Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Days Like These

Hard to imagine a more perfect day.  Whether sitting in the sun or in the shade, it was comfortable.  The sky was a crystal blue, only marred by the soft wisps of white clouds and the darting of song birds.  Squirrels frolicked in the trees and butterflies traveled on the breeze.  These are the days that are made to carry us through darker times.  These are the days we live for.  Hard to imagine any sorrow surviving against a day like this one.  Yet they do.

One thing that has struck me on more than one occasion is my attitude in the face of a bad day in the last two years.  We all have them.  Days when it just seems you would have been better off not getting out of bed.  And doesn't it seem that when it begins to unravel, it just keeps on going?  Like an avalanche that you are standing directly in front of.  I always used to tell myself, "Oh well, just get it all out of the way at once," not stopping to think if it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that once one negative thing happens we somehow set ourselves up for more.  If I had ever just said, "Okay, that's it for today.  The rest of the day will be great,"  maybe it actually would be.  That might work some of the time actually.  But sometimes it does just sort of seem like Life is taking a big, fat dump on your head.  And, that's just part of the gig.  I used to sort of rationalize it by telling myself it is the bad days that make you appreciate the good ones.  And, if I were particularly bad tempered over a day's worth of crap, I could work up a good case of guilt on top of it by reminding myself of all the people in the world living in squalor or imprisoned and tortured because of their religious or political beliefs, and I should just suck it up.  That one generally worked to take the edge off a little.

That was then.  Now, I tend to be almost incredulous that bad days roll my way.  I cannot believe I am having to deal with this or that, doesn't Life realize I've been through enough?  The other day was a good case in point.  It was just a standard Bad Day set against a backdrop of a gorgeous one.  Somehow that makes it worse because you breathe in the sweet morning air and feel somewhat optimistic, so when things begin to go awry, it seems so off kilter in comparison to the beauty of the day.  Without going into boring details, things just sort of took off on a downhill roll, and by about 9:00 that night, as I was locked out of my work program after it timed out when I had left it open to deal with a bill collector (long story, that involved a perfect storm of situations, including trying to switch banks so some money is here, some is over there and all of it is chaos), I reached the inevitable conclusion that I was having a Really Bad Day.  And that same resentful cry to the Karma Gods rose up from me, "Really?  I think I've given enough and you should cut me a break."

Rationally, I know that's silly.  Just as I know it's silly to feel guilt over the good days.  Because I have those too.  Particularly since coming here where any outing is an adventure because it's new and different.  But, I do very often.  Not every time, but that allowance has come with some effort.   There is a natural tendency as a surviving parent to think that you cannot possibly deserve any happiness if your child isn't around to be able to experience the same emotion.  It takes a real effort to work past that.

Yet, both good and bad days just keep on coming.  To deny them is to live a life in limbo.  I would imagine many people who experience great loss try to live in that middle ground, shut off from all real emotion good and bad.

That night, after getting off the phone with the bill collector, frustrated and in tears because I couldn't get her to waive the late fee even though it was my first time ever being late and I was exactly 20 days past due, I took Cheyenne for a long walk.  We walked up the cemetery that dominates the landscape here.  I will write more about it at some point; it actually is an amazing place, both eerie and peaceful, a little history lesson of the township set up on a hill overlooking the entire area.  The dead keeping an eye on the living.  I like walking in the older section and looking over the tombstones and imagining what the people resting below them were like in life.   One thing that strikes you as you wander amongst stones set literally a century and a half ago in many cases is what impermanent fixtures we are, all of us.  It seems a little silly to obsess over an $18 late fee and waste what time you are given over things like that. (Greg got it waived the next day, a man talking to a man, as an opposed to my conversation with a woman - there are some implications there that I'm not sure I like, but whatever...)  So, I tried to take in the glory of the day as it closed out, the crystal blue of the sky fading to a faint pink, then to dusty grey, the last of the summer fireflies blinking lazily along the way like little diamonds in the oncoming night. To deny myself some pleasure in such simple beauty won't bring my daughter back.  It will only waste the moment.  And, trying to live in limbo doesn't mean the bad days won't find me, it just means the better ones won't either.

Maybe the hardest thing of all in learning to live with loss is learning to accept that it is okay to live your own life.  Good days and bad.


  1. Wow. What a beautiful picture. I can imagine how beautiful it must be to the eye.

    I like that sentence - "trying to live in limbo doesn't mean the bad days won't find me, it just means the better ones won't either" ain't it the truth? And isn't limbo bad in itself?

    Every time I read your posts, I think of what an incredible person you are, how intelligent, thoughtful, perceptive... It makes me miss our conversations, sitting in your office and taking time to talk of many things (though, I do not remember cabbage or sealing wax being mentioned).

    Give Greg an 18 dollar kiss. I am not sure what that involves, but it might include second base (I'm not sure I remember what that is either.)


  2. I think about those little talks we had in my office after hours all the time - I remember Lisa joining us - and how the two of you verbally sparring could make me laugh until my eyes stung. I'd say Those Were The Days, but the days sort of sucked actually, it was those after hours when we could let our hair down a little that got us through, and I miss that too!