Friday, April 29, 2005

There And Back Again

I'm home. And I'm heartbroken.

I have so many thoughts and feelings swirling around inside me that I had fully intended to post. Maybe I will in the coming weeks, but it's too soon for me. I can say that the service was beautiful and a true tribute to the miracle that Liz was. I can say that I am beyond grateful that I went to WashU and made such friends. I would not have been able to get through the past week without them. May we all meet again soon under far happier circumstances.

Anything more than that will have to wait. My grief is simply too raw.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Baruch Dayan Emet

Liz passed away this morning. The funeral will be Thursday morning.

Contributions may be made to Washington University, Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship Fund, Campus Box 1082, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.

Call me for details. I probably will not be blogging much in the foreseeable future.

Another Pesach Older

So yontiv is over, and now I'm 24. Many thanks to those who have wished me a happy birthday, particularly those who called days in advance because they wouldn't be able to call on yontiv. (Special shout out to Moose, because it makes him happy. And because he not only called before my birthday, but after as well.)

After the first seder, when the guests had gone home and the table cleared off, I climbed into bed around 2:00am, and started thinking. I'm 24 now. What does that mean? Does it mean anything? Of course, everything means something these days. How can I really celebrate turning 24, when I know that Liz will never celebrate her 24th birthday? On the other hand, doesn't that give me even more to be thankful for, that I'm healthy and surrounded by family and friends on my birthday? How do I reconcile these two very different emotions?

As I lay there, unable to sleep, I wondered... what if I only had 36 (or 24 or even 12) hours left in this world? Have I done everything I want to do? Everything I'm supposed to do? Have I been the person that I want to be and should be?

Of course I haven't. I'm only now beginning to feel as though I can start being that person. There are so many things that I want for myself that I could not possibly have had a few years ago, like a home and family of my own. I'm only now at a place where those dreams may become a reality. Yet I am so painfully aware of how quickly life can be snatched away and, consequently, how precious every moment truly is.

I don't know how to celebrate my birthday this year. So instead of presents, I'd rather that you make a donation to the American Cancer Society in honor of Elizabeth Schmerling. I'd much rather celebrate Liz.

Less than an hour elapsed between my posting this and receiving the phone call from Liz's father. Please make donations in memory of Elizabeth Schmerling. I'd still rather celebrate Liz, now more so than ever.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Last Post Before Pesach

I love Pesach. I always have. Maybe that's because Pesach always seemed synonymous with Birthday when I was little (although I've never been less enthused about my birthday before. There's just nothing very special about turning 24). Maybe because I get to see so much of my family. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I love Pesach. I don't even mind the cleaning. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I'm done, and the whole apartment is shining and gleaming.

Since I will be too busy cleaning and cooking for shabbos and yontiv for the next day and a half, you will all have to do without me until Tuesday or so. For those curious about my life at the moment:

1) I'm fine. Just not very chatty.
2) I sent my Kibbutz Ulpan application in today. I have yet to figure out a)why they need 4 passport-size photos of me, and b)why passport photos always come out even less flattering than driver's license photos.

A chag kasher v'sameach to you all, wherever you may be. Spend some time with people you love. There's no better way to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

[Insert Applicable Post Title Here]

I haven’t posted much lately. I haven’t been very talkative in general lately. It’s not that life hasn’t been full and busy, or that I don’t have anything to say. I do, but I don’t know how to say any of it. Most of the time, I don’t particularly feel like trying. Whenever I am pondering serious issues, conundrums, dilemmas, or just having deep thoughts (the real kind, not the Jack Handy variety- though I have a disproportionate amount of those as well), I prefer to keep them to myself. Someone I know once told me that I’m elusive and evasive. Yes, yes I am. But only about the important things in life. It’s really just a personality trait of mine, though I don’t know if it’s a good one or not.

