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.
Things have been a little crazy over here in Abigail-land. Mostly I’ve just been really overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at work, with medical stuff, with chores, with whatever. A lot of things are sliding, including getting things done at work, actually going to counseling, paying bills on time, following up with St. Jude doctors, etc, etc.
Please pray for stability and for peace and for community.
Kelly suggested that I look into yet another personality test, so I took the 120 question over at learnmyself.com. It’s unbelievably accurate, just like she said. Except for one thing. It says that I turn my nose up at the arts. And I feel incredibly the opposite about arts.
I think this description captures me to a T:
You do not experience strong, irresistible cravings and consequently do not find yourself tempted to overindulge; however, high levels of stress can lead to you feeling panic or confusion, but usually you cope with day to day pressures. You tend to feel overwhelmed by, and therefore actively avoid, large crowds. You often need privacy and time for yourself. You prefer the security and stability brought by conformity to tradition. You find helping other people genuinely rewarding and are generally willing to assist those who are in need. You find that doing things for others is a form of self-fulfilment rather than self-sacrifice; however, you are willing to take credit for good things that you do but you don’t often talk yourself up much. You take your time when making decisions and will deliberate on all the possible consequences and alternatives.
It’s interesting how citizenship in the kingdom of the sick works. Almost always you get inducted without permission (or even your knowledge) and citizenship is irrevocable. With time comes knowledge that only an insider can gain. As time passes, one becomes more and more connected to other citizens even if your journey to citizenship is vastly different.
I write today as part of the effort to give a voice to those who have fallen victim to asbestos poisoning. Heather asked me to spread the word about mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. What she didn’t know was how close to home this hits.
As a young high schooler, it was my first real connection with death and mortality. I remember visiting my friend’s house one summer and spending a lot of time with her family. I remember being there every day for a week, and laughing and making fun of her dad who was so tall that he had to duck to come through a doorway. We even have pictures of our two families together.
I later learned that he got diagnosed with mesthelioma that week. It was the beginning of a very difficult journey for this family. Robert was given only months to live and deteriorated very rapidly. At his funeral, hundreds of people talked about his service to the church and to the community. I knew him as a hilarious father and a Sunday School teacher, but I realized that there was a whole other side of him that I never even encountered. I remember learning that he was exposed to asbestos as a high school graduate when he spent one summer working in a warehouse. I remember wondering what he did to deserve this. Did God not reward those who were hard-working and God-fearing? How could this illness so insidiously break up this family? How could someone who wasn’t even “old” die?
I wish I could tell my young self that that’s not how life works. Doing good and being pious don’t guarantee immortality. As humans, our days are numbered. It’s more about making the days we have count than the quantity of days we have. Citizenship in the kingdom of the sick doesn’t come by choice. We don’t have control over when we are naturalized and why. Sometimes there are things that could theoretically be controlled (like exposure to asbestos). Sometimes deficiencies are in our genes.
Today I choose to remember Robert for who he was and for what he did for me and for my friend. I encourage you to take a look at Heather’s story and become familiar with the continued presence of asbestos in our life. Most of all, know that illness strikes all kinds of people in many different ways; every one of them could use the support & encouragement of community.
Given my penchant for personality tests, I took one that “determines” which Peanuts character you are most like. In my sixth grade class, I had a very minor part (aka “the pitcher”) in our production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It was the highlight of my senior year. I still remember that my dad had the flu and wasn’t able to come. My sister’s class only got to see a dress rehearsal (which wasn’t even in costume and didn’t have the “real” Schroeder!) And, I didn’t have any lines, so I convinced the music teacher to let me introduce the play. Yeah, it was a highlight of my elementary school performance.
Anyhow, ::drumroll:: character analysis puts me at Charlie Brown. At first I was offended because, hey, I got really good grades in school, and I don’t have a dog. But, come to think of it, I’m not very good at dating, have no idea how to actually play baseball, and probably would forget to feed my dog if I had one. This is their summary of Charlie Brown’s characteristics:
You’re a classic over-analyzer. You’re charismatic, have a core group of friends who are very loyal to you, and are highly intelligent — but that intelligence often leads you to overthink most things in life. To feel satisfied, you have to consider everything from every angle, from Christmas to crushes. This way of thinking makes you highly intuitive and emotionally aware, and also gives you a great sense of humor and ability to view situations objectively.
I have to say, I can relate to a lot of it. So maybe they do have a point.
P.S. I am actually very good at writing book reports, and I played the lead female character in my first grade class’s production of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, just in case you were wondering.
I took my little sister to hear a violinist solo with the local symphony orchestra. It’s something she’s really into, and it’s been a while since we had a big sister-little sister night.
During intermission, I learned that she’s much more skilled at taking self portraits than I am. Granted she’s a teenager and all that, but somehow I always have her in my head as a little baby. Well, this baby is growing up and knows all about Snapchat and “selfies” and who knows what else. It seems that I’m getting old — already.
Note: I think I’m catching a cold; downside of working a job is that you come into contact with lots of germs. So I’m fleshing out unfinished posts for a change. This one should have come out last month.
