Friday, November 03, 2006

So, my new job, although it's been a month, is going well. I got a good review today, and so far, I'm doing perfect. You really can't beat getting up without the aid of an alarm, wearing your pajamas to work, grabbing snacks and petting your pets randomly throughout the workday, and not having to get on a stinky crowded loud brick on wheels that doesn't go anywhere in particular.

I find that in this environment, I am a natural hermit. I don't like to leave the house unless I have to, but I'm far more likely to do so as far as hanging out with other people goes.I've become more social- about as social as a hermit can get anyway.

being an only child helped my hermitude, I'm used to providing my own sources of entertainment and work, as it were, and have no problem where motivation is concerned...it's just figuring out what to do next where the decisions lie.

In any case, I see this job working very well for my general lifestyle. i've been able to not only clean my place, but have a party and actually make more food than i had in past years, as well as decorate. i can finally stay on top of my life.

Now, to life, as it were. or rather, death, which is the nature of my work. Actually, my work is conducted and deals entirely with living people, and really in the most immediate sense only marginally deals with dead ones. It's an indirect thing.People die. obituaries go up. People look up their deceased loved ones and sign in the guestbooks, writing either to the dead or each other.

it's a fascinating study in human nature - how people view death, how they do or don't deal with it, what their beliefs are, and how they treat others as a result of all this. it's like reading someone's diary half the time - in fact I don't think some people realize that someone is going to be reading their posts for appropriate nature - which means you get more brutal honesty than you expect sometimes.

90 some percent of the entries are good, or neutral. Sincere condolences to the family, my prayers (or prays) are with you. I'm so sorry. I'm shocked to hear the news. These are incredibly common. After a lot of these, it can get stale. I've learned to tell when people really felt something for their relatives depending on what sequence of what phrases are where. You can tell some are rote - done for politeness because they either didn't know the person that well, or they weren't terribly fond and are being nice.

Then there are the weepers - messages that yes, bring a tear to my eye. these are usually long and detailed, presenting a poignant view of suffering from the author and those around them. These people are typically spewing raw, honest emotion that is heartbreaking at best. They have trouble coping, they can't understand why this person was taken from them and they can't seem to move on.

There are the happy and fun anecdotes about the deceased aunt's pie/cake/spaghetti/other foods, the uncle and the grandpa having beer in the sky and fishing, the great family gatherings with every conceivable member, card games (people still play bridge a lot). Grandma is everyone's favorite. Everyone's grandma is the better EVER. yes, the cookie baking cheek pinching hug smothering doting granny that you could talk to about anything except maybe contraceptives (depending on your family).

There are lots of mothers writing their deceased children who died very young (usually of accidents with cars) and going on about how they miss them, telling them about their siblings and how their day went, how they keep their picture by the bed and kiss it, and how they must be watching everyone from heaven and smiling.

The dead always smile. In fact, when they were living they did nothing but smile if all these stories are to be believed. No one ever saw them without a smile - even if they were upset. they could outsmile mona lisa with a burning ax wedged in their heads, that's how much these people smiled.

And apparently, many of these people had side jobs as light bulbs because they "lit up rooms" an awful lot. I had to see the electric bill for most of them.

Of course, not everything is peachy. Some rare people still decide to drag family issues into the mix - because any time is a good time to say that you were his own REAL daughter and stop shutting you out of the family.

Or, sometimes mistresses or lovers decide to drop by - this is a tough set to discern, though not always. I've ready some very steamy poetry by them, had them trying to announce to the family they've had John's child,that they miss smelling them and kissing them and oozing all over them and they can't wait to be with them in heaven.

Plenty of bible quotes, which, while are know are comforting for some people, just feel...stale to me. look to the hills, from the hills cometh your help. God only takes the best (does the make the rest into soilent green?!), God makes no mistakes, sorrow lasts only the night, joy comes in the morning.

i don't know. personally, that would comfort me about as much as My sincere condolences. Even if i was more of a bible reading person. There's no personal connection there...i'd be more likely to be touched by a detailed personal memory or message. just me though.

It's amazing what kind of a window you get into people's beliefs. Mostly christians are here, though there have been some muslims, agnostics, jews and a couple new agers posting. The gamut of what the christians say is interesting though.
Almost everyone is becoming a guardian angel. Absolutely everyone is smiling down from heaven, or dancing around the throne of god, or having a birthday with jesus.

Apparently, in some portions of heaven they allow recreation such as fishing, gambling, drinking,card playing,cooking and some parts must be dirty after all that because people are also up there cleaning.

For some, heaven is a very literal thing, because the deceased loved ones are living IN THE SKY.

Some relatives have asked their loved ones to come back - they can't understand why they've left.

Many people have dreams and get signs from their deceased loved ones that things are ok, which is very comforting for them.

