Why, hello there!
I have returned to Texas, but my goodness, it’s been chaos around here. Let’s do a rundown of what has happened over the past month:
* I broke my computer screen and was without my laptop for three weeks. (But I got it back today! Hurray!)
* My brother passed away two weeks ago. My family and I have been in various states of shock, grief, sadness, and despair over his sudden death. This event carries such deep emotional weight that I feel silly putting it in list form here, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’ve been feeling out of sorts this week.
* I contracted the College Station Plague, which is a nasty head cold that has been making the rounds in my lab and elsewhere. I think I had the CSP before leaving for Michigan last week, and it came down on me like a hammer on my first full day up there. And I’m still not fully recovered! This morning I was shooting snot rockets out of my nose because it was the only way to clear some of the congestion. (My apologies for that lovely mental image.)
* Finally, there was yesterday. I was hoping for a very normal, very boring day at work. And by “boring,” I mean nothing out of the ordinary. Just a good day of flies, experiments, and data analysis. Instead, we had a campus-wide bomb threat and I spent most of the afternoon sitting in a pub near campus, sipping a pumpkin-spiced cider. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but seriously, a campus-wide bomb threat? That was NOT what I needed after taking a week off of work so that I could grieve with my family. Not to mention the idea of a bomb threat is pretty damn stressful by itself, you know?
The combined effect of all these events is that I was starting to feel like I was losing my mind. Because of the family stuff in Michigan, I had very little time for exercise or to be alone. The CSP made mornings hard because I was so congested, and I was having trouble sleeping because my mind felt so heavy. When I returned to Texas, I was still fighting the CSP, to the point where I got home from work on Wednesday night and went straight to bed. No dinner, no bike ride, no run, nothing. I slept for 12 hours, and it was awesome, minus the politicians who kept popping into my feverish dreams. (Joe Biden, what are you doing here?!)
I don’t think of myself as someone who crumbles under stress, but this month has been too much. Last night, I was so frustrated with LIFE that I burst into tears at home. I didn’t know what else to do or how to find relief. I was still whimpering as I gathered myself up for a bike ride, and off I went. I took only my keys—no wallet!—and rode my favorite long route, up and down the hills. I pedaled toward the park and decided to keep going to do some browsing at Pier One and Charming Charlie’s. Mostly I just wanted to be alone, to reclaim my independence.
When I got home, I had a little talk with myself. I said, “Let’s focus on what we can control tonight. We can make dinner. We can do laundry and put away clean clothes. We can go to bed at a good hour.” All of those things may sound terribly mundane—and they are!—but they were soothing domestic tasks. Easy things I could do after not having the time or energy to be a homebody. I went to bed a much happier person last night.
Today has been a good day, so much better than yesterday. My friend Sam took me to Fedex this morning, and we were able to pick up my repaired computer. (Hurray!) I went to work and got a few things done. I bought groceries. I got to ride my bike to work and the grocery store, and it felt awesome to be exercising again. And now, I’m sitting on my couch, eating a freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and drinking decaf coffee, feeling more like my old self. Of course the sadness about my brother lingers, and part of me wishes I were still in Michigan. But the thing is, after a tragedy, we have to return to our “normal” lives at some point. The grieving doesn’t end. I still cry every day. I miss my family and feel guilty that I live far away. But I’ve made a commitment that places me in Texas, and slowly, one task at a time, I am returning to that life.
Thank goodness for bike rides. On the bike, I feel free and confident, like I’ve entered some sort of moving sanctuary. I don’t know what happens to us after we die, but I imagine that my brother is now part of the sun and the wind, that he can ride alongside me. I imagine that maybe we can both find redemption on two wheels, underneath this big Texas sky.
* About the photos. Top: a sunset through the trees in my neighborhood. Middle: the harvest moon. Bottom: the water fountain at Detroit Metro Airport. I love that fountain.