“I WAKE and feel the fell of dark, not day.”

I WAKE and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hoürs we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

The first line of this Gerard Manley Hopkins poem has been very much on my mind the past few weeks, ever since I found a paper I had written about it in college. Sometimes it seems incredible to me that I could have ever conceived a paper’s worth of insight about fourteen lines of poetry, but then I read a poem like this and am blown away by how much can be said in fourteen lines. Today though, my main concern is that first one.

It is about four in the morning. I am awake for who-knows-what reason, and I am up because my bestie was also online (that is a feat at present–her schedule is six hours later than mine, as she lives in the GMT block [Correction: BST. Who knew?]). And I have work to do, work which has been put off while I have been much tried of late. Regardless, I am fully awake, yet all I see is darkness. And all I feel is darkness.

For those who don’t know, I am going through a very difficult struggle that concerns a close family member with Alzheimer’s (not my parentals–they are all too young yet). I don’t want to say too much because, as an anonymous source pointed out, this person’s struggle is not necessarily mine to tell. My struggle, however, is mine to tell, and that is what I will share today.

You see, Alzheimer’s isn’t fair. Now, I’m one of those people who grew up with parents whose constant refrain was, “Life’s not fair.” I get that, and I’ve been pretty okay with it for some time. I still rebel a little against the principle, stamping my foot and shaking my fist at circumstance (don’t ever literally stamp your foot–it hurts), but I usually quail under that mental voice. It is, after all, true. Not one thing I have witnessed in this world has led me to believe that life will ever be fair to any person.

But Alzheimer’s is really unfair.

A week ago, my family had to enact a tough decision we had already made. And I didn’t cry. I felt bad (I felt terrible), but I didn’t really cry–not the way my other family members cried. I had short bursts of tears talking to a couple of people, but it wasn’t so bad.

Two days later, I lovingly burned and hand-printed nearly twenty copies of my Summer 2013 mix for various friends and family (I have extras–lmk if you want one). I was so excited to share my playlist, which has taken an inordinate amount of time to compile. But the CD wouldn’t play in my aunt’s car. I was so angry about this that I snapped the disc, scattering shards of plastic all over the car. Then I lost it.

I cried. I cried so hard. Nay, I sobbed. I was hysterical. I was so deeply angry. I felt guilt I did not necessarily deserve. I was just so freaking frustrated with everything. And once I had started, I couldn’t stop. I cried the next day and the next. I am barely holding off tears in any given moment. Right now I may start crying.

That’s where the poem comes in. I am awake, but I don’t feel awake under such darkness. And when I am asleep, my dreams all turn to nightmares. I can’t tell the difference between the dark and the day because there is often no reprieve–no separation between the stress and the fun. My good times are colored by a weight that has settled on me. Everything is anger and stress, that I am going through the most difficult period in my life so far, and that I have no one on whom to lay blame.

I think Alzheimer’s must be like this. Every day a person wakes up, and the world has dimmed a little bit. There is a little less of the day and a little more of the night clinging to every morning–until a person does not wake at all, but lingers in some shadow of dusk until the body gives out. And I think that that is one of the most depressing things I have ever heard. And I think I do not know yet how to cope with it.

Um, that’s all I’ve got.

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If I take cool, artsy photos under perfect lighting conditions, does that make me good at photography?

Probably not.  But I still want to share my photos because some of them are beautiful.  Also: special thanks to Esther for being a gorgeous model.

I’M SO FREAKING STRESSED.

{AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I started writing this, it was going one direction.  Then it went another.  You can read it all if you want to, but it’s a little whiny in the middle.  I recommend reading just the first sentence of each of the numbered points and all of the first and last paragraphs.  Enjoy!}

So…I have a responsibility to you, my reader, to publish regularly and to push through creative difficulty.  I am not having creative difficulty.  In fact, my brain is projectile vomiting sparks and rainbows of creative miscellany.  What this looks like on my blog is four titled posts waiting to be finished.  But I have not the will to finish nor the focus to review any finished product.  I have, therefore, decided to just write out a bunch of my thoughts this morning.  There will be no proofreading, no revision, no hesitation (well…little of each–not my usual level of scrutiny).  I will just share some of the things that are going on in my life in typical Ingrid freeform.

