Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life, Death, Violence, and the Loss of Normalcy

With the sentencing for one of the parties involved in the murder of a dear friend of my mom's happening this Friday, I thought this would be an appropriate blog post for today.

I've touched on this before in previous entries, but this has been a really rough few years for me and for my family.  In fact, it has been 5 years since I've gotten through a year without losing someone that I love.

2009 - My dog of 16 years, Sable died rather suddenly.
2010 - My aunt Sherry died of breast cancer.
2011 - Theron Brison was murdered.
2012 - My dog Maxwell had to be put to sleep due to a brain tumor.
2013 - My Grandy passed away pancreatic cancer.

Yes, dogs are people, too.  For anyone else who has experienced the loss of a beloved pet, the loss hurts, and it definitely counts.

Anyway, recently, my mom was told that [after certain events] she can now get back to normal.

But, this left me thinking-- after we experience severe loss, after we experience traumatic loss, are we ever truly 'normal' again?  When I think of who I was 6 years ago, I know that I am a drastically different person now than I was then.  Of course, some of this is definitely due to the fact that as human beings our sense of self is constantly in flux.  (at least, for most of us it is).  But, I think that the difference also has something to do with the fact that I have experienced trauma by losing animals and people that are very important to me.

Is my laugh a little duller?  Is it a little shorter?  Does it come less frequently?  I can't be sure, but I do know that these people (for this purpose dogs are people, too) took a piece of my heart with them to their final resting places, wherever they may be.

And so, I will not ever be that self again-- I don't think I will never be 'normal.'  I can never be that carefree girl again who hasn't experienced severe and traumatic loss.

Particularly, I think, violence changes you when you are touched in some aspect by it.  You go from thinking the world is a relatively safe place where violence happens on the periphery to people you don't know or the friend of a friend's brother or something like that.  As long as it doesn't directly touch our lives, whether we recognize it or not, we have some sort of a sense of safety.

It isn't until violence comes to you, until it visits your home and intrudes upon where you live that you realize that this safety is false.  It isn't until this happens that you even realize you have by and large had the belief that you and your loved ones are safe.  You become a little more scared, a little more worried, you look over your shoulder a little more, you triple check your locks, and you realize in a panic that the locks you do have probably wouldn't stop someone from getting in, and make a mental note to google alarm systems for apartments or different types of locks.

Do you ever come back from that?  Do people ever become 'normal' again after that?  I tend to think that for most people answer is no.

And this is hard for people to understand.  Grief that is not your own is often hard for people to understand.

When my aunt was sick, I had a teammate on my women's soccer team who emailed me and basically said something along the lines of 'I'm tired of reading your emo and suicidal Facebook posts, your life is not that bad.'  First of all, I've never made a suicidal Facebook post in my life, but that's actually beside the point.

The point is this: who was this woman to say that to me?  To look into my life from the periphery (we had only seen each other occasionally outside of the soccer field) and tell me how it is?  The answer?  No one.  

No one has the right to look into my life, to look into my grief and tell me I don't have the right to be feeling it--that I should get over it, that I should return to normal.

Would this woman have welcomed the same sentiment from me if it were her niece dying at 46 of metastasized breast cancer that had fought its way into her brain?  Probably not.  And more than that, I wouldn't have ever said it.  

After concluding that this woman in her 40s had either dealt with a lot of death or very little death, I wrote back some of the same sentiments, as cordially as I could manage, and then I (of course) deleted her from Facebook.  Nowadays, we have the power to do that--to delete those that hurt us or offend us from our worlds with the click of the button.  Or, a lot of times we have that power, at least.

But, there are people in our real lives that we cannot delete with a mute button or by 'unfriending,' and we have to deal with their perverted sense of our own reality of which they usually know very little.  They don't recognize that no one wants to hear platitudes of 'she's in a better place,' or 'you can get back to normal now,' and that is no one's fault--no one's burden--but their own.

We grieve, we cry, we lash out, we scream, we do anything we can to make it through the day with the burden of loss upon us--and some of us are lucky.  Some of us DO get back to normal after a few weeks, months, years.  But, some of us don't.  And a lack of normalcy doesn't mean inferiority-- it means that life's events have created a brokenness inside of us that will likely never be repaired.

