death

Shake it Out

Well, here we are. The last week of October. I thought I’d be OK. In control. But I’m not as much as I’d like to be. I thought it was Mercury Retrograde weighing on me because I really felt it. Uncomfortable in my own skin. Pulled, contorted, strained, weighed down. But here we are. My own personal D-Day. I can feel my anxiety rising daily. I’m struggling just to keep it together when what I really want to do is burrow under the covers and stay there. House a mess? Check. No cooking? Check. Clothes unfolded? Check. Child late to school? Check. Oversleeping? Check. Irritation? Check. Sensitive? Check. Crying? Check.

And my thoughts are so jumbled and muddled. My therapist told me a few weeks ago that I intellectualize emotions and feelings instead of letting myself experience them. I try to explain what I am feeling instead of letting myself indulge in them. But I do feel them; I find it difficult let myself to be an emotional person. To be seen as someone who has feelings.

You know who I envy? People who don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’ve always cared too much. It has improved, but I still care too much. I had a conversation on Friday night about my feelings, and I’m not completely certain it went well (not the fault of the conversation, but talking about feelings can be difficult). But I know that I cried – like ugly cried – afterwards. The kind of crying that left my eyes extra puffy Saturday and experiencing an emotional hangover.

We all have history and formative experiences and god knows I have thought a lot about mine. Probably too much. Analysis is my forte. Feeling is not. I’m not going to subject any of you to my TED Talk on why I am this way. I guess I should get to the point. I think my thoughts are jumbled around vulnerability and shame (yes, yes, off to read Brene Brown). After that conversation on Friday – or frankly, any conversation in which I let loose like that – my first reaction is embarrassment. I’ve revealed too much of myself. All the ugly parts. The parts that indicate that no, I very much do not have my shit together. You know, the parts that reveal me as a flesh and blood human who is not perfect. And the fear about whether people will still like me or respect me if I reveal that I do have feelings. But I AM human! I DO have feelings! Why is vulnerability such a difficult state for us to occupy? How did we get here?

I think of this verse Rizzo sings in “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease:

I could hurt someone like me
Out of spite or jealousy
I don’t steal and I don’t lie
But I can feel and I can cry
A fact I’ll bet you never knew

But to cry in front of you
That’s the worst thing I could do

And to finally, finally get to the point. I have a lot of thoughts about this week. Can I express those emotions? Should I express those emotions? Can I be that vulnerable? Is it allowed? And yes, I know it is technically. But am I allowed to feel and express these things truly? Or should I keep a stiff upper lip? What is the statute of limitations on grieving in our society these days?

It is funny to be writing this after last week’s somewhat “rah rah” “Entropy” post. Well. I feel what I feel when I feel it. THAT I have definitely learned in the last year. And I grapple with that dichotomy. I have good days and bad days. Last week was not a great week, and I have a feeling that this week may not be either. And I have to be OK with that. I have to accept that and understand that. More importantly, I have to give myself permission to feel. To let those emotions flow through.

This week is worthy of my feelings. If I feel dread, uneasiness, and anxiety every day, it’s OK. If I need to take a day and just be, that’s OK. From what I have seen, there is no manual for any of this (but if there is other than Kubler-Ross, message me?).

I’ll do what I need to get through it. Cry when I need to. And then “Shake it out” as Florence + the Machine recommend and prepare for Halloween. I have three pumpkins to gut (ugh) and carve (good luck?) and a child to make happy.

One step backwards. One step forwards. Every day.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving flowers and figurines

20 pounds of turkey is in the oven, with its cavity stuffed with onions, celery, lemons and herbs and a paste of rosemary, garlic and olive oil smeared under the skin.  Nothing like violating a turkey first thing in the morning:  I feel like I should have introduced myself first or at least bought the turkey a drink.

The world’s tiniest sous chef helped me break the green beans; he took his responsibility very seriously!

sous chef with his green beans

Helping prepare the green beans

The dressing and sweet potato casserole have been assembled and ready to bake later on.  Now it’s time to clean, and if I’m really doing well time-wise, I might even get to take a shower before the guests arrive.

Even though our table will be short one guest this year, we know she will be with us in spirit.

Carnations for Mum

Carnations were Mum’s favorite flower

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no-good year, but we still have so much for which to be thankful.  Today we will acknowledge our blessings and hopefully that knowledge will stay with us every day.

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving.  Eat lots, be merry and hug your loved ones.

