The nature of my pain and loneliness comes in waves. There are times where I’m doing ok. There are times where all I want to do is sleep, to disappear for a few hours. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, and anything can trigger it. Outward appearances make it look like I’m doing an exemplary job of dealing. Inward feelings can have me tied in knots unable to move. Sometimes you just need a night off.
I went to a baseball game last night, just to get away for a few hours. It was good for a little while, but then reality comes back to you piece by piece. You realize that nothing stops, the world keeps moving. Cats still need to be fed, dogs still need to be walked. The past few days have me feeling like I’ve relapsed. A weekend with family and friends followed by a few days alone will do that.
The term ‘relapsed’ I think is appropriate. You can become a grief addict. You come to rely on certain thoughts, certain patterns that make you better. The feeling that you cannot breathe another breath is seductive. I need to break through; I need to be around people who can sympathize, but not dwell. Who can understand and allow me to center all of my conversations around Melissa, but not feel like they need to ‘fix anything’. Just to be present.
I find myself saying that it is ok to laugh. It is ok to feel good. It is ok to put loss out of your mind for a few moments. The cliché is to say “Melissa would want you to be happy”. Of course she would. That underestimates both how deep the grief can be, and just how hard it can be to break free from it. There is no right path through sadness, only that you have to find away through it. It is not something that you can shortcut around. It takes time and understanding, and is not regulated by a clock. I may be doing ok today at six weeks and in the pits of despair at seven.
Early mornings have been the hardest this week. I lie in bed thinking about what is missing, not thinking about what is to come. The temptation to go back to sleep is great, but the threat of bad dreams, or at least dreams I will remember, is real.
I allowed myself an extra hour the other morning and was woken by a dream of Melly. In the dream we are in a bedroom, not our own, overlooking Piestewa Peak. In the dream the room is dark, but I can see Melly in the faint light. The clock next to her reads 12:41. There is no indication if that is AM or PM. I assume it is AM and therefore can sleep more. Then the confusion comes and I ask her "is it day or night?". She tells me it’s the day, and that I still have a long way to go before I can rest. I respond with “it’s not good that I don’t know day from night, is it?” and she nods. I then wake up and find our cat, Bob, two inches from my face waiting to be fed.
Which is how I catch myself feeling these days; like my purpose is to provide food for dogs and cats. I try to find meaning in that, to find motivation for the days and weeks to come, and I struggle.
I had this conversation the other day with my counselor. She related it to me as parable:
What did you do before you became enlightened?
Chop wood and carry water.
What do you do now?
Chop wood and carry water.
The point being, find meaning in the task. Yes, cats wake me up at 6:00a every day wanting to be fed. I can see that for what it is, a pain in the butt. Or I can see that as part of Melissa’s legacy. Each of these fourteen animals is a soul that she rescued, and it is my solemn responsibility to make sure each and everyone is happy, healthy, and has a full belly.
By proxy, getting up to go to work carries its own pitfalls. I can feel like it is the same thing, over and over, without forward motion. And maybe it is. But people rely on me to do my job, to sell our widgets so they can make more, or to buy the widgets to use to make their own stuff. I hate to say it is a food chain, but it is. If I falter then someone starves. It can be a job or it can be a purpose. Trying to transition from one to the other, in the midst of so many other existential crises, is going to take some work. I have days where I can do it and times where I can’t make the leap. What I have right now is time to figure it out.
I was going through Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes A Great Notion” earlier today looking for a specific quote for a future essay. It was bookmarked to a specific quote about time:
“Time overlaps itself. A breath breathed from a passing breeze is not the whole wind, neither is it just the last of what has passed and the first of what will come, but is more – let me see – more like a single point plucked on a single strand of a vast spider web of winds, setting the whole scene atingle. That way; it overlaps… As prehistoric ferns grow from bathtub planters. As a shiny new ax, taking a swing at somebody’s next year’s split-level pinewood pad, bites all the to the Civil War. As proposed highways break down through the stacked strata of centuries.”
I can’t tell you who left that bookmark there. Maybe I did several years ago. Maybe Melissa did in June. Maybe her spirit left it for me to find last night and grab hold of. All I know is that when we talk about time and meaning there is the context. We can’t say what little thing we do today won’t have a big impact in a century; the same way that stressing about today’s numbers may not mean a damn thing next week. It is not up to us to decide. All you can do is get up and feed the cats and assume the best. The world keeps moving.