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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Funk

To be honest I've been in a funk lately. I guess I don't really know what that means, but if funk is gunky stuff that ruins something that is otherwise good, then that's where I've been. On Thursday I woke up at 5:45, and for the 14th straight day, the sun wasn't out - nor did it show any signs of emerging. The weather outside was wet and gray, my classroom was so cold that my students took the PSATs wearing gloves, and my somewhat frizzy hair was slowly starting to resemble Don King's. I was in a bad mood. I tried listening to festive music, but happy noises irritated me, I tried to pray and my prayers usually came out as lists of requests for myself and others. Meanwhile I was teaching my students about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and while the topic should have sparked at least a moderate amount of appreciation regarding my own life, it just depressed me. I decided the world was disgusting, and maybe the best case scenario was contracting the Avian Bird Flu. Our country is entrenched in moral depravity, we're fighting a war that we shouldn't be fighting, people all over are starving to death, the Janjaweed militia is roaming around on camels with M-16 assault rifles killing civilians at a rate of 500 people per day in Darfur, and the "love of my life" cheated on me. Rationally I knew that my own life was fine, but all I wanted to do was eat pint after pint of ice cream and then complain about getting fat. Yes. I was even starting to drive myself nuts.

On Thursday night, after decimating a pint and a half of ice cream and reading about Darfur, I felt heavier. Heavier even than 6 servings of ice cream should make me feel. I sat on the couch to watch TV, but I hate TV. I listened to music, but I'm sick of all my music. I wanted to talk to someone, but I didn't know what to say, and MS stuff is bugging both of my hands, so I didn't even want to write.

I scanned my email inbox and called Jenny - one of my runner friends from Colgate. She's ridiculous and stubborn and filled with magnetism and radiance. She cracks me up. So I called her. I told her I was in a funk and it was absurd and inexplicable and there was nothing wrong, but I needed someone to talk to. She talked. She suggested about 89 things that I know I need to do, but am too lazy to do. I must be insanely annoying to talk to sometimes. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'm lonely. I live in this stupid apartment nowhere near my friends and it reminds me of my ex.
Jenny: Why don't you move?
Me: I like my couch. But there's still this cheeseburger stain and it reminds me of my ex too.
Jenny: You could sell the couch...
Me: It's really comfortable.
Jenny: Could you talk to someone, you know, just to get some of this out?
Me: I don't have time. My insurance won't pay for it. It won't help - I already know what's bugging me.

(At this point I could almost hear the wrinkles on Jenny's forehead start to form.)

It went on like this until I started hypothesizing that I could die in a car accident and no one would ever find out. Then Jenny, who presumably wanted to flush the phone down the toilet, insisted on coming to Baltimore for the weekend instead. We got off the phone and she said she'd meet me at the train station on Friday night. Begrudgingly I agreed. There is honestly no point in arguing with Jenny once she makes her mind up about something, and even though I'd have to vacuum, I think I needed something to take my mind off of, well, me.

In the meantime, I went to bed, woke up six hours later to another cloud-ridden day, spend my "moment of silence" in homeroom internally calling on God for help, and went about my job of educating the youth of America (I like to sound as important as possible).

Anyway, it was a normal day at City High School. Normal except my 9th and 10th graders passionately assured me that we have a chance to be on Oprah if we continue our endeavors to collectively heighten awareness about Darfur. It was normal until Octavia stayed after school to watch a multimedia presentation about Darfur by the NYT on my archaic laptop, and until perpetually pissy Patricia sent me a rough draft of an email she wrote to the local news station about the genocide in Darfur.

I left school on Friday feeling a little less funky.

Then I went to Giant, the grocery store down the street from my school. I bought an avocado and chips for the weekend, and placed the basket carefully on my lap while I waited in the interminably long line. While not moving, I asked the woman behind me if she knew of any nearby liquor stores where I could actually park and get in with a wheelchair. She didn't, but I could tell she gave my predicament serious thought (more thought than a six-pack of Corona deserves). Then Veronica, the best grocery checker in the Continental United States, poked her head out of a previously-closed line, and saw me. She pointed at me and said, "Hey! I knew I was here for a reason, get over here." I felt bad - I realized I visit the grocery store entirely too often, and I didn't want to cut the line. Before I could protest, though, the woman behind me pushed me, my wheelchair and my avocados forward.

