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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With Respect

It is with respect that I write.  This will be difficult, a confession of sorts, a convoluted confession for certain.

Friday is a joy filled day.  In profile, Sam is his dad, my son.  Full face, Sam is his mom, my daughter-in-law.  In his Sam-ness he is the absolute best of both parents.  Friday is a great day and like, all great things, it ends.

When Paul and Sam left today, so did my resolve of spirit.  I give in and sometimes I give up, helpless before the grief, the loneliness, the void of this house emptied of what was home.

Ronald Rolheiser is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.  In his article,  Dealing With Loss, Grief, and Obsessions, Rolheiser wrote, “…and no religious word of comfort can do much for us”.

This is where I need to write with all due respect to those who tell me that prayer will heal, that God never requires more than a person can manage, that God has a plan that includes this ridiculous debilitating pain.   There are those that tell me that it is my arrogance that causes me to question The Plan.

Right.

I am not praying.

I can’t.

I am holing on, smiling at strangers, attempting focused conversations with family, remembering to eat, cleaning with dervish energy, consciously aware of how much I love my family and value my friends, honoring commitments, consciously, one moment after another.

This is all deliberate, my one-foot-in-front-of-the-other effort to reach deeply enough to find something good and noble in grief.  Goodness and nobility in grief?  Not going happen, but there is goodness and nobility in  family and friends, because of their outreach, their attempts to force time to compact, to tunnel through the process.

Perhaps their prayers on my behalf are part of that goodness and nobility, but for now, I cannot join them.  I don’t have the patience to believe nor the trust in acceptance that is to come on some distant tomorrow.

 

Thanksgiving

Outside the glass, moonlight covers the  neglected yard with a beautiful look of snow sprinkle.   Doe and yearling stir near the giant Halloween tree, a huge Walnut that has gifted the squirrels with years of stash.

Snug in an afghan, alone, I watch for the sun to change that snow look to the sparkle of early morning.  Toys and books cover most horizontal surfaces, markers of the joy of grandchildren.  Albums opened beside me evidence years of family time, reminders of our passages as we came to this now.

This now is a quirk, a trick of time, a fixed thing but lost in a vastness that won’t give up its secrets.  Now is a month used up in a flash but seeming to go on and on— right into the now of forever.

At 3:32 this November 21, I awoke staggered with all that is mine, my very own and very personal joy, sadness, grief, comfort and my tomorrows built on this now.

My family, my adult children, their spouses and my grandchildren closed ranks protecting me with a fortress of their love, concern and their physical labor handling the details of this passage.

Friends reached across years and miles defining friendship with words and gestures of gentle comfort, the safety of our history together.

Enough.  I have enough of what handles the comfort of the body;  work, warmth, food,  safety, books, places to walk, a to-do list that marks both accomplished tasks and the beat of time.

Abundance.   I have quoted Dave Ramsey’s, “Better than I deserve” when asked that rhetorical standard, “How are you?”  And I am. So blessed, so much better than I deserve in the abundance of family and friends.

Thanksgiving marks this amazing gift that is my life.

 

 

Successful Dieting; Stop Eating What Is Eating You

Walking at the park and shamelessly eavesdropping whenever the conversation is close, snippets because the see-saw of passing keeps contact to a minimum. Couples sharing a story and parents laughing with the kids are my favorites.  I listen and we smile when they look my way.

Today was different.
A young mother needed something…some comfort, some pain relief. And it was pretty obvious that food was her pill of choice. Dad and kids walked together, but several steps behind mom as she struggled to carry her weight. They seemed to be giving her space. When Dad and the kids laughed, Mom angrily shouted for them to keep up. One of the girls asked if they could stop on the bridge and look at the water. Mom’s sigh let everyone know the depth of her annoyance.  She stopped dead-still, back to the family, foot tapping, and waited while they interfered with her life.  They looked at the water.

No way for me to make this my business. None.
I could smile and say something inane…”beautiful day”…but it wasn’t a beauty she could see. So I just said, “Hi. Cute kids. Nice day to be together in the park.”

And I moved down the path, helpless.

This young woman reached for the comfort of food–the comfort of eating and the comfort of suppressing what was eating her.  That comfort is vital but her choice is deadly.  To sustain we have to find some wiggle room–a way to get out from under the pain.

Sometimes, the comfort is food or drink…or both..fleeting comfort that adds new layers of need.

Realistically misuse of food and drink lead to a new guilt, but a guilt that is easier to handle than the guilt or shame that triggered the pain. This new guilt is one that masks the hopelessness and one that we say we can control. We just need to stop.

That isn’t the key.  Dieting won’t open the guilt and shame to the light of freedom.  Dieting is the twin of drinking/eating for oblivion, another broken crutch that won’t hold the weight.

Risk.  Risk trusting someone, an individual or a group with whom to share what needs to be spoken.  Risk opening up what festers so the healing can happen.  Imagine the joy of no longer needing the false comfort because we faced the real pain and we understand.

Forever Now

We establish our silent companions as we mature, not always able to discard the most painful.

The death of a parent, spouse, a child, sibling or a friend can add grief to those whisper companions ever-present in our lives.

Time doesn’t really heal. We  find ways to dull feeling, but death of a loved one becomes a life companion.

Memories of harm clutch, and refuse to let go. Trust besmirched by betrayal, no matter the degree.

Ghosts? Memories? Spirits? Silent companions, always near.

A line in a book, the breeze across the porch, a smile from a stranger, or the innocent look of a child can force us to recognize grief yet again.

Silent meals become the norm when what needs to be spoken cannot be said. All other conversations are far too trivial. The walls of the house become a fortress sealing us–or a comforter  protecting  from a  world we cannot order.

All this is reality, that “time to weep” thing.    But we are amazing creatures.

When we are able, we talk. It takes time and patience to get to the deepest part of pain.  Baby steps building trust, but we talk when we find those who have earned our trust.

Old friends, renewed by happenstance,  long time friends, dearest family members walk us through.  Often friends do not realize the depth of what they give by words and acts of acceptance and support.

Friendship is an extraordinary gift.  I treasure your friendship.

Pollyanna Needs Her Bliss

I have no idea where the Pollyanna mystic began.  Probably a telling literary lapse on my part  but I do know that ‘Pollyanna’ has been both lobbed and hurled at me.

Because I don’t know the precise origin of Pollyanna, I cannot dispute the label.  But I do know that there is comfort in my ignorance (hurled) and in my bliss (lobbed).

A recent chain of family medical challenges did lead to several rants against flagrant mistakes, good-old-boy networks and obvious incompetence.   There was a huge temptation to blast through the blog using lots of  *%#@*.

You stopped those rants,  Gentle Readers, as you reached out in kindness, offering comfort and prayers.  Your response reminded me that Polly has served me well.

Pollyanna is my fallback, my rear guard.  When a situation baffles me, when my search for answers is futile, when I realize that there may never be a satisfactory answer, Polly is there.   She protects the belief that everyone deserves respect.  Everyone has a story.

My job is to contain the*%#@* in favor of polite courtesy.  Maybe that is clinging to my belief that good–like Mighty Mouse–saves the day.          Ouch!  Is that tongue in cheek thing suppose to pinch?