Saturday, May 25, 2013

I May Be Going Mad, or Maybe Someone Just Messed With the Presets on My Radio

     I remember learning a few years ago from some supportive colleagues that grief messes with your attention span.  When my Dad, Sir died, I was unable to read a book for almost a year.  I couldn't get past a few paragraphs before I was distracted.  I'm struggling with that again.  Last week, I found myself skimming the newspaper, because the articles were too long for my wandering mind. Sigh.  At least I know now that it's "normal."

     The flip side of that is the delightful way a turn of a phrase, or worse, the chorus of a song gets stuck in my head and plays on repeat.  I'm not talking about the everyday earworm of a song that gets stuck in your head.  This is a very loud, repetitive drone that edges out more productive thought.  And thanks to an errant push of the scan button on the car radio, I am slowly being pushed into madness by Paul McCartney's 1979 gem  "Goodnight Tonight."  Why, oh why did Paul McCartney experiment with disco?!  " can say anything, but don't say goodnight tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight...."

   I'm not going down without a fight, though.  There is no way that synthesizer special effects and the chipper pleading of Macca are taking me out.  Not this time.

    I went to Newport yesterday for work.  The entire island was fogged in and the seas were very violent.  The wind carried an overpowering, but not entirely unpleasant, briny smell.  The angry, disjointed rhythm of the surf crashing against the rocks at Breton Point was jarring.  To my relief, I found the scene hauntingly beautiful.

     See, for my entire life I have sought solace in the sea when I've found myself in distress.  Only the sea is responsible for my grief.  So, I've been at a real loss for ways to cope.  Two weeks ago, I tried to walk "my beach."  It was a beautiful day.  I sat in the car for 15 minutes before I decided that I wasn't ready.  I drove away without another glance.

     I spent last weekend in Plymouth (yes, the one with the Pilgrims) at a conference.  It took me the entire weekend before I could even look at the water--and I was in a hotel that overlooked the harbor.  Sunday morning, though, I finally ventured out.

      It was an absolutely beautiful day. Sunny and warm with a gentle breeze.  I was a wreck, though.  The entire weekend, I was out of sorts.  I had hoped that spending the weekend with friends and colleagues who weren't as sad as I am would help.  They were wonderful and supportive.  There were moments of hilarity that lifted my spirits.  It wasn't the weekend I wanted to have, though.  And I spent almost the entire time on the verge of tears.  It was in this state that I found myself, miserable, sitting on a bench at the Coast Guard Auxiliary's station.

     The most notable feature of Plymouth Harbor is the 3500 foot long breakwater that protects the moored fishing boats and small sailboats from the Atlantic.  I love jetties.  Many of my best memories are linked to time spent on rocks jutting into the sea.  For my entire life, I've run surefooted and fearlessly across them.  

Until last Sunday.

    I was afraid.  I found myself watching every step.  Grabbing the guide wire.  Waiting for people to pass before moving on.  Sticking to the biggest and flattest stones.

 It. Was. Awful.
      And that's when my upbringing kicked in at its fiercest.  I got angry.  Angry that I was afraid.  Angry that I couldn't control that.  Angry that I couldn't control anything.  And, yes, angry that Evelyn and David are gone.

      And I aruged, with whom I'm still not sure--myself?  The Atlantic?  God?  As I argued, I kept walking.  Suddenly, I'm not looking at my feet anymore.  Suddenly, I'm not scared.  Suddenly, I'm at the end of the jetty.  The ocean didn't care.  Not a bit.  It just is.  And I found that oddly comforting.

I'm still not okay with any of this.  I'm good enough though. The ocean didn't beat me.  

There's no way Paul McCartney will. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Do

     Last month, during my final week in Rwanda, the Evil Genius was on school vacation.  That Monday, those two twisted brothers planted homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  My Personal Chef's office is within a few blocks of there.  Our home is within an hour of there.  Needless to say, it was a rather stressful week for my family.  The high emotions culminated on that Friday night.  While my group was flying from Africa towards the US, the bombers went on their internationally televised rampage, finally ending with one brother being killed and the other captured only hours before we landed.
    Because of the tension of that week, my son frittered his vacation away in front of screens.  No bike rides across town, no pick up basketball games at the park, no climbing rocks at the gorge, no trips to the ice cream shop or library, no hanging out with his neighborhood friends... nothing but sucking his brains out through his eyeballs going from the computer to video games to the tv.

