Tag Archives: Laughter

Gilmore Girls as stress relief.

28 Nov

As stress reaches extreme levels this week due to research papers, final presentations and final exams, I’ve had to give myself daily stress relief so I can keep my sanity. Yesterday’s stress relief involved 20 minutes on the elliptical at the campus gym and 30 minutes of yoga stretches, which was just what I needed. Today, however, after a long day of classes and a night of studying for my Humanities exam tomorrow and working on my Humanities research paper ahead of me, I know I need an extra special stress relief. Therefore, I’ve turned to the stress relief classic: Gilmore Girls. It’s a tv show that never ceases to relax me and make me laugh. To make things even better, I’m giving myself a double dose. 🙂

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Mirrored in Truth & Beauty.

5 Nov

Last night, I started reading Truth & Beauty by Anne Patchett, which is a memoir of Anne Patchett’s friendship with troubled author and poet, Lucy Grealy. Here is a synopsis according to GoodReads:

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir, “Autobiography of a Face,” she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In “Truth & Beauty,” the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined . . . and what happens when one is left behind.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty, and being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Since starting this book, I have seen myself in Lucy Grealy. Though I have not faced what she went through, the loneliness, fear, and desire to belong are all feelings that I have known all too well. Lucy’s words throughout the novel (seen especially in the letters she writes to Ann), are heartbreaking and brutally honest, but in more than one point in the book, I have felt like the words have been taken from my own soul. Even though this is definitely not the first time that I have seen myself mirrored in the emotions of someone else, I feel like this is one of the few times that it’s been so spot on. Throughout the book, Lucy exhibits numerous times when she is down on herself due to her situation. However, that being said, she is a poet, and writing is the way that she comes back to herself. Writing and her friendship with Ann are what allow her to come back to her reality with gusto. Though I am only about halfway through the book at this point, I have found myself, on more than one occasion, clutching the book almost like a life-line, holding it close to my heart and whispering words from the novel that seem to apply to my own life.

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

When I came across the above quote, I smiled. I smiled with the realization that during certain times in my life, I too have viewed writing as a friend, as the friend who is always there, day or night, waiting to welcome you home with open arms and a carton of ice cream. Yes, the ice cream addition was my own tid bit, but it’s what writing has been for me for so long: the one thing that I can come back to, again and again, like a long-lost friend that you never seem to lose touch with no matter how much time has passed. A friend with whom you can pick up right where you left off, as if you saw them just yesterday and not years ago. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of having more than one friend like that in my life, and it is one of the best feelings I have come to find in this life. Sure, there are other things that come close to that kind of magic, but they aren’t moments that are also full of deep conversations that last into the early hours of the morning or moments of laughing until your stomach hurts.

“That is one thing I’ve learned, that it is possible to really understand things at certain points, and not be able to retain them, to be in utter confusion just a short while later. I used to think that once you really knew a thing, its truth would shine on forever. Now it’s pretty obvious to me that more often than not the batteries fade, and sometimes what you knew even goes out with a bang when you try to call on it, just like a lightbulb cracking off when you throw the switch.”

Truth & Beauty is full of more honesty than I can only hope to achieve one day with my own memoir. It’s not even just honesty that causes you to pause and think, That’s got to be truth. Those feelings are so raw that the only place they could have come is from the deepest and most authentic part of the soul. It’s more than that, if at all possible. It’s sitting on the kitchen floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and the book in the other, staring down at the page and thinking, I can only hope that one day I am as in touch with the deep and dark parts of myself like this author is able to portray. Though I have become incredibly introspective since beginning my memoir in January, I have not reached this level of raw authenticity. To do so, I believe it takes many more months, if not years, of sitting in the dark corners of your memories patiently awaiting the day when they decide to come out into the harsh light of day. You’ve got to sit in the dark and get to know them on a level that’s more true than you’ve ever known. You must sit with them, day and night, until you know their features and ways in which they move through the world. Until your breathing matches their own with such accuracy that you can no longer tell the difference between your breaths and theirs.

