Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Search

I was just looking through some old journal entries on my computer, for some reason--wanting to compare my beliefs now to the ones I had in spring or summer of 2009. What I found was this, right at the very beginning of everything that happened--less than a month before I conceived, when I wanted it so badly but still had to wonder.

At any rate, I wanted to share, because ... well, because I felt compelled to.

Here it is, complete journal entry from 30 May 2009, nothing changed, except names shortened to protect the innocent.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Where are the answers?

What kind of selfishness is it to want to bring a child into this world? As we spin on this great marble of blue and white and green, this beautiful place, with all its terrible truths? What selfishness is it to bring a child into the world. Even to ensure that child has a smooth life, a pleasant life, a good life, there’s the terror—always the terror of what COULD happen, of what WILL happen, of death. We watched an episode of a TV show today that had a lady say, “I don’t want to die!” And the truth struck me—how many times do we all think that? In the middle of the night, when we wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming of a world without us in it; in the middle of the day, when we nearly get hit by a car and our lives flash before our eyes, and we glimpse the possibility of ceasing to exist. What terror is this—the possibility of the utter ceasing-to-be of our consciousness? Sometimes I think I’ve found peace. But then the old terror renews itself. Even those who believe in an afterlife are sometimes frightened of death—aside from the doubts that may crop up (Maybe this IS all it is, and there is no higher power. What if I didn’t do the right thing in God’s eyes?). What beauty is it, what peace, to not fear death. There is so much we don’t know.

And on this beautiful day, as I sit in the comfort of my living room, I stare at the trees moving in the breeze, in the gorgeous sunshine outside our window, and I contemplate the terror that is likely running through the very essence of some extended family members. M’s Uncle J (K’s husband) had a seizure in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, and since then, they’ve learned that he has terminal brain cancer. They expect him to have two years, at most, with treatment. I think he’s had a good life, but he is relatively young. But even if he were old and had lived a very full, very rich life…would that make his impending death any less tragic, any less painful, for his family—for HIM?

And M’s sister, about the same time as their uncle’s seizure, discovered some bumps on her neck and went to the doctor. After several tests, they still aren’t sure what it is, but it could be lymphoma. To try to learn if it is, she’s having a lymph node excised in a couple of weeks... What kind of terror must that be, to wait and wait and wait, dreading the worst but hoping for the best? I had to worry about it for only a few days when my mother had problems in the fall—but weeks to learn a prognosis? What hell is that for her and her family?

I wonder how M feels about all this, whether he finds comfort in anything. I want to cry, and I’m not as close to them as he is. But am I crying for them? I suppose I am, as I cry for so many people for so many reasons, but I also cry for myself, for their family members, knowing what it is to have a loved one go through this, this fear, this waiting, this chance to “come to terms” with death, with loss.

I cry because at times like this, I always doubt. I vacillate between believing there is something more and fearing that there is not. The mind and the body, always warring—the body screaming for all it’s worth to survive, to not accept that death awaits it, and the mind calling for peace, trying to uncoil the knots in the pit of the body’s stomach, to slow the pounding of the heart, to deepen the breathing. Ultimately, they compromise—the body leaps up, to stretch, to expend the energy pumped through in flight-or-fight response. The body walks, outside into sunshine if possible, and the mind tries to shut down, or to at least distract itself by the sun, the sounds, the utter LIFE surrounding it. But then comes the melancholia—the realization that this all ends. Perhaps it doesn’t end, and only evolves, but such CHANGE! We humans dislike change, even if we say we don’t. Some of us fear it so much that we embrace it. But we fear it, nonetheless—we just cope with it differently. And what bigger change is there than death? We all go through it, but it’s not like childbirth or puberty—we can’t ask others who’ve been through it what it’s like and how to deal with it.

Yes, there are the folks with near-death experiences, the folks who claim to speak to the dead, the ones who claim to have been to heaven or hell, the ones who claim memories of previous lives and of life between lives. But we think they are crazy, or delusional, or just plain wrong. Or maybe, we think, they ARE right, but how can we KNOW? After all, we can only KNOW what we, ourselves, experience, and we often doubt ourselves, or fool ourselves.

