Friday, December 28, 2007
on the occasion of Taff leaving the house
all by herself
to attend a neighborhood Christmas luncheon (post from last Saturday)
boy was I scared. It was yesterday morning. Going about, getting ready, trying to breathe calmly, trying not to panic. I should go, I knew I should go, Bob had said I should go "I don't want you guys to get too backward" he had said, referring to Cheese and I. I was so nervous my hands kept shaking, and tears sprang to my eyes twice before I mananged to get myself to our front door. Where I perched nervously on edge, unable to fly out. I took out the invitation again, and made Bob look at it, to make sure it was the right date, and the right time, and that I would be going to the correct address. I said I couldn't see any cars there. Bob looked it over, saying yes it was today, and now, and that I mustn't worry, and that if there was some mix-up when I got there, it would be quite simple enough to turn around and come back home. Then he wished me well, insisted that I wear a coat, went and got me one, and sent me off.
I thought of nothing as I walked down the cold street. I focused on the feel of each foot hitting the pavement. There were some cars at the bottom of the address's driveway. I looked up at the house, uncertainly, and made myself walk up its driveway. "This home belongs to the perky blonde", is what I kept telling myself, "nice, friendly woman". I could hear my sighs, and uneven breathing, each sound containing a fear, a question. I also soon heard talking and music coming through the door, as I came to stand on the porch. I looked over at the doorbell, slightly broken (odd for all else appeared immaculate and opulent), and debated whether or not to push it. I can't remember if I did or not, for soon a body appeared in the window aside the door, and flung the door open.
This body belonged to my next door neighbor Frank, someone who I have occasion to talk to through-out the year, someone who lends me yard tools, and whose garbage cans I will take to the curb, and then back the next day, when he and his wife are away. He greeted me warmly, I was very relieved to see him, and soon saw his wife as well, who I often talk to about gardening, when we see each other in our adjoining yards. They both seemed a bit toasted.
The perky blonde offered me beverages, which I declined, while she talked to everyone and stirred something over the stove. I didn't know the other people in the room, or at least hadn't talked to them before, and thus found myself having trouble fully entering the room, hovering about the edge, in a way I hoped wasn't too obvious, but which I feared was, so over time, I bade myself to inch forward bit by bit.
Soon other people started coming in, people I had seen and talked to before. I started to join in some conversations about kids, and school. I was now fully at the party, rather than somewhere between not being there, and being there.
A cute, well dressed woman, said the name Zachary a few times, and mentioned him being sick, which made me think of the local boy, who we went to a fundraisers for, because he has cancer. It soon became apparent that this boy is her son. His leukemia is cured, the bone marrow transplant from his little sister, worked in that regard, but her marrow which now fills him, her DNA which now fills him, considers his organs that have his genetic code, to be invaders, thus the marrow attacks different parts of his body. One day it will be his skin, then his kidneys, and his lungs (which both at this point have sustained unrepairable damage), then his digestive track, et cetera. There is no cure, no solution at present (John Hopkins wont take them, because there is nothing they can do for him), 4 of the 6 kids that got bone marrow transplants at the same time, in the same hospital he did, are now dead. He will never be able to run, he will never be off of oxygen. He has coded twice, but managed to come back.
Hearing her words, feeling her life, all these emotions came in, and knocked the fear right out of me, as I stood there trying to figure out, how one lives day after day with such a devastating prognosis, with having to watch her child suffer again and again, while still creating a family that holds onto life, and to love, and just keeps going on, taking their joy where they can find it, and their time together, for as long as they can.
I thought about everything she has to face and go through day after day. I thought about how I managed to find struggle in the simple act of leaving my house to come to this party. And I felt bad, bit pathetic. But I don't wish to mislead you, next time this situation comes up, I will still be on the verge of a panic attack, until the moment when I become fully at the party. Last night, and today, I still got feelings of uneasiness, waves of anxiety, thinking I must have said something I shouldn't have, or embarrassed myself in some way, but I try to just bat away those annoying gnats, for I know it doesn't really matter, what I said or didn't say. But I can't stop the feelings from coming, even when I can't pin them down on anything, they hover.
I did very well for me. I didn't ramble on, and I didn't stay completely silent. I listened, and at times joined in. Not racing around struggling for something to say, and then blurting out whatever I could find, but instead finding things to say, things that related to the topic, but if the tone didn't feel right, if it would change the course of conversation from its current sentiments, then I choose not to say it.
I had several nice conversations which included me and just 1 or 2 other people. I told my next door neighbor of my desire to write, and how I wasn't any good, but it has been something I have always wanted to do, so I was giving it a go. People related to this well, on wanting to do something, but being scared, held back by oneself, she talked of her sister thus.
I realized while talking to her that if I am going to start telling people what I am doing, I am going to have to find a way of explaining what my story is about, without sounding confusing, and without apologizing for it being odd.
I told one other woman about the writing as well, because she asked me if I work or if I am a homemaker, and the answer is homemaker, but that doesn't sound right, because I am not a very good homemaker and put my time and energy into other things instead. I told her I had decided to give myself permission to try. That, that was really what it was about, and at one point I realized her eyes were watering, and I asked her if her eye was okay, and she said she was just crying because it was so touching. I can't think of what I could have said, all I can think of is the permission to try thing. But I felt like this was good. I had told people something about myself that I don't usually tell, a secret hope, desire, and they had responded really well, they had understood. I had presented it accurately, as trying. So I am not worried that they will look on it as failing, or falling, if I am never published, or in pretending to me something I am not. I am a person who has a dream, and who has finally given herself permission to try. I am not uncomfortable with people knowing that.
I had a good time. I will remember that next time an invite comes, through mail or email, and try and get myself to go. I know I will still feel really nervous though, still be uncertain, and take what excuses I can find, for not going. It startles, and saddens me that it took someone else's sorrow to ground me in the moment. To take all the energy away from my fear, and tie it up in other emotions, so I could feel more relaxed, and realize it just didn't matter. That it was good to just to be there, just to try and enjoy the people.
Today is a week later. The day after my family Christmas party at my house. And last night I had trouble sleeping. I felt uneasy, I felt exposed. I went over everything I had said, but there wasn't any reason for me to feel that way. In fact, I found I had said surprisingly little. And people have their own lives, joys and hardships, and certainly aren't sitting around thinking over anything I have said, I know that. I do. But still the doubts and uneasiness just wont go away. I guess it is just me, just the way I am. I used to think that I used to be this way, but that I had gotten much better in recent years, because now I only feel this way several times a year. But then I realized it is just because I rarely am around people other than Bob and Cheese in recent years. I am not better, I am just more isolated.