Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life is Not an Endurance Test. O rly?

Just a quick (read: long and rambling) post to say vacation is going well.  Given the circumstances and all that.  (You know, the fact that we're not supposed to be on vacation, the fact that we're supposed to be home with an adorable, charming baby, the fact that we both miss her so much it hurts, and so on).

But honestly, we really are having a nice time.  I have a couple of things I have been trying to keep in mind.  The first is that happiness and unhappiness are not opposite sides of the same emotion.  They rise and fall independently of one another.

I'd never really thought much about it before (being generally happy, lucky, and blithely inconsiderate of such things) but it makes quite a lot of sense, particularly for the place I am now in my grief.  I'm still terribly, horribly, gut-wrenchingly unhappy about the loss of Eliza, but I also feel happy sometimes.  Not happy like I'm better or everything will be OK or ah, well, chalk it up to better luck next time.  Nothing like that.  But happy like "In this moment, in the sunshine, next to David, flipping through this In Style magazine, looking at my painted toe nails, I kind of feel like I can breathe and the future might hold hope and I might even be experiencing mild contentment in this particular second.  Could this be what happy feels like?  I think it could."

It is important for me to realize (and for me to clarify here) that being happy in this moment in no way diminishes the breadth and depth of the unhappiness I feel about Eliza's death.  This is where I go back to the idea that these are separate emotions, independent of one another.  For a long time, that distinction felt impossible.  But now I'm starting to understand it.

The other thing I am keeping in mind is one of the little "daily meditations" from the grief book I hate to love.  The thought for Monday was "I will be free to turn away from grief when I can.  Life is not an endurance test."

I can't pretend this vacation is a week of carefree fun and romance.  I don't want to pretend that it is.  But if there are moments when it almost feels that way?  Well, maybe I don't have to feel like shit over that.  Maybe I can just take it for what it is.  Maybe this doesn't have to be a test of my endurance:  Can she go to Florida and enjoy 80 degree days full of warm sun and cool breezes and cute sandals and still maintain the joy-canceling grief to prove she loves her baby?  Maybe it's not a grief endurance test after all.

And so, I find myself enjoying these days.  Or at least many moments of them.

We may have overdone it a bit at the beach today.  The thing about the Florida sun in March is that it is very different from the Missouri sun in July.  It's not humid, it's not sticky, you're not swarmed by mosquitoes.  You don't ever really feel hot and disgusting.  So you can lie in the sunshine, enjoying the cool breezes, and not ever realize that you should have reapplied sunscreen about an hour ago and then when you do reapply, you don't notice that the cool beachy breeze blows the spray sunscreen all over the place, and by the time you traipse back to the car at the end of the day, the tops of your feet hurt, and you have a sunburn on the back of your knee, and your upper arm is all blotchy, and all of these places of vague discomfort will soon erupt into a full-fledged splotchy and obnoxious and kind of painful sunburn and soon you will discover that when you rolled over at some point your boob moved just enough out of your swimsuit top to get a red burned stripe across it and you will think that if you get in a car accident on the way back to the condo, the EMTs will see that suburned boob and know that you are neither responsible nor classy.

Other moments of vacation interest (because the burned boob obviously has everyone totally riveted, you're welcome):

Lying by the pool yesterday, we were prompted by the sound of much cheering and general revelry to swivel our heads around to look behind our loungers and observe an old man (of the cheerful face, paunchy belly, random patches of white hair growing on his back variety) shotgunning a beer through a floatie noodle.  He was surrounded by a gaggle of teenagers who were really thrilled about this beer drinking skillz.  And his wife was there--taking pictures.  This was entertaining enough that I considered actually getting up to reposition my chair in order to be able to better observe these shenanigans, but then more shouting commenced and I discovered that the most buxom and least sober of the bikini-ed girls surrounded the old man and his photographer wife was named Treasure (at least that's what her friends call her) and suddenly it seemed as though the only explanation for that was that the entire scene was going to turn into a porno.  Also it was almost 5pm.  So I decided to head back to the condo and get ready to go out to dinner.

The day after we arrived, we had tickets to see a Braves spring training game.  David was adamant that we leave by 11am.  He drove up to the grocery store to pick up a few things while I was showering and getting ready to go.  After the shower, I pulled the hair dryer off the wall-thingy where it is plugged in and I pushed the "ON" button.  Nothing happened.  I pushed the red "Reset" button.  Nothing.  I tried this a couple more times, to no avail.  The clock was ticking and my bangs were air-drying in a really frightening way and David was going to be back from the store and rushing me out the door.  So I made a quick phone call to the front desk.  The lady asked me if I had tried pushing the "ON" button.  Oh, please.  Do I sound like a total moron?  I told her, slightly indignantly, that I had in fact pushed the "ON" button and the reset button and I really hope they would be able to fix it or lend me another hair dryer.  She said they'd send a repairman right up.

Sure enough, a very friendly repairman arrived in a few minutes (David still wasn't back from the store).  I welcomed him into the (enormous) bathroom and he put his tool bag down on the little bench for the vanity and immediately pushed the hand towel hanging by the hair dryer over to one side.  And proceeded to PLUG IN the hairdryer.

At which point I screamed something like, "Oh my GOD, NO!" and collapsed onto the toilet.  The repair guy jumped about a mile and then realized that I was not actually in pain but was, in fact, a total moron who had never plugged in the hair dryer before calling a repairman.  I apologized PROFUSELY.  He laughed and said, "Well I am very tired from this hard work.  Next time, you should try plugging it in."  And then he left and I died of humiliation and then when I was finished doing that, I blew dry my hair and David got back and we left for the game.  (I wasn't going to tell him about it, but I ended up confessing the whole thing when I got bored during the fourth inning.)

