Swayed By The Moment

We stepped inside the church and Austin headed for the youth room. I turned to meet Jon. From a distance Jon is the doppelgänger of Toby Flenderson from The Office, but up close one sees that he has larger eyes and a soul patch.

He led me to his office, which had a Canadian flag on the wall to my left with hockey jerseys covering the rest of the surface, the right wall was a similar case. The other two had photos of Canadian hockey players, signed. His desk chair was signed with silver ink and a sports logo directly above it.

“Oh! Canada.” I chuckled.

He seemed like he went on autopilot for just a moment as he explained why we were meeting, and I remembered that Jon, being a pastor, has probably played the part of counselor quite a few times.

After we sat down Jon spoke,

“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”

Hm. Let’s see. Might as well give any new readers, and my newest subscribers a quick description of the shindig they’ve signed up for. As well as the update I promised in May. I’ve been writing down a little bit of what has been going on every day since mid-June, so I’ll paste any relevant entries inside the following post.

Something you should be warned about if you’re a new reader – I write painfully long blog posts. So if you plan on reading the full story, I would recommend getting comfy, it’s going to take a while.

On a day in early June I was sitting in a booth at a nearby Chili’s with my best friend, Heather Madame.

“June 9th, 2012

We were talking about our fears and giving each other advice. Usually the goal of these dinners is to forget what is worrying us completely and just laugh and have fun, but more often than not (that is, every single time) we take turns being each other’s therapist and staring off into oblivion before going into complex monologues and self-deprecating jokes. Don’t get me wrong, we do laugh, a lot. But mostly laughing is just our way of cherishing what little time we have left being active parts of each other’s lives.

I sipped my coffee and Heather talked me through what I was thinking. Throwing in, ‘You are going to get there’s and ‘Everything is going to work out’s while managing to keep me sane as I came closer and closer to reality. Eventually I verbally faced a difficult truth, that the odds were miniscule that the stars would align and I would make it Shepherd University. I had a feeling that something like this would happen, that’s why I had tucked away a second plan, titled, creatively enough, Plan B.”

Plan B, in a nutshell, involved saving up as much money as possible, renting out a room nearby Shepherdstown (where the university is located) and going to the closest community college in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“June 26th.

When my decision to switch to Plan B was not completely settled, I consulted two of my greatest friends – Heather Madame and Madame Emily – to help me decide for certain. Since both of them have always told me how things really are without hesitation, I feared that my ideas would be shot down by logic and common sense. But I admire their unfailing honesty, and if I had to face a difficult truth I would prefer to hear it from them. So when they both responded with enthusiasm matching my own and encouragement greater than I could have ever anticipated, it was so overwhelming that as soon as I was alone I actually cried.

I had been nearing a sense of impending doom and failure, the stress mirroring the tension of piano wire, and to have them lift up the idea instead of explaining the impossibilities, especially when I hold their opinions in such high regard, was the thing that caused me to feel such relief.

When you want something so badly, and you think about it so much that the imagined images become as vivid as memories, and you start seeing pieces of it in your dreams in the night and your ears perk up at the slightest mention of it anywhere, and your chest tightens from anxiety because of the uncertainty, you can’t imagine life any other way than the way in which you’ve been hoping. Any other road just doesn’t exist, if it cannot be done, you’re left standing alone in a mist of nothingness.

But I have something.”

So, I made the arrangements. Originally I was going to find someone who needed a roommate and split rent, and there was one place in particular that I would have loved living in. It was an apartment right down the street from downtown Shepherdstown. The reason I chose Shepherd University was because of Shepherdstown (as for why I chose West Virginia, that’s another post altogether), the town is tiny, and the oldest in the state.

Something rather important that also happened in the past few months, I’ve decided that I’m not going to med school.

“June 22nd

Heather and I have gotten into the habit of text-messaging everyday, even if it’s just a short message every few hours. From the moment we wake up, to the minute we go to sleep. It keeps both of us sane and the friendship close since we don’t see each other very often these days.

I’ll save you the rundown of the complete conversation, as it spanned about four hours and hundreds of messages, but the message that was the domino that set this huge decision into motion was this one from Heather Madame right before our ‘G’nite’ texts:

You know you don’t have to be rich or famous or have a Ph. D or a Wikipedia page to be good enough or to prove yourself, right? You said you want to do what you love, so do! But not for attention or approval from the world, just do it for the love of it. After all, the world’s gone mad, my dear Sherlock.

Again the looming monster that is med school pricked at my thoughts. Fifteen years trying to cram my mind full of things I find so dull. Anything relating to the body below the atlas vertebrae I don’t care much for. I just want the brain and the face and the eyes. You can have your heart and pancreas and pectoralis and phalanges. They’re just responders to the signals thrown out from the master commander that is your brain. I started to entertain the thought of forgetting med school when I remembered a note that I had written in one of my little black books.

I don’t want to go to med school, but I’m afraid of my future self being angry at me.

Of all things, I then remembered a speech by Salman Khan (creator of Khan Academy) at Rice University this year. He mentioned a thought exercise that he uses sometimes. Put simply, the exercise goes like this:

Imagine you’re in your later years, seventy maybe eighty. And you’re thinking back on your life and the things that you did. You think about your career, about your children, about everything that you’ve done. And then you think about your regrets. (We all have an idea of what those might be, we didn’t tell someone often enough we loved them, we didn’t spend more time with people who mattered, we didn’t do something or say something or take a risk.) Now imagine that a genie appears, and he says ‘Well, I’ve been listening to you reflect and I’ve been listening to your regrets, and they seem valid to me. So what I’m going to do is give you another chance. I’m going to take you back to 2012, and you get to do it all over again.’

I remembered what my ‘regrets’ were, and I knew what I had to do.

Why am I going to fight for fifteen years for a sliver of happiness at the end of the road? I asked myself. I don’t want to. I thought. So don’t. I impulsively answered myself. That is the advice I would give to anyone. Not once did I ‘regret’ not being perceived as intelligent, or proving myself to people who probably can’t even remember my name. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done, so do I truly want to wait for fifteen years when most of the job will be paperwork anyway? What’s wrong with just being a forensic psychologist instead of psychiatrist? The word ‘psychologist’, if I’m being honest. But I’ve discovered the past few years that 90% of people have no idea what the difference is between a psychologist and a psychiatrist (to put it simply, the latter has to go to med school and has the ability to prescribe drugs…oh, and makes massive amounts of money.) And a bit of it is just being able to say that I went to med school.

