Community.

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Community.

Community, like family, is a term I define in my life loosely and liberally. It could be a group of 2-3 people, to a network of thousands or millions. What is not flexible for me are the qualities found in the communities that I belong to, feel welcomed in, and am proud to be a part of. The communities I feel most connected to tend to value the following: love, acceptance, compassion, authenticity, honesty, openness, respect, and support.

It is easy for a community to live out these values when things are going well. However, it is when an individual (or the community as a whole) is struggling or hurting that these values are challenged and tested. People get scared; people worry about judgment; people want the problem to away; people cling to secrecy. It is in these moments when we really see the strength of our communities, or the work that remains to be done.

Author Brene` Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly writes, “Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

I totally get that. Just the other day, I was catching up with a friend who has been going through a challenging time. He recognized how it was just so much easier for him to get really angry and pissed off and “go off” on people, rather than acknowledge, deal with, and sit with the feelings of fear, hurt, loss, and uncertainty within his situation. It’s scary and hard to look at and be with those feelings.

I think the same is true within communities. It is hard and challenging to recognize and accept that a profound loss has occurred in the community. It is scary to realize “these things happen here, to us”. We want answers and explanations. Most importantly, we want to know that it was a crazy fluke and won’t happen again… and that it wasn’t ‘our fault’.  We want to make sure it quickly goes away, because we are proud of our beautiful community and we want others to recognize it for the great place that it is. We don’t want a blemish on the image of our community.

While I can understand where that comes from, that is where I find exception. That does NOT help the community to heal.

Be it natural disasters, disappointments, or loss of members, I have found the most pride for and comfort in those communities that did not entertain shame, blame, secrecy, or judgment. The communities I feel connected to embrace one another; displaying love, compassion, empathy, and whole-heartedness. They embrace the healing power of connection, honesty, relationships, and faith.

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

THOSE are the kinds of communities I want to be a part of and I want to bring others into.

Today I have been moved to see such an intense and genuine outpouring of love and support into a community I used to be very connected to. People of all ages, from all places around the world have been quick to take the time to shower members with prayer, concern, and love. To see one terrible event quickly capture the attention and focus of so many, moving them to re-connect and offer support is truly moving. It may be “just” an e-mail or Facebook message or “like” or comment, but I believe people heal by feeling the support of and connecting with other people. It’s about love and compassion, y’all.

There have been times when I have questioned my connection to and/or support of this community. However, over the past 14 hours, as I see women (and a few dudes 🙂 ) come together to create a loving, supportive, embracing faith community around those who are hurting, I KNOW that I am proud to be a part of THAT.

I will not apologize for or back off from publicly showing my love or support of that community and those who are hurting; and I hope no one else does either. If anything, I am PROUD to let the public see the true character of, love within, and power of this community in the face of adversity, pain, and loss.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews, 10: 24-25

Paths

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“Life always has a way of leading us towards new paths; however, many of us refuse to follow Life’s new course primarily because it leads to a foreign area/situation, we’ve already invested too much time in the present situation and/or we’ve become too comfortable in our current moment in life…and that’s when Life comes and gives you a painful kick in the ‘arse’…and let’s just say my stubborn arse has been the recipient of many of those swift kicks…but Time never fails in proving that that kick was the best thing that could’ve happened to you:) Point taken, Life, I’m moving on. Who’s got the margaritas?”  -C.K.

A friend of mine from high school and undergrad wrote this today, and posted it as her status on facebook… I had to respond… it sooo resonated with me; me of the past and me of the present. I think it speaks to an issue many of us struggle with- and not just once, but over and over in our lives- when we know it’s time to probably move on- but we don’t, or we need that ‘kick in the ‘arse’’ as my friend says, to finally get ourselves in gear- be it a job, a city, a relationship, a career, a friendship, a total ‘change in course’ or any/all of the above.

But what I love the most about what my friend wrote is the end- she succinctly said what I think I was trying to get to in a rather tangential post last week… those change points (although often times painful or challenging or hard or trying) are often the starting points for the best things that happen to you in life…. Over and over again.

But, being the brilliant creatures that we are, it’s a lesson we (or, at least my friend and I) have to learn over and over and over again… Perhaps as we cross the threshold of 30 it’ll begin to sink in for good! 🙂

Even from my present place of contentment, I still feel that twinge of “did I do the right thing?” or “what would my life be like if I hadn’t done ____?” on occasion… For example, the other day I saw some pictures that had some of my old furniture in it- my old kitchen table, my old stemware… I didn’t want it back… I didn’t want that situation back… but it was just strange to see it…. Almost like an exhibit from a museum featuring a “life that was once yours”… just now, without you, and featuring new characters.