1.  I’m super stressed because I suddenly have a bunch of weird health problems.  My teeth are dimmed from their typical dazzling white for the first time in my life, and I don’t know what’s causing it.  I went to the ER the other night for vomiting with no other symptoms (I actually thought this was related to acid reflux).  I’m tired all the time now, and I get a headache every night as soon as it gets dark outside.  Worst of all, the skin around my wrists has spontaneously developed weird dark patches which the dermatologist couldn’t explain.  I will say, however, that it’s entirely possible that several of these are a result of taking Doryx, which I had just started when this stuff began.  But it’s still quite unnerving.

2.  I’m super stressed because Omi is about to go into a memory care facility.  My aunt and I toured Emeritus for the first time last week, expecting a late-July, possibly August, move-in.  Unfortunately, there had been a slight miscommunication, whereby there was already a down payment in place and they couldn’t hold the room for more than three weeks.  Long story short, we’re moving her in next Tuesday (6/18).  On the one hand, I think this is a good thing because it will be a stimulating environment managed by caring professionals.  On the other hand, I hate it because it’s not home.

3.  I’m super stressed because my brain won’t shut off.  I am having a vivid, anxious dream every night.  Two nights ago, the dream included college and high school.  Christine Baranski was sitting next to me at a dinner (I’ve been watching a lot of The Good Wife), and I was really excited.  But then a guy from my past did something really crappy, and (just as I was about to take a picture with Ms. Baranski) got mad at me.  She left the table because she was on the guy’s side.  Then I went to a sort of tiered park, where a bunch of kids were waiting with singing and dancing to cheer me up.  Then I went to my college campus, which turned into the chapel at my high school.  As I got into the elevator, another friend from college got in with me and said that he was on my side.  Then I woke up (for which I’m thankful because I think the dream was about to get really confusing).

4.  Carmen’s coming home.  And I’m really excited to see her.  But it’s frakking with my emotions.  A lot of these crazysauce dreams involve her coming home and not wanting to hang out with me (which is ridiculous, but whatever).  And I keep worrying about things that could go wrong and make it so I can’t see her (in less than 3 weeks!!).  But mostly it just sort of feeds the manic part of my hypomania.  So there’s that.

Okay, now that I have listed all of this, I realize that I am just sort of…whining.  So there are gnats buzzing around my head that I can’t seem to swat.  I have arms and legs that work.  I have a solution to all of the ways in which I am an inadequate caregiver.  I have an imagination that yields far more good than bad.  And I will see my best friend again soon.  Plus I’m spending every weekend this month in the company of friends.  And I’ve got a haircut coming up (I love getting a haircut).  And Hannibal got renewed.  And my friend’s son finally let me hold him for the first time since we met (2 months).  And he smiled at something I did.  And I found a new Tex-Mex joint downtown.  And Omi is going to have intensive physical therapy at her new place.  And I read a really inspiring comic on The Oatmeal.  And my car is getting fixed (I’m also stressed because my car needs repairs before I can make a wedding this weekend).  And I had a Slurpee with breakfast.  And I’m reading Harry Potter on my Kindle.  And I am very dearly loved.  And I loved Top of the Lake.  And I am still able to be useful to my friends from far away.  And I have a weekend on the books with Bethy in August.  And Deb got in to design school in Delft!!  And Peché exceeded my expectations once again.  And there’s a Woody Allen movie coming out.  And I’m playing the official Game of Thrones game with church folks on Sunday!!  And I have a new friend!!  And I have found a way(/ways) to be useful at church.  And TV is evolving.  And people are evolving.  And I am evolving.  And everything goes around again, and God smiles benevolently upon it all.

Wow.  That’s a lot to be thankful for.  Ok–that’s all I got for today.

Love & blessings to all,

Ingrid

Esther & Ingrid at The Salt Lick

Esther & Ingrid at The Salt Lick this past weekend

I Love You. Yes, You.

I am saying “I love you” all the freaking time now.  And I am meaning it, and I am loving it.  This is not exactly something new, but it is something that has definitely grown since I came to Austin.  And this is a journey of understanding what it means to love, possibly beginning from college (everything goes back to college…I would say that I grew up there and made my first true home there, but my mother would burst into tears upon reading this [and not unfairly–it maligns the hard work of my loving family, but it also captures the sense that I was ill-at-ease in every environment–except NYC–until I went to Rice]).  But, as it turns out, everything up to Superstorm Sandy was just exposition.