“Our friendship was like our writing in some ways. It was the only thing that was interesting about our otherwise dull lives. We were better off when we were together. Together we were a small society of ambition and high ideals. We were tender and patient and kind. We were not like the world at all.”

Though I am lucky to have an incredible best friend, when I read the above passage, the first thing that popped into my head was the level of comfort that can only be achieved through a childhood friend. I thought of a friend that I have known since kindergarten, and the nights that we would lie in my bed and stare up at the ceiling, talking about our futures like they were millions of miles away. The nights that we would hold hands when we got scared in the middle of the night, only to end up burying our faces in pillows a moment later when we were overcome with laughter. We looked at each other then, smiling and breathing heavily once the laughter subsided, not even knowing what we found so funny, and yet realizing that nothing could top the happiness that had been wrapped up in that moment. It enveloped us, that pure bliss, wrapping us up like a quilt that was stitched with every happy memory of our relatively short lives. We knew, no matter what, that we had each other.

A conversation with my younger self.

21 Oct

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I had the opportunity to speak with a younger version of myself. I wonder what I would say. I wonder what advice I would give to my 7-year-old self, the little girl with the nervous smile who has yet to go through 3 intense surgeries and many, many years of physical therapy. I wonder how it would feel to talk with someone who I knew so well, but yet couldn’t completely relate to since she hadn’t yet gone through all the pain that she would experience in her future. I wonder…

I’m sitting on a bench in a small park that I don’t recognize. There is a playground with swings and a play set, which are all just a few feet from where I’m sitting. Kids are playing in every available space in the park, but I feel like I’m a thousand miles away from their voices. It’s not until I hear her bubbly laugh that I know where I am. As I look over at the play set, she climbs out of the tube slide, practically falling right out into the sand because she’s laughing so hard. A moment later, her eyes lock with mine, and I know. The girl with the nervous smile, bubbly laugh and bright blue eyes is the younger me. However, it’s not until I look down a second later to see the braces on her feet that I’m certain my assumption is correct. Even though my stomach feels like it’s flipped inside out, I get up from where I’m sitting and walk towards the younger me.

“Hi, can I play with you?” I ask. She looks up at me with the hugest grin on her face.

“Yes, but only if we sit right here in the sand. I don’t really want to get up.”

“That’s perfectly fine, Amelia,” I say, as I sit down in the sand beside her.

She is focused on putting her arms as far down into the sand as she can, so it takes her a moment to realize what I said.

“Wait, how did you know my name?”

“Because I’m you. I’m you at 20 years old. We are the same person.”

The younger Amelia looks at me quizzically for a second, and then asks, “Does this mean that we can be friends?”

I can’t help but laugh as I remember what I was like when I was younger. Even at the age of 7, I wanted acceptance. More than anything, I wanted friends. Though those two things are something that I still find myself longing for, it was intensified when I was younger. It was often the only thing I could think about since it held such a strong connection to being just like the other kids, the “normal” kids.

I find myself staring with amazement at my younger self, wondering where to even begin.

“You have a wonderful best friend waiting in your future. In fact, there are many, many friends that will be in your life. However, the one I’m referring to, she’s everything you’ve ever hoped for in a best friend.”

“Why can’t she be here now?” the younger me asks.

“She hasn’t met you yet. She won’t come into your life until you’re 16, but I promise you, she’s the kind of best friend that you have always wanted.”

Instead of concentrating on playing in the sand, I now have the attention of my younger self as she looks up at my face with curiosity, so I continue.

“You’ve got a long road ahead of you, and it’s not something that anyone is going to able to prepare you for. It’s going to be incredibly hard. However, trust me when I say that you can get through it. It’s going to feel close to impossible some days, especially on the days when the pain gets really bad, but I promise you’ll get through it.”

