Pursuit of Joy

In order to write, you have to have something to write about. Most of the time, I’ve been lost in brain-bending fog, but lately a couple of my friends have dragged me out of it. Dan and I had lunch yesterday in Foggy Bottom, near where she works with State. It was nice to just sit and talk outside, and she told me that there are probably resources for loss and grief on Mother’s Day. I think I’m going to need it. The last Mother’s Day picture I have of us together is Lindsay and Mom sitting in a car holding me up on an iPhone with FaceTime going, so that my face is a little blurry. It was really funny to me at the time, but feeds into my regret that I didn’t actually show up that day. But I can’t beat myself up for everything I didn’t know, even though I am really, really good at it.

Today is the kind of day that I’m really missing Argo & Dana, because one would have had virtual hugs and one would have had real ones. Romance means nothing to me, I just wish I had my friends back… but it wasn’t a mistake to leave, because I realized early on that my relationships with both were complicated and might not necessarily get me where I want to go… but that doesn’t stop grief, which is different than losing a mother but, in some ways, no less painful because I lost a support system in the process.

And then I think about how you don’t bounce back with an enormous amount of work, especially with physical and emotional violence, and how I never want to be that friend again. I am infinitely careful with my heart, because not only do I not want to hurt anyone, I don’t want them to hurt me, either.

But it has come to my attention that perhaps I am trying too hard, because the past dogs me in a way that I’ve never experienced. First it was marriage divorce, then friend divorce, then my dad getting cancer, then losing my job, then my mother dying, then my stepfather getting throat cancer with decreasing will to go through all the horrible treatment in store for him…. he’s had cancer before, and it was relatively easy to show up for chemo. This time around, the radiation is painful and awful on the body and the heart. My family is rallying around him, but there’s only so much one can do with the depression of chronic pain. In a lot of ways, I feel like my track record for surviving crappy days is 100%, and this, too, shall pass. It’s just hard to sit on my perch from Silver Spring and watching these things happen to people I love. With the death of my mother, it is not her death that’s hard. It’s the aftermath that leaves my family and her friends lost and confused.

I am doing my best to kick the shit out of Option B, because like Sheryl Sandberg, Option A no longer exists. Now that I’ve had time to grieve, really grieve, I am ready to accept that reality. Bringing everything from pain into promise won’t happen overnight, and in fact will take baby steps in that direction until I don’t realize how far I’ve come. When you see small changes every day, you have to look back over a month or so to see how far baby steps have taken you.

Prianka and Dan are a large part of why I am not completely losing my mind, because they’re up for both laughter and deep conversation in which I can say anything I want without judgment, and instead of just listening, offering concrete suggestions. Some of them do not apply to me- I don’t have money to just take off on vacation… well, I do, but it would completely wipe me out in terms of savings. But there are small vacations all over the place, like laughing with them.

Being able to have more than one friend in which I can have a full range of emotions is helpful, because they both know that I am capable of laughter, but sometimes it doesn’t come easily. The thing about grief is that sometimes it comes out of nowhere, and sometimes, I’m just not feeling happy that day all around.

After lots of time to process it, I realize that I made a mistake in thinking that I’d never get what I wanted from the friend that only wanted to joke with me, because it was the one source in which I could forget about life for a while. The problem was that I didn’t want to. So what if she doesn’t want me to have a full range of emotions? So what if she doesn’t want to have conversations that lead to forward motion. Perhaps breathing and staying in one place would have been a better option. But the niggling thought in the back of my head is that I am not that person anymore. I don’t have surface level laughter unless I am in that head space, which doesn’t happen on days when I am sad about everything. She thinks it delves into negativity, which is the last thing on my mind. I needed to breathe through what I wanted, and a friend that ghosts when I need her the most and not the least is damaging.

The thing is, though, there are cords, which as a music person, I prefer to call “chords,” that run between me and all my friends. I truly, desperately cannot afford to cut any one of them, even if it’s better for me in the long run. Losing a friend is the last thing I would want to happen in a time when I have already lost so much. But, as I’ve thought about extensively, at what cost?

Is it doing more damage to hide my full range of emotions, or is it more important to keep that chord alive in the remote hope that it eventually goes both ways? I am not sure that I cannot torture myself over the things that won’t happen over the sure things that will. The other thing is that I don’t tend to go for one-sided relationships in which the other person doesn’t want anything but one-liners. I need more than that, so is the question is whether I can get those things with other people without hoping she’ll eventually relent and let me talk about the things that bother me? Technically, I believe I can write about my own life and she’ll hear me, but I don’t believe that she’ll respond in kind so that the relationship doesn’t continue to be one-sided, and that hurts as well… I don’t want to be a taker all the time. I want to be a giver, and that is the part that’s missing…. the ability to listen to what’s going on in her life and offer her the type support she’s offered me over the years.

Because my mother died, I have taken up more room in all my relationships, but with people who know that when something goes wrong in their lives, I’m up for those conversations as well. In fact, it’s a welcome distraction to think about someone else’s problems for a change. My friends have intentionally held space for me, and it’s time to return the favor.

My mother is gone. Gone. It’s been enough time now that I don’t need or want to think about it all the time. I want to hold space for my friends inasmuch as they’ve done it for me. I am growing tired of isolation and am ready to rejoin the world, and would have been months ago had interviewers actually called me back. It’s hard not to have a place to go that will distract me in a way I truly need… which is why it may be time to go back to the kitchen, a job that will take over my whole life if I let it, and I will.

I picture a griddle letting burgers confit. I picture perfect French fries and desserts that will make you slap your mama. I picture soups and chilis that dance on the palate… all things of which I am capable while I eat sandwiches at home because the last thing I want to do when I get home from cooking is cook for myself.

IT makes me more financially stable, but it doesn’t make me happy. So, whichever interview I get first is the job I’ll take, because there are advantages to each. I know enough about IT that when it doesn’t make me happy, I can find small things about the job that will…. mostly coworkers and a lack of isolation.

I did get out yesterday. I got a cute haircut and some brown sandals so that as the weather heats up, my shorts won’t look weird with knee socks. Neither were expensive, but it did make me feel better to have talked to my hairstylist and the woman who’d rung me up at the shoe store. It was a release to do normal things…. even when it feels like normalcy lives in a different galaxy from where I sit.



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