I haven’t been to Washington DC since my 8th grade Washington trip. What I remember from that trip is mostly clowning around at the various monuments, and seeing all the money being printed at the mint. This time I was in adult company. The occasion was a NAMI gala fundraiser.
I have to admit, I do not like getting duded up in fancy dress clothes. I am a simple person. Give me a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt and I am in heaven. That would be my daily uniform if I could get away with it. Of course, I cannot, so every now and then I have to go formal. So for the third time in my life, I am wearing a long dress. The first time was my Senior Prom; the second time my beautiful wedding dress, the third time, tonight. I donned a royal purple long dress with a matching shawl, put on makeup and high heels, and went out with my husband. I didn’t want to go, but sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, and this meant a lot to John.
I have to confess a few things. One, I am petrified of meeting people. I was introduced to PhDs and MDs, the best in the field, leading advocates and mental health lobbyists, corporate go-getters, people with social class and grace. I met Kay Jamison whom I love, and all I could think about is how pretty her vintage black Chanel bag was and how my little Kate Spade evening bag couldn’t hold a candle to it. I met people who live with this illness, and all I could think about was they seemed better, more adjusted than me. The women all seemed prettier, more glamorous, in fancy designer dresses, and I felt like the ugly duckling at the ball.
The gentleman I sat next to at dinner was Bill Allman, the general manager of HealthCentral (which hosts this blog). He is a charming, erudite man, and I enjoyed his company wholeheartedly. I was thrilled to find out he and I both shared a love for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce takes me to places where I can only dream about, Dublin and beyond.
Dinner tonight was Lamb. Lamb! During the summer before 6th grade, a friend Suzy and I raised a lamb for the local 4H fair. She had moved to a farm, and one of her sheep had a lamb that previous spring , which she named Nicky. Nicky was raised by her from the time it was weaned from its mother. Every weekend I would go to their farm and we would work with Nicky, feeding him, grooming him, bathing and shearing him, playing with him, watching him grow. After Labor Day, we showed him at the fair, where he won a blue ribbon.
The following weekend, I visited Suzy on the farm. We ate this wonderful dish with green beans and potatoes, and I asked what the meat was, I had never tasted it before. Suzy’s mother didn’t skip a beat when she said, “Nicky.”
Of course I threw up and vowed never to eat lamb again. Until tonight when I realized I had to, because I couldn’t make a stink. In hindsight, I should have asked for the vegetarian meal.
Joyce wrote about epiphanies. Lambs around Easter symbolize rebirth.
My epiphany happened a few years ago. I was in Edinburgh, lying in my hotel room and at midnight, a bagpiper in a kilt and sporran went in front of the hotel and played “Amazing Grace.” It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life, as I lay in the most comfortable bed and cried.
Tonight I was honored to hear Judy Collins sing that song. Tears were in my eyes, unshed, afraid to cry should I mess up my mascara. I felt my body turn limp, fluid and I let the song envelop my body and soul. I couldn’t look at her so I looked at the Doric columns in the room, oddly illuminated in florescent colors in coordinated timed intervals.
My epiphany. I ate lamb for my husband, I feel reborn. All of a sudden I was no longer scared of the people I was with. Most of them might not be bipolar, but they understood me, or at least they WANTED to.
My husband is telling me how beautiful I look. I am listening.
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Published On: October 23, 2006
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