31 October 2010

The Life You Save or Something Like It

I've been thinking about suicide lately.  Not in a way that should worry you.  I basically blame the Fray for being on every radio station all the time.

It's my normal radio station's yearly fundraiser, and I already give every month, and it's painful to listen to people try so hard, so I've been getting some variety in my commute.  These new radio experiments have yielded dubious results, such as the transition from "It's Raining Men" to "How to Save a Life."  Mind-melting, really.

Anyway, it made me think of a great song by the Newsboys called "Elle G" from their 1994 album Going Public.  I think I loved that song even before I knew what it was really about, before I realized the clever play on words, maybe even before that boy in my class committed suicide.  That was a rough year; several people I knew died of illnesses or accidents, but that was my first encounter with suicide.

"Elle G" somehow perfectly captures that gaping emptiness regret stamps into you even when you never did anything less than kind to the person who committed suicide.  It seems to capture that huge hole left behind in the people who really had a relationship with the person who took that premature exit.  It captures the way you miss the person, similar but altogether different from the way you miss people who die in some tragic accident.  It also captures a bit of the raging theological argument surrounding suicide in the church. 

Did you know that traditionally suicides weren't buried in the consecrated parts of the cemetery (along with mothers who died in childbirth)?  As if where you were buried had any bearing on your eternal destination.  My anger is for the people who thought it did and did their own preliminary division of sheep and goats that arrogantly.

I remember encountering this in the movie Luther; I think it was one of the things that really cheesed Martin Luther off.  It also seems to cheese the Newsboys off.  Normally, the Newsboys can be fun and twisted, sarcastic and constructively snarky about things in the church that cheese them off.  They put the spotlight on the stupid in clever but obvious ways (a la Steve Taylor, someone they worked with a lot in the early years). 

It's surprising, really, how gently they treat the issue in the song.  Oh, they wrestle with the anger of those left behind, but they plead with those who would condemn people who commit suicide by asking the simple question, "How can we return that which we never did earn?"  They talk the longing to see the person, ask them why, ask them what they could have done.  They grasp God's promise to overcome evil with good and acknowledge that they don't know the answer to any of these questions.  "We haven't a hope beyond Your grace," they say.  The song is a lament, full of pain, and it ends oddly, sort of inexplicably hopeful and with a sort of "It Is Well with My Soul" conviction in the wake of devastation.  (The story behind that hymn is pretty powerful, too.)

It's a beautiful and powerful elegy.  It gets stuck in my head every time I hear it, and it makes me think.  Not bad for a pop song.

26 October 2010

What I learned the day I visited the doctor's office

  • Road rage is good for me.  It seems to get my blood pressure up to something more normal and lower my usually ridiculous heart rate.  Who knew my contrariness went that far.  Go figure.
  • Book binges make my hip hurt, and I don't care.
  • Despite all my problems, I am darn healthy for someone in my situation.
  • Apparently, I strike the nurse as someone who would be a good teacher.  This makes me happy.

23 October 2010

Revenge of the bibliophile!

It is done!  I have finished organizing my little off-site library with the help of a most excellent and flexible friend who does indeed have upper body strength as a result of having a not-quite-two-year-old child.  Babies, boxes, she can lift them all!

Yeah, it makes me a bit giddy.  All scanned in and alphabetized and content in their little home where their dust can't make my lungs work any harder.  It's a nice feeling. 

Of course, I had to miss another group event I was really looking forward to, and I will be paying for the strain I put on my arms for days, but I was already bottoming out in the pain spiral, and it feels nice to finish something.  Very nice.

Now on to the next thing.

19 October 2010

Trying to do too much (never enough)

Maybe you can't
help them all, but
wouldn't you rather
be the child saving starfish
than the child stuck stopping
the flood with a finger?

16 October 2010

The joys of Facebook, part XXXII

What do you do when a high school sports coach who made your life miserable wants to be your friend on Facebook?  How surreal.

I was never openly hostile (unlike her), but I wonder what makes her think I would want to reestablish contact?  I mean, this is the woman who yelled at me when I would have asthma attacks from pushing myself too hard in practice.  "When you wheeze like that, it brings down the team!" she would tell me.  Of course, when I would stop before having an asthma attack, she would glare at me and say, "When people don't give their best, it brings down the team."  I really couldn't win.

My senior year was hilariously awful.  I was at a conference for a week over the summer, and they put me out in a non air conditioned dorm (even though I had requested one with AC because of my asthma and allergies).  I didn't want to make a fuss (that's the mantra that always leads to my downfall).  It devastated my health.

