17 November 2016

On Grief, Time, and Resisting the Undertow

Last time I posted here, my backyard looked so different to me. It had some older trees that had shed most of their leaves for the season, a sweep of grass, our garden beds, and the ditch and our neighbor's chicken coop and garden beyond that.

I still love our yard, but I don't feel I live in quite the same world as I did before. There are shadows I hadn't seen. At this time of year, when the fallen maple leaves and the grape leaves on the vines are all a certain shade of pale gold, usually I only see squirrels but sometimes I scan for mountain lions, which are just that shade and come down from the hills when it starts getting colder to hunt for smaller prey. I feel I'm seeing strange shapes and shadows everywhere.

My heart is breaking at everything. I had to stop reading Facebook because if I read another thing I was going to dissolve into a puddle of tears. I have been sleeping a lot and thinking too much and dancing and seeing people and reading and retreating. I have been wondering, "Is this depression?"

No. I know what it is and it's not depression. It's loss, pure and simple, and I am grieving.

I had a little spat with a friend after reposting something another friend had posted about getting one day to grieve and then it's back to work.

My friend protested that no one should ever tell anyone how long to grieve.

I countered I had only wanted to give people who wanted to wallow (meaning me, truly -- I posted that because I needed to see it) something to spur them (me) to action instead of sitting on their (my) hands.

But now that it's a week after the election and I am sitting in my bed with the curtains drawn trying to blink away my welling tears enough to see whether I'm typing the right letters, I know this is still grief. Aaron, for the record, you were right and I was wrong.

What am I grieving, you ask?

I am grieving the loss of hope -- these feelings are the opposites of what I felt after we elected Obama. My stomach has been roiling with dread. I am fearful for our future, for the safety of the people I love, for the  place I grew up, and for our planet's beauty and health. Every day I'm sickened to learn about the next batch of lobbyists and industry shills who have been appointed to NMP(Not My President)'s* transition team and cabinet.

I am grieving the rift that opened in our family. It had been there all along, perhaps, but the exhibit has ended and Christo has removed the brightly colored fabric so we can see the chasm between us.

I'm grieving our losses -- every day cancer seems to strike another good soul. I worry about their quality of life, and mourn the loss of our future together.

At one point I even felt grief for my fictional character because I knew she was about going to get a whole lot more pain in my story than she has already seen. And as the writer I am the one who will have to inflict the damage. An ongoing challenge of writing novels for me is how to put my characters through the painful and gnarly stuff. On some level, I never want to go back to those times I felt helpless and afraid, disempowered and ignored. I went to bed hungry and frozen in fear of the fight that was unfolding in the next room; now every impulse in my adult being shouts No! Don't ever let that happen again! My book is about some of the amazing things that can happen after one says No, never again. But the current political climate is a reality smackdown for me about what kind of obstacles my character would truly face along her path to freedom.

I already knew that grief has no timeline. Election day was also the birthday of my sister who died when I was just turning six and she was four-and-a-half and all these years later, I still feel that loss every anniversary of her birth and death and at plenty of other times, too. And one loss triggers memories of and grief for other losses.

These feelings roll over me in waves. All I can do is keep paddling, or floating on my back when I need a rest. I can stay at the surface, parallel to the shore, until the current no longer thwarts my efforts and I can swim back to land.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Stay afloat, RĂ¯sa. You are strong. Neil Young's song keeps going through my head:
"Don't let it get you down, it's only castles burning. Just find someone who's turning, and you will come around."