Sharing News

One of my favorite things in the world is to be happy for other people. I love to hear of your good news. If I’ve been to your wedding, my overwhelming happiness for you spills through abundant tears. If you’ve told me about a promotion, a new pet, good grades, a book deal or publication, I’ve cheered for you. I will listen to you all day about your process, your goals, the roller coaster of emotions as you worked hard. I will hold your new baby or see your name in print or go to your concerts and be excited for your life and proud to be your friend. I will do my best to imagine myself in your situation, to understand your delight, your elation. Mostly I will be happy for you simply because you are so happy.

On the other hand, I’ve also been a sym/empath for many of your sadnesses and struggles. I have friends who still wait for the right person to marry. A woman in my ward has experienced eight miscarriages. Others who are dear to me experience difficult trials of infertility and have even faced devastating challenges within the adoption system. These are friends who have lived well and achieved much; friends with kind hearts and truly righteous desires. It’s hard not to ask, “What gives?”

I have wept for friends who have lost pets and loved ones. On my honeymoon, I received a text that a friend’s rabbit had died. Not long after, I received another text saying that a friend’s little dog had to be put to sleep. Most recently, a friend whose dog I had known for ten years also had to be put down. I cried for them all.

Sometimes people my misinterpret my crying. Once I was at a friend’s wedding where the couple gave hugs to the attendants after the ceremony. I was single in my 30s at the time, which is nothing to be ashamed of. When it was my turn to hug the couple, the new wife looked at me after I congratulated her and told her how happy I was for her and told me that I would find someone. While it was nice of her to think outside of her happiness in that moment, I sensed the assumption that I was not happy as a single person. It felt like they felt that I was miserable, which wasn’t the case at all.

Within the past decade, I observed a situation where a friend was telling another friend about her first truly viable pregnancy. She had experienced several miscarriages and was excited that her most recent pregnancy had gotten past the point of her previous miscarriages. The friend with whom she shared this news was having trouble getting pregnant, and she felt hurt that this friend would dangle the good news of a pregnancy in her painful void.

People are definitely entitled to their space to grieve. They need time to process, and one of the greatest efforts I’ve made in my life is to understand the sadness and sorrow of friends, family, and people in general. Because I respect and deeply love them, I want to show my support in the best way. I have observed people (myself among them) offering condescending advice and platitudes that, while well-intentioned, do not help.

Do I offer perfect advice all the time? Hardly. Have I been insensitive to others’ situations? Often. Too many times I’ve commented on pregnancy or adoption or marriage or other touchy topics to friends, and those friends have gotten quiet, and I’ve realized too late that I said an immensely stupid thing. And then I try to apologize and they continue to withdraw and I don’t know what else to do or say. Maybe the timing was bad; maybe healing wasn’t complete. Maybe certain adversity is just hard, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t fully understand or make it better or say the right thing.

There are tons of people who aren’t married, or can’t have children, or have had other horrible things happen to them. Do we tell them to get over it already? We need to see that our experiences are unique to us, and there seems to be a fine line between offering advice that could apply to general, unknown masses, lessening the significance of the situation and encouraging the individual soul you deeply love. There also seems to be a balance between overcoddling and trusting in a friend’s faith and resilience.

A couple months ago, a friend’s family shared some wonderful news on Facebook. The love and support poured in from this family’s community, and the anticipation that came with this news thrilled everyone.

In the past month, this same family’s good news took a turn and became sad news. The same love and support rushed in and flooded this family’s life. It was truly touching but hardly a surprise. When these people commit to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” they go whole hog. It’s one of the greatest blessings walking the earth with the rest of humanity.

So when I shared my good news this past Tuesday, I was especially grateful to those of you who took a moment from their adversity to show their support for me. Reilly and I are very excited for this new journey, and I debated for a while when would be a good time to make the announcement. Your examples of strength and faith have reminded me how to count blessings and find happiness amid even the darkest circumstances. You believe this; you live it. You share it. That means more than I can say.

Neighborhood Sad

This past Sunday at church, the bishop announced from the pulpit that the son of a family in the ward was playing soccer last week and suddenly collapsed. The boy’s family took him to the hospital. The bishop said if anyone spoke Spanish in the ward, the family would appreciate a visit.

Wednesday nights, I go out with the Relief Society presidency to visit women who have recently moved into the ward. We introduce ourselves to these ladies, and we welcome them to the ward and reassure them of our desire to be their friends.

Tonight, while we were getting into the Relief Society president’s car to make some visits, the second counselor reminded me of the bishop’s announcement and said she received an email saying that the boy had passed away. She also said that because the family had spent so much time at the hospital looking after their son, both of the parents lost their jobs. It’s bad enough to have bills you can’t pay for, but for that to add another layer to a pile of grief and sorrow just breaks my heart.

The boy was 11 years old. It’s so much harder to get through sadness without answers or explanation. But I guess that the family isn’t really thinking about getting through it right now so much as feeling it. Feeling helpless, alone, crushed. Feeling angry, lost, numb.

I want to do something for the family, and going to the funeral doesn’t even seem an earnest effort at anything. Donate for the funeral or to a fund until parents can find work? Make them dinner? I want to show support.¬†There has to be something more, something demonstrative, something that really matters. I’ll have to pray and ask for inspiration, an outlet for compassion or a way stretch out a hand; I need to see how One knows exactly what this family is feeling right now would do.

