In the scriptures, I’m commanded to love a lot of things: my God, my neighbor, my wife, my enemy…I’m never commanded to love my country. In fact, if “loving my country” means that I demonstrate preference to someone based on their ethnicity, their nationality or, for instance, their loyalty to America’s foreign policies, I think I’ve pretty much undermined a very important aspect of Jesus’ mission on this earth — to make his temple a “house of prayer for all nations” and ours, to “make disciples of all nations.” And when I’m willing to value American lives over, say, Iranian lives or when I’m willing to promote America’s economic interests over the interests of the world’s poor simply because I’m American I may actually demonstrate my infidelity to the only Kingdom worthy of my allegiance. — John McCollum, To Love One’s Country
Sibylle: “Have you done your exercises yet?”
Mark: “I had three bites of tiramisu. Does that count?”
… Mark, exasperatedly, “Just take that damn sword away from her!”
As many of you have heard, a tornado went through Manhattan on Wednesday night (June 11). Yes, it went through Miller Ranch and yes, it went down EJ Frick, and yes, my house is right where those two areas meet.
I was truly lucky. The tornado went through my back yard. It rearranged my deck a bit (flowerpots, furniture and hot tub were affected) and the top floor of the gazebo got messed up. We have a few holes in the roof, but nothing that can’t be fixed. Something put a dent above my bedroom window and knocked the pendulum out of my clock, but my bedroom is still there. We lost 6 or 8 huge oak trees, as well as two of my favorite trees. (We also lost the ugly one over my garden…. as well as the garden. Only the spinach survived. Stupid spinach.) Our bradford pear got killed. It now has one branch, and was transformed into a Lost and Found that was seen on a few news channels. I will truly miss that tree. =(
HOWEVER… the only damage inside the house is that our piano is out of tune, and that is just because of the major humidity change inside. (The condenser for our AC got banged up in the storm.) We got power back late Friday afternoon, and we are getting our AC fixed right now. Our house was declared “Habitable.”
To those of you whose houses were demolished in the storm, I am really sorry. Call me if you need help cleaning up or if you need a place to stay.
To those of you who helped us clean up around our house, thank you so much. You don’t know how nice that was. Plus, you allowed me to get some breathing time and you kept my dad from overworking himself. =)
To those of you who were wondering about the tornado…… there you have it. I’ll put some pictures up later.
Yesterday, we thought we might, possibly, perhaps, if it feels right, go through pet and vet things we don’t need anymore, pack them up, lovingly, and give them to our vet. Along with another check for services rendered recently. They close at 12:30 on Saturdays, I am starting to write this at 12:28. We knew, or at least I did (haven’t asked Mark), this morning, when we rolled over to go back to sleep after having been awake for a few minutes around 7, that it might not happen today.
There is still the small box with the insulin bottle in the fridge, along with two syringes. The rest of the syringes is still in the box in the cupboard. The box we would pack up. The insulin and the two syringes in the fridge – I think I still need them there. I am not ready to dispose of them. I need to be able to open the fridge and see the familiar.
This morning when we went downstairs – the sun was shining after a few days of rain and cloudy skies -, I was so aware that we would walk into the kitchen and Nekko would not be lying on the sunny floor.
Every so often I remember that the carrier in which we had taken Nekko to Rolling Acres is still in the trunk of the car. In a strange way, it feels comforting to forget (?) to take it out of the trunk. I remember that it is still there, and – that’s it.
Mark and I are different. I had the hardest time letting go of her body, of that empty shell. I would have kept her at home, in the carrier where we had put her after she died, lightly wrapped in a towel. I would have wanted to look at her, slowly letting go, over the course of a day or two. Mark said that for him it would be difficult to look at her, and it would only get harder the longer we waited before taking her up to Rolling Acres where we had decided to have her cremated.
What made it – easier? to let go was to observe and feel the changes in her body after she died. At first, she was just not breathing, her fur and body still soft, it was unreal that she was dead, I so expected her to start breathing again, I was watching her belly, waiting to see it move again. She was still so very much here. Then, slowly, her ears became white, and her body, the flesh under her skin, felt more and more rigid, stiff, unyielding. By the time we were at Rolling Acres, it was obvious, visible, feel-able, that she was dead. That what we saw and felt was only an empty shell which, until a few hours earlier, had housed her spirit.
Last night, in an attempt to start introducing canned food to the other two cats, I put the left-over from Nekko’s last feedings – still in the can – on a plate and put it on the kitchen floor.
Online news, tornado ripped through Manhattan last night; Chapman pretty much destroyed. Calls from both Jonathan and Chris; the Mercury has a one-page Breaking News instead of its regular website; updates on the KC Star and other regional news sites. Daniel Marcus says the tornado “was extremely narrow and sporadic in touching down.” About 30 homes destroyed, many damaged. I am waiting to hear from Anna, and others. Called Kelly, both houses are ok, they got to make use of their “safe room” in the new house.
Mark sends emails with updates from work and wishes me “a wonderful afternoon”.
Went outside to hose down the bird poop on the second floor office window. Walking around, pulling the hose, looking around, I think, What the hell am I doing here.
