Friday, August 19, 2011

Punchy Tips for Great Unsolicited Advice

This post was originally posted on my old blog on May 31, 2010. I still need to post something reflective about my CPE experience, but it's still in the process of ending, so I'll write about it once it's fully wrapped up. Til then, I hope you enjoy this blast from the recent past!

Hey kids! My tens of readers know by now that I'm going through what I'm starting to call The Whole Grief Thing. I may just start abbreviating it as TWGT just like the kids in Prince Caspian started calling their dwarf companion Our Dear Little Friend, which became DLF, and then they forgot what it had stood for...But I digress. But I digress because this whole post is a digression, sorta...

The wonderful and inimitible Supa Freshwidow posed this question on Facebook:

NEWS FLASH: Some widowed people are "difficult!" -- Is it hard to deal with a grieving person? Do we have ridiculous standards, are we needy friends, and subject to mood swings? Are you more or less of a pain in the @$ since your loss? Is that going to change, d'you think?

One of the responses to the question dealt with the issue of how annoying it is as a widowed person to get unsolicited advice. It being the wee hours of the morning (hello insomnia, my old friend), and I being a bit punchy, started coming up with ridiculous pieces of advice that could be offered. Because in some ways, a lot of the advice that one gets in this situation (no matter how sensible it may seem) often comes across just as ridiculous as some of the silliness I'm about to share.

On a more serious note, before I launch into The Silly, I think people are driven to offer advice because they are discomfited by their friend's sorrow/pain, and want to Fix It. Sometimes this is driven by concern for their friend, sometimes this is driven by the desire to make the friend's pain go away so they can stop worrying about their grievng friend...They're ok? Ok, I can stop worrying now and all's right with the world...To have someone suffering on and on and on can feel something like a bystander watching the horrible BP Gulf of Mexico oil want to make it stop, but you don't know how, and you don't have any power over what gets done. And that can be enormously frustrating.

I think people genuinely do want to help (for the most part), and whatever bits of advice they can think of, they throw your way, just in case it will help. Often, unfortunately, it has the opposite effect of what is intended (Cf: Law of Unintended Consequences). For the most part, people genuinely mean well, but hit a wrong note hard enough, and oh it is ouchy...Of course the whole "I'm going to avoid you because I'm at a total loss as to what to say" approach doesn't help so much either...

Therefore, in the full spirit of Punchy Tongue-in-Cheek silliness, let me present
*drum roll please*:

Unsolicited Advice Gone Wild!
Cause if it's gonna be useless, it might as well be funny!

1. Paint your house. Every week! Start with fuschia. You can accessorize with turquoise trim! Your homeowner's association will thank you!

2. Join the French Foreign Legion. Because, well, why not?

3. Go on a round the world trip, visiting only cities and countries starting with the letter 'E.' Ekaterinburg, Estonia, and Ecuador, anyone?

4. Show your love for your dearly departed by cutting your hair very short and then shaving all your hair except that which spells out his or her name. Then dye it blue, because you are blue. You can declare your grief to the world and be hipster and avant garde too!

5. Tattoo his or her name on your forehead.

6. Start wearing your dearly departed's clothes, become a street person, and build a church brick by brick every night. Oh wait, that's already been done. (Cf: St. Ksenia of St Petersburg)

7. Take up llama farming. Or alpacas. Lovely wool! Plus, they spit. What more could you want?

8. Make sure that you live in a yurt while doing your llama farming. 

9. Move to the northernmost part of Alaska and live out of an igloo in the winter and a sod house in summer. Insist on being called "Bubba." Even if you are female. 

10. Play the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach with a kazoo. 

11. Found a kazoo symphony in order to pull off item 10.

12. Eat only your loved one's favorite foods. Especially if they were, say, friend liver and lima beans.** The nastier the better, in fact. As a bonus, you get to guilt trip over it if you don't!

That's all I can think of at the moment...Please help me out and suggest more!

Thank you, my tens of readers! :)

**This was not part of the original post, but it may be clear to the reader that I hate both lima beans and fried liver. I should include lentils in there for a nasty food trifecta.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

CPE, CPE, CPE, is there anything else? Oh yeah, CPE...

