Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Thin Ice

One of the things that occurred to me is that I was sliding down a slippery slope back into self-pity and grief because the single most important thing that got me through the last couple of years is in danger of being taken away.  It's not my family, it's not my work, it's not even my beloved dogs - although collectively they are older than I am and I know I'm on borrowed time before we lose another.  All those things are very important to me, but they are reasons I have not to wallow in misery, but not necessarily the way I manage not to do it (with a noted exception that I'll come to).  No, it's hockey.  I really, really love hockey.  For reasons I've talked about before.  It's better than football for taking your mind off your troubles for a few reasons, but one I'm oh so painfully aware of at the moment:  when the Steelers lose, you've got a whole week to stew over that fact, and there aren't many chances to lose before it impacts your season.  If the Pens lose, unless it's the playoffs, I pout for a bit, then move on to the next game in a couple of days.  The pace is so fast and furious that there is no time for worrying too much over the past.  At least not here, where we can put a team with Cup potential on the ice.  And a loss, even a string of them, won't derail your team completely.  All the grief counseling in the world couldn't do for me what the Penguins ended up doing.  Well, it is likely that the season is going to be delayed, and could potentially be shortened or not happen at all (hey, it's happened before) because of an impasse on revenue sharing.  The deadline is looming and there seems to be little real movement.  This will be the third lockout in 17 years.  And they wonder why they continue to be, as my husband says, a "second tier" sport.  I'm angry.  I'm freaked.  What will I do?!  And that's when it hit me - I'm entirely dependent upon something that I can't control and therefore it has control over me that it shouldn't.

I think I've probably written in the past that you should use whatever tools you can find in the toolbox to get you through the dark times - within reason.  Drugs and alcohol are not the answer, because that all catches up with you and just makes it far worse.  But, I'm sure - because it's what I did - I encouraged readers to spend time in pursuits that diverted their attention and absorbed them in happier things.  I am not particularly flip-flopping on that.  I think in the short term you have to do whatever it takes to get through the day and then the next one and the one after that.  At some point, I realize, faced with a lockout that everyone else seems to be taking in stride (because they've been through it before), that real success in grief recovery is to come to some sort of inner peace.  Or at least inner acceptance.  I've always known that, I think.  But, when you're faced with your first real test, you are tested in more ways than one, and one of the things you have to find out about yourself is how far you've come toward learning what it takes to be strong from within, not just from without.  In short, you have to do the work yourself, Sidney Crosby can't do it for you.

Starting from there, trying to decide how to get to that point, there a few things I will tell you so far:

  • The dips, which are inevitable, are not as deep as the original loss was.  It hurts, sure, but not that white hot fire you first had.  So it is easier to overcome the down times.  My guess:  it will get easier and easier with time.  I doubt the little pings will ever go away because I mean, think about it, you're talking about the loss of someone who grew inside you.  How can that ever be made completely right, right?
  • You have to learn what your true support systems are.  Hint: it's not hockey.  I understand on one level now why so many people turn to religion in the face of great loss.  Heaven doesn't have lockouts.  (On the other hand, I also get why some people turn their back on God - what loving God could take a child from you?)  Maybe it's a grief support group.  Maybe it's your friends.  For me, it's Cheyenne, my alpha dog.  She is sensitive and accepting of my moods, and wants to help.  I don't have to worry about burdening her with my troubles in the face of her own - as long as she gets to sniff out giant groundhogs every night in the local cemetery, she is there for me.  And even when I have to skip a night or two walking her, she still loves me and listens to me when I'm sad.  Can't buy that kind of support.
  • Be patient with yourself.  I thought the road through to recovery was a straight shot.  Turns out it's not.  But it's still a road that can be traveled.  You can do it.  So can I.  I'm pretty sure.
All in all, I can tell you that I'm sort of tired and drained, but I'm still plugging along.  I'm bouncing - well, maybe not exactly bouncing - but coming back from the last few weeks of tough times.  If you're reading this because you've experienced the same thing, I can tell you to hang tough.   You won't believe me right at this moment, but you'll just have to trust that it gets better again.  Just don't depend on hockey to ride to the rescue. 

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