Spunk and Smiles

Picked Tony up from the airport tonight, and he immediately looked me up and down and said, “Are you wearing long johns?”

I looked down and said, it appears so. They look pretty kick ass with these rain boots.

I have gotten into this great habit of just stripping off my work clothes at the end of the day, and running around in my long underwear around town.

I went for a jog later, long underwear pushed up to my calves, wool socks pulled up a few inches below them. Little bit of skin showing for the Arctic summer air.

I realized my neighbor is Andrew Solomon! The first native Alaskan Inupiat I met in Barrow. I’ve invited him to tea at our place.

I’ve started waving and smiling at people in the streets again. It can’t hurt. It makes me happy, and 50% of the time I get a smile in return. Usually a surprised smile– the best kind.

I’ve found some of the spunk I’ve misplaced for the past few weeks.  I’ve started to feel like art again. And I’ve started to feel connected to the whole.

Last night, after everyone else went to bed, it was just S and me in the living room. And I started talking about how funny our lives are, because that is the new attitude I have decided to take about all of this. And she said, “just wait another week until you’re finished with your hours. I feel like I don’t see the point of being here anymore, I’ve finished everything I need to for the program. And none of this is fun, or feels worthwhile.” And I said, I didn’t know you felt that way, S.

She’s always so confident and fearless, I had no idea she was putting on a face and being brave. I wish I had known.

And then she starts telling me about how she is concerned for her health, and how she just almost blacked out taking a bleach bath in our shower. And how she’s been short of breath recently. And how she feels like her body is just.

And I said, holy shit, S. This is not the place for you to be trying to heal yourself. This whole year has been a high stress environment, this project especially. One of the hardest projects of the program. You need to go home, see a regular doctor and ask the questions that you have, because none of us still understand the MRSA. And you need to have your mom make you smoothies every morning, and be making sure you gets lots of vitamin C and take care of your immune system. And you need to be in an emotionally safe place, not out in the middle of nowhere where your team is literally ripping each others heads off. And you need to start taking those alternative holistic medications you planned on doing when you got home. But start doing them at home now. You need to go home.

And she told me she was worried about her worksheet packet for the program, and finishing all the finer points of the program so that she didn’t get gypped of all that she’s accomplished this year.

Carinne walked into the apartment at that point, a little after midnight, and shouted that she had just seen an arctic fox!

And then realized that we were talking about something serious, and sat down.

Then S told us how she was worried the team was going to judge her if she took time off work to deal with her medical issue. And how she thought they would judge her if she went home. And how she had always had a problem finishing things in her life, and didn’t want this to fall into the same pattern.

And Carinne and I were like, holy shit S. Your health always comes before what people think, and even your highest goals. Take care of your body, first! And you have finished the program. You’ve stuck through it all with us, and you made it to Alaska. None of us would think it a failure to quit now, under the circumstances.

And it was super emotional, and scary. And she’s taken the day off to call home. Now H is freaking out about it a bit, even though I talked to her two weeks ago about the severity of the situation, but she wrote me off as a basket case just as she did about the wood.

And now here we are. Nothing has really changed, it’s just that everyone’s realizing that nothing’s changed.

And it’s really scary.

 

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