Sunday, March 29, 2015

R & R (Reading and Resting)

It's happened again.  I've lost more than a week of my life to serious illness.  I can't understand how a span of time can progress at such a tortuously slow pace, only to seem like a blink of an eye has skipped you ahead days or weeks from where you left off.  Now, I'm left limping and wheezing my way back to normal life and trying to find order amidst the chaos that sickness has made of my schedule and plans.  Papers all graded?  Lessons planned out?  Laundry caught up?  Ha. ha. ha.

The good news is that I've had help -- dear friends to care for my child while I was carted off to the hospital via rickety ambulance, parents who fly great distances to do my laundry and chauffeur me to doctor's appointments.  Of course, the appointments lead nowhere, as is too often the case.  More pokes, more blood, more meds, but no answers.

I am looking forward to getting back to my class.  We lost a whole week due to my illness, and I'm anxious to make up for lost time.  I'm especially looking forward to the following week when I have spring break and Kiddo goes back to school (her spring break is this week.)  That means a whole week where she goes off to pre-school every morning, and I can finally get some writing (and let's be realistic) some grading done. I'm less excited about the grading.  Mostly, though, it will just be a lovely time of being alone in my own house every morning.  I'm really excited about that.

One of the worst parts of being really sick is that you can reach a point where you're too sick to read. (Hard to imagine, but it happens.)  So, I started Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant just as I was coming down with this loveliness, and then I stalled out on a slow start that wasn't helped by my slowly simmering brain.  I'm glad to say, though, that as I have started to feel better and picked the book back up, it has gotten better.  It's definitely different from anything else he's ever written (understatement), but so far, it doesn't seem to be that revolutionary a fantasy novel, with its Arthurian quest storyline and slightly removed, nearly comical narration (think Princess Bride's narrator, only more serious.)  So, I'm enjoying it, but mostly I'm excited about finishing it so I can read All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, which is burning a hole in my bookshelf.

Well, that's all I've got for now.  I've got a book to read and a bed to hold down.  Tomorrow it's back to serious class prep, and Tuesday, it's back to work.  You'll know me when you see me.  I'll be the girl in the bubble.  Seriously, please don't breathe on me.  Just don't.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Making Peace

I don't think of myself as a peaceful person.  A happy person?  A content person?  I try.  A kind person? I probably miss the mark on that more often than I care to admit.  But mostly, I am a seething mass of anxieties and frustrations, guilt and sometimes anger.  Maybe I'm not any more fraught with negative emotions than anybody else.  Nearly all of us put on a smooth, still mask in public to cover the roiling emotions within.  And yet, these days I keep feeling a call to peace.

I am an anxious person by nature.  I worry.  I analyze.  I replay humiliations on a loop in my head, hoping that repeated viewings will reduce the sting.  Not surprisingly, that doesn't work.  An orderly life filled with calm routine is my ideal, but these days it's unlikely to be my reality.  More often than not, my days are that's-not-the-right-foot-get-that-out-of-your-mouth-why-aren't-you-eating-a-few-more-papers-to-grade-just-let-me-read-one-more-book with no reasonable expectation of sanity.  So really, is a desire for peace so surprising?

In our house, peace has come to equal "quiet" and "alone."  Kiddo has learned that to allow Mommy to do something "in peace" means she makes herself scarce while I do something exciting like use the bathroom and scoop the litter box.  Peace is what the cat wants when he flees to the one room in the house where our giant dog can't hassle him.

Yes, please.

But peace is more than the absence of a thing.  No sound, no hurry, no distractions.  Peace isn't always something that waits for you in the quiet spaces.  Those little pockets of solitude in our days can be stressful and anxiety-inducing as we recite lists and obligations, mark down schedules and plan meals.  A few minutes of mindless television can turn into the least peaceful part of the day as a parade of horrors plays on the news, or a program or movie slips into familiar territories of violence, bigotry, and misogyny.

Sometimes we have to actively make peace.

I'm talking about more than turning off the TV and setting aside the to-do lists.  For me, so much about making peace in my life is about intentionally setting aside anger and remembering to what I am called.  My life is to be modeled after Jesus' life, and he was the ultimate peacemaker.  If Jesus had a car, his rear window and bumper wouldn't be crowded with stickers endorsing divisive partisan politics.  There wouldn't be a pithy endorsement of gun rights with a warning about what sort of weapon is protecting the vehicle.  He wouldn't be on social media rejoicing in the violent deaths of anyone, regardless of their histories or crimes. I believe he would weep just as much over the US, with its delusions of exceptionality, as he would over any conflict-riddled place on earth.  He would mourn the brokenness of this world, but he would still love the people in it.  And that love would cross lines of race, politics, sexual orientation, and religion.