It means so much to me that I don’t feel like a fool, I want it to be undeniable that I am intelligent, and sometimes I think I can’t prove that to myself unless I have it in writing. I’m afraid of not being above average, everyday I worry about not being enough. Not patient enough, not logical enough, not experienced enough…anyway, I’ll save you that rant and tell you that I let go of med school. A giant burden was lifted off of me and I suddenly felt extremely giddy to start classes. Good news is, I’ll still be getting a doctorate in the end, but in clinical psychology instead of medicine. I’ll get to spend ten years studying psychology nonstop, ten years!! Just the thought is heaven to me.”

Soon after Shepherd University confirmed that I was no longer enrolled, I received a scholarship in the mail.

“July 14th

I opened the front door to be met with a gust of hot wind. Summer in Texas is in full swing. I walked out to the mailbox, for once most of the mail was for yours truly. One letter was from the Keller library – it was about my $98.00 in late fees…and even from my periphery I recognized the Shepherd University logo on another letter. I winced.

I stepped back inside the house, tearing open the envelope from Shepherd out of curiosity.

Dear Hannah,

Congratulations! You are being offered the Executive’s Scholarship-

The blood rushed from my head. I read over the letter, and then I read it again, and again.

“My goodness.” I sat down at the formal dining room table.

“What?” Austin (my brother) called from the kitchen.

“I, ah…it’s a scholarship.” My mind started spinning. My plans! I had finally managed to get my wits about me and accept my new life going to a community college and paying rent for a room when this darn letter arrived. It was something added to the mix that I hadn’t expected, or wanted. I thought about how I was finally excited to start classes at HCC and that I was proud of myself for not calling it quits even when everything seemed impossible and I was scared out of my mind.

I folded the paper back up, walked into the kitchen and tossed the letter into the trash.

“Was that it?” Austin asked, turning towards me from the stove where he was cooking something in a large pot.

“Yes.”

“You’re literally throwing away a scholarship?”

I walked upstairs and into my loft, but my mind was pulling me back to the letter.

No. I thought. That is that.I sincerely wished that I hadn’t gotten it. I had accepted my new reality without Shepherd.

I stared off into space for a moment, then took a deep breath and cleared my head.

What do you want? I asked myself. Pushing aside what anyone else in the world would think.

Well, I thought, the community college is cheap-

No. I interrupted myself, what do you want to do?

I nearly stomped my foot in a pitiful temper tantrum against myself.

I walked downstairs, opened the trash can, and pulled out the letter.”

And so I accepted the scholarship, only to find out that there wouldn’t be enough time to get a student loan to cover the rest of the tuition bill. And so began the process of returning to acceptance of plan B.

Which would have been much easier, if I hadn’t discovered that it was too late to apply for Fall classes.

Well, phooey.

Accepting this new-new-new reality has been a bit of a challenge. I don’t like knowing that I won’t be in school, and for some reason this fact has made me think less of myself. At least this means that I will have a few months to work on some exciting projects that I’ve been planning over the Summer, and some that I’ve been waiting to start for some time. Including a vlog series based on my ‘People Who Read People’ blog post series and an experiment similar to the Rorschach that I conducted some time ago. I shall never be idle.

I used to be afraid of changing, even the thought of one part of my personality becoming something new and different seemed like a terrible thing. I suppose because mainly what I was afraid of was becoming a serious, unenthusiastic adult with no more daydreams and no more plans.

“June 27th,

It’s moments like these when I am happy that I shut down my blog for the Summer. Because my goal was to think through everything about myself – my intentions, my interactions with my family, my relationship with God – sincerely and honestly and try to process the next steps. I’m so scared of ruining everything. I am chaos. I wish for simplicity but I can never let things be simple. My nature, it seems, is to take a perfectly good square and try to make other shapes out of it, and add colors and dimensions. Until it’s just a mess. 100% of the time growing up I was the reason for the classic line being said by my mother, “This is why we can’t have anything nice.” I drew on walls and tore up the mail out of boredom and put soap in my mom’s mini fountain and carved shapes into her dresser and even tossed a lightbulb off of the counter just to see if it would bounce. Things that were plain and simple I couldn’t resist ruining. Sometimes I’ll hate something that I wrote sincerely, and I wonder, if I usually fix my behavior by thinking and speaking honestly, then what do I do when I’m already being honest?”

I saw Heather’s new home for the first time, the home she would be living in after her wedding,

“June 29th,

I woke up at 5AM and texted Heather. She arrived by 5:15, and off we went on our journey to Decatur.

On the way we picked up coffee and donuts. Several songs played on the radio that I knew I would forever associate with the drive to her new house. I knew when we pulled into the gas station, the sky still black and the radio still on a soft volume, that I would always remember that feeling. That half-awake state of consciousness as I stared off into the distance and popular tunes played to fill the silence, the completely comfortable silence.”

I went to Heather’s graduation from her surgical technician program in Fort Worth,

“June 30th,

Heather graduated from the surgical tech program today. I’m more proud of her than words can express. She fought so hard to get into that program, and she worked her way through while maintaining the highest grade while being the youngest one there and gaining the respect of those around her. She just graduated college at 18. You can be in awe now.”

I marked off something on my ‘Things I Want To Do Before I Leave Texas’ list,

“July 1st,

Today Heather and I went to the lake. Grapevine lake, to be precise. We brought along some dollar store inflatable rafts and filled my little picnic basket with food from the gas station. We got out of the water just in time, a storm hit suddenly, making for a rather doomsday-ish scene. A fog danced upon the surface of the water and winds whipped across the dust and created little tornadoes. We left the parking lot as the rain started crashing down in buckets.”

I thought about what I was afraid of,

“July 2nd,

I’m still afraid of the dark.

I’m afraid of hurting people.

I’m afraid of becoming arrogant.

I’m afraid of being unable to recognize good opportunities when they’re right in front of me.

I’m afraid of the people I care about being disappointed in me.

I’m afraid that the opinions of the people I care about will stop me from pursuing the things that I want to do.

