There’s always a challenge in front of me after not posting for a little while; the things I wanted to say, or that really felt important to express, grow to such a number that the task of writing them all becomes overwhelming. It’s a phenomena I think there needs to be a word for – a blogger-world word. Something that says “There’s so much to say, that I keep putting off saying it, but every day I procrastinate writing, there’s another thing to say and I get even more overwhelmed.” How about flusterbloggered?! That’s it – I’ve been flusterbloggered.
And lest anyone should perceive me as isolated in the effects that being flusterbloggered brings, let me just point out that this phenomena happens in relationships ALL the time. Doing counseling with couples, I see this occur quite frequently. There are just so many things to talk about, and so many issues to discuss, that each day of not communicating makes the problem perpetually worse.
However, as a trained and educated counselor, I know the complex and intricate machinations required to address this difficult issue: just talk about one thing at a time, and don’t expect to be able to talk about every issue all in the same communication.
I know – it’s totally brilliant, right?!
Oh, and by the way, if you’re kind of thinking to yourself that I was throwing out a little sarcasm there, pointing out how a solution so simple as “talk about one thing at a time” is just so complex, you’re not reading that wrong. But also, I’m not being entirely sarcastic. Over and over it leaves me stunned how many people will come into therapy and literally have a light bulb turn on inside their souls when I suggest that maybe – just maybe – they should actually talk with each other about what is bothering them. I mean, it’s one thing when clients come in and essentially say that they want to communicate better but just don’t know how. But, when the idea that they should talk to each other at all is truly novel, I wonder what the hell is really going on with our whole culture.
Not that I wish to portray any intent to be disparaging of people. I really honestly don’t. But I’ve been thinking lately a lot about how surprising this idea is to so many people I work with – that we need to communicate/talk to connect with each other. And it makes me wonder: is this an idea that seems so basic to me, only because I studied it in a crap-load of school years, and at the cost of way too many student loans? In other words, is this one of those things like when super genius engineers literally can’t comprehend why other people don’t just get what they call simple math?
OK, back up – I am NOT to be compared to super genius engineers. I’m just sayin’ – is it something that seems obvious to me, but isn’t to everybody else? I’ve been wondering about that a lot; and there you go – there’s one topic down on the list, and I’m one tiny step closer to being less flusterbloggered.
That word is going to get pretty annoying fairly quickly.
And, of course, a strong reason why I’ve been wondering about communication and people, is because I had a couple of super rough weeks through Thanksgiving time. The anniversary of Heather’s death is, naturally, very difficult. But this year, it felt especially tough because she died on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – the 28th. But in 2012, the 28th of November was on a Wednesday. So it literally felt like having two death anniversaries (Saturday and the 28th) stretched across the week, and each one had its difficulties in a different way. But the entire experience brought with it, as much of life does for me, an examination of my relationships, and how they’re each fairing.
See – that’s like four more whole topics to write about. It gets me fluh-blogged (which is, of course, the blogger version of ‘flusterbloggered’ because it’s some weird kind of cute-but-annoying requirement of blog writers to shorten everything into quippy sound-bite kind of phrases, right? I mean, it’s totes brill to do!)
My sassy tone today is probably less about anything actually important, and much more about staying a little bit away from actually talking about the stuff that was hard.
I don’t usually do that – “avoid” tough topics. But the fact is that this year one of the hallmarks of the anniversary of Heather’s passing is that I felt more alone than ever. And I guess I don’t know how to tell that truth without making it somehow sound like I’m calling everybody back out to play with me on the grief playground, as though I was inappropriately abandoned. I wasn’t. This year’s experience felt natural and evolutionarily appropriate. I received beautiful support and incredibly kind words of comfort and unfailing love – to be sure. But it only came from a few people, instead of a bunch more. When Heather first died, there were hundreds of people expressing and sending their condolences and care; now it’s closer to ten.
That’s not to say that more people don’t still care and aren’t supportive, because I know they are. But we all have lives to live with only 24 hours in each day, and the investment we give to the losses of those around us diminishes with time, and with the number of losses we, ourselves, must carry. I’ve noted this about myself, and been very frustrated by it. I don’t remember other people’s events as well now that I’m carrying such a heavy one of my own, and all of its consequences.
