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''Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.'' - The Desiderata
At one point about two and a half months in, I had made up my mind that I no longer wanted to be part of this painful scene...I was feeling totally lost, unmotivated and falling into a truly apathetic state. There was nothing I could see to hang around for, the most important person in my life was gone and everything else, including family did not provide much reason for carrying on. I was brought face to face with selfish Fred. At that point, I was the epitome of selfishness...wallowing deep in self pity and seeking escape from the awful pain I was enduring. With help, I was able to retreat from the precipice and have been able to continue on the road...so far. Those who knew me before DJ's death may well attest to the fact that I was not a well man even then, before, altho I didn't accept this...there were various symptoms...I am told I suffered from the inability to even consider being wrong about almost anything; having made up my mind long ago that most folks were idiots, I had determined many would do well to just follow and do as I suggested, as a matter of fact, I knew that the entire world would would be a better place if everyone simply did as I said; after having given any subject the most cursory of reviews, I would declare myself an expert and have no further need of instruction on it. Now I can see that my aliments extended deeper than some mere character defect in regards to the high esteem I held of myself; It spread to my thinking that because of the life I had led, somehow, I had been given special insight into the hearts and motivations of others, family and friends alike. Quick to judge and slow to forgive, I was the zenith of the perfect human being. There is a condition that came along with the malady from which i suffered...in my case it was blindness...well, maybe not total blindness, but a form of permanent tunnel vision, and not always with my eye being kept on the prize. DJ, altho no innocent herself when it came to having some of these same symptoms was able to to partially help heal me of some of my own and help make me a presentable human being to the world at large. Altho I am not sure she is aware of it, one of the greatest lessons she gave me was in the last hours of her life, an insight into acceptance; I have not completed that course......yet, tho.
A few nights after DJ died, I had a dream...it wasn't a dream specifically about DJ, as a matter of fact I don't remember what all it was about really; the elements of which it was made were disjointed and incomplete. It appears to have been a random sampling of some of the more trying times in my life. All that day I had been trying to come to terms with what had happened...trying to find something which would allow me a better grasp of what had befallen us and just how was I to manage the feelings I was being overwhelmed by... I think I was trying to find something to which I could compare DJ's death, something I could judge all these emotions, in comparisson to... I say this because altho the specifics of the dream are not clear, I do know I woke up with a certain terrible feeling I have had only few times before in my life; the most recent being DJ's death, and one of the first times being some time ago...that feeling first occurred one summer's day in a place far removed from here. The feeling is one of total helplessness, it appears to originate from deep in the pit of one's stomach and from there can manifest itself in many ways. Often it is accompanied by stark terror, a sense of unimaginable anxiety and many times, a level of inner tension and breathlessness that no human was designed to endure. For me, one of it's most outstanding features was a sense of tremendous pounding in my chest, as if it were being struck by a 16 pound sledge hammer...from the inside out; for me, uncontrollable shaking was a feature as was profuse sweating; and on that particular summer's day, a complete loss of control over bodily functions was present also. Watching DJ die that morning caused this feeling, and many more that I'd just as soon forget.
It has been detailed here, some of those last moments of DJ's life, but one of the first times I had that feeling associated with it was on that summer's day as I trudged through another country's jungle, bearing the necessities of my then current life on my back; in my hand was a rifle, and in my mind I was carrying a thousand and one resentments against more than a million and one people for being where I was. As I walked below a roaring sun and a stifling, heated atmosphere, where each breath was like breathing the output of a blast furnace and the sweat rolled unceasingly, all I could think of was DJ and home; those thoughts were propelling me that particular day. I had different thoughts for each day to help me do what I needed to do to survive; today it was DJ and dinner out...of course all the thoughts had DJ in them, DJ and the new baby I had not met yet, DJ and our car, DJ and our new apartment...DJ and... ...always DJ was in them. Usually I played the thoughts to a conclusion of my own design, some fairy tale ending with all the stars in their proper alignment...her, rushing to me as I came off the last step of the plane's stairway, soft music in the backgroud, and the entire scene viewed through a soft focus lens... Love Story, Fred's style; this day that thought was interrupted.
That it was ever determined where the shot came from, or if the sniper from the other side who fired it was ever sought out and properly dealt with, I don't remember; what I do remember is watching one of the young fellows in the lead, fall back, dropping all his gear, and leaning backwards over his kneeling legs, unmoving...there was a hole about the size of an american quarter in the front left side of his neck, and the red liquid it pulsed, ran down the side of his neck and created a crimson stain on some of the plants, and in the short grass, and onto the floor of that other country's jungle; I could have lived another entire lifetime without knowing that almost the entire rear of that young man's head was missing, but as I scrambled to the ground to avoid being the sniper's next prize, I landed close enough to see that it was. That feeling began that moment, right then as I lay pressed to the earth, staring at what was left of that young man's head. As we lay there for all of that afternoon, with me trying to press myself through the earth, with clothes being held next to my body by sweat, and the creatures of the jungle feeding on me..biting, stinging, afraid to brush them off lest the next bullet find me, and with every inch of my skin appearing to need scratching, thoughts of DJ and everything else evacuated my mind; that feeling replaced them, that same feeling I had that early morning with DJ. The helplessness, the terror, the anxiety, and the breathlessness, they all made their appearance, the most powerful of all was the unbelievable inner pounding I felt, as if my heart and lungs would burst forth from my chest and, radiating up to the inside of my head. Both were terrible times indeed, but what was worse, even after they came and DJ went that morning, as I looked at where she had lain, the feeling continued. Into the next day and the next, and next and... those awful gut wrenching stabs of helplessness, and that inner pounding continued for quite some time afterwards. It appeared to stalk me. Sleeping didn't help, even if I could, eating was impossible, and thinking was the worse; the pounding continued.