Life, death, violence, or some amalgamation of all three have created within us a severe loss of normalcy that we will never recover.  

And it is not anyone's job to fix us-- it is not even our own jobs to fix ourselves.  We have to sit in silence with our loss, with who these losses have made us day in and day out, and the bottom line is this: You can love us for the way we are now, with the understanding that we will never latch on to 'normal' as a life preserver the way you do--that we will never call 'normal' our home again, or you can let us be.

But you can't talk, hug, or even help us back into normal.  And you shouldn't want to.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Sickness and In Health - Germophobia

I have been battling a sickness, my first in over a year--so, I thought it might be the perfect time for this little post.

In recent years, I have become quite the little germophobe.  To the point where even my mom (who is also a germophobe) has remarked upon it.

I'm not quite sure where or when it began--maybe it's just because my mom is, I'm not sure.  But, it is a somewhat recent development. I suspect it actually has at least something to do with my thought processes while sick.

You see, when I'm sick, I can't quite stop thinking about HOW I got sick--my mind will just run a mile a minute, and I'll keep thinking about the germ I picked up (omg!  Where was it?  On a door handle?  A computer keyboard?  A desk?  A shopping cart?  A box of cereal I picked up at the grocery store?  The debit card pad?) The possibilities are endless!  And then there is the question of HOW did the germ I picked up get there?  Did the person carrying it wipe his or her nose, and then touch the thing?  Did they sneeze all over it?  Did they cough on it? Beyond that, there is the question of HOW this germ entered my body?  Did I pick it up from whatever I picked it up from and then rub my eye?  Eat something?  Touch my face?  Touch my lips?  Rub my nose? 

You see?  It gets exhausting even thinking about it even when I'm healthy, let alone when I'm actually sick.  It's extraordinarily tiresome then.

I think all of this thought has led me down the long sterile winding road that leads to severe germophobia.  OF course, when I wash my hands in a restroom, I turn the water off with a paper towel.  No paper towel?  I'll use my elbow, and then gingerly grab a seat cover with which to open the door.  Especially so since I recently read an MSN news article that says air dryers are unsanitary.

If I'm at work, I'll take that paper towel and fold it in half and open any door that is in between me and my office.  I'll also use a paper towel in the kitchen at work to open the fridge, open the microwave, set the time on the microwave, etc.

A few weeks ago, I was in Marshall's and I was pretty damn sure the cashier was sick.  So, I went out of my way to go wash my hands (all the way in the back of the store) before I left, even though I was kind of in a hurry.  When I got to the restroom, the women's bathroom was out of soap, so I went in the men's (it was empty, thank goodness) to wash my hands with soap in there...

A the gym, I use the towel they provide to touch all the buttons on the machine.  At crosswalks, I use my knuckle to press the button.  When I use a pen at a store (if I've forgotten my own), I use my long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt as a protective barrier between myself and the pen.  If I am wearing short sleeves, I hold the pen at the tip top, which makes for a really sloppy signature, but which protects against germs, since most people tend to hold the pen like a, you know, not crazy person.  When I use the debit card pad, I use my knuckle.

As I'm typing it all out now, I realize how kind of crazy it is.  I've even thought about carrying around a rubber/vinyl glove to avoid touching things.  It hasn't come to that...yet.

But, I can't help it, the train of thought when I'm sick (like now) is too scary.  Obviously, even with all these precautions, it doesn't always work--but it leaves me less paranoid.  On average, I'm sick a lot less than most of the people I know or work with, so I'm not sure it's entirely without merit.

Maybe someday I'll end up with a couple pairs of gloves in my purse, and I'll slide my little fingers in them whenever I become aware of danger!  Or, maybe someday I'll cool it, and be able to use a pen at a store like a normal person.  Who knows?  For now, this is how it is--and I think it keeps me slightly safer from some of the nefarious things out there (germs, parasites, and viruses, oh my!).

What about you?  Any other germophobes out there?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Helloooo, 2014!

Well, 2013 has come and gone, and here we sit in 2014 (or perhaps we stand, or slouch, or... you get the picture).  Whatever we're doing, we're here.

