Crazy on a Cracker

Tonight I am going to meet a new friend who I hope will one day become my old friend… a great pen pal becoming real. Religion major in college, writes, and reads more in a day than I do in a week… which is very hard.

Speaking of which, I am engrossed in a new novel for review called The 11:05 Murders, by Brian O’Hare. It’s another one I thought was deserving of more than a few words written about it, and again e-mailed it to my editor… and not even selfishly because reviews might be easier when she’s also read it. Just because the book was so great I wanted to share. It is a very, very cheap way to show someone you care- and are genuinely excited to be able to provide great entertainment through e-books even when the person lives thousands of miles away.

It’s also nice to get a book that I’m genuinely jazzed to review by a polished author. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m also glad that when I’m finished with this novel, there are two others.

It’s also a nice thing that when I shop at Amazon, a small percentage of my purchase goes to Doctors Without Borders, my charity through Smile. I try to donate to them personally when I have a chance, but it’s not always possible. It makes me feel good that I can get my needs met and contribute to theirs. So much is going on in the world today that’s negative… cheering on their efforts is just one way I hope to combat it.

Not only am I thinking globally about negativity, but personally. I am still messed up over the last four years, and in some ways, I think that loss will never get better. It will become a shallower well of injury, or something that hurts more and more sporadically, but nothing will ever be the same. This is because dealing with grief over the alive and well is different than grieving the dead. Each hurts in its own special way. I am struck by the fact that other people’s lives will go on without me, and brought to my knees that I will never see my mother again.

If in saying that Barbara Bush’s death wasn’t that sad, I didn’t mean to be callous. It’s just a whole other thing when someone dies naturally after living an incredible amount of time vs. the shock of losing someone in the blink of an eye when their lives were cut short by at least 15-20 years. Some days I actually forget time has passed and am just struck dumb with the immediacy of it all. A parent dying suddenly and younger than you thought is like being in a car accident repeatedly, with the same amount of haze-inducing shock. The worst part is that I didn’t agree to this (as if one would, but stay with me, Jimbo). It just happens unexpectedly, a truly unwanted side effect. I am just blindsided all the time. I go into a space where I can’t remember anything, I can’t move, I can’t think clearly. I am just walking through life trying to nail Jell-o to a tree.

What is truly heartbreaking is knowing that my mother would never have wanted this for me. She was always so self-sacrificing that she would have done anything not to die if she could help it, and not out of self-preservation. What keeps my heart from stitching is that for most of my adult life, I lived out of state… so there are days when I regret that fact and others where I completely forget she’s dead because I’m not used to talking to her every day, anyway. I’ll reach for the phone to call her and absolutely freak. Grief then becomes extremely loud and incredibly close. What helps is not thinking about my own situation, but the thousands of other people that have also had this experience and that even when I feel like it, I am never alone. Someone on earth has felt what I’m feeling at any given moment.

There’s also the two-sided coin of losing someone suddenly. It is the combined feeling of joy that they felt no pain and the anger that comes with not being able to say goodbye. Let me be clear, though. I am not angry at her. I am angry at the situation.

It is the same with divorce… more angry at the situation and myself than I ever will be at Dana. In fact, I would go so far as to say I’m not angry with Dana at all. Everything is forgiven on that end. It’s me that needs work. I got started praying for her health and happiness early and often. It gives me something to give to her, even when it’s just sending energy into the universe. Because we’re not in contact, the chord between us (as I’ve said before) becomes a loopback, feeding me. It gives me the feeling of peace and calm that I’m somehow contributing, I guess. At this point, guessing regarding the nature of karma and the universe is about as much control as I’m allowed to have. Surprisingly, it is more than enough.

I feel like I should get into that space quickly, the one of sending good thoughts into the universe, because I am more downcast today than usual. It’s grey and awful outside, which only contributes to the storm within. Everything is making me sad, and I just feel like a disappointing excuse for a human being. Now, logically I know this is not true. I just can’t seem to make it happen emotionally. I am sure that things will look different 30 minutes after I take my anxiety medication, for which I need to make a pharmacy run. I don’t want to show up to a first impression feeling like crazy on a cracker.

Because unfortunately, that’s what grief does. It causes anxiety about just damn everything, even the things you never thought about before said loved one died. There’s so many new depths to plumb. Even the fact that people die young is something you used to know and now smacks you in the face. It’s one thing to know it, quite another to feel.