So it looks like I missed the big Camp Widow contest......Win a scholarship to Camp Widow, yada yada yada...Yes, I missed it. I have been running myself ragged and am plumb wore out. Let's say, in theory, I'd won...I'd still have had to scare up airfare out of thin air. And expenses. And hotel fees, assuming a friend didn't let me crash on their sofa for the weekend...only to return to another two weeks of insanely intense CPE. I said uncle. Next year, I hope...

That's assuming I'm not scheduled for an on-call shift that weekend. I can't remember. I'm only keeping track one week ahead. This week, I had Tuesday night. That was Tuesday all day at the hospital, then all night, then into the next day. I was there til 4 pm the next day. That is a long time.

The trouble with CPE is that, what with HIPAA and privacy and everything else, I'm not sure what I'm allowed to share. Suffice it to say that three people died on my on-call shift last Sunday night, and I spent time with a dying man and his family last week. I'm spending time in the borderlands...No, it's not all people dying, but last week definitely marked a mental boundary shift in my mind. Just like with Nelson's death, there's the Time Before and the Time After.

I hear that you can get a job doing chaplaincy work in hospice with only the first unit of CPE. Part of me finds that idea appealing. But is my job right now a major PTSD trigger? Um, yeah, and I had it beforehand. I need to do something about that so I can do something for others. Because doing this just reinforces that I want to do this. This resonates with me. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment...or maybe I've found my charism, as my priest puts it....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May is among the cruelest months.

November is the cruelest month. (Sorry, T.S. Eliot...November, not April.) That was when Nelson died. This is the month of the six-month sadiversary...this year, it's a year and six months. Everything is counted by that. Everything.

May is a heavy month. My aunt died in May, 20 years ago, a week before my 16 birthday. It's another sadiversary, many more years removed than Nelson's, but it still reberverates across the decades. It leaves echoes.

It's now been two years since I graduated from seminary. Two years ago, I graduated, and was radiantly happy. Then I moved back to my home state, away from my beloved, because there were more jobs there. I never would have done that if I knew he were going to die...or were in any danger of dying whatsoever. And yet he was. His heart was about to give out, and I left NY, and him, thinking it would only be a temporary separation, not knowing that our temporary separation was going to turn into a permanent one.

And now I'm afraid of long-distance relationships, because in my mind, the two things are somehow connected...A friend of mine had a long-distance relationship with someone in another country and it honestly petrified me on some level. Long-distance means they'll die! Of course, rationally, I know it doesn't. Tell that to my simmering subconscious.

Two years ago, I graduated. A year and a half ago, the world ended. My internship is coming up, but so is the second anniversary of that awful summer, the last summer we had together, in which we had hardly any time in each other's presence, in which I had migraines lasting weeks at a time, and he had a kidney stone. And I couldn't drive up there to help him because I was immobilized with a migraine. I look back, and I wonder why it took me so long to finally seek medical attention for the migraines. It wasn't until I got a prescription drug that they finally went away. Recently I read that migraines lasting over 72 hours put you at risk of a stroke. No wonder the attending physician recommended a CT scan. I never got one...

I still have to remind myself that it's not my fault that he died, but I still wish--with all my heart I still wish--that I had spent that summer with him, not with my parents and the shitty job and the migraines in Virginia.

And today...Today is my birthday. Never mind which one. I feel like I've aged a thousand years since Nelson died, and yet the world around me's hardly changed at all. Happy birthday to me?

Sometimes it's hard to write to this blog because I spend so much time trying to keep afloat, keep going, not think about it too much lest it overwhelm me...and sometimes there are just no words for it, just a feeling of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness, and everything else.

Or there'll be a crisis, like I had last week--well, not a crisis-crisis, just something I needed to vent about really a whole lot to someone I trusted implicitly. That list has gotten pretty damn short since Nelson died. He would have been my automatic go-to person. I would have told him, we would have agreed on what a travesty the thing I got upset about was, and I would have gotten it out of my system. I eventually found someone to confide in, but it wasn't the same. It just isn't the same. It's never the same anymore.

"Here and now/ Will we ever be again?/ For I have found/ All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade/ Away/ Again"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good news! Summer internship! Yay!

