Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cats in Antlers

I spent an hour or two today writing still another piece about grief. With the shootings in Arizona; the death of Ashley Turton from a freak car fire in her Capitol Hill garage; the arrival of my brother's birthday tomorrow, the second since his death; and, a friend's continuing quest to get a marker placed on her mother's grave, I didn't and don't lack material. The longer you live, the more you brush up against death and other losses.

I waxed philosophical about the merits of grief, of how it lends perspective, pulls us out of ruminating on social faux pas (ours) and traffic misdeeds (others) and brings out our instinct to comfort those in pain, friends and strangers alike. I talked about how grief builds community and pushes change, encourages compassion, particularly once the fury and blame-seeking fades.

All this remains true, and I'm happy to have written and, artfully or not, pulled some thoughts together, however simplistic. As always, writing is a useful process for me, and I am grateful for it.

But that's not what I want to talk about here.

What I mean to say is: I am worn out with grief.

I am sick and tired of it, tired of the tragic beauty that I try to give it to make it more manageable. I fully acknowledge how it is a necessary process, but, again: I am worn out.

2010 was a difficult year for many of my friends and family, for a variety of reasons that aren't any less painful despite their lack of originality: death, under- and un-employment, strained finances, love affairs gone wrong, health struggles, losses personal, financial, emotional, physical. Life can be hard; 2010 contained too many examples for too many people I care about.

I and others rang in 2011 with relief, wanting the clean slate, however arbitrary a date on the calendar might be.

And here we are, back at death, grief, a world bursting out of control on the national scale and sad, private moments in less publicized worlds.

And so we grieve some more. A friend of mine mentioned today that she couldn't remember the last time she really laughed.

And that reminded me how much we need to remember that we also can and do dwell elsewhere.

I'm not suggesting burying my head in the sand and going, oh dear, I can't handle the pain in the world and so will just ignore it, sanitize reality into some happy little la-la land. Horrible things have happened and will continue to do so, and January has certainly provided ample proof of that already. We do what we can to lessen risks and impacts, but the act of living is necessarily dangerous.

But is it also joyful. And goofy. And silly. And gleeful.

There are big, big reasons for the world to be wondrous and amazing, to strike awe in the minds of us mortals, faith, love, fellowship, etc. But the big concepts are hard to catch, and today, I need the concrete.

And so, a counterbalance. Below, I list goofy moments in my life, silly laughter moments, most of which (helpless laughter being what it is) won't make any sense. So forgive me for temporarily abandoning you audience, but this list is for me. In these moments, you had to be there, and I'm glad I was:
  • Snickering under a cot in a dorm room in 10th grade at the end of a carbon paper tickle fight
  • Swimming in a pool with my sister at Fenwick Island trading stories about old boyfriends (which I won't reveal in a public forum)
  • Discovering that if I said the word “chicken” in a business meeting in a certain way, my coworker would dissolve in laughter
  • Shushing a drunken friend in the wee hours of the morning when all he could say was “Hoot! Hoot!”
  • Attempting to get Leo the cat to wear the antlers at Christmas
  • Singing along, a half beat behind, to a friend's irreverent new lyrics of Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve
  • Riding in a wheelbarrow borrowed from a marina
  • Cruising down a highway in Kansas swerving to avoid a road hazard and managing to hit it instead
  • Testing the aerodynamics of Barbies and homemade parachutes by throwing them out the bedroom window
  • Using a towel to create a nun's habit upon exiting the the shower in Key West
  • Reading MadLibs created with terms from 50s pulp porn novels
  • Wearing flowers in my hair (I'm such a hippie)
  • Twirling and puddle-jumping in the pouring rain in Minneapolis
  • Teaching my friend to skip, a crucial skill he somehow didn't acquire until he was over 30.
  • Skipping down the street with other friends singing “We're off to See the Wizard”
  • Misunderstanding a friend on a road trip and so being puzzled by why she kept asking about the “cheese door.”
  • Writing “Ode to New York” on the back of a beer label after playing pinball
  • Dancing in many living rooms, hips swinging, arms flailing
  • Wearing balloons to celebrate a birthday
  • Attempting headstands in the living room with a friend's kids
  • Opening the door wearing my mother's bell-bottomed floral print halter-top pantsuit.
  • Spending the day speaking in an Irish accent
  • Climbing to the top of a Midwest sand dune in the wintertime and rolling down in the freezing sand.
  • Sliding in socks on hardwood floors
What I want to do is add to this list. Yes, the death and despair of the world will continue on, but so will the silly. Today, I needed to remember the ridiculous. I encourage you to make your own list, to remember your own silly soul.  A cartwheel or a somersault might not hurt either.

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