Writing My Own Lyrics

This year so far has been a year of loss for me. And that’s been hard. The grief of losing things that held a lot of significance or hope for me has been a long road. But this morning I realized that around the same time my grandmother passed away, a new life came into my life — in the form of a nephew.

Before anyone has a heart attack, he’s not a biological nephew. One of my good friends had a baby in April, and I’ve become Auntie Abigail to her toddler and to her new baby. This new baby, Henrik, has reminded me that with each end comes a new beginning.

I was trying to get little Henrik to get to sleep today, so I sang this new nursery rhyme that I wrote. It’s to the tune of “Mary had a little lamb.” The new words: “Henrik had a teddy bear, teddy bear, teddy bear,/ Henrik had a teddy bear whose fur was white as snow./ And everywhere that Henrik went, Henrik went, Henrik went,/ And everywhere that Henrik went, the bear was sure to go.” It was so much fun.

Baby Henrik has a white teddy bear that’s pretty much as big as he is. And he likes it when I sing the song and bounce the teddy along with it.

Sometimes it’s the little things that take our breath away. They make for some great memories. Something I don’t want to forget, no matter how silly it is.

Abigail

Advertisements

He said his hobby was walking…

Before I started talking to the boy, I actually went on a first date with someone from my university. That date can only be described as a total failure. He was late, and then he spent the entire date asking me questions about myself, so I felt like I was doing all the talking and that there wasn’t really a conversation. This guy didn’t understand having follow up questions. And he was totally clueless that the date was a failure; he thought it was a success. sigh.

My sisters and I have a running joke now about first dates. One of the questions I asked this guy was what he did in his free time. His answer? Nothing. After a long time, he added, Well, I suppose you could say that I like walking. So I followed up by asking him if he liked walking around Beaverville. His answer? No. After a pause, he added, I guess you could say that I only walk to and from school. In other words, even if you thought walking counted as a hobby, it still doesn’t really count here because it’s just something that he has to do as part of going to school/work every day. In other words, his only hobby is also a chore.

At the time, I figured that any walking was better than having no hobbies (although still pretty boring.) And then the boy came along, and we started talking. And want to know what one of his favorite hobbies was? That’s right, class; it was walking. Granted he liked walking in the park by his house, and he did quite a lot more walking than the average young adult. But still. Walking. He had other hobbies, but this was definitely one that he talked a lot about. Walking.

Now as I think back across the past couple of months, I think I might add walking as primary hobby to my list of red flags for potential boyfriends. If the most exciting thing in your life is walking and you can’t even identify anything else in your life that’s remotely interesting, you might be really boring. Or just plain lazy.

So next time you see me, I may introduce myself: Hello. My name is Abigail. And walking is not my hobby. And then you’ll know why.

All in a day’s work,
Abigail Cashelle

Writing… and taking risks

So the short version is that the boy and I parted ways earlier this week. We wanted different things out of life, so it didn’t make sense to continue pursuing a relationship together. Unfortunately, although we had closure in the breakup, it went down in a fashion that can only be properly described as mean. So I’ve been taking some time to recover, to process, and to heal.

Part of me regrets posting about him here because now it’s just another space where I have to explain what happened and let people down again. But I’m actually really glad that I did it. Because it helped me sort through some of the emotions that I was feeling. It gave me a space to write down how I was feeling as I was feeling those feelings, and then I was able to revisit them at critical moments later.

Some of the protected posts wound up being letters from me to the boy as reflections. And I’m not going to lie. In our last face-to-face conversation, I actually shoved my phone at him and told him to read two paragraphs from one of those letters. Because I didn’t know how to articulate what I was thinking. And writing it down made it more concrete for me… and also for him. I didn’t expect that that’s how I would show him this blog or even those letters. I don’t know that I really expected to even show him that particular one. But at that moment, it was perfect, and I’m glad that I had it in my pocket: both to look at myself to remind myself what I needed and also to show him what was going on in my head.

Relationships are risky. They involve being vulnerable and letting someone in to a part of your life where you’ve been self-sufficient before. It’s really scary. And that fear of rejection and shame can be paralyzing. There’s nothing like being told that you aren’t good enough for someone or that your faults overshadow any of your positive qualities. But there’s an interesting duality here: risk and reward. With great risk comes the potential for great reward and the possibility for significant hurt. As much as I wish that I could take back the past because I did not like the outcome, I realize that the person who I am and the choices that I’ve made have both provided an opportunity for such a scenario to unfold and give the potential for something else beautiful to blossom in the future.

