Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weathering the Gourd Face

Tuesday, I had four wisdom teeth removed.

The doctor said it "went well" and I should be "up and ready to be off pain meds by Friday."

Lies.

It's Friday and my face has only grown increasingly in size. Mostly on the left side. It's all out of proportion. It got to the point where I was so distressed that I grew nauseous whenever I saw my face in the mirror.

Needless to say, I've been avoiding the bathroom. And other reflective surfaces.

I look something similar to these vegetables:


Mostly the one on the right. Hannah posted on facebook: "I can be your friend/ if your face is puffed or yellow/ we can have fun/ I'll share my jelloooo!"


However, I've found some solid things that are helping me get through the messiness.

  • My dad. Pretty much a clutch decision to come home rather than get the teeth removed in SC. He's been amazing. Getting me food, making pancakes and milkshakes, waking up at 3am to deal with me crying, waking up at 3am to make sure I take my antibiotics, taking me to the dentist right at 8am to get prescriptions, etc.
  • Sleeping upright.
  • Pain meds. As I said in the midst of the kidney stone, I am no stoic when it comes to pain.
  • Card games dictated by Isaac's crazy rules.
  • Netflix: Monk, Lark Rise to Candleford, Downton Abbey, Dr. Who, and more.
  • Ballroom videos. Not of me. Mostly of Seth and Ali, Diego and Cherry, and Vaughn and Laura. They get my mind off of myself with the greatest ease.
  • It's hard to read on pain meds. Nothing makes sense. But dad has read outloud to me which was helpful. I've liked that.
  • Naps. Lots and lots of naps.






Monday, October 17, 2011

Grief


No one teaches you how to grieve. But we learn anyway. We learn what to do by watching, what to do to help things heal faster or better.

No one learns grief very well.

 ***

My friend Kelly lost her horse last Friday. It was injured and had to be put down. She came over to my house on Sunday. She was cried out, dry-eyed. I gave her potted flowers and a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. She said, "It's funny how I don't really feel like eating anymore but I still feel better after I eat. I didn't know I needed to." She did cry when she told me the story. I cried too.

See, the horse was not just a horse. It was her best friend. This occupation and interest and friendship started when she was 12 and saw her through the worst of her parent's divorce. When she lost Oakie, it was like that pain was somehow no longer bearable anymore. It could possibly even be like loosing parents again.

She's a teacher and felt like she couldn't call off work. "No one would understand me calling off for a horse."


We have too small an understanding of grief. We don't have a way to allow it in each other if it seems absurd to call off work for something like this. Instead, life is forced to mush on. Divorce, break ups, stage of life changes, friendships ending: they don't count as family emergencies. How does one explain to a professor that a paper was late because you spent the week in turmoil over your significant other and broke up with him at midnight that night before? Is that an excuse? Can that be accepted? Is that someone trying to get out of necessary work?

***

Loss comes in many forms, not only death. The process of grieving those things makes no sense to me.

People seem really unstable in grief. It comes in circles like getting stuck in a long wave heading towards shore. You feel fine when things are at their worst. You feel like hell in your whole body and scream and weep when the most insignificant and unrelated thing goes wrong. You feel fine when you should be upset and you are upset when you should be fine. No one can see it coming and neither can you. It comes and goes. You think you are done and then you aren't.

Some things, I would imagine, are never quite done being grieved.

How is it supposed to be done, the loss of the intangibles, the things for which no one gets a day off? May I wear black for 40 days in memory of my parent's marriage? But no one even wears black anymore after someone's death. May I wear sackcloth and ashes? Someone would call me depressed. But would it have been better for me to tear my hair out and wail over this loss than to hold it tightly as if holding vinegar and baking soda with my hands in a fragile porcelain vase?

Marriages don't get funerals. I almost wish they did.

***

But then, there is an upside to this. Life keeps going. Perhaps this is a grace. There are things like horses still to be tended, stalls to be mucked, jobs to do. It can't end yet. For me, I still need to show up to dance class and work out my helplessness by controlling my body to music. It keeps going and carries us with it.

 I wish life would give more space to the weary and broken hearted. I wish we were better at saying something, at bringing food, at carrying each other through grief and not assuming that somehow, someway, that person who is grieving the death of something that never died will somehow make it alone.

But I wish there was something, sackcloth and ashes, Job scrapping pottery over his broken skin, anything to physically mark the change, to enact the death.

How else am I supposed to find life on the other side?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Four is Company

I've had several posts in the works (several once again inspired by Anjali). Instead, I feel compelled to update you on my status: tired, caffeine deprived, waiting in the Philly airport for a flight to Dallas, TX. I'm heading there with my two staff leaders Steve Lutz and Erica Reitz AND Stac Sublett (pastor for Midtown Gathering at Calvary). It's a thing called "Leadership Network" for two days of brainstorming and planning with 30 other college ministers. Should be cool.

I'm enjoying travelling in a group. Having done the whole Fly Alone thing, I find the pleasure of having someone to watch my bag while I get breakfast and chat with as we go. It's been highly entertaining as well. What do campus ministers talk about when travelling in a group? Apparently, the primary conversation starter is "What would you do if the world as we knew it came to an end?" (ala Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King). Hysterical. Oh and who would act as us if someone made a movie about our staff team.

Really nothing else interesting to add. It's an airport. Lots of good dancing space and no one to dance with. Oh, and I had soup for breakfast. Sweet and spicy pumpkin soup with a baguette. Excellent. I don't know why I've never had soup for breakfast before!

Yours Truly,
Dana

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Burrowes Wandering

Tuesdays are caffeine days. It became this way six weeks ago with the first Monday Night Elements Gathering that I helped make happen. Lots of conversations, a bit overwhelmed: Dana doesn't go to sleep right away. Tuesdays are the days I drag myself out of bed in a fog, use two earl grey tea bags in a very large mug of hot water, and complain in slurred speech to my co-worker Dave about the heat/cold and the repetitiveness that are excel sheets. This is what happens when I can't sleep till well past midnight but have to get up at 7:30 anyway.

I'm finding ways to make Tuesdays bearable. Two weeks ago, LaVerne (boss and editor for Hemingway Letters) took us on a mandatory jaunt to MacKinnons for Starbucks coffee. It helped. Last week I played upbeat music and listened to sermons. This week, I took what LaVerne calls the "Scholar Walking Break". My hands were cold though (no heat inside, no heat outside), so I stayed indoors and wandered Burrowes Building with a book in hand.

Reading while walking gives a unique perspective. I got to watch people and offices out of the corner of my eye. I look up every half sentence to see where I am about to step. And in Burrowes, that is important because the stairs are a labyrinth.

Today was the first time I've been above the second floor. I've never been required to. I don't think I realized that there were floors above the level I can see when I enter the second floor from the main hallway. My professor visits were always in the basement or somewhere close by. Never the 3rd of 4th floors. It is a different world up there. The smaller departments are housed in high up corners of the building. First observation: lots of languages being spoken. Grad students, professors, and students are conversing not in English. And the way the offices are decorated are a lot less "I am attempting to look like a studious English major" and more like "I travel a lot and that's really cool." There is also a feel that fewer people end up in those hallways if they don't live there, making conversation in hallways and through open office doors more feasible and comfortable. Down in the lower levels I frequent, doors are shut to keep students from constantly stopping in with the question "Do you know where Professor so-and-so's office is?" And no one marks the fliers departmental grad student jokes with black sharpie.

I'm thinking I've found a consistent way to survive Tuesday mornings.