That quote is from a French TV series Witnesses. Tres French, very dark, and True Detective-ish with subtitles. When something strikes my minds eye I hear it in terms of my journey from caregiving, loss, mourning, grief, and searching. “Donna is not keeping you from living I'm keeping Donna from dying."
The tension between those two thoughts and behaviors is palpable. Am I living? Am I keeping her from dying? To what end? Why?
It seems when I come to a point in my grief journey that I feel I have a fixed end point or place of repose I find a new fork in the road. A new path to examine and come to another understanding no matter how brief or tenuous. Grief, in a fashion, is organic learning.
Let me not mask grief in pollyanna images. There are days and weeks where grief is a hamster on a wheel tapping out an unheard rhythm of life's repatitions with raspy breaths. At time the clouds of grief part to rain a cascade of light and understanding. Taken in the whole the grief journey is ongoing and changing. It is slow, it is fast, and above all it gives me a knowledge to find a balance today while adjusting the past. Even if the distance in the rear view mirror is greater than the view through the windshield I shield my eyes for fear that the road is ending. The past comforts me in its joy and pain.
I am living? Donna is not keeping me from living. I am still self motivated but not like before. There are days I want to never leave the house or my bed. Those deficits are largely self imposed. But why? Is this in response to mygrief which began in 2009 when I knew, we knew, there would be no happy ending.
Truth be told there are gaps in my life. The loss is not just of a wife. The loss is someone named Donna and a life that had dimensions, texture, context. A life that was vibrant. A life that at was times flat and shapeless. That is what life is, a mosaic of pastels. Some tiles are dull, some bright, some broken, some misshapen but, together they make up a picture that inspires the senses. ( We loved seeing Gaudi's work in Barcelona.) The daily emersion in past is lost. It's replaced by seeing a pair of glasses on a vanity, covers on a throw pillow, pictures on a dresser, perfectly centered art. These are static memories. Yet dynamic and evocative. To ignore those triggers of memory is a failure to abide to the voice within myself within us all that says that is life. The voice that says please come back not to assuage my loneliness but to allow me to care and love you. As I tug on this string of memory though the lens of grief there are the pearls that appear.
Not sure stubborn is the right word. Grief is part of my narrative and how we have to live that narrative with our own words and music. This stubbornness is not falling prey to people who say: It is time to move on or your or find someone. It feels like I have to demonstrate I'm okay. The stubbornness not to bend to another's well meaning thoughts is a way to keep focus on the process, listen to what it’s telling me, and identify what it means. It is my loss, my grief, and my story. Though I will add that I do take what I hear, the criticisms, and support and it apply it all to my journey. Can I use it to change and improve? My stubbornness is less an impediment and more a protective shell.
I am okay alone. I am okay with the quite and my thoughts. I do not anguish in loneliness yet I wonder if some of my behaviors are just that, a low anguish. I will add that a portion of this solitude was already in place. Donna and I were happy with each other without events and activities. We were not bored. Today there are days I am bored out of my mind. I try and fill the day with productivity and plans. Have been successful? Meh. I am finding that as time moves forward I am comfortable with new and trying to do new.
This is a late revelation “You have to forgive yourself.” I never thought I did or was not a forgiving person. The more I thought about that the more I realized I am not forgiving myself for being the one who is living. The one who has life. The one who is doing nothing with the gifts and bounty I have. When traveling and heading to the airport there is the panic, what am I doing? Why? I should just turn around and go home. I don’t deserve this. This is not new to my grief. It is part of my world view. I'm harsh on myself and that seems to fly in the face of stubborn. I can say I am trying to find peace forgive myself with being alive. I see the edges of forgiving myself folding back on itself becoming some origami swan. The hurdle of this is inertia. I am stuck in this memory of those days where I charged ahead and completed lists and lists. Today the lists are comprised of scraping the waxy buildup off the kitchen floor. I kid but, it feels like that. I know I need to up my game and lists but the gravitational pull of the planet called grief may be holing me back.
Another pearl on this string is the grief and memories are my life now and it is moving and building and changing. It is changing and morphing like an avatar. Not in and of itself but within me. I am a host for this grief and the invader is transferring its venom or serum to me. I am becoming something new. The ashes from the experiences we have moves forward and something happens to change us and we become better. Or worse. But it is happening around us whether we choose to participate or ignore it. I choose to examine this process and make something of it. Perhaps not fast enough nor successfully enough. But it is mine and will do as I please. Because it is my grief.
Observer Effect is the phenomenon where the simple act of observing changes what is observed. So, are all my ranting, ramblings, gnashing of teeth, and watching effecting this avatar called grief? Is the act of observing this grief making it different, harming me, or helping? Are my observations effecting the morphing of this grief? Or does grief have its own shelf life, expiration date, sell by date, life span?
Wanting to know more, understand more, and figure a way through this to find meaning in its place in my life. Is there meaning in the death of a loved one that comes from mourning and grief? Which begs the next question, are all these observations and explorations perpetuating it? Is this part of the overall status of my life owning a one trick pony? I say this because of the response I get, all the comments, and page views-- no one notices. So I may need to put this pony down and make dog food. But, I will note the trending nature of grief especially in relationship to the tragic death of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband David Goldberg and the outpouring of response. Her essay on grief and grieving. They is also the aging of America and the changes in healthcare where end-of-life and palliative care are trending topics. I am not alone. If one person reads or listens and gets it I guess the pony had a good life.
Lot’s of questions so little time.
One final thought taken from Sally Mann’s book Hold Still. Memories [photos] emanate from complex moments in time therefore memories are economies of scale, winnowed down from the reality of those larger moments. Does the economies of these memories guarantee they will slowly fade away? Or are they, these memories, compact enough to travel and have life within me without crowding out today or me?