June 13. We went out to get our favorite Fortune Wok dinner (carry out) last night. The order wasn’t ready so we went for a short walk around the shopping area and talked a bit. I told Mark about this here = Olathe not feeling like home. Especially the townhouse here was meant to be temporary, an inbetween thing until we know? have decided? what to do next. I am not sure that I would want to move back to Manhattan – it would feel awkward to start a studio there again – aside from the fact that Mark has a good job here and we can’t really afford to move away from that. So, not there anymore but not really here yet either, even though I have been away from Manhattan for more than a year, and here in Olathe for almost a year.
I remember, not the year, but how it felt, that summer when I was sick, trying to get back on my feet. I had started a piano summer program with lots of new students – and as I was dragging along, rescheduling lessons, ill-prepared for the ones I did teach, I felt like I was failing. I was. Failing. This summer feels similar in that my focus is not on teaching because there’s so much else going on. Last night I thought that I want to make teaching my first priority this summer, because of the similarity.
A first: eating dinner on the futon, fish sticks with angel hair pasta, watching an episode of West Wing, and Nekko is not sitting next to Mark. There’s an empty spot.
A last: putting the towels she vomited on in the washer. It was surprisingly hard to close the door and start the washer.
Finding a piece of paper towel we had put under her ear when we pricked it to check her blood glucose. A tiny spot of blood. We had lots of those paper towel pieces. Finding the one we used last, in the bathroom, on the sink.
Coming upstairs and, out of habit, as I walk into the office/den, glancing under the futon where she spent so much of her time. Normally, she’d face the room and look at me, acknowledging that I was back.
June 10. The house seems quieter, larger, without Nekko. Which is strange, considering that she was a very quiet cat who didn’t take up much room. She spent much of her time under the futon, and on the futon, occasionally on our bed. In the morning she loved the sunny spot by the kitchen patio door.
Walking by the bathroom and the hallway closet, a whiff of canned cat food. I have no idea where that would be coming from. I don’t know if we’ll be able to follow through with our plan to transition Bootstrap and Taz to canned food. For now at least, the smell of canned cat food is so completely tied to Nekko.
When my children were young, my mother said, “I’m going to mind my own business, but this piece of advice I do want to give you: when they start school, make sure they do their homework, don’t take their word for it, check on them. Had I done that for you, I would have noticed that you didn’t really know how to learn. You were just smart, and because of that you didn’t learn how to learn and study.” Fortunately, my genius of a piano teacher taught me how to practice and that helped with school. A bit.
On the topic of home-making, my mother emphasized the importance of a beautiful home, tastefully decorated, clean, tidy – for the children’s sakes. She said that when she was a child, her own mother, my grandmother, apparently didn’t care too much about decorating – not even simple gestures such as a table cloth on the dining table, flowers in a vase. My mother said it always made her feel inferior when she went to other people’s houses and saw how beautifully decorated they were. My own thought on this is that I am sure that if you asked my mother’s younger sister, who grew up in the same house, she would have no recollection of an inferiorly decorated home. Not only because, perhaps, she didn’t care as much as my mother, but more so because she didn’t feel inferior, period. My grandmother apparently very openly favored her younger daughter, treating my mother rather coldly and unlovingly. I have often thought that if it hadn’t been the missing table cloth and flowers, she would have found something else – anything – to make her feel inferior. It is a sad testament to how my grandmother raised her two daughters that my mother grew up feeling inferior. Never good enough.
I live in fear. Like my mother’s feeling inferior, there’s not much of an outside reason for me to be afraid. But I am. I am afraid of losing Mark. To illness, accident, death. I am afraid because we are so very close. Is it normal for two people to want to be together all the time? It can’t be normal that two people don’t get tired of each other, can it? I am afraid that something might happen to me, illness, accident, death. I am afraid that something will put Mark again in a position where he will have to take care of someone, or lose someone. I am afraid that I am not good enough for us.
Being afraid is different from worrying. I don’t worry, I am afraid. Worrying implies an active state of mind, hand-wringing, obsessing about perceived danger. Being afraid runs in the background, it is.
18 years ago, on January 15, 1990, I immigrated with my two children from Germany to the United States of America. Jonathan was two years and two and a half months, Chris was six months young.
I am reminded at this time of this inbetween time – having left the old country but not feeling at home yet in the new. 18 years ago, the New didn’t, at first, seem too different from the Old: people looked pretty much the same, houses, streets, cars, the seasons – there was nothing drastically different. And yet, right underneath the surface, everything was different. Customs, traditions, values, everything. It took a long time to get to really know this new country, to fit in, to know the ropes.
18 years ago, I moved from Germany to the States. Six months ago, I left Manhattan where I had lived for the past 12 years and moved to the Kansas City area, Overland Park first, then Olathe. And again, on the surface there’s not much that would be different: I am still in Kansas, people look the same, the weather’s still the same (though we always seem to be an hour behind Manhattan’s weather). And yet, life is very different.
Much of my identity in Manhattan was tied to being a single mother, and to being the owner of a successful piano studio.
