earlier this week i had to deal with something medical, but very insignificant. it's not even worth going into any details about it, but i'll offer up that it was a teensy bump in the road, an unexpected detour that ultimately has no bearing on the path. is that vague enough? good, because that's all you're getting out of me.
but first, a brief aside: the first funeral i went to after my mother died was my great uncle's. he passed away the summer after my sophomore year of college (mom died the prior november). i had been to several funerals by that point in my life, and never had i been uncomfortable at the sight of a casket or at the viewing of the body. but that funeral, my great uncle ed's, was like visiting the past. i have this vivid memory of my brother and me at the funeral home in hilly vicksburg, mississippi, standing around, awkward and silent. someone said to me, it may have even been my father, that from then on, every funeral would be my mother's. that statement has held true. every death i've experienced since (and in a smaller way, every break-up) has brought me back to where i was the first time i truly felt grief, the first time i knew what it was like to lose someone i loved so dearly.
and here's why the above is relevant:
this week, with its brief phone conversation with my doctor over a very trivial matter, grabbed me by the lapels and pulled me back to where i was in the spring of 2004, when i was going through constant tests and things were so uncertain. granted, what happened this week by no means even compares to suggestions of cancer or life-long disease, but i realized that for the rest of my life, the inside of a doctor's office will always look like the inside of dr. n's office when he told me that my biopsy showed a grade three brain tumor; examining rooms will always look like those at the hospital at the university of pennsylvania's neurology department.
i think the word i used on this blog to describe how that period felt was "hyperreal". because it wasn't as if i were in a dream, it didn't feel as if it weren't really happening to me. it felt too real, as if i had never been more awake, more alert, more alarmed. every moment became an existential crisis, and getting through a day was exhausting because i was so aware of all of the little things that normally occur through auto-pilot (walking, touching, speaking, even breathing).
although those days were truly miserable, there was an odd element of exhilaration about them, a euphoria, a madness. sometimes i wonder how i got through my blog posts from that period without turning into a whiny, paranoid fatalist. maybe i did because i deliberately didn't want to let myself become a whiny, paranoid fatalist.
but i would look at my hands as they would type and think, "these are MY hands, part of MY body, and there is so much i cannot understand contained within me." the delineation between me and not-me was stark. i saw myself as a vessel, filled with organic machinery and secret potions, a lot of which seemed to have been created in a rush -- everything was functional, but not in an optimal or efficient way. i was like an old car with a rebuilt engine, pieced together with spare parts and ball point pens and chewing gum and duct tape. and everywhere i would look i would see people who had been built better -- cleaner, more precise, out of higher-grade materials.
not to say that now everything is back to "normal", in the before-any-of-this-ever-happened sense of the word. things will never be "normal". we never get back the ones we've lost, we can never recapture the past. i suppose that my "normal" has changed, adjusted to its relative ups and downs. i don't always like this "normal" very much. it's flightier, more scatterbrained, a bit of a hypochondriac. but in other ways it's much better. it's stronger, less likely to get worked up over small things, more humble.
when i was a kid, back when religion played a much different role in my life, i had a profound fear of the concept of infinity and eternal life. i would literally lie awake at night and work myself into an anxious fit just trying to wrap my mind around the idea that my soul would live forever in heaven. so, to stop myself from being so scared, i rationalized that god wouldn't take me until i was ready to die, until i had achieved and learned all that i was supposed to achieve and learn in this life. and since the amount of things to learn was so so so much more than i could ever dream of comprehending as a child, i figured i had a lot of years left on this planet. in other words, i've been a procrastinator since my formative years -- why deal with today what i could put off for tomorrow?
and now i'm 29, have an undefined-at-best relationship with god, know a whole lot more than i did as a kid but only a tiny bit of all that there is to know, and i'm still good at procrastination. but i'm pretty sure that the notion that i wouldn't die until some external force deemed i was ready is complete bullcrap. what makes some sense now, though, is that these little common experiences that serve as reminders of the deaths, the uncertainties, the highs and lows, can serve as measuring sticks, excuses to reflect, the chalk with which to mark the path. they're my opportunities to be angela chase from "my so-called life", surmising the life lesson in the final moments of the episode, when everyone has reconciled and right before the credits roll and we get a preview of what's to come next week. only i spill my guts to a silly blog site, that only a few of my friends read (or skim, as they're likely to do with this post).
i dunno. by now not only have i lost any reader's concentration, but i've lost my own train of thought. nobody responds to these posts anyway (that's an observation, not a challenge). they're entirely for me, my measuring sticks. my blog, my world, my organic machinery and secret potions.
and to think that what i originally wanted to blog about was the discussion in today's international law class and whether people should have a right to food (yes, YES!)...