Peace has been shadowing me for weeks.  Sunday's sermon? Peace.  Two beautiful books I recently read?  So much about peace.  This is about so much more than my nightly escape to a solitary bath and some one-on-one time with my Netflix subscription.  This is about that unconditional, unwavering love that makes everything else insignificant and small.  This is about living a lifestyle of peace.  Yes, even for that guy in the Mazda who couldn't wait in line like everybody else and cut me off at the exit to 385.  I've got to wish him peace as well.  And the people who post articles to social media that make my blood boil.  There is righteous anger, and there is just wanting to be right.  In scripture, Jesus' anger is laser-targeted and brief.  It's one short episode in a story full of love and peace.  He experienced righteous anger, but Jesus wasn't angry.  But I am.  A lot.

Such is the paradox of peace.  We live in a flawed and flailing world full of injustices that we must not blindly accept as "just the way things are."  And yet, in the midst of our shouting down evil, we must maintain our central message of love.  We are to be a peaceful people, uncorrupted by the violence and vitriol of the world.  It's a balancing act, one that doesn't always lend itself to peaceful feelings.  Even so, from the center of my hectic, messy life to yours, I wish you peace.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Stay Married Forever While Maintaining That Spark While Parenting and Balancing Your Work/Home Life While Reciting the Alphabet Backwards on One Foot.

Lately, I've been seeing another burst of marriage related posts/blog on Facebook.  Everyone, it seems, has the perfect advice on how to choose a mate, divorce-proof your marriage, and keep that spark while raising a herd of children, all full of absurd generalizations and ridiculously impractical tips.  Well, I've been married twice, the second time for 12+ years, and I think I'm a bit of a marriage expert.  Yes, I know all the ins and outs of being (and staying) me.

Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Stay Married to ME:

#1 - Separate sinks.  I am an only child.  For my entire school career, no teacher ever wrote, "Plays well with others," on my report card.  And also, people are gross.  Husbands are no exception.  Spit on the mirror, water stains on the faucet, toothpaste in the sink.  Whether it be bathrooms on opposite ends of the apartment or dual sinks in the same master bath, this little bit of porcelain and pipe is all it takes to keep me happy in the bathroom.  That and don't ever use my towel.  Ever.

#2 - Separate sides of the bed.  Beds may be for more than sleeping, but once it's time to go to dreamland, you better not cross that invisible line that divides his from hers.  There is nothing that cools my ardor faster than your hot, hairy arm draped over my side.  And don't ever put your head on my pillow.  Just don't.

But if you ever bring home these pillowcases, I'm out.

#3 - Shoes and clothes live in the closet/drawers.  I cannot live in chaos.  And I'm not the maid.  If it's not on your body, it better be put away or in the hamper.  (And lest anyone feel too terribly sorry for my better half, it's worth nothing that I do ALL the laundry, including folding and putting the clean stuff away. So this is not a terrible burden I am demanding.)

#4 - There will be many books in the house.  And I will spend significant amounts of time reading them.  And I don't look kindly on people who come into the room where I am lost in a book and ask me if I'm reading.  I will answer said inquiries in the manner which they deserve.

#5 - Don't channel surf while I'm in the room.  Fortunately, our relatively recent decision to "cut the cord" has mostly eliminated this issue.  Though technically, I could probably write a whole blog post about the endless Netflix speed surfing that goes on in our house.

#6 - Separate TVs.  I'm all for togetherness and bonding over an episode of The Walking Dead and a bowl of popcorn (actually, I don't share bowls of popcorn well either), but there are times when I need to watch Downton Abbey without your mocking comments, or to have a 100th viewing of Bringing Up Baby.  In those times, I will retreat to the bedroom and indulge in this fine programming.  Husbands must not be offended, and in fact, are encouraged to use said free time to indulge in all the sports programming they can, as I also do not watch sports.

#7 - There will be cats.  Always.

Hopefully, these dueling kittens.

#8 - I don't do outdoors.  This applies to picnics, camping, hiking, and/or any other activity that might involve sweating, bugs, or peeing anywhere other than a bathroom.  If there are any questions on this item, just ask my husband about the picnic or the camping trip.  There was only one of each.

#9 - I love it when a plan comes together.  I'm not a fly-by-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal (in case this list didn't already make that clear.)  I like to know what to expect and make preparations accordingly. Having a child and adjusting to severe diet restrictions have not lessened this trait.  I need to know that there will be a (safe) place to eat and clean bathroom nearby.  Where I'll be sleeping and when also need to be established early on.  I'm super fun on trips.

