Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Momento Mori

I went to a funeral today. For a dear friend, and also the mother of a dear friend and also the mother of a child I've, often, in the last six months, halfway thought of as my own, and also the wife of a gentleman I've worked closely with for a long time.
This lady was a spectacular human being, and it was an honor and a privilege to gather with others who loved her, from her family, to her friends, to her coworkers, and celebrate her life.
But one wonders, why do we as a culture deal with death the way we do? There was no part of this girl's being who wanted to join the procession to peer down into the coffin at the empty shell that used to contain the soul that is my friend. This empty shell, not only no longer contained her, but, after a long battle with cancer, didn't even resemble the bright, joyous sunflower that was my friend. And I walked, and I kept my head down, and I peeked, and I hope that my face showed nothing of what I was thinking.
I dug out my black slacks and I ironed them and I drove to the church and I waited a minute so I didn't have to walk in alone, but I sat alone in the back and I didn't cry. Honest. And I stood and I sang and I sat and I listened and I smiled, because it was nice to be able to think about my friend again. I think, for a long time, I haven't been thinking about her, not directly, not as a person and as my friend. There's been so much up and down and worry and fear, not so much my own as the people's around me, that it's been easier to just not think. Today, I thought, and I remembered, and it was sweet. And I shuffled and I peeked and I shuffled out and I hugged and I talked and I saw friends I haven't seen in ages and I ducked out before everyone could leave for the graveside. And I went to a funeral all by myself for someone my parents didn't know. My own mom's never done that. It's surreal.
Tomorrow, everyone will say it was a beautiful service. They'll talk about how many people came, how many people loved her. And then the rest of us will keep moving forward. Her family, they'll be a bit longer. I can't imagine the hurt they're going through right now.
And maybe that's the point of the pomp and circumstance we surround death with. Maybe it's all an attempt at closure and finality, a trying to attach meaning so something that can so often seem meaningless. It's for the family, so that they can have something that they have set behind them, even though they have to keep on carrying the pain of it.
I've talked with my dad on the subject at some length, in the last couple of days. And he spoke of overcoming his own aversion to funerals, of learning to view them as important, sobering, and significant.
Momento mori. It's Latin. Translated roughly, "Remember your mortality," or "Remember, all must die."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If I Could Just Focus OR On Dizziness

Only I would have a stomach virus my very first day off of work. My immune system sucks. And I haven't seen any of the others in days, and I don't have my cell phone anymore, so I can't text them to find out if anybody else is sick. And being sick makes it hard to enjoy your first few days of school, even though you should be having the time of your life. And it's possible that I've never felt so alone or isolated in my whole life. I miss my friends. I miss my kids. I miss being busy. I miss my job.
Daddy said (and voiced the inside of my head when he did) that maybe I wasn't actually sick - maybe it was just my body picking a ridiculous way to react to a violent change in circumstances - a kind of emotional toxic shock syndrome that my body didn't have a way to cope with.
It's hard to not feel directionless. To, after so long of not having time to ask questions, wonder why I'm doing anything and how it's all going to work out in the end. All of these feelings are things that need to be sorted through, identified, catalogued, and set aside. I need to have a nice long talk with my mom. I need to go out to dinner with my friends and remind myself that I'm still a person. I need to talk my little sister to go see a movie. I need to breathe. But right now, I just feel too tired and too out-of-phase to focus for a minute together and it's hard to make things make sense, and I'm hoping that it's just that I'm still a bit ill and everything'll be easier after another good night's sleep.
Right now, this girl is sitting in a Starbucks that smells more like motor oil than coffee. She's finished her studies for the day, and it's still a half an hour before she needs to walk across the street to after school program, and it's vertigo to be slipping out of my new world into my old, but here's to hoping that it'll keep me sane (and hoping that the vertigo isn't just still-not-recovered-from-a-day-worshipping-at-the-porcelein-altar dizziness). And it's kind of nice, just sitting here. There's so many other people here, some of them in groups and clusters, talking about life, some of them every bit as alone as I am, and none of them are questioning my right to be here. None of them have looked at me sideways. I'm sitting here with my overpriced iced tea and my macbook, come for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission. Breathing and listening to people breathe. And I'm going to fall into a rhythm and life is going to start making sense again and everything is going to be okay.

