The first time I tried Cafe Bustelo,™ I had a 16 oz mug and I thought I could smell numbers. It’s an espresso roast (which I didn’t know at the time), and left in the basket as long as coffee will not only put hair on your chest, but delusions of grandeur in your brain. You know, like, “I can DO ALL THE THINGS!”
I can, for short bursts. Grief, as Sheryl Sandberg points out, is a demanding companion, and it has settled into my muscles so that everything takes longer- even with the miracle of caffeine. My mission is how to move faster.
Logically, I know it’s time to move on. It may seem cruel to say, but I don’t mean forgetting that my mother died altogether. I mean truly internalizing that there’s no going back. There’s no relationship with which to move into the future, nothing I can do or say to get my mother to come visit. I have had little post-traumatic growth because logic and emotion are two different things.
The other day (because I have no sense of time passing) my sister and I went to get our nails done at a salon in DC, and the whole time, the music overhead was solo piano. After an hour of it, I was panicking internally. Shortness of breath, brain race, anger, the whole bit. I had so little Klonopin on board that I could have taken another one, but because my nails were wet, I couldn’t exactly get up and get one. I just had to breathe through it, not dissimilar to Lamaze.
Logic went out the window as the night my mother died played in my head, as if it was happening right the fuck now instead of last October. Hearing the panic in Lindsay’s voice as she told me over the phone. Knowing I could borrow some of her clothes or just buy new ones when I landed in Houston. Frantically packing up my backpack with just my iPad, iPhone (with just wireless), keyboard, wallet, and phone. I don’t know why I packed both my iPhone and my Android, but I didn’t know what I needed in that moment and electronics were the thing that made me feel comfortable. I also brought my Kindle because it had a note from Argo in it that I knew I’d need to survive the next few days. When I felt the most afraid of what was going to happen next, I’d read her words of assurance and for a moment, the storm would calm.
My iPhone came in handy later because I was at a gas station and tripped on the sidewalk, smashing my Android into a million pieces because it was in my pocket and I landed on it… coming absolutely unglued because it was just the shitty icing on the burnt cake stuck to the tin pan.
At the time, I was trying to stuff down every emotion I had so that I could function until the funeral was over. The Android was a birthday present from my dad, and it was less than a month later and I’d already ruined it. If I hadn’t been in public, I would have screamed loud enough to be heard for three blocks.
When I was less anxious, I went to AT&T and activated my iPhone so at least I’d have navigation. Houston is my hometown, and I still don’t know where anything is, even when in complete control of my faculties.
If there’s anything that defined those first few days for me, it was lack of control. There’s nothing I could have done that would have saved her, or even made any difference at all.
Which is what brings me back around to the futility of continuing to grieve in the same way. “Snap out of it” is always derogatory to a depressed/anxious person, but it’s definitely how I feel about myself at times. It is in those moments that I realize I’m being extraordinarily hard on myself, which I generally am, anyway….. but still. I remind myself of the scene in The Matrix where Trinity is running from agents and rolls hard to the bottom of a flight of stairs, momentarily frozen in place and says to herself, “get up, Trinity. GET. UP.”
Spoiler alert… she does, by sheer force of will.
Frozen at the bottom of a flight of stairs is an apt description of my mindset, because as hard as I’m trying to force myself to get up, spoiler alert….. I haven’t.
I do all the necessary things to keep myself going, but I am not making room for fun or laughter most days. In fact, because everything I need to do is tied to the Internet, I rarely leave my house. To be here is to be comforted in a safety net of my own choosing, and no one is kicking me out of my nest…. or even trying to pull. Right now my best friend is the cashier at Safeway… and not because we really know each other. Because she’s the one I talk to the most during any given week.
For some people, this would seem sad and depressing. For me, it is comforting and safe. I am always lost in several books at once, have podcasts going as I work, and when I have time, there’s a few TV shows I enjoy. In a lot of ways, my life hasn’t changed any since I was married, but people tend to think that you’re isolating when you do this on your own, and, in a word, not when you’re doing the exact same thing with someone else. The stigma is that cocooning with a spouse is right and natural. Cocooning with yourself means you probably need medication.
They say that everything happens for a reason, and if there has been anything that’s been good to come out of getting divorced, it has been that time to myself where I didn’t have to care about anyone else’s feelings, because I just wasn’t capable. I would have been a horrible wife because Dana would have no frame of reference as to what I was going through, and at first I couldn’t stand anyone around me whose parents were still alive. I would have been angry and jealous WITH HER, something she wouldn’t have deserved, but would have happened, anyway.
I only wanted friends who’d been through the same thing, because only someone who’s been through it can comprehend the ups and downs. They also don’t say EXTREMELY STUPID SHIT…. the main reason I avoided everyone for a while. I just couldn’t handle it. Cortisol and rage raced through my body as I would just get irrationally angry, because these people meant no harm. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know, and wouldn’t until it happened to them.
The people who showed up for me weren’t the people I expected. People I’d been extremely close to retreated and people I hadn’t heard from in years rushed in… along with people I only knew virtually. Facebook was excellent for this, because it allowed all my friends (in the cloud and on the ground) to know at once what was happening. This blog was also a great help, because I could express what was going through my mind the entire way through those first few days.
But now, my entries are starting to sound repetitive, even to me. Missing my mom, Dana, Argo, blah blah blah… have a Kleenex and get on with it, kid.
I’m hoping that now I recognize this, kicking the shit out of Option B will become a reality, rather than being mired in the past. Not only is it time to let go, it is time to “get up, Leslie. GET. UP.”