Abigail Cashelle

Where I’ve Been, What’s Up with this Blog, and Other Misc Questions You May Be Asking

Greetings!!! WordPress tells me that it’s been eight months since I’ve posted to this blog. That’s a long time not to write. Maybe you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I’ve existed. Either way, here’s a quick synopsis of where I’ve been, the new directions my life has taken, and where I see this blog moving.


What I’ve been up to:

Once I got that faculty job in Fall 2014, I stopped writing as frequently on the blog. Why? Blogging for me was always an outlet to figure out my journey with chronic illness. It was a way for me to chronicle how I felt and where I saw myself going. It was a place where I could write down memories I knew I would forget, and a place for me to return to whenever I needed to look at the past and try to ascertain progress. It also served as an amazing way to answer the question of how I got to where I am today. Once I started working that faculty job, things changed for me. Life got a whole lot busier because I was doing a whole lot better. Things were still weird with family, but I had found a good rhythm. Besides, I was working three jobs — teaching, retail, and tutoring — and those took a lot of time and energy.

Then in Fall 2015, I returned to graduate school and moved back to Beaverville. Life was a bit simpler except for the fact that I was trying to cram two semesters into one, including such herculean tasks as reading 60 books in one term, passing comprehensive exams, teaching, and taking three classes. Somehow I survived. And passed all the exams and the classes.

Enter Spring 2016: I was planning to defend my dissertation proposal, which by now was less amorphous than previously. However, life (or the universe) had other plans it seemed. First, my paternal grandmother got diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and given only weeks to live. I spent a lot of time on the road and visiting her, particularly because she kept telling people that she used to know me and I was someone special who lived far away but still took the time to come visit her. She passed away in early March which was really rough for me but probably good timing for her.

At the same time as her diagnosis, my new adviser suggested that I take a completely different angle on my dissertation project. He said that it would simply be a reorientation on my existing project. I knew that it would be a completely different project. At first, I was mad, but then I realized that he had identified a very finite, concrete project that I actually understood and knew how to accomplish. Plus I could get more training from him and could finish sooner. So I set aside my first proposal (maybe a second book?) and took on this topic. By now I have a working proposal that I’m planning to defend in the early fall, after I complete several months of research. (It’s a bit out of order, but nothing in this grad program has followed the beaten path, so what’s one more detour?)

Literally a few days before my grandmother passed away, someone new entered my life. The timing, as you could imagine, was not my idea of ideal. However, we started talking online, and he was genuinely supportive of me as I tried to navigate writing an obituary and helping my dad decide whether we were going to have a funeral or a graveside service and cleaning out all my grandmother’s possessions. Shortly after I got back to Beaverville, we had our first in-person conversation. And we’ve been talking (online and on the phone) and taking walks around the neighborhood ever since.

At this point, I’m not really sure what his role in my life will be long-term. I’m still pretty confused about where the Lord is leading me and why He arranged for all these things to happen at the same time. Some of the fellowship I’ve gotten is to just be open to the possibility that this is the Lord’s perfect arrangement even though I know in my head that there are too many things going on all at the same time. In the mean time, I’m praying and trying to just take things one day at a time.

Which brings me to the next point: where this blog is going now. I realized that one way I’ve worked things out in my life before has been to write on this blog. It was a good way to preserve memories without dwelling on them. I’ve been considering it for a while, but I’ve decided that this blog can become a place where I can write about “the boy” (that’s what I’ve decided to call him on the blog), the things that we’ve done, the emotions that I’m feeling, and the crossroads that we’ve come to. Some of the posts will be password protected. At some point, some of those posts may become public; or perhaps, they will only exist for me. Either way, I want a record for myself of how I’m feeling and the situations I’ve run into. Mostly so that I don’t have to hang on to the past and can live in the present. If at some point in the future I need to revisit the past, it will be there. And if life takes yet another turn and I don’t need a written diary any more, I’ll probably disappear again.

Also, dealing with all of these new changes has coincided with some health issues flaring up again. Which, if not anything else, means more scenes playing out in doctor’s offices. So don’t be all that surprised if you see some of those again.

Thanks for tagging along for the ride. Feel free to read selectively. I may post some retroactive posts before this one just to keep things in order (since I am a historian after all.)

See you around,
Abigail Cashelle

Was there any warning?

It was just another Lord’s Day morning meeting. Well, maybe not just any meeting. I have to admit, I was sort of having a panic attack again. So during the sharing, I wasn’t really paying attention. Until Grandpa stood up to share. He got really excited. He had different sections stand up and repeat what he was saying. It was all really exciting… until he fell over onto the floor. Yeah. Dramatic.