In a similar but different way, I’m sure there are people and places that feel the same way about me…. My high school girls had their Christmas Concert this past Thursday…. I miss them, and knew it was the concert day. I worked and then went to a (awesome) Trombone Shorty concert here with friends, celebrating my graduation. I thought of “my girls” and thought of how I missed rehearsing with them… and how it’s strange I won’t sing in or conduct ANY Christmas concerts this year… I sent them a little e-mail letting them know I knew it’d be a great concert and they were on my mind… One of them said, “It was fine, but it wasn’t the same without you”…. Narcissistic as it may sound, I’m glad it wasn’t the same (although I’m sure it was beautiful)… It’s good to know I’m not the only one who ‘feels’ these changes and differences as life moves on and evolves.

I am fully enjoying life post- grad school… I have had 3 fun weekends in a row, and have 2 more planned before heading home for Christmas break. I felt a twinge of guilt (thank you, Catholics!) because despite attending rehearsal, I’ve skipped 11am mass with the choir for the past 3 weeks… and that particular Mass doesn’t fit in the schedule for the next two weekends either…. But again, it’s all part of ‘embracing the change’…. For the last 9 or so years, I’ve had a church gig- and while I very much enjoyed it and the people I sang with there, it’s nice to not ‘have to’ go… I’m sure it’s a little annoying to the director, but it’s incredibly freeing and fun to be able to stay out/up late, or to just have a lazy Sunday morning.

When I wrapped up coursework I seriously asked a friend, “Ok, I have only 1 job and no school left… it was fun for a few days, but what do I do now?!?” Her response was, “try having a life, maybe?”

Well, I’ve been doing just that. It’s pretty awesome. Just sayin’.

So come visit me, people! 🙂

Job Update:

Hopefully, I’m not careening towards “I didn’t get the ‘perfect job’ for the 3rd time life crisis”…. I’m actively doing all I can to avoid it…. But I’m nervous….

Last week was a great week on the job hunting front… I finally heard from two great non-profits in the Chicago area that I’ve been trying to get in with since I moved here…. I probably submitted resumes and cover letters for 7-8 positions with each of these organizations since I moved here… So it was super exciting to finally hear from them. I had successful phone interviews with both, and landed a face-to-face interview with both as well…. I feel like they both went well, and am hoping to get a 2nd/final interview scheduled with each this week. There is one job, working with an adolescent program that I am particularly excited about (Read: totally in love with, see myself there, etc, etc..). I also have an interview for a job out in the suburbs on Wednesday.

In any case, that much ‘action’ in one week on my job search helps to restore hope that something is gonna work out, and soon.

After my last job disappointment ‘crash and burn’ when I realized I simply cannot stop myself from getting emotionally invested when I see a place and a position that I think would be a good fit, my friend and I adopted a new mantra for my job search: EBNTE, or “Excited, but not too excited”. I’m trying to employ that strategy… while hoping at the same time I don’t need it…. While a great philosophy, I think I still have some work to do on implementation. 🙂

Finally, one of my favorite graduation gifts was a beautiful teal leather notebook/ journal given to me by one of my friends… and on the front of it is printed, “She’s a dreamer, a doer, a thinker, she sees possibility everywhere.”

The fact that someone thinks that fits me is a pretty high compliment… and one I plan to do my best to live up to.

I think it’s also a pretty good vision statement for anyone as they head down whatever paths life leads them down… or gives them a ‘swift kick in the arse’ about to help them get a clue, as my friend so eloquently put it. 🙂

I think it might just be the new quote on my quote board in my kitchen this week.

If your life’s mantra was on the cover of a fancy journal, what would you hope for it to say?

Continuing down the path,

-TM

PS- Speaking of paths, I naturally think of Pocahontas (Disney version)… “Just around the river bend!”… Anyone else think it’s awesome there’s some Disney movies on Netflix streaming now too??? Love that!!

