During active grieving, most of the young widows I knew described their cars as perfect compartments for crying: soundproof, childless, portable, and stocked with Kleenex. I was fortunate enough to be held by a faith community instead. Every Sunday church was a refuge where I could cry in peace or on a shoulder, and sing brokenly as loud as I wanted to.
By instinct and feeling, over many months, I adapted my own posture. The position is a little like Eagle Pose: my upper and lower body twist to enclose the heart in a knot, but it’s smooth on the outside and every part plays a role.
The legs are crossed, right knee over left. Left elbow nests on the right inner elbow, resting on the lap. My back is bent but just enough to fit the puzzle together. Two fingers of my left hand pinch the earpiece of my splendid eyeglasses, which dangle out to the right to avoid harm. The chin tucks naturally. The right hand is all business, cradling the bridge of the nose, offering a span of Kleenex to both eyes at the same time. The tail of the Kleenex is ready to spread down to the two nostrils if they flare or bubble. A dozen more Kleenex wait on the blue cloth seat of the chair next to me.
Unlike other slouches, in this one the lower back pulls up and forward and the head can still float like an egg about to hatch. In this position, you can really feel the breath elevate and spread the spine. It’s a bow being slowly released. You’re free to cry, well protected, still available to hug and somehow, you can even provide your shoulder to someone else.
I wept at service a few weeks ago, at a song or a sorrow, and it came back to me. I remember that grieving is a physical process and one that uses your entire body.
Being unemployed and newlywed has changed my body, too: I’ve been lifting weights and feeling as that strength helps my hard, crushed chest to open up by slight turns. I’m using my hips more freely when I run, and the wonky alignment of my right knee seems to be gone.
But one morning about a month ago I woke up in hell. The weak spot in my right side middle back was throbbing, unstretchable. It’s happened before, and usually goes away after 3 or 4 days. I saw the allopath and got two Rx’es, which help, but mornings are almost unbearable. I can’t stay in bed and stretching is hard. Sometimes I just get up at 3 or whenever the pain wakes me and I stay up. It creates a constant present where I want only one thing: let the pain stop.
Boy, pain really has a way of focusing the mind. I remember all the pain that Gavin suffered when he had a metastasis eroding his spine all summer long. I empathize with his long-lost daily struggle and remember all the pain meds he took.
Even as the pain seems to be stepping back, slowly, it’s still hard not to look at the metaphors. At 42, after years of unbearable stress, I am waking up. What is my body trying to tell me?
Perhaps I am strong enough at last to confront some demons and kill some gremlins. Surely one of the new directions pointing at me is the right one. Maybe I could throw out about 1,000 pounds of STUFF. I'm sure it was impulsive to remarry so quickly, though I have no doubt Marshall is the best man for the job.
I am on the verge of insight in several areas of my life, if I may be forgiven for hubristic navel-gazing on my blog (what else, excuse me, is it for?). But I know it will hurt to pull all those band-aids off. I suppose I’m not doing it fast, but can I handle it at all? They’re flesh colored; I’m sure no one can see them.
I’m surrounded by loads of natural, situational stress. We’re in the process of moving (nearby), girl begins Kindergarten in a month, Marshall’s new job starts Monday. These things are hard to untangle.
The only way out is through. I guess I’m going to stretch out my legs, slowly, at 5 a.m. as I have been doing, and listen to my poor neglected muscles and nerves with brave ears.
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