The Day I Enjoyed Jury Duty

If you live in a country where it is your duty to serve on a jury, than you probably already groaned as you read my title.

The thing is, serving jury duty, is more than a duty.  It is an honor and a privilege.

I am the last person who you will normally find lauding America’s justice system, especially due to my own experiences seeking justice for my pain and suffering following being the victim of a hit and run.  However, there are many countries in which people do not have the right to a fair trial, or a jury of their peers, where one person is in charge of deciding the fate of another, and I believe that is not just.

I am proud to be able to serve on a jury, and help someone who needs an objective opinion to deliver appropriate justice.  After all, as I believe so many forget, I would want the same.  So when I was called to serve, I was happy that I was finally able.  When I was first called, I was unable to sit for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, due to my injuries from being hit by the car.  I had to put off my duty several times, with a medical excuse written by my doctor, until I was physically able to serve.

It’s not that I am some saint, and enthusiastically sat around for hours waiting to maybe be called onto a jury.  I was bored at times like everyone else, and found the orientation video just as hokey.  Although, I was able to appreciate a forced day where nothing could get done except sitting in that room waiting to be called, and I took advantage by using the time for writing.

Since jury duty is random, people of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life come together in one room.  It is a strange thing, seeing a thick man with tattoos all over his neck and arms, next to a petite, elderly asian woman, both simply reading.  Despite the announcement of the woman in charge of our orientation and calling our names should we be chosen to become part of the official jury pool for a case, a few people, still felt the need to conduct private business calls in front of the entire room, instead of stepping outside.  I know that one woman is concerned about someone killing themselves, and thinks they should be moved to a facility.  I know that one man likes to conduct business loudly, and rudely, yelling at those low on the totem pole, and demeaning them in their jobs while demanding unwarranted refunds on flights that he mistakenly booked.

Despite these distractions, I kept typing away on my keyboard, noticing that my clacking was echoed by the woman sitting across from me.  I looked up, realizing that I had noticed her already, out of the hundreds of other people on our way in to the security line in the morning.  There was something about her vibe, her clothing, her demeanor, that I identified with.  Falling back into my writing, I didn’t notice that she had relocated, but shortly before lunch, I had to move to plug in my laptop.  I mumbled an “excuse me,” as I kneeled by her feet to plug in my chord next to hers.

Earlier, I had admired her sleek, understated backpack, that was actually a laptop case, so I decided to ask her where she got it.  After she told me, she complimented me on my system of using a carabiner to group my belongings together.  I thanked her, briskly mentioning that it was due to my climbing experience that I always used carabiners, and this led her to asking me if I had ever climbed Mt. Whitney.

This question made me pause, and I looked at her, smiling as if she would already understand why the questions was surprising in this moment.  Only ten minutes before, we had been typing across from one another when my cousin had texted me asking the very same question, and if I could share my tips and experience with her.  I informed this woman of this coincidence, and went on to tell her my experience.  She had to excuse herself to lunch with a friend, but asked if she could inquire more upon her return.

She arrived back from lunch just as I was pondering whether I smelled of the garlic I had on my veggies at lunch, thinking that it was impolite to have had so much garlic in a stuffy, crowded room.  As she sat down, she began to apologize, in case she smelled like Fajitas from lunch.  These seem like small details, but it serves to show how similar we are as people, and the subtle moments that made up a day that felt as if it was fate for us to meet.

When she sat down, she asked me where I liked to hike locally.  Since it had been over a year since I had been able to hike, it took me a little while to think.  I didn’t want to come right out and tell her what had happened to me, because part of moving on is not talking about it all the time.  I ended up telling her of some fire roads that my boyfriend likes to bike, and I could see a shift in her eyes as she said that she wanted to get back into biking.  “I have to get back on the horse, as they say.”  It was words I had uttered myself when trying to find a way to express to strangers what had happened to me.  I watched as her eyes betrayed that her mind was flashing to some traumatic event.

It was as if I knew before I asked, “why, what happened?”  She told me that she had been in a bike accident.  I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, with a slight chuckle of disbelief, “you’re kidding, right?”  Things got more surreal when I found out her accident was  during the same month as my trauma.  We both could understand the pain and the journey of healing of the other person so well!  I could not believe as we shared our stories, and reviewed our injuries, how similar the lasting effects of the traumas are.  It felt as if the world had always intended for us to experience these events and to meet one another.

In order for us to meet, we had to both have been chosen and able to serve jury duty that day.  We both had to be not chosen for the official jury pool for the case being heard that day, and we both had to notice details and be drawn to the other in order to meet.  In fact, as we sat, in awe of our serendipitous encounter, I told her how I had noticed her, and her awesome backpack, and she shared that she had noticed me and my Swiss laptop case.  She had been in Switzerland when she had her bike accident, and it is only now that I fully recognize the weight of that symbolism.

She asked me if I wondered what the meaning of my accident was in my life.  I told her that in therapy, they had spent a lot of time trying to get me to understand that the world is chaos, and that good things can happen to good people, and we will never know why.  But sitting there, in that jury holding room, having this conversation with this new friend of mine, I had to wonder.  How could the world be pure chaos when in a world this large, with this many people, she and I could find one another on some idle Monday serving jury?

November, 2014.

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

I spent three weeks at home reconnecting with my family.  I, who has always valued family above friends, because one is constant, and the other comes and goes, respectively, had to reconnect with my family.  It was always my friends who had “messed up families” and group therapy sessions, not me.  I had dysfunctional friendships, but not a dysfunctional family.

It was a surreal feeling returning home after a year of absence.  Even though I have lived across the country from my family for years, I have always returned home every 6 months for at least two weeks.  It often feels like a double life, because I get to forget about my grandiose artistic career, and focus on smaller, community based responsibilities that I have been committed to for years in my hometown.  But, I enjoy shedding one character for the other.  The change infuses life into each version of myself.