Finish Line; Starting Line

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I’m so glad to finally be back here! While I won’t apologize for my absence, I can say this:  For the last month or so, there’s been so much I’ve wanted to write about, but other things (specifically writing academic things & the job hunt) precluded that from happening. I’ve missed my “happy place” of sorting myself out and writing what I WANT to write about. It struck me as rather hilarious that it took me 12 hours over 3 days to write a 2900 word paper when I can whip out a 1500 word blog post in 20-25 minutes… I guess being interested and motivated makes a difference, at least for me! 🙂

This probably won’t be my greatest post, as it is hard to synthesize a month of thoughts, feelings, happenings, and “write-able moments” into a cohesive post, but I’ll start here, and hope to be back quite soon!

Admittedly, since my last post, there have been two other instances much like the “softball”post…. Job search frustrations and heartbreaks, and the painful realization that I can’t help but care about/ get really attached to jobs that are appealing, even when I try not to/ swear that I won’t allow that to happen “ever again”.  I am thankful that I had the end of a semester that forced me into some kind of functionality. I’m even more thankful for my friends that were there, yet again, in such a fully present and loving way- even when that means calling me, coming to my house, and throwing cards under my door when I’ve said, “Just leave me alone!” I found THIS BLOG POST which pretty much sums up the way I have felt and the way so many spectacular people in my life have been over the last few weeks. (Just discovered this blog; great stuff…LOVE this post…seriously, read it.)

As I continue the job hunt, a friend reminded me that technically, I finished my degree last Wednesday… So really, despite the fact that I’ve been searching, my job hunt really is only about a week old. While I can’t say I really buy into that idea, it’s a good re-frame I’m trying to embrace. 🙂

In a sense, last Wednesday was both my FINISH LINE and STARTING LINE… bringing truth to the “when one door closes another one opens”.

Finishing my master’s degree? … It’s a good feeling. An exciting feeling! An AWESOME feeling!  It’s also SUPER WEIRD! I had this strange realization the other day that literally, in my nearly 30 years on this planet, I’ve been engaged in a formal educational process for 25 of those years…. Mostly as a student, several years as a teacher, and the last 3 years as BOTH. It’s pretty strange to not be in that space at all- as a student OR a teacher.

It was great for a few days… Like most students and teachers, the end of the semester was a little stressful for me- full of deadlines and things you don’t totally want to do… but have to do anyway. I reveled in the first few days of not having to do anything. Then, I started to realize just how strange this would be…. My routine has been, get home, check moodle, check grades, do reading/homework/ papers/ forum posts/research AND/OR grade/ lesson plan/ pick music/ e-mail parents.

Suddenly, NONE of those things are options anymore!

I get home and its like, “Umm…Ok… What do people do now?? TV is only interesting for an hour or two a night!”

To quote on of my friends, “Uh, have a life, maybe?”

Hahaha!

I could be willing to try that…. 🙂

I have to say though, I LOVE learning. I really, really do. Homework and obsessing about grades? Not so much, thanks. But, I will say, after a few days off, I have already thought more than once, “ok, which degree do I want next?”

Don’t worry… I’m pretty strongly committed to taking some time off of school- like at least a year or two… and I may never go back to school again. But when I chose to pursue this master’s degree, I was really torn between counseling and conducting. I would still love to learn more about conducting, and there are other areas of the mental health field I would love to continue learning about, too. I would love to get a Connections Certification from Brene` Brown; I’d love to get my psychodrama certificate; and a host of other things. I also love writing and history and about 10 other things.

But, for now, I think it’s time to get settled, to get clear, and to try out “real life, sans school”.

But do we ever really get clear? Seriously?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think a piece of paper is suddenly going to give me this magic moment of clarity where I go, “Oh, yes… I want to do this ONE THING.”

And more importantly, do we want to? Would it even be good for us? I’m pretty sure that would suck for me.

Personally, I have more ideas about “what I would like to do” than I could ever fit into one lifetime. At any given time, I have 4-5 things that are really important to me, and I’m sure the fact that it’s not just one thing blurs the focus a bit… but that’s also what enriches it, I believe.

I mean, would you rather trying on clothes at a store with that super-bright operating room light, or would you rather  the soft, orange-y light at Banana Republic that lets things seem a bit more flattering?

I’m going with soft and flattering, every.time. (Just sayin’)

Last night, I was at a choir concert with one of my friends.

Like basically any choir performance, it wasn’t perfect. Two musicians, familiar with the bulk of the repertoire sung, we probably heard/ noticed more flaws than the average audience member…. However, the comment we made to each other was this,

“The space is too crisp; it’s too exposed.”