I have neglected my poor blog, and you, dear readers. But there was a reason for it, and the reason was good. The reason was that I was BUSY. Really busy. Busier than I've been since Nelson died and I lost my job and all that other stuff went down. And I'd think of blogging, but I'd be too busy freaking out about my to-do list.

I did my taxes, which is good, because the government doesn't like it if you don't. Also: tax return. Me likey. But the bigger thing I did was finally send out my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) applications. Clinical Pastoral Education is hospital chaplaincy training. A week after sending the first one (the one which had no application fee), I got a call from [that hospital] CPE supervisor saying they were all full up for the summer, but she could save me a spot for the fall extended unit. I said that would be great! She also told me who else was still accepting applications in the area, so I sent the rest of my applications off that day. Before the week was out, I had heard from 2 of them saying they wanted me to interview. Also, I heard from the first hospital--she called and told me that a spot had opened up for the summer unit, would I like to come interview?

Long story short, I had three interviews--one on Monday, one on Friday, and the last one was the following Monday. The last interview was also the first place I had heard from. I ended up deciding on the place I interviewed with on Friday--since all three of them offered me places!

So, after telling the hospital I decided on (henceforth "Hospital") that I would be going with them, and sending them my deposit check, I had to fill out this online application. It took three days. That was the last week of Lent. (Holy Week is technically its own thing.) I hit "Send." It told me that my session had expired. I had no available brain cells left for it at that point, so after cursing at my computer and the internet a bit, I decided to give it a break.

The next day was Lazarus Saturday. I had choir practice, Divine Liturgy, then choir practice again. Then I ran to my other church (the church where I have my grief support group) to try to help out with the Pascha bread baking. Only by the time me and my friend got there (I brought my friend, who needs some kind of internet nickname for blogging purposes...suggestions welcome), all the bread had been baked, but I could still help with the glazing and the sugaring. The bread gets glazed, sugared, then popped back in the oven for a minute or two. Bulgarian Pascha's heavenly. Anyhoo, then I had confession, and I was going to try to talk to Father about something, but he had no time that day (go figure--everybody and their uncle had confession that day, I think). But somebody was having a pysanky workshop. Pysanky are Russian/Ukrainian decorated Easter eggs--you use a stylus and hot beeswax to make the designs. I've always wanted to learn how it was done. So I finally got my chance! :) Then it was time for vespers--well, actually, it was vigil, since it was the eve of Palm Sunday. I went up and sang, which was probably imprudent, since I'd sung so much that morning, and my voice had gotten froggy. After the service I got some palms and pussy willows to take home (pussy willows are a Russian/Eastern European tradition for Palm Sunday, since there are no palms that far north).

I will spare you a detailed description of Holy Week, which was last week. Suffice it to say: there was church. There was lots and lots of church. Churchy goodness. I do like church. I sang a great deal. I'm out of singing-every-day condition these days, but I had a great time. By the end of the Pascha (Easter) service, which ended around 2:30 am (or was it 3? who's counting at that point? not me!), my voice was croaking.

We call this week Bright Week. Today is Bright Tuesday. Very apt, since it's about 85 degrees, and sunny. Today I went back to the Hospital because I had to report to Occupational Health. I had to bring my immunization records, of which I have plenty. Although they keep coming out with new vaccines that I have not been vaccinated with, like pneumonococcal somethingorother and so forth. Should I get those? Eh, who knows. One thing's for sure, I'm not going to work at the hospital without getting a flu shot first.

But today. Today I had a TB test called a PPD. I have to come back on Thursday. Then I get the PPD read, and I also get something called a Fit test, and honestly, I'm really not sure what that is. I'm going to Google it. Next week, I have to come back on Tuesday, and get another PPD, and then come back again next Thursday and have that read. Then, I understand, I will get some manner of form clearing me to attend an orientation session. Only after the orientation session will I get another form saying I have cleared Occupational Health and am A-OK to work at the Hospital. It's all a gigantic pain in the tuchus, but whatever I have to do, right? I wish I could just get it all done in one day, though. Or two days next to each other. It's like, gimme my rubber stamp! Oy...I understand why they do this, of course. It's just, lemme get it over with.

