Archives for category: grief

I woke up abruptly, some minutes ago. I woke feeling frustrated, irritated, vaguely angry, impatient – a host of less than pleasant feelings crowding my consciousness. I felt as though I were in the middle of an argument. I felt as though I were not being heard. Definitely awake. Definitely “in the wee hours”. I laid awake awhile feeling my heart thump, hard, fast, as though I had been exerting myself. Breathless.

I got up, finally, to pee, to get something cold to drink, to “walk it off”, to “get some air”… I got up to breathe. To exhale. To let this shit go.

Initially, the house remained dark – suitable for the “middle of the night”, and avoiding waking anyone else. At some point, I remember I am alone right now, and turn on soft lighting, once it is clear sleep is not immediately at hand. I sit down to write, when it is also clear that “letting it go” wasn’t effortless in this moment – and was reminded of a conversation with a friend, earlier in the day. Human beings struggle. It’s not always an easy experience. We are beings of both emotion and reason; either one can be “a tad off”. Emotional wellness is important – as is our ability to reason in a rational, healthy way. They balance one another. They feed on each other. They inform each other. I experience feelings that source with my thoughts. Some of my thinking has its foundation in how I feel about an experience. Connections. We exist in context.

I breathe deeply. Exhale evenly, slowly. I relax, deliberately, willing my shoulders to drop back down where they belong (and wonder, again, what pulls them up so tightly, so uncomfortably). The experience of “hearing my heart thump” slowly diminishes, until what I am hearing is my typing. Some of this is about focus – what I pay attention to, becomes a larger part of my experience. We become what we practice. Doesn’t make it effortless. In fact, quite the contrary; it is the effort, the practice, itself, that creates the change being sought. Do the thing. Do it again. Keep repeating it. Eventually, it becomes part of who we are. “Easy” is not part of the process.

Another deep cleansing breath. Something icy cold to drink, seeking to cool off from the very subjective sense of being “too hot”.

…What the hell was up with my dreams?? I woke when I did, straight to being fully awake, no lingering in a dream, no recollection of the contents of my consciousness, before that moment when I woke, frustrated, irritable, and frankly a bit angry. What was that about? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let it go – again. It’s literally not relevant to this moment, here, now, in the quiet and the darkness.

I look at the clock and wonder if I will return to sleep… it’s not quite 2:00 am, on a “work night”. I’d rather not be awake right now… but I clearly am. What to do about it matters less, for me, than not getting stressed out by whatever that outcome ends up being. The thought of returning to sleep causes some anxiety. Nightmares? Possibly. I take a moment of consideration and gratitude that I don’t remember them, if that’s what woke me. Could have been a noise… but the world seems quiet, now. Lingering on the “why” isn’t helpful, and obsessing over that holds potential to drive additional anxiety. Another breath. I exhale. Relax – again. Let it go – again. Have another drink of cold weird liquid – what the hell did I grab out of the fridge? I look more closely. Oh. A sugar free sports drink in a flavor I don’t care for. Hilarious. I continue to drink it eagerly; the cold of it is more soothing than the flavor matters at all.

…I could just stay up. Have a shower. Meditate. Do some yoga. Make coffee… The time would pass quickly, and it would soon be time to head to the office…

My mind sifts through various recent conversations with assorted colleagues, friends, family members, doctors… aimless fussing and wound-picking, unproductive, and not especially healthy. I let that all go, too. I have a thought, properly relevant to experiences of anxiety and wakeful nights, and grab my vape – works for my daytime anxiety, will it work now? I watch the cloud billow around my face, and dissipate. There’s a loveliness to it, illuminated by the glow of my monitor.

I frown, irritated by the recollection of a recent visit to the VA. New doctor. Young doctor. “Have you tried Tylenol?”, she asked (about my literal decades of chronic osteo-arthritis pain in my spine). I’m still annoyed. Seriously?? Was she fucking kidding me? Potentially one of the stupidest questions I’ve ever been asked about pain management, by a doctor. Have I ever tried _____? Lady, Doctor, if it’s over the counter, I’ve fucking tried it – or read the contraindications and recognized it isn’t for me. For fuck’s sake, really? Damn.