I’ve never been good at sharing my innermost thoughts. I suppose one might even say that I’m not very good at sharing the innermost Cara. Lately, I’ve been wondering why this is, and I think it often comes down to reciprocity. Why should I make myself emotionally vulnerable to someone who isn’t making himself or herself emotionally vulnerable to me? Why let someone else in, if they’re still going to block me out? Of course, this reciprocity rule isn’t a hard and fast one. I certainly have friends who let me in, and I don’t always want to explain my thoughts and feelings to them. This I can’t explain. I can only apologize, and ask them to bear with me.

Why is it that I expect my friends to bear with me when I’m feeling uncommunicative, and yet have so little patience (at the moment) with those who are uncommunicative with me? Probably because I know, and my friends know, that this uncommunicative, anti-social phase will end, and that I will share when I’ve worked things out in my own head. It’s easier for me to ask friends to be patient when everyone involved knows that patience is only required for a short period of time. It’s harder to be patient with others when you have to wonder if there will ever come a time when they finally open up to you. Besides, I generally prefer to talk about other people's problems or thoughts than my own.

Are my expectations for friendships too high? By friendship, I don’t mean ‘casual acquaintance’ or ‘drinking buddy’, but a true friendship. Do I expect too much of the people I care for? Is it unreasonable for me to need occasional reassurances? I don’t think it’s a self-esteem issue. I know I’m fabulous. I’m good enough, certainly smart enough, and people generally like me. But why should I need reassurances from some friends, but never need them from others?

Sometimes I feel like giving up. I rarely give up on people. I can think of very few people on whose friendship I’ve turned my back, and each time it was the result of very particular, very trying circumstances. I’ve never felt like giving up simply because I’m frustrated. I can’t make myself not care about someone, even if I wonder how much that person actually cares for me.

Simmering beneath every single jumbled thought inside my busy little brain is Liz. If anything, I am more aware than ever of how precious friendship is, and how much sentimental importance even the most casual, trivial-seeming incident can one day acquire. For so many years, I have said that life is all about the people in it. Knowing this, there is no way that I can let go of anyone who has touched my life. Knowing this, it hurts that much more when it feels as though I’ve been let go of. Maybe I’m just over-sensitive right now. Maybe everything will seem different in the morning. Maybe I just need to be a little more patient with everyone. Including myself.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Weekend Update

Shabbos night: Went to shul, played in the playroom with the rabbi's daughters, had dinner with the parental units and Big Brother, and went to the shalom zachor for Joe and Gila's extremely cute baby boy. People seemed to enjoy (read: inhale) my pecan pie. People also seem like to quote Billy Crystal when they see pecan pie.

Shabbos day: Overslept. Got to shul, and ended up talking with an old friend about some very sticky personal issues. I can only hope I said the right things. Turned down a lunch invitation, went home to enjoy a nice quiet lunch at the parental abode, and then shluffed on the sofa for 4 hours. Had an ice-cream sundae at shalosh seudos.

Motzei shabbos: Stayed home and amused myself with my laptop and a book.

Sunday: Slept in. Went to the bris of little Azriel Yaakov, hereby dubbed "The Wizard". Played with the rabbi's daughters and Adin. (Why is it always so much more fun hanging out with kids? Or, rather, why is adult chit-chat so mind-numbingly boring?) Spent time with Big Brother. Went out to dinner with the parental units, Big Brother, and BBG.

All in all, a nice quiet, relaxing weekend. Me likey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Living for Liz

The past few days have been much easier for me, even though Liz is still declining. I was at dinner last night with one of my best friends from high school, and she asked me, "How have you come to terms with this?" I thought about it for a moment, and then found my answer.

I haven't. I'm nowhere close to coming to terms with any of this. Yet something has changed, something that has enabled me to be cheerful and not to constantly break down and weep. I don't know quite how to describe it.

Every day seems busier, more full of things to do. Every day, I write a letter to Liz, telling her all the details from the day before. Last night, as I tried to answer my friend's question, I realized that now, no matter what I am doing, part of my brain is taking down details to put into the next letter. It's as though I'm writing into a diary, but the diary is named Liz. She can't go out to the movies, or to baseball games, or walk in the rain. But I can. And I can tell her all about it, in as much detail as possible.