Also, I applied for a job at Starbucks. Actually at about six Starbuckses. And you'd think I would've heard back from one of them by now. This girl really needs a job.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On In-Betweens OR Did You Ever Notice that the Sky is All the Way to the Ground?

This girl's always been obsessed with horizons. With in-the-middles, with midnights and sunrises and sunsets and half-finisheds and works-in-progress. But now that she's got a couple of halfways and almosts of her own, she isn't having as much fun.
Tonight, I'm standing in the middle of the last year of my life (and the kids and the chaos and the My-God-is-So-Big and the buses and my director watching every move) and my forseeable future (and orientation and textbooks and webadvisor and professors and student IDs and I think I accidentally picked the dumb English class). And multiple hats in one day make the head spin and a foot in both worlds just feels torn in two.
And the lingering in the old is making me tired and antsy, and the fear of the new makes me want to drop anchor, and the feeling-bad-for-leaving gets worse when the boss pokes fun, but I read my syllabus and I'm just. so. excited.
And maybe I don't like in-betweens as much as I think I do.
But like I read yesterday on my favorite blog, it's the in-betweens where God's presence is found. It's in the present moment, between the sky and the ground, between yesterday and tomorrow. And it's the rushing-through and the looking-back that can unplug us from being Spirit-empowered, but now-living keeps us in tune with God. I'm trying to be grateful for each day as it comes.

We're having a revival this week. Three nights, kid's program, guest speakers, whole nine yards. Last night was the start, and we had all of the kids and none of the help and things got a wee bit crazy. They do that sometimes. I'm usually okay. Actually, I was okay tonight. We talked about Jesus and nobody got hurt. 100% success.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If the Wind Could Blow Through Me

Blow away everything that's adling my brain and spinning my head and making me sick, I maybe could think straight. Blow away the fact that my job is going away in a week, and with it my cell phone and my best link to the outside world. Blow away the fact that I think I've got an ear infection, but I know I don't have insurance to go and see a doctor and medicine for it. Blow away the fact that a dear dear friend is flying through next Monday, but if I want to see her, I have to ask for time off on my last week of work, and my boss is going to make a stink. If only the wind could blow straight through me, blow away the fears and the frustrations and the facts and only leave the excitement and the joy and the hope and the hunger. But I've stood out in the wind and caught nothing but a chill and lost nothing but time, and the world still feels like its spinning too fast. And I still need to register for classes and buy school books and find a job and now a cell phone plan and I still have to say hard goodbyes and be honest with some folks about some things I've been half-truthing about and figure out how I'm going to keep some promises I've made. And today maybe I'm wishing the wind would blow and take me away with it.

On Self

Because it's been the sense of self that's been hurting here lately. When my boss does my job for me or leaves me out of the loop on something, it feels like he doesn't trust me; when the other boss takes my presence for granted, makes me work through the flu and then doesn't give a flip what I do all day, it makes me feel underappreciated; when my friends make plans without me or don't offer the right kinds of comfort while I'm hurting, I wonder if they care about me or if they'll miss me when I'm gone; when the boy I thought was headed for something significant flirts with the wrong girl across the dinner table, I wonder if I'll ever have anything certain. But, contrariwise, when somebody spends all day trying to make me laugh, I feel significant; when my row at church fills up with kids just like my moms back in Carolina, I feel like I'm doing something right; and when I get to say that I absolutely have to go in on my day off, I feel important. See, all of these little uglinesses that sit on my heart and distract me, it is the sense of self, of the promotion and the preservation of self that makes me care what people say and think, care when things go the way of my dignity being preserved or the way of my name being dirt, or, worse, forgotten. This self-ness, sometimes, works to my favor. It makes me better at my job, it's why I work hard to know all the answers to all the questions, to always be in all of the places at all of the times, to forsee what will need doing and do it before it becomes pressing. Often, though, it works against me. Every bad mood I'm ever in is because something has happened that trod on the toes of that sense of self. Every time I'm acting like a spoiled child, it's because somebody ignored me or treated me poorly and my self-ness didn't like it. And, if we call it what it is, self-ness is selfishness and self-centeredness and self-serving. And yeah, we all do it, but that doesn't make it right or safe. And it's self keeps us at each other's necks trodding on each other's backs and rat-racing into the black. It's self lets us talk bad about each other and try too hard and hurt othe people. And if we could just lose the sense of self, it seems to me like everything else would fall into place after it.

Anybody else struggle with this? Or is it just me?