Veronica rang me up. I told her how glad I was to see her, that I'd been in a ferocious mood, and that I loved how she arranged my groceries. Veronica is seriously the most thoughtful checker-outer one can conceive of. She hangs the grocery bags perfectly on the back of my wheelchair, so they never fall off or scrape on the wheels - this is a highly under-appreciated skill.

While she arranged my avocados and chips, she told me that I'd made her think. She told me that bagging groceries really wasn't her calling and she needed to teach or become a nurse. I told her I would find some information for her and that she'd make a fabulous teacher (which she really would). Then the lady behind me told Veronica that she worked at the hospital, and that she too could offer Veronica some career-type help. Veronica looked like she was about to pee her pants. Then, as if this Giant trip wasn't good enough, the nice lady behind me asked Veronica about a nearby wheelchair accessible liquor store. Veronica couldn't think of one either, so I said thanks, acknowledged that this was sign number 895,622 that people with MS shouldn't drink and rolled towards the exit.

Lovely lady behind me stopped me. She said, "I have nothing to do right now, why don't I follow you to the nearest store and I'll go in for you."

"Seriously - this isn't that big of a deal. Don't worry about it."

Suddenly, though, I had a fan base and they were all rallying for me to get beer. Veronica told me to take help when people offered, and that this wasn't a coincidence, and the nice lady behind me continued to insist, and even the older man who looked like he was stoned started waving his fist in the air yelling, "Yes, yes!" And honestly I felt like I was in a movie.

Minutes later, the woman I'd met in Giant followed me to a nearby liquor store where I realized I had no cash. Again, I told her to forget about it. Again, she insisted. So in the middle of a gloomy Friday afternoon, I was suddenly about to accept charity beer from a complete stranger. The woman, whose name was Barb, went into the store and came out with Corona (the perfect compliment to guacamole), and I found my checkbook in my backpack to write her a check. She argued with me about the check, but I gave it to her regardless, and the two of us started talking. I talked to her about my students, and our project on Darfur, and my friend Jenny who was coming in from NYC to rescue me from my self-acclaimed funk. She told me I reminded her of her daughter who'd just died of Cancer two weeks ago. I got out of my car and hugged her and she started to cry.

I still can't think of a solution to genocide or world starvation or the 30,000 people who died in the earthquake last week. I'm still hurt by my ex, I'm still sick of MS and I'm still a little bit lonely. Sometimes I think God is wearing earplugs, and I don't have the patience to wait for a mountain-top experience or a new boyfriend or a cure for my neurological disease, or peace in Africa, but this is what I know:

Veronica shouldn't be working at Giant, but I'm selfishly glad she is.

Barb probably shouldn't have bought me Corona because my liver isn't doing so well, but I really needed her hug and I think she needed mine too.

I had an entirely unfunky, relaxing and cathartic weekend with Jenny and she left in time for me to go to church today.

It's sunny out.

My students want to be on Oprah to save Darfur.

We do what we can with what we have, and sometimes what we have doesn't seem like quite enough. On Friday, though, it did.

2 comments:

Cameron Lawrence said...

You know, I've found that the only way we can make it through it all is to do life with other people--like Jenny coming down to see you. God looked at Adam and said it wasn't good for him to be alone. I don't think that has ever stopped being true. The beautiful thing is that doesn't have to mean a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse. It can simply mean a good group of friends, or even some relatively new friends you met at church, or wherever. By the way, if you're looking for a good book to read, Donald Miller wrote this book that kind of changed my life. It's called "Blue Like Jazz." Anyway, blessings. Take care.

Alexis Berman said...

Dear Katie,
Just from reading your blog I am inspired by what I read. I stumbled upon it almost by accident, but reading it gives me hope in this world of ours. Friday must have been an amazing day all around. "The Art of Possibility" is by Zander and Zander - I think you might like it. As a teacher and as a passionate person, I think it really might suit you. There's so much to say, but know that you have people from your past that are on your side, people that are in your present that are there for you, and people that you haven't met yet that will stand by you through the thick and the thin. Even though there are hard times, things do work out in the end. Life is never perfect (which is very cliche) - the best we can do is be positive. You seem to embody that in your writing. I know we haven't talked in years, but knowing how you have encountered struggles throughout your life truly gives me inspiration. Keep smiling. You are in my thoughts. :)