2/7/08

Disorganization and despair



When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. ~Kenji Miyazawa

It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ~Colette

Kris has tagged me with a meme which asks me to reveal seven strange things about myself.
Well, shortly before I switched to the new blog, the Miracles tagged me with that same meme. After much thought, I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that I had already revealed every last strange, odd and quirky thing about myself. Every...last...one!
There were, quite frankly, no secrets left to tell. The writing’s on the wall: I have officially over-shared. TMI on an epic scale.
Instead of revealing my overexposed oddities, I chose to fulfill the tag by revealing seven burning issues that were on my mind at the time. I think I was about five in by the time I shut down the old blog. One was the evolution of motherhood, another was the environment, and the other three...well, the other three must not have been very compelling issues after all, since I can’t remember them a week later.
At any rate, I will not go back and revisit, but I WILL continue with my series of burning issues that have been keeping me up at night.
Next on the list: Grief and Grieving.
Now, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I’m a bit of a Pollyanna, in the old-school, Depression-era sense of the term. I NEED to see the silver lining in every situation, no matter how grim. My optimism is so essential to the core of my being that I’m a little OCD about it.
Some people deal with stress, fear or grief through rage, snarkiness, or righteous indignation. I deal with stress and fear with optimism. (And yes, I realize how annoying that can be).Those who know me in the real world (the “analog world”, as my friend in NYC calls it) will know me as having a sarcastic sense of humor and laying on the irony with a trowel, but that’s the surface layer. Underneath, the deepest, darkest part of me wallows in compulsive optimism.
So it is that this particular burning issue is really my boogeyman - the hardest thing for me to face. I shrink from the very words “grief” and “grieving” - and it was very difficult for me to type them at the top of this bullet. I am not comfortable with the emotion. Not in the least.
Oh, sure... I can cry buckets at a movie like King Kong, Charlotte’s Web, Bambi, or Dumbo. In fact, the reason I used the illustration of the little elephant is because it reminds me of the scene in Dumbo where his mother is thrown in jail, and he goes to visit her, and she sticks her trunk out through the bars and rocks him in it, and sings a song to comfort him. Heck, my tear ducts are swelling just from typing that scene!
That scene (animated though it may be) pushes my buttons like no other, because - and here’s another heavy confession - I have always feared losing my mother. Always. As long as I can remember. Even as a toddler, the idea that my mother would some day no longer be with me would pop into my head at inopportune moments, and I would weep...on the spot. I had no fear of my own death, or of anyone else’s, for that matter. Just my mother.
But here’s the thing: as a child, nothing else - and I mean nothing - could crack my composure. I was one cool customer. When I was in third grade my mom decided I was old enough for romance stories, and took me to a drive-in in Taos, NM to see Franco Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. By the crypt scene, she was a puddle of tears, and I was...utterly...unmoved. At that moment she decided that I was a cold-hearted child, an impression that was only confirmed for her a few years later when our favorite dog died after eating an entire bowl of horse medication, and I didn’t shed a single tear. Not only was I apparently unmoved, but I was actually a bit put out by her open grief.
My side of the story is, I did not see the dog die. I came home from school to find my mother so torn up that she could barely speak, could hardly get the words out to tell me what had happened. There it was: my boogeyman - grief, right out in the open and inescapable. And I froze up. By the time my mother was able to explain what had happened, I had erected so many inner layers of defense that I couldn’t even react to the dog’s passing. The problem? I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t fix it for her. Nothing I said stopped her crying. There was no way for me to find a silver lining, and that made me feel very, very out of control.
Recently, there has been a great deal of sadness in the world around us. I won’t go into all of it, but I’ve talked about some of it on my old blog. There has been illness and there have been many losses among our circle of friends and family. Some of these things have happened to people we know, and a couple of things have happened directly to us. As you can imagine, this has posed a whole new level of threat to my optimistic nature.
At first, I tried to resist it. I tried to stay positive and believe that things would turn around quickly, that bad news would turn miraculously into good news, that there would be a silver lining to all of it in very short order.
When a few weeks passed, and the bad news just kept coming, I knew there was a lesson here that I was going to be forced to learn, and I had better gird my loins and go forth into the breach. I think the lesson is that bad things happen, and sometimes we do experience (my hackles are standing up at the very thought) grief. Sometimes, grief is even (ghasp!) an important thing to experience. Sometimes grief teaches you things that you would not be able to learn in any other way (Notice how many times I have now typed the word “grief” with my very own fingers). Sometimes, grief teaches you lessons (here I go, finding the silver lining again..but I think I’m gonna go with it) that you urgently need to learn in order to proceed with your life and grow as a person.
So, I am going to go forth and embrace my own grief. I’ve had to face this eventuality with the recent illness of my own dog, my companion and road trip partner and touchstone, my Sam.
M. pointed out to me recently that my problem was not just that my dog was ill (we still don’t know how ill, or how likely or unlikely he is to survive this current episode) but that I was not able to accept the fact that my dog will someday pass on, most likely before I do. And he’s absolutely right. I was not willing to accept that little fact of human/dog life. And I will have to accept it, if not now then in the near-ish future. Gulp.
Even more recently, just when I thought that the bad news had played itself out, my mother was faced with an even more difficult eventuality. When she talked to me about it, I realized that having gone through all we have been through in recent weeks allowed me not only to empathize with her difficulties, but to recognize that I might not be able to find a silver lining for her. I was able, for the first time in my life, to admit that I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t find a silver lining. But what I COULD do for her was to join her in her grieving process.
Sometimes one has to be able to admit that it might not, in fact, “be alright”. That’s the way the world works. The trick is to recognize that fact, and move on, and find ways to learn from the experience, and find ways to see the joy in life once again - not today, not tomorrow, maybe not for the next few months...but eventually. Life is a cycle of birth and death, joy and sorrow, fear and the ability to find new strength within ourselves.
It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It's often messy. But that’s life, and aren’t we glad that we have the privilege of living it, and learning from it?