I’m afraid of my emotions ruining everything that is good in my life.

I’m afraid of making someone miserable.

I’m afraid of being so hard on myself that I become selfish to the point of not acknowledging the needs of others.

I’m afraid of letting go.

I’m afraid of talking to my father.

I’m afraid of dying.

I’m afraid of telling you what I’m afraid of.

I’m afraid of not feeling loved.

I’m afraid that my need to feel loved will make me selfish.

I’m afraid of being alone.

I’m afraid of waking up one day and giving up on my career, and my wonderful plans.

I’m afraid of no one having faith in me.

I’m afraid of discovering no one has faith me, and in turn discovering that the only faith I had in myself was based upon their confidence in my abilities.

I’m afraid that I’m too weak. That I’ll come to edge of where I want to be and realize that my fears are greater than my determination.

‘Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.’ –Ze Frank”

“July 4th,

We just threw a pool party.

Well, what I mean by that is, Heather couldn’t decide what we should do and after bouncing ideas off of each other Heather suddenly decided that we should buy a kiddie pool, some cheap pool party stuff and have our own personal par-tay in my backyard. So we did. Just the two of us…I brought out my radio and we listened to maddingly popular songs (odds are you already have ‘Call Me Maybe’ stuck in your head), singing along purposely off-key. It was fun and carefree, and lasted not nearly long enough. So far I’m proud of our last Summer, we’re making it count.”

On the 21st of July we had one of the best days of my life,

“While we scrubbed her kitchen the radio played in the livingroom…

I have a feeling I’m not giving you an accurate description here. Allow me to try again.

Heather’s new home is directly next to a freeway, and every few seconds massive trucks rush by at 70+ miles an hour. Upon stepping onto the grass in her front yard, one realizes that the earth is alive and hopping, hundreds of grasshoppers make themselves known with your every step by shooting into the air. A part of the corner of her front door is missing, be it from termites, a dog trying very, very hard to get in or some other cause, one can see her hard wood floors from the outside. The inside is a work in progress – the home was built in the 1950’s, and the previous renters had no mercy on the carpets, doors, walls ect., countless stains mark the ancient carpets and crayon and sharpie marks are on every door and threshold. Giant black widows and wolf spiders are near some doors and clinging to the outside of windows. Roaches scurry along the floor, the walls and the ceiling. And countless dead insects are inside the cabinets and drawers. The previous renters also had a horrific sense of style. The beautifully designed livingroom had navy blue carpets with dark blue walls. The carpet has thankfully been torn out to reveal some lovely wood floors, but the darkness of the walls dims its appeal a bit. One must first peer inside a doorway before hopping inside and checking oneself for killer spiders and flying cockroaches. Outside in the backyard there are snakes – venomous and harmless alike.

The home is beautiful, though. The way it’s designed suits Heather perfectly, and the laundry room, kitchen, dining area and spare room are all very well sized and it will no doubt be great fun to decorate. Madame knew it would be a great effort making the house into a home, and because of the bugs we both squeal like little girls at the sight of the smallest movement in our periphery or the tap of anything that is obviously not human.

So, there we were, scrubbing the cabinets and counters and oven while the radio played, when ‘Radio Love’ came on. It was the song our zumba instructor played the most during classes (the last class we took was about two years ago). Heather remembered a few moves, and so did I. The next thing we knew we were dancing in perfect unison in the middle of her roach-infested kitchen with bleach and dirty rags in our hands, singing along off-key to the song. We thought that was the end of it until ‘On The Floor’ came on, another favorite. Somehow we ended up in the middle of her livingroom jumping and clapping and dancing the good old routine (what we could remember of it, anyway.) By the second chorus we lost track of the order of the moves and ended up bent over laughing, joking about going to a club one day and breaking into a well-organized and perfectly timed zumba routine on the dance floor.

___________________________________________________________

“Hey, Heather.”

“Yep?”

“What did the frontal lobe say to the temporal lobe?”

“What?”

“‘I am superior.'”

“You’re a nerd.””

“July 14th, 10:32PM

There are many stories that I will tell people one day, stories about my life in the next decade. My life five years from now will eventually be nothing but a memory. My mind won’t hold on the majority of the moments I’m about to experience, because a healthy subconscious is one that knows what to toss out, as well as what to hold onto. To think that many details about this very moment, this moment when I’m pressing certain keys to form words, and this moments right now as you’re reading my very same words, this is a moment where you are completely unaware of what your other senses are experiencing. You aren’t paying attention to feel of your clothing or your posture, you aren’t taking note of the sound of the clock or, if you’re lucky, the sound of the rain hitting your window, you aren’t paying attention to how bright each light in the room is – or how bright the sun is beaming through your window in this moment. At least, not until I just helped you along. Not noticing these things all at once means that you have yourself a healthy mind (also – that you’re not currently on drugs…) and that you find my words interesting enough to lose focus of your surroundings for a moment. It’s just thinking that so many textures and sounds and sights will go unnoticed because I cannot absorb the next ten years completely. I cannot bottle time, I can’t mentally photograph every detail of every moment, I cannot in any way slow the passing of time or make myself cherish it more than I already intend to. And I’m going to meet people in the next ten years. I’m going to forget their names, and I’ll slowly forget their faces. I may reminisce of a moment I had with them, when their faces will twitch for a moment in an expression the world wasn’t meant to see, or when their voice took a turn for the skies or the tile that I had not expected. But their face will fade from my memory, and their name will lose relevance to my life.

If only we had the option to relive our most precious moments. If not to relive them, then to remember them in the most accurate clarity when precious moments are few.

But instead we have a beautiful thing called the human memory, and though the images become blurred and unsure of themselves, we remember how we felt. And what greater way to remember something, than to remember how we were swayed by the moment?”

Something happened that had never happened before,

“July 20th,

Tonight Brother Dearest and myself had our first heart-to-heart…we both cried. It was, frankly, weird. Beyond weird, actually, it was downright bizarre. And I cannot remember how it all began.

I was shocked that he actually listened – at least to a few things I said – and nearly begged me not to go. He asked me to do something for him – to talk to a friend of his at the church, one of the youth leaders who is currently stuck in Canada (long story) about, well, me.

I told him that if I’m still in Texas when Jon (his friend) gets back, then I’ll talk to him.

