Nov 29, 2012

This is how I know

Someone asked me this evening, not unkindly, how I know you're proud of me...and the answer slipped out easily, as easily as my own name or a weary sigh at the close of the day.  With some answers, you don't have to think - you just know.

"Because she told me so.  All the time."

Will you forgive me for using the past tense?  I had to, although it feels wrong; people give me strange looks when I use the present tense.  Won't you just come back?  This is so complicated; I've never had to think about my verb tenses before.

Nov 25, 2012

Handling the "no"

Yesterday, 10:35 am: Saturday.

There is a measure of relief in Saturday.  All is quiet - so quiet, in fact, that I can hear the clock ticking away on the mantle.  We don't use it because it runs slowly unless it's on its back, where only the ceiling gets to know what time it is.  And when I sit still enough, stop the trembling, I'm surprised by what I sense: a heart, beating, a pulse, steady.  I don't even have to feel for it.

That's how grief used to be - like a pulse.

And nearly a month later, there is a measure of relief in what it's become.  These days, it's more like my breath.  It ebbs and flows, draws back for a moment before it crashes on the rocks.  In every day, though, it's always in the background...a reliable sort of soundtrack.

On Wednesday, I donated my old boots and promptly bought a new pair.  They weren't very expensive, friends, and I do like my heels.

Nov 19, 2012

An end-of-the-day toast

Here's to that second glass of wine...because a little more Merlot couldn't hurt, right?  (Right.)

Here's to an evening chock-full of the most mundane (read: satisfying) accomplishments - laundry, dishes, and laying out tomorrow's clothes.

Here's to using peppermint tea to ease a heart that now panics on a daily basis.  (I'm thinking that can't be good...)
Here's to a normal-ish weekend spent watching "The Lorax", horsing around with a puppy named Joey who likes to park himself on my feet, and helping to teach a Christmas song in junior church.
Here's Joey!  Isn't he a pretty puppy?

Nov 17, 2012

My little corner of Galway

This afternoon is a remembering afternoon.

Everyone was always after you to exercise.  It hurts your knees, I know, but we just want you healthy, and some exercise is better than none at all, right?  You must know this.  But I'll bet you never knew that some of my favorite - yes, favorite - summer afternoons were spent walking with you in front of the house.

On the flip side, Commercial Street is plenty exciting.  I'm pretty sure that whoever came up with the phrase "thrill of the hunt" did it after a day of shopping on Commercial Street.  After years of exploring, I still don't know every little alleyway and shop - that's A.  (I never told you this - or her, for that matter - but I've always thought about saving her name for one of my children, if I have daughters.)

Nov 15, 2012

30 days (give or take a half-hour)

30 days.  In 30 days, I will snuggle under the comforter with my sweet boy.
He wanted to give the snowman a belly button that winter.
In 30 days, I will grab my guitar and we'll sing every single tune on Taylor Swift's new album.  And then we'll tackle Selena Gomez and Bieber and whoever else has gotten popular since I hit Irish soil.

Nov 14, 2012

Thank goodness she's here.

The room was spinning.  Spinning.

Where are my legs?

Let's backtrack.  At maybe 9 pm this past Saturday, I was knee-deep in a mental checklist for the next morning.  It probably wouldn't be responsible of me to bike all the way to Salthill.  My body's a little too beaten up to tackle those hills.  Surely someone could give me a lift to church.  After posting a Facebook message on the church page to see if anyone might be available, I left the laptop open on my bed.

The Sunday before this past weekend, I’d been in Derry, and the Sunday before that was the one I wish I could forget.  This was the first time in those two weeks that I was planning how to get to church the next morning.

I padded over to the dresser to plan an outfit – oh, it would be cute if I wore my new leg warmers with those jeans – and draped my choice over the back of my desk chair.  This chair is borrowed from the living room table, because my real desk chair has a loose bit of plastic that snags my clothes.

Nov 10, 2012

The milkman

My friend Emily spent her October writing a series about rest - or, as she so endearingly dubbed it, hush.[1]  Now, I'm the type of person who's in constant pursuit of rest - yes, I mean sleep, but rest is broader than that.  Rest is different.  Rest - at least, for me - is more buoyed by perfect calm, more intertwined with joy and its lightness, more anchored by the hopeful heart.[2]  So as October slipped by, I eagerly followed, read, commented, absorbed the lessons she was teaching me, and delighted in walking beside her.

I almost finished October beside her, too.  But toward the end of that month, life dealt my family a rough hand.  The cards haven't been staying in my hands, either - on the contrary, they've been flying everywhere, bouncing off the walls.  And on examination, none of them say anything resembling rest.  (I may be asking too much when it hasn't even been two weeks yet, but like I said, this is a constant pursuit.)

Nov 8, 2012


As a junior, I was really lucky in the campus housing lottery and landed myself a "dingle".  (For any non-college students reading this, that's a single student living in a double, a room meant for two).  I had more space than I knew how to use.
And this was just my side.
This arrangement, which came without the company of a roommate, did get lonely sometimes, but it also gave this introvert the privacy she treasures.  It had a thermostat just for me and a carpeted floor beneath my toes.  It was able to contain all of the family and friends who surprised me there, on two separate occasions, for my twenty-first birthday.  The two beds gave me the freedom to have sleepovers whenever I wanted.