Acoustically, things are better in a more reverberant space; the sound bounces around and mixes together in the air, beautifully blending things (and covering up a few of those things you’d rather not be heard anyway). It’s one reason singing in big, old churches is so great…

Last night, it was too dry…. Acoustically, there was bright fluorescent lighting. You saw some ugly…

I don’t want a “fluorescent lighting life”…. While I’m glad to to be done with school, I can’t wait to see what else I’m going to color my life with- new interests, hobbies, people, jobs, relationships, whatever!

I’m looking forward to being able to read what I want, to write what/when I want, to do more volunteering, to spend more time with friends, to being more present with people and not obsessively worrying about grades, to discovering more about who I am and what I’m about and what I like and don’t like; to having TIME.

I think it’s these kinds of things and people and connections and space that keep the focus on our lives in “soft light”… Clear, but not too clear. Flattering and full and warm; not some sterile, rigid expectation. It allows things to mix together in an awesome way that just makes it all more beautiful, full, and rich.

Like always, that means rolling with the unexpected, and learning to be flexible and being willing to CHANGE expectations.  (Which is not always my best skill.)

This time last year, I thought my life was pretty perfect, and I never could have imagined I’d be where I am now.

Jobs disappeared.

Degrees finished.

People moved.

I moved.

New people came in.

New challenges surfaced.

New cities have been explored.

New skills are being acquired.

New networks are forming.

But life is the story of unexpected.

…And thank god it is!

I sit here, now, with so many unknowns, in advent… the season of “waiting”… Which seems particularly poignant for me this year: waiting for a degree in the mail, for a job offer that’s a good fit, for a winning lotto ticket (just kidding!).

In a weird way, I feel like I’ve been in “advent” since about May…

But in other ways, I feel like I have had the “rebirth” that comes at the end of advent about a million times over, too.

I’m waiting; but renewed.

Impatient; but blessed.

Frustrated; but hopeful.

I can honestly say, despite some real challenges right now, I can look at my life at this time, this year, and say the same thing I did last year… My life is pretty perfect. I wouldn’t have imagined myself “here”, but I’m so glad I am.

I just crossed a finish line; I just crossed a starting line.

But considering the first advent, I’d imagine that’s a lot like Mary felt… she probably didn’t think a year before she’d be where she was just before the first Christmas… She had been shocked and surprised and had lots of changes- unexpected and expected, chosen and not, and a bit of a journey.

…Thankfully mine was in an Accord with XM and not on a donkey….LOL!

Yep kids, it’s advent.

I have a sense of completion, and very strong feelings of impatience and expectation.

It’s a journey… and I’m glad to be on it.

Happy to be back on the blog,

TM

Softball

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Tonight I admittedly left a fun hang out at a friend’s house (one quarter into the Saints game) for my blankie, a Sex and the City marathon, fat-free pudding cups, a glass of wine, and my own little pity party.

…And you know what? I’ve decided I’m ok with that. I thought about it and decided that even with all my rules about gratitude and positivity, I’m still allowed a bad day or bad night… or even a bad couple of days. It happens, and sometimes, things just kinda suck… And that’s ok… It’s what builds character and perspective and sweetens the good times/ things.

This evening, a very intense process, lasting over a month ended for me and I did not get the result I was looking for. A part-time job that seemed promising and exciting and even quite likely in the end did not pan out. 2 telephone interviews, 2 interviews with 6-person boards, strategic plans, and all the bullshitting and politicking involved in the arts/ non-profits resulted in nada- nothing. Rejection. That was a tough pill to swallow. It’s one thing to send off a resume and cover letter and never hear anything, but after a month of meeting people, talking, interacting, planning for a group’s future, and getting oodles of positive feedback, it stings a bit more. To make it from the large pool of candidates down to the top 10, then top 5, and then to be 1 of 2 and loose it? Major, major bummer.

It can be disheartening to feel like something was about to “really work out” finally, and then it doesn’t. Granted, a part time job wasn’t going to solve my employment stress or needs, but it was gonna be a hopeful and encouraging sign. It’s risky to put your whole self into a pitch and plan for an organization; and to then get the “thanks, but no thanks” stings quite a bit.