During this homecoming, everything somehow seemed foreign yet familiar at the same time.  Small changes like a new highway sign, or a new business popped out at me immediately as my Mom and I rode the highway towards my childhood home together, making small talk.  I felt an overwhelming pressure suffocating me, and had goals to accomplish on my trip.  After the hit and run accident, my family and I didn’t get along, to put it mildly.  I felt rejected by them, and they felt extremely confused by my thoughts and emotions.  I felt they treated me as if I had decided to become a drug-addicted prostitute, and when my mom came to save me, I told her to “fuck off.”  Really, I think seeing me and my life so irrevocably damaged was just too overwhelming, and we coped by keeping one another at a distance.

We had many discussions, yelling matches, and explosions of emotions ricocheting off walls and out the windows for the neighbors to bear witness when I was home.  While I found myself vindicated after a self-imposed trial in front of a few of my extended members of the family, my mom and I remained at a drastic impasse.  We teetered on the painfully sharp edge of leaving each others life indefinitely.  But in the midst of all this pain, all the unforgivable words that left me feeling hollow, as if she had reached inside me and pulled out my innards, the pounding of my own fists on my chest, until welts were raised as I begged for an open ear, something happened.  It wasn’t a click really.  It came about slowly, and unnoticed like a fog, but with clarity.  Something changed between us.  Despite everything, the common ground between us remained.  We each thought the other did not want them in their lives.  But we did.  We do.

Adult relationships are so complicated, and I don’t think I have ever felt a more stark example of coming of age.  My mom and I recommitted to a new relationship with one another.  At first, she was hesitant, and dismissive, questioning why we should have to “fight” for our relationship, as I declared was necessary.  I told her that I didn’t know why, but it was worth it.  She is my mom, I am her only child.  We are not simply two ships passing in the night, or two strangers who get to choose whether or not to be in one another’s life.  We owe it to our past twenty five years of experiences, love and growth to stick it out, and find new, continuous ways to experience, love and grow together.

Cheers,

The ever-evolving, QuarterCentenarianAbroad

September. 2014.

Finding my Self, Again

It has been a very long time since I have posted.  It has been a long time since I have felt like myself.  In the instant I was hit by the SUV and sent flying high into the air, I recall feeling ripped away from my Self.

My second day in the hospital, an occupational therapist came in and told me that he was going to get me onto a portable toilet.  I was told him he was crazy, because I could hardly lift my legs.  I struggled for what seemed like hours, but was actually twenty minutes, to sit up, turn my legs so they were dangling off the bed, and half-stand the best I could before sitting on the commode.  A sudden rush of sweat washed over me, and I felt nauseous.  I looked up through bleary, tear-filled eyes and said, “Now this is a real Quarter-Century Life Crisis.”  I had just turned 25, and I felt like I was 98.

The majority of my days have been spent doing little more than healing.  That is all I have had the energy to do.  For nearly two months I felt numb from pain and medication designed to keep my muscles relaxed and allow my body to knit back together.  I felt far away from the world, yet I had a deep yearning to connect and absorb my predicament.  It was daunting.

Now, I feel that I am coming to grips with what happened.  Some days are better than others.  I am an artist.  A creator.  I have felt so overwhelmed by my life, and my physical pain, that I was not able to take to the stage as I would normally to express my emotions.  So, I wrote.  I wrote and wrote, and it was beautiful.  I felt like a swollen raincloud that out of necessity, finally lets go of its moisture, and finds relief.  I needed to express, but my mind was not clear enough to form cohesive pieces, so I didn’t feel ready to post here.

I have made today a special day:  I happened upon the same bottle of Bordeaux that I drank from the local cheese shop steps away from my small Parisian appartemente, in a local grocery.  So, I am channeling my discipline from Paris, and writing nightly with a glass of Bordeaux.  It is the perfect challenge to help me reconnect with the world.

It has been months since something has lit a spark in my chest.  The first month after reaching the Quarter-Century mark was nothing short of phenomenal.  A true gift in many ways.  Some gifts I could not even fully appreciate until now, looking back at what has gotten me through my struggles since the accident.  In Paris, I was a self-reliant, balanced, fit, achieving, kind person who fell in love with culture, and rediscovered the beauty in the difference between being alone, not lonely. I was on top of the world before my accident, and after, at times, I was overwhelmed by a melancholic darkness that assured me I would never feel that way again.  Sometimes, though, I could glimpse a shaft of light cutting through the darkness, promising that I would one day reconnect with the light and beauty of the world.

I often felt like Peter Pan searching for his shadow-the part that has been severed and made him incomplete.  I felt not whole.  As I gain physical strength, I gain mental and emotional strength, and I am reminding myself to keep my eyes open.  To look for the good, and be open to the positive.

As I was writing this post, a travel opportunity came to me: I am going to San Francisco!  I ignited the fire, and the travels will continue here on Quarter-Centenarian ABROAD!

Stay tuned.

Anonymous Abroad

I do not want to have a name. I do not want to have a face.  Whenever I claim my work, it becomes stunted because I worry too much about the details, when the beauty is in the obscure.  I do not want to coax friends over Facebook, Twitter, etc., to follow me so that I can feel good about myself and my writing.  I have decided to do this the, er, old fashioned way (using contemporary tools).  This may end up being nothing more than a diary, with no online presence, and no followers, or, maybe it will inspire other artists who feel the same burning desire to turn their observations, experiences, thoughts, dreams into something more tangible.

For me, it is a journey of self-exploration-one that I have been on for twenty-five years now.  I am a quarter-centenarian, and I have decided to stop making excuses, stop allowing my fear of failure to limit myself, and to just. keep. expressing.

Paris, July 2013.