It’s raining today, a slow, cold drizzle. It’s the type of weather that says to me, ‘slow down’ and so I am trying today to do just that. I'm coming to the end of what I call the trifecta of terrible. This means that I have the anniversary of John’s death, his birthday and our anniversary all within four weeks. I’ve gone back and forth about whether it is better to get it all “out of the way” in four awful, hard, sleepless, tear filled weeks or whether breaking it up some would be easier-not as if have a choice in it really- this is my reality for September and October for this year and for every year that will follow. The only choice I have in the matter is how I approach it.
And I’m finding that two years out it’s not really any easier. It’s different. It’s still incredibly hard and painful, but it feels now a lot more like a low grade fever and infection that is continually wearing me down just enough to prevent me from being in world with the verve, zest and light I wish I could be, instead of the early days of grief when I felt like I was in ICU after major surgery unable to get out of bed, let alone go out into the world in anyway at all.
And because I have been anticipating and dreading this time I feel like I’ve really hunkered down these last many weeks, hunkered down and armored up for what I know is painful and hard to endure, and even harder to acknowledge it’s actuality and permanence in my life.
To keep all of these difficult emotions at bay and allow myself to get through each day as I need to, I’ve kept really busy. I’ve started home improvement projects and paintings and made giant messes as I have begun, but not finished, the organizing of cabinets and hidey holes that have become too cluttered for comfort, only to find myself worn down, weary, and oh so, so sad without understanding why really. It wasn’t until I literally stopped myself last Friday while I was painting and glanced at my mediation mat that I got it-‘Stop running! Sit and feel what needs to be felt!’ I heard my inner voice cry out. I literally had to make myself drop everything and SIT STILL! It took only moments after having wrapped myself in my soft, woolen prayer shawl, and lightly fingering my prayer beads before the tears fell uncontrollably. I had been running, doing the dance of avoidance for days, maybe even a longer, in order to keep my composure during these excruciating weeks.
Sitting still I came to understand that because my hunkering down and attempting to hide from the trifecta had not worked for avoiding the heart wrenching reality of the calendar, I had unwittingly opted to engage in avoidance activities. Crying soft, quiet tears in that moment I knew in my heart that there was no amount of running or avoiding that can take away the pain these two months usher in with them. And although it is only human and normal to avoid painful things, it doesn’t not help to heal a battered soul, it does not help endure the feelings of abandonment and loss, in short it really doesn’t help at all.
And even though I KNOW this, I advise this to those who ask my advice about grieving, and I do humbly try to live this as well, I find myself not doing it, because sometimes I think we reach a point where the pain is too much to touch, at least we think it is; the hurt is to hard to look at face on, or that’s what we we tell ourselves; we are too weak and weary and fragile to cope with it all we say to our small bruised selves.
However, it is in those times that I most have to remind myself of a piece of advice I received years ago- “We avoid that most, which we most need.” Meaning in my life, in the face of this trifecta, when I find myself running from silence is when I most need to sit with it, when I am avoiding the centering and quieting of yoga, is when I most need it’s nurturing movements, when I am avoiding acupuncture- which I have now for a few weeks- is when I likely need to get in and keep stuff moving up and out in order to really start to heal in a deeper way than even I can understand. In short, I need to ignore all my impulses that feel the need to hide and instead turn around and look at what is, if not bravely, then at least with gentle acknowledgment of it’s existence as my reality.
So in order to quiet the washing machine agitator that has been on high speed for these last many weeks I made myself sit and write today, which is how this ramble got to be at all. I made myself show up for grief counseling this morning- even though I really, really didn't want to go. I will make myself call for an acupuncture appointment for some time this week, knowing that the day after will be a hard and exhausted one as it always is. I will also, and most importantly, allow and acknowledge the tears that simply need to fall to fall, today and likely tomorrow and probably the day after that as well.
As I reach the end of the trifecta of terrible-October 17th is my wedding anniversary- I know I will feel some relief in the date being over with, but I know as well that simply because the date has passed yet again it doesn’t mean I will magically be better, be happier or be more sane in the face of this grief-it simply means that the calendar has done what the calendar always does-it moves along with or without my consent. I hope though that I will be able to say that in the face of this trifecta that I have been brave enough to stand in the face of loss and pain and allow it the time, space and gentleness it requires instead of hiding from the difficult emotions it sweeps in.
I wonder if others find that they too have avoidance techniques that they catch themselves caught up in and then later realize that what they needed most was what they had run from?
If so, how do you stop yourself from running? How do you notice it in yourself and then make yourself stand still and face that grief and work that needs to be done? What tips and techniques work for others to catch yourself and stop yourself from wasting time running around in denial of a reality you simply can’t completely accept yet?
Sending much love and gentleness from this member of the tribe of the broken those those out there also standing in the circle of sorrow-bravely or otherwise-at least we’re standing.