During volleyball season, I was so ridiculously ill it wasn't funny.  Bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, etc., all at the same time.  But when I started that season, I was the best hitter on the team.  Before I even started getting really sick, that coach stuck me as an off-side hitter.  Our setter couldn't backset to save her life, so I basically never got to hit.  I still served 98%, though, even when I was sick.

And that's . . . pretty much the only good memory from my senior year of volleyball.  My stats were good despite all her efforts and my illness.  She didn't even try to promote me in the district honors, so I only got honorable mention and didn't even get to play in the senior all star game.  (Not that I could have, by that time.  I couldn't breathe just sitting down, and I ended up on all kinds of fun asthma meds, including prednisone, which made me bruise all over my body and bleed from my ears and generally have reactions that made the doctor go, "Hm.  Stop taking that.  Now.")  She's one of those people in authority that just seemed to hate the kind of person I was, and there was nothing I could do about it but take her abuse and mistreatment and go on with my life.

So why wouldn't I want to be "friends" on Facebook?

To be fair, I probably would have passed out if it was the high school Varsity basketball coach who wanted to friend me on Facebook.  He was even worse.  Ever since I won that basketball for having the best free-throw percentage during camp when he bought it specifically for his daughter, he was really an excessive jerk.  (And that's on top of the wretched things he did to my older sister.  What did we ever do to tick this man off so badly?  Nothing, as far as we can tell.)

Lest you think I just never got along with coaches, I generally did.  Just not those two.  :)

12 October 2010

Why I'm glad week four is long over

Things I never expected when I agreed to teach a single online class

that I would have to put off cleaning and laundry and blogging and rest
that I wouldn't have access to my course until the students did
that the school would make so many assumptions that make my job difficult
that the logical resources a teacher needs would be missing, unavailable, not even considered
that a single class could add another 40 hours to my 40 hour work week
that I could get hoarse from dictating assignment feedback into my voice recognition software
that my left arm would hurt more
that my right arm would hurt a lot more
that I would sleep even less
that I would be even more afraid of what would happen if I get sick and lose my voice
that I would feel guilty for
  • stopping for gas and a car wash
  • getting physical therapy
  • spending 15 minutes in a used clothing store to replace a pair of pants that were destroyed
  • getting groceries
  • exercising
  • taking a shower
  • eating
  • going to the doctor
  • meeting with my church small group
(because I could've been using that time to grade)
that I would have to stop reading and writing for pleasure to teach reading and writing to unscreened students who are not ready for this class
that this format does not allow the students who need to learn the most what they need to learn
that I would hate teaching this way this much
that I would want so badly to fix the papers even knowing how much time it would take
that I would be happy when students ignored my repeated pleas to set up conferences to prevent them from failing
that this happiness could make me feel more guilty
that I would not be able to catch up even after a month
that I would be so bad at boundaries

09 October 2010

my perfect Saturday in October

I saw a fox today. 

It wasn't in my plans--as I made them Friday night--for my perfect Saturday in October.
  • Get up on time.
  • Do some grading.
  • Exercise.
  • Do some grading.
  • Lay outside reading The Left Hand of Darkness in the bright, approaching 80 degrees sunshine.
  • Do some grading.
  • Clean.
  • Do some grading.
  • Go to bed early.
Instead, my acupuncture lady called as I was grading Friday night to ask if I could move our appointment to Saturday morning, and I said yes, grumbling a little because it was wrecking my perfect Saturday plans.

On the way to her house, I drove on that winding, riverside road, and the trees
I can't tell you how beautiful they were
I'd never seen them like that before
not in the morning
not in the fall
not with my silly prescription sunglasses that make everything red look like it's on fire
and some of those maples have turned all to fire

And then, on my way back home, an honest to goodness fox streaked across the lawn and across the road in front of me and into the fiery brush by the river, and I don't know if it was a red fox, but my glasses made it look like the thing was a long, lithe streak of fire, and I thought, what is a fox doing around here? 

And I thought, thank you God for a fox around here. 

And I thought, even if I don't get my grading or cleaning done, even if I have a gash on my shin from running into something stupid last night when I lost my balance, even if I still don't get much sleep tonight, even if I don't do anything else on my list, this was a perfect Saturday in October, and 
I couldn't possibly ask for more.

05 October 2010

What I could learn from the leaves (and the trees)

They know when 
to give up, how to 
let go.  If only they 
could tell me "like 
this" and "now."