Monday, September 23, 2013

The Sad Balloon

     I didn’t write much the week before last. This past week I did better, writing for three mornings. I think writing should be fun. Why else would I do it? I am really looking forward to National Novel Writing Month and have my story, Sidewinder vaguely planned out. But what I am working on presently is not so fun to write. One reason is that I am convinced that it isn’t that good right now. I am working on the first draft of my memoir and writing as much as I can remember, which it turns out is a lot. This first draft is almost like casting a huge mold that I will eventually carve down to size. Before carving it down, I have to make it big enough for its eventual shaping down. So I’ve been sitting down to write, many days knowing that what I am writing will never make it to the final draft, or even survive the second draft. Yet I feel I need to write it anyway.
     And now I am at the part in my life when Naomi had cancer but we didn’t know it yet. Naomi was finally admitted to Maui Memorial Hospital for tests. That afternoon I went to a grocery store to buy her a balloon. Last Wednesday I wrote about that day. And I learned some things about myself that I had not realized before.
     I used to be pretty withdrawn and bitter until I met Prajna. Having her in my life and going back to church helped me to come out of my shell and go back to being more amicable. I stayed like that for a long time. But years later, I found myself plunged into an abyss of depression and mistrust. It hadn’t happened overnight. It was clear that Naomi’s illness and the loss of her are partly responsible for putting me there. But when did it begin? Last Wednesday while I was writing, I think I found out.
     This is an excerpt from what I wrote. (I don’t blame anyone in that grocery store back in July of 1999 for anything. The passage is written in the voice that I was feeling at the time.)
Later that day I went to the grocery store to buy Naomi a Mylar balloon. I wandered through the crowded store. It was a weekend afternoon and the tone of the crowds seemed terribly cheerful to me. I got to the balloons and choose the most cheerful one. I was stunned. Touching it made my eyes start to well up. This happy Get Well Soon! balloon in my hand matched the world around surrounding me where everyone was happy. But it didn’t match my world.  How was this little balloon supposed to cheer up a little girl in the hospital?
I wanted to shout to the store. Didn’t anyone see what I had here? This balloon was for a spindly little three year-old girl was lying in a hospital bed, miserable and lonely, missing her brothers and sister. Didn’t they care about that?
I walked through the store with the balloon and felt everyone looking around and through me. A new thought came to me, or perhaps an old, old thought that I hadn’t felt for so long that I had forgotten it.
No-one cares.
It sure seemed apparent to me there as I walked through the store, feeling ignored. Emotional pain began to rise up in me. It took hold of my bones and weighed down my shoulders and spine. I was hurting, and no-one cared. Maybe if someone had come up to me that afternoon in the store, maybe if someone had looked at me and asked me who the balloon was for, I could have told them.
My little girl is in the hospital, I thought to no-one. We don’t know what’s wrong with her and she’s sad and miserable and the only thing I can do right now is buy her this shiny balloon and hope. I can just hope that maybe this balloon will make her smile just a little.
No-one spoke to me and the friendly casher rang up the balloon and bade me goodbye. I walked out of the store with that emotional pain still. With the balloon lifting up, something new was just beginning to pull me down. The thought that people are not going to be there for me. They didn’t understand and they wouldn’t be a part of my life. I was on my own.
On my own. That was where I had wanted to be for so long. If I was going to take care of Naomi I would have to be strong. And if I was going to be strong, I should not be relying on anyone else to take care of me. That was how it had been in my past, and that was how it was looking to be now.
Naomi liked the balloon. But it didn’t brighten her mood much. Later that day they told us that she would have an MRI the following day.
That was an unhealthy attitude. But I didn’t feel like that constantly starting then. Even the next few weeks had bright spots. When Naomi was diagnosed we were surrounded by prayer from friends, acquaintances and even people we didn’t know. The support was comforting. People did care.
But here is the point. When I wrote this last week, I saw where it began. The start of a long fall. It took more than just time to heal, it took Celebrate Recovery and other people being there for me. Once again, writing allowed me a discovery. I can look back and see it and fortify my life to not let it happen again.
Aside from discovering this leaden milestone in my life I realized something else. Or maybe I was just reminded of something. People are out there having bad days. I might see them right there in a grocery store, maybe even holding a balloon. I wonder if there is anything I could do for them. Is there anything that might make a difference?
     I don’t know what would have happened if someone had stopped me in the store and asked about the balloon and how I was feeling. It wouldn’t have re-directed the course of my life, I’m sure of that. But it would have been a little light in a dark day.
     When I wrote that, and as I reread it now, I feel moved to go to the grocery store and see what kind of light I might be able to shine. Let’s be there for each other.

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