After I got the phone call this evening, I texted my parents, brother, and a few close friends who had been “in” on the process and were anxious to hear the verdict. “My people” know me well, and I got text messages back full of empathy and support, but no one called right away… They knew I wasn’t gonna roll with that. I needed a little space, a little time. The resounding message was, “their loss; something’s coming for you; keep on going… this wasn’t what you’re meant for.”

…And while there may or may not have been a few tears this evening, I believe that. While I feel like I’ve been unemployed “for forever” and I had a nice little attack of the “not good enough’s” this evening, I am not dissuaded. I am ready to keep going, to keep looking, and to keep putting my best foot forward. Something is gonna come. It WILL happen… I just have to be willing to hang in there, trust my process and my choices, and keep working.

The text I got back from my Dad summed up the attitude pretty well: “Sorry” (2 minute pause) “Something is gonna happen. Follow up with (insert name here)”.

I love that about him- he’s never looking back, he’s always forward thinking… What’s next, what are we going after, do you want it bad enough? He’s also my biggest fan, by far. …Almost to the point of being embarrassing. He’s one of those people that can visualize what he wants, name it, and then just make it happen… failure is just not an option. I like to think I at least got a little bit of that.

One of my favorite memories with my dad isn’t actually something I remember, but rather a story he tells all the time about he and I (again, equal parts cool and embarrassing).

When I was about 13, I got the brilliant idea that I wanted to play organized team sports. I had never done this, I have virtually no depth perception, certifiable coordination issues, and was about 8 years behind schedule for being a “beginner”.  But my Dad was a sports guy, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could be “his athletic kid” and make him really proud.

I picked softball. An interesting choice… But in typical Dad fashion, he took me to sign up and signed up to coach at the very same time. We had a month or so until the first practice, and me being me, I was ready for us to start practicing…. After all, by the time the season began, I needed to be the best player on the team, duh!

Spoiler alert: I never was the best player on the team… at the height of my sporty-ness, I was mediocre at best.

We went to the sports store, got me a glove and a bat, and purchased a few balls. My best friend WAS a really excellent softball player, and she was ready to help, too.

One evening, my Dad and I went out onto the levee behind our house. We had maybe 5-10 balls. After a few minutes of showing me proper stance and swing, he walked back and we began. He would pitch, I would swing.

Naturally, seeing as I was just starting, we weren’t expecting me to look like a slugger, but we figured I’d get it together pretty quickly.

But I didn’t.

We could not have been more wrong…Unbeknownst to me, my Dad kept count. As he tells the tale, I didn’t care. I wasn’t moving or going inside until I got it. I had just decided I was doing it. There was NO question. It was a fact. Ball after ball after ball whizzed by. He didn’t show his frustration or exhaustion, and I didn’t either. We just kept going.

Apparently, it took hours.

His count was up to several HUNDRED pitches.

Finally, I hit ONE. The bat and ball finally met one another.

We found success. It wasn’t easy or natural- it was hard-fought. But the sweet, sweet victory on the levee that night was worth it. …And it was quite informative. By the time I finally hit the ball, I knew a whole lot about what DIDN’T work. …And while I was never up for MVP, I grew to be a consistent batter on my team.

My dad can tell this story far better (and with far more embellishment) than I. He tells it with the pride of a battle hero- and he kinda was that day. To hear him describe it, I might have won a Nobel prize, but all I did was hit a softball on the levee behind the house…. After several hundred failures.

When I got his text tonight while having a little moment of self-pity and self-doubt, what I heard from that message about 10 words long (which offered sympathy but quickly pressed forward to the next step) was: … Girl, you’re on the levee. You’re like 50 pitches in, at best. You’ve played this game before and come out on top… You gotta hang in. You gotta keep batting… Because you WILL get a hit. It might take a while- longer than you liked or bargained for… but it’s gonna happen.

I walked onto the levee and began this round of pitches on July 22 when I hopped in my car and drove across the country. In many ways, I have already had several hits. But I just have to stay focused.

I can’t feel the frustration. I can’t be distracted by the other things happening or bad balls whizzing by… As my dad always said, “Just keep your eye on the ball, and keep your feet firmly squared on the ground.”

I’m finding my swing and hitting my stride… and I am going to get a hit soon. I just have to hang in there and keep batting with all I’ve got. In the words of my dad, “Swing like ya mean it. Get mad at the ball.”

Job Market, you may have won this round… but it’s on.