15 comments:

TBG Happenings said...

I get this more than you know....I too am a silver lining kind of girl. "A things could always be worse..." kind of outlook. Just my way of not having to get to close to scary and sad parts of life I guess.

Tamara said...

We wouldn't grieve if something hadn't been important enough to do it over. I think you are absolutely spot on about this stuff.

I'm sorry life is bumpy waters right now in your corner of the world.

Susan said...

I can so relate to the fear of losing your mother. That has always been my biggest fear in life as well. And, like you, my own mortality doesn't scare me in the least. But, ever since I can remember I have dwelled on the fact that my mom may one day not be here and it completely freaks me out. I feel for you about your dog as well. I went through this a few years ago and it was utterly heartwrenching but I got through it much better than I ever thought I would.

sweet-P's Mum said...

aaah grief, we can chose to embrace it, or hide from it...it can manifest in so many ways, even optimism!

I probably choose rage and depression, which are really one and the same, the depression just lacks the enthusiasm of rage...I tend to spin the 'rage' part as passion, I become hyperfocused on any one thing...it keeps my mind off the grieving.

But, whether you have lost a child, the hope of a child, or a parent or partner...you must pass through grief in order to move foward, some may circumnavigate it, hike over it, or dance around it...but it is there, you gotta face it or it might creep up on you later on and bash the living shit out of you...silver lining and all!

kudos to you though, I love your half full silver lining approach...perhaps I'd have to slap you silly if you do it around me...or rather, I'd ask for pointers on how to acheive it.

Hayley

Stefanie said...

Okay, you had me at the Dumbo scene! I get teary just thinking about that precious little Dumbo, big ol' ears, with the best, most protective mommy on the block.
Thanks for a beautifully written post. It made me think. Not much has done that for me lately... something about toddlers circling my feet...

Margaret Miracle said...

In college, I took many philosophy courses. One philosophy/religion course (you could take it under either area but it was the same course) focused on grief, death and dying. I was drawn to the course because of many past issues that had shaped my life up to that point. I spent the majority of the course discussing philosophically the issues that were hardest and still are hardest for me to verbalize. I wrote alot about boundaries and how we utilize walls to protect self from further injury. Your post makes me want to seek out that notebook and reflect. You are always inspiring.

Stacie said...

Thank God your back.... I wondered where you had vanished to!

