Friday, September 2, 2011

Catching Our Breaths in a Clearing

I finally felt it yesterday, that irritating and self-righteous sense that the world is full of petty dramas, complaints, and bullshit.  I knew it was coming; it's a phase one passes through on the Roller Coaster of Life and Death Matters.  No one but family and close friends understand that nothing else matters right now except Getting Through This.

Monday was my beloved mother-in-law's grave health emergency, and since then, she's moved out of the ICU and into the realm of hope for full recovery.  Rehab and her increasing understanding of her new reality as well as financial, legal, and insurance wranglings await us.  But we've left the deepest, darkest part of the woods and are catching our breaths in a clearing.

And the clearing is where we lift our heads and see the rest of the world going merrily, pettily, ignorantly on.  There's at once the grim satisfaction of having one's priorities realigned with clarity and the frustration of feeling No Else Gets It.

I remember the drive home from the hospital when I had Big Sis.  It was the Monday of Labor Day Weekend, and perhaps the Baby Blues were already setting in (and maybe that terrible case of post-surgical constipation), but for sure I had a sense of my life never being quite the same.  There was no tragedy--things could hardly have been more wonderful, really--but I recall my head turning this way and that, peering through the window of the car at the Those People who were blithely enjoying their holiday weekend as if the world hadn't suddenly turned completely upside down.  There was the Rest of the World, and then there was I.  We were strangers for that moment.

After you've spent the night wringing hands, weeping, and worrying in the ER, you might return to work the next day, at least momentarily, to take care of unfinished business or tie down loose ends.  Your red-rimmed eyes are a giveaway to colleagues who know not you're not quite yourself.  You might break down and explain yourself when asked.  But over the course of days you don't owe it to everyone, nor yourself, nor your family, not even Grandma, to retell the tale to everyone you meet.  You're somewhere else for a reason, anyway--to work, to spend time with your children, to support someone dealing with something completely else.  And even in this Age of Facebook, you don't need to broadcast every detail and every moment of everything, particularly those things that don't completely belong to you.

So life goes on.  And while you're tired, and distracted, and likely a bit impatient, it's not their fault that they are right where they are, needing what they need, complaining their complaints, sharing their cheery triumphs.  Schmucks will flip you off on the freeway, even steal the sunglasses out of your shopping cart, despite your pain.  This hurtling forward with normalcy, with the endless parade of minutiae, and even with the mild cruelties and annoyances, are part of the gorgeous beauty of living.

We're approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and I can re-imagine what I envisioned as an epicenter of grief emanating outward from New York City in the days after the tragedy.  We were all affected, but  certainly in sunny San Diego, far across the country from the sounds, smells, and sights of those jets, buildings, and lost lives, the rawness was blunted for many.  To what extent and how Americans reacted to the growing comprehension of 9/11's events was differentiated in part by our own experiences, degrees of separation, as well as our individual ways of handling things in general. Our tolerance for demonstrations of levity were variable, too.  People proceeded with birthday parties, with laughter, with births, and deaths of other causes.  But the calculus of What's More Important--attending to the sobriety of mournful occasions versus attending to the needs of the living--is often lost in the reality of forgetting oneself in the moment.  We catch ourselves giggling, performing meaningless tasks, buying something frivolous in the midst of such significance.  Thank goodness for that.

Last weekend, as we approached the hotel we booked in L.A. for our Taylor Swift Concert adventure with the girls, we noticed a woman in her car partially blocking the hotel's parking lot entrance.  Husband exasperatedly pulled around her and parked.  Emerging from our car, we watched the woman get out of her own and begin pushing it from behind.  Husband sheepishly assisted her in moving it around the block to a parking space.  We didn't figure she was broken down.   In our impatience we often fail to imagine the possibilities, and practice forgiving.

The world won't stop for us and our troubles; the world won't always know or understand; in this way, the world propels us all forward.

But I'm thinking we're better served considering one another as fellow commuters, muddling through in our near-broken-down autos, driving to the hospital to visit Grandma, who's still in critical condition but getting better everyday.  We don't have to know to understand.


aitchpea said...

Oh 'Fer, I think this might be one of the best blog posts I've ever read. Thank you for sharing. I hope Grandma gets better quickly, and that soon all of you will be laughing at small things while the rest of the world moves on.

Kris said...

Yes... when Anabel got sick I remember resenting the rest of the world for not stopping. I was appalled most of the time that people still had lives. I would get pissed when people would ask about her then go onto another subject....