   " Life is too short to suck your brains out," I told him.  So we started talking about fun things we like to do. We talked about fun things we used to do, but haven't for a long time. We talked about how there was no good reason that we didn't do those fun things.  And in no time, it evolved into a  list.  Now it's a work in progress that we are calling the Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List.  It's been shared with the rest of the FabFam who have all chimed in their own ideas.  This past weekend, as my circle gathered to mourn the loss of our two dear friends, I told them about the list. We laughed.  We cried.  We laughed until we cried.  And we added more ideas to the list.

     And then this morning I read this:  Are We Having Fun Yet?  Lisa Rosenberg over at Smacksy has been right up there at the top of my blogger crushes for a while now.  And here she is confessing that she is as lame as I am?  Well, damn, if she and her friends need help having fun, then I don't feel so alone.
    In fact, I bet there are a lot of us out there who are scaling the mountain of laundry, but haven't made it to REAL mountains in a long time.  Or went on an actual date, because, no, going to the grocery store together is NOT a date.  Not even if you are married to a chef.

So, here is a sampling from my FabFam's list to help inspire you and yours to make your own fun:

1. See every minor league baseball team in New England play a game.
2. Start a "watershed moment"* wine collection with at least 5 bottles of great wine.
3. Take the Boston Duck Tour.
4. Start a garden gnome collection.
5. Have a meteor watching party on the beach during the Perseids this August.
6. Go zip lining.
7. Buy cowboy boots.
8. Take the kayaks on the ocean this year.
9.  Build and fly a really beautiful kite.
10. Sleep on a boat.
11. Skydive, because my Personal Chef promised he would.
12. Take the kids' to Niagara Falls.  Because apparently, the Evil Genius has ALWAYS wanted to go there.
13. Visit all those "we've got to get together soon" friends.
14.  Have professional family pictures taken.
15. Make gallons of bubble stuff and go crazy with giant bubble making bubble wands.

Right now, our Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List has over 50 items on it.  Someone adds to it every day.  There are even dates scheduled for more than a dozen of them.  I'll be sure to share some of our stories.  I'd love to hear yours, too.  How are YOU going to make this the Official Summer of Awesomeness?

*wine that we set aside for toasting milestones and other great moments in the upcoming weeks, months, years such as Thing 1's acceptance in pharmacy college, Thing 2 starts his first job, the Evil Genius makes his first outfield hit, etc.


Friday, May 10, 2013

     Yesterday, the beautiful and terrible Atlantic Ocean claimed the lives of two of my closest friends, while a third dear, dear friend, watched helplessly.

  And after writing that sentence on Monday, my words just dried up.  I have not been able to write, speak, or even think.  It's been an awful week, filled with phone calls that nobody wants to receive, and a To Do list filled with items nobody wants to have to do. I have literally "worked" my way through these past four days by staying too busy to stop too long to have to think too much.

  I grew up in a family that values stoicism over almost all other "virtues."  It is ingrained in me to not show emotion, not "make a fuss," as my Nana would say.  So I haven't.  I've prepared meals, made phone calls, run errands, gathered photos, and otherwise been practical and useful.  For a few more days, while there are still public gatherings to attend, I'll appear to remain "together."  And then I won't be.

     Unlike the generations that went before me, I'm okay with that.  Well, I'm not okay with any of this.  And that's the point.  None of this is okay. It is awful.  Simply awful.  I'm supposed to feel awful.  Which is good, because I do. I am heart sick. And I'm going to be for a long time.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sorry for Leaving You Hanging

     I didn't intend to fall off the face of the earth.  I didn't intend to raise all kinds of questions and then not answer them.  I didn't intend on April unfolding the way it has.

     This year's trip to Rwanda was challenging, difficult, wonderful, eye-opening, unsettling, life-affirming and life-changing.  I'm already looking forward to my next trip to the Land of a Thousand Hills.  And that astounds me.  Two years ago, I would never have imagined that I'd actually be going to Africa.  That I've since been twice and even my family assumes that I'll be returning again?  Simply amazing to me.

     I don't know why I haven't posted in over a month.  While I was still in Rwanda, I was definitely up against time and technology constraints.  I had the Global Citizens blog to keep up, and a weekly column for my local newspaper to submit. Since I've been home, I have sat down to write several times.  This morning I deleted multiple draft blog posts that just fell flat.

     Perhaps I've just been jet lagged.  Perhaps I have been unable to articulate what I've experienced and felt.  Perhaps writing about a student trip halfway around the world while the Boston Marathon bombing drama is unfolding here at home feels inappropriate.  Perhaps the world spins just a bit too quickly and there are already new, more current things I feel like I should be writing about.

     Whatever the reason, I'm back now.  Time for me to put some thoughts to the page.