Everyone is looking forward to to see the dead again when it is their time to go.

From most of what i've seen - and mind you we don't post bad stuff about people anyway, is that the memories of the dead are exceedingly rosy. People never thought about themselves only others. they never complained. They always helped, they were a great american, always smiling. They were angels on earth.

To take all that literally all the time makes ones questions oneself about how good of a person one is - it's very easy to do. But, remembering that humans aren't perfect no matter how they try, and the fact that there will always be sides of a person that no one else will be allowed to see shines a more realistic light on things. All these people had their own pain, their own sadness, their own vices. Whether or not they coped with or overcame them will be of course reflected by the people who knew them and write about them. I'm only seeing a snapshot of people, pieces of a puzzle that cannot be summed up by a paragraph here and a snippet there.

Funerals, like the guestbooks, are for the living. The dead - whatever you believe happens to them, are not concerned nor worried with our world anymore. and in that sense, they truly are at rest. As we all know, concern about anything involving this world can really pull you in so many directions and entangle you in so many ways. that's another piece of what I see in what is left in these guestbooks. People's struggles with everyday life, their own beliefs, their identities...

You don't take all that to heaven with you, that's for damn sure. I'm not even sure there's room for carryon luggage let alone all the baggage that living people haul around day to day.

Basically this job makes me think about how I behave towards others, how I cope, what I do or don't take for granted, and gives me a very different view of humanity than I saw in a retail store.

In conclusion, people are odd. They believe certain things, and I'm not even sure they know why half the time. They don't always question their beliefs or actions they way they probably should. They believe things many times, because they are comfortable. But people want to and often do see the good in others. Many are willing to look past the grime and see someone for the best there were or tried to be, and that counts for a lot in a day and age where people are so often not operating at their best.

The desire to see the best in someone else can often coincide with being influenced by the actions of that person, a reflection of benevolent attitudes and actions. The more likely someone is to see kindness, concern or compassion, the more likely one may try to mimic it. Kindness usually leads to further kindness -or at least it should unless you are dealing with someone who is blindly ignorant to their own behaviour.

This is the opposite of working in a retail store. I'm seeing a wider demographic of people in a more human situation, a more real situation that EVERYONE must face sooner or later.

One thing I've noticed, though it's not always mentioned, is that people in our society really have a terrible fear of death. Death is sad, tragic, horrendous, painful. Something we can't talk about (we have a better time talking about sex, and we're terrible at that as well), something that must be denied until we have to face it.

Most of the fear of death comes from losing others we care about, no matter what means takes them. Another large portion is taken up by religion and society with various views on what supposedly happens to you afterwards. We're taught to fear hell, and even fear God, then presented with images of macabre images of demons in the afterworld, decaying skeletons, and other morbidity. (Mind you, i'm fond of skulls!) Graveyards are places of sorrow that no one likes to visit, wearing black is considered dreary and funereal.

Any reminder of death in our culture is greated with fear and/or sorrow. It's considered an end to the linear process of living. You don't talk about it. It may (heh, will) happen, but don't speak of it. Death is a big taboo.

But the whole set of thoughts is something that is only entangled with the living. the dead - whether they go into oblivion or go to heaven or go fishing don't have these hangups. By the time they are dying and aware, there's no reason for fear anymore.

The sadness and fear comes with the clinging of the living to them, the attachment be it emotional, mental or physical. the lack of comprehension of why and how and where with the process of death. Death is probably the most natural thing in the world for any living thing to do, and yet we live every day running from it. Not that we should go out and jump in front of cars or hang ourselves, but our acceptance of it needs improving.

Many other cultures are much more solid and well rounded in their relationship with death than us. Many cultures consider it a celebration, a graduation or sorts - and I do get plenty of guestbook entries along those lines, where the deceased goes "home".

This is where we get traditional like All Saints, or Dia De Los Muertos where people turn the concept of death into a party that celebrates the person instead of a leaden, somber dragging of oneself to a cold grave. (I think I lose goth points for saying this)

There is time for grieving, it's a process. But some people never get out of the grieving pattern and become fearful. They forget that there's some things that must change and things that must be let go. let's face it, people fear change even more than death.

There are things far worse than death, like working retail.
Death doesn't deserve the bad rap it gets. Ignorance, cruelty, injustice- those things have more right to be feared, if one must even fear them.

that said, i'm going to go feed the cute squeaky things. I miss my schrapnel, but as much as I'd like him back, i know he is better off in the great grassy hereafter than he was here, as much as I cared about him and as much as he loved me. I don't believe the emotions cease movement, even if one party is physically gone.

1 Comments:

Blogger caitlin said...

i would want you to edit my guestbook when i'm gone....

oh, and on the more party scale of things, deb and i had a great time! can you email me the soup recipie for her? she loved it!

11:41 PM  

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