What an odd day.”

Three days before Heather’s wedding I completed yet another thing on my list of things I want to do before I leave Texas, stay in a Hilton hotel.

“August 5th,

I stayed at a Hilton hotel in Grapevine with Heather Madame, it was amazing.

I talked Heather into wearing something classy and moving the contents of her purse into something a bit more expensive-looking. We were at the DFW Lakes Conference Center and from every photo and video clip I had seen I knew that our usual outfits wouldn’t cut it…also, it was a golden opportunity – the sort of thing that only arises once or twice a year – to make Heather dress up, do her hair and wear more make-up. Heather is beautiful without a trace of foundation and mascara, but I’ve always loved dressing up and doing make-up, and it’s more fun when Heather goes along for the ride.

As soon as we walked into the lobby we were surrounded by the scent of some sort of perfume in dry, cold air. There was a wood staircase on the right and a help desk on the left. The rest of the lobby was comfortable seating and businessmen standing around confidently talking about something or other.

The executive suite we stayed in was on the seventh floor. The night consisted of cheesecake, random videos on YouTube, creating towers with the many fluffy feather pillows and running to the vending machine for a midnight Sprite. But, that’s ahead of the story. After we checked in and walked around our room, commenting on every single feature, Heather opened her gifts. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I bought Heather several gifts as late bridal shower gifts and a few ‘goodbye’ presents, little things that sort of represented our friendship…like a keychain whoopie cushion, and a metal sign for her kitchen that said “Fresh Coffee”, and a little coffee mug with a country design on it from our favorite antique store. Also, her Nook. When she found out I had sold mine, the chick tried to slip me hers as a birthday present, so I slipped it back to her as a going-away present.

Then we went to Downtown Grapevine. We walked to La Farina’s to discover it was filled to the brim, and live music was being played inside, which would have made conversation impossible. We found out the wait was thirty minutes, and stepped outside to think about it. I was disappointed. I had been daydreaming about coming back to La Farina’s one last time. Heather would’ve waited for a table if I asked her to, but I knew that if we went inside it wouldn’t be the same in the least. I didn’t want La Farina’s, I wanted a piece of that day back. The day we went and had that great waitress and the place pretty much to ourselves. When Heather wasn’t anxious because of the wedding and we had nothing pressing to discuss except how we wanted time to move quicker. And so we walked along main street until we came across a little Italian place. It ended up being perfect. I just kept thinking that those moments would hardly be memories, I thought about how we would blink and we would be walking out of the door and back to the hotel.

“I’m not going to remember those grapes.” Heather said, looking at the grapes and vines painted on the walls (Grapevine takes pride in its wine, there’s even Grapefest once a year.).

“That’s true.” I said, looking where she was staring, “But now that you’ve realized it, you’re going to remember them a little bit better.”

It was like I blinked, and we were walking out of the door, back to the hotel.

It was now nighttime in Grapevine. Warm breezes swept across the streets, the lights of the Palace Theatre were all lit up – it’s very old fashioned in style, and the place shows classic moves every Friday night for $5. As we were approaching a bench with a statue of a man sitting on it, I suddenly felt sad. The night was going by too fast, I wanted everything to freeze for a second.

“Hey,” I said, “Let’s take a seat for a minute.”

She sat down next to the statue and I took a seat at the end.

“It’s so lovely here at night.” I said, looking down the street at the lights and the people. It was rather quiet for this time of night, though on a Thursday not much was happening in Grapevine.

We sat in silence for a while, we were across the street from City Hall. It’s such a beautiful building. Pillars and a bell tower with a statue of a man at the very top holding a lamp to the darkness. We talked about little things here and there, for a while we talked about Heather getting married in a few days, and how odd it will be, when things will be so different.

“I just can’t believe you’re really going to West Virginia…”

I thought about it for a moment, and I looked back down the street. The lights and the people – it’s something nice to look at, its people being social. But what I loved the most were the buildings, the businesses, the feeling walking down the street. Everything was so interesting and slightly Victorian looking in some places. And that gorgeous City Hall with the bell ringing every fifteen minutes. I had been looking all over the country for places like this.

“You know something,” I said, “I love Bass Hall, I love Fort Worth, and right here, I love Grapevine. I was looking everywhere for places that had this feeling. The antique stores and restaurants and a theatre. I looked up what folks thought of Shepherdstown, I mean the people actually living in the place. And a lot of people hate it, they just hate it, and they want out. It’s little and unknown and everything there is to do in the entire town is down this little street. And I’m not even there and I adore it, I want to be there, I dream about being there.” I sighed, “If I had been born in West Virginia, if I were living in Shepherdstown right now, it’s possible that I would have found out about these places in Texas, and I would adore them, and I would daydream about being here. I would have my sights set on it and nothing could keep me from coming here.” I watched a group of people come out of a nearby restaurant, “I’ve recently realized that one man’s prison is another man’s freedom. Sometimes it’s not about the size of the town or even the location, it’s just that it’s somewhere new, and you know nothing about it. Even if it’s difficult, it’s worth it because it’s a fresh start.”

From Heather’s response I could tell she didn’t understand, but wanted to.

While we were talking a few folks used the crosswalk. Turns out when you press a button in Downtown Grapevine to cross the street, there are yellow lights that brightly flash in the road as you cross. It looked like a runway! And so, eventually when we got up and used the crosswalk, I couldn’t resist rasing my hands and skipping. I know, I could’ve picked a motion more glamorous, but there were a lot of cars waiting and that would have taken too long. And I could wave just used the peace sign and still felt like a rockstar for a second. Either way, I knew that the people in those cars were either amused or annoyed.”

And the next big thing to happen: Heather’s wedding.

“August 6th

12:30PM

Hannah-Elizabeth here, coming to you not-so-live from Heather’s fiance’s truck as we head to Kemah, Texas, the location of Madame’s wedding tomorrow night at 7:00PM.

There are a few hours left in the trip, so out of boredom I have decided to whip out my netbook and tell you how things are going so far.

Well, so far:

  • We have been pulled over because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
  • Stopped in a combination gas station/Wendy’s and have been perceived as tourists from another state.
  • Have nearly died because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
  • Have passed by the famous Houston statue.
  • Have had multiple near-death experiences because Madame’s fiance drives like madman.