I, like you am a TMI person- who sees no purpose in not being forthright. But, I have to tell you it always comes back to bite me in the ass. Yet, I can't change it, it is how i am.

Part of the pain and beauty of attachment to anyone and anything is the loss of that person or thing. It is inevitable and I believe it is the hardest lesson of our lives. Maybe it is the only true lesson of our lives.

You are about to become a mother... any emotion you have ever ignored or pushed out of your mind will now surface with a vengence and you are forever changed. Believe me. Firsthand suppression experience, here.

I am so sorry for all you are going thru... so sorry about Sam....I know what it is like to have a very ill fur baby and so many people discount that love.

Stacie

Yoli said...

I am not a lining girl but I am not a despair girl either. I can handle grief but it takes a toll on me. I have only lately been able to verbalize it. I tend to keep it inside, in painful silence. Thank you for such a brave post. Dumbo gets me every time...and Charlotte's Web.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I will never forget when my dad died at the age of 9... At first I didn't cry... it took 2 days and I was at my nana's house and reading the newspaper and it was then that I started to bawl my eyes out... I like to think that for the most part there is a silver lining somewhere - I was angry for the longest time afterwards but now I am older and wiser... I think that had my dad not have died... I would not have met my hubby and would not have moved to the US and would not have decided to adopt and would not have met so many good friends along the way... as much as I loved my dad (of course I was 9 and a girl's dad is their world) and there are times I get a little sad and teary wishing dad were around to see his grandkids etc had he not have died then things would have been completely different in our lives... the thing about my mum leaving this earth... the thing that scares me about that is that I am 10,000 miles away... that I can't be there for her if she needs me... You need to experience the sad to appreciate the happy - experience the bad to appreciate the good - experience the bumpy times to appreciate the good times...take care

Vivian M said...

There are always those that see the glass as half full or half empty. I think it has everything to do with perspective, experience and personal choice. Only you can control and choose how you will react to any given thing in life. Having lost very many loved ones this past year, I choose to remember them with love and happiness and the joy they brought into my life. They are no longer suffering, and are at peace now, as am I.
I hope you find peace with whatever sorrow or grief is in your lives now, and hope that your beloved pet gets well soon. Hugs!

Rony said...

I can't respond to you because you are on non-reply... need to be able to shoot you an e-mail from time to time...

FishermansDaughter said...

Holy @#it! The Dumbo scene - I've always held that movie scene as one of the best/most accurate illustrations of exactly what maternal love IS or should be...how, regardless of the inconvenience or personal sacrifice involved, the best mommys always put their lil ele-kids first (ex. mommy relinquishing their babies for adoption!)and Honey, that's enough to make even the hardest chin quiver! Decimates me EVERY time.
What has helped me most when dealing with grief, or fear is to focus on the loss/fear intensely for short bursts - REALLLY get down there and wallow - with a preset time limit - rather than allowing the grief or fear free reign to insidiously creep in at inopportune moments. This intense focus time gives "it" and me a safe haven to process the emotion, while still allowing some control - or sense of control at least - and sometimes, a lot of times, a sense of control is what I'm craving. Course, sometimes there's just no bridling that bitch and it'll get ya, but that's ok too.
Hang in there and kudos to you for being brave enough to talk about it at all.

krj said...

To answer your final question: YES.
Love this post, and I could learn a lot from you. I need to work on my optimism.

crazylady said...

Grief unites people unlike happiness. And I feel the bonds are stronger.
Thanks for a glimpse at your lining.

Beeb said...

I'm sorry about all the sadness in your world right now. but, grieving.. it is alright - not easy, but definitely deepening. It's just another color on your palatte.

Unfortunately, I have experienced your worst nightmare and it has been the most difficult thing I've ever had to endure. It still is three years later. there's a lot I can say about grieving, the most important is that these big losses aren't ones you walk away from in any short amount of time. It takes years to come through the fog that shrouds you. I wish our culture was better at understanding that. A few months after a death or event, people get bored by it and want the grieving person to "buck up". At three years, I think it's finally a little better, but not over and I don't think that it is wrong or pathologic to take that long.
I've actually been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and although fairly disjointed, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject.