Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And then go home

I have been amiss. In writing on this blog, I mean (and in lots of other things too. But it would take a long time to list them all here).

In the time between my last post and this, I went through the door of twenty two. It feels much different than twenty one. Twenty two makes me feel like I should be getting on with my life: securing a high-powered job at a magazine, or working at a bank, or doing something practical and useful and adult.

And I have never felt more like a child in my life.

And whether it's the birthday or not, I've been re-thinking things. Future plan things, mostly. Like, maybe I will get a masters' in ESL and teach elementary school kids, instead of going for my Ph.D. right away. Basically, do I want to teach 8 and 9 year olds, or 18 and 19 year olds?

And like how far away I am willing to go. See, somewhere I swallowed this idea that I'm a loser if I don't go pretty far away from home, for at least a while (why I applied to schools in Boston and Texas). But I don't want to live in Boston. I want to live in the South. I love it here, so much. But I feel guilty and unadventurous for not wanting to leave for a real long time. So I was telling this to my sweet mother and she reminded me of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and other writers who lived where they were raised.

Don't get me wrong, I feel the ancient fairy tale need of leave-and-return. I still feel the tug away, I still long for pilgrimage. But I am beginning to grasp that it wouldn't be wrong to make my home in these green hills, in a place I love, in home. That it's OK if I want to root myself in family and land. That I can leave just to have the joy of return.

And now I'm back at school, my other home. Home because of the friends here who really are family. Talking with Anna before sleep and enjoying the comfortable quiet of living in the same space. Sitting with Ryan and Michael at first breakfast, because just watching them laugh and talk makes me happy. Quoting "A Very Potter Musical" with Erin and watching it together for the next hour in the Mac lab. Lee's Civil War beard and how perfectly it suits the hat I made for him. Two classes in a row with my lovely English girls. Two hour supper with Josh and Ryan and the girls. New Lamb Chop episodes with Shannon. And knitting in the cosy apartment while Claire crocheted and Valerie crafted jewelry.

Oh friends, you rich my life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Higher Common Sense

On some days, I wake up, and I have a tidy mind. I feel the urge straighten things up . . . to re-organize my book shelf . . . to read (or watch): Cold Comfort Farm.

These are my Flora Poste days, January days. 1930s modern. I straighten my hair and make up my face. I write out my calendar for the next five months and make eleven lists. I shut all the closet doors and take all my vitamins and throw away old letters without regret.

Flora reformed a family of dirty tragic figures into people of sensible fulfillment. She is poised and neat and even believes in arranged marriages. And on these days, like her, I am order reforming mess, common sense coolly defeating neurosis, humor quipping romance, sweeping dust out of attic corners.

And the image I always have in mind is this. Peace and order with a hint of glamour. No untidiness. And, at the end of the day, Charles Fairford in his airplane to take me to London. Because, after all, things will get messy again. Tomorrow Flora might be subsumed in Hardy-like melancholy.

But for now, the clean cold brisk January order. The satisfying starkness of black branches against the winter sky. All new, in order, everything arranged.

"Jane Austen and I have so much in common. Neither of can stand mess."
-Flora Poste, Cold Comfort Farm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Please read the letter

Just drained a cup of hot Afghan tea, and about to down some orange and spice. Both with gobs of honey. That's right, I have not had coffee in 48 hours. I have not wanted coffee in more like 144 hours.
Por que? Well, somehow the bean of the gods loses its appeal when your body is a 24 hour sneezies factory (how can one body produce this much snot, I ask in disbelief). Last night I spent over an hour coughing instead of sleeping, and I went outside yesterday for .03 seconds. Coffee, my daily walks, normal functioning energy level - what else will this consumption steal from me?

We have not had personal photos displayed in our home for over 2 years. This is sad to me. We took them down when we put the old house for sale, and they've been lingering in a neglectful pile in the basement ever since. Not to mention the masses of more photos in my dad's back office, i.e. catch-all for everything we haven't found a place for yet in this house. So for Christmas I gave my dad some service coupons, which included "organizing the pile of photos."
A bigger task than I first realized. But fun. He asked me also to organize the basement and the attic, and of course I said yes. So that is my job for Jan-term, and what a job it will be.