Which is pretty much how I feel about another friend of mine's upcoming wedding, which I shall attend, and at which I shall sing. I will sing, and concentrate on the lyrics, and the choir director, and not on the gigantic ouch, which I am sure I will think about anyway. Then I will congratulate the bride and groom, say hello to a few people, and flee. Luckily my grief group is meeting that very same afternoon. I hope I will not miss the whole thing due to the wedding, which I am glad will soon be over with, since I am sick of hearing about it. I'm happy for you, ok, buddy? Ca you find another topic to talk about? Please? Sometimes? Occasionally? Ever? (This friend is male, btw. Let's call him Chandler. Yes, like from "Friends." He's a little bit like that Chandler, too.)

My emotions have been up! and down. And then up again! and down again. Ooh, such a roller coaster ride, except without the fun.

But at least life in general is moving in a forwards direction...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finally feeling better--at last!

It certainly took long enough! Good grief!

Just an update to let ya'll know how I am. Better. Much better. And when I compare me now to me last year, I can't believe how much better I'm doing and how much better I'm feeling. My brain no longer feels like it's been hit with a shovel. Try it sometime. That will replicate just part of the feeling. That, and dropping without warning into a deep chasm...just walking along, doot doo doo, la la la, shovel, chasm. Or was it chasm, shovel? I think it was more like chasm, shovel. Started to collect myself and CLANG!!!

My point. My point? My point is, don't try this at home, kids. I really could have used some warning on this whole grief thing. Even a day to brace myself, I think, would have helped the whole cognitive dissonance/generalized WTF?!?!? sensation. I'm trying to describe it from a year and four months later. For some reason it's gotten harder to keep count. I've never been good at counting. Or math. I have downright dyscalculia (like dyslexia, but for math), frankly, and I'd get it officially diagnosed if I had the grand it would take to do so. Always have, but the whole mental rescrambling that grief has done to my brain hasn't exactly helped.

Life in general. It's better. I am actually feeling motivated to--get this!--wear lip gloss. OMG. What a step. A year ago any form of makeup, even lip gloss (at least of any color) seemed like a complete waste of time. Getting ogled at the beach actually annoyed me. No, not just annoyed. It made me mad. It made me mad that it wasn't Nelson to look that way at me, and that he wouldn't be there to look that way at me any more, and these random guys were a poor substitute.

Right now? I think I'd be more like, eh, who cares. So that's progress of a sort. I suppose.

I also wore an actual bracelet to church. A fancy silver cuff, from India, which I bought back in the '90s when both silver and gold were cheaper and when I had actual money ( incidental expenses!). I've pondered doing such things before but this was the first time I felt motivated enough to actually act on it. I think that means something. I don't know what.

Also, unlike last year, I can contemplate dating a guy who isn't Nelson without feeling nauseated. Yes, last year (the first year) I would literally feel sick to my stomach at the thought of dating another guy. Now...I can at least ponder the idea. The thought of acting on it still feels like too much work. I have too much else to do right now. I need to get a job. I need to get my hospital chaplaincy training (CPE) application in. I need to get the other aspects of my life restarted. I need to take care of me before I start thinking about being with somebody else. It just seems like good emotional housekeeping. 

I'm not judging anybody who does/did it a different way. We're all in more or less the same boat, but we didn't all come from the same starting point, and things pan out slightly (sometimes very) different for everybody depending on all kinds of things. So I'm not being judgy. I'm just saying this is where I am right now. I'm just trying to take this thing one day at a time. I pretty much went "Splat!" I'm rebuilding. That's how it is.

I'm going to close by telling you one cool and very healing thing I've been doing this week, and that's going to the church services for the beginning of Great Lent. In the Orthodox Church, Great Lent (as opposed to Christmas Lent/Advent) starts on Monday, not Wednesday, and the whole first week of Lent is called Clean Week. Clean Monday, Clean Tuesday, etc. From Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, we celebrate a service that includes a wonderful hymn called the Canon of St Andrew of Crete. It's a hymn of repentence that includes scriptural examples from both the Old and New Testaments. It's really amazing how much scripture it covers. (I'm a church nerd, I like this stuff.) It's called Clean Week because Lent is kind of the Spring Cleaning of the soul. I like that idea. :)

The main hymn of the service was one that was going through my head a lot after Nelson died. I mean, it was going through my head pretty much constantly. And I never got to sing it last year--I missed the services since I was too much of a space cadet to figure out that they were having them in my area.