In the course of spending a lot of time with Grace and at the church, I wound up giving a ride to a man that was living on the church grounds (literally.) During the course of the five minute ride, he told me his life story. This is what he said:
Yeah, I’m not actually from this area. I came up here a while ago to get medical treatment at the big hospital. I have cancer, like really bad. I was doing chemo for a long time, but now they said that it can’t be treated any more. So I’m just waiting for a few more days for my last doctor’s appointment at the clinic and then my brother is picking me up and I’m going home.
I made some comment about the fact that his doctor’s appointment was at 9 am. And he said quite simply, “That’s not early. When I was doing chemo, I had to be at the clinic at 6:30am and then had treatment from 7-7. That’s early.”
And I was humbled. I realized that here was a man who had been through much more than I had. (After all, he was much older than me. Just because I have an illness and have been through a lot doesn’t make me older and wiser than everyone!!) He was being sent home to die because the doctors “couldn’t help him any longer.” In the mean time, he was living outside in the (literally) freezing weather.
I was happy that taking one minute out of my day made a difference in this man’s life. Mostly, I was grateful that he took the time to share his story with me.
I hope that you are enjoying the spirit of the holidays and all the festivities that go with them. Or at least that you aren’t buried under too big a mountain of self-pity.
Alas, I have been negligent with regard to this blog. However, I am happy to report two things:
1) I am planning on visiting a medical clinic early next year for a round of diagnostic consultations. Hopefully that will clarify some things regarding my long-term care.
2) I have been working a lot, which means that I now have money for room and board and whatever else I need when I’m at the clinic. I think it’s also time for new glasses since the finish on the ones I have has started shriveling up. (Plus they’re 3.5 years old.) It’s nice not to be spending savings for once.
Besides that, I’m on a different muscle relaxant now. I’m bruising much more easily, which makes me very nervous to wear anything other than long sleeves and long pants.
I’ve made it through almost the whole month of December with only 7 doctors/medical practitioners visits, including three sessions of psychotherapy. That’s actually a slow month for me. I did have quite a few sessions with Ken the pharmacist talking about the bruising and what to do about it. I need to go back and see my primary care doctor about it, but I’ve been lazy/busy with other things and it doesn’t seem life-threatening. (It’s weird when you start weighing your health like that.)
I saw an ex-best friend at work the other day. I got dumped by three people in college, three years in a row. It was pretty awful, but fortunately it only lasted for three years. Anyhow, I was pretty mad to see the ex-best friend after all that had happened. But, you know, he’s really the one who pushed me to get psychological help and was there for me when I first started taking anti-depressants. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He forced me to believe in myself in a way that no one else had before. And I’m grateful. I’ve always wondered how I might be able to tell him that. So after he left and I was done being mad about the whole encounter, I realized that that might have been sufficient for him to know that I was doing okay and that I was doing better (at least from that perspective.) And that made the whole thing okay. Or at least okay-ish.
That’s all the news for now. Or at least, all that I can think of.
It’s official. I’m moving back to my hometown at the end of the month. I’m possibly going to live with my parents. I have a temporary job, so I do have a plan at least until I get a more permanent position.
Which means: it’s another season of goodbyes. Saying goodbye is hard. Maybe I’m overly sentimental. Maybe I place too much importance on human connections; (that’s what my sisters will tell you.) But not saying goodbye is even worse. It feels like leaving the operating room after the surgery but with the wounds still gaping open.
One reason hard thing about moving out of the Catholic Worker house was that it seems so impersonal. I never got to talk to my housemates about it. Their attitude was: We thought you were happy and cared for, but we guess you weren’t. And that was hard. I mailed goodbye cards to each of them. That helped some. But today I got a card from one of the girls. And that helped a lot. Dialogue really matters because relationships go both ways. Saying goodbye to a rock just isn’t the same. The note was a combination apology, goodbye, and well wishes. You know, our personalities were destined to combust at some point (if we had lived together longer.) We are just very different people. My letter to her was one of the hardest to write. So it meant a lot to me that she was the one who wrote back. Because that couldn’t have been easy for her either.
On a different note, I’ve started saying goodbye to my medical practitioners. With some of them, it’s been really professional and rather easy. My gynecologist? I spent probably less than half an hour with him my total time here. So when I told him that I was moving, he said, Oh. That’s too bad that grad school didn’t work out. But I guess you moved here for grad school so there’s no real reason to stay, right? Well, be sure to tell your next gynecologist ____ about your case. See? Easy peasy.
Some other practitioners? Not quite so simple. I spent a long time talking to Dr. Mark about leaving and transferring my care to my next location. He told me a lot about the way he understands my case, my personality, and my needs. We talked about short-term options, long-term options, strategies for finding new physicians, and overall goals. It wasn’t sad per se, but we definitely took a moment to recognize the ending of an era and the beginning of a new season.
And I’ve got a whole bunch more in the next two weeks!! For the girl who “doesn’t have any friends here”, there sure are a lot of people to say goodbye to!