Sunday, July 27, 2003

apron strings

this morning i awoke from the first of what i expect to be many dreams in which my grandmother, still alive, is planning for her death. this happened after my grandfather passed away as well; i would have dream after dream in which we were on the way to his funeral, and he couldn't find his tie....

seeing her again in the dream, looking quite a bit younger, i might add, made me feel so relieved, but when i woke up, i remembered. funny how dreams always work out that way....

< non-sequitur >
i got a good deal of work done yesterday, after which i watched the usual suspects (great!) and, later, the dangerous lives of altar boys (eh, so-so). joining netflix has reminded me that there are hundreds of movies that i wouldn't mind seeing, and since they're all lumped in with one monthly fee, why the heck not? netflix can really work to your advantage if you've got a lot of time on your hands....which, at this point, i do....
< /non-sequitur >

i've been thinking a lot about how my grandparents must have been in their youth. i would have loved to have known them then...they both had such character, were both so honest and giving and kind. and yet, they were also filled with faults, just like the rest of us. as a child, it's hard to see your grandparents as having foibles or bad days or being human, really....at least it was for me. and that's a good thing, and that's a bad thing. the good part, of course, is that i felt amazingly cherished, nourished, and safe with them.....the other side of the coin involved a somewhat unhealthy influence that i allowed their own personal standards to have over my life. i always had the thought in the back of my mind, 'are they ashamed of me for not being all that i could be? for not being all that they were?'

in my grandmother's later years, she had the tendency to be more than a bit 'directive,' and as i made my way through the world and experienced the things i was experiencing, these suggestions (demands, whatever) sounded more like judgment and less like advice. it became harder and harder for me to hear all the ways in which i needed to 'fix' myself. i couldn't deal with it. i pulled away from it. from her. it made me sad, but i did it anyway. she was hurting me, even though i knew it was all about her love and concern for me and her desire that i live my life to the 'fullest.' i just couldn't take being wounded by someone whom i esteemed so highly, who had been such a part of me becoming ME. i thought that if i were a failure in her eyes, the least i could do would be to remove myself from the situation so that no one would have to be bothered by all that i wasn't doing 'right.'

towards the last year or so of her life, she backed off (most likely after my mother explained that she was hurting me), and things were a lot more pleasant in our interactions. but it wasn't the same as when i was younger and i ran to her with all my thoughts and hopes and dreams. it wasn't the grandma i used to know. we weren't really very close anymore, and that was still really hard for me, but i set about the task of telling her every chance i got how much i loved her and how much she helped me to grow. and i purposed to see her through realistic eyes and know that she did love me, that she had always been proud of the person i had become, that she hadn't given up hope that i could do anything i put my mind to. i grew to love her all over again - but this time with an adult heart.

although that kid inside of me still hurts for all that i lost - years, even, before she died, the rest of me grieves for the woman i grew to see - someone strong, with a lot of life in her, someone who took risks, someone who loved deeply and well, someone with faults - just like me - but someone who didn't let her faults hold her back from living her life.

it's a funny thing, really....now that i feel that the pressure of standards has been lifted from me, somehow, it makes me want to BE and DO many of the things that were once 'suggested' to me. and if she were here right now, there is so much i'd want to hear about and learn from her still....and so much i'd want to tell her...all those thoughts and hopes and dreams birthed in a child's heart that were kept quietly tucked away for my adult self to discover some day.

i have lost her.

i am finding me.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

once more, with feeling....

to commemorate nothing in particular, i have gotten nails again. it's been a year and a half (or more) since i last had them, and i was suffering from severe nail envy whenever i went out in public and saw a woman with a nice set....i had been planning to get myself some with my birthday money, but with my grandmother getting sick, etc., it just didn't seem the time....

