Keening

A ramble…
Grief is universal.
We all experience the suffocating moments that change lives. There are no bromides that actually move the process along. Cultures build the box and most times grief lives in that box.

In our home we joked about the John Wayne School of Communication, the stoicism that pushed grief down and never let it heal in the light of other humans. Prayer is a common crutch offering the illusion that something helpful is happening. Moments of gasping for breath as the sobbing overtakes are inescapable.

Keening isn’t often part of our culture. The sound is animal like. Men and women give over to being consumed, lost in the grief. Maybe keening is a hedge against depression of unresolved grief, of grief swallowed not sounded, of self medication to bearable.

Men and women lose a job, a home, a life time of expectations. They, as they knew themselves, are gone, emptied out of all they found dependable. Nothing works, no boot strap pull matters.

A person hears the partner’s declaration that the union is over, the love simply isn’t. A maze of hurt, insecure and confused, marks the lives within the ripple.

The devastation of illness is a grief played over and over, every day a family tears in the grip. Long range plans dissolve. Hope in a different future becomes one-foot-in-front-of-the other. Joy shuts down and pretend takes over.

Maybe we do keen, but not in a way that helps. Too much silence, too much John Wayne and not enough bellow against the pain. Too much stiff upper lip and not enough rage.

Last evening, a conversation about healing from cancer ended after an hour but the thoughts continued most of the night. A compassionate doctor told the patient that some of the most difficult times were the days, weeks and months when other people pronounced healing over, but it was not. Times when fear, loneliness or depression still shadowed every day, but other people felt enough was enough. Time to move on…stop dwelling on fear. Get over the grief compelling acceptance of a new life, a life of threat. Keening seems so very much in order.

Know what matters? What helps? What heals?

The touch of family/friendship, understanding of new ways that seem to mock what was once a life. The touch of family/friendship that is the knowledge that someone hears the silent keening, someone reads fake words and finds the truth, someone would respond…even when it feels impossible to ask. Someone is willing to give all the time needed. Talk about wonderful creatures!

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Writer’s Block

When my kids were little, they built amazing things with blocks and Legos.  Castles, forts, dream-scapes peopled with gnomes, dragons and creatures of no name found life from that cardboard box stashed above the broom closet.  Rainy days and quiet evenings were the best times for releasing the blocks.

I need that box.  I need to watch their process and see how they took little bits and created huge projects.  I feel stymied, and a bit stifled, by my lack of creativity in these evening hours, these hours that were once our time.  Now the evening is mine and it holds little promise of creativity.

So odd that I thought I might use the evening to blog, to be creative, to continue the journey towards new normal.  Even thought that I would approach my soap box issues with more intensity, intensity that I help back because Bob did not always share those passions.

A friend phones weekly to see if and where I attended church, checking on the condition of my soul.    The friend knows that  church has not been a priority for some months.   Church was more a priority for Bob and I cannot seem to  go there alone.  Actually, I need to tell my friend that my soul is fine.  It is my spirit that needs tending.

Writer’s Block.  Won’t budge.  Won’t diminish.  Won’t release me from the cardboard box stashed above the broom closet.  Maybe tomorrow.

After This Storm

As children, we sat on the porch swing in our quiet Kansas City, Kansas neighborhood and relished every lightening/thunder eruption.  Early winter  storms meant dragging out grandma-made quilts, clutching the wraps like cocoons.  A really super storm could wet our hair and send rivulets down our faces.

In his book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, George Singleton gives the rule for using clichés.

Rule # 1 Don’t.
Ahh…I love clichés–almost as much as I love quotes.  And so does Mr. Singleton.  On page 122, he saves the day.

Rule # 169    Guilty Pleasures.  Sometimes a well used cliché is the literary device that gets us where we are going with minimal explanation.

Good rule.  A dog-eared cliché is the scene outside my window. Damaged branches have gouged holes in the yard. Flower petals on the walk, broken pots, gutters down, deck furniture upended, a beautiful washed-clean-world. And that circles to another cliché.

What better frame could we find for the emotional dramas that storm though our lives? Upheaval, especially in family situations, has it all–thunder, lightening,  destruction of damaged parts and even the guilty pleasure that can come with the cleansing.

Most often, those family upheavals come from some pretty ugly storm seeds.  The need to be right, to have others bow to one’s perceived version of right and rules–our rules.  The need to control.  The need to decide how straight the narrow. The need to create family by the rule of law, and again, one’s perception law.  Sadly, understanding and compassion play a very minor part.   Family breach might salve, but the memory of pain rarely goes away.

Nature’s  destructive storms can leave a washed-clean-world.  A porch  swing storm, a family upheaval, rarely leaves a truly washed-clean-world.  Granted, it  might help  find new ways of taking out the broken parts, replacing the old ways, coming closer to cherishing one another.  But I think we would do well to remember that emotional damage rarely heals.  Spiritual damage doesn’t wash clean, ever.

Sadness Happens

There are moments, days and weeks, when sadness happens.  The reserve isn’t there, parched, dusty and unable to resurrect.

“Time without function”, a phrase from yesterday’s poem.  We need that, don’t we.  We need our time to be with purpose even if the purpose is doing nothing.  We need compartments of time: work, sleep, pleasure, eating, reflection,  exercise–compartments to give time a proper meaning.  “Time without function” is aimless, empty.

