Grief is a real thing

So grief, grief is a real thing let me tell you. I’m not sure I really understood the whole process of grief and grieving until we had roughly 18 months of onslaught. I’d been sad before, obviously, you hear about death, you lose a beloved pet (and I howled like a banshee for days after that), contemporaries of your parentals pass away etc etc but it’s only (in my opinion) when it comes knocking at your front door that you really get it.

So first of all my mother in law died, we weren’t close but she died ugly (rampant alzheimers and all the accompanying stuff that goes with that) and I needed to be support for my husband while he dealt with her passing and his father and siblings and all their stuff. I need a new word for stuff but you know – emotion and baggage and arguments and discussions and stuff! Then 6 months later my feisty, never ill, full of life 86 year old mothers appendix burst and she dies two weeks later in hospital. My father literally fell apart and I put up my hand and said it’s ok, I’ll sort it out. You see, I told my comatose mother on the day she died that it was ok to say goodbye and I would look after my father and well that’s a promise you can’t exactly break. She, in her infinite wisdom, had always done everything from cooking, cleaning, finances, shopping for groceries etc etc My father was just, I can’t, I don’t know how, I don’t know what to do. So in the next 6 months we sold his house (at his request), moved him into a retirement village (best decision ever) and tried to find solid ground to stand on. The phone calls were endless and I can remember one night going into a room in our home, switching off the lights and curling up on the floor with my arms wrapped around my head and thinking I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do everything for everybody, when do I get a chance to grieve? Did I tell my husband the depths of my despair? No I didn’t (rightly or wrongly) I’m also the “strong” one, always the one who picks up the pieces so I did, I picked myself up and got back to getting on with life. I think the first time I really cried, well other than at the funeral because who doesn’t cry at funerals (I hate funerals with a passion let me reiterate but we did it because my father thought it was the right thing to do) was driving home from work on my birthday roughly 10 months after she died. It was in the winter and cold and dark and I wept for my mother for 8 kilometres and then I packed it away.

I’m jumping around here but about 4 months into project Save Father, one of our dearest friends also died from colon cancer. He was in his 40’s and once of the loveliest people you could wish to know – his parents have now buried both their sons (the first one in a car accident) so you can imagine walking that road of pain. On the day of his memorial, we got a call to say that my father had been involved in a car accident and was being rushed to hospital. You seriously cannot make this shit up – the photographs from the memorial are something, I look like a ghost. My father was lucky with relatively minor injuries but the psychological impact was massive combined with everything else.

Grief and grieving is an individual process – I don’t believe there is a guaranteed or recommended formula for everyone to follow. I do believe time is critical and that there has to be a line drawn in the sand and when you get to that line its time to start living your life again. You don’t forget, ever, but you remember how to live and why you need to live.

Its now three years later – I’ve had some health issues, nothing major but enough to give me a wakeup call. I’m quite convinced the utter overwhelmingness of the stress and grief was a contributing factor. What has grief taught me? I’ll tell you one thing its taught me –  to take care of myself and make myself the first priority in my life. I consciously avoid people and situations that are stressful and I have redrawn my boundaries – I put up with a lot less than I used to. You’ll probably find that there are people that think I’m selfish but that’s ok because I know my truth and the people that matter know me.

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You can hear the silence

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 And the sun was bold and brassy and the geese slumbered in the reeds, orange beaks in white puffy feathers

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 Then the breeze came up, ruffling the water and chasing the sunlight through the pine trees

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The moon was early too, appearing shyly in the pale turquoise sky

And you could hear the silence, a vast expanse of solitude – utter bliss.

30 days – just like that

The fleeting nature of time, the emphemeral substance of life, the adage of “this too shall pass” was never more forcefully brought home then when turning the pages of my diary. Yes, despite all the technological stuff (to which I’m happily addicted) I still like to use an “old fashioned” diary for work. There is something strangely comforting and affirming in writing down the day – achievements, failures and you’ve got to be joking moments. I use different coloured pens as well (what does that say about my character – probably something dodgy but whatever) to define what’s what. It was while flipping through crisp, clean whiteness to diarise a purple moment for one month hence that the old inner voice woke up and yelled in my ear “do you see that your worries and stress and issues are doable – swish, boom, bang and you moved forward 30 days.” Mouthy wench is the old inner voice but she has a point.

Do you talk to God

or whatever power source forms part of your belief system? This is not a religious poser but merely a passing blip ruminating on whether human beings refer to an intangible something to air their views when life gets on its inevitable rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Example – earlier this week, after an incredibly arsed up day at work, I got in my car to drive home and asked God (my thing, doesn’t have to be yours) if he had got out the wrong side of bed that morning, hence the iffy day! Now some would probably call that disrespectful and irreverent but it made me laugh and the utterly spectacular sunset brought me a hint of sanity and by the time I got home all was well with the world.

