No Longer in Active Grieving? HA!
Three years after my husband’s death, it seems I’ve picked up a new hobby: trumpeting how much better things are. How I’m still a widow, living and integrating the loss into a good life, and how much easier this is than active grieving. Tales of how I regained my mojo, dated, remarried and started to settle in with what I refuse to call “a new normal.” (It’s just life!) How my kid is growing to understand that she has had two Daddys and how I am so glad I escaped the Single-Moms-Can-Cope claptrap.
Maybe grief makes me preachy. One morning while I lie in bed wondering why I can’t get anything done, why I’m overcommitted to everything, why my back is starting to go again, and how slow I'm making progress on the packing and moving business, it hits me: low motivation. Muddy thinking. I may not be full-scale depressed again, but I’m back in full grief.
Knowing this allows me to give in. Dinner’s been impossible. I’ve been cooking from scratch, for better health and better taste, plus I know I need to stretch and work my cooking muscles in order to reach full adult height again. But it’s still a damn mess between shopping and cleaning up.
Surrender means I get that one day’s worth of stuff done. I make a giant list to contain my stresses and stare at it for a few days (it should be in the recycle bin by Sunday).
And then I return to Trader Joe’s. Even as I tumble back through the welcoming automatic doors I’m grateful to have permission and something decent to fall back on. I search for the breaded eggplant and decide I’ll give their pizzas a second chance. Short Stack and I relied on Trader Joe’s frozen pizza for “movie night” for more than a year, but they deteriorated and finally jumped the shark. On the other side of the shark we found Paul Newman and he’s been fine for a year now.
(Why has no one else noticed that Trader Joe’s pizzas started to suck? I’ve been Googling it for nearly two years and either I’m the only one, or Google’s broken. But I can taste that Trader Joe’s suppliers have been using different flour and inferior sauce. Mr. Fresh thinks this is another case of the “rising standards” I’ve developed, but I remind him that “bait and switch” is a very profitable and extremely common strategy which most of us don’t want to see.)
A return to active grieving explains why we were two hours late for the dolphin show at the aquarium. Perhaps a normal person might just take the road they’re familiar with. But that is the same way we used to go, sometimes weekly, to Gavin’s oncologist. As we passed the sign for the alternate route we never took, I picked an internal conversation with Gavin. “Someday we’ll take the tunnel,” he used to say. He would have loved it. As we sped through miles of industrial zone, vintage warehouses, piles of salt, gravel, asphalt, unknown substances in cones, silos, hills, pyramids, and under fields of tarp blue, I told Shortie how Daddy would loved these images for his “industrial landscape” drawings.
But fuckit if we didn’t miss the damn exit and end up miles and miles out of our way. Thirty bucks down the toilet. (They did let us see the fish, just not the ticketed event. How could I argue?).
Grief is a saboteur. It explains why when my doctor referred me to Gavin’s cardiology specialist I said, “No, it won’t be a problem” but two years later, I still haven’t had the stress test. (They always liked Gavin. And someone from the office had to come to hospice on his last day to switch off his defibrillator. Of course they had to stop and tell me what a great human he was.).
Am I back? Back there, or back to myself? I don’t know.
Most of my minutes take place in my new life. But I don’t believe I have a “new” life any more than I like the term “new normal.” It’s just one life. We only get one (man, do we ever only get one).
It must be grief: I’m thrust back, every fall, to thinking about my Dad a lot. Because every loss recalls the first. And he used to say, when we fussed about what food was touching what other food: "It all gets mixed up in your stomach anyway." (He thought he was being funny. You know, in that “pull my finger” way.) But in some ways this is a secret of life: don’t spend too much time being careful about categories. They’re not very comfy to live in.
More coffee, some nice Piñon (Gavin spent his early years in Albuquerque and loved the smell) from Trader Joe’s, and I’ll try to get back to packing.
(And I'll report back on the pizza).
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