Thursday, December 20, 2007

A cold wind doth blow in December.... 

Been a rough month, maybe not so much for me as for the world around or at least nearby me. Well, ok, so I'm pretty ragged around the edges too. But I've had plenty to ponder the past few weeks....

First, there was the shooting at the mall in Omaha. Big news here because people from Sioux Falls were there shopping that day. And it's not like people in Nebraska are typically accustomed to dodging bullets.

Then soon after, an unstable dude opens fire at a ministry and then later at a church in Colorado. Big news here because the security guard who took the shooter down and convinced him to turn the gun on himself was from South Dakota. Since churches generally welcome saint and sinner alike, for some reason, that was less surprising to me, but no less horrific.

While I was in Rochester doing the Mayo Clinic thing, one of the members of my aquacise class died quite suddenly. He was in the hospital for a kidney stone, had successfully passed it and was looking forward to going home in the morning. Then, without warning, his heart stopped.

And the father of one of my best friends from college died last week. He'd had strokes going back the last 12 years, but recovered better than expected in the past, and when he had a new stroke this year, it was hoped he'd do so again. But this time, he stopped eating, and perhaps he was ready to go home where he'd be whole again.

I was talking with Dan about whether there is really more death going on in December or whether we are just more aware of it. I think it's probably the latter. This is the time of year we think of spending time with family, the miracle of birth, and death just seems so jarring in that context.

And while my pain is quite minimal in comparison with the families of those I mentioned above, I too am having some less than jolly moments. I am 600 miles away from the nearest blood relative, and I don't foresee me being able to spend a holiday with any of them anytime soon. Other than the ornaments on my tree that my mom made (she died in 1997), the family traditions I so treasured are all pretty much gone or unattainable, and I don't have the energy to start any new ones.

Don't get me wrong: my in-laws have bent over backward to make me feel welcome and probably treat me much better than I deserve since I am not a particularly cuddly person and have not been able to recriprocate as I would like. But Sioux Falls can't take the place of Denver, and my in-laws can't take the place of my mom or the rest of my original family. And so while I am adjusting to my new reality, I need to grieve just a bit.

The situation would be a lot less sad to me if I were physically capable of fully participating in the usual holiday activity. I know, I am ill, and I must cut back my expectations and simplify as much as possible, so that I have a chance of being able to enjoy the important stuff. But I have simplified and simplified, to the point that I no longer shop, no longer go to plays and ballets and cool seasonal stuff, no longer do the party thing, no longer make special food, no longer decorate the whole house, no longer drive to other cities to see people.

I never thought I would say this, but my life is now so simple that I actually have extra time. This would be awesome except that I am too ill to use that time celebrating in some way, or doing something really cool for someone, or even calling the people I miss to tell them I miss them. Even the positive interactions with the world utterly exhaust me, so I have to limit even the most meaningful stuff, and that's what gets me down.

For example: my sister-in-law would like Dan and I to go to her house Christmas Eve both before and after we attend church, and Dan's parents would like me to go to their house on Christmas day. We've already told Dan's sister that we can only do church and then come by after, and to be honest, that will really be a stretch for me as I still haven't recovered from the Rochester adventure. I may be ok with going to the in-laws' house the next day because it won't be until the afternoon, but I also know that this much activity will probably wipe me out for days to come.

One thing I really REALLY hate is that when I push myself to do social things when I am not well, not only am I not able to participate as fully as I would like, I might not even remember the experience later. Last year's Christmas festivities are basically a blur to me, nobody's fault, but because Dan and I had just moved into a new house a week and a half before, I was on fumes. Frustrating because I love social activity and used to be able to make friends with anyone, and now I can't think of what to say, can't hear what's being said, or cannot remember who the person is that recognizes me.

And so for my losses and the much larger losses of those around me, I grieve. The rest of my holiday time posts will probably be funnier and more upbeat, but I needed to pause here and acknowledge the undercurrent of sadness. I will conclude with a poem I wrote several years ago about a different situation that somewhat applies here.

And for those who grieve, anywhere in the world for any reason, peace be with you.

Black Clouds in a Sunny Sky

We think we know,
And we try to prepare–
We back up our files,
Put on a jacket,
Stock up the cellar.
The meteorologists,
The preachers,
The teachers,
They try to warn us–
And we nod,
Caught up in the calmness,
The safeness,
The sleepiness of the now.
Then, when the now suddenly isn't so sedate,
We're slapped hard with the why–
"But she was doing so well!"
"But I didn't expect THIS!"
"But it's unfair!"
When faced with rain in December,
Death around Christmas,
Birds motionless against the wind–
The best that you can do
Is zip up your jacket,
Pray for understanding,
And hold onto your roses
The best you can.


I understand how you feel. I, too, had gotten to a point where I had nothing but "free time" since everything was so "simplified" (a simplified life with no work and no outings actually means a medically complicated life!) Of course, there was nothing to do with that time but be ill. Fun.

Like you, when I did leave the house (!) I was exhausted, had to budget my energy, and found myself socially inept. All I could talk about was my illness because it was all I knew.

No, it's not a person's total death, but it is the death of the well person you once were. And that is enough to grieve for.
I hear ya. I am wiped out and trying my best to keep up.

And then I woke up with a migraine.


Hang in there. It's a tough time of year for girls like us.

I want to have fun, be social, but sometimes I just can't pull it off.
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