Thursday, May 27, 2010


(Note: This post contains spoilers of the LOST finale. If you have intentions of ever watching the show and haven't yet, you might want to skip this one.)

Much has been written, and will be written, about the series finale of LOST. I've resisted writing about it since Monday, but I can't hold back any longer. I am a true fan, unapologetically and completely in love with the show from the beginning. I feel like a geeky fan-club kid attempting to write about my feelings with any kind of intelligence, but I've got to give it a shot. This show matters to me. And I know I'm not the only person who feels this strongly.

The finale wasn't perfect. I still have questions about certain characters. What happened to Walt and Michael - will they get to head towards the light? Why wasn't Sayid reunited with Nadia instead of Shannon? Why didn't we get more Desmond and Penny love - and where was their son? However, at heart I am satisfied with the finale. It gave me what I desperately needed after caring for these characters for six long seasons - a feeling of peace.

When I regained my breath, after sobbing as the dog Vincent lay down beside a dying Jack, I felt deeply moved and inspired. My husband said, half-jokingly, the next day, "You felt the touch of God." And I did. Never before have I watched a more spiritual scripted television show. It made me want to be a better person. It reminded me to appreciate my life for all it is worth, while it's here. It didn't espouse a certain religious path - although there were echoes of Christianity and Buddhism that were obvious to me - but it left me certain that the show's producers were men and women of faith. They led these characters on a winding, arduous journey towards redemption and possibly rebirth.

Everything that happened on the island - and a lot of it was bad - mattered. Some of it was horrible - watching Jin's and Sun's deaths come to mind - but bad things just happen. They happen to everyone whether or not you've crashed on a mystical island that no one can find! But the horrible things these characters went through changed them - made them stronger, more compassionate, braver, self-aware. I'm not saying that they couldn't have grown without Jacob plucking them from their pre-island lives. I'm not saying it was fair that he did that to them. But my father's most famous words to me as a child were, "Whoever said life was fair?" And the older I get, the more I see his point.

Sawyer, Desmond, Jack, Hurley, Locke - they were GREAT characters. They were vibrant, complicated, intelligent, courageous. I cared about them as if I knew them. I'll miss them as if I knew them. A woman I see regularly at the library talked about the show with me and said it felt like a death, that she was grieving the show. It's hyperbolic, but I see what she means.

I wanted to know that these people had some measure of peace. Whether it was in this life, or in the next, they did. Even Jack experienced peace as he watched his friends fly away from the island as he died. I don't know how I'd feel about the show if I didn't believe in God or an afterlife. All along the show dealt with faith versus reason, and as the show progressed you could feel which way it was going. I'm not sure what my afterlife looks like yet, and I'm still wrestling with my picture of God. But I feel God, if I don't intimately or intellectually know God. And I'm operating on feeling here, with my assessment of the finale. My intellect isn't completely sated, but my heart is, and that's enough. To borrow a tweet from one of the producers, I will remember, and as much as I don't want to, I will (eventually) let go.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I haven't written in quite a while. I try and I keep getting interrupted, or I don't even try at all. But I'm not discouraged! Far from it, actually. Writing this blog has helped me bust out of the fog I was in last year. I am able to see more clearly now the kind of life I want to live. Being with my mother and grandmother over the weekend - yes, I did end up going after all - crystallized for me the kind of life i don't want for myself. Their poor choices are a cautionary tale for me - for anyone. I sound unkind, and I feel a bit unkind as I write this. I, without reservation, love my mother, and despite the distance, emotional and physical, I do love my grandmother. But they live lives filled with fear and uncertainty, regrets and instability. Life is uncertain for us all - we do not know what is up on the road ahead - but there are choices in life and ways of thinking about the world that lend themselves to more positive outcomes.

I feel so blessed to have married my best friend, to have dug myself out of debt, to have the physical good health to have run a 5K. Choices I made - and continue to make - propelled me to those good things. Never have I been so keenly aware of consequences as this past weekend, trying to remain sane amongst family squabbles and the destruction of my grandmother's house in the Nashville area floods.

I have some choices ahead of me soon. The whole baby thing figures most prominently on the list. I decided, as I talked to myself on the elliptical trainer last night ("You can do this, Laila!") that I want to embark upon the Healthy Mama/Healthy Baby Project. That's what I'm calling it. A two month "program" in anticipation of trying to conceive. Exercise, healthy food, water, rest, meditation, writing. The essentials in life! I rebel against "experts" telling me what I need to do with my body and soul, so I'm just operating on instincts here. Right now what I most crave is a sense of peace. I need quiet time. I feel like the world is pressing on me too much - I think it presses on all of us too much, whether or not we're conscious of it. Too much noise, chatter, gossip, news, opinions, vulgarity, flash, marketing, spiritual disconnect. We're indoors too much, plugged in too much, staring at screens too much.

To that end, Eric and I agreed to try two new experiences. First, we're going to have a "quiet weekend" sometime this summer. No TV all weekend, try not to answer the phone. He's going to work on his music, I'll do some writing and pondering and reading, and we'll see if we can take it for two whole days! Who knows, it might drive us crazy. But it might be invigorating.

