Thursday, June 19, 2008

Life Goes On

I apologize for another long absence from writing. I've got good excuses. Shut up. You knew I would.

A few weeks ago, I visited my doctor, who did a complete work-up because I've been so damn tired lately. I am pretty much a "weenie" when it comes to being sick, so I visit the doc whenever I'm not up to par, no matter how much I dislike going. The outcome was, I had a bad case of walking-pneumonia. I've had the "P" word quite a few times over my lifetime, and as they say, it is always worse each time. The solution was a heavy dose of antibiotics.

And, as my immune system was taking a beating, I caught a dose of the Flu as well, which compounded things. I managed to fight off the lung infection, but ended up with weeks of coughing and congestion anyway. I need a vacation, but work keeps interfering. So I took a few days of sick leave, and managed to sleep through them without answering the phone. Well, I still had to let the dogs out, and answer the door. I don't know about you, but I can't let someone ring the doorbell without opening the door to see what they want.

Nevertheless, my physical health is on the mend. Life goes on.

My job dictates that I travel on occasion, and I've just returned from a trip to Canada where I got a good dose of French/Canadian dislike of English speaking visitors. The US is not the only country that objects to language issues. The "war" between the French speaking east side of Canada, and the English speaking left-coast, is well known in Canada. I was aware of it, though I'd never experienced any of it.

The city of Montreal is actually a very cool place to visit, with it's beautiful Basilicas (churches) and historical architecture mingling among the tall modern downtown buildings, and I managed to get a few days of R&R while there. And a lot of exercise. You don't drive anywhere in Montreal unless you need to go miles away. You can walk 8 blocks faster than driving because of the traffic. It reminded me of Manhattan, only cleaner and more interesting.

Everyone speaks French in the Province of Quebec, but inside Montreal city proper, most also speak fairly good English. Go outside of downtown however, and the disdain for English-only is very evident. And since I was raised in the Southwest, my second language (barely) was Spanish, and I confess to not having any clue of what French words mean beyond the standard greetings. Finding a simple convenience store was even difficult. I'm not sure what the sign pictured means, or even how to pronounce it. Personally, it looks misspelled....

Underneath downtown Montreal lies a huge shopping mall. You could enter at some point, wander for hours, and resurface miles from your origination and not have a clue where you are without a city map. It is termed the "underground city" by locals, and is exactly that. A person could live in downtown Montreal (if you can afford the 1/4 million dollar apartment, or 1 million dollar condo) and never need to go anywhere else for anything. You would not even need a car, nor could you afford one.

As in every foreign city, and Montreal was indeed foreign to me, there are those who take advantage of visitors who don't speak the language. Specifically taxi drivers.

On my first day of work after arriving, I requested a taxi instead of the six-block walk, which I knew would make me cough more. The taxi driver took me miles from my destination, and dropped me off before I knew I was at the wrong place. Log $15.

Then I took another taxi and instructed him more clearly where I wanted to go, and ended up driving around for an hour looking for the right address. Apparently this taxi driver could not speak ANY English, but was better at masking that fact than the first one. Log $30 for that fare.

Eventually I arrived at the correct destination. I can still hear that cabbie in my mind, counting his exorbitant fare, and laughing at the "stoopid American". No matter, because I got myself a map, and used sign language for all other taxi rides.

And no big city is complete without panhandlers. I'm the first person to help someone out when they need it, but it still appalls me when I see such blatant scamming. The dramatic, tearful, performances designed to scam money from tourists were annoying.

I particularly liked the Door Man at the posh hotel I stayed in. Clearly Hispanic, but spoke French and English well, all laced with a Hispanic accent and something that sounded Bronx-ish. He'd had the job for 20 years and clearly liked it. I watched him manage the front walkway with efficiency, directing taxi drivers, carrying baggage, and opening doors. All with a no-nonsense manner and complete servitude toward the hotel patrons. He said he was uneducated, but loved his job, and mostly that he earned his own keep and never had to ask for any handouts. He ran off bums trolling for spare change with the tenacity of a Bull Dog after the neighborhood cat. And he always had a charming smile for me.

Now I'm back home, thankfully, in the mostly English speaking US. And life goes on.

Overshadowing everything else in my life, I've been thrust into a place I never wanted to be again - the loss of a dear and close friend. One who has been a part of my life for many years. In-between work and other aspects of my life, I have these moments of dead space where I feel lost and without purpose. Memories of happy times, both recent and years ago, pop into my head unbidden, and threaten to overtake my emotions and sanity. Enough to make me question my own convictions about everything. I come back to reality hearing my daughter ask, "Mom? Are you OK?".

I've been asked before why I prefer to live alone, why I won't let anyone get close to me, and why I take such a hard-nosed position about many things. And the answer is, I can always trust myself explicitly. I don't deceive myself, or lead myself to believe that anything is forever. Most of the time. I make of my life what it is, and have only myself to blame if it goes awry.

It's lonely sometimes, but preferable sometimes to the loss of that part of myself I would give away to another. And when you do, because everything tells you it's the right thing to do, and ignoring such a joy in life is a slight on the One who gave you the opportunity to have it, nothing ever prepares you for losing it. To that end, I have only a few close friends that I've allowed to know who I truly am, without reservation.

We all have our protection methods; that which we use to protect ourselves from pain. Sometimes you take the risk and lose anyway. And the pain of losing is always more severe when you have no control, when nothing you could do would change the outcome. Your trust in everything basically goes to hell-in-a-hand-basket for awhile. And life is built on trust.

And it is a shock to the psyche losing someone that close to you, close enough to finish your sentences for you without thinking, who instinctively knows every facet of your personality because you are so much alike, and who you believe will always be there. It is like leaning on a railing that is suddenly gone, and you fall - a very long way down.

Each of us recovers in a different way. The answer for me has always been to throw myself into the world at large, and fill up the void with outside stimulation; that space in your life that used to be peaceful, happy and carefree because of another, who is now gone. People you know cheerfully and with good intentions tell you, "when one door shuts, two more open", "time heals all", yada, yada. OK, sage advice. It does nothing, however, to stop the unwanted and sudden trips; very much like walking into a dark room with no exit door - no sight, no sound, only your sadness.

I know I'll survive, because I've had to do it before, even if that was a lifetime ago. But it forever changes your life, how you see life, and has for me, again. And I am left with wondering who I am now, because a part of me is gone, with a loss I could not prevent, did not want, and never contemplated. And I can only blame myself really. Maybe blame no one. It just is, no matter how unwanted, unfair, or unjust, it seems to be.

The one thing I can cling to is that God will show me His reasons, and help me find my way until I feel my feet on solid ground again with a clear path ahead. Time is always the answer, but time always goes at its own speed.

Life is short, relatively speaking. That's what justifies the decision I made to let someone in, losing part of myself in the process. When it's a gift from God, I will always accept, for it isn't often that anyone is given such a gift. The greater the gift, the greater the pain of losing it.

God giveth, God taketh away, and life goes on. I have a little catching up to do now. I guess I'd better get busy. Right after I take a good long ride on the bike and think about nothing for a very long time.

1 comment:

Shirley Vandever said...

Sam, I ache for your loss and your hurt.

I had someone comment to me on a recent loss the following:

“There's a tradition on a social-site I frequent that applies in cases like this. It is the posting of a simple period - . - to commemorate, with a silent sign of respect, the passing of someone's loved one. So, if I may……”

So Sam, if I may....