I can promise you I’ve done nothing interesting lately.
No, really. I haven’t joined a choir like I want to, and I haven’t yet written that book I always say I’m going to. I haven’t even repotted that morning glory plant that my mother gave me from her garden, and I probably never will. Instead, I spend my mornings teaching Fiona frustration tolerance when she truly believes not turning the TV on within two seconds will break her, and I spend my nights gazing into the mirror, examining the few, small white hairs that have popped up in my eyebrows, of all places. Which makes me think of my Dad, because he still had chestnut hair on his head the day he left this Earth.
I didn’t cry for three months. Three months! That’s a huge deal in a depressive’s world. Especially when it’s still within six months of losing a loved one. And I think, in addition to a slight medication tweak, I just didn’t want to feel. I’d spent three months, sitting on the couch, watching the minutes tick by mindlessly, ignoring my husband because it was the first thing I could. Brutal? Totally. But it happened.
So I turned to exercise for an endorphin rush. And I did again…and again. Every day until it became boring and routine. Something-I-had-to-do-or-I-wouldn’t-be-ok. And then I binged on chocolate and sugar at night because the routine moderate exercise I engaged in afforded me it.
And I was empty.
I see grief in stages like this:
1. The house is knocked down. Torn to shreds.
2. You build the structure of the house back up. It’s up, but there’s no adornment. It’s empty, but it’s there.
…and that’s where I am. That’s how far I’ve gotten and that’s how this intellectual sums it up. I’ll get back to you on the rest when there’s more adornment in my life.
I guess I haven’t been up to anything interesting because I’ve been rebuilding the structure.
And there’s all this static in my head (that’s a Six Feet Under reference, for all of you with good TV taste out there) about how I should be grieving. How my dad was old and I fucking knew this was coming for years and how when I was 15 I knew I’d have a dead dad before the rest of the world. I-knew-it-so-get-over-it. I-do-this-for-a-living-so-I-should-know-how-to-handle-it. He-could-be-a-jerk-so-maybe-you-should-keep-quiet-about-your-grief-when-he-hurt-others. Judgment upon judgment upon judgment. And it’s echoed by our society, millions of people who say “it’s a part of life”. And it is. And so we intellectually get it, but are ill-equipped to deal with the emotions when we realize THEY ARE NEVER COMING BACK. At least in this living form.
Truth is, I never knew how much I was like my Dad until he was dead.
Humans can be so loveably stupid.
I went to my psychic last week (yes, that’s right, I have a psychic. His name is Tarek and he’s fabulous, and I also take medication for depression, and eat sugar, and the world has not spontaneously combusted yet.). Besides asking me if my husband had a gay brother, and accurately describing the lackluster quality of my response to John’s proposal last June, he told me,
“You have to find the new normal.”
OK. What the fuck is that?
Is it being miraculously more mindful than I ever was before? Is it finally taking up boxing? Is it taking vacations with my mother because she doesn’t have a spouse now? Is it chopping my hair off? Is it becoming this person I never knew I was?
I have no idea. I just keep trying new things right now…and yet, trying not to make any big decisions.
My mom gave me my Dad’s personal file for me (yes, he kept files on each one of us. Not like, “It’s 9:42 am and Amanda just furtively stuffed something into her backpack” but more like pictures and articles in the Independent and shit.) In it, I found some awful fourth grade pictures that only a father could love, and then there was this one:
I have no memory of this being taken. None. But I look happy. Despite (given the hairstyle/bathing suit time approximation) being consumed with an eating disorder. And maybe that’s what’s propelled me through all these years – through classmates sexually harassing me, through my family’s mental health issues, and through putting down a drink and coming back from suicidality. Maybe I knew that happiness was possible. For even a fleeting second, and that life was worth hanging onto, for those fleeting moments of seeing a summer sunset or listening to your favorite song. In a word, resiliency. Looking back, I think my Dad knew how the scale (no pun intended) could have been easily tipped the other way, and he was worried. Maybe he hung onto this picture because it was a memory where I was not crying because someone had harassed me for my weight, or because I had dropped out of college and couldn’t leave my bed. It was a moment where I just WAS. Despite the crap.
I have no clue where life is going. I can only hope it’s full of things I never even imagined, like actually being a good partner and being ok with the ordinary and finding out how smart I really am. Either way, I’ll be ok. I always am. It just takes some time.