Second, we're going to make "summer reading lists" for ourselves and read classics! I don't think I have it in me to read only classics all summer long, but I'm going to read as many as I can. I want to have to focus on a book, savor it, and hope that the pace of a different time seeps into my consciousness. I know I romanticize earlier times - I gloss over polio and smallpox and women not being able to vote or wear pants, stuff like that. But part of me wants to have a Caddie Woodlawn-like experience of living on the prairie, hearing only the wind and the birds, depending on the seasons and daylight and darkness for my body's natural rhythms and the food I ate. There's got to be a way to blend the saving graces of modernity with a way of being closer to nature and solitude. A simpler life. I think we can find it. It may be a lifetime's work, but it beckons appealingly.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Odds and Ends

So, we've already established that I'm a horrible, selfish granddaughter. Let's move on to me being a horrible, selfish daughter. I had to flex my tough love muscle - which I didn't even know I had - and not drive my mother to middle Tennessee this weekend. I forced her to go on her own - or so I thought. She has not left yet. But if and when she does, it will be her choice. She is capable. She doesn't happen to think so, but I do. I have anxieties aplenty. Boy, do I! But the best way to beat down your anxieties is to stare them in the face and just do it anyway. (My old therapist would be so proud.)

It's really, really hard to say no to someone you love.

On a brighter note: My husband said something clever this morning that I felt like sharing. Tonight Betty White is hosting "Saturday Night Live." The morning news was all aflutter about that. As I'm getting ready for work he said, "Betty White is the bacon of the entertainment industry. She's been there a long time, she's really good, and a bunch of stupid hipsters are just now finding out about her."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Is My Life

Usually this time of year is an exciting one for me. My birthday is May 10. I'm turning 33. My birthday usually feels like a big deal, probably because such a big deal was made of it for so long - I'm the only child, the only grandchild, the only niece. I was a spoiled little princess when I was a girl - heck, basically until after I graduated from college and got a lick of sense in me.

I love this time of year also because of Spring. It's my favorite season, the renewal after all the time spent inside in the darkness and chill of winter. Honeysuckle always blossoms around my birthday, and it's one of my favorite smells in the world. I feel blessed to have a birthday in a time of year when friends and family can gather outside, and have had many parties outdoors over the years. I like that my birthday falls on Mother's Day some years - it's nice to be able to celebrate two happy things in one!

This year, my birthday week feels strange. I am caught by that most useless of emotions, guilt. (I'm also sad, but sad feels purposeful somehow.) My grandma lives in middle Tennessee, and her house was badly flooded on Sunday when Drake's Creek, a tributary of Old Hickory Lake, overran it's boundaries. I haven't had a chance to talk to her, or to my uncle, who lives with her. I'm getting information from my mom, when she can get in touch with them. Would you believe in this day and age, they don't have cell phones? As much of a technophobe as I am, I am profoundly thankful for cell phones, and this situation makes it clear how useful they are.

My uncle said that the water came up to the doorknobs in the house, which means that all the furniture, appliances, bookcases, floors, walls, everything waist-down is ruined. Their outdoor cat was swept away. They escaped with just whatever they could grab, the water came up that fast. The creek has never flooded that badly in the 40 years she's lived there.

I have some good memories from my childhood visits there, especially when my grandfather was still alive. He was a sweetheart of a man, gentle and funny and loving. I was 7 when he died, so I didn't have an adult sense of awareness to be able to really know him. But I loved him with my whole heart, and the rest of my family did too. When he died the family really fractured. It had been coming a long time, and that's a REALLY long story, of which I still don't know all the details. But after he died, all the joy started going out of visiting Hendersonville.

I've never felt close to my grandmother, not really. I don't even know why. She can be mean to other people, but she's never been mean to me. My aunt, who I sort of idolize, has a horrible relationship with her, and I'm sure that's influenced my feelings. The physical distance between us, although just 3 and a half hours drive, didn't help either. Mamaw's sort of a cold person. She can be funny, and generous at times, but distant. Now she's sick - she has Alzheimer's disease. She's in the middle stages of it, and we've all hung back, not knowing how to make her see that she needs to make some tough choices about her future.

My uncle's a sweet person, but weak. He has had one bad relationship after another, he's been addicted to drugs and alcohol, he's been in jail. I do not think he's a bad person. I just think he never felt strong enough in himself to make good choices.

There is much sadness in that house. There has been for a very long time. Maybe something good will come out of this flood. It forced the issue that was hanging over everyone's head: what to do about the house now that Mamaw's Alzheimer's is getting worse. It's ironic that all the stuff my Mamaw has hoarded over the years, the stuff we couldn't get her to throw away or go through, is now waterlogged. I am sad that the house where my family used to be able to come together is basically gone. But it's really been gone for a long time anyway - at least in my heart.

I feel guilty for not being there to help, guilty for not really wanting to go over there at all, guilty that I don't have a better relationship with Mamaw. I am prone to guilt, even though I know it's an emotion that doesn't do anyone any good. I am trying to get out of this head-space. I am trying to pray, to grieve, to meditate, and to think of constructive ways I can be of help.

I read something in Julia Cameron's book The Right to Write today that struck me - about owning one's life, and writing as a way to do that. I thought, this is my life. My family's screwed up, relationships are strained or broken, people that I care about are pretty much crazy. But it's the only life I've got. I've managed to make it this far with these crazy people around me! And for all their faults, I've never doubted for one second that they love me.