“Eat, Pray, Love” happened to be on TV tonight… I loved the book, and the movie was cool. This quote at the end of the movie really spoke to me tonight, and I personally see a lot of truth in it right now… Given my week- what I wrote about in this blog and what I didn’t- this quote is incredibly relevant.

“I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest”- a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting(which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments)and set out on a truth-seeking journey(either externally or internally),and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all -to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

With a heart full of gratitude, I’m trying to do just that. 🙂

Have a great week!

-TM

My Octobers

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Tonight I got to catch up with a good friend that I used to get to see and work with every day. It’s totally strange to only chat once a week or so now… But we remain strangely “in sync” with one other in kind of cool ways… Like, picking up the phone to call each other at the same time, out of the blue…. Or being able to tell that something has happened, good or bad, just by hearing the person’s voice speak a sentence or two.

From the beginning of our convo tonight, I could tell some “good” had happened with my friend- he just sounded happy, lighter, enthused about life…. He quickly validated that, saying, “You know, I’m kind of confused… Like, I’m just happier… I don’t get it… nothing major has changed… I just FEEL different. I make less money, I can’t buy as many things, and I don’t like that, but I’m happier… and when I’m happier, I’m nicer… and I like that, too.” He was right, and it IS true, and it is good.

I think it’s funny how sometimes “nothing” can happen, but yet something huge happens anyway, without you even expecting it- and it’s pretty awesome when you realize it and have that, “Oh wow… this is WAY better!” moment.

I’ve had a few moments/ realizations like that of my own lately, too. My friend and I dropped some of the same stresses (and some of the same income) when I moved away. As I’ve written about, being unemployed makes me crazy (temp work has been a MAJOR blessing these past 2 weeks). But money and job worries aside, I gotta say, like my friend, I’m pretty happy right now, too. 🙂

However, my biggest happy moment of the month happened just this evening, out of the blue, and totally surprised me. Nothing was different, nothing had changed, but I was different this year… and that made all the difference.

The big deal?

I completely forgot about Oct. 15th.

I didn’t even THINK about it until tonight.

I only thought about it then because I realized it was October… and I wasn’t upset or mad or resentful.

My thoughts about it didn’t curl up next to me for a long extended stay.

There were no tears.

It was a fleeting thought that just wafted by and continued along its way.

I even had to “google” to remember the date.  (that cracked me up)

 

As those who know me personally know (because you LIVED through it with me!), On Oct. 15, 2004 I lost “the bad eye” for good. It was unexpected. It was out of the blue. It put a major kink in my plans for a weekend, a semester, and the better part of my entire senior year of college… and it knocked the wind and spirit out of me like nothing else had (and hopefully never will). It challenged me to make “new sense” out of so much that had happened in my life up until that point, and to find strength and compassion within myself. It also forced me to learn to accept help and compassion from others. I learned my limits while I tested my pride and resolve. It was an ugly, ugly battle. I wasn’t sure who was gonna stick with me all the way through it, but in the end, I came out of it, with one hell of an army of amazing friends, family, and supporters.

I learned a lot about who I was and who “my people” really were.

But I came out rattled, to say the least.

While not proud to admit it, in what I now suppose was a rather inappropriate and over-dramatic term, I referred to Oct. 15, 2004 as “Day of Death” for YEARS after. I referred to the hospital the surgery happened at as “Hospital of Death” and I refused to drive by it for years.

While I deeply regret saying it now, in the terrible aftermath of Katrina less than a year later, I said, “Well, at least the storm destroyed that God-forsaken place.”…I probably only said that to a handful of people… But I feel really guilty about that. Classic displacement, I suppose, but gosh, I didn’t mean that. It wasn’t that hospital’s fault that I had a problem… the facility and their staff did their job and did it well. I drove past that hospital (now basically in ruins) almost every day on the way to internship for the past year… and each time, I’d kind of secretly think in my head, “Sorry, I didn’t mean it; really!”

I went around being angry and upset at all sorts of people and things immediately after Oct. 14, 2004… even when they didn’t make sense and even when they contradicted one another and often when people were doing the best they could to help:

… I was furious with my Assistant Dean, who empathically asked if I wanted to take a leave of absence for the rest of the fall semester. (The nerve of him to suggest I can’t handle this!)

… I was mad at the acting professor that gave me an A even though I totally did not have that final monologue memorized…. Like, at all. (I don’t want your help or sympathy!)

