How To Be Christina Fishburne On Monday

Find yourself planted for three years in a place people typically stay for only one.
Congratulate yourself on all that personal growth you did in Hawaii.
Think about all the people you know who might have cancer.
Plan a productive day.
Damn the constantly dirty floor to Hell.
Think about writing.
Go to the gym.
Preemptively grieve all the friends who are leaving this summer.
Start crying because people you love might have cancer.
Want another baby.
Vacuum.
Forget to buy more bagels.
Think about writing.
Think about painting.
Think about cancer.
Think about being pregnant.
Damn elliptical machines to Hell.
Vacuum.
Decide not to have another baby.
Wish you cared more about politics.
Wish you cared more about history.
Wish you cared more about Power Rangers.
Damn cancer to Hell.
Vacuum.
Think about writing.
Think about babies.
Think about wine.
Think about the people you know who have survived cancer.
Wish you were Diana Gabaldon.
Wish you were Claire Fraser.
Wish you were taller.
Wish you were better at conversation.
Wish you had a plan for dinner.
Pick up crumbs with a wet napkin.
Hold Malcolm’s hand when he offers it.
Thank Sam for doing the dishes.
Listen to Bella’s detailed plan for her birthday party half a year away.
Laugh at how Auggie says new words wrong.
Think about not wishing for more.

Aloha

Hawaii is widely acknowledged as paradise. And of course it’s beautiful. It’s fantastically beautiful and fantastically strange. I arrived here with the generic Hawaii expectations: Hula girls, ukuleles, beaches, drinks with little umbrellas in them. But I also arrived with my bad attitude and reluctance to give even a rat’s ass about any of it, and my resolve to instead focus on how my plans had been so royally screwed up. Which facilitated the expansion of my bad attitude into a really bad attitude. The heat. The distance. The expense. The inconvenience. The delicious Brontean misery of grief.

"It doesn't get that hot here, ma'am." Tell it to the hula girl, fool.

“It doesn’t get that hot here, ma’am.” Tell it to the hula girl, fool.

I read Unbroken and fell in love with Louis Zamperini. I also fell in love with his family. Any mother who has to sit in front of the door with a rolling pin to keep her TODDLER from escaping (again) gets all kinds of love from me. Louis was stationed here on Oahu for a time right before he left on that doomed flight. Driving around this island, especially on overcast days when the little bits of sunlight hit the darkening palm trees bending in the wind as they wait for rain, I think about him a lot. He drifted on the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Forty-seven days of sun scorching, shark fighting, bullet dodging, storm weathering, starvation and fear with very little hope to cling to. Yet at a certain point, the starvation gave him clarity. Immediately after being “rescued” he was imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp. Beaten, further starved, humiliated, and demoralized, Laura Hillenbrand says, “he missed the raft.” Reading those four words took my breath away.

The raft was too small for 3 grown men. It was not where he intended to be. It was not comfortable. It was not even safe. But it is what saved him and his friend. I am definitely not starving, (I’m totally eating the last gingerbread man cookie that I’d frozen from Christmas. No shame. I’ve also eaten 5 of his brethren before him. That’s 6 gingerbread men. After my salad lunch…) but I have had some clarity during this last year.

Saying that I can accept unflattering revelations on my person gracefully and with the appropriate measure of reflection and repentance is like saying I will not be consumed by full body-wracking sobs while watching any given episode of Call the Midwife. ‘Tis a lie, Precious.

I listen to the radio on the traffic trek to school each day. I’ve heard it said that you know you’re in love when all the songs make sense. Since moving here, all the songs have made sense. But not because I love the island. I listen to Jesus music. At first it was because I wanted those songs stuck in my kids’ head. I hear them singing to themselves, “There’s a war between guilt and grace/ And they’re fighting for a sacred space/ But I’m living proof: grace wins every time,” instead of, “Baby, baby, baby, oooh/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby, noo/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby oooh/ I thought you’d always be mine” and I feel like a good parent. But the songs also get stuck in MY head. Which is useful for the other 12 hours of the day when I am not such a great parent…

Me and the kids doing homework

Me and the kids doing homework

We have our new assignment and it is to a location that was neither on our list of acceptable choices nor anywhere remotely close to our family. This, after we had convinced ourselves, due to the logical evidence and information we were given, that we would actually get what we wanted this time. And by “we” I of course mean ME. I would get what I wanted.

I blame the raft.

For the first year we were here, all the songs seemed to be about oceans and waves and having faith in the midst of doubt. The second year all I heard was God is FOR us, not against us, being brave, and fighting the good fight. Now all the songs are saying: Trust.