Oh. Is that what woke me? I’m still processing my anger and frustration with that appointment? Admittedly, I’ve avoided dealing with it. I keep trying to “let it go” without having to deal with it. That, folks, is called “skipping a step” and it tends not to be very effective – but grinding my gears over it, ruminating endlessly frustrated by it, is also not effective. Running from the emotions does not put them to rest – it just results in feeling as though I’m not being heard. (Because I’m not.)

There’s a solution here. I hit my vape again. I shift gears and head to my meditation cushion. Whether or not I sleep is no longer my concern. It’s about a bigger picture of self-care, and “feeling heard” is something that needs to begin with me.

Here’s a brief musical interlude to pass the time… 😉

Some time has passed. There’s still time for more sleep, if it comes to that. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried. I feel relaxed. Content. Centered. I’m okay. This is one moment, of many. Just that. It’s not a bad moment, if I pulled it from life’s deck like a playing card; relaxed, content, safe, hydrated, secure in my home, secure in my relationships. There are no longer alarm bells going off in my head, and I am at ease, and comfortable in my own skin. The moment is altered and I change the music. I think of my far away Traveling Partner, still sleeping. I laugh, reminded that I am at home alone, and stream the music to the stereo in the living room, I turn it up, still mindful that the world (and my neighbor) sleeps. My thoughts travel briefly to a younger time in my life; I’d have run from this moment, pursuing any available distraction. Tonight? I pull myself back into my body, back into this “now”, and let the bass wash over me. “…Free the history…” I pick up my buugeng, and begin to dance, feeling my contentment mingling with the music, and the movement. (Your results may vary.)

Unexpectedly, in the middle of a moment, grief washed over me, unsolicited, unwelcome – and too real. It has been just 25 days since my mother died. So much has happened since then to distract me from that experience. I dropped to the floor weeping like a… like… well, like a grown ass woman, grieving the loss of her mother, honestly. It’s okay. There is no shame in these honest tears, and I am okay right now. This is real, and it is what it is. I needed this time alone, I suppose; real life has some things to tell me, things I need to hear. My heart needs to be heard – and I need to take the time to listen.

I cried for some little while. I’m okay with that; tears dry. As they do, I think about a shower, and coffee. It’s almost 3:30 am. The alarm will go off in an hour, and there’s little point in going back to sleep, now. 🙂 It’s already time to begin again. 🙂

I sip my coffee and reflect. I’m not a perfect person. I have hard days, like anyone. I sometimes choose poorly. I go wrong, now and again. This path, as with any other, has some rocks, and tripping hazards. The entire experience of living life seems to be about learning, growing, and making mistakes.

This morning, my head aches. I spent too much time crying last night. Not grief; the aftermath of …”an argument”? It wasn’t exactly. Words went wrong in a moment. Mine. His. I walked away before things developed into raised voices; I just wasn’t up to any of that. He felt hurt, even mistreated, that I walked away, without further discourse. We gave up on enjoying a shared evening. It sucked. Hours later, we found ourselves in shared space again. I apologized – it wasn’t about being right, or being wrong, or any of that; I simply whole-heartedly regretted hurting his feelings. No way to roll back the clock, so apologizing unreservedly was all I had to offer. It wasn’t a particularly satisfying moment, I’m not sure it did any good, or that things are “any better” now, and although I slept when I finally called it a night, I woke feeling dried out, head-ache-y, and heavy-hearted. Shitty start to the morning.

So basic.

