Saturday, March 15, 2014

Perception Changes In a Week where Death Looms Large

This has been a humdinger of a week and not in a good way.  On Monday I found out about the stage IV cancer diagnosis of my best friend from high school, who was also our housemate from 1993-1997 while she earned her BA.  On Thursday, we went to the retrospective art show of our colleague who has pancreatic cancer; I was not prepared for the change in her appearance.  One of my friends said, "It's like death has her in his arms."

I have noticed some changes in my perception, and I wonder if they will last:

--As you might expect, I've felt weepy, off and on, throughout most of the week.  I try to contain my actual tears during the work day to places where I won't be seen.  I have noted before that it's not a good idea to let anyone see you cry when you're an administrator--not because I worry about seeming weak, but because if people see me crying they assume that catastrophic news is on the way.

--I've prayed more.  I wish that I could do more for my friend.  Maybe at some point I'll know what that action should be.  But for now, I can pray.

--Occasionally, I look across a group of people, and they seem glowing.  I find myself overcome with love for humanity--how fragile we are, how short are lives are, how unique we are and yet the same.

--When I see the outlines of people in this way, I think of those nuclear war movies, like Testament.  In that film, you knew that a character was dying from radiation poisoning because the film got a faded overlay or maybe the character faded--could you have that effect back in 1983?  Am I remembering that movie correctly?  Anyway, I have this sense as I look at humans that we're on our way out, but we don't know it.  Our outlines are getting blurry.  We're fading--except for the ones who are blazing bright.

--How can we blaze brightly more consistently?

--Suddenly all the work drama doesn't seem so compelling.  We are so caught up in so much idiocy that won't last very long or really have a permanent impact, at least not beyond a season or two.

--I've thought of all the shows I've watched, all the teenage characters in those shows which used to be essential watching for me.  I've thought of Angela and Rayanne in My So-Called Life.  I've wondered which of them would have which health crisis in her 40's.  I confess that I've even thought about the script for the very special TV show.

--One could have fun with all those John Hughes movies too.  Not as many female friends come to mind.  But Duckie and Andie in Pretty in Pink seem to offer dramatic possibilities.

--I'm also hearing music differently this week.  I heard this line from a Boston song:

"Now you're climbing to the top of the company ladder
Hope it doesn't take too long
Don't you see there'll come a day when it won't matter
Come a day when you'll be gone."

When I heard this song as an adolescent, I heard it as part of the gotta-go, gotta-ramble genre of rock and roll.  I heard and assumed I'd be gone because I'd have a better job in a better part of the country.  Now I'm thinking death.

--This week when I've thought about just drinking the old, bitter coffee from the day before, I've said, "Life is short--have fresh coffee."  And the rest of the day is like that.  I've cherished tastes and textures of food and drink more, because I'm aware that my friend cannot; she has esophageal cancer, and she can hardly swallow.  I've been more patient with people.  I've been more present.

--I want to continue to be more present for people.  I want to leave the screens and interact in person.

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