I am pleasantly surprised to find that the relief I feel from the culmination of my academic career, formalized by my graduation ceremony (diploma still pending), grows with every passing day, despite its initial lack of cathartic euphoria. I had expected that the moment I finished my final assignment, I would immediately feel the rising victory of one who had just crested Mt. Fuji, and found herself gazing upon the expansive and mysterious beauty that lies beyond. Instead, as I balanced my laptop in the driver’s seat of the car, completing the last few discussion postings on the various methods of hypothesis testing in the parking lot of the chiropractor’s office, I found my feelings of accomplishment far outweighed by the somewhat selfish wish that I were the one in the office reaping the rewards of spinal alignment, instead of patiently waiting on Brian while contorting my skeletal frame around the car so that I could type comfortably without setting off the horn. Oh, spine! How well you have served me. *
After the less-exciting-than-expected day of reckoning, the morning of graduation found me in a state of dread. Over the past few years, I’ve developed quite the “stage trick” of going unconscious at the worst times – most especially, moments of very important and very public celebration. There was my high school graduation, when I took a brief nap in the middle of my historian speech. Then there was the really fancy all-formal three-fork benefit dinner, when I fainted at the table, lost my appetizer all over the satin gown I had finished sewing just that morning, and had to be carried out the door by three tuxedoed men while still vomiting and unconscious in my chair. Then of course there was the wedding, after which a dear seven year old friend had to ask me why I decided to get married while lying on the floor of the church. I chalked it up to personal preference. “I wanted to get married while hanging upside down from the rafters, but since there were no rafters, I had to settle for the floor. When it’s your wedding, you can do whatever you want.”
The thing about having a temperamental blood pressure is that it is affected by things like fear and panic. And of course, the thought of fainting at my college graduation with several hundred onlookers and just as many cameras induces fear and panic – which lowers my blood pressure and induces involuntary loss of consciousness. Obviously the best solution to this stupid cycle is just not to think about fainting. Yeah, right. Like that works. I wish I could finish this paragraph with one of two endings to this story. The first: I learned to control the complex signals between my brain and my parasympathetic nerves (asympathetic, I would argue), achieving a graduation that was both rewarding and free of fear. The second: I collapsed in a heap on the stage of the Finis Horne Arena, prompting some bumbling and humorous response by Dr. Ball and the faculty on stage, which of course I do not remember, but has been retold to me in stories of increasing dramatization ever since.
The real story is much less exciting, but is satisfactory. I did go through many moments of near-unconsciousness while sitting in the tropical over-heated arena waiting to be ushered to the stage (would I be avoiding culpability if I blamed it on the aroma of my fellow graduate three seats down, who had been celebrating since six that morning with Bud Light and bean burritos? I mean come on, it’s not even noon). There were even moments that I found myself forming escape plans that included leaving my cap and gown under my chair, slithering across the floor to the stadium seats, and pretending I was a member of the family of the Honorary Doctoral candidate, who were seated in the front row. Despite my fear and the many close calls, when I actually stood up (which, for those with finicky BP, is usually a trigger for vasovagal fainting) and proceeded to the stage, received my fake diploma with placeholder letter and a handshake from the big man himself, I did not faint, and I did not wobble. I successfully descended the stairs and made it back to my chair to enjoy the rest of the ceremony and the tainted air of stale Taco Bell. I wish I had an explanation of my success that I could carry with me to every important and thus unconscious experience I shall have in the future. I have no such lesson, except maybe that it takes an immense amount of concentration to walk across a stage while trying not to laugh at Dr. Ball’s funny little hat, and while also trying not to trip over the silly polyester robe, and while also trying not to look like Mr. Bean Burrito, who must have made his parents proud as he staggered and swayed his way into the next stage of his life (and almost into the podium). No, I’m afraid that this was a lesson that I cannot apply to any other occasion, as I have no immediate intentions of ever going through such a graduation ceremony again.
So although my actual completion of studies and my graduation ceremony were not the life-changing hat-throwing moments they were built up to be, the days since have been increasingly glorious. Last night, after my laborious day eating Christmas cookies at the office**, I settled into the worn side of the couch (formerly known as the “homework corner”), opened my laptop, and entered into a rigorous session of MyFarming. This was followed by some hot chocolate, gift wrapping (my favorite chore), and a viewing of “Burn After Reading” (an unpredictable Coen Brothers success). Each day I am more grateful for the time I have to enjoy, especially right now at the holidays.
Excellent transition to the topic at hand: Christmas! Brian and I are blessed to have our immediate families here in town, which means we don’t have to brave the ridiculous winter weather to travel during holidays. We can stay cozy and warm at home, which is yet another thing I am thankful for. Despite the hecticness of November, I managed to get the vast majority of my shopping done by the first weekend in December, and didn’t set foot in a store to do it. I’m really proud of this, since it’s the first year I haven’t been stressing out on Christmas week to finish my shopping. Between cash-back and reward point groups, along with coupon resources and holiday specials, I managed to either get free shipping or discounts enough to negate the shipping on pretty much everything I bought. Many people hesitate to buy online – and I agree that it doesn’t quite have the same experience as physical shopping. I sorely missed the sweaty, angry, early-Saturday-morning trampling experience of the shopping mall this season. Other than that, I would call it a success, and hope I can continue this proactive and organized behavior, which is completely uncharacteristic of me, in the future. It’s left me a lot of time to enjoy the spirit of the holiday, which is often lost in the madness. It’s been peaceful and quiet, and I am really looking forward to the rest of this week.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! I am thankful for all of you, and hope you have a peaceful and meaningful season.
*In the unlikely case that anyone is concerned about my spine (and thanks, if you are), it is actually okay. I get adjustments as often as my wonderful chiropractic doctor recommends, which is often enough to keep me mostly pain free, but not often enough that I get tired of the incredible awesomeness of the muscle stim machine.
**I by no means intend to imply that my days at work are a piece of pie. I do mean to say that there is pie, at work, in the month of December. Pie and coffee. And cookies. Double Stuf Oreos, to be exact. YES.