Madame’s family and Carlisle’s (as he has been known on my blog) family are arriving in other vehicles…I shall keep you updated.

_______________________________________

11:20PM

Heather and Carlisle are on the pier fishing.

The rehearsal went smoothly, everything is ready and set for a wedding tomorrow.

August 7th

12:39AM

Heather is showering. She needs to wake up in a few hours to start the busy schedule of her wedding day.

How did it arrive so soon?

We sat out on the balcony (our room is on the top floor, overlooking the pier) and stared at the moon across the water. It sank in tonight, folks. Everything sank in. Heather is getting married tomorrow night, and I won’t see her again until the 21st, when she drops me off at the AmTrak station. Our life together is over – she’ll be in her new world, and I’ll be in mine.

What the heck am I doing? I’ve never taken such a flying leap before in my entire life. I’ve never even left town without someone with me. I’ve never been on a train before. What are we doing?

Even during the car ride here it didn’t sink in, not until the wedding rehearsal. Then it hit me full-blast. This is happening tomorrow. This is really, really happening.

__________________________________________

August 8th

10:05AM

The night before Heather’s wedding, we sat on the balcony and watched the moon reflect on Galveston Bay. The water seemed to go on forever, earlier that day we had seen cruise ships in the distance.

“You know,” Heather said, “Nothing could capture the depth of what I’m seeing right now.”

I agreed. I had never seen anything like it. Boats passed in the night and lights far off twinkled. The moon was framed with clouds and light breezes made the humidity bearable. We talked for a while. We could see her future husband on the pier with his friends and brothers fishing at midnight.

“Things are going to go wrong tomorrow.” Heather said, running a hand through her hair.

I nodded, “Yep.” She looked up with light surprise on her face. I continued, “With every wedding there must be at least three things that go wrong on the big day.”

Little did I know that I was precisely right. Three things went wrong.

One – we walked to three different nail places on the boardwalk and couldn’t find one that worked. One of them was having A/C troubles and was closing early, one was unexpectedly busy and the other one told Heather on the phone that they had four manicurists that weren’t busy, and we ended up waiting for half an hour before Madame decided to do her nails last-minute.

Two – four hours before her wedding the hair salon that Heather had made an appointment with a week ago suddenly decided that they wanted nothing to do with styling Heather’s hair for her wedding, Madame’s mother tried calling another place and discovered that they didn’t want to do it, either. I ended up styling her hair, and it looked perfect…ditto for the make-up, not to brag. Actually, I’m bragging. I made my best friend look drop-dead gorgeous on her wedding day.

Three – The cupcake tower (instead of a wedding cake, Madame had a tower of cupcakes) wasn’t tall enough for the cupcakes to fit properly. We found this out 40 minutes before the wedding.

Now, for something quite interesting that happened on her wedding day – a story that Heather says she will tell her children one day:

Finally we found a nail salon four hours before her wedding, it was right next to Ci Ci’s Pizza – where the wedding party was having lunch. We ran in so Heather could get french nails, and while the manicurist (a very friendly girl by the name of Megan) was working on her, a woman who was also get a manicure right next to her struck up a conversation about the wedding. She looked like she was in her late 50’s – grey hair, soft eyes, warm smile. She seemed like a very young woman in an older woman’s body.

We headed over to Ci Ci’s and mid-meal is when Heather’s mother got the call about the hair salon. Madame’s fiance was surprisingly angry, though he does have a bit of a temper on him that shows itself quite frequently, except when he’s with Heather. After we decided that I would do Heather’s hair, and after her mother had returned to her seat and things were back to semi-normal, the woman from the nail salon walked in and headed straight for their table.

“I knew you two were coming here, and you really are one of the special ones.” She said to Heather, then looked to both Madame and her future husband, “So this is my wedding gift, to you.”

She then took off her hat (did I mention she was wearing a tan bucket hat?), got on one knee and sang in an angelic, operatic voice, an a capella version of “True Love” by Elton John. After she finished she stood, spoke something softly and kindly to both of them while resting a hand on their shoulders, and made her exit. I was in awe at the entire situation, I knew awe-inspiring things would happen that day, but I never could have imagined that.

The wedding was on the boardwalk, the water directly behind us. Everything happened so perfectly, so smoothly that you could not blame anyone for believing firmly for a moment that it was all a dream. Despite my best efforts, I cried during the ceremony. Silently, thank goodness, but the tears were still there. I was standing two feet away from my greatest friend in the world as she became a new person. After they were presented as man and wife, one of Heather’s brother-in-laws played the exit song – “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, Relient K’s cover. Garrett (formerly known on my blog as Carlisle) took Heather’s hand and they ran up the steps to the room where the reception would take place.

Photos were taken outside with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I became better acquainted with everyone in both families, and I felt like a part of it, a part of this giant family they now have. Garrett’s mother and I are both very emotional and love hugging and complimenting people, so quite a few times we ended up hugging each other with tears in our eyes and telling each other how beautiful we looked.

One of the songs Heather and Garrett danced to was one of Heather’s favorites.

Something I’ve never mentioned on my blog before – ever since Heather was a kid, she has loved 60’s and 70’s music. In her car and room she has uncountable CDs with nothing but disco songs on them. But her favorite of all of them, the one song that can completely bring out Heather’s true Heather-ness, is “Play That Funky Music”. There’s a video somewhere on YouTube of Heather doing karaoke in a gold suit and blonde afro wig, singing that catchy song.

And so, as soon as the song started playing, everyone made room as Heather in her elegant, flowing wedding gown and Garrett in his classy, perfectly fitted suit danced like they were wearing bell bottoms, peasant blouses and peace sign necklaces. I remembered what I adore so much about Heather. Even in that striking dress and her perfect make-up and carefully styled hair, her true self, her bubbly, energetic, silly, giggly, bust-a-move Heatherness seemed top contradict a dress that communicated stillness and fragility. And as for Garrett – Garrett was being the same person he has always been around Heather. He’s a bit of a tough guy with an ever-serious expression and contained emotions. But when he’s around Heather, his eyes light up and he looks at her the same way he always has, like she’s the most stunning, wonderful creature on the face of the planet. He can’t hold in the widest smile you’ve ever seen, and he can’t stop himself from catching her joy and energy.