… I was mad at people who told me to stay and rest when I wanted to act like everything is normal. (I’m fine I can do everything I need to! …and by myself, too!)

… I was mad at people who acted like everything was normal but had hushed conversations when they thought I was out of earshot. (Don’t these people realize I just freaking lost a body part?)

… I was mad at the coffee pot at the Cathedral, because I wanted to do something “normal” like make coffee before rehearsal, even if I couldn’t stay, but I couldn’t hold it and it dropped to the ground and broke instead. (I can’t even handle a stupid task like making coffee! What can I do?)

…I was mad at a slew of doctors, and resentful about every surgery I had prior to that day, as I felt that result made so much of the past pointless. (Why bother with all of that! God, what I could have back!)

… I was pissed at the people who said, “It’s all for the best, you’ll see one day.” (You have no freaking clue what this experience is like! Please just say it sucks!)

… I was pissed at the people who said, “It’s not that big of a deal, it’s just an eye and you didn’t see out of it anyway.” (Would you feel that way if it was “just an arm”? Or if it was you? You have no idea.)

 

But most of all, I was pissed at myself. I was angry with my body. I felt like it literally had failed me and worked against me. I felt a sense of loss more intense than anything I had experienced before. Waves of grief washed over me and I didn’t even know how to express it. All the other complaints were just part of the cover story. It was so much easier to be a crabby bitch than to try to deal with myself.

At that point in my life, I didn’t want anyone to think I was “weak” or that “I couldn’t do it” or that “I wasn’t handling it well”… I was much happier (and proud) to be called strong and resilient and determined and persistent and stubborn and tough. Those were my highest compliments.

I would only cry in the middle of the night, when I was sure no one would hear me, or when I was alone.

….Until I got busted.      (Yeah, that was awkward)

Hahaha!

Through the whole ordeal, some pretty fantastic people hung in there…. Through bad hair, bad breath, day old pajama days…. To walking to bring me lunch between classes because walking home was too draining… To finding (or at least going with) my absurd and sometimes macabre humor about the whole thing… to my apartment mates who “celebrated” the “orange pee” side effects  of some medication, making it seasonal décor instead of sickness. …to my awesome, awesome doctor, who is like family, who knew I was soooo not myself and was the person who one day said, “You know, it’s really ok and normal to not be ok and to be really upset and even really mad right now… even if it’s at me.”

That Spring, when I had finally kind of “come through” to the other side, I was ready to close that chapter. It was an ugly place I wanted to take some power back from, and put behind me. I wanted to celebrate not only the fact that I had “made it” and was “back”, but also the people who helped me to do it.

My (sort of f-ed up) solution?

….My first “smash bash”.

….In a basement apartment on Calhoun Street.

While clearly many thought it was a bit odd, no one said it to my face. My friends and family came, ate, drank, listened to a toast, watched me smash a fake eyeball with a hammer, and appropriately cheered and celebrated after.

It’s a tradition I’ve continued with every ocular prosthesis since.

Thankfully, these “Smash Bashes” now have a more celebratory sense and are much less about me re-staking my claim on sanity!

….But Octobers remained hard. For years, I’d even take the day off of work. I just had to “deal” with it. I NEVER, EVER thought it’d just be a day- a normal day- like any other, much less a GOOD day.

…But this year it was. I looked at the calendar tonight, and realized it was last Monday. I had a totally relaxed day. I went to the gym. I did a little shopping. I parked really illegally by accident. I hung out with my best friend in Chicago. It was a great day, in fact.

I had no clue that it was “day of death”.

That’s amazing.

And it makes me so happy and so, so thankful of how I’ve changed and grown and evolved in 8 years… and for all the people who contributed/ helped/ loved/ supported me along that way.

I’m sure I’ll miss people, but here’s my attempt at my Oct. 2004 Gratitude List:

My parents, my brothers, my extended family, Rick, Gram, Stephen, Claire, Kristen, Meredith, Rachel, Julie and Angie, Kathryn, Dreux, Seth, Eric, VP Vega, Tony Decuir, Savadove, Dr. D, LUCAP, SGA, Laura, Kris, Kim, Chris, Jeff, Sheri, Scott, Sam, Ryan, Cathedral Choir, Loyola, and like the 700 people I’m sure I’m forgetting…. I am so, so, so thankful to ALL of those people for really being there when it had to be really hard.

Today, I’m thankful for “normal” October days.

Best,

TM