The younger me then looks down at the braces that are on her feet and touches the plastic ever so lightly with her fingertips.

“I’m scared,” she whispers softly.

“I know,” I say. “It’s okay to be scared.”

“You’ll get stronger,” I tell her. “It may seem overwhelming now, but eventually it becomes like second nature. You’ll fall, time and time again. But you know what’s amazing about you?”

The younger me looks at me expectantly, but I know her nervousness lies just below the surface.

“You get back up…every time,” I say.

“Why? Why do I have to keep trying?” she asks.

“Because it’s the only way you can move forward. It’s the only way you can be independent.”

Even though I see the younger me roll her eyes at me, I know that my words are impacting her because she takes my hand and squeezes it. As her fingers link with mine, I am overcome with love for the little girl who has yet to know the intense pain that she will face. I have to look away from her before she realizes that I’m crying. As I wipe away my tears, I look off into the distance to see the sun setting behind the trees.

“I have to go soon,” the younger me says.

I nod, unable to say anything. I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk away. However, I say the one thing I’ve wanted to tell her all along.

“I love you. So so much,” I say, letting the tears fall and knowing that the younger me doesn’t grasp the magnitude of this moment. If only she knew that I would save her from all of this pain if I were able to. However, deep down, I know that I can’t do that. She has to go through it. She has to go through it if she wants to become me.

She hugs my legs tightly, and the warmth of her small body against my own makes me smile.

“I’m so happy that I get to be you when I get older,” she says.

She turns to go, and as I watch her walk away from me, her last words weigh heavily on my mind. Though she may want desperately to be me, I know that I need to remember to be her as well. I know that little girl is still within me, and she is showing me just as much love as I wanted to be sure and show her.

The thing about best friends.

15 Oct

Me and my best friend, Skidmore.

“That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours.” -from Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

When in Ireland, laugh at the road signs.

24 Jun

In Ireland, the phrase “go mall” means slow/slow down. My mom and I have gotten quite a kick out of this phrase because it just sounds so funny to say. We have come across so many sayings or road signs here that are common for the Irish, but yet make us American collapse into a giggle fit. For instance, I explained in my first Ireland post, When in Ireland, don’t drive like an American, that driving on the opposite side of the road has been enough of a challenge. However, when you throw in phrases like, “go mall” and “Caution: Unstable Road Edge,” the only choice we have is to laugh and hope we can stay on the road and not have an accident.

Since my mom and I were still getting used to being able to get around Ireland by car, when we saw the “Unstable Road Edge” sign, we thought: Great. Just great. We soon found out that Ireland is full of curves, or “bends” as they call them here, as well as bumpy countryside roads. Therefore, shouldn’t they also include a “Stable Road Edge” sign? I think so.

Also in Ireland they call speed bumps “ramps,” which is also pretty funny, especially because the “ramps” can be pretty extreme depending on the speed that you are driving. You know how in America there are some pretty major speed bumps that have the ability to make your stomach drop? Yeah, well, it seems like all the “ramps” do that here too. That being said: ramps + unstable road edges + bendy roads + all the potholes just leads to a bit of an upset stomach at the end of the car ride. Maybe that’s why the Irish drink so much. Maybe they’ve just gotten out of the car after driving on a tiny, curvy, bumpy country road and all they want to do for the next few days is sit in a dark pub and drink Guinness by the pint. Just a thought. 🙂

Here I Come, Florida!

19 May

By the time most of you read this, I will be on the road to Florida! A friend of mine from UNCA, Malia, lives in Florida, and she’s just now heading home for the summer. Since she had her car with her in Asheville, I have offered to ride down with her. Who doesn’t love a road trip?! Granted, I think after 8 hours of driving, we will be more than relieved to have made it to the sunshine state! Plus, this finally gives me a chance to see Malia’s home and meet all of her friends back home. I can’t wait. It’s going to be so much fun!

