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Week 44


It's 2:30 AM and I can't sleep.

I was sleepy at 10:30, so I actually went to bed instead of ignoring the sensation. After a short, ten minute doze, I woke up with a full bladder and a cat-slept arm with pins and needles, so I went to the bathroom and started reading Conrad's Fate to relax, and when I was done with the things one does in the euphemism, I took it back into the bedroom because I wasn't tired then, and I knew reading would relax me.

I got Penny a booklight at Sharper Image last year, in the summer when we had to replace one of the Ionic Breeze machines that had started buzzing even after being cleaned. (They do this as part of their warrantee service, up to a point.)

When I turned it on, it was dim, and the radio was on a station playing "Love Line". That's one of the stupidest programs around. It's like Dear Abby Meets the Man Show, even though originally it tried, and often succeeded, at conveying safe sex, sensible dating practices, self-protection while dating, and so on. It's turned much stupider, and is now a massive malpractice suit waiting to happen, and the voices of the two twenty-something clueless people irritate me with their ineptitude and the malevolence of their advice, so I turned it to KINK and listened to lights-out while I read more of the book.

The light remained very dim, not doing much of a job at lighting a quarter of a page; after a while I got fed up and replaced the batteries, and it was very bright, enough to see the room by, and easily making the print highly legible. So, though I was only at chapter 2, I finished the book, and spent a few moments in the happy post-book-glow. Diana Wynn Jones is really one of the best storytellers.

But then I wasn't asleep, and the music had been stealthily playing songs that were inside my chest, prying off the scabs and tearing loose the stitches. I realized that I was too sad by far, and that I was still very lonely, and that I hadn't been praying formally for weeks, so I started looking around for the rosary I was given in January, or for the one Penny was given, and realized that they were, respectively, in my pouch in the living room, and lost-in-the-clutter. I've been wearing our wedding rings on the silver chain that Penny used for her Daughters of the King cross. I used them as a very brief rosary, and as I was praying, I learned that I was clicking non-stop through emotion-flashes, each one a rosary of painful nostalgia, painful loneliness, painful regret, you get the predominant theme. At that point, as I was asking for something to help with the loneliness, the radio started playing a song ... I think it was Warren Zevon, or sounded like him, but it was a love song, very specifically one about being separated. I knew immediately that it was aimed at me, and for a moment I couldn't breathe at all from the pain.

I've experienced physical pain before. The two most strikingly clear memories: in sixth grade, I apparently passed a kidney stone. All I know is that I was doubled up in blinding agony on the sidewalk, as though someone had reached into my guts and twisted them around six or seven times, and that it didn't go away for about five hours. I managed, between waves of pain, to get home. Mom was working and didn't know until she got home; I had blacked out on my bed. There were elements of that, the inside, the unfocused but grinding sensation. If I'm using the "pain scale" that doctors have you use to compare physical pain, that was an 8.
The second memory is of when I, during a lunchtime game of Ultimate Frizbee at Tektronix, found myself running full tilt, trying to get to the disk, it catching a slight breeze, and my jumping AND TWISTING AT THE SAME TIME. My knees exploded. Well, actually, not, I just fully dislocated both of them for a quarter-second, then fell down screaming and cursing. It took about three minutes for the agony to recede.
I refer to that pain as "9" on my scale. Realize, for me, a 10 is something most people never experience - I had acute choriospinal meningitis at the age of 3 and nearly died of it. While I can remember things as far back as age two, I cannot remember a three month period in there - I remember coming home from the hospital, and I remember having to re-learn walking. If I try to get close to that memory, though, I don't get there. It's been locked off. I just know it's bad.

So. The emotional pain I felt, even though I realized it was a love song to me, and felt deeply loved, was just as intense as that 9. Every part of my body was screaming from it, even though it wasn't really physically there. It lasted a good while, too, coming and going in waves. And now I'm awake.

And I realize, examining it, why it happens and where it comes from.

Music is my bane right now. Music gets past the verbal and somatic barricades and touches emotion. At the moment, I have, apparently, been suppressing one emotion, and rather deeply. In January, 44 weeks ago, it was a very rainy, stormy week. The days were short and dark, but the storm right then had been a warm one, raising the temperature into the 50s. I had left to go on an interview, and stopped twice (though some nagging impulse demanded that I hurry, dammit) and when I got home, that thursday, Penny was dead. Her face was icy cold. Her eyes were closed, not moving. Her teeth were slightly exposed, something that didn't happen except when she was very deeply asleep. Under the covers, her body was still feverishly warm. I stopped, and screamed incoherently for her not to be dead, called 911, tried rescue breaths (but not cardio pulses, because people with advanced cancer, if you force them back to life, almost always die again within minutes.)
At some point in there, I realized I had to deal with this, and all that emotional awareness got shoved forward to now. And I've been getting it, on and off, all week. I don't flash to the face, to the feel of trying to breathe life back into a body that doesn't want it, knowing that it was my last kiss to her. That happens, obviously, at other times, but not when that feeling hits. It's just the pain, crying out through me.

Part of this is happening because of Grandma dying - that cracked open some of the blocks. I don't grieve for Grandma's dying. She was ready, she was holding on only because she was so desperately afraid, and it took Mom telling her that it was OK for her to go home, for her to give in, even though Grandma didn't comprehend the patterns of the words. I miss her, and I grieve, as I have for several years, for the loss of her especial self. Penny, though... I have tons of ambivalent and miserable feelings about that. Why did she have to suffer so much, especially the last few years? Why did she have to be devoured from within, why did it have to happen so secretively, so that she would die in the middle of our fervent attempts to create healing for her from the dour impossibilities chanted at us by the surgeons? Oh, sure, I have answers to all those questions, but they're cold comfort, frankly. They sit there in the pain, as lumpy and ugly as broken gravestones in an abandoned grave in the depths of the November storm, muddy, shapeless, hard and implacable, and bring little surcease. And actually, I don't want comfort, I'm greedy, I want something that transforms the whole thing into something joyous and brilliant. That will happen, but I'll die myself before I see it.

God heals us. Sometimes he heals us into life in this world, but eventually, always, he heals us out of it. Everything that happens to us here shapes us; St. Paul's analogy to athletic training is a good one when you think in terms of the pain and struggle that is part of that training. Otherwise it's clumsy, but has given birth to a million inspirational speeches by high school coaches.

I just, well, I suppose I'm lazy or something. I know I'll be dancing on the emotional minefield again, until I've found every one and blown up with it.
But right now, I don't even know what I want to do with my life, and that's pathetic.

I'm screening comments on this one.