She is never far from my thoughts. The sorrow, the fear, the confusion, the anger- they are not gone. They have simply been pushed aside, left on a backburner for the time being. When I first had to cancel my most recent trip to Pittsburgh, I asked, "How can I go to work, or go out with my friends, knowing what she is going through?" Now I seem to have found my way. I keep going, because the more I do, the more I have to share with Liz.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Far Away Friends

My college friends are pretty much scattered around the country. Some cities, like St Louis, New York and DC, have a higher concentration of people I’m fond of than others, but very few are here with me in Chicago. I also, like many other Jews, have friends in Israel. This means that there are many people out there with whom I try to “keep in touch”. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a great deal about long distance friendships.

How do you know if you’re growing apart, or if the other person just isn’t a great correspondent? If you were once good friends, does that mean you will always be good friends, even if you never really know what’s going on with the other person? What if communication used to be fairly consistent, but has lately died off? Is this just a temporary lull, caused by random events and unexpected busyness, which will vanish as soon as the sources of busyness vanish? Or is it a sign that something is wrong?

I suppose the easiest things to do are to pick up the phone, or send an email, and make sure that everything is still fine between you. If the other person isn’t the greatest correspondent, however, this doesn’t fix anything. You can send an email or leave a message, and not get a response for several days, if at all. In the meantime, you’re just anxious that something really is wrong. You don’t want to stalk your own friend, or start going psycho. You certainly don’t want to send a juvenile “Are you mad at me?” message. If you’re me, at a certain point you tell yourself, “Well, if any of my friends want to talk to me, they know where and how to find me,” and you tell yourself that you won’t pick up the phone or send an email. Because if you’re always the person to call or write, there isn’t much balance in the friendship to begin with. But, if you’re me, you miss your far away friends, and want to talk with them. Then you have the disturbing thought that your far away friends haven’t even realized that you haven’t called or written in a while. Do they notice? Do they care? If yes, then why haven’t they contacted me? If no, why the hell not?

How do you know if your far away friends are still thinking of you fondly…or if they’re still thinking of you at all?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Happy Happy! Joy Joy! #17

Mazel tov to Joe, Gila and Adin on the birth of their new son and baby brother!

The baby is 8 lbs 14 oz and 20.5 inches of perfection, with a head of frizzy dark blond hair. He's the sweetest, cutetst baby in the world. And yes, I am incredibly biased.

UPDATE: The bris will be next Sunday, 1pm, at KINS.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sketchy Guy Award

Tonight was the celebration of Big Brother's 27th birthday. Since I adore my Big Brother, I joined him, his lovely girlfriend, and a rather large group of his friends at a nearby bar. At one point in the evening, when I was conversing with Big Brother's Girlfriend (BBG), an unknown drunken male approached us, and began talking with BBG. After a brief moment, the following conversation took place (slightly cleaned up for family audiences):

Unknown Drunk: So, where are you from?"
BBG: I'm from here...and I'm here with my boyfriend.
(BBG soon walks off to talk to one of Big Brother's college buddies. Unknown Drunk continues to ogle.)
Unknown Drunk: Man, she's got a great tuchas.
Blog: Yes, and she's dating my brother.
Unknown Drunk: Well, your brother's girlfriend has a great tuchas.

At this point, despite having already made his sketchiness clear to the unaided eye, Unknown Drunk continues to ogle my brother's girlfriend, right in front of me. He finally seems to realize that he is being quite rude to me, and asks me my name, despite having asked only moments before. I suppose I should be insulted that he obviously didn't consider me cute enough to flirt with, but my world has met its Player quota for the foreseeable future.

Still, for his rather blatant efforts, Cara's World bestows upon him the Sketchy Guy of the Weekend Award. He definately earned it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Coping...Or Trying To

"How are you doing?"
This is the question most asked during my day. While I greatly appreciate my friends and family calling and offering love and support, I don’t know how to answer this question. Or, rather, I don’t know how to answer it in a way that they want to hear. I’m not going to pretend that I’m fine. I’m not fine. I’m struggling to come to terms with all of this, and not doing a very good job. Yet, I don’t know if anyone really wants to hear the honest answer. So I’ll blog it.

