Grief

It feels like mud. Sticky, heavy, thick. I imagine it to be dark. That’s how it feels. Black. Like the mysterious holes in the universe that we have only just discovered might be something more than a matter sucking abyss into nothingness.

That’s how grief feels.

I look normal on the outside. I can hold it together for you, or hold it as together as I think you need me to be. But when I walk away and the distractions are gone, everyone else has gone home and on with their lives, I feel like I’m back in the thick of the abyss. Moving helps but it’s hard to move. I know I’m not trapped, but I feel trapped. I could run, but where to.

I dreamed the other night, I was saving myself and my son from a dangerous situation and I couldn’t figure out how to open the door to get out. I saw people coming and going easily. They looked alert, alive, happy. But no one could hear me. I felt frustrated, and tried to yell, but only whispered, “I don’t understand”. I woke up to my own voice saying “I don’t understand” and a feeling in my heart of why.

It’s hard to describe this feeling because by most accounts I am blessed. The tricky part is this “mud”, let’s call it, covers over the good stuff most of the time. When I am alone, it comes in thick dark heavy waves. I’m learning to surrender to it. It takes too much energy to fight it. It always subsides and then returns.

Throughout my adult life I had a reason to fight it. My son, sisters, mom, husband, dad, boyfriends, my dogs. I fought it for me also because I never wanted you to know what my insides felt like. It’s too hard now to pretend. I don’t have the energy to pretend I’m okay.

I know it’s not true, but I often feel powerless. Not all the time. When I’m teaching and speaking I feel free. When I’m at the ocean, or playing with Oliver, I feel love. When I write, paint, create in some way, I feel connected.

Previously I had a reason to hold my darkness back and out of sight. Now that no one is here to distract me, I am alone with it and I wonder if there is ever an end to it. Light comes and goes, but darkness seems to stay.

This isn’t depression. It’s different.

In the underworld, it is an opening to the deeper, darker, mysterious parts of my soul, where it is about learning to navigate the space and finding the strength to mine it’s harsh, often brutal landscape for wisdom, insights and guidance.

This darkness isn’t evil or mean. It’s intense, forceful, powerful like a wave taking me under, pummeling me into its own. I know if I surrender I am more likely to survive than if I refuse or fight it. So each time I remember, I take one last deep breath and I let it take over and I remember to hold on to the one piece of light that is strong enough to pull me out anytime it’s too much.

I think of my mother’s smile, my son’s creativity, my new nephew, sunsets and snickerdoodles, trees and the vastness of the ocean. Any one of these alone does the trick for a moment and then I’m back in the abyss.

I can pass for a surfer, but what you don’t see are the weights on my ankles. I am strong, but what you don’t see is how tired I feel. I am fast, but what you don’t see are the scars from running the same track over and over and over.

I see the same stories and patterns play out. I feel as though I’m in a constant state of deja vu, repeating the same thing over and over, like a rat spinning its wheels thinking it’s going somewhere. At some point the rat must know it’s not going anyway, but surrenders to the sensation of spinning, accepting it’s fate of never going anywhere.

When my mom died I felt an unimaginable grief for her. I was awash in her sadness, regret and anger. And I was sad and angry for her, about her, and about the unlived dreams she and I talked about. She was just coming into her own. She was just beginning the journey of herself. I felt infuriated about her cancer and powerless to help her. She and I shared a defiant nature and lived life our own way. But in that defiance came a weakness in thinking we could do everything alone.

We were both wrong.

My grief is not so much in her passing, as it is about not being able to save her. Not being able to save my marriage. Not being able to save my son. Not being able to help my sisters or my dad more than I have. I grieve for not going to school earlier in my life and the unlived opportunities that path would have provided and made my financial life so much easier. I grieve for the loss of the god I imagined and for my health that Lyme disease has slowly ravaged. I grieve for the relationship that didn’t blossom the way I wanted, and for all the things I haven’t done and how quickly time has gone by. There’s still a list of things to experience and I wonder “what if I run out of time”?

I grieve for the time I don’t have and the time I’ve wasted, and for how hard I’ve been on myself to prove to others that I was bad, or good or nothing at all. I grieve for the time, strength and energy Lyme disease has taken from me.

I grieve the truth that I have no idea how much time I have left and for the fact that there’s nothing I can do about that. I don’t understand and I grieve for my own ignorance.

My ex-husband once said (during our divorce), “it seems like you like being sad”. I said “I like feeling and if it’s sadness I feel right now, then so be it. I like being sad because I like feeling.”

I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d feel this sad for so long.

There has been a lot to grieve and until now, in this clearing, I have had all the distractions a girl could ask for and so until now, I depressed my feelings so that I could be what I thought you thought of me, what I thought I should be, and what I hoped I wasn’t: weak, feabile, to messy to love.

God forbid I really fell apart. So my body started to for me.

Lyme and the associated co-infections ravage my brain, my neurological system, my ability to organize and think clearly. It too comes in waves that at times feel more like brain-terrors, rather than an average nightmare. I have been secretive, hiding most of what I’ve been through and trying to stay steady for fear that I’ll never recover. Never be the same. Never be good enough or strong enough to get through this.

I have no idea what unsightly and untimely mess this mud will make of me this time, but if the depth of the darkness is any indication of the light on the other side, then I surrender and take one last breath and let it take over until it’s had its way, breaking me and polishing me like the tiny sands that fill the ocean floor.

I know that I am not my grief. I am simply grieving.

Allowing the cold, sticky mud to embrace all of me and getting to know the darkness I have inherited.

A LETTER TO GRIEF

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