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Saturday, January 14, 2006

which path?

which way do i go: capture the feel and texture of the last few months, talking about all the little things, or tackle the pink elephant?

quite honestly, the pink elephant has been tromping around my mental playground for some time, and i've allowed it to hold me back from writing about small, lovely nuggets of the days. so, while the pachyderm merits further examination, i need to throw this out there in an unfinished state, to free up some mental room for the days at hand.

i've been thinking about death a lot lately. i realized, talking to my mom tonight, that it sounds dramatic and spotlight-y, because i didn't realize how important it is to explain that i've been thinking about the concept, not the act or actuality. nothing bad pending, no intent to do myself in, no recent losses. just... the confluence of events in my life has brought that aspect of (non)life into sharp relief for me. getting older, becoming a parent, realizing that i'm somewhere in the middle layer of family... oh, i should explain that one, shouldn't i?

when you're little, all the family is above you. parents, aunts and uncles, maybe older cousins, grandparents, great-grands and aunts and uncles - it's like a huge umbrella sheltering you from the rest of the world. as you grow older, the umbrella gets a little smaller, but it's still there, and you're still under it. and then comes the moment when you're the umbrella for someone else - niece, nephew, child. the top layer continues to attenuate for you, and you're expected to metabolize that in a way that lets you step in to be that thing for the younger ones.

and at some point, it hits you: there will be no umbrella for you. it may not be here now, but you can see the eventuality. and it scares you. me. it scares me. i don't know how it will feel. i remember one exchange with my gram, in her kitchen. i can't remember if it was before or after my gramp had died, but i do know that my gram had just lost her sister, the last of her immediate family. we were in the corner by the fridge; i can see the light coming in thru the kitchen window over the sink. gram was looking down, getting something, food, soda, ready for someone. and i told her how sorry i was. she didn't stop what she was doing, but she started crying. in that moment, for her, there was no more umbrella, something i didn't understand until later, but which was viscerally apparent at that moment.

so. that's a concept that's been rolling around for years. then, upping the odds on my part as umbrella holder: over the last two years or so, my 'auntie' role has expanded dramatically, and i'm now a mom. plus, i have a growing appreciation for my mom's role as gram's caretaker. (dad's role, too, but that's complicated by my learning to see dad for who he is, rather than who i thought he was.) i've always had the greatest respect for what mom does - she's there, day in and day out, watching out for gram in dealing with the doctors and staff, there when a problem occurs, there just to be there. how she does it... some days, i don't think she knows how she does it. and yet, she keeps on. mmph.

so... all that. now, i don't know why i had this thought a few months back, but i was seized with a gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing terror of what death might be like - or not like. and it was so freakish, i shut the door, mentally.

then came all the coverage of the Tookie Williams execution. i kept praying that it might not happen, but it did. here's the thing: who are we, any of us, as humans, to judge another human, and determine that we should end their life? yes, people commit murder every day. some say that such an act deserves a like response: you commit murder, we will commit execution. but for me, here's the thing. each of us has an idea of where we will go (or not) when we die. each of us struggles to make peace with that idea. and hopefully, we're able to work it out before we need to find out if we were right. to impose our idea of justice/rightness/judgement on another person in a completely final way... some say 'well, they'll get what the deserve, they'll go to purgatory/hell/wherever, this isn't judgement, it's justice' - eh. so much blather. seems to me that those who hold with the death penalty are stepping into a role best left to the Godhead - however you may envision or believe in that. that just seems to be a path that will leave the whole world blind, as the saying goes.

and the door was opened. i peered over in the corner, at the elephant, every so often. but i tended to toss it peanuts and hope it would be quiet. there's been so much else to deal with.

one night in bed, i was reading a collection of lectures from the Dali Lama. something, some phrase, in the introduction hit me. Just. So. and the door wasn't just reopened - it was blasted out. the fear, the panic, wrapped itself around my intestines, and i fought hard to stomp it down. having that animal tear me apart was more than i could take at that moment. i ended up curled up in the fetal position under the blankets, chattering and hoping that hubby would come to bed and hug all the problems away, but without me having to say anything, because i didn't want to have to talk about the problem.

all this was well before Christmas.

this week, i started a new job. the job itself, the mechanics, the people, the place, the commute - all fine. Medium Small said 'hey, you're a scientist!', which isn't true at all, but close enough. i'm working with scientists in a biolab, doing all the un-science-y stuff. i like the people, and the work. but there's another layer.

the biolab is working with samples from all sorts of sources - mice, rats, minipigs - but primarily, they're human samples. the work they are doing is wonderful, and positive, and will help lots of people. but.

while my work is mostly with numbers, nobody is ever just a number. i've had to hunt down donor demographics to verify the statistics. 'donor demographics' is a fancy term for the story of how someone died, who they were, who they were related to, and who they left behind. in theory, the personal details are blacked out. but honestly, the marker only hides so much. even if you're not trying, it's easy to see the names.

the stories are heartbreaking, each and every one. no matter what the age (some at what might be termed a ripe old age, others shatteringly young), there was some family member who signed off on the donor sheet. the motorcycle helmet didn't work, the heart attack happened anyway despite the medication, the fire claimed too much collateral damage... i don't know how the people in the lab can do what they do. don't get me wrong: i have the deepest respect for the advances they find. it's just... i'm not sure how they can separate the one from the other.

and i'm right back in the thick of it. what do i believe? as i've faced each of these moments, i've found that my theory of what may happen (there's another plane, heaven exists, we will continue to exist, it's not like going to sleep, we don't cease to be, there is such a thing as god) is very much theory, and not so much faith.

what i would like to have is a deep, solid core of faith, on which i could lean. the analytical side of me, the one who wants facts, dammit! and proof! doesn't know what to do with this ... doubt, panic, questioning. i thought the faith was there. many things, for me, are faith. the existence of a godhead, forgiveness, redemption - all that, i'm okay with. *wry grin*

this idea of what death is, means, feels like - this, i don't know what to do with.

one thing that i do believe is that events happen in our lives for a reason. i do think that i got this job for a very good reason - to push me along my path in discovering what faith means to me.


:: scribbled at 12:32 AM ... ... o

Monday, January 9, 2006

to the individual in the car behind me this morning:

you seemed to deem it necessary to tailgate me and flick your high beams on and off repeatedly. what exactly was your issue with me doing the speed limit?

i hope you got coffee up your nose when i tapped on my brakes. *smiles sweetly*


note to bs: now, why would you think my speedometer is calibrated the same way as my watch? ;) in any event, i was doing 30 in a 25 mph zone, which negates your theory. hah! :)

:: scribbled at 5:43 PM ... ... o

y'know how sometimes a song hits you right in the solar plexus?

driving along tonight, stressed out, thinking about a million things, that unimaginably sweet voice came on the radio, and i found myself singing along at top volume.

You'll never find
as long as you live
Someone who loves you tender
like I do
You'll never find
no matter where you search
Someone who cares about you
the way I do.

we'll certainly miss you, Mr. Rawls, as well as your caring and generosity.

:: scribbled at 1:28 AM ... ... o


that would be the sound of my brain imploding.

it's been an intense few weeks, and it only promises to get more challenging.

hopefully, i'll have something to string together tomorrow.

:: scribbled at 12:38 AM ... ... o