How am I doing? Sometimes I can focus on work and other things going on in my life and in the lives around me. I can enjoy the beginning of baseball and appreciate the budding of the trees. But then there are moments when my throat burns with tears that I’m trying not to cry. There are times when I cry so hard that I can’t breathe. Time, like now, when I close my office door, put my head in my hands, and weep until my whole body aches. I cry because I can send letters every day, but won’t get a letter in response. I can hear her parents’ voices on the phone, but chances are I will never heard her voice again. So I cry until I can’t cry anymore. For the time being.

Other times, I am angry. Usually this is when I lie in bed at night, or when I’m riding on the bus, and I am lost in my own little world. I don’t want to wake or worry my parents, and I don’t want to seem crazy on the bus, so I remain silent. But inside I am screaming and yelling and tearing at my hair. And the only word that runs through my mind is, “Why?” Why, why, why, why, why, why? I don’t understand why this is happening, and why it is happening to Liz, my beautiful, wonderful Liz. I don’t understand why life is being snatched away from someone so good, while drug dealers, wife beaters and murderers roam the earth. I don’t understand why a mass murderer like Yassir Arafat, y”s, lived to old age and, barring a miracle, Liz will not. I don’t understand why I should merit such good health and a bright future, and Liz does not. I don’t understand and I can’t understand. Since I can’t scream out loud, I cry and scream on the inside, where only I can hear it.

I hate this. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. And I’m powerless to stop it, and I hate that, too.

So how am I doing? Not so well. But I’m working on it.

A River in Egypt

For the past three nights, I’ve been making phone calls and sending emails to anyone I can think of who would want to know about Liz’s condition. Or talking with friends who already know about who else should know and how to track them down. Every time I hang up the phone or hit the ‘Send’ button, the same thought goes through my head:

“Did that conversation with her father really take place? What if I dreamt it…and now I’m going around calling or writing to people and telling them this horrible, sad story that isn’t true? I’m telling people that there isn’t much time, but Liz is going to get better and live a long life, and everyone will be mad at me for scaring them.”

Being a relatively logical creature, I see this for what it is. I don’t want to believe that this is real, that this is actually happening. So part of my brain, which cannot accept this, is telling me that it isn’t true. How can it be true? 23-year-olds do not get incurable brain tumors. My friends do not get incurable brain tumors. It doesn’t make sense. It’s preposterous. Obviously, I dreamt it.

If only.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Journey Begins


The opening day of the 2005 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Let the skeptics laugh now. I'm the one who will be laughing in October.

Liz and Me

I've mentioned Liz several times by now. At the moment, she is all that I really think about. So I decided to write down just a little bit of what I've been thinking.

I don’t remember meeting Liz. I know that it was sometime during my first year of college, but I don’t know if it was first semester or second, or who introduced us, or in what kind of setting. When I think back, it simply seems like she was always there. Since we were both friends with a lot of the AEPi boys, particularly the sophomores, it makes the most sense that we met at AEPi. But we also lived in the same dorm, so we could have met there, too. Either way, we met, and became friendly, and it was pretty common for us to walk to or from AEPi together, particularly on the weekends.

It wasn’t until sophomore year that Liz and I became close. By that time, there was a whole group of girls who could often be found at AEPi – mostly because we were all dating one of the brothers, and friends with many of the others – and we became gal pals and drinking buddies. When they had a guys’ night, we would convene for a girls’ night. Of course, we developed individual friendships as well. For Liz and me, we bonded first because we were the most Jewish and because we both loved to read. Everything just took off from there. In some ways, we were nothing alike, and in others, we were exactly the same. We both liked historical fiction, particularly about England, and classical music, and held similar views on the importance of family. We were both romantics. She was graceful and poised and had a magical ability to always look perfect and perfectly natural at the same time. I was still very much a tomboy, awkward and pretty much fashion-impaired. Liz taught me to overcome my distrust of strange substances like nail polish. Somehow, Liz made it possible for me to feel girly and feminine, while still being ‘one of the guys’.

