For What Do You Hunger?
Do you ever feel such deep hunger, as if an internal famine, and for some reason nothing in the cupboard seems to satisfy?
I remember sitting beside my ailing mother, eating an entire McDonalds Quarter Pounder with fries, but still feeling empty.
I couldnt stop.
I didnt want to stop.
I wouldnt allow myself to stop and evaluate my hunger for what it was, I knew I was not only feeding my grief, but despair, and an intense fear of living in a world without my mother.
How could I live in this world without my mother?
Its not possible.
It would be like a perpetual power outage, no light, no heat, no refrigerator. Id be camping in my own life. I hate camping. Im more of a Marriott girl who brings her own pillow.
I refused to admit her cancer was a battle we could not win, but intuitively I knew the truth, I chose to bury it under layers of food, attempting to insulate myself against a brutal reality, we are all dying, and theres not a damn thing we can do about it.
Reality is such a jerk.
After a pound of Sees candy Im still not sweet.
It has been seven months since mom took her last breath and I refuse to put away the sympathy cards. Total housekeeping fail. There are boxes stacked in my closet left unopened because it would be like ripping the scab off a festering wound. I recently learned that wounds are places where vulnerabilities are exposed, like it or not, they become our ground zero.
And bandaids are useless when the injury is deep.
Recently Nancy and I have been attempting to do Moms taxes (when youre done laughing please continue reading). The numbers have to come from somewhere, apparently these sources are available only to us, and therefore I hate it all the more.
I dont want to figure out her taxable income or add up all the medical expenses. Calculating depreciation is outside my skill set, I could spend my entire life itemizing her deductions, but it is my deeply held belief that she had nothing but good will. And receipts. Lord have mercy, the woman kept her receipts, every single one.
Including one for the last gift she gave me.
Oh how the memories linger with the bills. Im holding one in my hand for an ambulance that drove her to the hospital after she fell and split her head open. It was a ten minute drive how does that cost over a thousand dollars? Thats when we discovered the cancer had spread. The truth is I would have paid anything not to have made that discovery.
She kept the custom made helmet from her radiation treatments. Nancy and I decided there was no possible reason to keep it and we tossed it in the rubbish bin before we could change our minds. I dont miss the helmet. I miss the woman who thought to keep the helmet.
April is looming so weve been gathering the information, using our cell phones as calculators, but the solution is underivable.
The solution is underivable because I cant have what I want.
And it makes me hangry.
Mom and I had so many important talks before the silence took over. Ive come to believe all those hours sitting side by side without a single word passing between us may have been more meaningful?
Feelings can be so loud.
The universe, Id learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back, writes Cheryl Strayed.
Shit, writes Cheryl Oreglia.
Strayed also mentions, this is not how your story ends. Its simply where it takes a turn you didnt expect.
Shit, writes Oreglia. #deep
The On Being conference with Krista Tippett was the unexpected turn or maybe it would be more accurate to say it exposed a new path.
Oh how I wanted to call my mom before, during, and after the gathering. She was the best listener I have ever known and she loved a good story.
I remember as a young girl coming home from school, to find mom waiting in the kitchen, just where I left her. I would scramble through my memories for a story, thinking she had been standing there all day, waiting for me to return. Id spin some exaggerated tale, make her laugh, and head to my room knowing my work was done.
Guess what? She had a life of her own. A teacher, organizer, philanthropist, environmentalist, conservationist, athlete, member, neighbor, friend, spouse, mother, and so much more.
I thought she stood in the kitchen, waiting for me to return, and on some level this is true.
Acceptance has everything to do with simplicity, with sitting in the ordinary place, with bearing witness to the plain facts of our lives, with not just starting at the essential, but ending up there. Acceptance speaks in the gentlest voice. It commands only that we acknowledge whats true. Cheryl Strayed.
So what is this new path Krista Tippett has inadvertently shoved me down?
The whole On Being experience is as if Ive had an internal climate change, Im feeling extreme atmospheric pressure, my barometer is totally off, and I believe my ice caps are melting.
I feel an intense call to action and this is what scares me the most.
My classes are different but I dont think the students notice. Im still asking them to come into the room, leave their armor at the door, but to consider poetry as a form of prayer (I read rupi kaur yesterday and almost cried), Im demanding compassionate responses in the face of a destructive reality, asking them to hold joy along side their anger, to frame their arguments carefully, with love instead of hate, and maybe thats all I can ask of anyone.
I do realize Im teaching me.
If I cant have my mom than Ill also be more demanding of you. Sorry not sorry. If I find you more satisfying than a hamburger youll just have to deal. I want our conversations to go deeper. I intend to linger when I hug you, reaching into those uncomfortable places, maybe opening some old wounds. I want to laugh until our stomachs ache and we find ourselves in the murkiest places, heartfelt, full, satiated.
I want to live so vibrantly, that even though my light has left the world, we can be this for each other, sappy I know, but true nonetheless.
So what will satisfy this eternal longing?
Im thinking it might have something to do with nourishing the heart, not gluten free, but with ingestible things like civility, generosity, compassion, empathy.
A eucharistic way of being in the world that acknowledges human connection as our most powerful tool for enacting change
Krista Tippett often asks, are we not of interest to each other? As a way of approaching civil conversations, speaking together differently in order to live together differently. This is a frightening concept in a world where we prefer to remain polarized, isolated, and broken (the whole planet is having a meltdown).
Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway, says Cheryl Strayed
Ive heard it referred to as courage, Aristotle called it the first virtue, because it makes all the other virtues possible.
I called her Mom.
Blood is thicker than water, my mother had always said when I was growing up, a sentiment Id often disputed. But it turned out that it didnt matter whether she was right or wrong. They both flowed out of my cupped palms. Cheryl Strayed
Im Living in the Gap, drop in anytime, I could use a hug.
Notes: For your nourishment.
By Elizabeth Alexander
Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said
Every I is a dramatic I),
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and Im sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
This post was previously published on CheryLoreglia and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: istockphoto