A Little Bit of Life

I’ve had death on the mind lately.  It can happen when a friend and fellow writer has a blog about death and calls herself the Death Writer.  In fact I was featured as the guest blogger for April 10 2012, “J” in her A-Z challenge for April 2012.  But yesterday I had a nice little life moment.

I’ve lost count of how many of my friends and acquaintances are pregnant now.  I can think of four off the top of my head but I know that’s not everyone.  And then there are the people who have given birth within the past months, year, and so on.

I’m so used to hearing the same things from these moms-to-be:

*I can’t wait to wear normal shoes and clothes.

*I can’t wait to see my feet again.

*I want to hold my baby in my arms.

*I’m tired of peeing all the time.

I could go on.

Anyhow, my hairstylist is about seven months pregnant now.  Somehow she finds it in her to stand on her feet on a daily basis to do her artwork and make a living.  I’m not sure I could stand on me feet all day without being pregnant.  In all selfishness I will say that as happy as I am for her and her husband, I am so sad.  She is the best stylist I have ever found.  In fact yesterday she gave me a fabulous new hairstyle without much prodding (she is the most outgoing stylist I’ve ever been to) and I don’t know what I will do when she goes on maternity leave!  At least she is only going to be gone for eight weeks.  Let’s hope she doesn’t decide to become a stay-at-home mom.  Oh, I’m terrible.  But I digress.

I asked her if she was excited for the baby. (As a side note, when I told my mom this, she said, “Of course she’s excited!” Well, yes, but I have to ask anyhow!)  And yes, she said she was.  She can’t wait to see what the baby looks like.

I don’t think anybody has ever said that to me before.

“I just want to see what she looks like.  You know, what color will her hair be?”

Sure, it has to be magical to hold the baby, kiss the baby, have those first moments, but until the baby is born your don’t know what he or she will look like.  You might know it’s a girl, but will she have fine blonde peach fuzz on her head?  How wrinkled will her toes and fingers be?  How pudgy will that little baby tummy be?  What shade of tomato will her face be when they rest her on your chest for the first time?  What color eyes will look into your own?

I’m surprised at myself for being so touched.  It’s the simplicity that makes it so beautiful.  I typically think babies look like little aliens, not many are cute until they pass the infant stage and grow into their humanness, but something about my stylist talking about her unborn baby girl made it seem very real and very human.  And I’m sure her little girl will be gorgeous.

Bullying

It must have been a couple of weeks ago now, I was watching Ellen on TV and she had a guest family on that had been victim of bullying.  Their son committed suicide due to the depression caused by bullying and the inability to deal with it all.  That family is a part of the upcoming documentary Bully.  At the end of the segment Ellen is in tears as she argues as to why the documentary should not be rated “R” and why everyone should see it.  Seeing Ellen cry puts many things into perspective.

Now the rating has been changed to PG-13 and the Parent Television Council is having a fit.  Clearly the PTC doesn’t understand the true impact bullying has on youth these days.

When I first heard about kids and teens taking their lives due to bullying, I was truly shocked.  Suicide is so permanent.  Working in a field where you are a primary responder to crisis situations, you learn that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems, however temporary they may be.  And somebody threatening suicide is somebody crying for help.  For somebody so young with so much ahead of him or her, to choose death over the future seems so, well, permanent and final.  Couldn’t we have done something?  Didn’t somebody see this coming?  Where were we?

And then I kept hearing new reports.  More kids and teens were battling bullying in a whole new way and so many were losing this battle.  The idea was, and in so many ways still is, so foreign to me.  How can parents want to hide this from their children?  When did censorship ever help to solve a problem?

I am all for using this type of documentary as a teaching tool.  Perhaps it is earth shattering for some people.  Perhaps it is hard for some people to handle.  Perhaps you don’t want to admit this happens in your happy little world.  But sometimes you need to pop that little bubble in order to show what needs to change and create that change.  How did we have a Civil Rights movement?  By pretending we’re all one color and happy-go-lucky?  I’m pretty sure we saw some nasty things in history class.  Ignorance is only bliss for the unaffected.