I went to the ER to keep his wife company. I guess I feel pretty comfortable in medical settings these days, and I figured that it can be helpful to have someone young there who can get food from the vending machine or track down a cup of water, etc. Mostly I just didn’t want her to be alone. I know that sitting in an exam room waiting for things to happen is the loneliest feeling.

At one point, an ER doctor came by and asked Grandpa if there was any warning sign that he was going to pass out. His wife said, well, she heard the defibrillator kick in at the same time that he passed out. (He has an implanted one. It probably saved his life.) And Grandpa said, No. One second he was talking in church, and the next second he was on the ground.

No one asked me anything, but I couldn’t help but add to the conversation. Actually, there was about five seconds notice. He put his hand on Joseph’s shoulder. And then he fell. Backwards. Everyone looked at me and suddenly remembered that that had happened.

Which meant that he felt lightheaded. Which means that he passed out because his heart rate went to zero (not because he became too agitated.) That one little piece of information gave the doctor enough data to check a few additional things. And later when a resident read the data off the defibrillator, it confirmed my observation.

The boy says that I have a knack for observing small details. Perhaps I do. I like to think that that’s what a historian does all day — make sense out of nonsense by keeping track of details and optimizing them. But I think part of it is also those days and years spent in doctor’s offices. That gave me the courage to speak out. Just in case that additional information mattered. Because every piece of data is important… even something contributed by the designated “silent” friend in the room.

So grateful that my patient experiences are being put to good use and that Grandpa is going to be okay,
Abigail Cashelle

I Hear Hope

It was another visit with Dr. Mark. That pesky breast inflammation had come back to haunt me. It was so painful that I was desperate for a solution, not so much for the pain, but for the fact that the inflammation was getting out of control. I also wanted to make sure that my heart was doing okay.

We had the typical exam and talked about options. What about this medication for pain? no. What about exploring an anti-inflammatory medication? maybe. What about something topical for pain? no.

Finally, I asked him. I know you listened to my heart with a stethoscope. Did it sound healthy? I don’t think I’ll forget what he said:

Dr. Mark: Abigail, your heart sounds happy. And… what’s the word? Hopeful.

Abigail: You can hear hope with your stethoscope?

Dr. Mark: I don’t need my stethoscope for that. I can hear hope in your voice.

And that’s a moment I never want to forget. Even though my life is more crazy than I would prefer, I am hopeful, and he heard it.

I thought I did a good deed today

As I was driving to work today, I passed a man on the street holding a sign that read “I am very hungry. Bad. God Bless. Homeless.” or something to that effect. I try to keep change in my car for these occasions, but I didn’t have anything on me today. But I keep reading that sign: “I am very hungry. Bad.” And I wanted to do something. So I did the nicest thing I could think of. I rolled down my window and gave him my work snack. It was a bag of sweet potato chips. Delicious. I love them. But I can definitely live without them.

You could tell that he really appreciated the gesture. But he was really reluctant to take it. He said that the last time someone gave him food, he got really, really sick from it. How was he supposed to know that I wasn’t trying to poison him?

And I realized that it requires a lot of trust and faith to survive as a homeless person. You never know what the future holds, good or bad. In a sense, it’s you against the world, but in another sense, you rely on the generosity of others. Few trust you because of your status in the world, but your only way out is for someone to trust you even in a little, even just recognizing that you’re a human with needs.

So to the man on the road, I hope that my small bag of chips didn’t make you sick and actually brought you some nourishment. But if you threw it away or gave it someone else or to your dog, please know that I meant it for good. And that you touched my heart as well. I realized that even in what I share with others, I judge. And next time, instead of wondering what you’d use the money to buy, I’d be open to the possibility that you’re just as human as I am and are skeptical about the inherent goodness of the other people who inhabit this world.

Peace,
Abigail

Honored to be Chosen…

as the Advocate of the Month for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

Briefly, succinctly, mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs and/or abdomen. It’s primarily a result of exposure to asbestos but can take many, many years to surface.

I wrote a little bit more about Robert and tried to add a whimsical twist to the story. If you know me in real life, you know that I like to tease people that the mere fact that they are tall makes them special. Come to think of it, I think my fascination with Robert and Matthew’s height started it all.

I only have a few memories of life before age 5 — being chased by a goose, my best friend’s family moving to Russia, and Matthew and Robert. Matthew and Robert are memorable because they were tall, so tall in fact that they were the only two people in my whole church who had to duck to fit through a doorway….

Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/warrior/advocate-of-the-month-july-2014.htm#ixzz36YvEqxLD

Abigail Cashelle