"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, September 03, 2004
vain Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin vanus empty, vain -- more at WANE
1 : having no real value : IDLE, WORTHLESS
2 : marked by futility or ineffectualness
3 archaic : FOOLISH, SILLY
4 : having or showing undue or excessive pride in one's appearance or achievements : CONCEITED
5 : insecurity. misconstrued
I saw someone today that I haven't seen in a long time, and it was the first time I had ever seen her with clothes on.
OK, I can tell right now I need to explain that.
Flashback to a year and a half ago, about. I was sitting in the mental ward of a hospital while they figured out the right cocktail of meds that would make it safe to let me go.
The rooms were tiny, and the nurses encouraged, strongly, that each patient get out and mingle with the other patients in the large common area. So we would all get up and shower and get dressed and go out there and dutifully mingle. Which turned out to be one of the most therapeutic parts, in my opinion.
Anyway, a couple of days after I arrived, about midnight (most of us arrived about that time for some reason) a lady was put in a room across the common area from mine. I could see her door from my room. Most of us had to sleep with our doors open, but she insisted on shutting hers.
The nurses visited her all night every ten minutes or so. Just like they had done to me on my first night.
The next day, the staff drug us all out of bed for breakfast. We all sat there bleary eyed, except for the older patients who for some reason have the ability to awaken at 6am and be sharp. I hope I never get that old, it's gotta hurt. Anyway, we're sitting there, and the door to the lady's room opens.
And out walks, well, let me describe it. She was about fiftyish and a bit overweight. Hair was perfect, makeup perfect, chin high. She was dressed in the poofiest bathrobe I had ever seen. It looked like someone had mated several feather boas with a satin quilt, and swept along behind her like a bridal gown. Her face peeked out from all the fluff, and she stared straight ahead as she walked. Pretty much all you could see was that robe, and her matching fuzzy slippers.
Of course, it was all pink. Not hot pink, but that shade of pink they use to color lady's bath powders.
Speaking of which, she fairly reeked of the stuff. Incredibly, she did not leave a smoke trail as she passed and headed for the breakfast cart.
I should mention here that none of the rest of us were in pajamas. And a lot of us were really, really sick too. One young girl sitting next to me could only bear to sit with us and eat breakfast without bursting into tears if she held her teddy bear tightly to her breast, and she was sixteen or seventeen.
The lady got her tray and promptly vanished with it into her room, closing the door behind her.
We all watched. None of us had been allowed to eat in our rooms. The girl next to me was pretty much going through torture because she couldn't. "Who does she think she is?" one lady asked.
Day after day, meal after meal, the scene repeated. Always in the bathrobe, even at lunch, and never mingling with anyone. Everyone thought she was very, very vain and conceited.
So, I'm at a doctor's appointment today, and look who comes in. She's traded her pale pink bathrobe for a pale cream colored blouse and tasteful skirt, and pale cream colored hose, and pale cream colored shoes. And she's kinda pale and cream colored, so the whole thing worked.
I glance over at her a few times, recognizing her. But this time, I noticed something. I don't think it was vanity we were seeing.
No, I think what we were seeing was a massive case of insecurity.
She had taken great pains to make sure everything in her life was just perfect. I imagine that being in a mental hospital was mortifying to her. I understand now.
And as she sat there, back straight, chin up, I pitied her.
It is natural after you find you have a chronic and lifetime illness to feel wounded somehow, and it seems worse when it is a mental illness. Eventually you come to accept it, and it is that resignation that enables us to go on with our lives and rehabilitate ourselves to living with it. If you remain embarrassed and afraid of it, it will chase you all the days of your life like a ravenous tiger.
I also saw the teddy bear girl a month or so ago. She was on the phone in the hospital lobby, in tears. I had seen her in tears a lot in the hospital. I waited, and as she walked by I said "I remember you."
She looked at me and suddenly smiled, and what a pretty smile, even stained by tears. We both knew she couldn't help that. Turns out that she has had a very hard year. After her release, she ended up involved with drugs, and probably worse, and had been placed back in the hospital. She was in a sort of halfway house plan that allowed her to sleep at home, with supervision, and spend her days at the hospital.
She seemed comfortable with that. She did not want to be like she was. My heart bled for her too.
And somewhere, her teddy bear's waiting for her.
The ultimate security is your understanding of reality.
H. Stanley Judd