And speaking of awkward things I do in the bathroom on vacation:  I had to pee really bad on our drive home from the beach today and David did not want to pull off ten miles from our condo to let me have a pit stop so I just had to hold it while doing the sitting-down-pee-pee dance and also moaning dramatically.  David told me to get the key card ready and he'd drop me at the entrance to our building before parking so I could run directly upstairs and pee.

So I did.  And then I felt so gross from the beach that I immediately stripped off my clothes and hopped in the shower.  I was sudsing up my hair (for the second time, to get that really clean feeling) and wiggling my toes to get the sand out from between them, when I realized that it had been several minutes and I'd never heard David enter the condo.  I wonder what's keeping him?...  I thought to myself.

Then I remembered that I had taken his key card to let myself in, leaving him to carry up all the bags and stand outside the locked door while I enjoyed a leisurely shower.  Lucky man who married me!  As soon as this thought dawned on me, I grabbed a towel and raced for the door, dripping wet, with shampoo still in my hair.  Sure enough, poor David had schlepped all our beach stuff upstairs and was waiting in the hallway wondering what the hell I was doing.  He was a pretty good sport about it.  After the hair dryer incident though, I am beginning to think that maybe I'm getting stupider.

Other things I've noticed on this vacation:

* People from Canada are seriously nicer than most people.  It sounds like a silly stereotype but so far in every encounter I have had with a Canadian person, they have been nice, and on this particular vacation, every encounter I have had with someone who just seems to be super nicer than average, they turn out to be Canadian.  Maybe it's the universal healthcare that makes them so cheerful?

* After a day of lounging on the beach and splashing in the waves, David and I turn into the elderly versions of ourselves.  We're heavily moisturized, lying under blankets, and I'm sipping hot tea while he channel surfs.  Also it's 8pm and we're totally in for the night.  Fitting, since we ate dinner at 4pm today.

* Our rental car is a Nissan Sentra and we like it.  It's comparable to the Toyota Camry we had when my car had to be fixed back in December only it's way better.  I observed the excellent lumbar support in the seat back and David said, "I was going to say the exact same thing!" which further proves how totally nerdy and made for each other we are.

* Despite my longing for a baby, I have a serious aversion toward children who screech while playing in the pool.  Even though I can vividly remember being one of those screeching kids.  I was totally wishing for "Adult Swim."

* Being as I'm from the Midwest (and here you are asked kindly to ignore the fact that I cringe when my students use "being as" as a way to construct sentences in their papers), I like my fish the way I like my vegetables: Fried and dipped in Ranch dressing.  Do not judge me, you cosmopolitans and urban sophisticates.  At least, don't judge me until you've tried fried okra and the Captain's Platter of fried Things From the Sea that we ate for Old People Dinnertime today at 4pm.

* King sized beds are big.  Plenty of room for two people and a puggle.  I really miss our dogs!

And that's all for now--more updates and some pictures to follow later in the week.  Because of course I realize that you are all completely absorbed in the minutiae of my vacation and cannot wait for photo illustrations.  Not to worry--I will not disappoint!


  1. Oh thank you for this post. Thank you for the distinction that happiness and unhappiness are not mutually exclusive, and for making me smile reading about your antics. As soon as I read that you ate dinner at 4, I hoped that you had been at some Senior Citizen Fish Fry type dinner - I'd expect no less from Florida.

    (And there was rarely a night in Maui where we were awake past 9, so I know exactly where you're coming from on that one, too. In fact, I could have written so much of this if you just changed "Florida" to "Maui" - it is very much like a lot of what I experienced on my vacation. Except for the porno shotgunning, which, damn, I was hoping you were going to say you jumped up and shotgunned with them (but abstained from the after-porn.) No shotgunning in Maui.

    I'm glad you're having some light moments, Brooke, I'm glad the weather is warm and that you and David are able to rest on loungers at pools (not shotgunning beers.) And damn, most of all, you know that I wish you weren't on this trip in the first place, I wish you were home with Eliza complaining about the St Louis winter.


  2. I think making David wait outside was appropriate payback for him not stopping to let you pee!

    We just traded in our truck for a Nissan Sentra. I pretty much love it, though Joe hates how the armrest is so far away for the driver.

    And Canadians are crazy nice. One of my really good friends is a Canadian. I keep swearing I'm moving there one of these days (especially after getting an outrageous medical bill.)

    I agree with you about the grief not being an endurance test, and I'm glad you are having a decent vacation. Starting tomorrow through next week it's supposed to be in the 40's here again so enjoy the sun!

  3. I'm so happy that you're having some happy moments (and totally understand this does not mean you are missing Eliza any less).

    You made me smile about the Canadians - as I'm one! We pride ourselves on our politeness.

  4. Your hairdryer and shower stories made me laugh! I'm glad you're enjoying your hols even though happiness and sadness aren't mutually exclusive.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire post-- so much that I shot my husband a very evil look as he was distracting me by talking while I was reading. How dare he!

    We love the Canadians, too, and have the same discussion of screeching children. Surely our children would never be that way. And there's my guaranteed ticket to a couple very bratty, screeching kidlets.

    Glad you're enjoying yourselves. Can't wait for photos!

  6. Another Canuck smiling at your comments here (not to mention totally cracking up over the hairdryer & shower stories). We currently have a Camry, & had a Sentra for 10 years before that. Both really great cars in their own ways!

  7. I very much enjoyed your sense of humor in this post. I hope you have as wonderful time as possible. :))