Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Penny, Short Absences, and Life

"There's an amplification of the noise which gets deconvolved back into the..."

I'm listening to my dad talk to a coworker about geophysics stuff. I've never even heard the word deconvolved. It sounds like an amalgamation of lots of little Latin roots--de - con - volve--with the English morphophonemic marker for past tense, -[e]d.

I'm at my folks' house enjoying the California sunshine while missing my husband. He is in Virginia going house-hunting,* an activity we had hoped to do together but could nowhere near afford the flights for both of us to go out there. So he's sending me pictures, and I'm sending him updates about banal things like the guinea pig and the day's doings. (The guinea pig was actually being really cute!)

Penny our guinea pig enjoying the smells of the outdoors.
"[S]he liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers..." ~Ferdinand


This is our third time being away from each other since we got married. The first time it was only for one night and I think I sobbed most of the time. It was the wrong time of the month, and hubs is my grounding rod for my emotions on normal days, so when he's gone I go a little nutso-stressed about everything. I consoled myself by eating chocolate, watching a Jane Austen flick, taking a bubble bath, and moping.

The very next weekend was his second time away, and this time it was for 2 days. It was the men's retreat for our church, and I wanted him to go as much as he wanted to. I steeled myself for the loneliness and checked out extra books from the library. But it turns out that my careful plans were unneeded, for that was the weekend which, by random chance, we got our guinea pig Penny.

I'd been dying for a pet for a long time. At some point you realize your need to take care of something small--that ISN'T a child that constantly requires you, but which depends on you for food and snuggles and adores you at all times. You know, like a dog. All of my friends had dogs, but I didn't exactly want a dog yet because they're a big responsibility (we want to travel Europe before we get any big responsibilities like that) and our apartment complex wouldn't allow it.

So I set my heart on a hamster. They are small and cute and fluffy and they do silly things, like run around in those plastic balls and bump into things. Mostly, we had a friend who had a hamster that she didn't want--she'd adopted the thing and it was supposed to die, but it just wouldn't. She and her roommates usually forgot that they had it at all.

"Please, can we adopt Mr. Bigglesworth? How about a 24-hour trial? If you don't like him, she'll take him back, but let's at least try."

But hubby was adamant. No hamsters. Hamsters bite, they're stupid, and they're useless. How about a rat? Rats are smart. But I didn't want a rat, because I wanted something fluffy and cuddly that I could hold in my lap while we watched movies and pet happily. Something that would love me all the time and not try to always outsmart me and get out of its cage.

We settled on a guinea pig. Hubby had raised (and bred, mostly on accident) guinea pigs when he was a teenager and he liked them; despite the fact that they are just as useless as mice and hamsters, they are cuter and smarter and more interesting. We looked online and I had settled on a long-hair named Tommy who was up for adoption from a local SPCA.

And then we heard from a friend of a friend: she was moving out of the country and needed--wanted--a really good and loving home for her guinea pig. She doted on her guinea pig. (We discovered this when we received, along with the pig and the cage, the most expensive food and the most expensive bedding it is possible to purchase for guinea pigs. Needless to say Penny has learned to appreciate less regal fare.) She needed a good home where there would be no dogs, because Penny's mate had been eaten by a dog six months earlier. The owner wanted to make sure that that would not be repeated with Penny.

So that second weekend without my husband, I drove down and picked up our new guinea pig. She was copper-colored with white spots, and I renamed her Penny because of her coloring. I drove the whole way home with my hand inside her box petting her while saying soothing words and repeating her name to her. (Some guinea pigs can learn their name; Penny never has. She's 4 years old, for an animal that only lives to about 5, so assumably she's past the point of learning anything.)

Penny kept me company--and kept me occupied--the whole weekend. I pet her. I fed her. I held her. I stared at her. My husband came back from the men's retreat to meet the third member of the family, with whom I had already bonded. Penny and I shared a kindred spirit. Hubs quickly came to love her too.

Since then we've carried her down to SoCal [Southern California] with us multiple times when visiting family, and she was packed in my car with our stuff when we moved down temporarily to live with my husband's parents. And now she's accompanying me for my third time without my husband.

This time, of course, I have the company of my parents and brother, which helps tremendously. It keeps reminding me of last summer, before he and I were married: he was living in Philadelphia for a summer job and enduring more trials than I have time here to recount--his time there was awful. And it was made more awful because we were missing each other so much being separated for three months. When you're engaged, that sort of thing is the hardest to endure.

It's easier when you're married, of course. That sounds funny to say, since you're even more intimately linked. But that's why it's easier. In some way, they've almost become a part of you, and even while they're far away there's still a piece of them walking right beside you. Or maybe it just feels that way because we text each other every hour. Either way, there's this certainty of seeing each other again and of life going on as normal. It's like a little blip in many anticipated years of marriage.

Oneness, that's it. When you're married, "the two become one and then they share germs." At least, that's how I understood it as a 5-year-old (and it's still a family quote). You get married, the two become one, and being separated by distance becomes both easier and harder, because your hearts are one. Five-year-olds can be really wise.

You sort of share this one heart. I've heard it equated to this type of subatomic particle that is linked to another of its kind of particle. You can separate them by however much distance, but when you spin one of them, the other, at exactly the same moment, will start spinning too. And if you stop it and reverse the spin, the other will stop and reverse too. 

I guess that's getting kinda philosophical about it. Really it comes down to the fact that I love him, and so somehow that makes everything okay; and I miss him too, but I'll see him soon. Basic, normal human emotions and experiences; things happen to you, and you feel some way and do some things. At some point, you stop trying to understand everything there is to life and realize that it analyzes itself. What does sadness really mean? It means sadness. The deeper meaning IS the meaning. The lesson here isn't quite as important as the experience.

Then you stop seeing the world in terms of principles and see it in terms of people, who are all living out stories. Maybe the most interesting thing we can study are people's lives, without asking why but asking what. What is happiness? Love, laughter; smiling people; hot drinks and music around the piano; warm sun and feeling sand between your toes as you run into the ocean.

Life is made up of experiences. That doesn't mean they're all good or enjoyable, but the fact that some experiences are unpleasurable is a part of makes them what they are. To know, you have to live.

And here we are, living. What have you experienced today?

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* Consider this an unofficial announcement that we're moving! My husband got a job in Virginia and now this Cali girl and guy are moving out there to learn and be and discover. So many new experiences are on the horizon!