A week or two ago, I was listening to On Being with Krista Tippett. Her two guests were Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (link to podcast and transcript), authors of the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. In the intervening time between the podcast and the purchase, my grandfather recommended the book to my father, who then recommended it to me. I told him that I’d already heard of it, but didn’t plan on purchasing until I realized that Facebook and Amazon ads for Mother’s Day were becoming pervasive, as if I was somehow delinquent in buying my mother something. She’s already got the only jewelry she’ll ever need…. and the days of making her a card with macaroni and glitter are long over.
Amazon, I understand. Facebook (where, ironically, Sandberg works) should know better. Their targeted ads should have picked up that my mother was dead in a hundred different ways, most notably that I added “Loss of a Loved One” as a Life Event and tagged my mother’s profile. That realization led me to the “Buy with One-Click” button in about 5.5 seconds, because ladies and gentlemen, I am exhausted.
I started the book, and only got two pages in before I highlighted a sentence. My own mind lifted me from the pages and into my own stream-of-consciousness. The sentence is, grief is a demanding companion. I have found this to be true, akin to Dexter’s “dark passenger,” without the need for plastic wrap.
Grief is the shitty roommate who always leaves its dishes in the sink and never remembers to reload the toilet paper. Grief is the toxic friendship who says it’s all about me, isolating you from other loved ones because its idea of give and take is that there isn’t any…. won’t be for a long time, and with a parent or spouse, longer than that…. never truly losing its grip, but loosening from a choker to a pendant… perhaps moving from a tight hold around your neck to your watch wrist instead. It will never be the other one, because grief revolves around time…. taking out the linear and the chronological.
The main idea of the book is that Plan A is no longer an option, so live the hell out of Plan B, providing steps forward to create one. Some of the concepts I’m already familiar with- that you have to make plans to be happy to change your own mood, rather than waiting for the grief to lift so you can be happy. Your mood doesn’t change on its own, and won’t no matter how hard you beg.
This is perhaps the hardest part of being in grief. Knowing that you have the choice to make yourself happy or miserable and not being able to see joy as a valid option. Logically, you know if they knew it would make your dead loved one inconsolable that their death left you incapable of living your own life. Emotionally, there is a mental-which-leads-to-physical brain fog that upends everything. Where am I? What year is it? What am I doing? Who are you people again? This is because you attempt to distract yourself and all the while, grief is screaming thinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutme……………………. like being stuck in an Evangelical church where the accompanist only knows one praise hymn. #liveit #loveit #singitahundredtimes