The following are extracts from an email conversation I had this morning with a colleague and friend, which provided a useful metaphor to help me through a difficult day.
“Laurel: I’m up and down. Some days are okay, others are pretty rough. I know that’s normal so I’m trying to roll with it.
A: It is very like that. It takes time. All you can do is to take care of yourself as best you can and be with it. It’s so hard. I remember those bad days very well. They will lessen, I promise. We are designed to heal eventually.
Laurel: I feel like I could deal with the loss better if rugs weren’t being pulled in many other areas of my life, but life doesn’t stand still! It rattles and shakes and we’ve gotta learn to jive to keep up…
A: How true. It was once described to me as ‘dancing with the circumstances’ but frankly I’d sometimes prefer a sedate waltz to a jive.
Laurel: I used to be a jive girl, but I think I’d like to grow into a Slow Foxtrot kinda woman! Maybe I’ll learn, with time.
A: No, don’t ever stop the jive. If I could make one thing true for you it would be that you always have the capacity to jive but know when it’s ok to foxtrot!”
Dancing, of course, is well accompanied by suitable music. I added Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides, Now‘ to my iTunes play list in memory of my mother, because it reminds me of her, and I remember listening to and discussing it with her. This morning, however, it suddenly feels very appropriate for my own emotional confusion too. I find myself in yet another new grief cycle, not quite the same as my ‘murky’ stage, where my grief had become muddy but the rest of my life still felt in focus. Now, everything feels like it has tilted and I can’t seem to find stability anywhere; I have lost my calm surety yet again.
“I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know life at all.”
What amazes me is that when I am having a ‘good’ day, and feeling accepting, gently reflective or even happy, I simply cannot remember what a truly painful day feels like. It doesn’t seem real, and I can even feel mildly guilty for feeling okay. Then an hour, a day, or even a few days later the next bout of sorrow, anger or depression will hit me, and I feel as though I will never be okay again.
On Saturday night, after lovely, relaxed day, I was looking through my old photographs and came across one of my mom feeding me a strawberry in our kitchen in Burger street, Pietermaritzburg, when we were still living together.
At the time of finding it I was simply delighted that I had a scanned copy of the (pre-digital age) picture, but last night when I thought of it again I couldn’t stop weeping, with a hollow feeling in my gut when I remembered the feel of her strong hands on my arms, the rough texture of the jersey she was wearing, which we had bought on a joint shopping expedition; her laughter, our precious closeness – gone from the world, and in that moment having it in my memory seemed poor consolation for having her.
Sometimes I feel like I am reaching a more balanced perspective about her death. On Saturday, as I pottered around my garden going some watering, pruning and weeding, I was reflecting how since I wrote about her dying hours I have been much more able to let it be a calm part of my every-day thoughts. I hadn’t even realised that I had been shielding myself from that real acknowledgement, yet once having thought and written about it I have felt much lighter, and more accepting. But that calmness is not something that is permanent; it is merely another step in the dance…