"He hadn't loved me well in the end, but he'd loved me well when it mattered." ~Cheryl Strayed, Wild
I am trying to let this sum up my feelings regarding my relationship with my dad. It is the kindest way for me feel both the love and the anger about the shitty hand I have been dealt.
I have had so much going through my head this weekend and I have done my best to capture it in bits & pieces on a post it note program on my phone, on draft blog pages, and in my journal in hopes of turning into a coherent thought on my dad's death, but I have been quite able to really dive into all of it. Memories and feelings bump up against me all day long. I know this is part of the grief process, but it isn't quite what I expected it to be. It feels nothing like what I know of grief. Most of the grief I have experienced has been of romantic love or some sort. I have always felt I would have the time to make amends to the people I have hurt and that those who have hurt me would eventually find the words to answer the "why's".
Death is not like that. It is just done. I can keep searching for meaning and something that will make it all make sense. My grieving is stuck in the find the good in this story. I can dig through his stuff and replay videos and reread my words to him, but I will never get to hear him explain why he couldn't get his shit together and be a man not slowly drinking himself to death.
My girlfriend Theresa sent me this very timely quote:
“When we’re anxious, disconnected, vulnerable, alone, and feeling helpless, the booze and food and work and endless hours online feel like comfort, but in reality they’re only casting their long shadows over our lives.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Instead of writing or consciously thinking about this grief thing, I have been escaping. I am "anxious, disconnected and vulnerable" and have been comforting myself with "booze and food and work" and Pinterest. I have been planning adventures and creating lists of gear I need for these travels on Pinterest. I have created a "Wild" folder and adding to my "Outdoor Fun" folder. When I have exhausted distraction, then I just want to go to sleep and for my brain to stop.
While the escaping hasn't been bad for me, I left my emotionless marriage so I could feel every up and down and I don't want to get stuck in this emotional robot mode and yet, I am avoiding feeling right now. As a normally big feeler, I know I am avoiding feeling one more thing. I can tell I am in a place of big emotions that haven't been expressed yet. I can feel the storm brewing inside me.
I have read more this week than I have since right before my divorce at the end of summer 2010. Before my divorce, it was unusual for me not to read two or three books a week. I was a stay at home mom with young children who went to bed by 8 p.m. My husband traveled Monday through Friday, so I had a lot of time each evening to myself. I haven't had the attention span to read even a book a month since then. I haven't had the time alone since then either.
I am just now understanding how much I need time to myself. Quiet time. Large amounts of alone time.
In the past 7 days I have read three books.
Reading, like walking or hiking allows my brain to focus and all of the side worry and problems stop. I get tunnel vision when I read. Time and space outside of my book stop for me. I need to start walking again so my mind can process some of this before it explodes.
On the way home last week at the airport, I picked up the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. I went to the movie theater twice to watch this movie and I am not a movie theater type of gal. I love when I can purchase a book. It is a luxury I no longer take for granted. I used to spend hours at the bookstore reading and searching and picking two or three paperbacks without thinking. Then, much like my love of wine and peach whiskey, I started to tally up what I was spending on pleasures and had to look for ways to cut corner. Now most of my books come from the library, where I amass fines on a regular basis due to how long it takes me to read a single book at this point in my life. My wine now comes from a box and I sip my peach whiskey a little slower. Still today, when I read a book that really reaches my soul, I have to purchase it. I have fallen in love with buying my books "used" off Amazon.com so I don't feel bad marking them.
I am a highlighter, a corner folder, an under-liner and white space note taker. It is silly habit, but when my kids one day open my books, they will see the words, images and quotes that spoke to my heart. They won't have to read an entire book to get a feel for why I hung onto it and kept it by my bedside.
Having recently buried my dad and spent hours sorting through his personal belongings, I came home with a sense that every item in my house should matter or I need to throw it out (donate it). I have felt the pressing down on my head each day as I look at all that I have accumulated and continue to carry in this world with me. I don't want people to wonder why I was holding onto something, some slip of paper, photos of people my children won't recognize, or trinkets I have tucked away into my collection of hat boxes. I want to use and love & document what I have and gift the rest to Goodwill.
After the divorce it was the coolest thing when my bookshelves only housed my books, not my exes. I was so excited when guest would stop at my bookshelf, that they were seeing only me. I hope that when my children have to sort through my stuff, that they will have seen me read the books on those shelves and hopefully they will have picked a few off and read them as well.
My dad had whittled his library down, but it wasn't the size, but what he kept that confused me. It isn't what I would have expected. It just all seemed so random. Much to my dismay, he had stopped reading as he aged. Everything on his book shelf was old, as old as me. He had dozens of these small blue linen covered three ring binders which his notes or thoughts from each of the books of the bible. I opened them hoping they might have been sermons he had written, but they were only notes. He had an encyclopedia set that I feel I had read every page of every big book in my summer in the middle of no where. I know encyclopedias cost a small fortune back in the day, but I couldn't summon up any interest to pay to ship them back to my home. He had a ton of cookbooks, and while I know he loved to cook, I have no memory of his using or recommending any of the books. Although through stories I have told, my children remember him cooking a duck for us in Germany.
I am pretty sure they have images of a big goose with the neck still attached that he bought off a cobblestone side street from a butcher with a big hearty laugh, but it really just looked like a big chicken. I don't begrudge them the creativity they have filled in the holes with. That is what I have been doing, searching for treasures to fill in the holes I have in my memory and heart. I have wonderful memories (and found the film negatives to prove it happened) of my Great Grandfather roasting a whole pig in a pit he dug at the lake house one family reunion. I would love to recreate that with my children someday!
Picking through my dad's belongings was really weird, and that isn't even descriptive enough to describe what it feels like to walk through someone's life. It is awful and embarrassing and interesting and humorous and degrading rifling through someone's drawers and tucked away boxes of trinkets and trash. My dad's place was gross and dirty and that was after my family did a clean up of the worst of the nasty smelling trash. I suspect however, that regardless of the cleanliness state, digging through someone else's stuff always feels dirty.
I try and imagine what it would be like to have someone enter my home without me, rummage through my stuff and create an image of who I am.
I don't know why I want someone to be able to do this, other than in creating a home where this is possible, I am figuring out who I am.
"I never got to be in the driver's seat of my own life," she'd wept to me once, in the days after she learned she was going to die. "I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I've always been someone's daughter or mother or wife. I've never just been me."~Bobbie, Cheryl's Mom from the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Me too Bobbie.
I was too scared when I was young. Then I was married and in the serious business of raising babies. Now I am looking forward down my path and can see my last little birdie flying away on her strong little wings far too soon.
I have been counting on tomorrows, that are not guaranteed to me.
I think so many of us hold out, planning and waiting for that time when our life becomes our own again. I am excited about it because unlike my life prior to having babies, I know what I enjoy. I know where I want to go. I have a list of things I want to try.
While watching the movie Wild, my heart broke for Bobbie when she realized she would not get to be just her.
I worry I won't be gifted time to be just me. I hear the clock ticking. There is not a moment to waste, placating and pacifying those I love. That is why I am pushing so hard right now to release the weight and burden and forgive and let go. That is why I feel edgy and anxious. I want to be present, now. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am ready to just be me. I don't want to wait until my children grow up. I don't want to wait. I want to stretch my legs in this fabulous feeling of me. I want them to know me, as me. I want to be me now.
I want to make me happy now. I want to take care of my needs and desires. I want to choose what makes me happy without having to take into account anyone else. I want to live the best & boldest life I can, however it is baby steps for me. I am still inching my toes forward to the edge. I am still curling my toes over the edge. I like to call my procrastination, savoring.
noun (pl) -ries
1.the path described by an object moving in air or space under the influence of such forces as thrust, wind resistance, and gravity, esp the curved path of a projectile
2.(geometry) a curve that cuts a family of curves or surfaces at a constant angle
Because of the thrust & the wind & that damn gravity, my current trajectory around the planet grief has me circling round and round my past. This is where I will orbit for a while, but I know that at some point I will slingshot to the next planet in the healing process.
Some days, I become aware that I am not at all present and on auto-pilot pleasing others and choosing what is easy instead of what I want. In the wanting to be "just me," the most important thing I strive for each day is trying to stay present and grateful.
Each moment I am able to stay present and be quiet allows me to recognize when I am actually being me and how good and right that feels.