But again – I think this is very normal. As time moves on, and I’ve said this before, there naturally evolves the phenomena where Heather’s loss and memory becomes more and more my responsibility to carry. I don’t want this to be a complaint, but an explanation of this year’s experience; because I spent a lot of moments over the last several weeks pondering how I should be carrying Heather forward through time and life, especially as doing so becomes more and more my responsibility alone. Not entirely alone – that will probably never happen – but more and more.
And I think it’s a little understandable, that as I perceived how I must do this – flap my own wings harder as the butterflies I’ve relied upon must inevitably fly away to support other things – one of my first reactions was to push aside the grief. I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to think about it or feel it, I don’t want to carry this more. I don’t want to grow, learn, evolve, or stretch. I don’t want to love again, or even try. I don’t want to hurt through every ornament I hang up for Christmas, I just want to shut it off and let my experience be a dead and surface one. I’m tired, for fucks sake! I can’t even BEGIN to describe how tired I am! I get so tired sometimes in the middle of the day that I run into things just walking around. It’s not clumsiness or absent mindedness, I literally just lose my ability to even walk straight out of sheer weariness. So I just want to ignore it all and shut it down and stop caring.
Again – I don’t usually do that. Not at all. But this year, it was a strong pull that I occasionally indulged in.
I know, though, that if I’ll endure the grief that comes, there is always strength that follows. Always. I know that there is typically most of the focus in the stories of loss, on how debilitating and shattering it is to have loved ones gone. I talk most about the horror of being re-punched with the reality that I wake up alone. But the accompanying reality, is that for every time I lay sobbing on her grave, there comes a time – every single time – that the tears stop flowing, I use my arms to push myself up off the ground, and I get up and drive back home. This comes after the break down, because resilience and strength are the reward for honest grieving. I know I could choose the path of ignoring and dismissing the pain of Heather’s absence, and press forward with almost no hardship. But, I’d rather have a life filled with true presence and a real experience of sadness, as well as the strength that comes with being authentic, than the drone-like drudgery of pretending nothing is wrong.
But oh, how the past couple of weeks tempted me to indulge in that emotional dead-zone; more than ever before I wanted to turn it off – the pain of Heather’s absence.
And the anniversaries were a little different. The Saturday after Thanksgiving came with a familiar but strange experience. I recall December 2nd of three years ago when, after a handful of the stupidest and most lost days I’d ever known, dealing with dumb and heartless people, and having lived through the previous nights viewing, we had the funeral services for Heather. It was difficult and maddening and taxing. So taxing, in fact, that when the funeral was over, and the coffin was wheeled out to the hearse, I finally shut down; completely down. I can remember standing on the sidewalk outside the church building where we’d had her services. I was in front of my car, where I had loaded my children into their car seats, and loved ones from throughout our life began filing out the doors and approaching me to hug me and offer condolences. But I was done.
Not just done – I was dead. I felt absolutely nothing but sheer emptiness. The emotions were over, the flood of horror had taken it’s toll, and all that was left inside was dead dead silence. And with that nothingness I limply hugged person after person. There were no tears; not really even any words, either. I just shut down.
Later, as we came to the grave site, the red hot fire of grief returned in many ways. But for that small time there, right after the funeral, I experienced for the first time what it’s like not to voluntarily squash my grief, but to reach such a wattage that the circuit breaker goes off and all goes dark for awhile.
This year’s Saturday felt like that. I shuffled around my house blankly. Despite my efforts to talk to my children about the day, it just stayed empty – like our lives without her.
The 28th, however, found the searing pain and aching agony throbbing freshly. We moved through the day with regular routine, but not without lots and lots of hurting. In the evening, I picked up my girls from school and we all went down to Heather’s grave to talk about her, and to release a box of beautiful butterflies there – a gift from some very intuitive and intelligent friends.
And I missed her. Missed her like crazy. And my children wept, and I felt the familiar sting of complete powerlessness, because I will never be able to resolve this hurt for them, nor give them back their mother.
Being a witness to the grief of my own children is one of the worst possible experiences I know of.
And then came the 29th. December started, Christmas season came into full swing, and life began screaming rudely for its multiple demands to be met.
But more of those details in the next entry, OK? For now I just needed to un-stick myself, throw the flusterblogger phenomena on the table, and begin the process of writing again. So here I am. Three years without her, and in a life I never ever conceived of until it violently thrust itself upon me. Thank heavens for people who still hug me – from near or far – whether I’m standing shut down and dead, or confused about life, or sobbing openly.
More to come.
But for this moment, how about another deep breath. And a good bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios; there’s the stuff.