To send them off, everyone lined up at the bottom of the steps outside (where the wedding took place) and instead of throwing rice, we blew bubbles. As they reached the end of the human path and bubble forest, I saw her pause and hug her parents goodbye. Panic rose in me when I realized this was it. I wouldn’t see Heather again until the 21st, when she’ll drive me to the AmTrak station and we won’t see each other again indefinitely. I ran up to her, hugged her and tried to freeze time, just for a moment, in the middle of the fabric of that second that consisted of laughter and clapping and cheers and bubbles and waves crashing and starts twinkling and ships crossing in the night. In the middle of the smiles and stares and tears and joy. And I feel that I succeeded. Such a significant moment, so certain, so final that it will forever stand out from uncountable other moments for the rest of my life. That moment marked the end, and the beginning, of everything.”

“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”

I was at a loss for words. So much had changed so recently, I had changed so much recently.

I realized my chair was taller than his, so I pulled the lever until we were eye-level. He asked if I would be alright with us starting the meeting with prayer, I said yes.

And so began one of the strangest, most uncomfortable yet most profound conversations of my life.

I’m not certain what I should say, or if I should say anything. Predictably there were tears on my end, as soon as the first one fell I wiped it away and with a choked-up, frustrated voice said, mostly to myself, “Bother, this is starting already.” I hate how easily I cry sometimes. Seriously folks, I’m an emotional sissy.

The conversation lasted I believe about two and a half hours. He gave me his card and ended the meeting with a prayer, and off I went. I checked my make-up before I left the church and discovered with horror how bad it was. Every time I cry it ruins my eye make-up for the day, there is simply no helping it post-tears.

I suppose for now exactly what was said will remain a mystery.

I’m leaving in two days for West Virginia. Two. Days. And in case ya’ll are curious, I am going to copy and paste part of an e-mail I sent to Madame Emily with my schedule of those oh-so important three days.

August 21st, 8:00AM

Heather picks me up from my house in Keller and we go to Wal-Mart so I can get last-minute items – small umbrella, toothbrush and a miniature sewing kit.

12:45PM: Heather drops me off at the Fort Worth AmTrak station. I wait for the train

2:20PM: Texas Eagle Train 22 departs.

August 22nd, 1:52PM: Texas Eagle arrives at the Chicago Union Station.

4:00PM: I’m bored out of my mind waiting for the next train and wander out to find a Starbucks I looked up using Google Maps.

4:01PM: I walk out into the streets and realize I’ve stepped into a cold, cruel world alone struggling with one suitcase, one bookbag, one tote bag and a large purse filled to the brim and I imagine being murdered by mole people.

4:02PM: I run back inside the station and find that safe, comfy bench I was on before. Who needs food and coffee anyway?

6:10PM: Capitol Limited Train 1030 departs.

August 23rd, 10:30AM: Capitol Limited arrives at Martinsburg AmTrak station in West Virginia.”

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth

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A Ruined Brain

I kept waiting for that feeling of giving myself permission to go to sleep. But, simply put, the brain I had just made out of modeling clay was dreadful beyond belief, and I had just realized that I didn’t even include the parieto-occipital sulcus (a crack-like separation in the brain near the back, where the parietal and occipital lobes meet – hence, ‘parieto-occipital’).  Not to mention the inside of the brain itself. I knew I’d get it right if I gave myself enough time. I checked my laptop, it was nearing six in the morning. I leaned back in my chair and just stared at the dreadful blob of clay.

“I really don’t like you.” I mumbled to the brain before grabbing my scalpel and removing the convolutions I had just carved in. While everyone I know was dead asleep after the homeschool prom, I was sitting in a freezing livingroom with stale coffee and cheap modeling clay while watching old episodes of Monk and The Office.

I don’t mean to sound like I was pouting this entire time, I decided to not go to the prom and a million bucks couldn’t change my mind. I do love being around people, but the past few months I just want to avoid accessing my social self as much as possible. I just want to get out of Texas, I’m impatient. I do have a project that will last the entire Summer, and I am looking forward to spending my birthday with Heather and being with old friends, but so many times during the week I find myself in an extremely impatient state of mind. I just keep thinking Get me out of here. Off to a clean slate, a place where no one knows me, somewhere that can be mine. Somewhere they can say ‘Hannah lives there’ and have a picture in their minds of me not being home, of me moving on with my life. Everyone wants to know my hurry, but goodness, I can’t help it. I still feel like I’m just trudging through the thickest mud, inching my way to elsewhere… Ahem, anyway, back to the story.

I was upbeat, enjoying the solitude and the excuse to stare at pictures of the brain for hours, but the closer it got to sunrise, the more my little idea seemed like a lost cause.  I wanted to call Heather and exclaim all form of ‘woe-is-me’ monologue to her, but I had enough self-control to resist the impulse.

I completely redid the brain after several minutes of arguing with myself, eventually deciding to trash my hours of progress when I could no longer deny that I had completely ruined two of the four lobes.

I nearly finished it tonight, and I must say, I’m quite proud of it. Even if I have to redo several structures.

I must get up in the morning to go to church with Heather Madame, so I will leave you with that.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Nothing To Be Admired

So, there I was, cheerfully slicing apart a sheep brain and rattling off information for Jenna to scribble on the notepad given to us by Teacher Madame, when a thought occurred.

“Hey, Jenna?” I asked, aware that the pool of formaldehyde was beginning to make me a tad light-headed.

“Yep?” She looked up, her eyes framed with the required goggles.

I couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth as I finished the cut directly posterior of the hippocampus, “This is freaking awesome!”

Jessica, who had been nearly silent this entire time, stared at me as though I was a madwoman, “You’re not serious.”

“How are you guys not ecstatic right now? This doesn’t exactly happen everyday! Heck, look!” I held up the newly severed portion of brain, the cerebellum hanging limp like a little, pink, squiggly half-tennis ball connected to the brain by a few layers of tissue.

“Oh, gosh!” Jenna put down the notepad and walked away for a moment to compose herself. It was then that I realized I should give up on trying to get my classmates excited over slicing and dicing the organs of a dead animal.