Death and grief have touched me and those around me more since moving here than during 3 deployments. Friends’ husbands, friends’ babies, friends’ parents, friends themselves. Easter was very poignant for me this year. I will see those friends again. My friends will see their babies again. I will meet my other babies. We have this hope. This trust.

I can trust all over the place about the afterlife. It’s the life part that I seem to have trouble with.

In the beginning, I may or may not have indicated that I did not wish to live in Hawaii. It was subtle, you may have missed it, but I didn’t really want to move here 3 years ago. Now that it’s time for me to leave, I find myself randomly tearing up as I run errands or sit in traffic. I will miss the people I’ve come to love so much here. My friends. My kids’ friends. The ladies in the post office who are always so nice to me. Our little 15 mile radius life that has been so sweet and difficult and funny and stressful and exciting and sad and rich and worrisome and good. There are many many parts that I wish never happened. But truthfully, I think I needed to be here and those things needed to happen to me for one reason or another.

It’s been almost a full year since my online business venture and I’ve been ridiculously blessed by it. I started out just wanting to earn enough to buy this Hawaiian bracelet.

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I had enough by the fourth month, so I just kept going to see what would happen. And what happened was a completely unexpected joy and deep satisfaction. Ho’omana’o means “Remember.” And while there is so much that I would rather forget, I don’t want to ever forget that God’s plan is good–even when the way it plays out is not.

Aloha means hello, goodbye, and love. Aloha means everything. So.  Aloha, Hawaii.

I’m thinking I might even miss the raft.

 

 

 

Christina Fishburne: Worst Time Lord Ever

First of all: No. You haven’t lost time–it has been mere days since I last posted, not months (as is my custom). You weren’t expecting to see me again so soon, and honestly I wasn’t expecting myself to have anything to say so soon. That is because we internalize, Precious. We internalize like a mofo.

I’m on a two-year moving cycle. When we hit two years in a place, I’m ready to leave. I start backing away from commitments. I decline invitations. I stop watering my plants. I start throwing out a lot of stuff and filling boxes with useless possessions. I clear out pantries. I go to Costco less often.
This is all very effective when on the cusp of a move.
This is not at all helpful when one is not going anywhere.

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~
After an event one day, I was given two extra nice loaves of bread. I didn’t need them and I thought one of the many many homeless people I pass every day might appreciate them more. I was feeling pretty good about helping someone out and couldn’t wait to see the guy I pass almost every day at one of the stoplights on the way to school. He wasn’t there, but another guy was. I asked if he would like some bread and then presented him with the bag. He was very cheerful and smiled, thanking me, saying he had some little bird friends who would love this bread.
…Um. Ok. If that makes him happy. Sure. Why not.
Then the awkward waiting for the light to turn green. I sort of wished I had saved a loaf for the other guy I see every day at the other stop light.

~
It’s a frantic sort of feeling. I want to be doing something. I need to be moving on. I have to compartmentalize emotions and rank them in order of Freak-Out Worthiness. Cuz, make no mistake, there will be freaking out. How much does it cost to ship a vehicle? What is the school situation? IS THERE A CHICK-FIL-A? Should I be stockpiling winter clothes that are on mad crazy sale here? The garage needs to be cleaned out. Borrowed books need to be retreived.

One of my dearest friends just moved away. It was gut-wrenching. It cut yet another chord loosely holding me here. It further advanced the feeling of Get The Hell Out of Dodge.
But there’s nowhere to go yet.

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~

I came to the stoplight the next morning and there was my bag of bread.

Unopened.

Hanging like a head of one of Turendot’s victims off a chain-link fence.

The effing little bird friends couldn’t even get at the loaves.

~
This pre-move self has been around for six months now. That’s six months of heart clenching reluctance to invest any more emotion, energy, or growth than absolutely necessary. I’ve rearranged furniture to make my home feel different. I impulse buy out-of-character clothing at Target. It helps, but I’m not fooling Pre-Move Self. Ya know what doesn’t help? The fact that the weather is a constant 87 degrees. It could be loads worse, I know…East Coasters put your snow-shovels down…, but I feel like there is no passage of time. It’s maddening. I’m both wasting time and stagnant in it.

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~
I was flooded with shame at that stoplight. It felt like everyone knew it was my bag of bread getting gross in the hot sun. Offensive. Condescending. Wasted. What a stupid thing to do, giving someone bread. How arrogant. He probably thought I was giving him old bread. Stale bread. Bread no one else wanted. Bread that would insult even the birds. Not the good stuff. Better to leave it in the bag.

