Sunday, May 5, 2013
A Lesson and A Memory
This has been a long, hard week. I've noticed that grief seems to change the nature of time. As I've tried to be very available to my roommate, days have blurred into each other, minutes of sitting together have turned into hours, and my sleep has been deep yet dream-filled. I wake up not sure if I just went to bed or if I have been asleep for days. And I'm still tired either way.
And then there are also the strange moments of learning that some people will and/or can meet you in grief, and some people won't and/or can't. No judgements here, as I certainly remember a time in my life when saying the words "I'm sorry for your loss," felt too scary to utter. I had a friend in college who lost her mom five months into our freshman year (and therefore five months into our friendship) and I carried a certain kind of guilt for years for not saying upon first seeing her after the funeral "I'm sorry for your loss." So much guilt that I blurted it out one random summer day when we had already graduated and she had long-forgotten (or never realized) my friendship fail. Still it's been surprising for me to witness what people in my roommate's life are just avoiding her altogether or are calling me to ask how she is doing. Call her. Ask her.
Then there are the people who ask me from a safe distance how she is, and when I give an answer or react in the way that isn't expected, they remove themselves from the situation quickly. Like for instance, my boss. I consider my boss to be an understanding person, and through our many one-on-one meetings I have determined that we click rather nicely and have a strong professional leaning towards personal relationship. However, when she came over to my cube on Friday morning, I think the weight and depth of the loss had finally hit me. In an attempt to be strong for my roommate, I had only let the experience sink in to the shallowest depth. Friday morning something happened (more on that in a bit) that shook the experience right to my core. I felt Rachael's loss fully.
So when my boss walked over to ask how Rachael was doing, I had just been thinking If anyone asks me how I am, I will surely burst into tears. Don't ask me how I am, don't ask me how I am, don't ask me how I am...
She interrupted this thought bubble and worse than asking how I am - cause it's all relative, I am fine really - she asked how Rachael was, which was just too much. Instead of words coming out of my mouth, tears starting rolling out of my eyes. I have never burst into silent crying so instantly.
Possibly stranger than my breakdown was the fact that upon it starting, my boss hot-tailed it away from me. In fact, it was almost comical how quickly she fast-walked/ran away from me. I had barely squeaked out a "It's hard," when she had already rounded away from my cube and out of sight.
Wow, that's what you have to give, lady?
Interestingly enough, after I got my shit together, wiped away my snot and tears and composed myself just a touch, my new colleague Melissa walked over from her cube 'next door.' Melissa and I have only known each other a few months, and yet she boldly walked right into the storm and asked me if everything was okay as she had "overheard something." (A nice way of saying: I heard your breakdown that made our boss run away.) Melissa coming right over to see what was wrong made me start to silent sob all over again, but interestingly enough she just stood right next to me and let me work it out. She didn't say anything but she stuck around to let me express "how hard" this has been.
And so I have been learning all week who can meet you in grief. Sometimes it's not who you expect.
As for the Friday experience that pushed me into a vulnerable enough space to openly cry in front of my boss and coworker, it's hard to explain, but try I shall.
Friday, May 3rd I woke up and it was grey and snow-raining. I was cold. I wanted real spring. Spring is a season of nostalgia - it makes me long for home and childhood in a very strong way. The grey-snow-rain-nonspring-spring put me in a weird headspace and warped my nostalgia.
Add to this that on Friday, May 3rd I was going to get my blood drawn. For my whole life I have gotten my blood drawn every 4-6 months to make sure my hypothyroidism medication is functioning correctly. As a kid, going to get my blood drawn meant mostly one thing: pancakes with Dad afterwards at Uncle Bill's Pancake House. I think the tradition started as a way to give me something to focus on beyond my fear. Regardless of how or why it started, it transformed an icky experience into one that I actually looked forward to and cherished.
Despite having gone alone to get my blood work done for the last decade, there was something about the weather, the week, and the winding, labyrinth-like hallways of the hospital, that made my aloneness in this task especially jarring this particular day. I sat alone in the blood lab and waited for my number to be called, and thought about all those lab waiting rooms I had sat in with my dad. I thought about all the mundane details including: the overly confusing parking ramp that always both led us in and got us lost; the sanitized smell of the hospital; the over-the-top childish and cheerful -but actually deeply terrifying - murals in the waiting room; the jar of lollipops I eagerly eyed; the cartoon bandaids that marked the completition of the task. This May 3rd hospital was different, but the biggest difference was my distance from those waiting rooms of my childhood. I felt the distance, the time & space; I felt it deeply like it was a canyon in my chest.
The seemingly most insignificant parts of becoming an adult can actually have the most significance.
I was so overcome with my emotions, that I had to turn away as the nurse drew my blood because I didn't want her to see the tears forming in my eyes and assume I was scared. I never had a chance to develop a fear of getting my blood drawn because my dad was always right there beside me, and pancakes were always my reward for getting through. So the tears forming were not exactly from fear. Rather, I was far from my past, aware of the passage of time, and at the doorway to my own grief for the things we lose when we grow up.
It was a long, hard week. I want pancakes.