Took a trip to the local zoo today. They've revamped it quite a bit since the last time I was there. The exhibits have been significantly improved, with more space and more interesting features for all the creatures. As a bonus, the day was cool and overcast, and the zoo was not at all crowded. It was nice.
Having a migraine is, in many ways, much like having an internal Dementor. In addition to the feeling of having one's brain squashed, there is also the unfortunate side-effect of having to revisit terrible memories: sad thoughts and angry ones; moments of loss and of impotent rage and of abandonment; hard times. Only with a bit of luck can escape be found in sleep. Even then, though, dreams are haunted.
My migraine Dementor, which makes an appearance far more often than I would like, enjoys occasionally revisiting The Task of the Bar Exam. Not the taking of the exam itself, though: that was such a highly focused moment, with organization of tasks and quick analysis and regurgitation of appropriate law, that it is difficult to remember it precisely. Rather, the migraine Dementor likes to contemplate the aftermath: driving the car homeward for six hours on an endless open stretch of highway, with ample time to wonder if the right bells were rung, if the proper answers were chosen. Contemplating the six months of preparation, including the ten-week preparatory course with the ten-hour-per-day studying goals. Remembering the questions, and wondering if the answers were sufficient. Finally allowing all the emotions -- that were so carefully suppressed during the preparation and the exam -- to leak out.
The open-mouthed scream that naught but the signposts by the side of the road could hear.
The only way to tackle a Dementor, we know, is to conjure a Patronus. Although traditionally a happy memory is used to conjure a Patronus, I have found that mere happiness is insufficient to banish this particular Dementor. Instead, I use moments of intensity -- hellos and goodbyes with those closest to me, both ancient occasions and recent ones. There may be happiness in greetings, and sorrow in farewells, but the emotions are much more intricate than that: there is hope and joy and sorrow, wishes and dreams and plans and memories, all bundled together. Only the strength and complexity of such remembrances can generate a shield against such a formidable Dementor.
It does work.
Perhaps Dumbledore was right: it is love that saves us.
You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!" said Dumbledore loudly. -- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
Offspring the Third is no longer a teenager: he turns twenty today.
He is a tender-hearted, thoughtful and understanding young man. He is kind and helpful. He roots for the underdog. He is supportive of individuals of all walks of life, orientations, colors, and genders. He is a good listener. He is truly a lovely human being.
I hope the future brings you all wonderful things, Offspring the Third. Remember you are loved, always.
Yesterday on the 7th of December, I thought to myself, it has been four years now since Cherished Friend moved to a different corner of the desert. I checked back here in the blog to see what was written then, to discover that the day I went to his house at the crack of dawn to wave goodbye was, in fact, the 6th of December.
I am glad that the precise day is not fixed in my mind: that tells me that his move was not, in fact, so terrible as to be etched painfully on my mental calendar. I do not dread the anniversary of the day, because it was not an ending, as it could have been.
Maintaining any kind of relationship with another human being, over space and time with sporadic in-person interaction, is not a challenge for the faint of heart. It takes patience, perseverance and effort. An understanding of silence. Communication. Reciprocation. A willingness to try. Kudos to Cherished Friend, for taking the time to sustain our friendship over the miles and the years.
And more: knowing that he is an inherently solitary individual with a rather Vulcan-like stoicism, I am well aware of what it must cost him. It has no doubt been a challenge, given his temperament, to meet me in the middle the way he has. I am grateful for his efforts. He is a Good Man, and my life is better for his presence. When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
A few days after I'd given her aquarium a thorough cleaning (there was a visible amount of detritus among the decorative rocks at the bottom of her aquarium, and I thought she would benefit from a cleaner environment), she started looking funny. Swimming funny. No longer interested in food.
I did some research. It appeared that perhaps she was suffering from swim bladder disease; the treatment was a few days of fasting. That did not seem to be a problem, as she was disinterested in food to begin with. I let her be, kept an eye on her, made sure she could reach the top of her habitat for air, and so forth.
She didn't improve. Instead, she died.
Part of me will always wonder whether I did something wrong. I followed the 24-hour rule for allowing new water to equilibrate to room temperature; I used water conditioning drops; I fed her. I made sure she had gentle aeration and I changed her filter. I did my best. The truth of the matter may be, though, that I do not truly understand fish, and I inadvertently hastened her demise. I feel guilty. And think that I should not, for now, attempt to nurture more fish.
I do better with mammals. I should stick to them. Or perhaps just not get any more pets right now, because I cannot bear the thought of becoming attached to a new creature, knowing that it will inevitably go the way of all small creatures. My heart cannot withstand it.
I couldn't bear to flush Ruth. I put her in a tiny box and buried her under the tree in the yard. I put the little artificial log that had floated in her aquarium above her to mark the spot.
Godspeed, Ruth. I am sorry our time was so short together. Thank you for your brief, shining presence.
It's quite catchy. It's a young woman's song, though: a song for women who are pursued, and are disinterested. I am not sure I have, in fact, ever been in a position to tell a persistent suitor to leave me alone -- it's been a very very long time since I was pursued.
Call me beautiful, so original Telling me I'm not like other girls I was in my zone before you came along Now I'm thinking maybe you should go....
My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no You need to let it go, you need to let it go
At first, the last verse of the song didn't seem quite right in context:
Thanksgiving has come and gone. It was heart-filling to have Beloved Husband, all the Offspring (plus bonus boyfriend of Offspring the First), my wonderful in-laws, and Cherished Friend around the table. It's so rare that I have so many of my favorite people in the same room. Lovely.
In the blink of an eye, everyone has dispersed back to their respective lives. I am left with the leftovers, alone with my thoughts as I contemplate how much I miss having them here, knowing that while they are under my roof, they are safe and warm and protected. I cannot shelter them from the slings and arrows of life, but I can do my best to make sure they are well and content while they are here.
We're quite close to the beginning of Holiday Season now: it kicks off with Thanksgiving in just a couple of days, and marches through the end of November into December, all the way to Christmas and then to New Year's Eve, trailing to quiet end at the beginning of January. It's a lot of activity for under six weeks.
There are many things I enjoy about this Season: cooking a big meal; finding just the right gift for someone; twinkling lights, evergreens, and bows from the presents stuck all over the dog. There is one tricky aspect of the season, though: all the hugging.
I would like to be a huggy person: the type of person who is comfortable with hugging, patting, casually offering affection in the form of touch to those around them. I am stifled, though, by two factors: a concern that certain people around me are most decidedly not huggy people in general, and a subtler, yet more problematic, concern that people do not want to be touche by me in particular.
I'm quite aware of this issue because I only like to be touched by certain people, and even then, it varies whether am comfortable if I initiate the contact, or whether I prefer the other person to do so. I don't want to intrude on the physical space of those who prefer to have a larger personal space bubble, and want to give them the opportunity to initiate contact if they are interested, and not to do so if they would prefer so.
In addition, there are also specific people by whom I prefer not to be touched at all, even though social convention requires that we exchange polite brief physical contact. And I find myself wondering, are there people who feel the same way about me -- obligated, yet inwardly cringing? That would be terrible. I don't want that. And so I refrain from touching others more often than I might otherwise, lest I intrude into personal space where I am definitely not wanted. If I am brave enough to contact someone, I watch each tentative touch carefully for signs of annoyance or discomfort. And I worry that I offend.
Behind it all, too, is the need to be touched with kindness.
I wish the simple act of human contact were less fraught.
Since next week will be a regular work week from Monday through Wednesday, there will not be too much time to handle holiday necessities; therefore, we are attempting to do the bulk of the shopping and preparation this weekend. Tiny Dog wants you to know that she personally supervised setting the table for Thanksgiving.
This past weekend, I did some much-overdue organizing of various cabinets, including the pantry. I came across the bag of special dog food that we had for Elderly Three-toothed Dog.
Time to let that go.
And I had a momentary pang, because I realized that although he had faithfully sat with me for hours and hours each day for weeks and weeks while I prepared for The Task of taking the bar exam, I never had the opportunity to tell him that I passed.
It seems silly, I know. He would have had no idea what the significance of "passed the bar" was. Yet, I wish I could tell him that I appreciated his support, all those days.
While I was away recently, I had an opportunity to see my sister and her family for a few hours. It was lovely. And so bittersweet.
My sister is a truly wonderful person. I am reminded of a passage from the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour get married: Fleur's radiance shines upon everyone around her, and they are also made radiant because of her. My sister is like this: she shines on everything and everyone around her. It is hard not to feel completely insignificant in her company -- not because she makes me feel inconsequential (to the contrary, she is ever so warm and delightful), but because I cannot help but feel that I pale in comparison.
Sometimes I forget how lovely it is to be with her because I see her so rarely. We talk on the phone sometimes, and text often, but in-person visits are rare due to geographic constraints. And when I do finally visit with her, when we part it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the sense of loss.
She is one of the few people whose presence is a comfort to me. And I realize with every goodbye how much I have enjoyed that comfort, and I am bereft that I have it so rarely.
This is the way it is, though: the people I love most are often physically -- or metaphorically -- distant, due to time or distance or all-consuming employment or other natural, unavoidable reasons. I do the best I can to be in the Moment when I am with them, because I do not know when I will have such time and comfort again.
Offspring the Third is very much a People Person. I'm not sure exactly how that came to pass, since no one else in the immediate nuclear family is much of a People Person. Like his siblings, though, he marches to the beat of his own drum -- and being people-oriented is part of his unique parade.
I got a call from Offspring the Third today. He had to do some shopping by himself, and since he does not like going places alone, he called me to chat while he wandered around the store. He gathered the things he needed, and collected a few Christmas presents for his siblings (he enjoys gift-giving as much as I do). He paused our conversation just long enough to check out, and then took his purchases to his vehicle. After he and his shopping bags were all in his truck, he said goodbye.
The whole process took about an hour. And while he wandered the store, I wandered around the house, tidying this and that, cleaning bathrooms, folding laundry. It was a pleasant hour: we both had company while doing ordinary tasks. Time well spent.
The hardest parts of being a parent are the self-doubt and the knowledge that I have made mistakes along the way. Did I do the right things at the right time in the right way? I tried; but there are things I should have done differently, different words I should have used. I am sorry, Offspring. Imperfect am I.
And yet, the Offspring show me mercy: for when they choose my company, either by phone or in person, I feel that surely I must have done something right, after all.
These lovely flowers were captured by Offspring the Third,
I was away for a few days: I ventured to Points North to be present when an elderly relative underwent a planned surgical procedure. It went well, all things considered. I am glad.
It takes me time to decompress from traveling and heavy-duty social interaction (both "business" and "pleasure"). It may take several days before I find the time, and the right Words, to lay things to rest properly.
While I was in Points North, I took a walk around a neighborhood near the hospital we would be visiting. There was a lovely old house -- likely a fraternity house, is my guess -- that was dark and grey and had moss-colored gargoyles at the entrance. It was framed by the autumn leaves of the trees in the yard. Very Nice, Indeed.
NinjaHead resides with a sesquipedalian woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains solely a minuscule and rather cranky middle-aged chihuahua. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.