But this year, I've been going to the services and singing with the choir every night, and this hymn has been giving me chills every time. Every time. I love it! It goes like this:

My soul, my soul, arise!  Why are you sleeping?  The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded.  Awake, then, and, be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.

I will close with the main refrain of the Canon, which is sung after every verse. Really, it is at the heart of Orthodox Christianity.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

If I have offended any of you, or given you any hurt, please forgive me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's been a rough month.

Really, really rough.

I'm on my fourth round of antibiotics. Two of them this time, twice daily. To go all month. Still on them.

And just at the point that I was starting to feel a little better, I caught my younger nephew's cold/stomach virus. I've been dizzy and nauseated all week. Which has been making taking the antibiotics a challange. Heck, everything's a challenge.

I applied for unemployment at the beginning of the month. Had to have a phone interview last week. Did I get it? I'll find out via letter. Soon, I hope.

I need a job. I need to move out. Things have got to change. Maybe I can couchsurf somewhere. I have just got to find some breathing room. My parents keep ratcheting up the pressure. Which doesn't help with the stomach virus and the kidney infection and, oh, by the way, the grief. But my folks think I should be over that by they've said....

It's been an FML kind of month, really.

Happiness, schmappiness....I just want to get the hell out of Dodge and be able to pay my rent while doing so. OMG. Why must everything be so hard?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sick and tired of being sick and tired...

I am sick. I have been sick since the week after Thanksgiving. I got an infection that never really went away, and eventually turned into a kidney infection (acute pyelonephretis, for you Latin-lovers out there). If you're wondering why I haven't been posting much, that would be why.

On Wednesday, January 5th, I went to South Carolina with my mom and aunt, to visit relatives. This turned out to be a bad idea. I got worse, and there was nowhere to go but the local emergency room. In spite of my telling them that I had seen actual visible blood in my urine in the toilet the day before, nobody there even touched me. No doctor, no nurse, nobody. They just did a cursory look at the urine sample, gave me a ten-day course of Cipro, and sent me home to get worse.

After a miserable twelve-hour drive north (usually only ten, but twelve because of my being sick) last Thursday, I wound up seeing my regular doctor on Friday. She said I needed to go to the local ER to get a CaT scan to rule out appendicitis. I cried. I cussed. "F***!" I said. I cannot afford this. I cannot afford anything. I can't even afford my regular prescriptions right now. It's a good thing they don't charge you for breathing...but wait, they sort of do, since I'm asthmatic. Damn.

At any rate, I was able to get some sort of poverty help thing at the hospital. I was poked, prodded, CaT scanned, and appendicitis was ruled out. Everything CaT-scannable in my innards checks out fine. So there's that. They sent me home with a new, expensive antibiotic (thankfully, giving me the first dose while there!). They also gave me morphine, which was good, since all the prodding and poking only exacerbated the pain in said innards. And I am no pain wimp.

So, I saw my doctor again on Monday, my urine checks out ok--blood-free. She speculates I might have had a kidney stone. She tells me to finish the antibiotic, and if I'm still sick when it's over with, to call her up for another appointment.

At this point it looks like the agony part of my sickness adventure is over with and I am down to the tired/wrung-out feeling part.

I'd like to rest for a million years. But I have to find a job and beat off my scary bills with a stick. I almost miss how I felt a year ago, when I was so much in agony over losing Nelson that I couldn't really worry about practical things, at least not as much. Worry would nibble at me, but it wouldn't grab. Now...well, it's like worry has gone from goldfish to piranhas. I really preferred the goldfish.

And it's not like the missing Nelson part has gone away, either. That's still there. It's there with the piranhas.

And here I was thinking 2011 was going to be a better year...I've gotten off to an epically bad start! Oy. Bozhe moi gospodi. Gospodi pomilui. Oh my God. Lord have mercy.