i still can't believe the funeral was nearly a week ago. i've been remarkably calm since returning. i haven't really cried once. i nearly broke down at work the other day because i was feeling overwhelmed and stressed (fall-out, i think), but i managed to hold it together. salimah asked me tonight how i'm handling all of this. i wasn't 100% sure what to say, because i'm not sure that handling is the right word. i mean, i'm breathing in and out, getting up in the morning, going on about my business like a somewhat 'normal' person, but i'm not experienced enough with loss to truly 'handle' myself in a specific, pre-determined way.

i do genuinely feel, though, that my life has turned some sort of a corner. i am sad that my grandmother is gone, and yet relieved somehow - for her sake, for mine. that may sound strange. i am grieving the loss of an end of an era for me. and i am celebrating that end as well. to start again...to move forward...that is a gift.

watching the casket go into the earth did something inside me. it was as if something got resolved in that moment. and driving down the highway that afternoon into the lowering sun, i understood that i had changed....that i need to change. i'm still sorting this all through. and perhaps that's why i'm not super emotional right now. my brain and heart are very busy figuring and organizing and realizing.

and every morning, another day begins. and i'm working and earning money again. and i'm making plans to get my stuff out of storage once and for all and maybe move soon so that i can start my life...

for real this time.

Monday, July 21, 2003

back

suffice it to say that i returned relatively intact from this weekend's events. i've had little restful sleep since then and i'm still not 100% sure what day it is, but other than that, i'm here. i'm sad, but i'm here.

in other news, it feels good to get back in the swing of things with work. i have more thoughts to that end, but i will save them for a later time when i have a bit more emotional energy to devote to writing something of substance.

so, i'm back in the game.

sort of.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

mourning has broken...

sarah e. johnson franco died july 13, 2003 at the age of 88.
she is survived by a large family (both by blood lines and by heart strings) who love her dearly and will miss her even more.

she is survived by me.

she will go into the ground on saturday morning...into the soil of the mountain on which she was born.
and part of me will go with her....
i may still be here, breathing, but my heart is cracked.

Friday, July 11, 2003

john 3:16

yesterday as i drove through the streets of this city i call home, i saw a man peeing on the sidewalk, in plain view of everyone. i saw another man wrapped in half a sheet, trying somehow to stave off the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. down the block, a man in a business suit, briefcase in hand, talked furiously on his cell phone, wiping the sweat off his furrowed brow. other people ran for the bus, yelling when it left them behind on the curb, oblivious to those they nearly knocked down in the process. tired, overworked people. sick people. lonely, lonely people.

sometimes i lie in bed at night and think about all the faces i've seen, all the lives whose paths i've crossed, often without notice. they are the breeze that lightly brushes my cheek when i've got other things on my mind. ephemeral. a dream. and that is who i am to them as well.

we all walk the face of this earth strangers to one another, our problems hidden in pockets of oblivion, just waiting to be noticed, cherished, by someone other than ourselves. we walk by each other on the street and never say hello. what's the point? we'll never know each other. you'll never see who i really am.

this makes me sad, though, because i know how my own heart longs to be known by another....how sensitive and scared i am...how easily hurt and bruised by the sharp edges of this world. and i know i'm not the only one. most people, i would wager, are that small inside, somewhere inside....feeling the weight of all their sorrows crushing them underneath....desperate for someone to really see them.

and then, my mind wanders to Jesus...the One who knew and saw nathanael before they even met....the One who told the woman at the well everything about herself....the One who is the mirror of truth in my life every single day. here was a man who saw deep into the heart of every person He met and shared in their pains, their sorrows, their joys. a man who didn't turn the other way but looked people in the eye....and, with even the smallest touch, healed their wounded souls.

i want to be like this man. less me, more Him. i want to somehow care for people the way that He did. it isn't about whether you live in a plush suburban home or whether you even have enough money to buy a sandwich at the 7-11. it's about poverty of spirit. there is a richness and depth to the heart of God that the world cannot manufacture or possess. it is the heart that longs for true relationship with all that He has created.....we, the wisps of air. the moments. the flashes of sound and light and movement.

