Thursday, August 11, 2011

Postcards from the Road

I talk a lot about being on the road or the "journey" of grief.  Probably because I am not clever enough to come up with a more original analogy, but it seems to fit.  It feels like trudging along on foot on a gradual uphill climb.  You sort of wonder if there is an end to the road sometimes, or if it just keeps on going until you're so utterly exhausted you just drop dead.  The funny thing is, somewhere along the line I realized that I can have entire days where I'm not bogged down by that grief now.  The Dark Knight Rises set was an example.  I thought about Kelsey during that long, hot day - I think about her everyday - but it wasn't the same as it would have been a year ago.  I felt free to just to savor the experience.  Later, a few days later, I got hit with this wave of guilt that I got to have that experience and she didn't, but even that was different than it would have been a year ago.  A year ago I got the same guilty feeling if I laughed at a joke, and it would devastate me for hours.  The other day, it was a few hard minutes and a panic attack, and I was able to move on.  It is in this way that you measure the mile markers, I guess.

But the other thing I wear out is my analogy that you are on the road alone.  Again, not particularly clever, but pretty apt.  Every one of us is an individual and every one of us had a different relationship with the one we've lost, so to an extent there just isn't a way to share our grief.  And that is part, I realize, of why the first book on grief I read talked about so many families breaking apart.  As I've often said, that terrified me, so I set the book aside and vowed to beat those odds.  But you realize after some time has past that it is harder than you think it is going to be.  I would be interested to take a look at the twenty percent or so that make it.  I would be willing to wager one or the other of the partners is a nurturer by nature and managed their own grief by caring for their spouse.

I am not a particularly nurturing individual.  No surprise - it is a part of what got us to this place to begin with.  My dad's military stance of "snap out of" is pretty ingrained in me.  It made me drive my kids, and it made me slow to take what was happening with them as something more than a rebellious teenage phase.  The irony (another word I use too much) is that this attitude has seen me through.  Like a bull crashing through a loaded china shop, I've just powered my way through the past two years, which if you think about it have been pretty jam packed with obstacles:  caring for Mother in her dementia, losing Mother, losing four dogs, having a husband walk away from his job, buying one house, selling another, dragging all of us literally across the country (with the help of some very supportive friends), and then going through the culture shock of learning a very different place (although that's a bit of a cheat, because I love it here, so that part has been more intriguing than hard).  I have no doubt it is the legacy my dad left me that allowed me to do all that and remain standing in the process.

The downside is it does not allow me a lot of sympathy for someone who is traveling at a different pace.  I found myself wondering yesterday if I was not that different from the woman who told me to "just get over it" one day.  Am I just as monstrous because I'm losing patience with someone else who is lagging behind?  Or am I justified because it leaves me trying to pick up all these pieces on my own (or so I perceive anyway)?  And then you truly come to the realization why the statistics are what they are:  we need, each of us, support, patience and love to successfully travel the road of grief.  The problem is that the people that we would turn to naturally to get it are in the same spot and are the least able to provide it.  I can't care for someone else the way I need to because I'm grieving too, so it is my nature to eventually lose patience with the situation like a petulant child.

I am thinking about all of this because I had this moment last night where I just lost it.  In a way I really haven't in a long time (but am ashamed to say I certainly have done before).  I took one of our plates that I was trying unsuccessfully to put in the dishwasher and just smashed it against the counter sending it into hundreds of pieces scattered all across the kitchen (which isn't that far in that tiny little space).  The tipping point is that I couldn't get the dishwasher open.  The handle is broken.  Marissa is the only one who can successfully open it, and she's a couple of weeks away from moving to the dorm.  This ended a long day of frustration, with one little thing adding on top of another, and all of it just culminated in that pent up annoyance needing some sort of outlet.  I'm not proud of it.  Furthermore, I really love my dishes, so now I get to add to my laundry list of woes that I'm down one plate.  But, the best way I know to handle it because it's done and can't be undone, is to examine it and understand what exactly I was trying to smash, because it wasn't really my plate.

Actually, if the truth be told, it was someone's head that I probably wanted to bop.  If you had asked me yesterday, I would have self righteously told you that was because I feel like I am in this alone and then I would have rattled off a long list of wrongs I feel I've been dealt.  I'll skip to the end:  I'm trying to work some pretty intense hours and care for an older house that requires more work now because, with three humans, four dogs and two cats living in it, that's a lot of wear and tear.  I'm tired, I'm financially strung out with the last of the bills from the Texas house still just rolling in, and I could use a little help around the house.  Today, with a little time to consider it, I can see the other side.  I've got this other grieving person who's just trying to get through each day to see the next day and that takes all his energy.  He needs a support he's not getting from his spouse (yes, that would be me), and all his friends are 1,400 miles away thanks to me.  It's small wonder he can't manage to help around the house more.  He's concentrating just on existing and finding that hard enough.  So, the logic would be to do the best I can and if things are a little less than perfect here or there, just let it go and not worry about it.  Problem is, that just adds to my stress.  And that all just leads me back to those dire statistics I read about.  It's damn hard to reconcile all these competing needs.  It's small wonder most people just stop trying after a while.

What is the right thing to do here?  I don't know exactly.  All I can say right now is that I need to channel that sense of purpose my dad instilled in me once more because he would not have turned away and given up.  That is not how wars are won.

No comments:

Post a Comment