A note about me: I love the brain. I love the entire setup, the symmetry, the utter oddness and complexity. I used to constantly read about psychiatric drugs (still an excellent book to have around: The Consumer’s Guide to Psychiatric Drugs, also, Anatomy Of An Epidemic.) But then, I love anything about the head in general. Facial muscles, bones of the skull and face, the eyes. So when I came into a&p on Friday and discovered we were going to dissect a sheep brain and eye, my entire world lit up.

Jenna, so we discovered, has a rather weak stomach. As soon as I completed the cut around the eye (I ended up doing nearly all of the hand work while the others observed and took notes,) she coughed and gagged. Not that I could blame her, I had to turn my head away (my hands were still poised over the eye, my gloves dripping with formaldehyde and vitreous humor, so I couldn’t exactly excuse myself) because of the piercing odor being emitted from the eye.

“That’s so gross!” Jessica turned to face to the window behind her (Teacher Madame had opened every window in the classroom, thank goodness.)

Melanie, the only other person who showed any interest in the dissection, and the wonderful human being who helped me remove the very unpleasant fatty tissue (the color, thickness and overall texture of which reminded me of an uncooked chicken) surrounding the sclera, stood and leaned over the table to better view the retina. “Ooh, pretty colors!” She commented. Teacher Madame, pleased at our interest, came over to our table and explained the layer covering the back of the eye.

Madame noticed the anatomy booklet I brought along that contained photographs of cadavers in various states of dissection. She flipped through the book and we spoke for a moment on the contents of the booklet.

“Please tell me you’re going into medicine.” She said.

Cue giant smile. The band of my goggles started slipping off of my ponytail and I had to ask Jenna for help to fix it.

After class, I was still high on the experience (maybe it was all the formaldehyde, there’s no way to know for sure,) and walked to the cafe with a skip in my step. Claire (the world’s greatest barista) was behind the counter finishing up with a customer as I stepped inside, Kyle was behind her refilling a water bottle. She glanced up and smiled the smile that never fails to light up a room, “Hi girl!”

“Hey!” I said, I looked over to Kyle, who looked up to see who Claire was talking to, “Good afternoon, Kyle.”

He nodded as he passed by, “Good afternoon.” He nearly mumbled, he didn’t make eye contact. I’ve started to get the sense that I unnerve him for some reason. This disappoints me. As I mentioned in a recent post, I was looking forward to establishing a friendship with the fellow. He’ll watch me for a few moments while restocking a shelf in the bookstore, or when he needs something from the cafe, but he never initiates conversation.

As soon as I shut the car door I started a ramble about class, but was quickly interrupted by my mother. As I mentioned before, my mother is what the Taoist monks would call a Fire person. She likes having fun and keeping conversation light, she loves to daydream about a different life and plan shopping trips. The last thing she wants to hear is a long-winded description of a sheep brain (and how freaking awesome it was.) Halfway home she suddenly asked, “What’s that smell?”

“Oh,” I said happily, “That’s just formaldehyde.” Teacher Madame had told us that the scent would stick to our hair and clothing.

“Formaldehyde?”

“From the brain and eye.”

“What brain and eye?”

“From class.”

“Oh.”

Last night (Saturday) me and mom took a stroll around the lake down the street from our home.

I

I listened to mom talk about what she missed most about California, I commented here and there, asked questions I knew she would want to answer, and threw in the equal advantages of going to the university I want to go to. She still wants me to go to college in California, and I haven’t changed my mind about going to the other side of the country. She announced yesterday morning that as soon as a legal matter clears up, she wants to move. Not a month goes by that she doesn’t mention her dream of ‘moving back home’, and after I told her about an article I read in Psychology Today that explained the number one regret of the dying is that they didn’t have enough courage to live the life they wanted to when they had the chance, she seems to have a greater drive to return to California. I get my stubbornness from my mother. That fact alone is enough to let me know how serious she is.

This morning I woke up bright and early for church with Heather Madame. This week we tried out a church in North Richland Hills.

We were once again the youngest people there by our own free will. Hundreds of eyes watched us when we stepped inside the building, we quickly made our way to the sanctuary, which was nearly empty ten minutes before the service.

After the sermon we high-fived out of the success of surviving yet another dull church experience, and made plans to try yet another new place next week. Today we never found ourselves in deep conversation, even when we were sitting back at Starbucks sipping our overpriced beverages. We’ve both been so stressed out that a day of nothing but an uneventful church service and sitting in a Starbucks with nowhere to be was a much-needed therapy. On the drive back to my house I found myself starting to talk about the same old things, but I let it die out, it wasn’t worth it.

Alright folks, tomorrow is Monday, and so we shall do it all over again.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/ Classic

P.S. I do realize the dryness of this post. My every spare moment as of late I find myself writing down any truth about myself, about everything I feel. Because I’m afraid of discovering I’m a fraud, the truth about how I feel about every single person and event in my life, I feel the need to just write and leave in the open. And so tonight when I found myself writing out a post, I found nothing to discover or despise. Any lies that I’ve told myself I have cleared up, any notion to deceive the people I care about is gone for tonight. I want to be an open book, and I want to be fair in my judgement, this post ended up being nothing more than the residue of my creativity, and it is nothing to be admired.

Expecting The Unexpected

Good Morning,

Heather Madame is coming over today for a sleepover. Which is really irresponsible of us, because neither of us can afford to lose the study time, and heaven knows important tests are coming up. But, unless that rain outside turns into a hurricane, we will be making quiche and watching the only movie on our 20 Before 20 list: The Godfather. We tried to arrange for a movie night last week, but it didn’t pan out.

Also part of the night will be going to church. So, I have prepared an ‘anti-panic attack kit’, which includes lavender perfume, anti-anxiety throat spray and homeopathic dissolving tablets. Besides that, I only have my will to not run like a madwoman out of the sanctuary or in any way embarrass Heather. Since Carlisle is away for basic training, Madame is taking the time to try out a new church. She was going to ask me to join her at the same moment that I was going to try to bribe her with fresh-brewed coffee to let me go along. I’m not worried about it, really, mostly because I know that having an attack is completely out of my control. I was entirely calm the last time I walked into a church, and I didn’t see the attack coming, pre-sermon apprehension and exactly where I am in the building has nothing to do with the attack. Just taking a step into the place is enough.

I’m afraid I can’t seem to come up with more than that.