it is my calling - to be a conduit of the love that most people have never known. it humbles and astonishes me that i should know such love. it is the reason i wake up in the morning. it is the reason i drive through this city and give thanks for the beauty of real humanity, raw and hurting. the world that Jesus loves more than anything. the world He came to save from itself.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

i can't sleep. i went to bed and laid there, hoping that i could drift off, or at the very least feel tired enough to think about drifting off. no such luck. my muscles are sore from my nearly 16-hour workday yesterday (self-imposed - i had a lot to catch up on) from home. today was much more in the realm of normal hours-wise, but my body is not happy with me. not in the least.

anyway, my grandmother is hanging on. she's been on a respirator since saturday night, because her condition worsened after salimah and i left; the doctors are hopeful, however, that when they remove her from life support, she will start breathing on her own again. the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical, i think....

this is such a strange time for me. everything feels so surreal....so weighed down by 'what ifs'....nothing seems possible. everything seems possible. who even KNOWS what is possible (well, other than God, of course)....and if my mind has a free moment, it goes to thoughts of my grandmother, all the times i spent with her as a child, all the little moments that i don't think about so often but are still very much there in the recesses of my mind. working an incredibly long day yesterday definitely helped in the distraction department, but tonight, there is nothing to take my mind away....nothing to do but lie there awake and pray for God's mercy....nothing to do but sit here at this computer screen and type myself into oblivion....

i wish i had a hot bath and a long massage and an even longer night's rest. what i will likely get is a fitful, dream-laden 'sleep' and when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m., i will wish i were dead. there's always a chance for something different, of course, but the odds of late seem to be against me.

miles to go notwithstanding, i'm gonna have another try at the pillow.....

goodnight, world.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

after my blog post yesterday, i received a phone call from my mother telling me that my grandmother had been taken to the hospital in hershey, pennsylvania. she had been ill for about a week, but things had gotten much worse and my mom let me know that her condition was critical enough that they were uncertain whether she would make it.

so, salimah and i got in the car this afternoon and drove to see her. the last time i was at hershey medical center was probably almost 15 years ago when my grandfather spent a month there one summer for his heart problems. hospitals give me issues (ironic, considering i've worked in two of them) - other than the fact people sometimes go there to die, i feel very claustrophobic and wind up getting very flushed and warm and feel panicked and sometimes that i almost can't breathe. issues aside, though, i wanted to see her...knew that i needed to go. when we arrived in intensive care, i started to feel nervous, unsure of what i would see. we had to wear masks to enter her room at first (she's in isolation because of respiratory distress and possible infection), and she looked so small and weak - nothing like the spunky little grandma i'm used to seeing. it scared me. i tried to hold my tears in until we left the room, but as soon as i was back in the hallway, i busted out crying.

one half of my childhood security went away 10 years ago when i lost my grandfather, and the other half is lying in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and unable to get enough oxygen on her own. all i could think was please, God....please have mercy on her....please don't let her die yet. i'm not ready for this....she's not ready for this....NO ONE is ready for this....

even though i wound up spending some time in there (post crying episode) visiting a bit and got to see that she's doing better even than i had expected, i'm still scared. i still feel SO uneasy. she's not out of the woods....not even close. a million things are running through my head - memories, mostly. i could go on for days were i to recount all that this woman means to me. i won't get into that here. it's not time for such things. it would be more important...more appropriate...for me to spend that time in prayer - for her healing, for her peace of mind, for strength for my mother, who is primary caretaker at the hospital now.

for anyone who reads this little blog of mine, if you are a praying person, please send some up for my grandmother, won't you?

her name is sarah....just like me.