But do you want to know the best thing about that room?

I had my own bathroom.

Nov 7, 2012

Irish dance and Dixie cups

Do you dance?

A friend suggested yesterday that I dance.  "Dance angry," she wrote to me, because that was clearly all I could manage in the midst of the panic - "but dance."  The five minutes I spent trusting her directions were tiring, but they also gave me a nudge: go back to class, Sonika.  You need to move.  She put it best: "You are a whole person: spirit, soul, and body.  Don't get so stuck in your head that you forget to involve your body and spirit."

So that's how I spent an hour of my evening today - moving.  In a dance class.  And it was an hour of stamping-my-feet angry, but perhaps that was the point.  €2 bought me the rush of pushing my body as far as it can go...and then further still.  Just focus for an hour, I told myself.  Make yourself focus for just one hour - focus on nothing but turnout, speed, and height on your toes.  You can do that.

Nov 6, 2012


"There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not a mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love."
- Washington Irving (American author, essayist, biographer, and historian)

I'm all tuckered out.  It's been a long day.  But tonight, I'm going to try to write an essay.  Thanks to a dear friend's exhortation, this is now the goal.

Nov 5, 2012

A season of many naps

For some reason I wouldn't be able to explain, the Bay reminds me of this song I learned in grade school choir.  We always sang it in canon: "By the waters of Babylon/We lay down and wept/We remember thee, Zion."
To all of you well-intentioned, shoulder-patting, suddenly-wise-and-theological crazy people out there: you're being awkward.  You are doing nothing constructive by telling me that "at least she's not sick anymore!"  Offer me all the hackneyed platitudes you want, bud, but do it at your own risk - the risk being that I will find the energy to explode at you.

Whew.  Now, to the rest of you:

This is a season of many naps.

Nov 4, 2012

The North, Part III: legen...wait for it...

The wound is yet so fresh.  How is it that an entire week has passed?

Four hours to Galway, friends.  Thus ends the last class trip.  This morning began with a tour of Derry City, the longest continuously inhabited city in all of Ireland.  (People have been here since the 600s.)  It bears many names, including Londonderry, Doire (“DEW-ruh”), The Maiden City, and – perhaps most obviously – The Walled City.
A view from atop the wall.
Just over a mile long, this formidable barricade extends around the entire settlement.
Ferryquay Gate is one of the four original entrances to the city.  In December 1688, James II was met here with a famous stonewall (beg your pardon) when his troops tried to lay siege to Derry.  The Irish, being Irish, refused to budge.

The North, Part II: we all need peace.

Saturday morning: The sauna was real.

So was the pool, and the (surprise) steam room.  Last night was like a Sunday afternoon at home; by 10:30 pm, I was thoroughly worn out and burrowed into the hotel comforter.  Had I not woken with a frenzied start at 4 am (and 4:30 am, and 5:15 am), it would have been a completely rejuvenating night.

Still, the sauna was real and warm and woody and I've breathed relaxation for the first time in days.

Nov 3, 2012

The North, Part I: think of the sauna.

Friday evening, around 6 pm: Hello, friends, from the coach bus I’ve gotten to know quite well over the past few weeks.  I write as the bus trundles up a hill, on the last leg of a journey up to Co. Derry.  This will be the North – yes, the bit that’s part of the UK and prefers sterling to the euro.  My itinerary boasts accommodation in a Best Western, and rumor has it that a pool and sauna are there, just waiting for this overtired girl.  (Since there hasn’t been any hot water in the apartment for a week, I hope this sauna actually exists.  It might just be what my shoulders need.)

Nov 2, 2012


I'm up too late (or early, perhaps) mulling over something N wrote to me a few nights ago.  It's giving me a headache, her whisper that your ashes will be kept in the grotto on the balcony.  You'll live beneath those tangled flowers you loved.

Do you remember that as a girl, I used to ask about the etches in your nails - where they came from?  And that I would play with the veins in your hands because it fascinated me to see them pop out like that?  You said that's how you knew I'd love the piano - because I "played" on those veins.  Confession time: I still do that now, but with my own hands.  Sometimes.  I once thought it was just restlessness - an absentminded habit - but now I remember why.

Nov 1, 2012

Come back

The River Corrib, on my way to campus.
I got out of bed this morning because I promised K I would go to school for one day.  I washed my hair, too, and it feels light and clean but is falling out in clumps.  Something told me it wouldn't be responsible of me to bike to class, so I walked and stopped a few times along the way because my calves were cramping.  It was a long walk and I vaguely remember a classmate passing me at one point.  She offered a few quick remarks - the ones people give because they don't know what else to say.  I know you meant well, friend, but you said, "time heals" and the rage bubbled up like kettle steam.  You're lucky that I was using all of my energy to focus on the walking.

It felt surreal to be in class; everyone was making the usual lewd jokes and carrying on intelligent discussions about a book I stopped reading on Sunday.  But 11 am finally came along, whereupon my professor walked my dazed little body to his colleague's office.  A kind woman named M made me tea and - thank goodness - did not say that "time heals", but that "time helps you get used to it".  She said she was proud of me for finally leaving the house (thank you for understanding how much effort it took), and then she asked about the funeral.

I missed it, M - it was Tuesday afternoon.  Cremation.  How do you do that, I wonder - reduce a whole person and a whole life to ashes in a jar?