Oct 28, 2013

Always grateful

I'll put it simply: today is not an easy day.  But something tells me you know.  Call it intuition, call it optimism, call it whatever...all I know is that it makes me smile.

Remember how we smiled?
Last night, I tried sleeping and ended up thinking instead.  If I could have crawled into your bed like I used to when I was a kid, I would have done just that.  When I couldn't sleep, I used to tiptoe down the hall into your room and snuggle in tight.  Your breathing was always soft, pulsing, steady, sure.  In the hollow of your neck, I often discovered the scent of lavender talcum powder…and that was enough.  I rested.  No one ever had to tell me I was a lucky girl.  So for a little while last night, I curled around my pillow to see if it might feel like summertime.  All I felt was a headache.

Lingering in memories isn't always a fruitful endeavor, I know.  But I also know that some of your best teaching moments were ones I only recognized in retrospect.  Remember the summer S and I took tennis lessons?  On the first morning, I heard the auto rumble in, bright and early, and I was wearing shorts that were...well, they were on the shorter side.  As we came downstairs, you said nothing, but I could see your discomfort.  “Everyone wears these at home,” I explained, but to no avail.  At the time, it was with a begrudging sort of sigh that I shuffled upstairs to change.  Now, I concede the point: maybe it was a little too much leg.  I'll admit that teenage Sonika wanted to be a little rebellious.  You, on the other hand, wanted to keep her safe from neighborhood ruffians and such.  Touché.

So it was with an odd mix of sadness and amusement that I left my bed last night and headed for the kitchen.  One mug of Swiss Miss later, I did drift off...for a few hours, anyway.  And this morning, I'm up trying to clear some space in my head before today's lectures fill it up again.

Because it’s been a year.  A year?  How?  The details seem too fresh to be a year old.  I was so far from home.  I remember how my breath caught when I saw that e-mail with no text, just a subject line: “CALL HOME NOW”.  I remember my roommate setting 2 pieces of Dove dark chocolate and green tea near my arm.  She was doing her best, and I was weeping at the dining room table.  I remember trying to pretend, through the haze: this isn't real...someone's just playing a mean trick on me.  I remember feeling too nauseous to eat, and writing instead...scrambling to catch the memories, lest they slip away somehow.

In the beginning, one thing I heard quite often from people was, "You'll be okay in the end."  This used to offend me; I worried that “being okay” might imply that I loved you less.  Man, how things have changed...

the obligatory first-day-of-school photo
For one thing, I've settled into med school at this point.  I mean, I know you know this, but I want to show you.  I want to show you my apartment, the lecture hall, the gross anatomy lab, the library table where I study - even the elevator I ride every morning.  (Yes, I remember how much I troubled you to exercise.  And yes, I always intend to take the stairs…but at 7 am?  Let’s be realistic here.)

And I want to show you all this because it brings me joy.  It's a joy we know - the kind that's perfect in all of its mundanity.  I stay up later than I should, flipping through flashcards and drinking too much coffee.  I have dissection instructors who make me want to be the best student they've ever seen.

And it's not all about work, either.  I've made some friends here, too - friends with sincere, genuine hearts.

There are a few others besides these two.  If you ask me, they're all pretty swell.
See?  I'm still a lucky girl.  And although this new life keeps me tired, it also keeps me challenged...and humbled...and grateful.  Always grateful.

There’s more to tell, of course.  (Won't there always be more?)  But for now, I want you to know that I’ve learned something important in this past year.  It's the kind of thing that outranks arterial anastomoses, nitrogen metabolism, and even clinical skills sessions.  (I know...what on earth could outrank clinical skills, right?)

I've learned about risk.

In all honesty, there was a time when happiness felt like a risk.  It was a natural, human, perfectly normal reaction.  But something has shifted, especially in the past few months.  I've learned that it’s acceptable – more honest, even – to risk holding grief and joy in one heart, at the same time.  As someone wisely pointed out to me a few days ago (albeit in a different context), if you don't risk, how can you ever move forward?

Don't misunderstand, now.  Today is not an easy day.  When you left, it broke my heart.  I wish we could sit by your window again, tea and Marie biscuits on the kitchen table, and talk about boys.  You had a way of making me feel like the most important person in the world.  So for as long as it takes, I'll light a candle for you.  That flame reminds me of how you always said I'd be amazing - that if I could take care of patients the way I tried to take care of you, I'd be amazing for sure.

But I’m okay, you know.  In fact, I’m better than okay - I'm happy.  Life isn’t perfect, but that’s no reason to stop until it might be.  I'll try not to cry today, because this isn't goodbye.  I love you as fiercely as I always have.  So keep watching me, please...stay with me.  For you, I'll be amazing.

your Sonam