~
I know in my brain that it’s foolish to squander the time left with my friends here, but my heart is already grieving having to leave them. My kids are in such a gloriously fun stage of life and I want to enjoy it, but I sort of hope the days go quickly so we can find out where we’re going next. I have responsibilities here; there are things I’m supposed to be doing. But I don’t care enough. I’m cutting corners.

But I don’t want them to remember me as someone who gave them only the leftovers. I want to be a real friend. I want my kids to have a mom who not only has a vague idea of what games they’re playing over there, but is also a character in them. I want to be present and useful in what I’ve committed myself to.

There’s a plant on our porch that’s been without water for months. It used to be awesome. Bloomed bright pink waxy flowers for 2 years. Until I let it die. Slowly. And on a lot of purpose. Now it looks like a cactus.

I want to plan.

I can’t plan.

This vexes me. And then I decided to really engage in the Bible study I’m sort of a leader in… Remember the story about feeding the 5,000? Remember how He did it twice?  Yeah, neither did I. He did it twice. In a short amount of time. But the second time when all the people got hungry the disciples were all, “What are we going to do?! How can we possibly feed all these people with a few loaves and fish?!” And I was right there with Jesus,

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The exasperating truth is: I want to plan, and planning is good. But I need to trust.

Then one day, after I’d given this guy up for gone, I noticed this.

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No new leaves. Just flowers. Just the good stuff.

Perfectly Imperfect

When we first heard that Harper Lee was publishing another novel, my brother and I  immediately started text-exchanging potential titles: To Revive A Mockingbird; Scout’s Honor; The Lawyer, The Bitch, and the Chifforobe; Yule Tide: Vengeance Is His… I was so excited. Nothing quite glorified sibling alliance like To Kill A Mockingbird and I was pumped to hear the rest of the story. That it was written first intrigued me to no end.

I refused to read any reviews before I read the book, so afterwards, finding out that pretty much everyone vehemently hated Go Set A Watchman made me feel like a tool for liking it. I feel pedestrian for loving the “string of anecdotes,” as one review called it, so much that it made me actually MISS the romanticized oppressive heat of the Alabama summertime. I feel like a chump for latching onto Jean Louise so intensely from the first page and letting her drag me around, clinging to her ferociously, through the book. She is MY Scout. How dare anyone speak a word against her?

~

Bella reminds me of Scout. I have always loved the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird— Those kids are perfect. I identified with them as a child. I identify my own kids with them now. Malcolm is a gentle soul with the huge imagination but talks big and has an underlying protective streak. Bella…one night she announced, while standing on a chair with her hands on her hips, that she wanted to live by herself because I always tell her what to do, and then proceeded to eat her Cheerios topless. Malcolm has his moments, but he’s happiest humming to himself while building Lego creations. Bella… Let’s just look at this photo, shall we?

Auggies dedication

The only photographic documentation of my baby’s church dedication

She exasperates me to no end. But she’s exactly the kind of character I adore in books. Which delights me.

~

I savored the first page of Go Set A Watchman, positively GLEEFUL at being reunited with Scout and Jem. I loved them in the book. Pretended to BE them in the movie. I couldn’t wait to see them grown up. I had it all planned out: Jem would have been to the war and back. He’d have a couple of kids who’d be adorably similar to him and Scout, but with even better one-liners. Scout would have this awesome relationship with them and would banter with and rank on Jem as they did when they were children. Stuff would happen in the story, but for me, it was all about Jem and Scout.

Silver-Linings-Playbook

Me, finding out Jem is dead

Unceremoniously Dead. It took me quite sometime to get over that. I couldn’t even concentrate on what was going on because I was so shattered. Cuz, Jem wasn’t Jem. He was my brother. He was my son. Scout wasn’t Scout–she was me. She was Bella.
The fact that Atticus is not Gregory-Peck-Awesome-Atticus bothered me. Of course. But honestly, Dead Jem is more disturbing. I had wanted to name my baby Jem or Atticus. Seriously. I’m glad now that Sam shot me down on those. The names have been a bit ruined for me with now with disappointment and grief.

~

A childhood friend passed away unexpectedly. I hadn’t seen him in many years, so he remains 12 years old in my memory. It still sneaks up on me and I tear up and can’t breathe right. He’s not my brother or my son, but I can imagine how I would feel if he was. Photographs are both treasures and weapons. Memories are comforting but unspeakably painful. On intense days I’ll look at a shoe or a toy and have to suck oxygen into my lungs as if I’d been underwater for too long. And my kids are only at school. I can pick them up soon.
And then when I do pick them up, more often than not, all I do is yell at them or make them do homework or tell them no, they can’t have another snack cuz it’s almost dinner time.

~

I love the beginning of stories. The possibility, the “anything can happen-ness,” but I also love the excellent twists.

