Saturday, September 29, 2007
Quakerland. That’s what my friend C. calls Pendle Hill – Quakerland. "Hope you’re having fun in Quakerland – going to meeting, weaving baskets, protesting the war – whatever they do up there…"
The decision to go to Pendle Hill, the temporary shut-down of a life in Durham (quit job, rent house, say goodbye for now to friends and family, leave my dog with my parents, clean house, mow lawn, and then PACK) happened in less than a month. The body isn’t meant to move that fast, honestly, as evinced by the wicked case of poison ivy that’s taken over my body.
THE POISON IVY INDEX:
On a scale of one to ten, please rate your current discomfort: 9
Please list the areas of your body that the effects of poison ivy:
* behind right ear
* on neck, right side
* the most hideous patch (where it all began): my left arm
* the undersides of my right and left arms
* right breast
* just above lady parts
* left thigh
* behind right knee
* right ankle
Plan of action: Antihistime (2) and Steroid Cream (prescription, running low). On Monday, call Dr. to prescribe an oral steroid, because this isn’t getting any better.
I have to pause here and thank EVERYBODY who made it possible for me to turn my life upside down so efficiently. First, my Mom and Dad – without Mom, I’d still be packing, and without Dad, I’d still be hidden in the grasses that sprouted chest high in the back yard (I’m exaggerating slightly). And I MUST thank April for all of her help leaving CDS and seven years of stuff, and for organizing a great going away party and an amazing going away gift (more on that later).
The thanks could go on, and will go on, but I’ve got something else to say now.
A seven hour drive took two days. Part of it was car trouble – I had to pull into a Toyota dealership that blessedly appeared along I-95 near Richmond because my hot engine light twinkled on and off, on and off for about 30 seconds. It took about four hours, though it was ok with me…I organized the papers I’ve been shoving in my bag for the last month, the “this is important but I can’t deal with it right now” bag…and then I dealt with financial matters online (wireless internet at the car dealership, very cool).
By thr time the red temperature light flickered again, I was near Woodbridge, by the Potomac Mills outlet. The traffic was slowing to a stand still. Mom and I had finished loading my car around midnight – and for the second night in a row I got about 5 hours of sleep. I’d been up since 5:30 a.m., on the road since 6:15 a.m., and I barely felt human. I certainly didn’t feel capable of dealing with the feelings that were going on inside of me. I didn’t feel capable of meeting a whole new group of people, of performing me, though as my therapist Nyra said, I didn’t have to perform – I just had to show up.
So I stopped, and got a hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express, which I completely endorse as a wonderful hotel. I spent a frustrating time trying to find Internet access because I suspected that it would be cheaper to reserve the room online, and I was right – I paid $117, and the lady at the desk quoted a guy who wandered in $149. But the effort knocked me out…at one point, I had a vision that I would take a nap, and then head to the mall for a bit of retail therapy, and maybe catch a mindless movie.
Instead I slept from 5 p.m. to midnight, and then from 12:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. I blissfully swallowed two Benadryl and slathered myself with steroid cream.
The next morning, I was still scared, but I was human again.
It seems wild that I was surprised by the fear. I’m stepping into a fairly structured environment – from 7:30 a.m. breakfast to 9:15 p.m. closing meeting. I’m coming to a place with the clear objective of being present – a requirement of being present several times a day. I sat on a bench this evening, being quiet, looking for W. who had my packet and my name tag. I was suddenly and severely gripped by a deep need to find the closest Target.
I’m not kidding about this urge at all. I could feel a hovering sensation – feelings, feelings everywhere, threatening to knock me dead. It was terror, but in that moment I both felt the terror and also, felt it break. I was still afraid, but I felt, then, that my fear made sense. I mean, come-on…I’ve left my comfort zone, as imperfect as it was, big time. I’ve left my essential coping strategies behind. This is intense stuff for me.
As I was leaving Durham, I’ve been saying to everyone – I’m grateful, terrified, and excited about going to Pendle Hill – but I don’t know that I had time to really experience the terror of leaving my community and heading somewhere almost completely new. I did make the decision to spend the night outside of Washington D.C. for a number of very practical reasons – not wanting to sit in traffic, not wanting my car to overheat while I was sitting in traffic, the fact that I was physically drained by a lack of sleep and the awful itching and burning of the poison ivy.
But I also think I needed a holding area between one life and the next. The sanctuary of a hotel room and a good nights sleep.
As a result, I missed the first day of orientation, and some good getting to know each other exercises. But before dinner, I was welcomed with a great hug by the Dean, and I do have nine months to get to know these folks – my 13 companions on this journey.
It’s 10:46 p.m. and I’m going to sleep. Breakfast on Sunday at 8 a.m., then meeting after.
I’m obsessing about what to wear, though I think I brought too many clothes and not necessarily the right ones. I was weighed at the doctors office the day I left, and I weighed more than I have in a while. I’m trying not to think about it, but weight is such a reliable way to feel bad about myself, it’s hard to resist.
I might go into Philly with another resident student for meeting (after the PH meeting). Or I might skip it and walk into Media, the closest town. Or maybe I’ll nap, or finish organizing my stuff (clothes are put away – as long as I don’t actually disturb the drawers and closet in any way – like by wearing the clothes – everything fits. At least for now. Still have my office to set up, but that can wait.
I’m writing with my computer on a pillow, sitting on my twin bed, with my own comforter and pillows. My queen size duvet looks pretty on the bed, with the sides almost reaching floor. I'm on the second floor, so I feel good about leaving my windows wide open.
It's funny how Southern I feel here. More on that later...