As I sit here and write, I also reflect on the fact that when I volunteered as a hospice worker, helping those who were dying, and their families, my peace concerning death was greater. I still feared death—at least physically, I had the fight-or-flight response—but I knew that there are more important things—bringing comfort to those who are grieving the loss of life (their own OR their loved one’s), truly living and experiencing what we can instead of getting bogged down in what will happen, making the world a “better place” so that life isn’t torture (or so we help each other through the “tortures” that we can’t prevent). And then I get the crazy notion that that would make it so that death is the only thing we’d really fear. As if the human brain works that way—everyone has at least one fear—maybe spiders, maybe zombies, maybe clowns—but it all is ultimately the fear of what those things, in the fearer’s brain, bring—death. And then there’s the really crazy notion that if life weren’t all that great, if it weren’t happy, we could look to death as an old friend, as a comfort, as a long peaceful sleep.

Philosophers and common people alike throughout history have debated death, have pondered it, on its own merits and in relation to life, and have come up with no answers, so I ask, where ARE the answers? I certainly don’t have them, even if I like to think I do.

My head simply spins, my heart races, my breathing quickens, my tears fall. And then I look at my husband and think of my parents, and I smile and laugh and think "This is what it is truly about. This is peace, this is love.” These, who have nurtured life, fostered love, they are my role models in life. They are what drive me forward to try to make the world a better place somehow, even if it is in a hundred little ways, instead of One Big Way. I leave it to others to devote their lives to trying to find the cure for cancer, to battle for the rights of patients with Hepatitis C or AIDS, to try to end. Instead, I try to improve the world by planting another tree, smiling at the people I meet on the street, speaking words of encouragement. These things don’t undo death, they don’t make the fear of death or of losing a loved one any less. But somehow, they do some good. THIS I can believe in with less reservation than life after death, somehow.

But this isn’t about me—it’s about all of us—all of the people I know and love, that M knows and loves—even the people we really can’t stand, the people we sometimes think “deserve” death. How precious is life that we are willing to throw it away, to take someone else’s right to it? And who are we to bring other lives into this world to have to go through death, at the very least, and intense physical and emotional suffering, at most? But that’s the brain talking, the consciousness. The body screams that propagation of the species must continue and fights to continue life, to procreate, to force life into this world to keep the species alive.

I remember reading in one of my books talking about “life between lives” that someone in hypnotic regression said that Earth is chosen by souls who want to progress quickly, because it is a hard world, but one that teaches many lessons for all that. I also read another statement that one of the reasons Earth is one of the hardest existences because of the human body—the constant warring of the consciousness and the physical body; the resulting inner struggle is great and terrible but gives us incredible potential.

Maybe that’s so, and maybe it’s all a bunch of hooey, but who can say?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy to the World!

The past few days have been really good. I have felt better and had more energy than I can recall having in months.

On Friday, M and I spent 14 hours out and about, running errands and enjoying one another's company. Among other things, we finally got my handicap placard (just in time for icky parking lots), bought several of the tool's he's required to have for his job, and had a fantastic sushi lunch.

Sunday, I had an entire day free from editing and used it all to tackle house chores that have been sadly abandoned or undermanaged since M started working back in March/April. I scrubbed the walls and showers and sink in the main bathroom, where mold and hard water stains accrue. I folded laundry. I cooked several meals, I did dishes. Oh, the things I did in all my day! I only sat down and played WoW for 30 minutes or so. The entire rest of the day was spent cleaning and organizing.

On top of all this, since M's been at his new job and I've been on MY sleep schedule and not HIS work schedule, I've been able to have a hot dinner ready for him and his lunch packed almost as soon as he walks in the door, in addition to washing a load of dishes nearly every day. With the load M did on Saturday, the pile of dishes that was threatening to swallow our kitchen whole (it's a large kitchn with a lot of counter space, and I'm NOT exaggerating) is down to just one dishwasher full. And it will be destroyed tomorrow.