As far as I know, besides Dan, I am the first of my friends to lose their mothers. It is a comfort you would not believe that although I am incredibly sad for her, I have a person who understands implicitly the hand that I’ve been dealt. I have someone who can tell with one look that I need a hug or an arm around my shoulder. Not only am I perpetually bereft in some respects, single people do not get nearly enough contact comfort. It is such a blessing to have someone in my life who gives really great hugs without a hint of romance, because it’s not about that and never will be. I just give friendship its full due, that chosen family is everything.

The reason I believe in chosen family so wholeheartedly is that I don’t think it’s fair to the person I would date to drag them into the sideshow that is my current life. I would much rather wait until things calm down, when I am much less angry at me for the way I treated Dana and much less overwhelmed at the state of my world. The one good thing I remember about being divorced is that not only did I behave badly then and am grateful I don’t now hurt her repeatedly, I never would have wanted to subject Dana to the person I’ve become in the aftermath of grief…. and not because I think she couldn’t have handled it. I just think that it’s a pain for which she would have no frame of reference, and therefore, would not have been impressed with my need to isolate, to the point that I would have isolated myself from her, too. I can’t imagine how short I would have become with her, snippy not because she did anything wrong but because her mother is still alive. It’s a helpless place when someone is mad at you for seemingly no reason, unable to take it in that you shouldn’t take it personally- that person is mad at the whole damn world. For me, it was a lucky thing to be on my own, so that when I was literally unable to function, no one had to deal with me. I’m so much better now, but it was a long row to hoe. My entire garden just died.

And though most of the plants are still dead, at least I see shoots of green.


2 thoughts on “Crazy on a Cracker

  1. You hit the nail on the head about single people and touch starvation. It’s brutal, and I’m coming to realize it’s worse for those of us without pets to fill the void. But reading this, I keep going back to Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, in the “Wrinkle in Time” adaptation, quoting Rumi:

    “The wound is the place the light enters you.”

    My impulse is not to take that as an admonition to ignore that you are wounded, but instead to feel through it. To reach through your grief at a pace you decide, feeling the warmth extend from your fingers, up through your arm and into your core as you approach its blended boundary.

    Of course, when our senses are muted, it’s easy to become disoriented. We know that divers at depth report not being able to tell which way is up. Swimming through grief in circles is dangerous. Like those divers, we have to use whatever external tools are available to tell us which way is “up.” It’s our heading, more than our location or speed, that matters.


  2. I love, love, love this comment, because not only is it Truth (meaning objective, as opposed to truth), it’s the constant need to dive into the wreck, a poem that has had new meaning for me as I navigate letting go of the past by exorcising it rather than hiding it away. I’ve tried stuffing down emotions before, and it never really works…. or at least, not well. I am too much of an empath to feel closed off.

    My orders of business this year have been learning to reach out for help when I need it- not easy when your first impulse is to lie and say I’m fine… sometimes because that’s just the way I was raised, at others realizing that a parent’s death is a whistling bomb with doppler effect, an immediate conversation ender because people truly do not know how to respond to it. But at the same time, if my mother comes up naturally in the conversation, it seems weird not to tell them she’s dead, especially if they knew her and want to know how she is. My assumption is that she’s fine. It’s those left behind that have to “deal.” And yet, knowing she’s fine is a comfort as well. Additionally, there are people that will do anything for you, but don’t know what it is that you need. I’m trying to be better about voicing it, even though by the time the need is met, sometimes I’m in a completely different space- yet still grateful. In the beginning, I didn’t have enough energy to even figure out what it was I needed, and still don’t have the energy to make a phone call. However, I *am* strong enough to say, “it would be helpful if” when something comes up in conversation. Most of the things they can do are emotional, not physical. I don’t need a casserole. I need a friend who doesn’t mind seeing me cry.

    I also love the Hafiz poem about not surrendering your loneliness:

    Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
    Let it cut more deep.

    Let it ferment and season you
    As few human or even divine ingredients can.

    Yes, I am often starved for physical contact of any kind, but at the same time, I have learned so much about myself by sitting in silence and allowing myself to feel. Not bottling up just damn everything has helped me to heal more quickly, although with the death of a parent, you never heal. You just learn to live a new version of normal.

    I love my friends the most when they are capable of recognizing that fact, even when they haven’t been through it themselves. I have a modicum of contempt for old, old friends who suddenly disappeared out of fear when I needed them the most. It is true that the people you think will show up won’t, and the ones you never expected will rush in.


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