June 27, 2013

In th’ flower gardens out there things will be stirrin’ down below in th’ dark.

We recently bought new landscaping for the house, and so there was much digging and dirt hauling (by my husband) and much fretting (by me).

Were the plants planted too deep? Or not deep enough?

Did we  use enough peat moss?

Most of all, are we watering them right?

The nurseryman left us detailed instructions for watering. But I’m suspicious- Surely these new green things are thirsty.

Feed me, feed me.

What I’ve discovered is that the symptoms of overwatering are identical to the symptoms of underwatering. The curled leaves, the limp branches. You can’t tell the two conditions apart without getting your hands dirty and shoving your finger in the soil.

What is true for botanical life is true for the care and feeding of human beings. Trying too hard gets you the same results as not trying enough. Neglect leads to death. Smothering leads to death. Some die of thirst. Others experience rotting at the roots.

Right now I’m experiencing some self-inflicted rot. I’m drowning in self-pity and grief. The thing is, I could go a day without crying.

But at a certain level I’m afraid if I stop grieving, or more accurately take a break from grieving, then I’m betraying myself. I’m betraying the baby I lost, I’m betraying our hopes and dreams for our family.

If I don’t wail and rend my garments for one day about this, does that mean it’s not a big deal? That I should be over it? That it doesn’t matter any more? That it’s not important?

Of course not. But deep down I’m not sure the cells in my heart and my mind believe that yet.

June 25, 2013

Bad news.

I’ve been having a bad time.

Recently I was informed by my doctor that I will never conceive a child of my own again. This gentleman is a specialist in his field and he’s very good and also very very sorry.

Perhaps I will address this again. In fact I’m sure I will. I will tell the story. I will post a few fun facts about my diagnosis and perhaps a soliloquy on the unique, destructive power of pain. Pain is transformational and the change is not always for the better.

It’s strange.

sometimes this situation is a life-threatening vortex, gorging itself on my past, present and future in one furious blast.

And then other times it’s so unreal.

It must be a dream. It must be happening to someone else. Am I still in denial? Am I just numb? My feelings dance on the surface, to the extent that they exist at all.

Another reason it can’t be true. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. My life is too uneventful, characteristically dull and disaster-free. I never win the lottery and I don’t get rare illnesses. Until I was diagnosed with an illness that affects .1 % of women. That’s Point One Percent, not 1%.

Well, I still don’t win the lottery.

But maybe I should start playing.

April 22, 2012

Rest in peace, Levon Helm.

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell, it’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’
They went La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La

April 21, 2012

Some personal mottoes:

Panic now, ask questions later.

Why settle for feeling depressed when you could feel anxious AND depressed?

Stress: It’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch. And brunch (don’t forget about brunch now).

These aren’t really personal mottoes in that I didn’t choose them…

They chose me.

If Reader’s Digest was ever going to condense the Bible, they could get away with one sentence. “Don’t be afraid.” Scripture repeats this over and over. It calls to mind a teacher patiently drilling a second grade class through the multiplication tables. They’re slow-witted, but practice makes perfect the Lord thinks to himself. It’s not hopeless. In my case I still forget sometimes what 9×12 is and I still haven’t learned to not be afraid.

I have been thinking more about “what it means to be married.” I have been thinking about what it’s like when marriages end.

A good marriage ends only in death.

When I think about being separated from D… or D being separated from me, it makes my heart hurt. I don’t know how I could live with the pain and the longing and the missing.

When I think about dying before him, it’s worse. I can’t stand to think of him grieving and suffering – and me, not able to comfort and console him! Not able to hold him and be held by him. Would heaven be heaven without him?

I shouldn’t say that, good Catholic that I want to be. The presence of God is what makes heaven, heaven. I know that and the difference between the Ascension and the Assumption and the Annunciation and the Immaculate Conception. And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

It’s terrible to wonder about. Yet it is inevitable. One day, one of us will go. The other will be left (a little while? A long while?).

I’m lying around in the house on West Clifton Boulevard, thinking about everything that will happen one day.

I run to D, crying. “What’s wrong?” he says in that loving, I-will-make-it-better-because-I-am-a-snuggly-bear way.

“I miss you!” He gives me a funny look because after all, he’s right there.

I miss you already, I should have said.

Perhaps I’m strange. Perhaps I’m the only newlywed who thinks about these things. I’m 26 and most people don’t think about the end at 26. What a crazy thing it is to open yourself up to love. You’re guaranteed to get your heart broken. But it’s worth it, I think.

The cliche is true. The parting is sorrowful, but the parting is sweet… because of the sorrow. I’m enough of a woman to know the value of really wringing your heart out with grief and misery every once in a while. I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel good to feel bad sometimes.

And I know the parting is not that tragic, it’s just for a little while. Or do I? Maybe if my faith was stronger it wouldn’t hurt so badly. I have faith, of course. But do I really believe?

I fear. That’s what I do. D is fearless and I admire that about him. I hope that marriage will help me absorb some of that, as though we could become not only one flesh but one soul…

Faith and fear can not exist in the same heart for long; one will soon drive out the other. I know which one I want to win.

Christ, deliver me.

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April 10, 2012

Things I will miss most after the end of the world:

Windowless rooms. Surely every room in paradise comes with a view.

Dark-bottomed pools. Is there dark-anything in the sweet hereafter?

Even a strange, hair-raising, lovely dark thing like a black-bottomed pool? Heaven means the light of glory illuminating everything… even the deep end.

Vicks Vapo-Rub. No coughs, no colds, no use for Vicks after Jesus comes back.

Marriage. I like being married.

If there’s no marriage then there’s probably no shock and awe either.

(you know what I mean)

I don’t think they will let James Joyce in. I don’t think A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is in the library.

If your hereafter is less than sweet… maybe James Joyce will be in it.

Who am I to judge. May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Most of all when the time comes I hope I am capable of resting in peace, in the land of wall-length windows and good health and platonic love.

April 1, 2012

Mammograms do not save lives. Usually.

boobs on a naked lady**

While I am being heretical (see below), why not wade into the mine-field that is women’s* healthcare? Mostly because it is not so much a treatment area as an ideological steel pipe used for whacking people senseless if they don’t toe the line.

Recently the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that healthy men with no family history of cancer cease getting the PSA test. The test, which was initially praised as revolutionizing prostate cancer screening, has been revealed to add no benefit to survival rates. At the same time it caused a lot of over-treatment and awful side-effects from the treatment (incontinence, for instance). Most men who tested positive via the PSA test, if they had cancer, would die from something else long before the extremely slow-going cells ever metastasized. Rarely, some people even died from treatment the received as a result of a PSA test.

This didn’t make much news – nobody seems to care THAT much about men’s healthcare. Especially men themselves – have you tried to take one to the doctor lately? They kick and pinch and scream. I digress.

A similar change in strategy was recommended to women some years ago, regarding mammograms. This kicked up a great fuss. Many women who had cancer discovered via mammography are convinced it saved their lives. And understandably so. But for between 87%-97% of women who found their cancer via mammogram, the screening did nothing for them.

And for the vast majority of women who never develop breast cancer, mammograms bring the same drawbacks the PSA test has. Over-treatment. Needless anxiety. False positives. Even some increased cancer risk.

This really gets the goat of organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which make pushing mammograms their bread and butter. In spite of their name, most money raised for SGK does not go to finding a cure. It’s spent on providing screening and “awareness.”

Just something to keep in mind when October comes and the pink stuff comes out.

*actually when I say women’s healthcare I’m simplifying. Men get breast cancer and die from it, too. But again, nobody cares about men. SGK certainly wasn’t thinking about men when they picked freaking PINK as THE color. Nope.
**this piece is actually titled Portrait of a Nude Woman by Rafaellino del Colle. Pretty close to title I chose.

March 31, 2012

Wedding photography is not the most important thing.

H * E * R * E * S * Y

F * O * L * L * O * W * S

If there is one fetish the wedding industry (and many brides) nurture it’s that Pictures Are Very Important. They Are the Only Thing You Have Left After the Wedding. This is a standard sales line but I have read many women obediently parroting it on forums or saying it in real life. The children have been brainwashed very well, indeed.

Even women who intend to have otherwise reasonable affairs feel and indulge the urge to pay a stranger multiple thousands of dollars to follow them around for a day (or a weekend) taking pictures of their private family party and then running it through computer software to make it look vintage or otherwise trendy. Example: A recurring feature on the A Practical Wedding blog is the Wordless Wedding. No commentary, just pictures. All of them just happen to have been taken by APW sponsor photographers. It’s an advertiser showcase, except not identified as such. The wedding industry is a slimy business, is it not? The blogger herself, Meg, had two photographers flown in from out of state to document her own nuptials. About 90% of her sponsors are photographers, a percentage I pulled out of my ass but which reflects reality.

Remember. The Photos Are The Only Thing Left After the Wedding.

This isn’t even true. You always have memories – unless you develop retrograde amnesia. Even if you have a traumatic brain injury that erases your recollection of your Grandma Luann standing on her hands on the dance floor with her skirt around her shoulders, there are other mementos. The cake topper. The wedding dress (you didn’t sell your dress did you?). Your wedding ring. Your husband.

The monthly payments on the loan you took out so you could hire the photographer.

All of this emphasis on pictures. All of these efforts to monetize the day itself – if you have a wonderful photographer, does that mean it was a wonderful wedding? Will it be a wonderful marriage? If you have crappy pictures taken by your paroled Uncle Pat, does that mean the day itself was a downer? There are millions of couples over time who married without one shred of photographic evidence. The look in their groom’s eyes, the way the bride’s mouth turned up at the corners as she spoke her vows, the reflection of the candlelight on the guest’s face, all of that is recorded only in their hearts. Did they have any less of a chance at happiness? Were they worse off? I begin to suspect they were better off.

This is coming from someone who spent $2,000 on a photographer and durned pleased with the results. So I know the attraction of photography. It’s art after all. Who doesn’t love some good art?

What I’d like to see are fewer blogs that revolve around astronomically-priced photography and a few more that address what happens to the thousands of dollars worth of photography in the 50% of marriages that end in divorce. It happens sometimes that the expensive album outlasts the relationship. What does a bride do with the high-end gallery art documenting the beginning of a marriage that ended in lies and infidelity? What to do when you have $5,000 worth of pictures to help you remember the heartache and regret? Do these photographers and bloggers have any suggestions for that?

Hmmm. I’m guessing not. That would be bad for business.

Photographs: Often the Only Thing Left After the Marriage.