What does it matter that what should be routine housekeeping tasks are actually, well, routine housekeeping tasks? It matters because I've had the ENERGY and the INTEREST and the STAMINA to do them in addition to my editing work. Finally! More than a year since the miscarriage and my near-blindness and my diagnosis with IIH, I am regaining stamina! I no longer put in a "lot" of physical activity (read: normal activity for most people) one day then have to sleep 14 hours that night to make up for it!

Today, I woke in a good mood, with plenty of energy, despite being awakened by the alarm clock. I immediately started at the day. It still takes me a while to build up my head of steam, but I was soon chugging along and kept up the pace for a full 9 hours. Woohoo!

When M got home from work this evening, he said he was given an application today by the company he works at, "now that he's already doing the job." Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, though, he realized what he was saying. The application was from the company he works AT, not the one he works FOR as a temp. Then he realized this is probably a good thing--that the company wants to have the application complete so they can hire him directly as soon as they can (most likely about mid-February, if I've done my math correctly, as they usually wait 3 months to hire their temp-to-hire folks so the temp agency can get whatever money they have been promised).

* Stringham high: Christmas is coming soon!
* Stringham low: Cold. Brr!
* Stringham super-high: Strength! Stamina! Good-paying employment!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ah, Life

It's been a busy month. M has changed jobs. So far, he really likes the new one and sees the company as a place he could stay at for years. Literally. The number-one reason for losing workers there is retirement. Now he just has to get hired on full-time from the contract position, which we're hoping will be only a few months rather than an entire year.

Of course with the job switch, we are left without health insurance again, though the temp agency offers some mediocre coverage for mediocre-to-high cost. We're considering it, though, because of the waiting period and my need to visit the doctors and have labs every few months...but we're trying to determine if paying cash will be more affordable than the coverage provided. Same old story, different day. (If he gets hired on full time by the company he's working at now, we'll have coverage for my health, apparently. Their insurance covers preexisting conditions with no waiting period and is reasonably priced--so the story goes. Maybe it's just a fairy-tale, but if so, it's a good one.)

Of course, the appointment with the new neuro-ophthalmologist that I made back when I had no insurance then did have insurance that would cover happened just four days after Mike left his old job, so the visit wasn't covered by insurance. The new doctor says she wants to try lowering my dose of the medicine I'm on but doesn't want to try it until I've lost the weight I "gained from the pregnancy." She didn't seem to understand that I didn't gain any weight from the pregnancy and am now lighter than I was before I got pregnant. Still, she wants me to lose weight, and so do I. Here we go trying again. This time, we're enlisting the help of ankle and wrist weights and having me sit on an exercise ball for a few hours a day while I work at my computer. And, of course, as always, we're trying to adjust my diet again.

On Sunday, while M was out getting my Christmas present, he noticed a crack running the full length of the windshield. Apparently, a very small chip turned into the crack almost overnight, because we hadn't seen the crack when we were out on Friday. Fortunately, I have comprehensive coverage on the car, so the windshield will be replaced at no cost to us--not even a deductible. That's the first time I've ever had to use my auto insurance. Funny thing is I had only ever had one insurance claim before we lived in this town--in 6 years of renters/homeowners insurance and I have no idea how many years in car insurance. Since we've lived in this house--a grand total of 2 1/2 years--we've had three claims, car and house combined. Not to mention the health stuff. Crazy, crazy few years.

Still, all in all, we're good. We're looking forward to the holidays, M likes his new job, I'm trying to get more active and regain more energy and take back "control" of the housework (and so far succeeding, though slowly), and we stay mostly warm in the house despite single-digit temperatures and the heat pump running constantly.

* Stringham high: It's almost Christmas.
* Stringham low: Cold, cold, cold.
* Stringham super-high: M likes his new job; I am regaining lost energy.