It didn’t really start to surface until my mother died, but I have developed agoraphobia. I don’t really want to write about it, but I have to, because I won’t know how I feel about it if I don’t. My sister being here has pulled me out of my comfort zone, because I know at the other end of that drive, there’s a person who genuinely has my best interests at heart and I want to see her more than anything. Spending time in Annapolis, especially watching the debates in the House and the Senate are just the things I need to activate my excitement button. We’re always allowed a little private time in the middle of Lindsay’s 12-hour working days, but believe me when I say that watching her work is one of the joys of my life, because I’ve seen the little girl I have known and loved since I brought her home from the hospital (with my mother’s arms around both of us) grow into a woman I am ridiculously proud to know.
Outside of this, I have become afraid to branch out of my little bubble unless the people at the end of those drives are close to me as well. It’s all about getting from safe place to safe place, because the fear of the unknown is eating my lunch. The reason it has so much to do with my mother dying is that I don’t want to explain why I’m so sad, don’t want to have those conversations with strangers, don’t want to cry in weird places, don’t want to engage for fear of absolutely coming undone in front of people I just met five minutes ago. In some ways, it’s really hard not having a girlfriend who can read me and tell whether I need to be pulled out of my solitude and whether I just need to be left alone to my own devices. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, just that role filled in my life, because they might be the one person I was willing to let read me.
Right now, though, my “wine and yoga pants” girlfriends are being the role in my life that marriage used to fill, which is great because I have several people checking on me instead of just one. However, it is quite different than having someone live with me…. except wait a minute. I do. Sam is always invaluable for a laugh, still calling me Mark after all these years. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but when the Coke bottles with people’s names came out, I got a bottle that said, “Share a Coke with Mark.” I joked that now I only needed Matthew, Luke, and John….. the nickname stuck, to the point that over the time I’ve lived here, I can count on maybe three fingers the time she’s called me by my actual name. It is a blessing that if I truly need something, she’s right downstairs. However, she is not the person I would be comfortable during a histrionic mess of grief.
It happens less and less as time goes on, but this level of grief never truly goes away, either. I just feel stuck, my feet glued to the floor with molasses. It hasn’t stopped me from applying for jobs over the internet, or reaching out to people with jobs and asking them how I could do what they do. I’ve been to a DC United game, so the team calls me every few weeks to see if I’m ready to buy season tickets yet. The last time, I spent half an hour on the phone with the recruiter, asking how I could be one of the people that gets others to buy tickets as well. I know enough about the team, having been a fan since the late ’90s to really be able to impart the importance of supporting the team at a time when we’re about to move into our own stadium in SE, near Nationals Park and the Navy Yards. I wear my DC United jersey with pride, although I am sort of pissed at myself for not buying my favorite one back in the day, because I can’t find a throwback anywhere. They used to be two-button Henley style, sharp AF. I used to go to Soccer-4-All and drool on a regular basis, which for the longest time I thought was called “Soccer Frall” by the way Meag pronounced it.
I’m not a soccer player by any means, but one of my favorite days when I lived in Portland was going to a soccer store in PDX that had goals set up in the back so you could try on cleats before you bought. I must have tried on six pairs of indoor, because I just wanted them as “kicks,” but I did make a few shots on goal that would have blown Meag away had she been there. It’s a lot easier without a goalie. 😛 I’m never going to be Div I material, but perhaps it’s time to join a beginner’s league to get my endorphins up. If I’m serious about it, I need to start jogging because I couldn’t run for 90 minutes if you paid me.
I am serious about it, if I can get myself to leave the house, because I have no fear of getting hurt since I have health insurance. It might raise my confidence enough that not leaving the house isn’t a thing anymore.
People whose parents die are treated differently out in the world, which is why I keep to myself and rarely let that information out. I’ve gotten everything from people asking if I’m okay way too much to those who say that since my mother died last October, I should be over it by now. At either end of the spectrum, it’s just weird all the way around. The people who ask me if I’m okay way too much have a certain look of pity on their faces, absolutely everything I do not want. The people who say I should be over it already are anger-inducing and I have to breathe deeply in order to remember they have no idea WTF they’re talking about…. because those “experts” on grief have either never lost a parent or have stuffed it down so far that they’re not dealing, just acting as if.