Friday, July 04, 2003

oh beautiful for spacious skies, etc.

don't you just love it when people say something that could have been witty, and perhaps even subtlely so, and then instead of letting others around them clue in and enjoy the moment, they ruin it by asking GET IT??!! a word to these people: please do not do that....

last night, salimah and i went to see the 11:30 show of 'legally blonde 2: red, white, and blonde.' it was a charming flick, much like the first (although not as good, in my opinion), but i found myself feeling more and more exhausted throughout, such that by the time it was over at 1:15, i drifted home in a haze (thank goodness the road was relatively empty; i know my driving wasn't up to snuff). i am coming to terms with the fact that i need to go to bed at a reasonable hour EVERY NIGHT, not just when i'm working. my 28-year old self cannot take this anymore....

after a rather restful 7 hours of sleep, i got up this morning and we went to blockbuster (stopping by mcd's on the way for some of their mcgriddle sandwiches - too yummy!) to rent some dvds for the weekend. we got 'punch drunk love,' 'how to lose a guy in 10 days,' and 'real women have curves.' i'm looking forward to them all and am definitely loving the sharper picture and extra features of watching a movie on disc....

at some point this weekend, salimah and i are planning on heading over to the austin grill for dinner and then perhaps to paint some pottery at amazing glaze. we were going to jam all of our birthday celebrating into yesterday but decided instead to spread it out over the course of the whole weekend. i'm all about prolonging the joy:)

i've been slowly arriving at a realization that settled into my bones today: i really like this city. on our way home from the movie store, we drove through fells point and canton for a bit, just to scope out the territory, and it really is charming down there. in fact, every part of the city that i've seen so far has its areas, whether small or big, that seem so quaint and lovely. and there are so many great little restaurants and fun, kitschy shops and cafes tucked here and there. unless God directs me elsewhere, i'd like to stick around for a little while....

there's a large american flag hanging from the washington monument (just a few blocks from where we live). baltimore's finest are hanging out on i-83 pulling people over for speeding and other such infractions. frantic, just-out-of-bed people are rushing to stock up on liquor and other party items. the harbor is already a-buzz with tourists up the wazoo....ah yes, 4th of july. i wonder if our founding fathers would have envisioned something like this....fireworks and drunk people and barbecues - all to 'celebrate' a nation that its own citizens too often take for granted. is this day really about freedom, or just another excuse for public debauchery? just a thought....

today, i saw a sign that said 'war is always a failure of humanity.' how ironic - whoever put that sign up has the freedom to do so because someone long-gone fought and died on some battlefield to win him that freedom. there are things far worse than war, people. think of those in other nations that get killed for praying to the 'wrong' God, raising their voice in protest against a public figure, uncovering their hair in public. here, you can call yourself an american and still burn the flag or spit on the constitution, because there are laws PROTECTING YOU for being so disrespectful. no doubt, i put God above country in terms of my own beliefs, and nothing is as important to me as Who i worship at the end of the day, but i will say this: if you live here and you don't have any feelings of thanksgiving for the privilege of getting to exist in a country where you can think your own thoughts and speak them out loud in a government forum, place of worship, school building, etc., then please at the very least, exercise your right to be VERY quiet and keep all your negativity to yourself, won't you? maybe just for today??

so, debauchery aside, happy birthday, america. may your freedom continue to shine....

Thursday, July 03, 2003

recap: happy birthday to me

tuesday morning, i awoke around 9 and spent the morning puttering about the apartment, receiving a couple of phone calls from dear friends, etc. around noon thirty, michael and i went to lunch at donna's in timonium, where we shared a splendid roasted veggie/goat cheese torte, some sandwiches, and a bread pudding with grand marnier sauce (compliments of our waitress, who decided that she wanted to do something nice for me, since i've been there so many times before). after lunch, we made a quick trip to the drug store so i could pick up some sunglasses, and then we headed to the boordy vineyards for a tour and wine tasting.

i won't get into the bumbling tour guide or the maniacal woman who thought she was quite the wine conoisseur (she was, actually, wrong). i will say, however, that while i didn't enjoy many of the wines we tasted, i did leave there feeling quite relaxed. (it took me several tastings before i realized i could dump out the unwanted wine into this bucket they had available. things were further complicated by the fact that the tour guide kept pouring me nearly half glasses of wine. i am not a drinker, people. it went straight to my head.)

after a brief visit back home to freshen up and change clothes, michael came to get me and we went to the brass elephant for dinner. we had a table tucked into the back room and enjoyed a lovely dinner and fun banter with the staff of the restaurant (michael works there) who wandered by to chat every so often.

once we had eaten ourselves to the point of full satisfaction, we went home, where salimah was waiting, and opened my gifts. she gave me a DVD player (!) and had informed some people of such, so i wound up with a nice little starter set of 5 dvds (3 from michael, 1 from cat, and 1 from my parents) - 'two weeks notice,' 'to kill a mockingbird,' 'legally blonde,' 'diana krall: live in paris,' and 'james taylor: pull over.' salimah also gave me a setting of these hand painted dishes that have pears and plums and apples (one fruit on each dish) against a dark taupe background. there was also a lovely pitcher to match. she further hooked me up with the moisturizer i love but can never afford to buy and a ralph lauren bath sheet in beautiful red, white, and blue. michael also bought me a dallas willard book, 'spirit of the disciplines.' a nice haul, i must say:) i have very generous friends!

to finish out the evening, we took our traditional birthday trip to vaccaro's for free dessert and coffee. i had a piece of cannoli cake (most of which got wrapped up to bring home) and an iced chai.

when i look back on that day, i will remember what michael wrote to me in a beautiful card and that he treated me like a queen by driving me all over the place and spending my day with me just how i wanted it.....how we laughed over some of the most mundane things (duck, duck, goose, baby).....how he wrapped one of my gifts in wax paper, because wasting foil stresses me out....

and i will always remember the moment when salimah knew that i knew what she had gotten me, and we both started to cry. and it's not about the gift...it's all that sits just behind it. that girl knows me....all my fears and hopes and the fact that i struggle so often with feeling unsure of anyone's care for me. and she always makes it a point to make sure that i understand that I AM SPECIAL to her.

someday i will be old and i won't remember where i ate that day, or what gifts i was given, but i will remember this: i felt loved. happy birthday to me. indeed.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

It is now our annual tradition that I post, in Sarah's stead, on My Brain Hurts on her birthday-proper. So while she sleeps in, and I sit in front of the computer monitor at work nursing a too-sweet coffee, and savoring fruit-filled donuts, I happily take up the assignment to celebrate her in this space.

Over the course of the last year of Sarah's life I have watched her make choices with integrity, that is to say with the outcome and other people's concerns in mind, but without letting those concerns compromise her own boundaries. Sarah's personal goal for the last six months has been to refuse to be a sell-out, to refuse to emotionally whore herself out---in short, to refuse to accept counterfeit offers from the devil (for this is the origin of all counterfeit).

Her generosity of spirit is even more finely formed than a year ago in light of this choice; the decisions she has made have made her even more free in the giving of her time and her resources because she's not troubling herself with the unworthy element. Discernment and Discrimination are not miserly qualities, and Sarah possesses both in spades.

What remains, that you don't know about her, is a lot. Sarah rescues me from feelings of condemnation by being forgiving and compassionate, but without glossing over the truth of the matter. She has watched me be less than careful with money, and has given me countless amounts of it for train fare (during the time of my hellacious commute), she has bought me nice shoes when the cheap ones I owned were falling apart, because she didn't want my feet to get cold, because she wanted my footing to be sure, and continues to be concerned and preoccupied with what is best for me.

This she did while being jobless. I, of course, was employed.

It is a remarkable generosity to simply be concerned about another person's well-being. The mental and spiritual energy it takes to be a presence in another person's atmosphere is staggering.

It is ironic, isn't it, that someone so giving and present often feels so abandoned and uncelebrated? And maybe in the past has felt ashamed of the desire to be such. But it is native to our humanity to want to be noticed by other souls, to be known.

Sarah, I am telling you that I see you for who you are, I know what being my friend costs you, and I know that your counsel is the most complete of any I have ever received from anyone.

I pray for you an exciting year of finally receiving your due. My precious friend, I love you. Happy Birthday.