Wednesday, June 13, 2012

God and I are Having a Rough Time Lately

I don't mean to be melodramatic, but I've been stuck in a nasty dark night lately.

I've feel very remote from God, and it's been terrible. It's awful to feel separated from something that usually gives me so much comfort, especially at a time when comfort is so hard to find. I'm don't doubt God's existence; I just feel like we don't have anything to say to each other right now. It's like God and I are teenage girls who had a nasty fight, so we're avoiding each other at parties until we both cool off.

The way I see God and the world is changing, and it's stressful to be going through such major growing pains at a time when I'm already exhausted. I'm really annoyed that this is happening now since I'm already pretty freaking busy mourning the death of my father! I'm pissed that I'm spending my time working through a bunch of existential angst instead of curling up in a big, snugly God blanket of comfort and hope.

Being upset with God is such a difficult thing to talk about because it's so strange and private. Most people know that I'm religious, and a lot of people have wanted to comfort me with those terrible religious platitudes that annoy me on a good day (Seriously, if I never hear "God only gives us as much as we can handle" again it will be too soon).  I want to shush them and say "Please just stop. God and I are having a moment right now, so I wish you'd stop being silly."

I wish there was a neat solution to this issue, but there isn't. This is just another part of my life that needs plenty of time to work itself out.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Radio Silence

Yesterday I took my final unit test for nursing school. I was originally scheduled to take it over a month ago, but after Dad died I just couldn't do it. I needed to score 38 out of 100 points to pass the semester, but I needed 60 to get a B. Now, normally I score in the mid-80s, but you can totally bomb a nursing test if you're not seriously prepared. Dead Daddy or no dead Daddy, there was no way I was letting a B slip through my fingers this late in the game.

Taking the test couldn't have been a nicer experience. School is out, so I drove over to my teacher's house to take the test. We looked through my pictures from Pinning, and then I took the exam at her kitchen table while her cat kept me company. Afterwards we sat out on her deck and watched the butterflies fly around the pink and yellow bushes. It was the gauzy dream version of what taking a test should be like, and a hell of a lot nicer than taking it in the Nursing office.

Unfortunately, all the butterflies and kittens in the world couldn't make me feel good. I missed my father terribly. My dad is the first person I call after I take a test, and, for the first time, I wasn't able to call him. It was such a loss for me. Dad wasn't exactly a cheery guy, but he loved it when I did well in school. He would have been so excited and proud, and it hurts to not be able to share this with him.

So many changes are coming for me, and it blows my mind that my dad won't be here to see them. In the span of just a few months I will have finished nursing school, lost my father, taken boards, gotten a job, and started a new career. As I live with my parent(s), my dad always knew all of the minutia of my day.

 I can't believe that in so little time we have gone from speaking constantly to a state of total radio silence.

 It feels unfair. I know that "You can always talk to him", but talking to the air is a cold comfort. I feel like we should have a tin-can radio to the afterlife so that we can actually speak to our dead; not a wistful, romanticized  version of what they would say, but an actual link to their opinions and peculiarities. I don't want to hear what I think my dad would say read back to me in my own voice. I want to speak to him. It's very hard knowing that, at least for now, I will not get to do so.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Every Rain-Cloud has a Silver Lining

A tornado touched down about 20 miles from my house earlier today. When my dad was alive, inclement weather like this meant non-stop panic in our house. Dad needed oxygen machines and controlled temperatures to breathe for at least the last two years, so if we lost power we needed to get him to a hotel or the hospital immediately. That meant wheeling him from the house to the car and transporting his breathing machines with us, and hoping there wouldn't be any downed trees on our escape route. These demands made storms or heatwaves beyond stressful. Whenever one would happen my mom and I would ghost around the house day and night, the three of us waiting for the worst to happen.

 Of course, the worst has already happened: my dad is dead. His death really takes the punch out of most other problems. I'm starting to notice that things that some of the things that stress other people out don't even phase me anymore. I mean, yeah, it sucks that I'm broke and my hair is falling out, but at least I don't have to touch my father's dead body today. That kind of shit puts things into perspective. I still desperately want my father back, but it's nice not to constantly feel the strain of fighting against the odds to keep him alive. The gentlest battles are the ones you have already lost.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm Really Going to Need for You to Stay Alive.

My mom has had a bad flu this week, and it is freaking me out.

My grandmother died when I was 17, and afterwards I developed this terrible fear that something bad would unexpectedly happen to my mother. We got into a routine: whenever I would get nervous, I would say, "Mom, when are you going to die?" She would immediately answer back "Never. Never ever ever."