I give myself room to be human. I take time for meditation. A cool shower helps, too. I sit now, getting ready for a work day that holds no enthusiasm, wondering if I’m even up to being an adult, at all…? Tooth extraction, tomorrow… Fourth of July the next day. I struggle with ennui and anhedonia, this morning. I struggle with tears that want to come, without any particular cause. Sometimes shit’s hard. I sip my coffee, frowning a bit. “This too shall pass” seems a fitting thought. I don’t find it particularly comforting, in this moment, maybe later? The pain shifts. Headache, now spine. I feel twisted and uncomfortable.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let things go. Pull myself back to “now”. Right now? Right now, I’m okay. Right now, he sleeps quietly. We live gently, without any hint of violence; a few terse words and some hurt feelings seem a small, fairly ordinary, human experience. We’ll get past it. Right now, the world feels new. I give myself another chance – that’s what that phrase “begin again” is all about. Reset the clock. Start over. Take a fresh approach. Let go of a bit of baggage and bullshit, and take a step forward on the path. “Growth” isn’t easy, or without effort, or free of error – and sometimes our mistakes are painful, for us, for those dear to us, to random strangers… but we do need to grow. So. A new beginning, then? I guess so.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Feel the tension in my shoulders begin to release. Feel the headache begin to dissipate. I drink more water. Sip more coffee. Do some yoga. I start building a fresh start, and a new perspective. No room to cling to personal narrative here; I’m often wrong. We all are. We make too much up in our heads to be reliably correct about what someone else is going through. More coffee. More time. More breaths. Fucking hell, today feels hard already. A deep slow breath. Another moment to exhale, relax, and feel my shoulders drop back down where they belong. Again, and again. “Practice”.

I look at the clock. Although I’ve no significant enthusiasm for it, it’s already time to begin again. There’s a work day ahead, and a chance to do something positive. More verbs. More choices. More beginnings. For now, that’s enough.

Well, sure. This.

It was a weekend of long walks in the sunshine, of fresh ripe blackberries, of farmer’s markets, and of grilling. It was a lovely, easy, relaxed summer weekend. Enough. More than enough. I let the recollection put a smile on my face this morning, as I sip my coffee, and prepare for a new day, a new week, and a new beginning. 🙂

All of the richness and warmth of the weekend, though, wouldn’t be “enough”, if I were to refuse to allow it to be; I could so easily choose to demand more from my experience and find myself mired in discontent and dissatisfaction. (I know this for certain, because I was once that person.) This morning the choice is to enjoy each of the small things I do enjoy, and to savor those experiences. I let them fill me up and become substantial in my recollection, and, over time, they become quite prominent in my implicit memory, and useful towards building emotional resilience.

…So practical. 😀

This week will “feel different” in the office, mostly simply to do with changing the office, itself. We’ve moved the work from one location, to another, although not very far. The two locations have a very different “vibe”, and quite a different arrangement of space. I’m eager to observe how these differences change other behavior than my own. It’s a work thing. lol Still, I’m eager to get going with it, and find myself considering leaving for work early, although few people will be on site, or working, as early as I generally get in. It’s the momentum that I’m after. I feel eager.

…Oh hey, “eagerness” is returning. I smile, feeling welcoming, and positively-inclined toward the experience of feeling eager. 🙂 It’s not much to hold onto, but any little foothold that helps me on my way up and out of last week’s pit of raw grief and existential disappointment is worth enjoying. 🙂 Grieving is such a personal thing. It will be a long while before I’m anything like truly being “over” my mother’s death – but, fortunately for my mental health and quality of life, feels like I am very nearly “over it enough” to see the color and joy begin to return to the day-to-day. 🙂

I take a moment for pictures of flowers from the weekend, before I begin again. 🙂

I’m sipping my room temperature coffee (lost a crown, haven’t yet had that repaired), and considering the path I am on, and where it has taken me. I’m thinking about my mother’s death. I’m slowly waking up to a new morning, and a new perspective.

Every ending, also a beginning; the sun shines even on our dark moments.

I went to the farmer’s market yesterday. The blueberries and blackberries are just in, and the strawberries have not yet disappeared. At the grocery store, exceptional tree-ripe apricots up from Dinuba were in. They are delicious this morning, with my coffee. Needing more novelty – and admittedly, also more exercise – I selected a nearby trail I “hadn’t gotten to, yet” – and got to it.

The sunshine was bright and illuminating.

It was only two miles, and spent mostly in my head. The sunshine was warm on my skin.

