction in and out of the alleyways of Dijon. I rode trains on the weekends and slept in hostels on thin foam mattresses. Took luke-warm showers and dried my wet body off with the t-shirt I'd just slept in. Everything was simple. Getting up at 8 a.m. after a late night out was just another part of the fluid motion of my days there--long and lazy, beginning each morning with a cup of scalding Darjeeling tea.

There was an energy there, a magic there that scooped each of us out of our insides and left us cold and huddled together on street corners like rounded balls of glacee in a cone. Neopolitan flavored, full of color and life and too much sugar. We gorged on les baguettes et les pains au chocolat. We never felt guilty for all the things we ate. All the deserts. We shook our hips and moved to the rhythm of drum circles late into the night--refusing to stop when they would flash the lights on and off. Refusing to go home, instead chanting slured renditions of "je suis une artiste!" Refusing to remember when the buses stopped running, having to walk the miles and miles home on many late nights--two hazy silhouettes swaying silently together down a cobblestone street.

We spoke le francais with impeccable accents--some better than others. We wore sunglasses on sunny, hungover mornings to streetside cafes. We opened our eyes wide and saw each other. Sometimes we cried. We met in parks and chased pidgeons and told each other secrets. We sang "The Seed" by The Roots with dance moves to go along, and laid in the dark on our backs wishing that we would all still be there when the lights came back on. We ate strawberries and made plans to return, and then never to leave.

But then. We packed our bags and scrambled to find souvenirs for everyone we would return to in the states. We were quiet and distant from each other--preparing to detach after all of our weeks of intermingling. We became separate, single despite the stories we shared, the jokes we still laughed about--now alone in our varying ticket lines.

I still speak to myself in french a lot. I forget the things I saw, and then they come back to me in flashes so striking, causing my brain to derail on account of its forgetfulness. Now that you remember, don't forget, I tell myself. But I know I will, there's no stopping it. Like a long stream of melted ice cream slipping down your arm to your elbow, when there is nothing you can do but let it drip, dropping to the sidewalk below. Small globs of forgotten sweetness trailing behind you as you make your way alone into another cold night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pasta: It's What's for Dinner (and breakfast, and lunch, too!

compulsive, adjective, resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge.

For years, I've described my personality as compulsive--whether or not that is the appropriate word for it. All I know is that I fixate on things, dwell on things for too long. If I discover a song I like, I listen to it every chance I get. If I'm wondering about wedding photography
, I spend all day on the web researching. If I find that I love the way chicken salad tastes in a pita, I eat it every day for a month. I don't really ever get sick of these things, either. They just eventually fade upon the arrival of a new obsession, a new focus for my compulsion. Instead, I get really in to turkey sandwiches and soup, or I decide to sing along to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" on repeat instead of Feist's cover of "Inside and Out." (Have now returned to the later. I missed it. I'll listen to it 18 times between now and 5 o'clock.) I like "compulsive" because it suggests a lack of method to its little bit of madness.

But I only like it when I get to push "repeat." I don't like it when current life situation forces me to COMPULSIVELY eat pasta for every meal of the day. Or when it forces me to wear the same black sweater and black flats with holes in the toes to work everyday. And to take you on a drastic turn, I hate the feeling of dread I experience that every passing day only means it's one more giant red "X" on my grandmother's mental calendar. I can't stop thinking about how she must be ticking the days off like an old rusty alarm clock. Begging for one of the bent arms to suddenly snap off and stop moving forward. A silenced alarm. No "snooze" button. When I see her, despite her calm, I know she's wishing for toothpicks to prop her eyes open so she'll never have to sleep, never have to miss a moment of what little time she has left. I'd rather push "pause" or "fastforward" over these parts. Instead they play over and over again in slow motion, where all the faces become distorted with pain and meaningless arguments over what no one can (or will ever) remember.

And I'm left feeling tired and drained. Not hungry for pasta, or Jay-Z or even wedding planning. Empty and blank, just wishing that ticking clock would break.