On Traveling

We’re leaving for the beach tomorrow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I like packing and traveling. I like the security of having all of my favorite things and necessary items all together and compacted into a few bags. I like watching the landscape slid by the window, knowing that I’m moving to someplace new and that when the day is done I’ll be sleeping somewhere very different than the one I woke up in. It’s fun to arrange my things in a foreign room, trying to achieve organizational perfection. And then on the way home, everything seems to move faster, until I’m in my own house again, putting everything back in its home and falling back onto the pillows on my bed.

And while newer destinations are more exciting, I love the comfort of returning to the beach, a place I know like the back of my hand. I unpack automatically, everything rapidly falling into its place. The toiletries go in height order on my dresser, bathing suits in the top drawer, dresses and skirts hung in height order, pajamas on the far left hook behind the door, and shoes get lined up with their tips under the dresser. And when it’s all done, the suitcase slides under the bed, open so that I can repack it as I wear what I’ve brought.

It’ll be interesting to make the same journey I made only a few weeks ago without friends and the trials of an aging Jeff. Our Prius will glide along, smugly making fifty miles per gallon as my father plays his iPod and we bicker over music vetoing rights. Cecelia won’t be there being goofy, I won’t be stressed out over my role as navigator, and George won’t be stretched out in the back seat, regaling us with stories of her adventures. The trip will be vastly different, but I’ll still write stories or character sketches in my head while looking out of the window with a sad expression on my face. There will still be long stretches of comfortable silence, and we’ll all continue to eagerly count down the mile markers. And the destination is still the same. I’m heading to my second home, and all is well.

P.S. Sometimes I misspell words, and it’s very embarrassing. The title has now been corrected.

Yes, of Course I’ve Purchase My Tail Hat for the Cat Soirée

Have I told anyone recently just how much I love medication changes? How much fun it is to be too tired to get out of bed all day? Or how nice it is to lie in bed all night with my pulse racing and not fall asleep?

It’s lovely. Truly, truly lovely.

But the good news is that it will pass and unlike all the changes that happened during the school year, I have time to wait it out. Doing nothing all day has no serious consequences for once.

It will be really nice once this all is over, but for right now I’m doing alright. The discomfort is the discomfort, and I know it won’t last forever.

Wooden Sheep Ruining the Nation?

I am currently involved in an elaborate trade off where I eat Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolate ice cream and Pippa dusts and vacuums her bedroom in exchange for my mother watching six episodes of The Office and the webisode Subtle Sexuality.

I think that Pippa got the worst side of the bargain.

If you like funny, you should watch Subtle Sexuality’s song Male Prima Donna, and as a bonus prize if you ask I’ll sing it for you and do the dance routine with Pippa. I get to be Erin.

In other news, I just corrected Pippa on the way the dish soap tastes. The mint is definitely an undertone.

Tree-Frog Eats an Armoire in Two Bites

It’s very strange adjusting to life without school. I suddenly have all of this time to work on projects and tasks that I’ve had to put off until I had enough free time to them. And now that I find myself here with hours to structure as I wish, I find myself flailing. The exhaustion of the stress of the school year and this last medication change have left me entirely unmotivated and sedentary. But today I got up, pulled out my multi-purpose notebook and made a list of goals and a to-do list. Having it all laid out in print makes it feel so official and doable. I’m on my way, and for once, the prospect of all of this work is exciting and not stressful.

In Which Ella Plays for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and Wins

Some days are for watching Miracle for the millionth time and watching clips from the game on youtube for an hour.

It’s kind of crazy how much I love this movie, considering that I don’t have a very clear idea how hockey is played and have never seen a full game. I just like the fact that it’s historic and ends in a victory. Watching it feels good and when everything else is so unstable, it’s nice have something to escape to.

Witch Goes to the Supermarket and Haggles Over the Price of Poison Apples

I got back on Facebook tonight. I hadn’t been on in over a year, mainly because it was a major distraction. Surprisingly, I didn’t end up missing it that much. Sure, not getting messages about clubs and social events was at times inconvenient, but I still had email, the phone, and face to face conversations. I could always look at pictures of an event at a friend’s house and instead of writing on people’s walls, I’d just text or call them. It worked out just fine.