There were beautiful eye-catching flowers I’ve never noticed before.

The breeze was soft, and heavily scented with flowers.

Sweetpeas bloomed all along the trail, at the edges of the blackberry thicket.

I let my feet carry me forward, enjoying sunshine and movement. Thinking about Mom’s passing, without being fully aware that her service was going on, at that time, but still very much grieving the loss in a personal way. No guilt over not traveling for the service; she’d have understood. I know this, because we had discussed it.

Thimbleberries!

I spot a thicket of ripening thimbleberries along my path. I help myself to just one; they are too fragile for commercial cultivation, and have minimal fruit. The lovely flavor is unique, and I savor it, present, just being for that long sweet moment. I enjoy just the one berry, leaving the rest for the birds, before walking on.

There are wee bunnies in the underbrush all along my walk. Most of them are too fast for me to capture on film.

I return, eventually, to the car, and to home, and enjoy a quiet relaxed day of this-n-that, generally at leisure.

…No headache.

I sit a moment with that awareness; no headache yesterday. No headache this morning. I don’t want to miss this moment. This, too, is worth presence, worth savoring long enough to form a clear recollection, for later.

I enjoyed the walk yesterday more than the walk itself probably rates. I definitely need to be doing more of that. I sip my coffee and consider the morning ahead… I can definitely get a walk in, this morning, too. Maybe no pictures? A walking meditation, perhaps. Along the river? I don’t go up that way often; the wind in my ears, the sparseness of the vegetation, the bare expanse of berm along the path; it’s not much to see besides the long broad ribbon of muddy water, but this morning even that sounds enticing.

I finish my coffee, and start figuring myself out for the day. I find myself recalling bow practice, yesterday, with the crossbow my Traveling Partner got me as a late birthday present. I’ve no idea, really, what inspired him to go that direction – and it was a master-stroke of loving inspiration, as it turns out. We enjoyed the sunshine together for a few moments of target practice, before determining that, ideally, we’d need more room than we have behind the house. I promise myself to keep an eye out for suitable locations as I travel here and there. Still grinning, I settle on a pair of jeans, quietly (randomly) retrieved from the closet, as my partner sleeps. This day won’t live itself!

It’s time to begin… again. 🙂

 

I’m sipping room temperature canned coffee, this morning. It’s adequate, not fantastic. Satisfactory, without being delightful. “Enough” – sufficient to meet the need, without frills. I’m grateful for the almost-overlooked luxury of coffee, ready made, in cans, neither hot, nor cold.

…Seriously? This? Now?

 

I had a crown fall out, evening before last, during dinner. Scrambled eggs. Seriously? It was too much for me, after the day I’d had, and I wept… although… the day, itself, was frankly fine. More “win and good” than not. I couldn’t feel any win, and very little good. That lasted even through yesterday; the bright spots of the day were dim, the highs didn’t seem particularly different than the lows, and every small hurdle felt nearly insurmountable, however skillfully every detail of the day was managed. It’s been the whole week, honestly. I feel cursed by bad fortune, and a plague of small things going wrong – but when I pause to examine, as dispassionately as I am able to do, the facts of my experience…? Things are, actually, just fine. My experience is colored by grief. I’m okay, though, and life is okay. Grief is a powerful emotional experience of yielding to what I can’t change, letting go of what is no more, and going on. It’s fucking hard though, and a lot of it happens “in the background” in this peculiar fog of misfortune that seems to wrap me, this week.

The roses are still blooming in my garden.

…Realistically, I know my life is as it was, but for this singular loss. Each loss has it’s own shade of gray, it’s own particular flavor, it’s own… shadow. The shadows diminish with the return of light. I know this, intellectually. My heart has a bit more difficulty letting go – and in the negotiation between heart and mind, I find myself experiencing this peculiar sense of accursedness, that I’m also aware is not actually legitimately my experience. Weird and difficult. I spend time in my garden. I take time away from work. I get out in the sunshine and walk trails I’d not yet walked before. I take time to tidy up my studio and get it into working order once again. I am “chasing the light” without making a point of saying so, generally. “This too shall pass.” Of course it will; everything does. 🙂

I look for the sunny moments, everywhere, seeking “enlightenment”, of a sort.