Now, in Olathe, while life as Mark’s lover, companion, best friend, and fiancee is without question very good, and fulfilling, and what I want, the difficulty of building a studio has been very hard to deal with. Though at first I was quite enthusiastic about the possibilities of a new studio in a new city, when it didn’t happen I started to question whether I actually wanted to keep teaching.
What bothers me most about this is that this – phase, this unexpected wrinkle (not being able to teach, or at least not in the manner I was used to in Manhattan), actually presents a unique opportunity: to do all the many things I always wanted to do but didn’t have the time to do because I was too busy teaching – except that I don’t want this opportunity.
For a long time, I have felt that, by stubbornly holding on to the ideal of The Studio (that hasn’t come to be – yet), I am wasting time and this opportunity to do things differently. In a way, I feel like some of the early settlers must have felt when their dream of a new life in a new world didn’t quite mesh with reality. You can’t really go back to the old world, your old life, but life in the new world isn’t what you thought it would be. Now what?
Try saying out loud, “Thoughts, ramblings, ideas.”
Now say, “Ramblings and thoughts and ideas.”
Did you notice how much more smoothly the second one flows? “Ramblings and thoughts and ideas.” A nice triple meter. Could write a waltz to that.
“Ideas and thoughts and ramblings” also flows nicely, though a bit more squarely because this one is in a duple meter, march-like.
Which is why I chose “Thoughts, ramblings, ideas” – though I wasn’t aware of it at first. “Thoughts, ramblings, ideas” does not flow. It makes you pause slightly before “ramblings”. My thoughts don’t flow nicely. They arrive, twirl around, come to a screeching halt, stutter, linger, insist, vanish, and reappear.
I love language.
I have been thinking. Our health, I have determined, is related to our ability to tolerate discomfort. Someone else has probably said this before. I don’t claim to be the first to say it, but it seems to have a lot of meaning these days.
“Discomfort” may be something as simple as a scent – wafting up from the kitchen. When I need to close the door (second floor) behind me because the delicious smell of lunch being prepared downstairs bothers me, I know that my wanna-be migraine-ling has turned into a full-fledged migraine.
And it’s not just physical health. Emotional health can be gauged by our ability to tolerate disagreements, setbacks, and the like.
There’s mental health, and spiritual health as well.
I have been thinking a lot about becoming healthier. As is the case with many other things, gauging our ability to tolerate discomfort is a diagnostic tool but can at the same time be therapeutic, too. I can become aware that I am unusually sensitive to = intolerant of a certain discomfort, and then take the next step, namely, in addition to acknowledging and accepting the discomfort, stretching my tolerance a bit.
I learned about this first, many years ago, when I had to undergo several dental procedures which, while not directly painful, were very unpleasant. At one of the first sessions, I decided to count the seconds until one unpleasant part was over. I don’t think it was ever longer than – 30 seconds? a minute? Anyway, to my surprise, and relief, I found that the simple act of counting helped put things into perspective. Certainly I could tolerate discomfort for 30 seconds. (I realize that the act of counting gave me something to do, and therefore a certain measure of control which by itself goes a long way toward relieving discomfort.) Stretching tolerance.
DISCOMFORT AND PAIN (posted the next day)
One person’s discomfort is another’s pain. And a third person doesn’t even know what the first two are talking about because he/she is – by nature? or accident? – much more tolerant? oblivious? to begin with.
I am a princess on the pea. One piece of cat litter in my sock is intolerable. I wear most T-shirts, camisoles, leggings, etc., inside out because I cannot stand the seams and tags (most of which I’ve cut out) against my skin. I don’t tolerate binding clothes or uncomfortable shoes but that’s more a philosophical thing than physical.
While I don’t have allergies – hayfever, rashes and the like (my stomach hurts when I eat raw onions or garlic; not stomach upset, stomach pain) – I am highly sensitive. Thin-skinned. With an unusually sensitive nose. I am often bothered by things that other people hardly notice. I hear faint sounds, smell barely-there scents, am aware of how things feel against my skin. Here again, I can gauge my health by how much (or not) I am bothered by this. If something that I can normally tolerate becomes distracting I know that I need to take care of it. Sometimes it helps to tell myself that “this too shall pass” (stretching tolerance), sometimes I need to remove the irritant, or myself from an irritating situation or place.
Being unusually sensitive puts me in the middle between people who are not, and those with true allergies. In German, there is a saying, “Der Mensch geht von sich selber aus” which means that everyone is his/her own norm. To me, I am normal, and others who are either less or more sensitive than I are not. Because of this, I am tempted to say that trying to explain to someone who is less sensitive how it feels to be unusually sensitive is like explaining colors to a blind person. It just so happens that, at least in our society, culture, and world, being able to see is the norm, being blind is not. It’s not that easy with being sensitive. What amount of sensitivity is normal? Healthy?
I’ll be thinking some more about the relationship between health and our ability to tolerate discomfort.
I love this painting.
My mother, artist and world traveller, paints, watercolors mostly. I love how in this picture she captures the light on the snow on a not-sunny day.