From what I can tell, I’m prepared. I’ve got 3 books for me. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout which I’m reading now, The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (since Nicholas Sparks books are definite beach reads), and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll only be in Florida until Thursday morning, but I’ll be flying back so I’ll definitely need something to read while I’m in the airport/on the plane. Hopefully three books will be enough.

I love road trips. However, this will be the first time EVER that I’m taking a road trip with a friend of mine. I’m so excited. Thankfully we have an audiobook that Malia downloaded so we won’t get too bored in the car: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (the author of The Secret Life of Bees). That being said, Malia and I have been debating how long it will take before we’re bitching at each other. She guessed 10 minutes. I guessed 5. But Malia and I have the kind of friendship where we can bitch at one other and banter back and forth until we have a stomach ache from laughing so hard. Needless to say, it’s going to be a really interesting car ride, and I’m so excited!!!

Our first stop will be in Orlando since one of Malia’s friends lives there. From what he’s told us, he’s rented a boat for us to enjoy on Saturday/Sunday which allows you to see all the Disney parks, but from a boat (which I think is super cool because you don’t have to deal with the crowds of people). Anyway, I’m really excited for the boat, and it’ll be so much to finally (maybe/hopefully) get some sort of tan before I go to Ireland! On Sunday night we’ll head to Malia’s house in West Palm Beach and spend the rest of the trip there (at least in my case). I’m excited to see where Malia grew up and hear all the childhood stories that you only really hear in full when you are in the place where they all happened.

And, of course, the beach! Even though I’m definitely a mountain girl, I really love the beach too. It’ll be so great to be able to lay out on the beach with a book and just soak up the sunshine. Granted, it’ll be pretty hot (since it is Florida, after all), but that’s what getting in the ocean is for…to cool off for a little bit before heading back to the book that holds characters that you silently wish you could just sit down with and talk to right then and there.

Check in tomorrow for a review of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Pigs In Heaven.

Tuesday’s Tunes: Dulling The Pain With Alan Jackson.

20 Mar

On the drive up to Shriner’s Hospital for my second surgery in 2003, my mom and I stopped at Best Buy so that I could get a new cd as a present. I picked Alan Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume Two. From the time until I bought that cd until I went into the operating room for my second surgery (and afterwards), that cd played in my Walkman. Now, when I hear a song from that album, I think of how I replayed that cd in order to drown out fear. I remember my roommate at Shriner’s, Jocelyn, and her bouncy blonde curls and heavy southern accent. I remember how Jocelyn and I would go to the computer room down from our room and play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, laughing at how much money we “won” or “lost.”

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how specific songs have brought me back to a specific moment, a specific time in my life. But in terms of the Alan Jackson album, I’m not only reminded of specific memories, I’m reminded that music could also make me happy. Though my parents most likely got sick of the fact that I listened to that cd on repeat for months, it dulled the pain in a way. Or rather, it brought a small smile to my face in between the grimaces of pain. When I think of the Alan Jackson cd though, I remember how it didn’t take me long at all to memorize the words. I remember listening to it as Jocelyn wished me luck in surgery, and then later learned that she had been discharged while I was in surgery, but chose to not go home until after my surgery to make sure that I was okay. Or as okay as could be expected. I remember the good things. The things mixed in with the bad that reminded me to keep trying even though all I wanted to do was cry.

I’m beginning to see that not all the memories in my book will be sad. As I push through the really bad ones, I’m reminded of the good ones (from the hospital)….like dulling the pain with Alan Jackson, my first hospital roommate (Ginny), the benefits of craft night, the weekly visit of the therapy dogs, the ICU nurses….and more that I can’t think of right now. When I visited my best friend Skidmore this past weekend and she read what I’ve written so far in regards to my book, she suggested that I alternate chapters between good and bad memories. She pointed out that a “happy” chapter may be a nice breather in between the really sad, painful tear-jerker type chapters, which is a good point.