Not seeing something coming, bsg_s3e20_crossroads_2

the pleasant surprises, the redemption of chaos, the puzzle coming together. Love it.

Not so much the unpleasant surprises…

Siggy-Dying

NOT. COOL.

But that’s life, right? You can’t have an excellent twist if there is no set up to begin with. So we have to risk the unexcellent twists. The disappointments. The griefs. People aren’t who we thought they were. Good guys die.

Should Go Set A Watchman ever have been published? Did she really want it to be? Is To Kill A Mockingbird ruined now? It happened first, but with this taste left in my mouth, does it change who they were that summer? I loved that Harper Lee wrote the perfect story and then stopped. It was If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler perfection. Cuz it ended.

~

A few weeks ago I noticed a suspicious looking freckle on Bella’s jaw. I thought it should be checked out. Then preemptively stifled any panic that might even be THINKING about rising. To prove a point (to myself), I did not take any action. After a week, at which point the freckle was the only thing I could see when I looked at my daughter, I released the hounds. There was all kinds of panic. So much so that from the time I decided to terrify myself as I gave her the plate of frozen waffles at around 6:30 to the time I left her at school and was driving home at 7:40, I was crying, bargaining with God, FREAKING out because as I was wheeling and dealing with the Almighty an ad for Queen’s Medical Center’s new CANCER WARD came on the radio, and had already resolved to shave my own head so that we would look the same after her chemo. I anticipated that Sam and Malcolm would be on board as well. That’d either be a damn inspiring sight or

Alien_Nation

This

 

I had taken a picture of the freckle and emailed it to our doctor as soon as I got home. Then proceeded to wait for the response. It’s a good thing Bella’s powers of perception have not quite reached telepathy (though they are close). She could have had ANYTHING. I was all over her. Hugs, crafts, snacks, tv shows. The next day I heard from our doctor. It was a very common discoloration. Watch it, but no cause for alarm.
She was in time-out for insubordination a few hours later. All was right with the world.
On very introspective days I wonder why I did this to myself. Why did I want children if all I’m going to do is worry about them and perhaps grieve the loss of them one day? What if I’d never had them? Would I necessarily miss them if I’d never known them? Is it easier to go through life wondering what it’d be like to have something, able to invent emotions and investments, or is it less painful to actually have the thing, experience the love, humor, fulfillment, all the good things, but risk losing it at some point?

~

I’m pretty ticked that “everyone” seems to have hated the book. Questioning “Nell’s” wish to publish it at all. Judgement on her skill as a young writer. Yeah, there are long diatribe-y parts, and the characters make choices that we don’t like. But good grief, did anyone read The Finkler Question? I want to scream just thinking about it. SO BORING. And “everyone” sang its praises. Anyway. All the anticipation and expectation put on Go Set A Watchman was possibly unfair. I’d still read it again. It’s not perfect. Nothing is. No one is. And that doesn’t change the fact that she’s MY Scout.

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Fight or Flight or Zzzzzzz…

It’s the story of my life: I’m perfectly fine. Until I’m not.
I was driving the kids to school, inching through traffic on the H1 a little after 7am and just about to get off at my exit. We were listening to music, war-gaming occasional strategies to facilitate the making of “good choices” and avoiding boo-boos. I was to drop them off and then head straight over to Kalihi for my very first week of leading a small group in Bible study. I was vaguely nervous, but assumed all would be well and that, as when I taught the composition classes in grad school, as soon as I got in there (many times after putting together a lesson plan literally 10 minutes beforehand in the bathroom) I’d manifest, The Persona: I’d magically come up with confidence I didn’t feel, trains of throughout I’d not prepared in the least, and an extroverted personality that exuded charm, inclusion, and the appearance of intelligence and authority on the subject on which I was supposed to be well-versed. (At least, that’s how I always felt. The students’ impressions of my charm and intelligence are irrelevant.) However, I fully expected to feel ill the few moments before going in. Every time.
But I was still on the H1 exit ramp. I hadn’t even completed Phase 1 of the morning. I was not supposed to be ill yet–this was still prime denial of responsibility time.
Yet, there I was, now at the stop light before the first of four ridiculously long stops, sandwiched between cars with nowhere to pull over, and feeling I had to go to the bathroom, throw up, and dump a bucket of water over my body at the same time. And the prickling… Son of a…I was going to pass out. Soon.
I drank from my water bottle. I bounced my legs up and down. Cranked up the AC full blast. Placed my wrists against any cool surface. No dice. I prayed to make it around the corner to the extremely sketchy road with several abandoned residences and overgrown parking “lots” of various failed businesses. LONG feeling story short, I was able to jerk the minivan across oncoming traffic to get off the road.
Raise your hand if you’ve been nearly 7 months pregnant and tried to put your head between your knees…