I intended to make a post for New Year's Eve, since my post count was at 13, and that hasn't always necessarily been a good number. But, oh well, I'm not very superstitious. 

Before I get on with this post, I just want to take a minute to say how floored I am that my previous post (read it here) got such powerful responses.  A lot of you commented on Facebook, Twitter, and sent private messages, and I just want to say 'thanks!' It's not easy sharing oneself with the Internet--at least, it's not for me, but I felt it was important, and you let me know that I was right: it is.

That being said, I hope you all are having a fabulous start to the New Year!  (not sure why I keep capitalizing that).

So, resolutions!  Have you made any?

Personally, I haven't made any concrete ones.  It seems kind of arbitrary for me to do so-- I haven't made any resolutions in years, though I have used the new year to help with things I wanted to do more of, anyway.  I was trying to do them before the new year, and sometimes I would succeed, and sometimes I wouldn't.  As is life.

Anyway, we're 2 days in (hah!), and so far, I'm doing well on the goals (not resolutions) I've outlined for myself.  They are as follows:

-Floss every day.
-Drink more water.
-Eat vegetables every day.
-Drink less Diet Coke.
-Go to the gym with more frequency.

These are things I have not, traditionally, been very good about. This week has seen me googling at a near record speed the best way to cook vegetables, the effects of microwaves on our food, and how many ounces of water you should drink per day.

For the record, the effects of microwaves on our food aren't nearly as dire as I've been told.  I've been told on numerous occasions that microwaving vegetables takes all the nutrients out of them.

Not so, says Dr. Google.  In fact, apparently (and I'm not [very] ashamed to admit that this was news to me--before, I've always thought it was some sort of witchcraft or wizardry that brought me my hot food often in a matter of seconds), microwaves work by heating up water molecules in the food, and many articles (written by people more knowledgeable than I on the subject) say that the microwave is actually a preferred method for retaining nutrients in vegetables.  Basically, the logic says that the less time you heat your veggies, the better--and the microwave is definitely the fastest. Now, they don't always taste the best, perhaps, but they're nutrient rich, and if you're eating the frozen vegetables, you're getting a lot of nutrients, since they apparently freeze them at the height of their nutritional value.

See?  Sometimes the internet is a good invention!  Now I have fewer excuses about my poor vegetable consumption.  (I microwaved some asparagus at work today--it was alright, but the trader joe's kind is much, much better).

No matter how you cook it, though, experts agree: some veggies (even if they lose a few nutrients along the way) are certainly better than no veggies (which was, sadly, my default).

As for the water thing: it's approximately 13 cups for men (3 liters), and 9 cups for women (2.2 liters), depending on the climate in which you live.  This estimate is for a pretty normal climate.

That's approximately 70 ounces per day for females (males, you can do your own math!).  Which doesn't necessarily mean we need to put 70 ounces of water in a cup (or 9 of them) and drink them. Water is contained in everything we eat and drink: coffee, vegetables, soda, etc.  So, I'm trying to consume at least 60 ounces of water a day, and assuming that the things I eat (especially if I'm eating lettuce, etc.) make up the other 10 oz.  

We'll see how that goes.  And, remember, what they say isn't true! You can die from drinking too much water.  So don't, you know, over-hydrate. 

In true tradition, now that I've looked forward, it's time to look back.  Maybe I'm doing that in reverse order, but oh well.

In retrospect, 2013 was just kind of... there for me. That is, if it wasn't occupied with tragedy.  This year marks the 5th year in a row that someone or something I love has been taken, and that is a pattern I desperately hope stays in 2013.

In Loving Memory:
2009 - Sable.
2010 - Aunt Sherry.
2011 - Theron Brison.
2012 - Maxwell.
2013 - Grandy.

My life won't ever be the same, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't wish more than anything that you could experience 2014 with me.

I know, I know, this was so not a hard-hitting entry.  It's alright, we've got the rest of 2014 for that.  

Go ahead and share your resolutions (if you're doing them), or general goals for the year, so we can ask each other about them throughout the year, and make each other feel really guilty if we haven't been keeping up with them.  Hey, that's what friends are for, right?!