Today, I figured that since the school year had ended, it made since for me to log back in so I could stay in touch with people. I really thought that it would be exciting and fun to go through all of the messages, notifications, and photos that I missed, but it wasn’t at all. The interface was hard to navigate, and it was full of things I missed out on. As I read through my inbox full of conversations I hadn’t gotten to be a part of and saw endless pictures of events that I hadn’t been invited to or didn’t attend, I became more and more sad and lonely until I finally ended up sitting in the corner of my room with a sheet over my head crying.

All I wanted to do was hide. Hide from the way that I keep saying things I don’t mean or that cause problems, the way that I keep digging holes for myself and instead of putting the shovel down I just keep digging, the way that my body feels from this new medication change, the way that I’m confused and very, very tired, the way that someone said to me that they had read this blog because they thought it was “funny,” the way that I sometimes stupidly feel like everyone just labels me the “crazy girl” and doesn’t actually like me, the way that all I want is to watch old episodes of The Office and memorize facts about useless information, the way that signing back into Facebook after a year of abstinence just made me feel incredibly lonely and sad, the way my parents say they’re disappointed in me, the way that I can’t stop myself from skipping meals and losing weight, the way that my therapist keeps giving me ultimatums, and the way that I don’t have the energy to care about things that used to be incredibly important to me.

And after five minutes of quiet hiccuping and muted sobs, I had to laugh at myself. Crying really wasn’t going to solve anything. I mean, there is nothing wrong with sitting with a feeling for a little while and being emotional, but you can’t do it perpetually and expect your problems to disappear. I just need to pick myself back up, take the time to recuperate from the medication, have some orange juice and gummies, and keep on trucking. It’s bound to get better.

Small Whale Attempts Heist And, Naturally, Fails and Dies

As familiar as I am with sleep deprivation, it is rare that I go longer than thirty hours without more than three hours of sleep. Well, I just did forty and a half with about an hour’s nap, and it was a lot easier than you might think. The sleepiness disappears after a little while and then it’s just a light headache and a heaviness in the front of my head.  I don’t even think that my cognitive functioning was harmed.

I find it so fascinating that my body is capable of working when being deprived of something as essential as sleep. And while I am incredibly tempted to try to stay up this much again, I won’t. I figure that if I’m going to engage in self-destructive behavior, I might as well limit to the ones I’ve already got going. Preventing them takes enough effort already. Working on gaining back all of the weight I’ve lost this past month will be quite the battle.

In Which Ella Graduates

I’m graduating today.

My case manager/school psychologist told me today that only a few people in the office thought that I would actually be able to graduate and even fewer thought that I’d be able to do it at the high school.

I find this rather surprising. I always thought that I could do it. It did take an enormous amount of determination and work, but it was like everything else in my life. If I decide that I am going to do something, I do it. It doesn’t matter how hard it is, I just refuse to fail. Finishing high school was just like starting this blog or learning how to French braid my hair. All of this hubbub in the Child Study Team office seemed so silly. In my mind, it was always going to happen, it just required a bit of work.

But I guess this does deserve to be celebrated. I mean, I went through a lot and still got straight A’s. I’m graduating with honors. I didn’t have to be sent out of district or back to a hospitalization program. Things turned out pretty well.

So I guess you could say, “Yay, Ella!”

In Which Ella Gives A Sermon

My church has something where on Trinity Sunday two members of the graduating high school class each give a sermon. And last Sunday one of those people was me. The topic was my church life and the readings were Genesis 1:1-2:4 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 and the Gospel reading was Matthew 28:16-20. Here’s a link to the full text.

This what I came up with:

I suppose that for most people their first memory of church is something sweet. Maybe they were learning a Bible story in Godly Play or being held by a parent during the Christmas or Easter service. Mine, however, is not. I can recall at the age of three being deposited by my parents at the childcare room in the basement of St. John the Divine in Manhattan and screaming in panic until my father agreed to stay. Thankfully, I’ve since warmed up to religion and faith has become a very important part of my life.

As a young child in the church you come to faith through participation in church activities. Just going to services with your parents and going through the motions brings you closer to God.

From the ages of six to eight my family attended National Cathedral. We’d sit in the balcony in the back of the sanctuary, the place with the best view, and I’d stare at the massive stained glass windows. There were big circular ones with deep blues and scarlet reds, and one with a moon rock in the middle. It was made to look like three planets suspended in a starry sky and at the top, in the center of a violently red one, was the rock. This impressed young me quite a bit and made me feel very proud of my religion. My Catholic friends may have gotten to wear white dresses for their First Communion, but I had a moon rock.

