Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arriving at the Destination: Not Quite Paradise

When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
And the bullets catch in her teeth
Life goes on, it gets so heavy
The wheel breaks the butterfly
Every tear a waterfall
In the night the stormy night she'll close her eyes
In the night the stormy night away she'd fly
Coldplay, Paradise

I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.
Gandalf, The Return of the King

In summary, I would expect to be asked what it feels like to have come out the other end of the long tunnel that is grief.  I am not sure I can answer that quite yet aside from what I've already told you before.  I still grieve, but I'm not so heartsick with it that I cannot feel happiness or look forward to things or even experience real joy.  The best way I can describe it is to tell you a story about my favorite piece of clothing: an embroidered silk Chinese jacket that I found in a vintage clothing shop on South Congress in Austin.  I   took myself down to this little cluster of shops near the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse (one of the things I truly miss about Austin) one Saturday not long after Mother had died.  Even if you're not from Austin, you may know the area I'm talking about because it would later get some national exposure from the Wendy's commercial where the young man finds the old Where's the Beef t-shirt - that was shot along that strip of shops.  I guess I was feeling lost in the massive quiet after so many years of drama so I was looking for a diversion.  I had no real intention of buying anything, but I wandered into this shop where I know the woman who owns it has a lot of kimonos.  I love old clothing and I love Oriental styles in particular.  Combine the two and it's art, but, c'mon, who has cause to wear a kimono on a regular basis?  Well, long story short, she also had a few Chinese pieces, including this long, black silk number with brilliant embroidery.  She coaxed me a little, I caved and tried it on.  We discussed what you wear under it, how you accessorize a busy piece like it, etc. and next thing I know I owned it and a pair of simple red gem earrings.  I've never bought anything so expensive before or since.  I probably never will.  I sometimes think about it and feel really guilty for spending so much money on something I've worn only a few times, but I really, really love it.  I will have it for the rest of my life and eventually it will be Marissa's.  It's now a legacy - a part of me.  So, when I look at it there in the closest, I feel sort of conflicted, but, truth be told, I'm really glad I bought it.

The way I feel now is sort of like owning that jacket.  I am sort of secretly thrilled, like I got away with something, but there is some guilt associated with it too.  How dare I feel any sense of happiness in the face of such a tragic loss?  I've wrestled with that one a lot over the last almost three years - anytime I would laugh at a joke, or when the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl, or when Sid the Kid won the gold medal, but those were moments and this is life as a whole, so it is a big step out the door and once you realize what's happening, expect a little inner pressure to go backwards.  Please don't give into it.

I've always believed in Fate tempered by free will.  I didn't pick up on it just to justify my state of mind now.  I've always believed that Fate puts big moments in your life and you have the free will to determine what to do with them.  How I substantiate that claim might have to be for another time,  but let me just say, having been around a day or two, nothing has ever happened to dissuade me of that belief and plenty has happened that reinforced it.  With that in mind, I have to believe that Kelsey's father and I are still around for a purpose.  It seems wrong on the face of it.  The very nature of a parent is to believe in your very bones that your children will outlive you.  But, for some reason, that did not happen in my case.  I can let that interfere forever with my living the rest of my life, but then am I forsaking the purpose I must have for surviving?  My belief system says so.

Plus, someday I may have grandchildren.  What am I supposed to say to them when I can't get out of my own stupor to do the things grandmothers are supposed to do:  let them eat an extra piece of candy their mother doesn't want them to have, take them to the zoo, teach them to bake and let them make a holy mess of my kitchen, read The Hobbit to them?  I can't do those things if I turn my back on a full life.  It's just one example.  Yours will be different, but, trust me, they are there.

I don't know what my purpose is really.  That lies ahead.  Sometimes people will tell me I should write a book, but parenting an ED sufferer has been done, so have countless books on grief.  I think about writing a book about bad parenting and how to overcome it, because I think I have a lot to say on that particular subject.  But, in the meantime, the current bills call, and I have to spend a lot of my time at my day job, so it's all just sort of thoughts rattling around.  I tend to think I'll know it when it presents itself, so I'm patient for the moment.  I would counsel you to be the same.  If your loved one died of - say - cancer, don't necessarily force yourself to volunteer for cancer causes if it's painful.  I skitter around the borders of eating disorder causes personally.  I lived with it for so long as such a dominating force in all our lives, I can't quite make fighting it an advocation now.  But, I can't walk away from it either because I think of all those parents out there - scared and unsure what to do - and all those sufferers who feel the same way, and I can't leave them entirely behind.  That's me.  Others who have lost loved ones to it fight it 24/7 like a crusade.  Do I feel guilty that I don't do more?  Sure, sometimes.  But, I know that faking it doesn't help anybody.

Finally, I leave this series with this thought:  life is forever different.  You are forever different.  There is always that hole in your life.  I am so sorry for that.  But allow yourself to experience happiness when it comes to you.  The person you lost would want you to and maybe, at the very heart of it, that's the real reason you should bravely carry on:  because you owe it to your loved one who now lives because of your memories of them.

And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She'd say, "Oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise."


  1. What a post... a lot of it really rang true for me about not feeling inclined to "help the cause," so to speak, even though I could do more to help than I do. In some ways, I don't because I know I'm not fully 100% "recovered" and I'd feel fake about it, and in other ways, I don't because it's so much effort and I don't want that taking up all of my mental energy. And grief is so arbitrary sometimes... just random and doesn't make sense, and there's so much guilt in feeling good again if even for a minute.
    The kimono is beautiful and I'm so glad it belongs to you and someday to Marissa.

    1. My take on it is don't pressure yourself to do more than you're ready for. You first right now. Cause later, if that's what is right for you. You'll find the right path, and it might have nothing to do with ED causes. And that's okay.