If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
- The Gospel of Thomas
I had a boyfriend who, whenever i was sad, used to say: Everything is NOT going to be OK. And that might sound like a strange thing to say to someone who's sad but I always loved when he said it because it was his way of telling me that I had a right to be sad, and that he wasn't going to try to rush me through the sadness so we could get back to normal. And that, in turn, always made me feel better.
Many times, I've sat down at my computer to try to write this post. Many times, I've wanted to neatly and cleverly wrap up our adventure in a perfect, Pinterest-worthy package, and say: this is exactly what it was like, this is how it felt then, how it feels now, these are the lessons I learned, isn't it great how it all worked out. As it turns out, it isn't quite that simple, or easy to explain. Not in a blogpost, not to myself in my own head.
What I can say is this: we're attempting, my mum and I, to settle back into our respective lives. The lives we had before we went to PEI. The lives we had before my paps died. An ever so slight problem has arisen, however, in that those lives don't actually exist anymore. So, in fact, what we've been doing lately is something resembling teeter-tottering. Between what our lives used to be, what we think our lives should be now, and what actually is. It's very, for lack of a better word, strange. Actually, I hate it.
I suppose I'd assumed that, at this point, 15 months in, we'd be doing much better. And it's not that we haven't made progress but I wouldn't describe how we feel as much better.
Some days, I feel strong and good. But there are days when I want to never get up. There are weeks when I plow through life. Then, there are weeks when I hide from it like it was a viable profession. Sometimes, I am at peace. More times, I'm not.
I have a hard time deciphering between the sadness caused by the grief and the sadness caused by other things. It all, somehow, feels grief-related.
When I'm feeling good, I think: I'm cured! I get all the more bummed when I realize that I'm not, in fact, cured, and that the weepies have sneaked their way back in again.
I get flashes (of my paps' last days, of our lives before) that make my whole body shudder, and I think: I'm fucked for life. Or: I'm losing my mind. Often, followed by: Jesus, Nadyne, don't be so goddamned dramatic.
Our lives have lost their meaning, and finding new meaning is proving to be the hardest thing we've ever had to do.
We will get through this.
No, we won't.
Yes, we will.
No, it's not working.
Yes, look how far we've come!
But it's still so fucking hard.
Yes. Yes it is.
A constant struggle between team love and team fear.
So, yeah, there's some heaviness, the kind you don't find on Pinterest. And it would be a lie to say that I haven't felt, given that it's been over a year, that I should be better at dealing with or accepting the heaviness by now. At times, (get it all out, Nadyne) I find it paralyzing. I try to remind myself that that's what people do; they die! Every day, everywhere in the world, people are dying. And other people are grieving. None of this is particular to me, or to my family. But it doesn't help. In the moments when I'm replaying, for the nth time, how it could be that he was here, alive and in front of me, the anchor of our tiny but fierce family - with his dimples and his moustache and his general, overall, comforting paps ways - and then, it was over - in those moments, it doesn't help to know that someone else is also wondering how they're supposed to be OK with their own loss.
On occasion, I'm told by well-meaning friends: At least you have your mum. And, of course, they're right. Of course, I'm grateful for my mum. But my mum and I are so tightly-knit that she feels more like one of my limbs than a separate entity. So it always just feels to me kind of like telling someone who's been shot that, at least, they don't have cancer.
Some people, when they're sad, reach out, and ask for help. I tend to be in more of the buy-a-bunch-of-books-on-the-subject-figure-it-out-yourself-and-try-not-to-bring-anybody-else-down camp. But that strategy only really works if you're trying to install track lighting or building a pallet coffee table. You can't think your way out of being sad. And you can't, as I'm unfortunately discovering, think (or read) your way out of grief.
In realizing that my strategy is not really working for me, I recently called a good friend who also lost a parent suddenly. And after I essentially barfed all of my feelings all over him, he reminded me that it took him not one but four to five years after his mum's death to get to an OK place again. And that, in turn, reminded me that maybe it's not so surprising that I still find it so hard. Maybe I'm not losing my mind. Maybe this is as OK (or not OK) as anyone can be expected to be, 15 months in.
I'm happy we went to PEI. I'm happy I started this project. But I think that part of me thought that I could find something that would fix the sadness. A move, a shop, a project, a boyfriend, a book, a youtube video.
If I just find the right thing, or the right combination of things, the sadness will go away, and I'll be OK again.
If I just busy myself, if I distract myself long enough, I'll be all better by the time I come back up for air.
And I guess, if any lesson has been learned so far, if I had to go back 15 months and speak to myself, I would say this:
You can't fix this.
You can't fix the hole that's in your heart. And this is going to be a tricky, little lesson to learn because those things - the outside things, the distractions - they will make you feel better sometimes... until they don't... and the waves of grief come crashing over you once again. And, just to be clear, what I'm saying here is not that you should disengage from your own life, or that you shouldn't keep trying, and moving in the direction that feels most right. I'm not saying don't go to PEI, I'm not saying don't open up a shop, I'm not saying don't do all of the things you want to do - quite the opposite, in fact - but those things will not fix you. From what I've gathered so far, time and love will help ease the pain but I don't think they actually fix this. Reading, writing and talking to friends will help you understand it better but, again, they won't fix you. I don't think you get fixed from this. And I know that that's not what you want to hear right now. I know that you desperately want it to be fixed. I know that, more than anything, you want to find a way, right now, for you and your mum to not be sad. I know you want to study or write or travel your way out of this but you can't.
And I know it's hard to believe that this is how life works because it feels, at times, like you have so much control over it, and that, if you only place the pieces in the right places, everything will work out and the hole will be filled. But I'm pretty sure that that's just an illusion.
Here is what you can do (and, I'm warning you, this sounds an awful lot like some hippy-dippy, self-help bullshit, and you're going to hate it and feel like it's not enough, but just listen anyway, and let whatever parts want to sink in sink in):
Try to accept, as best you can, whatever state you're in, however unpleasant that state may be. I know this seems impossible because it's extremely uncomfortable right now. Just do your best, and try not to judge yourself or how you're feeling.
Do the work of living your life in the way that feels most right to you, show up for it as best you can - but then let go of whatever happens next. Don't make up answers if you don't have answers. Don't force pieces that don't fit - I can't stress this part enough, because, let's be honest, you can be an impatient, sparkly, little firecracker sometimes, and you will want the things you want - healing, growth, forward movement - when you want them but, again, all you can do is your part of the work, the rest is not up to you.
Try not to think of this as something that needs to be fixed. You're not broken. You're not crazy. You can call it those things if you want but what you actually are is just really sad, and your reserves are depleted. Try to ride the wave instead of swimming against it. I know you don't want to. I know you want to fight and claw your way out of this. I know you want analyse the bejesus out of it, sort it into compartments, make it make sense and then shove it into a hermetically sealed box and never look at it again. Just please try to ride the wave. Because I know for sure that fighting against isn't helpful.
Lastly, and most importantly, it will feel like there is no meaning or no point left to your life. And you will want, more than you've ever wanted anything, for hope and joy and peace and love to fill your heart, and to fill your mum's heart. And you will want to prove, to anyone who hears this story, but, mostly, you'll want to prove to yourself, that, in the end, the storm does break, the light does return, team love does win. Because what this loss has also done is shaken to its core your belief in the goodness of every single thing, and made you question everything you thought was true about the world and about life. But, for now - just for right now - while you're waiting to prove this, or waiting for it to be proven to you, maybe the most you can be expected to muster up is that you're doing your best, that you're trying, and that everything is NOT going to be OK.