Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 2:52PM. Only 22 hours away from Dorie’s deathiversary. How weird…. Today is one of those days when it feels like she is still here, just hiding away somewhere where she can’t be seen but still be felt. Maybe she is here today – I don’t know what I believe about any of that anymore…
I’m having a few hours of time to myself. No child, no mother, no company, no people. I LOVE IT, surprisingly enough. I didn’t really want to be alone today and I REALLY didn’t want my son to go to his grandma’s for a sleepover but now that I’m here, sitting on the deck with my laptop and my words, listening to the birds and watching roses start to bloom and tulips already beginning to fall away, I’m…peaceful. I’m happy in the solitude.
I know this – I want to go riding. But I’m so, so tired… So anxious. So afraid… And my stomach is uneasy. Hmmm… What to do?
Tomorrow a friend is coming to spend the day with me, so maybe we will do that then. I have barely eaten today – I’ve had a banana, some coffee, and a lot of water. Maybe I should just focus on eating some food and resting this evening and tonight… Celiac is a bitch.
It’s several hours later – nearly 8PM now. I sat for a while on the deck earlier, and I talked to Dorie’s ghost. Of course I don’t believe there was really a “ghost” there, but I talked to her anyway. About halfway through my conversation with her, her husband texted me a photo of her crocuses blooming. It was eerie, in a way, but it made me very happy. He called and we talked for about a half hour, and that was nice.
When I went back to the deck I finished reading this little book called “Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments,” by Kent M. Keith. It’s tagline is, “finding personal meaning in a crazy world.” It’s a book Dorie gave to me nearly 12 years ago, and for whatever reason there it was, laying on the shelf. I happened to notice it today – I’m sure I walked past it a hundred times since it was last touched, and probably laid it there myself the last time I read it.
That was probably a few weeks after she died – it seems like that was the last time I read through the entire book… Stacks of books all over my house, but I left that one laying flat on a shelf, where I could see it, all this time. Anyway, I picked it up to read it again. It just seemed like the thing to do with my time this afternoon. I’m so glad I did…
I must’ve read this book a hundred times in the years that I have had it. I’ve quoted from it many times, and it’s truly become the core of who I am, not only because of the book’s message but also because it’s how my father raised me all my life, long before the book was ever written. In fact, it reminds me very much of my father, and different parts of the book bring back vivid memories of experiences and situations I found myself in with my father when he taught me many of the lessons I have learned from him throughout my life, both as a child and as an adult.
For many reasons I adore this book, but earlier today when I picked it up again, I mostly adored it because she gave it to me. That is, until I started rereading it. Now, I love this book for that reason and for one other very important one: because I DO find myself in this book, twelve years after receiving it from her.
I see myself now, today, as she always did: capable. That’s why she bought the book for me in the first place. She gave me the book during a very hard time in my life in 2005. I was going through my initial split from the church and I was having a very difficult time with my adoptive mother. I was also going through the beginning of a pretty difficult breakup with a friend (that would end up taking more than a year) and I felt so incomplete, afraid, and vulnerable. I used the word vulnerable in conversations with Dorie I don’t know HOW many times during that period of my life. And that’s why she bought the book when she saw it.
One of the commandments is, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” I remember her telling me that she had read through parts of it in the bookstore and that that particular line had reminded her so much of me. She said something to the effect of, “you might feel lost, confused and broken, but you’re much stronger than you believe you are and if your heart is guiding you then you’re in the right place. Maybe this book will remind you of who I know you are, and of who you already know you are…maybe now, maybe many times in the future.”
My word, how it has…especially today.
These last few years I have found myself in need of these reminders many times. Especially in the last year, since she died, I have felt more lost and heart broken than I ever have. Pain on top of pain on top of pain and loss after loss after loss does something to numb you from so much of life. You just reach a point where you really just feel “there.” It’s not depression, necessarily, or even grief.
It’s exhaustion (as I’ve written about earlier today and yesterday). It’s just being so tired at every level. It’s being…well, drained. When that happens I tend to forget how to ground myself and how to regenerate…especially now, with chronic illness in the picture, it’s extremely difficult to find rest.
As I read through the commandments today, I found myself thinking, “yes! That’s who I am. That’s who I’ve been for as long as I can remember, now…” My two favorite commandments are the first two.
“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.”
“If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.”
Well, now. Isn’t that the story of my life as I’ve struggled and stumbled through the last few years. Not that I’ve been a saint myself – goodness knows I’ve had my moments of being rash, illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. And, I’ve made no excuses for those moments. When I have been conscious of it, I’ve tried to offer my sincerest apologies and learn from those moments. But I’ve also dealt with these two things more times than I can count (and by the same couple of people) over and over again throughout the last several years. And the truth is, I STILL love them anyway, and I still do good anyway.
I am still the same person I always was. How can I not be? It’s who I am, and I’m proud of that. I am GRATEFUL for that. There’s always room for improvement but I’m a damn good person and woman, and I believe that about myself.
Do you ever tell yourself similar things? You should, because I’m 99.9% sure they’re true. Be kinder to yourself. Even on your worst days, pat yourself on the back and say, “I love you!” to yourself. Then give yourself a treat of some sort, even if it’s just five minutes of sitting in silence on a busy day when you really “shouldn’t” waste those five minutes. Trust me – waste those five minutes, because if that’s what you spend them doing then it’s no waste at all.
The only way forward is not to just affirm things, per all the self-help gurus, but to TAKE ACTION. Actively love yourself. Walk your talk…don’t just speak it. Otherwise? It’s useless.