A celebration of life... Dralion
I managed to stay conscious and get the kids to school, where I had to put my head again between-ish my knees before calling my people to tell them I didn’t’ think I could make it to Bible study. I was going to the hospital.
And why not? Since Sam’s surgery and my last appointment it had been nearly nine days since I drove around the Tripler parking lots cussing like an HBO character that there were no places left. I almost missed it.
Still feeling distinctly “off” but considerably less likely of killing anyone due to unconsciousness, I set off for the H1 again. This was not my first rodeo–I’ve fainted more than a few times in my day, in several exotic locales ranging from a Dominican marketplace to Heidelberg Castle’s ballroom, and at least once during each pregnancy–so I wasn’t so worried about that. It was the other sensation I had. One that I remember being present each time I went into labor. As I was driving I was struck by how freakishly calm I was. I even, purely as a social experiment, tried to spin myself up:
The baby isn’t ready. If this is labor, we’re in trouble, Precious.
It’s going to be ok.
You’re bailing on your very first week as a leader. That’s a great first impression. We told you last year you weren’t able to do this. See? This is what happens when you overextend yourself.
I’m not overextending. It’s the only thing I’m doing and both kids are in school now. It’s fine.
You’re not calling Sam. Why? Is it because you know something is wrong and you can’t handle seeing it confirmed on his face? It is, isn’t’ it.
I’ll call him when I know for sure. I don’t want to scare him for no reason.
You’re scared, aren’t you? You should be. This is the same feeling and it’s too soon. Something is wrong. You’re going to lose him too. Accept it now and then it won’t be so bad later.
I’m not scared. I’m really not. I don’t know why, but I’m really not.

As Labor and Delivery is on the opposite side of the hospital, and it was a special occasion, I paid for valet parking. That, my friends, is money well spent.
They (the doctors, not the valets) did all manner of tests on my blood pressure, blood, heart, baby–all perfectly fine. And despite my not being dehydrated, over the next couple of hours I was obliged to drink an inexplicable amount of water, just for kicks. Surprisingly,the extra gallon or so of water did improve my levels of whatever they were monitoring. Next they had me lie down and then stand up at several intervals. Again, blood pressure was fine, but my pulse was too high. There was an impressive sounding medical term for it, but the doctor explained it as my “fight or flight reflexes are very sensitive.” I was instantly ready to go. Now–apparently this isn’t as awesome as it sounds. My first thought was, “Great! Maybe I WOULD survive the zombie apocalypse!” because my current plan for any sudden plummet into a dystopian society is to shoot MYSELF in the head simply to avoid the stress of having to figure out how to survive…

I would much rather run away from something, or better yet, hide somewhere in a manner requiring no physical or mental exertion, than fight it. Public Speaking. Leadership of any kind. Confrontation. Expression of true feelings to someone’s actual FACE…no thanks.
Hawaii has had other plans for me. For the past six years I’ve been day-dreaming about the day when both kids are in school and it will finally be All About Me again during the day. Reading! Painting! Writing! K-Dramas! Haircuts! Shopping in stores full of breakable objects without anxiety!
Since they’ve entered school, my days could not have been less about me. I still have chores to do. I still run the same errands. Sam was still at home for the first month to make me feel a bit guilty about going out to do fun things on my own. Friends have been in crisis. Little old ladies have literally needed rides home from the doctor. I’ve become a leader of a group and have responsibilities associated with grown-up stuff which include making PHONE CALLS.

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And I’m just so hella tired all the time that after I do the things that need to be done, I’m too drained to pull out old stories I’ve never finished or set up the paints.

It’s ok to be a coward. As long as nobody can see me, right? As long as nobody calls me on being a coward. If I can foist it off on, “Oh, I’ve got WAY too much going on right now.” “I think I need to just take it easier on myself, ya know?” “Well, with the kids at home/at school/breathing, and Sam being injured/recovering injury/just getting back on his feet, and (ace in the hole) being pregnant…”
It’s ok to have it be All About Me. Just for a little while, see, not forever.
I’d convinced myself it was fine. It was more than OK to focus on myself. I deserved it, dammit. It wasn’t so much selfishness as it was self-nurturing.
I convinced myself it wasn’t an ugly thing. It would look ok–much like this designer maternity dress I’m wearing today. It was marked down from 190.00 to 7.00. I ask you–how could I NOT buy it!? Well, the fact that it isn’t really my size, is a bit risqué on the top, rubeun-esque from behind, and has a pretty significant, though faint, stain down the entire left side could have factored into the decision-making process. But if I just wear it around the house… The problem comes when I have to leave the house to pick up the kids. Am I going to change? I honestly haven’t decided yet.
If it ever IS All About Me, that would be fantastic. But then when it stops being All About Me I will be quite resentful. And, if I really think about it, when it was truly All About Me before we had kids, Sam was in Iraq, and I didn’t have to work, it got old pretty quick. Alone with my thoughts. Perfectly lovely, as long as they were good thoughts. It was fine. Until it wasn’t.
So, I’ll probably have to leave the house at some point and decide how I’ll be dressed when I get out there.