#10 - I need my space.  The good news is that after you're good and sick of my all requirements, you can simmer in solitude because I like to be alone.  A lot.  I may love you with every fiber of my being, but those fibers needs a little breathing room on a daily basis or they get cranky.  I hate cranky fibers.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Enough for Today

I'm writing today during a break in grading papers at the local Barnes & Noble cafe, aka the slowest internet in the county.  My earl grey is cold now, and the caffeine has already worked its way out of my system.  It's gray and misty outside, and I'm sleepy (a condition not helped by the fact that I'm grading the dreaded persuasive essay.)  Still, I am grateful for the mostly uninterrupted work time, even if I do have to keep turning up my headphones to drown out the two elderly gentlemen playing Point/Counterpoint next to me.  Part of me is imagining future Steve in a cashmere sweater vest and tassled loafers destroying their arguments over a black coffee, and then after a dramatic mic drop, heading out for a game of golf (still wearing the cashmere sweater vest but sans the tassled loafers.) Pretty sure he'd go for that vision today.

After another hectic bout of sickness, I seemed to have settled back into a semi-healthy routine over the past week.  So grateful for a weekend of nothing special with my family.  Sickness is so intensely personal, so solitary, that someone who already tends toward solitude can fall into a trap of isolation, huddling in my room with my books and quiet while everyone else keeps on living.  This weekend, I made a concerted effort to leave the house (together), to wander, to watch stupid kids movies, to not have a plan, to feel a part of the family unit and not just the troublesome accommodation that has to be made.

Chronic illness is lonely in a way that is difficult to explain to someone who has never lived inside it. No matter how many people care about you, no matter how many family members lovingly provide for you, illness is something you experience alone.  You are the one who can't just take off and do something spontaneous.  You are the one who can't be in the sun, or eat in restaurants, or climb stairs. Nobody else is exhausted by a short outing.  Everyone else is accommodating you (or not.)  You're an outsider in your own healthy, able-bodied family.  Their willingness to make adjustments for you only highlights their daily sacrifice on your behalf.  Some days, you're so grateful for their love and acceptance, and some days, you're just so sick of being the person that requires so much special attention.  Some days, you just want to be invisible, to have a camouflage of able-bodiedness.  

I long for a life that requires no explanation.  I'm tired of exceptions and accommodations and explanations and discussions.  I know everyone has their own issues, their own thing that makes them different or an outsider.  But somedays, I can't decide whether I wish my own pain and illness were either more visible or less.  If I wore a sign that listed my limitations, would it eliminate pointless conversations/explanations or simply become my label/identity?  Believe it or not, I have more interesting things to add to a conversation than yet another discussion of my dietary restrictions or my latest diagnosis.  And yet, I understand and even appreciate the sentiment.  Having people love and care for you, to ask questions about you is important and meaningful and beautiful, but for some reason, I can't really pinpoint, it frequently leaves me feeling more isolated instead of less.  It's a puzzle.

But for this weekend, I am grateful.  For a day-long Saturday outing that didn't require going home to nap/rest.  For a safe place to eat.  For a little girl who finds joy in having a parent at the end of each hand as she scurries across the street.  For a man who constantly searches my face for signs of fatigue or pain.  For a church family whose Sunday mornings always leave me feeling lighter and loved. For today, that is enough.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back from the Dead (Mostly)

So I dropped of the face of the earth for a week.  I have an excuse: I was dying.  Or at least, I was wishing I could.  Worst virus ever.  On the good news side, I did have a fuzzy, warm body nearby to keep me toasty through fever and chills.

We call this "pike" position.  Very Greg Louganis of you, Oscar.

I seem to be returning to the land of the living, however, courtesy of a really spectacular shot from my friendly urgent care doctor, and I am once again parenting, teaching, writing, and digging my way out from under the mountain of laundry that accumulated during my convalescence.  We all have clean underwear at least, so I'm calling that a domestic win.  

Don't have time for a long and juicy post today, so I'll just update you on what I'm reading.  Still plowing through 1Q84.  Okay, maybe plowing is a poor word choice.  It's really good; it's just really, really long.  A couple of my library reserves came in, and they are only 14-day checkouts, so Murakami had to go on hold for a few days.  The two books are Find Me, by Laura van den Berg, and 10:04, by Ben Lerner.  

I'm reading the Laura van den Berg first.  I met her once, and she was really wonderful, so I was excited to read her first novel (I already own one of her short story collections.)  So far, it does not disappoint.  I just picked it up yesterday afternoon, and I'm already half-way through.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it leaves Station Eleven (a book with similar subject matter that got raves last year) in the dust.  Can't wait to finish it tonight.  

For now, it's time to go pick up Kiddo from preschool, grade some papers, and do some more laundry.  I'd make some snarky comment about the exciting nature of my life, but I'm just happy so not to be throwing up that I can't find it in myself to complain.