Taking to my room and spending time alone, letting grief run its course, is the only way I know how to proceed, so that I am dealing with it in the moment instead of letting it eat away at me over and over because I am stuffing those emotions in a box, compartmentalizing so that instead of working through my feelings, it keeps coming up over and over as I just can’t handle it and explode at odd intervals, because the box has opened and emotions come up like vomit.
Let me say for the record that my mother would be horrified, and take on all my emotions as her own. In this way, it is easier not to have her watch this process, because she never wanted for me to be mentally ill in the first place, and I hid as much of the crazy from her as I could, not because I was scared to tell her, but scared of her reaction. Every time I let her in, telling her the medications I was taking and how I was feeling, she’d cry, and if there’s anything I couldn’t abide, it was listening to my mother cry for me.
I felt like I was protecting her from myself, because I couldn’t handle pity and I definitely couldn’t handle the thought that I was making her sadness worse. It didn’t matter that the right medication was taking away the chemical imbalance. It was sadness I had to go through it at all.
I think she got to know me better after she started reading my blog, because there were so many times that I couldn’t emote in front of her that she could pick up while reading. She saw my strengths and weaknesses, and often wouldn’t contact me directly, but would talk to my sister about it. I don’t blame her in the slightest for wanting an outlet besides me, but I would have loved to hear her thoughts…. and at the same time, knowing that if I did, I would have wanted to take care of her more than myself. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do without worrying about her.
She wanted me to leave Diane in the past, because she could see that it was torturing me, and I told her that I couldn’t, because those issues were the only things I could see when I closed my eyes. Alternatively, she understood it because she was there…. one of the few people in my life that remembered exactly what happened and how I’d been tortured for most of my life by it…. how I turned into a completely different person, fearful and withdrawn as opposed to the happy-go-lucky perky personality I’d always been.
She wanted me to stop writing about Argo and Dana, because again, she thought it was torturing me more than it was helping, but again, as the ultimate overthinker I was consumed by it, sad and angry and lonely and ALL THE THINGS.
It has started to bother me less and less as I move away from that time in my life, as I knew it would, branching out to meet new people and never wanting to be again the person either one of them thought I was, because how they felt was integral to how I felt about myself… probably something that shouldn’t have happened, but did. When they laid out how they felt, I couldn’t help but take it in, because I respected both of their opinions way too much to think that my own thoughts were worth more than theirs.
Now, I feel like I can redeem their storylines because I actually called Dana (look at me, I made a phone call) when my mother died and there was none of the animosity that had rained down on my head previously.
I have a note from Argo that I keep in my Kindle case, and have for two years now, where she said that I’d do and be everything I’d dreamed, and she just knew it. Though the e-mail ultimately blessed & released me, she did it with so much love that I continue to believe those words of comfort, and take out the note every time I’m about to do something important.
I also have it on good authority that she still reads me, so how bad could it possibly be after months and months to listen to me process about her and not to her? It was a shock to learn, but it also brings me enormous comfort. Maybe, just maybe, I never stopped being that writer for her, and like my mother, doesn’t want to unpack with me but still wants to know what’s going on in my life. If that is all our friendship ever turns out to be, it is enough.
I wouldn’t want to be a histrionic mess in front of her, either, even though she’s one of the very few people in the world that I’d trust to hear it. Argo is not one of those people who listens lightly. She takes things in, thinks about them, asks amazing questions, and just generally makes the other person feel heard even when she doesn’t agree.
However, I have other people for that, as long as the fear of leaving my room doesn’t overtake me. It’s real and it’s deep, because there are so many situations in which I do not feel safe. Dear little baby Jesus am I afraid of being that woman whose mother just died. I cannot always “act as if.” It’s a protection mechanism, as most of my emotions are, even when they are unfounded. Nobody knows at the grocery store and the pharmacy. Nobody knows at the movie theater. Nobody knows at Waffle House.
Unless I’m willing to open up, nobody knows. But there’s always a chance it will come up, and I won’t take it.