In spending some quiet time in true solitude today, I’ve really been supporting myself, and “myself” likes it a lot. We’ve been through half a box of Kleenex between allergies and memories, but hey – at least we thought to have Kleenex on hand.
The point of my “big cry” is this: not everybody is going to love you, no matter how lovable you might be, and not everybody who loves you is always going to be there, even if it’s only because they’re dead and they just can’t be. Learn to love and support yourself – it’s so important. I can give a lot of credit to a couple of people in my life for being there for me, to listen and to offer a hand, during the last year, but mostly, since my dad died? I’ve chosen to face my struggle alone.
I knew when my dad died that I needed to do that – because I knew that I COULD do that. I needed to step up and take care of myself in that way during that time. And, as far as the grief with my dad, I DID do that. I did cope and get through it mostly by myself (and with the help of an amazing bunch of animals who are just about the only living creatures I cried in front of, by choice), and I’m grateful for the people who care for me who allowed me to do that without question, without pressure, and without judgment.
When Dorie died, I decided to write my journey through that grief. It was so completely different than the loss of my Dad for many reasons. It was far more painful and confusing, and I had so much new growth that needed to be fertilized before it died. I had so much to say then, so much pain and so much confusion and so much loss… Writing has always been my most useful and trusted coping mechanism.
So, mostly via instablogs on Instagram, and this year via this blog, I have publicly shared that journey and I have become all the better for doing so. Admittedly, there have been some pretty raw and ugly moments, but there have also been some truly beautiful ones. I have met some wonderful people, given and received so much support, and made some really good friends in the process. I am SO grateful for that, and I want to continue doing that… But there’s something I have to tell you.
That journey…it’s over. Timing unexpected, and perhaps a bit ironic or even serendipitous, I know… But this thing happened today as I sat alone, after I finished rereading the book I mentioned.
I sat on the bench in the therapy garden, finishing my conversation with Dorie, and I began to sing… I sang to her, like I sometimes did when she was sick and we’d sit on the front porch for some air. A lot of times she wouldn’t feel like talking, and we’d listen to music. I’d start singing along to a song, and she’d stop the music and say, “no, you keep singing. I like for you to sing.” Well. Sing, I would…
This afternoon I was singing to her this song called, “Sanctuary.” It’s a song that is from the show “Nashville,” and it reminds me a lot of our time together when she was diagnosed and throughout her cancer. I wish I had known it during those years with her, but instead I sang it to her “ghost.” You do what you have to do, I suppose.
I’ll link the video below, but for now what’s important for me to share are just two lines:
“I will share this weight you carry… Let me be your sanctuary.”
As I finished singing the song, with those last few lines, I could feel her in my spirit telling me, “I don’t have a weight anymore that you need to share, you can put it down. You don’t have to carry it any longer, Christy…” It’s as though she invited me to lay it down, and I accepted.
With that, just as swiftly as a cardinal flew from the feeder when the dog barked, that part of my journey through that grief was over. Does that mean that my grief is finished? No, of course not. It never will be. But today…that part of it felt like it came to a very gentle but real finale.
Here’s the really interesting part of this story:
For the last few months, especially the last two days, up until this afternoon, I have felt myself reaching a limit. You know the one – the one where you throw your hands up and throw everything away. I’ve wanted to toss away my phone, my cameras, my computer… I’ve wanted to delete my Instagram accounts and my blogs, burn my journals and shut myself off from the world. I felt like I was right there at the very edge, to the point of lashing out, openly sobbing and giving up – right there at this very tumultuous, very messy, very hasty end of all things sharing, all things real.
But, I didn’t do that… No, I offered myself patience, and I continued to follow my ever expanding heart instead of my hasty, very limited and fear-filled mind.
Instead, I’ve sat in my back yard this afternoon, finally meeting with silence and true solitude again after so long of not having a break from being mom and daughter and everything in between, having this conversation with Dorie’s “ghost.” It’s funny to me that it happened the way it did, really. I find it heartwarming (?) that she wouldn’t let me do those things when she was alive (give up, throw it all away), and she won’t let me do them now. Or, rather, I won’t let myself do them now.
I won’t give in to what’s easy and just run and hide. That’s not who I am in my heart, and my heart is what I always choose to follow, no matter how irrational or painful my mind might think it is. That’s because in my time in this body and on this planet, short as it may seem even to me, I learned (a long time ago, really) that my heart is always right.
So is yours. Remember that…
Dorie and I had some hard times. We fought sometimes. She’d make me madder than a wet hen sometimes, and sometimes she’d want to literally shake some sense into me. But you know what? We never gave up on each other, and we never let each other give up on ourselves, because true friends never do.
At the end of this day, I can reflect on that and I can say at least one thing with the fullest of confidence and pride: she was my best friend, and she was the closest thing to a mother I ever had. Losing her when I did was the most difficult experience of my life, and I miss her desperately, still. It is still difficult. But here I still am, despite that. Here I still am, sharing my feelings and working through, anyway.
I don’t know how the deathiversary will play out, exactly. I do have a sort of plan, per my fairy god therapist’s orders, as I mentioned earlier today. But, here I am tonight, at a new sort of threshold regarding grieving her death. I love her, but I love me, too. I love me enough to lay down a weight that she laid down when she died: cancer, and the pain and the guilt it brings, even in death to the loved ones left behind. That’s the thing I’ve chosen to do on this day, 364 days after her death, and I am determined to leave it there…
To close this post, I just want to ask you, whoever you are reading this, to keep sharing anyway if sharing is what your heart leads you to do. Keep being you anyway. Keep living anyway. Keep grieving, in your own way and as you need to grieve, no matter what it is you’ve lost. We’ll keep trying, and keep going, together.
All my love,