This hole in my mouth, where that back molar was, feels weird. It’s not uncomfortable, particularly, in spite of the living tooth stump sitting in there; an urgent-care visit to the dentist got that covered with some sort of glue or something of that kind, to keep it protected for a couple of days until… extraction. That bonded porcelain crown was expected to last nearly a lifetime. I got 4 years out of it. My new dentist was fairly irked that the work had been done such that there just isn’t actually enough tooth left to secure the crown properly, at all. I’ve got just the one “bad tooth” – and I’m grateful, at 56, to have all my original teeth, and other than this one problematic tooth, no dental concerns. Now I’ve got to have it removed, altogether, and… I’m frankly terrified. I’m also surprised by this. Where did this fear come from? I was never “scared of the dentist” before facing this extraction. I poke at the fear in much the same way I ever-so-carefully touch the stump of this tooth with my tongue, curious, a bit nervous, and wondering “what to do about it”.

Practical solutions aren’t always obvious.

Complex PTSD is strange where the potential for new trauma is concerned. I breathe, exhale, relax. Pull myself back into “now” again. Long-past surgeries were, in some cases, very traumatic (look, there’s really no describing what it is like to be awakened during spinal surgery so that the doctor can check for reflexes and sensations, and ask questions… because there are indeed “sensations”, and some of them are not experiences I’d recommend having; the trauma of being aware of surgical goings-on, in the moment, is pretty horrific stuff). I allow myself the awareness. I let the feelings go, and come back to “now”. It’s not happening now, is the thing, it’s just a memory. I catch myself projecting forward, to the upcoming tooth extraction. It’s a novel experience. I’ve never had one done. I have literally no emotional experience of my own to draw upon, and can choose to visualize it in a variety of ways. Anything I imagine is utterly lacking in substance; it’s not real. I could imagine it being going smoothly, being nearly effortless, and done in a moment by a skilled professional, with no lasting consequences of note. Why would I choose to visualize it in any other way? I breathe, exhale, relax. I left the fear go. That moment ahead is not now.

…I recall my Traveling Partner reminding me yesterday, that my world and perspective are still colored by grief. I don’t remember what made the observation necessary. I’m still glad he has the presence to be aware of it, and the consideration to share that reminder, so gently. He’s been “here for me” all week, present, loving, warm.  Talking about the extraction, and my anxiety about it, he shared his own experience of such things, and observed that it “wasn’t that bad”. Even recalling our calming conversation renews my anxiety. Feeling my whole body suddenly get warm, I breathe through that surge of stress, I exhale, and let the anxiety go it’s own way. I relax again, and sip my room-temperature coffee. The tooth doesn’t tolerate hot or cold well, and I’m avoiding sticky foods, sweet foods, sharp foods… treating the wounded tooth with great care, until it can be pulled, next week.  How do I treat my grieving heart similarly well? It’s not like I can pull it out and move on…

However uncomfortable, grief is not a weed to pluck out of the garden of my heart; it has a purpose to fulfill. My emotions are not my enemy.

…I continue to sip my coffee, watching the sun rise beyond my studio window, as daylight arrives, and begins to overcome the shadows. There’s something to learn here – a way to understand things differently. This moment, right here? I’m not in pain. “Now” is just fine. Sure, there’s pain ahead of me in life (isn’t there always?) – and there’s certainly been pain in my past – right now, though? Right now, I’m okay. Right now, the morning is lovely. Right now, I’ve got an adequate glass of coffee to sip that isn’t aggravating this tooth. Right now, I’ve got a lifetime of memories of my Mother, on which I can rely whenever I want to feel her presence. “Now” seems a good time… for most things.

“Now” seems a good time to walk in the sunshine, away from the darkness, and into the light.

Incremental change is. Practicing the practices works. I’ll just stay on this path right here…one step at a time is enough.