Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Being Sick at the CW

I remember when I was in elementary school secretly wanting to be sick more often so I could miss school. But when I got sick, it wasn't a day of fun. Besides the reality of feeling ill, queasy, achy or feverish, I was supposed to lie in bed and sleep and maybe I could watch a little television. And even to have this enormous privilege of staying home, the sickness had to be more than a cold. Living with aggressive allergies as a child, springtime would have been a jackpot for "at home" days if I was a better actress.

Now, at the Catholic Worker, I am sick. Not so sick that I'm going to curl over and die, and not so sick that I think I won't be able to work tomorrow. In fact, not even sick enough to feel right in skipping our morning routine (so I didn't). But I don't feel well. Headache. Constricted throat. Nose stuff I won't go into. No appetite. Complete exhaustion.

What is the CW response? Go to bed. Feel better soon. Strong undertone of: Get better soon so you won't be ditching us at work.

So, I go to bed. I rest, drink tea, and try to psyche myself up for a day of work tomorrow. And staying in bed these days is a true blessing. The community wants me to skip a meeting and go lay down? Sure I can do that! During past illnesses at the LACW, I was even sent home early from the kitchen. Although not 100%, I felt good enough to work for the day. But Jeff sent me home, telling me to get some rest.

In comparison to high school, let's say, this is a great improvement. I rarely stayed home during high school. Lots of responsibilities, lots of work, and lots of reasons to suck it up, pack kleenexes up the wazoo, and get to school. But now, any hint of sickness, and the entire community jumps up in alert: Are you feeling okay? Maybe you should stay home. No, that's fine. Don't go on the 6:30am crew tomorrow. I can substitute for you. And if you aren't feeling better for the 7:30am crew, just stay home. We'll be fine for volunteers at the kitchen.

A queen, I tell you. Treated like a queen. Well, a sick one.

But once you're feeling better, it's straight back to work. As if you were never bedridden. The workload is no slow integration back to the schedule. You're expected to get your nose to the grind and suck it up because you're not sick anymore!

For now, though, I'll try to feel better as soon as I can and appreciate the long naps (3+ hours). I'll be working at the kitchen tomorrow for sure.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Thank God for Vacation!

I just completed my first week back from vacation to Santa Maria, California. I spent time with Dennis Apel and Tensie Hernandez and their children, Rozella and Thomas. They run the Guadalupe Catholic Worker that responds to the needs of the farm workers in the area. They were the better than any hosts I could have asked for. I was treated like a queen.

Early in my vacation, I borrowed the family's car and tried to visit Guadalupe Beach. In a very Allison-like manner, I missed the “4-wheel-drive ONLY” sign before the beach entrance. Driving in Dennis and Tensie’s sedan, I journeyed excitedly toward the beach and just 20 yards before the parking lot, I got stuck in what can be described as a small drifting dune. I imagined trying to tell Tensie and Dennis why I returned home without their car, but a kind man came to help me out of the trap. He and an annoyed park ranger pushed the car back and upon hitting solid ground, I left for another beach.

I drove up to Oso Flaco Lake, a common stop for the LACW during the summer visit to Guadalupe. My previous visits to Oso Flaco revealed the site to be a place of insight. I have important memories associated with the beach. I was a little disappointed I had to return to a familiar beach, but was soon excited to be stepping back to the ocean’s end. The wind was a bit strong, and I was in shorts and a thin jacket. I passed a few groups of people leaving the beach as I arrived. When I reached the ocean, I looked north, looked south, and looked behind me. I was the only one on the beach.

In truth, the beach is a bit intimidating. The greatness of the ocean and its seemingly endless span makes me feel small and insignificant. Despite this pit in my stomach, I followed my feet that led my southward along the incoming waves. I pulled out my camera to immortalize these moments of solitude, but the camera would not turn on. Instead, I kept myself company by singing and speaking my thoughts aloud. Soon, the wind picked up and my mouth actually became numb. Unable to speak, I was forced to accept the sounds of the magnificent blue abyss. I was forced to accept my smallness. Among the grains of sand, I was humbled. I looked out the ocean and prayed.

For two hours, I was alone on the beach. When I returned northward, my footsteps were the only signs of human contact with the area. Often times, I feel that chance or some light version of fate leads me to my current place. It is a rare occasion in which I truly feel that God is working through me. But that afternoon, I knew that the Spirit had led me to that beach, showed me meekness, and presented me with Its creation.

That afternoon inspired the rest of my vacation. I took time to be silent and appreciate the beating of my heart, my breathing, the intricate evidence of my existence. I read, a hobby I am rediscovering after about a decade break. Slowly, I accepted the true meaning of my vacation: myself.

(and a little bit of trampoline time with the kids doesn't hurt the human spirit, either)