Saturday, March 28, 2009

What Grief Is: A Response

***** Warning: The next post may be too emotional for some readers. This blog will have heavy and light moments. This one isn't all that light. *****

In response to the What Grief Is article on Slate...

The 27th of the month before someone's birthday always makes me a little bit queasy--mostly just family members, but close friends, too. Two of my three brothers died on the 27th; one before his 18th birthday (I was seven), the other before his 21st (I was 23). Even now, seven years after Nathan died and 23 years after Cory, I have moments that sucker punch me out of the blue.

I think it is the nature of grief. I know they are both in a better place, but that is not what hurts. What hurts is the moments I long to share with them--moments where Cory would wince at his overenthusiastic little sister or where Nathan would tease me until I would want to kick him in the shins. Quiet moments where I just need a hug from someone who loves me one moment and hates me at the next but still would protect me from here to doomsday.

I long to see their faces when, at some future moment, they would have met my husband-to-be (whomever he may be). My youngest brother is not that intimidating--who is going to threaten to kill him if he hurts me (only as a joke--kind of)? Who is going to tell my kids (someday, hopefully) what I was like as a child? My parents remember bits, but not the sneaky stuff you do just with siblings. And my next younger sibling is seven years younger. I won't get to meet their potential spouses or kids, and see the amazing men they would grow into. My heart aches for those moments.

I experienced a lot of death during my college years. After Nathan's sudden and tragic death, I hated anyone who said, "I'm sorry..." or "How are you doing?"

"Really? I am too!" or "How do you think I am doing?!?" What was I supposed to say? "Yep, It is all your fault?!?" Logic doesn't figure into it. I came back to school after the funeral, and all I could think that first night was, "There is no one here who has any inkling of how I am feeling, and everyone seems so far away." I spent the evening crying myself to sleep, and subsequent days watching a lot of Buffy--specifically the one where Buffy's mom dies. It is very stark and raw--and you know deep down that someone has also ached like you have. I had good days and bad, and yet on certain days I had friends who would ask me how I am while their eyes begged me to not tell them. You could almost see them running, screaming in the other direction rather than face such naked emotion.

Years and years of society's repression of real, genuine emotion has led to our only getting obsessed with some of the more shallow aspects of life around us--clothes, celebrities, movies, TV, electronics--material items it is okay to show emotion for. Yet true emotion, deeply-felt emotion is not allowed. It is too scary. And that is what I think it comes down to. For some reason our culture has decided that any emotion other than elation or ambition is supposed to remain behind closed doors. We are supposed to think with logical heads, go with our intuition, but keep our feelings to ourselves. Sadly, we are not wired that way. Yes, I, too, have bought into some of the shallow, but some of our best writers who have explored grief have written for TV of late. I've read a lot books about grief, and I've found that sometimes those rituals we no longer practice are extremely therapeutic (which is probably why generations now need much more therapy).

It has taken a lot of therapy and many dear friends (not to mention an intensely personal relationship with God as well as a firm belief in the healing powers of the atonement) to get me to a point in my life where I am okay. I realized it shortly after I turned 30 this past year--I am doing really well, and my life is really good. I still have my moments, but moments come and go; and my closest friends are those who know how to just be and let me be when I need it. And they know not to say, "I'm sorry" or "how are you doing?" And they know why I loved Veronica Mars bringing to justice her best friend's killer.

Our family is a lot closer now. My sister and I are extremely different yet best friends (which probably wouldn't have happened if Nathan hadn't died). My little brother alternates between being spoiled by us and exasperating us. My parents, though struggling through the financial crisis right now (Nathan was going to take over our small family business), have become a stronger couple by burying two sons together and yet believing their entire family will be reunited someday.

Ultimately, I am much more likely to express all the emotions I feel, and those around me have come to learn to deal with it. I am not pulling punches anymore. Somehow our culture has to learn a better way to deal with grief, or we are going to have countless groups of people suffering in silence until something ultimately explodes. And why has grief become the equivalent of religion--"you can believe in something, but for heaven's sake do not share it!"

Moving back to the article, how do we teach dealing with grief better? How do we mourn with those that mourn? Why is it that we expect people to come back "all better?" Why do we think everything should be fine after a few months? Do we reinstate the rituals of before? Allow there to be public mourning? How would you solve this problem? There has to be a better way to teach future generations, so they do not have to shatter and slowly come back together like I did.

I have a lot of other feelings on the subject, but I don't want to bog this down too much by preaching from my pulpit of healthy grieving. Do you have any thoughts?

To commemorate yesterday, I was going to write a different post, but someone else beat me to it. I'll let her speak for me: Thanks, Ruby.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Grammar Pet Peeves: P.S.