On The Crest

Today is a big anniversary
Instead of planning a cute nursery
I look at my life
In shadowy strife

Today marks a fair number of years
Since the day I could have spared myself tears
And look what I’ve done
And not what I’ve won

Today tries to shun most fleeting pleasures
And reconsiders inherent treasures
Be gone now, regret
I have paid my debt

Today passes seasons in such bold hurry
Minutiae flecks my weary eyes blurry
The end of each June
Comes often too soon

Today I break through adversary.

In Summation

3)Help. Highjack. Flight: . Love you.
2)Help. Crash. Flight: . Love you.

May powered down and flipped her cell phone shut. She kept those drafts, just in case.

The lone light glowed above her seat. She’d already read about 100 pages of one of the books she brought. She’d done the magazine crosswords and sudoku puzzles. She kept pushing buttons on the in-flight entertainment touchscreen. TV, music. Music, TV. This was her first redeye flight.

She kept her cabin light on. She tried lying across the row, getting comfortable, but she was too wide awake.

The minutes teased her slowly, so she played with time zones to tame the torture. She imagined her heartbeat matching the tempo of whatever was streaming into her ears. The plane’s rumble resonated her deep thoughts which she could not clear for meditation. Someone she knew sat in first class, but he was fast asleep, probably dreaming of his wife and daughter, with one more on the way.

May deplaned into a chilly, windy morning she wasn’t properly dressed for. She caught the shuttle, then the train uptown. It didn’t feel familiar.

It felt the same.

She had enough time to set her things down before meeting a friend in the Lower East Side for a donut. The air mattress was ready: inflated, sheets drawn, even a chocolate on the pillow. She chatted a few minutes with her hosts – a married couple – then everyone went about the day separately.

The donut was just as she remembered it. So was her friend.

Later that evening, she sat in a bookstore and remembered to call someone. That led to a free tour of the Tenement Museum, a slice of pizza, and some quality time.

May started work the next day. She knew she would like it.

The next day after that was Friday. May spent the afternoon and evening in a car with four other girls on the way to Montreal.

Carnivals, birthday serenades, border patrol. Pictures. Always lots of pictures.

May laughed a lot and observed even more. She made room for the stuff to remember amidst what she tried not to forget.

Like friends.

Sure, she went to more museums and¬† ate pizza and walked the Brooklyn Bridge and wandered Central Park. She attended a play and a friend’s gig, and visited DUMBO by herself. She dined at new places and settled back into old haunts. Still, she felt more like a tourist and less like she belonged.

***

She visualized slipping and dropping suddenly, and tumbling off the rocky face of the ridge. It didn’t bother her. But she watched her friends take steeper routes, with fewer footholds and hand grips. Saying “be careful” to them was her first and gut reaction.

***

The numbness continued to spread through her being. She contemplated shortening the New York half of the trip. She liked work. She liked seeing people. She didn’t know what she hoped for. She felt like an invader.

She felt like a ghost.

May went from apartment to apartment, spending a few nights at a time with her favorite people. She went on dates, if that’s what they can be called, officially or otherwise. She watched tv and made cupcakes and stayed up late, either with a book or friend.

She spent her birthday there.

She went to a concert.

And then, she was gone.

***

I sat on a small, crowded plane next to a nice lady named Tangela, who was on her way to Fernandina Beach for a family reunion. As the engines started, Tangela uttered dear Jesus, help us to take off and fly and land safely. I echoed her “amen.” Tangela commented on how the flight was full and the plane felt “heavy.”

I thought back to my text message drafts.

The plane landed in Jacksonville without a hitch.

I gathered my luggage and deplaned.

***

The next thing May knew she was sitting in the back seat of a car that wasn’t her mother’s, but her mom sat up front, right next to the driver. Words like dating and weeks and marriage entered her ears, and she realized what a great texting conversation this made. She typed away on her phone.

This was progress. May was long accustomed to receiving information well after the fact, so this was a pleasant surprise, if pleasant can also mean “jarring.”

She took the news well enough.

May spent the next few weeks visiting friends, playing with and sometimes unintentionally endangering their kids, going to the beach, going to the gym and the library, reading books. She had fun.

She tagged along on a few dates as well.

May knew her mom was going to do whatever she wanted. She asked if she prayed about it. She wanted her to be happy. She told her all these things.

May also spent those weeks thinking of the ocean sweeping her away, of head-on collisions, of careening off the Buckman Bridge.

I constantly thought of dying.

Like it was no big deal.

But if I thought if anything happened to my mom or dad or brother, or anyone else but myself, I reacted differently.

I was scared.

This isn’t so much about my mother springing a surprise whirlwind courtship on me or anything else, as it is about my need to feel sorry for myself. Like I’m helpless. It doesn’t even make sense. It’s been eight months: get over it already.

The solution was easy, really.

The plane landed in Salt Lake City yesterday.

I made it back to Provo.

I deleted the text drafts from my phone.

Atop A Foothill

I have a better idea of the vista at the summit.

Which, now, is just over three semesters away.

***

I don’t know if I can pull my history grade up to an A from a B.

I don’t know if I can pull my French grade up to an A from an A-.

My other two classes I’m not too worried about.

I talked with a professor today about classes I’m trying to decide on.

I meet with my advisor tomorrow.

I spoke with another professor a few weeks ago about life plans.

I would love to write short stories and essays for literary journals.

It would also probably be helpful to teach.

Right now, I’m pondering a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello with a group from one of my classes. We’re piecing together the scene on Thursday and performing it next Tuesday.

I’m also thinking about Ernest Hemingway and how much I liked reading “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” for history class. It has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read.

There’s a quiz in French tomorrow.

I have to write a response paper on the acquisition of knowledge as it pertains to Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

Sometimes I wish I could just be done with school.

But, I’d have nowhere else to go.

At least not now.