Jocie and I watched The Day After Tomorrow the night that the storm hit the Northeast.  Because we’re bitches.  No, it was actually because we didn’t take the storm seriously (we lived in Houston, where there are real hurricanes).  And neither, it seems, did much of the area devastated by Sandy…not until it was too late.  It hurt my heart to see my beloved dream, that Land of My Great Future, buried.  I felt bad for my flippant attitude.  But then I saw something that made me feel ashamed.

It was a news story about a second grade class that had written letters as part of “NOLA to New York”, an effort best captured here: http://sandykatrina.tumblr.com/about/press.  A teacher in New Orleans had assigned his students the task of writing letters to go to those affected by Sandy.  The students had written notes of encouragement, messages to let victims know that they were not alone.  And the message that came from NOLA was clear: “We survived what many said was the end of our city.  We have known your pain.  And we support you as you face this devastation”.  But the message that came from this particular class went one step further.  Most of the students had written some form of “I love you.”

“I love you.”  It is such a profound thing, such an important thing, such an abused thing.  It is used to express so many feelings, ranging from enthusiasm over bacon to the promise that seals a marriage.  I have always taken issue with this, believing that not all things are worthy of the term.  Even now, I wish that there were more ways to express how I feel about Lawless or mixed prints or other fans at a Lady Gaga concert.  But my perspective has shifted somewhat.

Children love easily, and they love everybody.  Their love is innocent, unaffected, and undifferentiated.  My friend’s children love me because it’s Christmas.  I loved every teacher I had growing up.  The children in this story love the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

I love deeply but mistrustfully.  I love jealously and sometimes on merit.  I never withdraw my love, but sometimes I let it turn to anger or even bitterness.  But seeing that image opened my heart a little bit.  I immediately wondered why I withhold the term, “I love you”, trying to increase its value by using it sparingly.  Why do I let my love be spoiled by the actions of other people?  Is this right?  Why can’t I love people openly?

Jesus teaches us two things that have really helped shape me here: that we are to love one another and that we are to mold our faith after children.  We are God’s children, and our love should be distributed with a childlike generosity.  God gives us so much love, and all that he asks is that we return it and that we push it to other devices.  Humanity should be a network of love.  Ugh, I sound like a hippie.  No.  I sound like a Christian!  There are people in this world who love me because God loves me.  Why on earth do I think that my love is worth more than theirs?

At Servant Church, here in Austin, this lesson was delivered to me firsthand, in a way that filled me up so fully.  There were people around me who said “I love you” the day that I met them.  And they truly meant it.  And I could say it back and truly mean it.  Because I felt poured into by the Lord and able to pour out from my own heart.  And, faith aside, I felt a kinship with them that applies to all humanity.  You are the same stuff as me, dear Reader.  Wherever that stuff comes from, or whatever you think it is, I love you.  I love you because you are here, because you have seen and understood my effort to connect.  I love you because God loves you, and because I believe that there is something in you that is valuable.  I love you because you are like me: you struggle, and you win, and you lose, and you delight, and you suffer, and you are born, and you are reborn many times over, and you die.  You fear and love and hurt and laugh and play and cry and long.  I love you.

Do I love you the same way that I love my family or my friends, or the way I will one day love my husband?  Absolutely not.  My family raised me, and I love them with a gratitude for things that can never be repaid.  My friends have supported me and cherished me and made me happy, and I love them from a depth that cannot be expressed by words.  And, when I one day (hopefully) make that promise in matrimony, I expect I’ll be in love, which is, as they say, a whole different ballgame.  But I probably love you more than Jessica Chastain.  Or Slurpees.  Maybe even more than Harry Potter.  But possibly not more than my iPhone.

The point is that it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t have to be categorized or assigned value or assessed.  Love is without definition or explanation or bounds.  And it comes from a place that I don’t understand.  But I accept it so often, and I’m ready to start giving it–not back, but out.  I have more than enough to share.

So I resolve to mean it when I say it, and to say it to everyone: “I love you.”

nola to ny

One of the letters written by a 4th grader in New Orleans