So, for the second time this week, I got an email from someone where they finished the missive with PS. They then followed it with PSS. PS means postscript. With additional PS's added, it is usually PPS (Post-postscript), adding more Ps the more post the postscript you go. PSS drives me crazy. Postscript script? Nuts.

I have read a couple of places where people have rationalized a definition of Post-sub-script, but that seems like it is reaching. The indefinable "they" then go on to say that the next PS would be PPPS, so I am not sure I buy it.

It is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, like people who say/write Sister-in-laws instead of Sisters-in-law. But I learned long ago that you come across as condescending and pedantic by trying to correct people's grammar, so I keep my mouth shut even though my head is screaming "my barbaric YAWP!" Sometimes I even have to grit my teeth.

So, grammar pet peeves? In the one place you can share them without coming across as though you are correcting someone? Just randomly mentioning grammar that drives you crazy--not the people who use it. Sound off in the comments if you need to add your "barbaric YAWP!" My thanks to Mr. Whitman.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Movie of the week: The Spirit of the Beehive

The Spirit of the Beehive haunts me. When I first saw it back in college for an assignment, I didn't realize that I would go back again and again to listen for its whispers in the dark. A quiet, lovely, Spanish film with a deceptively simple storyline, it continues to speak to me ten years after I first saw it.

Though the cinematographer was going blind at the time of filming, the film is stunning. Dusty, warm colors permeate the daytime of the two little girls who are the center of this film. You almost get thirsty watching. The only relief from that dryness are the nighttime moments--things hidden in the cool dark of night.

A story of alienation, loss of childhood innocence, longing, and so much more, hiding a subtle protest against Spain's Franco dictatorship. I can still see little Ana's eyes looking out at me--weighing, measuring, everything she sees. If you have a chance to see it, do. If you want to borrow it, I have it. A slight warning--it may haunt you, too.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Movie of the week: Penelope

I grew up adoring fairy tales (if you are a little bit of a snob, read: faery or faerie). From the Jewel-named Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, etc. books to Hans Christian Andersen (or Fairy Tale Theater to the Nick Jr fairy tale cartoons), I was hooked. I have grown up trying to find the best retold fairy tales ever since, to create that world of wonder. There are some very good ones out there (bless you, Robin McKinley), some nifty short story collections (I LOVE Cockroach in Loafers, an updated version of Puss in Boots set in New York--I could look through my books for the anthology if you really want me to), as well as some really bad ones (mostly geared toward young adults because someone has decided they only deserve drivel).

Penelope is a charming fairy tale. Not overly complicated, but you won't be able to help smiling through it, unless you hate fun or expect every movie you see to eviscerate your intestines. It doesn't hurt that James McAvoy is extremely charismatic, or that leading lady, Christina Ricci is extremely likeable. There are some great supporting efforts from continually-crazy-mom Catherine O'Hara, always interesting Richard E. Grant, the ever-affable Reese Witherspoon, and the crazy-talented Peter Dinklage, among others. But don't take my word, check it out. . .

I was going to include the trailer, but all the trailers give way too much away! Sorry.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Movie of the week: Wonder Woman

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved Wonder Woman. This multiplied in college, when I found out that every day when I got home from campus at 4:30 or 5:00, the SciFi channel would replay the old Lynda Carter series, and I would make my roommates watch (and then sometimes we would watch Quantum Leap reruns after).

It could have been her Greek mythology background because as a kid I also had a fascination with the Greek myths. Or the fact that she was an Amazon, and I was (and am) very Girl Power (Go Ajnuat, leader of the feminazis!--random, high school joke, sorry, I am not actually a feminazi). Whatever it was, I loved her. Don't you just want to spin and change your whole wardrobe? The lasso of truth that makes all of its wearers confess their secrets, wristbands that block bullets, and an invisible jet--who wouldn't want to be Wonder Woman?

This week a new Wonder Woman movie came out, but you probably didn't hear about it. Probably because it is animated... and it came out straight-to-DVD. But that shouldn't stop you from enjoying it because it is charming! Recently, I got my hands on the book based on the screenplay (thanks, Melinda!) and really enjoyed it. It is witty and amusing, and definitely more for teens and superhero fans, not little kids (the book was better, but when aren't they?).

It doesn't hurt that the leads are voiced by Keri Russell (of Felicity and Waitress fame) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), two people I truly adore (I do not stalk Nathan, I swear... Call me!), or that Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Virginia Madsen, and others assist. But don't take my word for it, have an Amazon night, fight for right, "and the old red, white, and blue. . ."

Wonder Woman Official Trailer

A quick history of Wonder Woman (the comic):

P.S. It is even fun to watch with guys. However, afterwards, you may want to let them win at cards.

P.P.S. I have liked Nathan since his Two Guys & a Girl phase (though not as far back as his Soap days), and I have loved him as Captain Tightpants and Captain Hammer. His new show has me tickled, but I've only seen the pilot.

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