We were held down there that summer's day for the majority of that afternoon and into early evening before it was decided that it was safe to carry on. I remember thinking as we gathered ourselves, and the remains of that young man, that never again in my life would anyone ever tell me anything about how I should feel or think or live. At that instant, I determined that most of the rest of the world could kiss my ass from that point forward, race, creed, color, or national origin not being a barrier to their lips going there; what they may think of me, no matter what I did or how my choices appeared was of little consequence to me. Having endured what we did that day, I knew from that moment on, I would be a totally different person...I don't think anyone can sustain such a continuous barrage of that sort of psychological and physical terror and not be changed...and I was changed. It would only be later that I would realize just how much; but for the plight of that young man, I should want to thank that unknown marksman, because he helped me clear up a lot things during those hours we lay on that other conuntry's jungle floor...being feasted upon by the many multi-legged creatures which lived there. My ideas on everything from racism to religion were different after that day. That in some way it may have prepared me for keeping watch at DJ's departure. The mindset which I was able to bring into focus about the event, had it's origins on that day. I could understand what was happening, at both instances, and despite all the emotions involved, I could manage to retain enough external composure to survive the immediate shock; it was the internal workings of my mind that was roiling, scrambling, and always, that damn pounding. I lived in that state for over two months after DJ died, unable to sleep, eating sparsely, continually absorbing the effects of that feeling; it felt as though it would never end, and I knew I would not live the rest of my life as I had lived that summer's day way back when; that inner pounding would not allow it, even if everything else would. An exit strategy was needed and I began to ponder the most obvious one; here, that selfish nature could serve me well...it could allow me to justify anything if I wanted it to, and the rest of the world could kiss my ass. Since in this, only my opinion counted...I could have it any way I wanted, and I wanted out of this.
Thoughts of others, even down to the most newest, most significant member of our close family was easily banished from my mind; the decision was made crystalline and a course of action was plotted. Strangely enough, some of the effects of that feeling lessened once this decision was made...now it was just a matter of time, a matter of when. I could not be sure that the results of my planned action would put me with DJ, where ever that might be, the only thing I was willing to believe was that it would stop that damn pounding and the pain, and the fear; and that it had to be complete, with no chance for survival for me. I was dedicated to making sure of the final outcome. I am sure many of us have arrived at the doorway of this house of despair...pondering that same escape from the feeling of hopelessness and pain. That the exact feeling may not be present is of no matter...to each of us it is just so personal, but just as deep, just as tortuous, and has the belief attached that we cannot go on. It is truly strange the effect that the loss of someone with whom we have shared so much, have lived so much for and have come to rely on so deeply can have on us. It cannot be over estimated; for those of us who have experienced this, we know that effect, we feel it in every fiber of our bodies, and it's loss can rip us totally apart.
Through the grace of a power greater than myself and the help of some sincerely caring people, I was able to ride the storm that feeling produced and find a more calmer, and recognizable place; a place where I could at least forgo the action I was considering and begin to understand that a way forward was possible, even if difficult. Having no formal training in matters of the mind, I detail here, from the point of pure emotion and personal experience; what I attempt to relate is a direct result of having experienced something about which I am only now getting a more truer and better understanding. I believe that we cannot effectively deal with methods of treatment as scientific protocols when it comes to our grief; this is purely a set of human emotions for which it is impossible for us to prepare for or be trained to endure. This feeling, these emotions do not bend to the ideas of professors or educators in all cases, mine being an example, altho many individuals are helped by their ministrations, at the heart of this is that we are dealing with personal emotions, and I don't believe there is anything on earth more unknowable or more volatile. In my own case, I was only relieved of that awful feeling and that unending pounding by the understanding and caring of folks in a like situation; they helped me to turn back from that doorway and towards the house of the living. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with my personality and my willingness to accept what I was being told because I knew those people had felt if not all, at least some of those feelings which had driven me to the edge.
Being able to recognize and honestly deal with what I knew of myself has helped me to try and go forward, it has allowed me to accept some things regarding DJ's death, and at least become willing to work on other aspects of it that I struggle with. For those of us who still are visited by some of those feelings I have tried to describe here, I can offer this; there is a way, things do get better, despite all appearances, the fog will clear. Believing that and understanding with just a bit of effort and a willingness to give time it's due, we don't have to continue to suffer from the constant emotional attacks that are such a large part of this grieving process. That there is hope, there is no doubt, that we are willing to deal with ourselves on an entirely different level and believe that we can flourish is the real question.
To be clear; I claim no special knowledge in this process of grief other than my feelings and reactions to it's appearance in my life, but like each one of us here, I am an expert on how it has made me feel, and what emotions it has stirred in me...I have no empirical data to support any thing I put forth as my conclusions on this process, only how I have interpreted the many stories, comments, and expressions from all those who are traveling this path also. For me, every thing I feel about the loss of DJ is valid; anger, dislike, self-pity, greed, jealousy, hopelessness, victimization, you name, if I feel it, then dammit it's valid. It has to be, simply because I feel it. There may be many things I do not understand in this world, but my feelings are not one of them...I have spent a good portion of my life trying to deal with them and understand them, I can speak for me, without the necessity to defend, or if choose not to, explain them to anyone; yes, it's a narrow world here, but grief itself is a narrow world; if you don't believe that, look around for all the folks who said they would be there...yes, narrow indeed, but if the answers make sense to me, i'm satisfied. And that is what has to happen for me with grief, the answers I seek, the definitions I find about all which has happened, only really have to make sense to me...they only have to put my mind at rest and bring me closer to ending that pounding and to the beginnings of acceptance.