“Helpless, faithless, rancid spitting anguish”, another phrase written by That Man I Know. Helpless is easy compared to faithless. Faithless is the lesser of empty and alone.  Faithless is without anchor, without trust, without belief–true anguish.

“In a moment of reflection, gather what you may and hold it dear.”  A ray of hope?  A moment of knowing that there is treasure to hold?  A realization that something is left?

“Time’s Dirty Joke” taking all that you love.  Time again, but the function is of a thief taking, stealing, destroying.  Time once held promise, hope, an eagerness to be part of the next compartment.  The dirtiest joke, the theft of the belief in future time.

In the end, That Man I Know understands that we cycle, that we cannot escape what seems to be man’s eternal run on the hamster wheel of circumstance, that when we share the burden we share the ease.  But the knowing doesn’t make the passage any smoother.

Time Without Function Hope Without Reason

Poetry:   Beauty of expression,  emotional, rhythm of the heart.

A Man I Know aches with the knees and back of  blue-collar work.  But the work ceased nine months ago.  His search for economic survival has not been a winning run.    Each grain of hope has disappeared in the wash of loss.   Still The Man I Know functions, taking care of business, searching for work, hoping for a job.

Poem written by A Man I Know

This vessel’s void but residue lingers.
Helpless, faithless, rancid spitting anguish.

Time without function, hope without reason.
In a moment of reflection gather what you may.

Hold it dear.

When all that you love is swept away in the rising tide of
Time’s dirty joke
Take comfort in the knowledge that the cycle spins eternal.
Your burdens are always shared.

I am grateful to and enriched by A Man I Know.

Treating Depression

Just caught the ending moments of an NPR interview.  Hoping to catch a rebroadcast later, but one of the closing remarks has sent me on a ramble.

The speaker talked about treating milder forms of situational depression with our knowledge of treating a fever.  We do what we know will work.

Researchers have written about the efficiency of anti-depressant drugs as compared to placebo pills.  The anti-depressant do not always prove more effective and side effects are often harsh.

To be clear, in an earlier blog I wrote about the blessing of medication to alleviate the pain of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, bi-polar illness and certain other very serious and debilitating illnesses.  Many of you, Gentle Readers, responded with stories of such blessings to your own lives and the lives of your families.  (A quick ‘aside’ here…most of the powerful responses come to me via personal email.  I truly appreciate every one of your comments, Gentle Readers.  But please consider making some of your responses on this site rather than through my personal email.  Many people could benefit from your wisdom and experience.)

Still, it is intriguing to explore the idea of treating lesser forms of mild depression by using what we know.   Fever requires fluids, Tylenol, cool compresses and maybe even some bed rest.  Fever also responds to personal attention, TLC.

Why not treat these milder forms of situational depression by the same standard?  “Bed rest” in the form of time away from stressful situation and stressful people whenever possible could be a form of treatment.  Reading material that is uplifting and cleanses the spirit is  a cool compress.  TLC with family and friends, maybe gathered around a table, sharing a meal.   Further TLC could come in the form of activities that are pleasurable.  Even Tylenol to relieve nagging aches and pains can help lift depression.

Spending time with support groups and prayer groups is amazingly powerful for many people.  Reaching out to help others in need goes a long way to handling milder forms of depression.

And all of these ways of treating the milder forms of situational depression, the  ‘fever of depression’, have only good side effects.  I’m convinced!

Divorce

October is a month of beauty, saving remnants of summer charms while teasing with the winds of change.  October sunshine has a softer warmth,  a  bit of protection from winter to come.

On a particular October day a woman stood before a judge.  On her right was the lawyer.  After a few questions, the judge reached for a pen and granted the request.

Numb with fear, regret, sorrow, shame the woman stood on the court-house steps doubled over and choking.  October’s beauty could not reach through her tears.

Her children.  Her home.  Her love.  Her work.  Her life.  Her trust in her vows.  All these poured over her as she struggled with sickness, tears and realization of what she had done.  The marriage was over.  The judge’s pen sealed the divorce.

This woman had no memory of anyone passing, of any offer of help, of any look of concern.  October beauty was the darkest night.  Light was gone.

Divorce has no real definition.  Legally it is the end of a contract.  Religiously it is the breaking of a vow.  For children , it is a hollow place in their security.  In the  scope of consequences, there is no honest way to sort responsibilities.  Everything gets lost in the whirlpool of debilitating pain.

Statistically, at least half of all marriages end in divorce.  Contracts broken, vows discredited, children damaged and lives tossed into turmoil.  If it were not for a sense of hope, the heart would dissolve in tears.  Finding that hope is the challenge.

We live in a time of just enlightenment when considering medical help for the depression that can destroy.  The situation will eventually change, though it feels like the sun is a black hole.  The woman on the court-house steps struggled with grief and guilt, as do most who experience divorce.  All her self promises of protecting the children seemed lost in the depression that  muted rational thought.

Eventually, the woman of this story cried enough to wash her spirit.  She looked at the faces of her children, saw the pain in their eyes.  She made her decision.   She had to live with this.  It was not going away.

Letting go of things that cannot be changed is something we label “not easy but very simple’.  I am reminded of a favorite anonymous quotation.  “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”