Until I Write Again,

–Classic/Hannah-Elizabeth

Harold Camping Body Language Analysis

Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Camping must be one of the more interesting human beings I’ve been able to analyze (at least one of the most interesting among the older folks I’ve read in my lifetime). And honestly, upon contemplation, I believe he has some deep psychological need for attention and recognition. Notice how at the beginning of this video he directs attention not to his error, but instead to the amount of listeners tuning in to hear him speak. “I am nothing” he says near the close of the video, but indeed, we find that during the entire clip, Harold Camping has constantly been trying to receive recognition, attention and respect. Something he used to have from his former loyal and dedicated followers before he caused them to humiliate themselves and lose everything because they believed his prediction about doomsday, May 21st 2011.

 It’s at 1:26 in part 3 of his interview with the International Business Times – the smile. You can see his mouth widen enough to show his teeth and his eyes ever so slightly ‘brighten’ in genuine delight at the interviewer’s comment. What’s attention-grabbing about this expression is the timing and his expression directly after. Right before Camping’s subtle smile the interviewer (a very stern, experienced woman by the sound of it) says this: “…but because they believed that the end of the world must’ve been-” Stop! 1:26, we see him smile for no more than a second. When suddenly his right hand (which, during the smile, tensed and lifted off the arm of the chair during the duration of the smile) loses tension entirely and goes limp as the smile vanishes:

Directly after he regains control of his expression his eyes flick to his right and back in a millisecond (so fast that initially, I didn’t see it); was he attempting to create a new explanation? Possibly for his smile? Maybe for the question? I’m up in the air about it, but he was fighting hard to remain composed despite his clear glee at the attention. His hand begins to tense again and at 1:31 he licks his lips as she begins asking about his new date for doomsday – licking the lips is a popular male pacifying behavior – (in combination with his hand tensing yet again at the exact same time) representing a sudden discomfort and uncertainty when he can tell where the line of questioning is going. After this, we suddenly see his face turn cheerful, along with leg shifting/bouncing and hand twitching (more energy redistribution) while he attempts to put the interviewer in her place.

~Note: Energy redistribution is when we try to contain a strong a emotion, but the ‘energy’ leaks into other areas. Such as twitching or tapping fingers and bouncing legs and feet.~

We see a ‘hand pump’ (shown in th photograph below; his right hand suddenly grips, then releases fabric of armrest) at 1:58  when the interviewer says “Yes, yes.” in agreement with Camping’s comment about many people being affected by the recession. He becomes a little more confident, until his pacifying behavior vanishes altogether. He gets a bit cocky with her at 2:26 when she begins to speak again, giving a degrading and authoritative finger point directly at her. For a while he goes into a condescending sermon. We see after a comment from the interviewer at around 4:00 that he becomes very pleased with himself for coming up with a biblical point. We can hear his voice go up in pitch and volume with zest and confidence at 4:03 as he explains his point using slightly repetitive phrasing, commonly used when someone is so proud of a point that they feel a need to repeat it to feel certain the response is heard. e.g., “Well, no that’s the point of prayer, you don’t rely on your own understanding, that’s the point of prayer…” (found at 4:01) “But [your followers] relied on your understanding-” The interviewer begins before being interrupted by Camping.

Switch over to 5:00, a question is asked by a female reporter, “It’s safe to say that the mainstream population that heard about May 21st didn’t believe it-” Stop! 5:06:

we see Camping’s middle and pointer finger on his right hand flex upward with tension from a presumably negative emotion judging from the no-longer-confident expression on his face.

I actually believe I see his wrinkles ever so slightly deepen in his nasolabial folds and the left corner of his mouth turn down a bit more, but I cannot be certain due to the camera moving and causing a blurry image at this point.

But what we can see for certain, is at 5:07-5:09 as the reporter continues “…it didn’t happen-” Camping’s hands going from a very comfortable fold to a defensive clutch as his arms and hands in a manner brace themselves against the sides of the chair, if he were standing he might have put a hand on one of his hips.

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Continuing, “…now they say, ‘See? This was ridiculous. And, at best-” at 5:12, we see Camping’s eyes flick off to the left, possibly instinctively looking for an exit. He is obviously very uncomfortable. His eyes only glance for a moment before switching back over to look again at his attacker. At 5:15 ( the last photograph above) we can see Camping grabbing onto the arms of his chair in a sudden defensive position.

The reporter finishes her leading comment, “…this was some kind of scam'” at 5:18 his eyes again flick to a possible exit. His face may be intending to say ‘I have this under control’, but so far, his body says “I really don’t like this…” He clearly feels attacked. At 5:18 also we see his head slightly tilt to his left (pictured on the left), a signal that is meant to instinctively induce sympathy and discourage an attack, we do this when we feel either trusting and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, or, as in Camping’s case, this is done as a way to subconsciously and instinctively show that we are no threat, and that by exposing the soft skin of the neck, reveal our vulnerability in hopes of the attacker ceasing (in this case) verbal warfare.

She asks the question, “Does it worry you that you’ve hurt the credibility, or made a mockery of religion in some way?” Camping at this point appears to hide behind his biblical authority. I find it a bit odd – and perhaps telling, that when he seemingly makes a comment about ‘other pastors’ (“Most pastors would never admit they [made] a mistake because they’re trying to preserve their own credibility in the eyes of those who are listening…” 5:46 in the video) he points not outward, but inward, pressing his left pointer finger onto his chest as he speaks:

Camping denies responsiblity in the interview for the emotional distress of his followers who lost everything because they believed him in their heart of hearts. And he has turned his back on them. Could this possibly be a tell of what Camping knows to be the real truth of the matter? That he is denying responsiblity to save his own face? Honestly, I believe so. He speaks along yet another minisermon, giving the latest reporter his authoritative pointing finger at 7:03 while he quotes a Bible verse.

Here’s my opinion of  Harold Camping upon seeing his face, which is a nearly complete paradigm shift from what it was when I simply read the stories: Camping is a sick human being, and heaven knows I wish the man could be charged with a crime. The humiliation he has caused, and the refusal to help the people who so entirely trusted him, speaks to a selfish, attention-driven human being. My heart aches for this man’s victims (yes – his victims), he shouldn’t be left to lead this circus for another 5 months (the new doomsdate is October the 21st) he should be in prison.

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic