Questions

How long is a month?

It’s a long time. But it’s also not long at all.

What’s the difference between grief and depression?

I can’t actually tell the difference right now.

Is there anything good about death?

Nope.

Really?

Okay, maybe it’s not all bad. I found this interesting quote from from Ann Lamott’s memoir Traveling Mercies:

Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit. Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible. You can often avoid the pain by trying to fix other people; shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession. Martyrdom can’t be beat. While too much exercise works for many people, it doesn’t work for me, but I have found that a stack of magazines can be numbing and even mood altering.

But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you. A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won’t hold up forever, and if you are lucky and brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then to keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination.

And here is what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whose name is practically synonymous with death, has to say:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.

That sounds great. What’s wrong with that idea?

Because I’ve already been through plenty of defeat, suffering and loss. I get it, okay? I’m trying to be as beautiful as I can be, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. You can give it a fucking rest now.

At least I’m not this woman. There’s always someone else with a greater burden to bear, equipped with more strength and grace than you with which to handle it. And that’s pretty inspiring, somewhat comforting, and not a little intimidating.

My dad’s memorial service is in two weeks. I keep thinking something magical is going to happen after that, like it’s some sort of grief threshold I’ll cross and then everything will start getting better instantly. But I know better than that.

So you’re sad right now. That sucks. What else are you up to?

I’m working, but not too much and thankfully it’s from home where I’m free to have the unexpected emotional meltdown. I’m trying to decide if I want to pursue a lead I got on a freelance gig with a VERY BIG NAME (rhymes with “schmoogle”), but I don’t know if I have the energy right now.

I’m running, although I don’t really have a plan other than to try to run at least five days a week and do two decent workouts in there somewhere. Most of it’s unstructured. I’ll go run around on the XC course at Van Cortlandt Park. Today I went into Central Park and did 25 minutes of fartlek running, chopped up into 3-7 minute segments over a full park loop. I passed a lot of people and felt like a badass for 45 minutes. I mostly just go run and do whatever. I have a race next weekend, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler Relay, with two of my favorite people. That’s for fun, although I’m hoping I can do something with the 5K fitness I spent months working on building and did not get to use in Houston last month except for running through airports.

I don’t sleep very much. I am plowing through my generic Ambien at an alarming rate. My neck and back are a holy mess — I basically go for the same massage every 10 days or so. My massage therapist is a funny woman, about my age, who has lots of stories about death. We’re going for drinks some night soon, since I’m usually lying face down when we converse and I’d like to change that.

I have neglected fruits and vegetables. I need to get back to those. Also: flossing.

I drink to excess some nights, but that was something I did in the best of times, so don’t worry.

I’m writing up an absolute storm these days.

I am hoping to hit some open mics this month, although that’s been a lot of work since I have to have very short pieces for those and everything I write is about 8 minutes too long. But I have one new piece that’s short and will be working on others. I’ve been going to a few to listen (and mostly rule them out). But I do appreciate living just north of NYC, where if you can’t find an open mic at least four nights a week then you are either blind or not very resourceful.

A few months ago I signed up for a beginner’s acting class that started a week after my dad died. I deferred that and will instead be taking that in about two months. I’m nervous about it, because I’m a terrible actor, but that’s why I’m taking a class, isn’t it? (I don’t want to be an actor, by the way. I just want to learn to be less self-conscious when I’m up on stage telling a story.)

The truth is, I feel awful much of the time. I’m not fun to live with. I get brief waves of levity and then I ride those waves (usually in the form of making amusing Facebook posts, seeing friends, or getting my shopping done) for all they’re worth. I don’t think I’m wallowing in self pity. I believe it’s good to acknowledge and feel pain for the reasons Lamott states above. It would be helpful to have some sense of when it will lessen. But I know things don’t work that way. I have Kleenex boxes in every room of the house. My entire house looks like a psychoanalyst’s office. It’s actually sort of funny, when you think about it.

I’ve developed a theory that the periods of reprieve we get from the soul-crushing sadness are some kind of evolutionary mechanism; they keep us from shutting down completely in order for us to survive. That theory is extending into the idea that maybe death as a physical and psychic experience is also not that bad, or perhaps even fantastically pleasurable. We can only hope.

Thanks for the kind comments on the previous blog post, as well as the various notes and other condolences. I hope that I can be as generous, wise and buoyant a presence for others when I hear the call.

Everything is going to be okay.

7 Responses

  1. Hey. it’s good to answer the questions you can because there are so many you can’t.

    We were about a week ahead of your loss so, if anything, a friend is knows exactly how you have been feeling.

    Take care

  2. “At least I’m not this woman” Classy.

    • You misinterpreted that sentence, and I’m sorry for that. I marvel at Kelli’s incredible bad luck, and resilience and strength in the face of it. Her blog was one of the few genuinely helpful resources I’ve found on grief recently.

      Edited to add some clarity.

    • Oh, Jeez. You ARE Kelli. I will send you a note.

  3. Despite your grief you haven’t lost your humor (you got me with “schmoogle”). Glad you are writing and running. Flossing is overrated.

  4. You could have made “schmoogle” harder. I presume this doesn’t mean a move to California.

    It will lessen over time. Keep enjoying your running — I’m sure running helps.

  5. I know it doesn’t help a damn bit to hear this, but it does get better with time. Trust me.

    Please keep running.

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