Every Sunday when sunlight poured in through the windows lining the wall, casting multi colored shadows over the worshippers, I wondered if that was God was like: Someone who lit up beautiful windows and touched everyone with his light. And in a way I was right, God is light and goodness and he is with everyone always, bathing our lives in beauty. Of course, I couldn’t put it in those words yet, but I had already been touched by the wonderment of the Lord.

During the service I’d stand and kneel when my parents did and read haltingly from the red Book of Common Prayer my father held for me with his finger moving slowly under each word. I was so struck by the Lord’s Prayer and the way everyone said it together, all of their voices making such a rich powerful sound, that I memorized it, lying in the back seat of our mini van, not wearing my seat belt. Sorry Mom and Dad. I promise I always wear it now. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” I whispered to myself over and over again almost like it was a secret that I had with God. Religion was just beginning to make sense.

As I got older church began becoming more and more fun. I sang in the choir at Saint Columbus in Washington, D.C. for a few years, learning how to harmonize and fidgeting my way through services as the tag on my blue cassock scratched the back of my neck. Frequently, after making sure that I was hidden by the girl in front of me, I’d hold my arms out and pretend that the draping sleeves of my surplus were angel wings.

Every Sunday, I’d try to focus on the sermons, so determined to be a “good” Christian, but the only one I actually remember was the sermon in which the priest began by telling this story: When he was a young boy, he saw Evil Kenevil jump over fourteen buses on TV. Finding this feat particularly impressive, he set about creating his own jump. Now, his family had recently purchased a new refrigerator and some other large furniture, so that afternoon he dragged the boxes out of the garage, set up a ramp with a sheet of ply wood and a plastic chair and attempted his jump. Of course, this jump did not go as planned, and he crash landed, breaking his arm. I can’t recall what this was a metaphor for in the sermon, but it stuck with me the way that nothing else did from that age.

The idea that God is with us constantly, even when we are making incredibly stupid decisions was startling, and the next day when I crash into the U.S. mailbox a block from my house, I wondered if it was God who had helped make the bike tip over into the grass instead of the bone-breakingly hard concrete. As I picked myself up from the ground and peeled of the pieces of grass stuck to my hands I whispered, “Thank you, God.”

But I also learned something else from that sermon: worshipping God is not always a solemn and serious affair. Laughter and prayer can be rolled into one. God is with us in all moments. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says to the Apostles, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This passage usually gets quoted to someone when they are suffering, but it isn’t just limited to times of unhappiness and struggle. His presence is constant “always, to the end of age,” and the end of age includes times of joy and amusement. The next time you laugh, thank God for the goodness you are experiencing.

I moved to here when I was twelve and Leigh invited me to church one morning after we had had a sleepover. Bleary eyed, I walked down the steps to the basement room where I was immediately dubbed E Four and jammed onto the E couch with all the other girls whose names started with E. It was a cheerful and quite overwhelming initiation into the group, and I loved it. The lesson for the day was to read a passage from the Bible, and after having one lobbed at my head by one of the boys I flipped through the pages. Despite having considered myself a Christian for quite a while, I had never actually read the Bible. I mean, I had listened to the Readings and Gospel every Sunday during the service, but I had never done it on my own. I carefully read the passage and waited for what I thought would be a series of reading comprehension questions. Instead, we were asked: “What does Jesus mean? Why does he say this? How can you apply this to your own life?”

My head screamed, “YES!” the way my dad did on Wednesday when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. This was exactly what I needed. Faith was no longer just about stories and going through the motions of the service. You didn’t need a priest to always interpret the Bible for you. It was more about actively reading the Bible and discussing it with others. It meant coming to your own conclusions.  And it was endlessly fascinating and wonderful.

One Sunday after church it started to snow, and as I trudged through the parking lot, wishing that I owned snow boots, I was struck by the miracle of it all. The fact that there was snow that fell from the sky and that every flake looked different. The way that the some of tiny arms of the snowflakes were big enough for me to see and that there were hundreds, if not thousands, more I couldn’t. Smaller and smaller. Tinier and tinier. All the way down to their electrons zooming in orbit, creating bonds with the other atoms. And the same elements that held the snow together also held me together. These bonds were almost like the way Leigh and I had crossed our arms, clasped each other’s hands, leaned back, and swung ourselves in a circle as fast as we could during coffee hour. The way that we had laughed when we stopped, thoroughly dizzy, and stumbled into Anastasia while the world seemed to rock back and forth. God had given the world these gifts, and I felt drunk on the love and faith I was experiencing.