I was bullied as a child.  I was pudgier than the others.  I was shy.  I was an easy target.  All through elementary school, high school, and even college I was bullied to a certain extent.  I remember many times I’d go home and cry, my mother’s arms around me, because somebody called me fat or ugly.  I’ll always be bigger-boned and curvier than a lot of women, but I eventually grew into my gut.  That doesn’t mean I’m not self-conscious.  People poking fun stays with you.  I’ll always wonder if my butt sticks out, if my stomach hangs over, if my arms are too flabby.  I’ll always wonder if guys see me as curvy or chubby.

What is different about the kids of today and me years ago?  I attribute it in part to amazing parents, friends, and family.  I always had my parents to tell me how beautiful I am, that everyone has their years to be beautiful, that everyone’s body is different.  I had my family to support me and love me no matter what.  I had my close friends that truly mattered regardless of my weight because it is what is inside that counts and real friends know that.  And honestly, I wasn’t that fat.  I was a little chubby and I grew into it.

And the other difference?  When I grew up not every family had a personal computer let alone a smart phone for every kid, Facebook, MySpace, and all the other social media out there.  When I grew up, bullying was isolated to your classroom, your grade, your small social group or even just a few people.  Bullying was contained.  Today bullying goes viral.  If you want to hurt somebody, you can take it to YouTube and people you and the victim have never even heard of can see and laugh along.  You can post something nasty on Facebook and the entire school however large or small will be able to see.  Bullying is now like a nasty virus, an epidemic.  No wonder these poor kids feel so trapped and helpless.  How do you flee something that spreads faster than you can blink?

So I ask you, with those we have lost to this senselessness in my mind and heart, what does censoring the truth of bullying do to benefit our children who are the ones who are affected the most?

Please go see this movie, and if your kids are of an age to understand what bullying is and learn from this, bring them along.

Bully (imdb.com’s Bully website)

 

Dear Death Writer

*The Death Writer is a blogger and a friend of mine who specializes is writing about, well, death.*

Dear Death Writer,

I am not sure why I thought a trip to the cemetery would be so spiritual, so innerly motivating.  I suppose I thought we would be there longer, have flowers and stones, perhaps tell a story or two.  Instead we saw the graves and left.

My parents and I drove out there and met my uncle who I hadn’t seen in about twelve years since my grandmother’s funeral.  My dad hadn’t seen him for around eight years.  Somehow their parents’ gravesite was the perfect uniting ground.

I did notice that the tree was gone.  Back at my grandmother’s funeral we had mentioned how she would have liked that spot because it was so close to the tree with its large branches reaching over everyone.  Close enough for some shade on a hot day.  It’s gone now.  In its place is a dip in the ground, some disembodied roots at the edges and a couple of concrete cylinders with some sort of engraving on them.  The roots made me think the tree was torn out during one of the tornado-like storms recently run through the city, but the cement made my mom believe they were digging something up.  Digging what?

The Jewish section of the cemetery is small and none of the gravestones are very fancy.  Its tradition to put a rock or stone on the marker to show that somebody had been there, but we forgot to bring some along.  Just across the path you can see Muslim graves.  I’ll let any symbolism there speak for itself.  We had to get into our car and drive to find my great-grandmother.  She was born Christian and wanted to be buried with her sister.  I never understood separating religions in the graveyard.  It’s all the same earth we sink into in the end, isn’t it?

My great-great aunt passed away in the 1960’s and was buried in the Christian section of the cemetery.  After my great-grandmother died when I was three years old, her cremated remains were put in the same spot and a new headstone was made.  I asked my parents if the two sisters had planned it that way, to be buried together.  It was my great grandmother’s sole decision, her sister had no idea.  That was when I got the willies.  Sisters or not, close or not, how do you make the decision to disrupt somebody’s grave without having their permission in advance?  Regardless, it always takes a decent amount of scavenging to find them.  They aren’t surrounded by any other family and they aren’t near any significant landmarks.

And that was it.  We left for an early dinner at some barbecue joint that had been featured on TV and happened to have a portobella sandwich on the menu.

There was no tingle down my spine, no feeling of connecting with the past or some other plane of being.  There wasn’t even a stone to show I had been there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life in the past few days since the visit.  The lives of the deceased, the lives of the past.  I’ve been thinking about celebrating lives, how times change, how close we get to death every day.  But mostly life.  The way I learned about the mourning process in religious school is that we don’t mourn somebody’s death, but we celebrate his or her life.  That has stuck with me more than nearly any other lesson on my religion.

And so I will leave you with that.  Let us all go forth and celebrate life.

Yours truly,

J