But really, I'm looking forward to it. I'm just on the photos now, and it's fun to go through and see our personalities change through pictures. Jim was a stern and unsmiling toddler who is a goofball by the time he's eight. I was a flamboyant camera-loving diva, until I stopped smiling when I was nine (when I figure out how to scan photos in a .jpg instead of .jsp format, I'll show you on here!).

And it will be fun to re-discover all the treasures in the attic, like the mallard duck sketch I always loathed and the Anacapri watercolor I loved. It's a treasure hunt into the forgotten, and who knows what I'll find?

In other news: my mom and I spent 20 minutes on Sunday morning coordinating our outfits (she used to dress me up. Now I dress her up). What with the sickness, I go to be first and wake up last (solid 11 hours, night before last). It feels lazy and wasteful, and oh so wonderful. Erin visited yesterday, and we spent yes, the entire time, watching "A Very Potter Musical," and I loved it.
And my dog, my Sweet Dog, who we kept warm and safe in the War Room last night, and I was reminded of just how much I love him more all the time. His sweet velvet fragile tents of ears. His wide submissive eyes when he wants to be stroked. His exuberant happy eyes when he tries to knock me down in his excitement. The way he runs off in the completely opposite direction when I throw the ball for him. His sweet snuffling nose and the way he tries to lick all over my face (I understand I may be the only one who appreciates this. No one else is expected to enjoy my dog's slobbering. End of disclaimer). Sweet sweet Mo.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Study in Contrasts

What with everything, I have been inclined to dwell more on the differences this last year has wrought, before I go making resolutions for the new one. So here are the ways I've grown from last January to this January, categorized for your convenience.

Pass on the Vermouth Bianco.
Last Jan 1, I was a nondrinker per being underage. This January 1, I am a nondrinker by choice. A decision made in consideration of my personality and genes. Nothing wrong with alcohol. Just not for me right now.

O when I was young and foolish.
A year ago, I was coming off an autumn of being brittle and hard. I had laughed too loudly. I had used another person solely for my own emotional needs, to keep myself from hurting. I was proud and unkind, and I still blush over my behavior and heart during that time.
That whole autumn can be summed up this way: I thought that by being careless, I could avoid feeling all the pain of what had happened. And it works, for a while. But let me tell you this: it's much better to grieve. To feel the loneliness. To ache over the losses.
Last January, I had just broken and begun that process. And let me tell you - it's so much lighter on this side.

Come back to Normal.
I've told you what the last part of 2008 was like. The first part was horrible depression and darkness. Needless to say, I hadn't felt normal for quite a while last January. But little did I know, the coming spring would hold incredible gifts. I still remember my first taste of Normal in the sunshine of a warm February afternoon. And the wonderful friends and adventures of folklore, the dear friendships that developed with both the Deborahs and Jessica and other wonderful RUF-ers, the sweetness of simple happiness again. Because of all that, I enter this year a little more healed, a little more at peace.

Wear and Tear; or, Let's Get Physical
I have two tiny scars on my tummy that I didn't have last year. And suffered no ill effects. Thank you Lord for smooth surgeries. There was a tough time when I was "et up" with fear. But I got my first IV and really liked anesthesia and when I think about how scared I was all I can say is: thank you Lord that nothing was wrong.
As for everything else health-wise: weight's the same, height's not changing, and I have taken up Pilates. Which is wonderful.

Three Words
2008: pain, dark, love
2009: light, struggle, laugh

Last year, a professor had just approached me with the possibility of doing research. So we applied, and received the grant, and through that and the following TA opportunity, God made me to understand that I really love to teach and think researching and writing papers is fun. So this year I'm waiting to hear from grad schools. Next year? It's either the halls of academia or the one-room insurance agency in Kansas. Guess which one I'm hoping for.

A year ago, I lived in the grip of fear. And today, I still live mostly in the grip of fear. But now I understand that it is fear, and fear leads only to a tiny, twisted version of the truth. Never freedom. Never peace. A year ago, I thought that if I could think through things and figure out what my problem was, I could fix it. Now, I more often just pray. For courage, courage to walk through the fear. Or for faith and peace. Or I just sit and breathe, "Help."

So that's where I am right now. No resolutions yet; no impossible goals that lead to defeat, just trying to stay balanced.

And oh, all you folks that read this blog - thank you for spending time on these ramblings. I do love all you sweet people - have a full, rich and glad new year. And that's an order, children.