We have been in Hawaii for one year. They’ve closed the main gate we use to get off the housing area and funneled everyone allllllll the way around the reservation, adding more precious traffic-battling minutes to an already frustratingly long drive. And when that one re-opens, they’ll close the back gate–my secret passageway to the Commissary, PX, and God help us all, Target. I’m going to have to work harder to get places for a while. Commies.
Being forced to go this new way puts me smack in front Tripler Army Medical Center, resplendent in its pink facade on the mountainside as I come down one of the hills. Yesterday was a dark and overcast morning. I came up that hill and saw Tripler as we coasted down, and as I always do, immediately associated it with our first two months living in the lodging there. Which, if you might recall, sucked.
Next week will be one year since the second miscarriage. I remember thinking then that in a year everything would be different. We’d live in a house. We’d have friends. We’d have a life. We might even have another baby or close to it.
As I saw Tripler on that dark morning mountainside I also saw a huge arching rainbow right over the building. Perfectly centered. Perfectly symmetrical. Almost like it had been put there on purpose or something.

In Which The Feline Exits the Fabric Containment Item

My brother posted this picture of Bruno Catalano’s sculpture (from Facebook’s “Berlin-artparasites”) months ago and I’ve never really stopped thinking about it. It’s the perfect visual representation of a feeling I know well. Incomplete but Moving Forward. A huge gaping hole right through the middle of a person. Vacant.
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When I asked my brother to send the picture to me again, I had forgotten the context, the word of the day that went with it: Hiraeth (noun) A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.
The K Dramas are a part of my processing mechanism now. I suppose it could have been anything at this point, but this is the way it turned out. The story has to be translated for me. My own life has to be translated for me. I love listening to the soundtracks to the shows–I have no idea what they are saying, but I remember the scenes they were playing in and I can make them say whatever I want. And I can hear the emotions. The emotions are clear. Even if I have no idea what my own emotions are, I can at least have theirs for a little while.
About two months ago, Sam hurt his back. To the extent that he can barely walk and has to lay on the couch 95% of the time at home. He is all but helpless, Lord love him. Also about two months ago, I lost all capacity for mercy and understanding. His genuine groans and authentic difficulty in moving himself around the house resulted in his asking me for, ya know, help and stuff.
“Could you please bring me an icepack?”
“Sure.” (ugh. I have to get up again.)
“Can you help me get my laptop out of the backpack?”
“In a minute.” (I’m never going to finish this episode.)
“ARRRGH! Bring me the heating pad! QUICKLY!”
(He could have asked nicely. Jeeze.)
“Could you please get me a glass of water so I can take my pill?”
“Yes.” (You incomprehensible jackass.)
“I’m sorry, but I can’t get my socks on.”
(Well, I can’t seem to eat my brownie without interruption. We all want stuff…)
I am a terrible TERRIBLE person. I feel pretty terrible–tired and ill and weak. I look terrible–never one to be praised for her porcelain complexion, this is an entirely new eshalon of acne. I AM terrible. The Wild Things would make me their Queen. I don’t like the Crazy, but I don’t know how to not be that way most of the time.
This is the part where we all gasp: I’m pregnant. Like, for real pregnant. But the kind of For Real Pregnant that I still can’t acknowledge fully because if I do that means I have something to lose. I don’t know when it will be officially ok for me to be happy and excited. It seems like such an irresponsible and reckless way to operate. So much could go wrong. At any point. I’m “old” now. {The King Doctors of Wherever have actually changed the category of 35 year old women and older from “mothers of advanced age”–which was bad enough– to “ELDERLY mothers.” Cuz THAT makes us hormonally annihilated women feel much better…} But I shouldn’t live in fear, right? My current emotion is incomplete. Not sure how to feel. Still cautious. Still scared. Still hopeful. Still mostly numb.
I just watched Banquet of the Gods. Here is a little K Drama metaphorical question rolling around in my head in case I am asked for some ridiculous reason to write a paper on it: (Cuz like I said–CRAZY)
Which Inju am I? The Real Child Inju–Lost, scared, confused, and helpless; the Imposter Inju–terrified, constantly on guard, forced to pretend she is someone she’s not, made into a little bit of a freaking monster capable of horrible deeds; or the Inju Who Has No Idea She Is Inju–feeling the absence of a family she can’t remember, reliant on her own strength and wit, constantly misunderstood, and torn between exposing the truth which could hurt other people and living a lie at the expense of her own happiness? (Admit it, you’re intrigued. Go watch it on www.dramafever.com. It’s awesome.)
Real Child Inju Christina is rare. We haven’t seen much of her since the theft/miscarriages/move. But the thought of wandering about aimlessly while crying and clutching a large teddy bear is sometimes very appealing.
Imposter Inju Christina is a real shrew. Incapable of letting her guard down, snappish, selfish, looking for an excuse to go Viking on someone if for no other reason than to distract herself from the yawning chasm of fear spreading through her middle. We see a bit more of this one than we’d like.
Inju Who Has No Idea She Is Inju Christina feels the absence of her family most acutely. It doesn’t seem to matter much that it’s been more than 17 years since I’ve lived at home. I feel like the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz–“They took my arms and they threw them over there! Then they took my legs and they threw them over there!” My brother is over there, my other brother is over there, and my parents are over there!
My mom just left after a wonderful visit. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year. I can now say that I’ve been homesick nearly half my life. Which is kind of silly since I’ve never actually lived in this magical place that I seem to miss. The home my parents live in now is one in which I only spent a few summers. In the past 10 years I’ve been married, I’ve lived in 8 places. It’s the proximity to my family that I miss. Being able to just meet at the mall, celebrate birthdays TOGETHER, or have them over to dinner in a fantasy of mine. And the underlying anxiety about all this is: Does that mean my OWN family is chopped liver? (#1: Ew. #2 God Forbid) Of course not. But I can’t help feeling the incompletion when I see grandparents with kids at the playground or my friends say they are meeting their mom for lunch or having their dad come over later to help them change a flat tire. Once a girl in our group had to excuse herself because her brother called and needed her to bring something to his office and I was so jealous that I might have made a face.
For three months I have stifled any hint of excitement. There will be no relaxing. We will remain vigilant. We will promptly freak out at the slightest pain or odd feeling. And then I heard the heartbeat. And saw an ultrasound. And you can’t argue with that. Plus, and the technician was so pleased to have captured it, he is in there, one arm behind his head, legs crossed, hanging out like he’s on a deck chair along side the frikken Riviera. Just as relaxed as he could possibly be. “That makes one of us,” I thought. I just told Malcolm and Bella about him. Malcolm has named him “J.D.” I could not tell you why. Bella is selecting those of her toys she is willing to let him play with. They’ve already asked how he’s going to get out. Oh God. I haven’t spent any time preparing an adequate response for that one. In fielding their questions and comments I feel like I’ve come up out of the water. Not quite “Ariel style” with the hair flip, more like a shipwreck victim after swimming a safe distance from the disaster. It’s real. And it’s good.
There is a home I can’t ever return to, and I’ll probably continue to feel the loss of that security and grieve the place I occupied in my youth. Yet, I know that I’m not really meant to stay in that place. I was supposed to move on and ultimately I realize that is best. It’s my turn to make a home for my kids that will nurture and surround them with a love and comfort that they will remember their whole lives. And that doesn’t mean it’s all over for me, the kingdom is lost etc. I just have to find my new place.
family rauh
This is where I come from. Who I am at my core. What I miss desperately. No longer surrounded, but no longer necessarily needing to be so.
family fishburne
This is who I’ve become. A physical representation of my capacity to love and the level of my perseverance. No longer on my own.
baby boy
Then there’s this guy. While I’m wringing my hands, pacing around, brutally conscious of every twinge, scrolling through endless worse case scenarios, he’s in there doing this. How can we be occupying the same space? One of these attitudes has to go.
first day of second trimester
This is me at this moment. Still feeling the hireath, yet no longer vacant.

Kamikaze Cook

Let’s begin with The Ass Cake Incident of 2006.