That’s pretty much the beauty of Liz. Liz not only sees the best in everyone around her, but she makes them see themselves through her eyes. She does it naturally and effortlessly. It’s simply part of who she is.

We grew even closer during the second half of sophomore year, as we were both trying to get over very painful break-ups. Being the romantics that we are, being dumped was excruciating for both of us, even though we’d both been dumped for different reasons. We would meet for coffee in the campus bakery, commiserate, console each other, and make the other one laugh. When one was blue, the other would remind them how fabulous she was, and how someone even better will come along, who can appreciate such a fabulous woman. Someone smart enough not to throw such a woman away. (No offense, Moose) The time would come for us to go to class, and we would look at our watches, look at each other, and decide to stay exactly where we were. We could sit in that bakery and talk for hours.

Liz was in the School of Architecture, which was located directly across the street from Hillel. Since I worked at Hillel (Yeah, I know. Big shock.), it was very normal for me to grab a coffee to go, and stop by Liz’s studio on my way. She would stop whatever she was doing, and we’d just talk, until it became obvious that I was very, very late for work. She would show me whatever her current project was, and explain the concept behind it. Sometimes she would show me how she was making the incredible model that she was working on. Liz’s projects were always incredible. Everything about Liz is incredible.

When I think about Liz, my mind becomes overwhelmed with memories of just spending time together, enjoying each other’s company. Or of the many, many times Liz would help me out of a fashion crisis, either by coming over to sift through my wardrobe, or letting me raid hers. Or by doing my hair and make-up when I had a formal or semi-formal or date party. When I think of my college years, Liz is there, in any given memory. Silly, serious, happy, sad, thoughtful…she’s simply a part of my life now, and a part of me.

I can’t really describe her better than Tabitha did. Liz is everything that is generous and good. She’s gentle, but no pushover. Cultured and sophisticated, but never pretentious or snobby. Incredibly smart, but never intimidating. Beautiful, but never in a false, ostentatious kind of way. Funny, but never obnoxious. Romantic and idealistic, but not naive. She’s genuinely sweet and caring. The kind of person who makes chocolate chip cookies, simply because she knows that you’re going to stop by, who drops everything because you need a hug. She’s never too busy for a friend. She’s one of the most amazing people that I’ve ever known, and I mean that whole-heartedly. She’s beautiful, inside and out.

And I thank Hashem for bringing her into my life. I don’t want to imagine what life would be, or will be, like without her.

Weekend Update

If you had asked me yesterday morning how my weekend was going, I would probably have answered "bittersweet." I spent my shabbos with Eli and Miryam, and their families and friends, for the last time in this country. Motzei shabbos (or Saturday night, if you're DovBear), we had the send-off party. Today they're off to the HL, where they will find a home that includes a guest bedroom, which I plan to take full advantage of in 4 months or so. It's always hard to say goodbye, but it makes it easier when 1) they're going to Israel and 2) you're going to join them soon.

Sunday morning, or afternoon by the time I woke up, was sunny and beautiful. I met up with Elizabeth and wandered around the neighborhood. Then we went back to her place, and I saw The Incedibles for the first time. Fantastic movie, btw.

Then the phone rang. Liz's father called, and my trip to Pittsburgh has been canceled. Liz can no longer speak much, and sleeps 18 hours a day. She isn't up to seeing people, and doesn't want to see people this way. Since she cannot speak on the phone, signs indicate that I will never hear her voice again. I may never see her again. I was prepared to face that next weekend, and I've realized just how much I was clinging to the idea of being able to say goodbye in person. I'd fooled myself into thinking that it couldn't deteriorate this much in three short weeks.

So after the movie, I went back home, and canceled my flight reservation. Then I went out for dinner, deciding that it was better to keep my evening plans and get out of the house than sit at home and cry. Two hours later, I was back home. Dinner was fine, but I was drained. I watched a movie with my father, and then went to bed.

Now it's Monday. I'm still drained. I can't say anymore that the weekend was bittersweet. I don't even know what word would fit.