This reminds me the First Reading today. God transforms “a formless void” into an earth replete with vegetation, animals, and humankind. He is there at every level of existence. “And God saw that it was good.”

One of the most important things I discovered at church was the community we have in Christ, the way that our love of God brings us together.

I am so thankful for the time I have spent with everyone in Rite-13. The hours that we spent laughing and being goofy when we should have been paying attention to our teachers. The two lock-ins where we ran around the church all night testing out all of the different classrooms to find one that was the best to hang out in and being scared to fall asleep because someone might do something to you.

I am thankful for J2A. Preparing for confirmation. The way we felt when the bishop put his hands on our head and our sponsor gripped our shoulder and hearing the emphatic “amen” that meant that we were now true adult members of the church. The pilgrimage we took to Boston. All of the walking and the places of worship. Hanging out at night on the roof of the convent. Time spent in the airport waiting and waiting and waiting for the plane. Flying home late at night in different, scarily small plane entirely exhausted.

I am thankful for the children and the choir. The laugher of the children in Godly Play. The kindness and sweetness of the choristers. Our two choirmasters patience and love of music. The songs we’ve learned and sung.

I am thankful for my teachers. The way they cared for our spiritual education. Their patience, enthusiasm, and care.

I am thankful for the church community. The Outreach committee and all of their events. My mother. Walking in circles around a table, putting supplies in backpacks. Crying while chopping up an absurd number of onions for the soup kitchen. The smiling faces of the children we are sending to school in Kenya. The love with which the members of the congregation treat each other. The kindness I experienced last year when I was sick. The events like Hanging of the Greens and the Talent Show. The mission trip to Appalachia. Building, The McCoys, Hours of Apples to Apples. Swimming in the waterfall. Times when I look around and think God is in this space, in all of these people, and I am at peace.

Lastly, I am thankful for our rector and assistant rector. Their leadership, empathy, sermons, devotion to God and Christ.

As we look to the future and the beginnings of a life forged without the security of home, we need not fear. Christ will be there with us on this journey. The homesickness of those first few days will be made easier by the comfort we take in his presence. He will be there on those late nights of homework the same ways he’s been there for our entire lives. Someone for us to talk to and pray to when the stress feels like it’s too much. And he will also be present in our moments of joy and laughter, times when the beauty of the world feels infinite. We are never alone.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of age.”

It’s All Ephemeral

I finished all my work today. I wrote a nine page paper on democracy and revolution in thirty-six hours without crying. Some sort of miracle.

And I suppose that this is fabulous news. I’m finished with high school. Go, me! But it doesn’t feel the way it’s suppose to. I don’t feel the same rush to get out and begin a life away from everything at home. I like the people here.

I know that every relationship is ephemeral. People either leave or die. And sometimes I wonder why I care so much, why I try so hard not to lose them. I can write all the letters in the world and call as much as possible, but they always end up leaving. I can’t tell you how many times I’d exchange numbers with someone in the hospital or in the partial hospitalization program (PHP), knowing that it was just a formality, something you did when you said goodbye. I was so hopeful that I’d go book shopping with my roommate from the hospital and it never happened no matter how hard I tried.

But sometimes, albeit rarely, I leave too. Creepy Boy from PHP calls me and I send him to voicemail immediately and delete his messages without reading them. It isn’t so much that he calls me crying and professing how much he likes me as it’s me trying to forget all of last year. I rarely respond to anyone I met during that time. When I moved from D.C. I let go of everyone. I didn’t want to be reminded of the bullying when I was eight and ten, even if we were friends when I left. I regret it now and miss them a lot.

I wonder what will happen next year. I love the people I’m around immensely, but I know how things will go. One way or another they’ll become closer to their new friends and stop returning my calls. When they come home we’ll spend time with each other for old times’ sake and not because they genuinely want to see me. The conversations will become stilted, and I won’t fit into their new social scene. No matter how hard I try, things will change, and I hate it.

I am sad and very inarticulate tonight.