It was the graduation party for the 6th graders at a small church school where I had been substituting. I was waiting my turn for cake (obviously) and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The school year was all but over, we were about to move to Germany, I had been writing furiously and copiously–and now I was going to eat cake. Life was good. It was (finally) my turn and the teacher cutting the cake handed me mine without a glance as she talked happily with the teacher beside her. I took my plate gleefully and looked down at my piece. It was a middle piece, which I was surprisingly ok with, but it was quite small and taken from its place in the congratulatory message. I couldn’t help myself. It just happened. I looked from my cake to the oblivious teacher in her demure cardigan set (May in Arizona, no less.) “Thanks for the Ass cake,” I joked. Then froze. She looked at me in confused horror. A nearby child or two covered their mouth. “No, no, look!” I gestured at the piece of cake cut from the word “Class.” “This! I didn’t mean–” Just walk away Just walk away Just walk away…

If I’m going to be ignorant, fearful, or embarrassed, I might as well be amusing. This entire project is based on that premise. But sometimes it’s a tough crowd. I am often ignorant, fearful, and embarrassed. Trying to make the best of a potentially bad situation by being funny also contains an element of risk. Just because it’s funny and makes one feel better or provides diversion from the disaster one sees up ahead, doesn’t mean one should necessarily give in to said impulse. One could give the wrong impression of one’s self. One hates being misunderstood.

Pearl Harbor spreads out before me every day from the top of my neighborhood’s hill as I drive home. It’s very surreal. Battleships, the Arizona memorial, the water, the mountains in the distance, the huge palms and exotic trees, the blue, blue water. Almost every time I hit that certain point in the drive I think, would I have been able to see the planes coming from here? Would I have had any clue whatsoever about what was coming? Random terror. Worse than the regular kind of terror. My parents’ beloved dog passed away unexpectedly a little while ago. Random grief. I can’t be amusing about terror and grief. They just sit there being terrible and sad. There’s no way to prepare for the unexpected, and the aftermath, the clean up, is just as awful as the thing itself.

I never understood the concept of “being zen.” Serenity in the face of crisis. In the face of crisis I am Anti-Zen. Anti-Serenity. I am Serenity infested with Reevers hidden in the smuggler compartments. Calm on the outside, silent, and on course. But inside? Jack-in-the-box horror clowns. Random Terror. Most of the Reevers are memories or mistakes. A great deal of them are scenarios I’ve crafted my own self. All of them are capable of ruining my day.

I’m currently failing in my quest for contentment. I have found contentment to be like cooking. I like cooking. I like shopping for all the pretty ingredients and pushing a cart that looks like it belongs to some kind of fresh-faced farm-raised girl. I like the tools of cooking. I like the preparation. I like the smells and the calculations. I like the consumption of something delicious that I made all by myself. What I do not like is the clean up. The discarded meat parts, the vegetable shavings, the pots and pans and bowls and utensils and, oh freakish misery, the kitchen floor. But it’s a process, right? You can’t really have one part of it without the other and experience the same significance. I will go for long periods of time feeding my family frozen breaded chicken from Costco, pancakes, spaghetti, or pizza simply because they are meals that require little work to prepare and even less work afterwards. I suspect this shocks exactly no one. I forget, on purpose, how much I love to cook due to the all-to-vivid remembrance of how much I hate to clean up.

eun chan

In my favorite K-dramas (HA! You thought I was going to make it through a post without mentioning them!), food and cooking are practically characters in themselves. And I think it’s because of the process. Choosing, crafting, putting through heat, testing, taking and putting inside yourself, feeling the effects, and cleaning up what isn’t needed anymore. But more often than not, the things that aren’t needed anymore are things that I still want. Sometimes they’re still good! There’s nothing wrong with them! They might actually be good for me! Even if I say to myself, Ok, I’m content, I’ll be walking along and get body-tackled by a freakin Reever.

I’d rather just not think about the things I fear.

My shows: I’m watching Coffee Prince now. I didn’t love it at first. Usually I start off feeling a bit bland in the first episode (frankly, still getting over how much I loved the previous show and unwilling to let it go and start over), but by the second I am interested, and by the third I am hooked. I acknowledged that this was a good story and I cared about the characters, but I didn’t love it as wildly as I did most of the others I’ve seen recently. But somewhere–I can’t even say when–I realized that I was about to explode with the intensity of the story.  What the frak. When did that happen? I was sure I had the jist figured out and it was going to be filled with angst and tension and would be a great escape from my own angst and tension reality. But I misunderstood. The characters were misunderstanding each other in another way that I completely misunderstood.

I’m afraid. But I don’t want to lose hope and trust. In fact, having hope and trust as I do makes the fear brighter. I can see it much better as it stands next to the hope. The fear is taller. It has a distinctive hairstyle. The fear is easier to reach for. It seems so much more likely. So much more logical. The hope is a dull comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. The trust that God knows what He’s doing is a constant, but having trust also means that I know I have zero control. I’ve been sailing along with my hope and trust and feeling pretty good about my spiritual growth, but about the time I realized how surprisingly invested I was in my show I began to realize how surprisingly terrified I still am. Did I misunderstand distraction for contentment? Is it ok to do that? Does it still count? Did I just get “ass-caked?”