I went to a funeral today, and it was, without a doubt, an utterly heartwrenching experience.
The deceased was a young man of 27, who succumbed to leukemia after an arduous five years of illness, treatment, remission and return of disease. In what was no doubt a terrible irony, his father is an oncologist, and it is no doubt that the young man received the absolutely very best of care.
Even that was not enough. Alas.
There were at least 150 people there, perhaps more -- it was hard to tell, as it was quite crowded. The young man was native to this desert city, and so there was a multitude of old classmates, ranging from grade school through high school; in addition, roommates and classmates from college and from medical school (which the young man had begun before the return of his disease) had made the trip here. Colleagues of the young man's parents, and the parents' friends, were there, as were their fellow church members, and members from the ethnic community to which the young man belonged. So many people.
So many heartbroken people.
A dozen or so of his friends and classmates got up to speak about him, as did his sister, his wife, and even his mother-in-law. From each person's words, a picture of a tremendous young man, almost larger than life, appeared: he was described as a brilliant student and intellectual giant who challenged everyone around him to strive for their very best. A man who met his illness with good humor and vigor, and who continued to pursue his entrepreneurial goals and to care for everyone around him even in his most dire days. A devoted friend, brother, husband, son. A lover of truth, beauty, and goodness.
There was hardly a dry eye in the room. Yet there was laughter, too, as many people recounted tales of the young man's humor and sense of fun, and love of food, and mischievousness.
The celebrant who led the service spoke, as they so often do, about God and death and faith. As we sat and mulled over the too-brief life of the young man, as well as our own mortality and that of those we love, the celebrant said:
Death is not the final word. The final word is God.
All we can do, is wait for that final word. The young man has heard that word, and he is part of the word, as the word was part of him. I hope that word brings solace to those who knew the young man.
It is all a mystery.
Perhaps when we hear the final word, we will at last understand all of life's Why.
I succumbed to click-bait the other day, opening an article on Distractify titled, "Police Share Disturbing 'Stair Of Knives' Found At Home Of Domestic Abuse Victim." I couldn't imagine what a 'star of knives' would be. The picture in the article says it all, though; a homely set of stairs with chipped white paint -- and a sharp kitchen knife, each a good 10-12 inches long, impaled on each side of every step. Apparently the photo was taken by an officer who responded to a domestic assault call. The male of the couple was arrested.
It really does look like something out of a horror movie.
Even more horrible than the picture, though, is one of the comments in the article:
"Took true courage. Scary unreal scene - Alfred Hitchcock film. Hope female appreciative."
Look at that again: Hope female appreciative.
Hope female appreciative.
Not: "hope female is alive", or "hope female is safe", or "hope female gets the help she needs to break free of this relationship". Not a wish for the safety and health of the woman. No: hope she appreciates what the police did.
How heartless does one have to be to say that?
We cannot even begin to imagine what this woman may have endured with her abuser. And to expect her to feel a certain way after what was no doubt a desperate and frightening encounter with her abuser and police is, frankly, appalling.
A young woman I know, who was married within this past year, has just announced her pregnancy. I am delighted for her and her husband, and wish them and theirs all the very best.
I was surprised by the depth of memory that her announcement brought back for me: the recollections of what it was like to tell my parents, my coworkers; the strangeness of all the body changes; the slow-moving fish sensation deep within; the anticipation; the rigors (and tremendous difficulties) of labor and birth; and beyond. I am glad I have experienced these things. I am equally sure I would not want to experience them again.
If I could pick one part of it all to relive, I would like, once more, to feel the deep-rooted desire that led me to become a mother -- that hunger for something more than the moment, for something beyond myself; the commingled fear and joy and the infinite question of being open to the possibility of bringing forth a new life.
To yearn. It is what drives the species. To be past the age for that yearning is a freedom in one sense, and a loss in another. It's strange place to be. A no-man's land (no-woman's land?) of invisibility, undesirableness, irrelevancy. Now what, I wonder?
I reviewed all of the tax forms this evening; we received them from our tax preparer yesterday. (Apparently we all are waiting until the last minute. Good times.)
This year, for the first time, a return needed to be prepared for a neighboring state. (This was due to the Project, which was conducted in an adjacent desert state.) That's fine -- income was generated there, income tax should be paid there.
Yet when I reviewed the form, it was patterned exactly like our federal tax return: Beloved Husband is the primary, and I am the Spouse.
I do not object, per se, to the denomination of "Spouse": I certainly willingly identify as Beloved Husband's spouse, and have done so for nearly twenty-six years now. It is just the way it is presented on the tax forms: a stark second-class status -- a person who is a hanger-on, a mere appendage. And given that I was the only one who earned income in the neighboring state, it seems... insulting somehow to still have the return under his name with mine as the auxiliary.
Why must I be secondary on the forms?
I am not secondary.
I am the Rock, the Glue that Holds Everything Together, the One Who Takes Care Of Things.
In my experience, headaches come in two varieties. The first is a nebulous pain, accompanied by a need to lie down and go to sleep immediately; the second is a deeper, harder pain which wakes me up and makes returning to sleep difficult. They come with different auras, too: a nebulous-sleepy headache sometimes comes with a vaguely amorous feeling and a craving for carbohydrates; a hard-wakeful headache is preceded by hypersensitivity to sound, to light, and to touch -- everything is too much. Both are unpleasant. Mercifully, the easier headache (nebulous-sleepy) occurs more often than the hard-wakeful headache.
It can be difficult to distinguish the triggers for the two types of headache. Indulging in chocolate will often bring a nebulous-sleepy ache; consuming cheese will virtually always bring a hard-wakeful pain. Dust, weather -- often hard-wakeful but sometimes nebulous-sleepy. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason. Hormones? Stress? A hidden ingredient in something I've eaten? Who can tell?
Migraines are a different beast entirely They are usually preceded by an increase in both types of headaches; the headaches appear alternately, and grow, appearing more frequently until they coalesce into a full-blown migraine. Migraine comes with nausea, sometimes vomiting, and worst of all, a dizziness that makes it impossible to move my head a fraction of a millimeter in any direction without dire consequences.
I had a migraine earlier this week. It was thoroughly awful.
After the worst has subsided, the migraine slowly ebbs away, and in the ebbing, my brain frequently gets stuck: stuck on a thought, a worry, some kind of obscure obsession that takes the forefront of all thought. Sometimes it is an ordinary thing: the taxes are due. Other times, it is a panicky sensation about something I did not do that I should have done, or something that I may have done that I should not have done. Why did I say that? Why did I not say that? Trying to deliberately focus on an alternate thought is unsuccessful. I have to wait it out. Ugh.
When in the throes of an impending headache (or an impending migraine), my temperament changes. I may be far more cranky than usual; or weepy; or despairing. I wish I could separate regular feelings from headache-feelings, but I cannot; perhaps, rather than differing in content from what feelings I might have normally, headache-feelings are merely a more extreme form of such ordinary feelings. It is all very strange sometimes.
The only silver lining to it all, is that on occasion, my brain will get stuck on love. Love. It is a fuzzy, yet intense, mysterious sensation, this headache-borne Love. It is rare, but welcome -- for to be able to feel love in its unbridled form, untainted by Ordinary Life, is most unusual.
Ah, Love. Even in the midst of pain, we find you. Or, perhaps, you find us.
It is rare that a song speaks to me the way this one does; the first time I heard it, I was in a particularly vulnerable state of mind, and it nearly brought me to tears. I gave you all my energy And I took away your pain 'Cause human beings are destined to Radiate or drain What line do we stand upon 'Cause from here it looks the same?
For those of us who are inclined to be Givers -- who enjoy, more than anything, caretaking and helping -- we run the risk of running empty.
It is OK to look after oneself.
In fact, it might be important.
I do enjoy a bit of Scrabble. It is not an easy game: despite all of the word games I play in an attempt to hone my skills, I am not good at visualizing high-scoring moves. I try and try to imagine my letters forming complex combinations (ideally, using seven or more tiles), yet do not often succeed. I rarely win -- but that is fine with me, because in truth I really gain greater enjoyment from watching my opponent(s) play. A furrowed brow, a rearranging of the tiles, a glance at the dictionary, and then -- voila! -- a lengthy word spanning multiple point-enhancing squares. It is a marvel of human thought.
Especially when a single move yields two hundred and forty-eight points, for an ultimate score of 574. Magnificent.
As you may have guessed from the photos over the last several days, I was away this weekend: I went northward to visit Cherished Friend. It is always reassuring to see him, for despite time and distance, he is, as always, ineffably himself. Knowing that he is Constant, makes easier the thought that someday (and perhaps sooner rather than later), he may move farther away. I will not contemplate that possibility in detail yet; rather, I will take the future as it comes. That is all anyone can ever do, really.
While I was up north, we took the opportunity to do some hiking in a lovely state park. The trees -- oh, the trees. Living in the desert as I do, I forget how much I miss the forest -- until I am in the midst of the trees. There were mysterious birch trees: not quite the same as the paper birch of the New England of my youth, but still light-barked and stretching high into the air. There were evergreens, too. And moss, and lichen, and patches of snow, and leaf litter. A crow. Orange and black butterflies. A snowmelt-fed stream.
There is something so very soothing about the forest: the quiet, the distant woodpecker, the trickle of water, and the scent of pine. Time stands still. In this busy, busy world, the forest is transcendent. We should all spend more time there.
I did not take nearly as many pictures as I thought I had; yet I do not need many photos, for the forest was so permeating, it seems as though it soaked all the way to my core. If I close my eyes, I can be there again for a moment. And for now, that is enough.
Lovely Offspring the First is two dozen years old now. As I check in on a very rotund April the giraffe, I am reminded of that last week when I was pregnant with Offspring the First, waiting, waiting, waiting, for her arrival. How can it have been so long ago?
She is a lovely person, Offspring the First: sweet, thoughtful in her words, witty, charming. She lights up the room wherever she goes. It it a privilege to be her mother.
Let's talk politics for a little bit. Tangential politics, but politics.
::: shudder ::: OK, here we go.
It has been revealed that in 2002, the current Vice President, Mike Pence, indicated that will not eat a meal alone with a woman who is not his wife. Nor will he attend a social event at which alcohol will be served unless the accompanies him. (We shall, for our purposes here, assume his rule remains in place today.)
One of the reasons touted to explain his staunch prohibition is something along the lines of, "to avoid temptation/the appearance of impropriety" -- a chivalrous thing, a respect-for-marriage thing.
Eyeroll. Sigh. And gnashing of teeth.
Pence is cutting off the possibility of any woman earning his confidence in the workplace by refusing to participate in the nearly universal business activity of a "business lunch" or "business dinner". What? Apparently he cannot trust himself (or her? which is it, anyway?) to be alone together with a woman-not-his-wife. Why? Must everything have some kind of sexual undertones (or overt overtones) for him? How weak-willed and hyper-focused-on-sex are you, Mr. Pence, that you are unable to work one-on-one with a woman not your wife, or even to be present in a room full of people if alcohol is also present? Does your mental acuity and willpower dissolve in a drop of ethanol, or with a bite of carbohydrate?
In a male-dominated field such as politics, it is nearly impossible for any woman to advance without occasionally having a business meal with a man, or attending a function at which alcohol may be served and men may be present. Imagine if a woman had self-imposed rules like those of Mr. Pence. How far would she get in her career, do you think? I think we all know: not far at all.
How many women's careers have you stifled, Mr. Pence, by your behavior?
I find myself thinking, too, what if I were in Karen Pence's shoes? I'd be horrified at the thought that my husband was limiting his dining partners and his social-function-attendance in such a manner. What of co-workers, individuals who share his professional interests, of women who serve in the same organizations or on the same boards as he does? Surely a working meal is an effective and enjoyable way to conduct business? And if he had to attend a social function at which there would be alcohol, would that mean that I -- regardless of my desire to be there (or even, for example, if I had a cold and were under the weather) -- would also be required to attend?
Is this really a highly controlling relationship, disguised as some kind of "chivalry"?
A close marital relationship is certainly something to be admired; a codependent relationship, however, is less admirable. Marriage creates a union; it does not, however, erase individuality. Every marriage is enriched when the spouses periodically enjoy activities without one another, including having meals with peers, and spending time with others, including -- gasp! -- others of the opposite sex, with whom they have mutual interests.
It is possible for two heterosexual individuals of the opposite sex to spend time together, even alone together, without being overwhelmed by carnal desires. It boils down to trust. I trust the individuals with whom I spend time alone, and they trust me. Seems quite simple, actually.
Are you not trustworthy, Mr. Pence?
Come join us in the 21st century, Mr. Pence. You will meet many delightful people, some of whom will be women-not-your-wife, but that is OK. Your life will be enriched. And perhaps politics will become ever-so-slightly-less of an Old Boys' Club.
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.