Drowning In Extremes

I want to talk about life’s ups and downs.

About extremes and trying to find the middle ground.

A wonderful week in Florida; two magical weeks in Prague.

Then I come home.

Husband laid out, on oxycodone,

After work accident led to surgery.

A new kitchen floor installed.

Refrigerator and dining table in living room.

Washer, dryer, dishwasher in driveway.

No hot water in kitchen sink.

Piles of dishes.

Lugging hot water from downstairs bath in pitchers.

Piles of laundry.

Dragging baskets to parents’ houses.

Husband in tears from pain; his boss whines,

“I’m losing money without him. I’m so stressed I need a massage.”

Then just as things are looking up, it happens.

Mother-in-law has a heart attack.

Survives five bypasses, only to end up with blood clot and paralyzed legs.

Emergency surgery doesn’t save her.

Funeral plans. Countless phone calls to relatives.

Final viewing. Burial.

Father-in-law’s blood sugar plummets.

Picked up by the PD for erratic driving.

Rushed to hospital.

Okay for now.

Then,

Two co-workers announce they have new jobs.

Boss is leaving for China.

Work follows me on my so-called vacation.

Thanks to invention of Smartphone.

Is there enough wine in the universe to help me forget?

Will this, too, really pass?

They say when it rains, it pours.

It is pouring.

But I am alive.

I am healthy.

I am free?

Still, I wonder,

Is there always a price to pay

For joy,

For love,

For beauty,

And the desire to be free?

Hallways

Strange things happen in hallways. Beautiful things. Painful things.

This morning when I arrived at my office building, I saw a student crying into her cell phone in the hallway.  Another student, whom I knew, was comforting her. Since I knew the crying woman was in good hands, I passed by without saying a word, nodded to the woman I knew, and climbed another flight of stairs. When I reached the third floor, I saw a colleague hovering in the hallway. He’s not someone I know well, him being a VIP and me being a lowly in the trenches gal. But he seemed to be waiting for me. He knew I saw her, too.

“There’s a girl crying downstairs.”

I nodded. “I know the student she’s with. She’s in good hands.”

“She’ll be okay?”

“Yes.”

We went our separate ways. Later that day, in the hallway on the second floor, I saw a man who looked to be in his late sixties. He was dressed in a suit, wandering around,  lost. I wanted to ignore him, but I couldn’t.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Yes,” he said. “I need to speak to an advisor. My daughter was admitted here, but she couldn’t make the Open House. I’m on my way to visit her at prep school. I thought I’d stop by and talk to someone about your Learning Communities.”

The only prep school I knew of in the area was about an hour away, exclusive, expensive. He looked quite old to have a daughter who was a high school senior. We made small talk while I walked him to the appropriate office.  When we arrived, he shook my hand, thanked me for my help. We went our separate ways.

As I was preparing to leave work that same day, I left my office suite to get a glass of water from the fountain. A young man was seated at a table in the hallway, looking at his laptop and wiping his eyes with a paper towel. It took me a moment to realize that he was crying. It’s so seldom one sees men cry. I hesitated, but in the end I knew I couldn’t just walk by and ignore him.

“Are you okay? Can I help?”

“My friend just died.”

He went on to explain that it was a girl he’d grown up with.  He showed me her photo on Facebook. She was smiling, and so young. Her beautiful soul radiated out of the computer screen. She wore a silky scarf over her head.

“She had cancer?” I asked.

He nodded.

I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk? My office is right over there.”

He shook his head. “No, thank you. She’d be mad if she saw me crying.”

We spoke for another minute, then I left him alone with his grief.

What is a hallway but a passage from one place to the next?

Husbands and wives, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters pass each other in hallways without saying a word.

When I was a child, after my parents divorced and I had teenaged babysitters all the time, the neighborhood kids used to come over and play hide and seek in my house at night. With all the lights out, no one ever found me when I climbed up the hallway walls, one foot and one hand on each wall, until I was near the ceiling. In that same house, I used to have dreams that I was flying down the hallway, about a foot off the ground, and I could see everything that was happening, and that had ever happened, in that house.

The next time you’re in a hallway, stop, look around, and feel.

Land That I Love

statue-of-liberty-1

One of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen is that of Lady Liberty from the ferry that transports passengers from New York City’s Battery Park to Liberty and Ellis Islands. This is the place where my great-grandparents and my paternal grandfather came to the U.S. in the early 1900s from Europe, immigrants in search of opportunity. Some of their names are engraved on the wall at Ellis Island. I wish I could talk to them now, ask how it felt when first they laid eyes on Lady Liberty after a long journey across the Atlantic. Were they fearful? Hopeful? Relieved? Homesick? Did they cry, too, when they saw her?

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

this-too-shall-passMaybe it was my new header photo, taken in Jamaica by one of my students, that inspired me to recall the Bob Marley song, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. The lyrics popped into my mind yesterday while I sat at the kitchen table paying bills. Outside, dark clouds covered the sky and nearly two feet of snow covered the ground. I should have been depressed, but I felt hopeful.

For a long time, I’ve felt rather hopeless and stuck. I won’t bore you as to why, but suffice to say that if there is a purgatory on earth, it seemed I was in it. Then on this dreary day, hope and Bob Marley’s lyrics filled me. The sense that I was reaching the end of a dark period has been slowly infiltrating my psyche of late, and in that moment I felt the light at the end of the tunnel beckoning me. I am embracing this light with open arms and resolve that I am worthy of it. This last is important because if we don’t feel worthy of something, we are far less likely to get it.

We all go through mini, and sometimes extended, purgatories, stuck and dark periods from which we can’t seem to escape. Maybe they are needed to process trauma or grief. Maybe they are an incubation period for new growth. Maybe they exist so we can appreciate the beauty of life when the light returns.

If you’re feeling stuck and/or hopeless right now, take heart: This, too, shall pass. The light will return in your life and everything will be all right. If you don’t believe me, take Bob Marley’s word for it.

How can anyone not feel happy listening to this song? Thank you, Mr. Marley, for sharing your beautiful spirit with the world through your music.