The phobia had lessened as I got older, but after my dad's death it's back with a vengeance. Rational Stephanie knows that this is common stress response in people who have lost a parent, but it doesn't make the fear any less real. Dad's death has been horrible; if something happened to my mother, I honestly think I might loose my mind.

I think part of the problem is my absolute belief that terrible things happen all the time. In the last ten years I've lost  6 close family members, and most of their deaths were terrible in their own way. I also spent years caring for my father, and watched as his body failed. I guess what I'm trying to express is that I firmly believe that terrible things happen to OK people. That doesn't mean there aren't millions of good things: it just means that I'm a believer because I've already seen the shit hit the fan.

For now, I need to talk myself down from the crazy ledge and remember that sometimes a cough is just a cough. In the meantime, let's all hope that my mom gets to feeling better really soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Real Friends Let You Puke In the Grass

One of the things that people don't always realize about grief is how much it screws up your body. Since Dad went into the nursing home I've gained too much weight, lost a lot of hair, developed stress-induced canker sores/aches/panic attacks, and started vomiting up bile due to excessive acid production in my stomach. I'm on meds for all of it, but I would really prefer not to be the hairless, chubby puker at the party. Unfortunately only time is going to fix it, so I just have to roll with it until things get better.

This weekend I was at a wedding in my college town. It was my first big non-school related event, so it was pretty stressful. I did really well through the wedding and the reception, but I was toast by the time we got to the after party. While everyone else was inside drinking and watching "Wizard People, Dear Reader", one of my guy friends and I were sitting out back on the porch having quiet time so that my heart didn't explode from being around so many people at one time.

We were having a really nice time catching up until I realized that my body was panicking and I needed to puke. My friend offered to take me inside to find a bathroom, but I couldn't face walking through a room full of people, even people that I love. So instead I convinced him that we should just go out into the field behind the house where one is free to puke in privacy to their hearts content.

So that's what we did. He didn't bat an eye, and it was kind of touching. One of my oldest buddies wanted to do me a kindness, and he realized that meant he needed to take me out into a field so that I could vomit in peace and quiet. I was still in my wedding clothes, so he told me I was the prettiest puking person he had ever seen. When he asked if I needed anything, I asked if he would hold my pearl necklace for me so that I wouldn't get it dirty. He immediately held out his hand to take it from me, and he stayed with me until I was done and I was ready to go back to the deck. When then picked up our conversation right where it left off, as though nothing bizarre had happened.

I feel like so often people want to help, but they don't know how, and they're so scared that they're going to mess it up. However, it's really not so hard. My friend saw the problem, and he helped me fix it without making me feel weird about it. He didn't blanch at how gross or intimate it was; he saw the need, and he helped me because he cares and wanted me to feel better. It was such a kind act of presence, and I'm grateful that I didn't have to be alone.

That's really the key to supporting people after a big loss: do whatever they need, when they need it, with as much support as you can muster. Anybody can support you when it's comfortable or convenient for them. It takes a great friend to hold your pearls and tell you how pretty you look while you puke in the yard.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Eugoogly

This is the eulogy I wrote for Dad's funeral. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I was in no shape for public speaking, so my friend Jen read it for me.

My dad has only been gone for a week, but I know that I speak for both my mother and I when I say that I cannot believe how much we already miss him. Dad has been sick for most of my life, and we knew that his death was coming, but his loss has touched us in a deep and profound way. It may sound cliché, but I honestly feel as though something inside me has died. I feel as though a clock inside me has stopped, and that I am lost without it’s constant, gentle ticking.
          I wish that more of you had gotten a chance to know my father. As he got sicker he became more and more uncomfortable around anyone other than my mother and me. The lung diseases that ultimately took his life made it difficult for him to walk, to hold conversations, or to go outside.
          However, I think that his sickness really brought out one of his most admirable traits: his fighting spirit. In our house we called him The Juggernaut because of his incredible will to live and his forceful personality. If Daddy wanted it done, it was going to happen. Time and time again he defied the doctor’s predictions on how long he was going to live, and what types of activities he would be able to do with the time that he had left. Dad fought to stay as self-sufficient as possible right up to the end of his life. He only retired when he was literally unable to walk the distance from the parking lot to his desk anymore. When he went to the hospital for the last time the ICU nurses told us that he would die at any moment; instead, he defied the odds and lived a full two months so that he could see my last day of nursing school.