Yes, I do have a significant other and we talk a lot and often about everything and then some but pause a moment and ponder on this – I also need someone to talk to about him when he gets up my nose and I want to smack him (which is rare but it happens). So you see there is method in my madness as far as that goes and for those intensely vulnerable moments, which everybody has as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more comforting than a non-judgmental sounding board.

“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” ~Victor Hugo

Judge, Jury & Executioner

Part of my “growing up” rule book was don’t judge other people. Honestly, I think, when I was younger I wasn’t very good at abiding by that rule – I made assumptions, some good, some negative and some so left of centre that they were just plain stupid (good old hindsight). There are enough “official” quotes and sayings about the subject as well but my personal summation of the whole philosophical slice of the pie is everybody has a story.

Does that sound terribly noble and cliche’d? Probably but more and more I’m having to consciously redirect my thought process and remember those four words. Today I learn’t that the lady at the local stationers, who always looks like a shoddily made sack of potatoes, is not a slob but is in a really crap relationship with a nasty piece of work. On the other side of the coin I also discovered that the woman I work with genuinely has an ugly dark heart and my prior theory of benefit of the doubt may have been sadly misdirected.

Listen more, talk less – everybody has a story.

A sensory symphony

Sound,taste,sight and smell are, for me, a constant reminder of times gone past. Memories are instantly triggered – some good, some bad but all with their accompanying emotional ties.

My DH and I have been together for more than two decades but I can remember our first “date” like it was yesterday. There is an annual House & Garden show in our area previewing all that is new and innovative on the domestic front and that’s where we went – unusual I suppose, but every time I see those billboards go up I remember the butterflies in my stomach & the immense fun that we had. I had a flat in the city when we met and he used to write me little notes and slip them under my door if he was passing by – I still have them in my purse,the paper is flimsy after all this time and the writing is faded but they still make me smile.

Vanilla has always been my favorite fragrance, whether in candles, body products or the utterly delectable room sprays which give you an instant lift with just one spritz. I think my vanilla love affair started when I was a little girl making fudge with my mum. Back in the day we used to make it the old fashioned way, hours and hours of stirring on the stove top while the vanilla scent permeated the house. The rhythm of the process was quite enchanting and we would laugh and share stories and end up with the best sugary treats. My mum also taught me about banana on toast. You may laugh, but toast up a piece of nutty wholewheat and cover it with sweet fruity banana slices and you will know deliciousness on your plate.

My dad would probably want to claim ownership for my love of music. He comes from a musical family and when they were young and living in a small railway town out in the bundus you made your own entertainment. Saturday night was an eclectic mish mash of music (provided by my dad & his siblings), a barn dance of sorts with the rest of the district and a mountain of food courtesy off the moms. The radio was always on at home when I was young & it used to be housed in a really ugly box contraption along with the record player. To be allowed to go through my parents record collection & put something on the turntable was quite the thing and I suspect this was where I learnt to sing along to the Beatles, Elvis and Trini Lopez. I have zero music skills but a lifetime of musical memories.

“The fragrance of white tea is the feeling of existing in the mists that float over waters; the scent of peony is the scent of the absence of negativity: a lack of confusion, doubt, and darkness; to smell a rose is to teach your soul to skip; a nut and a wood together is a walk over fallen Autumn leaves; the touch of jasmine is a night’s dream under the nomad’s moon.” – C. JoyBell C.

The rules of friendship

Are you your genuine self with your friends? Do you show every personal trait and preference in all their stark honesty or do you tend to wind it down a little and go with the flow?

The reason I pose the question relates to my best friend (do you get to have a best friend in your 40’s or is that more a juvenile thing – ok so very close friend) – she’s warm, caring, generous and a wonderful mom. We’ve known each other eight years and basically hit it off from day one. We have our differences (which is fun) and tend to thrash out anything that grinds, especially music related as her taste is dire 😉

There is one topic though that I stay away from, same sex couples. She is surprisingly biased which never ceases to amaze me for all the wrong reasons. Is there a single word that respectfully encompasses same sex couples? I’m stumped so for now will abbreviate it to s.s.c. Both my husband and I have s.s.c. friends and yet I find myself avoiding the topic when she and I chat and we do chat, a lot. Most times I just let the niggle go but some days I think should I tell her how I feel and to stop being such a blinkered bat and that (in my opinion) sexual orientation doesn’t influence the caliber of the person? Or should I weigh up her many good facets and just skip the “controversial” stuff?

My head tells me one thing and my heart tells me something else. It’s a head kind of day so I’m taking the cop out route, walking the more travelled path and avoiding the debate. I’ll deal with the drama on another day.