The Cardinal

Credit: All About Birds

Credit: All About Birds

I was in the dining room yesterday — cleaning up cat hair most likely — when I looked out the bay window at the huge butterfly bush that camouflages part of our house from our neighbor’s.  In the summer time, the butterfly bush is lush, filled with purple flowers that attract fluttering butterflies of a variety of hues and sizes.  Right now, though, it’s barely spring and the bush is still mostly bare.  Birds like it, though, and thanks to our neighbor’s bird feeders, a lot of birds make it over to our yard.

A red cardinal had landed in the bush, and we looked at each other.

***

After my grandfather died, a cardinal started hanging out around my house.  And by hanging around, I don’t mean it sat placidly in a tree or bush doing whatever birds do.  This bird made itself known.  It flapped at the window every day as if it wanted to come inside.  After a few days, I made a mush of bread and milk in a tin pan and took it outside for the bird.  Would a bird eat that?  I don’t know.  Those were the days before the Internet and to my 8-year-old self, it sounded plausible.

My parents and I sort of joked that maybe that cardinal was my grandfather, returning to tell us he was ok.  Except that we weren’t really joking and being predisposed to fairy tales, ghost stories and other mysteries of the world, I believed it.  After a month of daily visits, the bird vanished one day, and I’ve never encountered another bird as tame, as insistent as that cardinal.  That story became legendary in my family, and I’ve always associated cardinals with my grandfather and father sort of as if it were our family bird.

***

I called over Daniel, picked him up and pointed out the bird.  We looked at it together and then some noise, maybe something on the tv, made me turn away.  When I looked back, the bird was gone.

My father’s birthday was yesterday.  He would have been 68.

Maybe, just maybe…

The Day Before Forever

Tomorrow is Mum’s funeral mass, so I suppose that makes today “Funeral Mass Eve.” I can think of better Eves.  I bought a new dress because my typical “go to funeral” outfit is more of a summer outfit.  Jimmy brought home his new suit, purchased months ago. The day he bought it, when Mum was still sick,  he commented to me, “I hope that my first time wearing it is not at a funeral.”  We went to the mall on Tuesday and bought Daniel a pair of nice black pants and a button-down white shirt with which he’ll wear a black sweater vest.

Jimmy’s brother, sister-in-law and nephew arrived in town late last night.  My mother-in-law picked up Mum’s ashes yesterday.  We placed the obituary and ordered flowers for the church. This is really happening.

My household is a little blue.  We adults feel it acutely and even Daniel seems to feel it.  He has been subdued this week and very close to tears if we thwart his wishes.  Some of that is being a two-year-old but some of it is internalizing the sad, tense atmosphere around him I think.

We have had a few conversations with him about how Mum is in heaven, but I don’t know how much he understands.  He’s 2!  How do you talk to a toddler about death in any meaningful, comprehensive way? He’s very sensitive to sad faces right now, so we are very concerned about how he will do tomorrow at the mass when he sees a lot of sad faces.  I’m going prepared to take him out if needed.  He was so loved by Mum and we want him to be there, but she would be the first to tell us to take care of him and not let him be distressed.

Tomorrow’s funeral mass makes her death official. In some ways it seems like we’ve been hiding out this week, but tomorrow will be extremely real.

Earlier this week when we were tucking in Daniel, he said, “Mum is happy.”

Out of the mouth of babes hopefully.

Au Revoir, Madame

Mum and her great-grandsons on Christmas 2011

Jimmy’s grandmother passed away at 9:15 pm this evening.  We are extremely sad, yet relieved that she is no longer suffering.  Though she was petite, she had a force of will and personality that was much bigger than she was.  Mercedes – Mum – grew up in French Algeria and endured World War II, moving to the United States well after war had ended.

I was intimidated when I met her, this tiny woman.  She was fiercely loved by her family & she had strong opinions.  Until last year, she wore skirts and high heels and was a fashion plate.  We joked that she cleaned house in stilettos. It was high praise that she thought I was a good cook, and I was thrilled that she said I took excellent care of her grandson, Jimmy, and great-grandson, Daniel.

She was devoutly Catholic, yet when we revealed our infertility to the family, she immediately offered money to help us have a child through whatever means we decided.  Though very religious, she had very modern sensibilities and had no qualms with new-fangled scientific methods of achieving children.  She happily attended a baby shower at which our surrogate was present.

Over the last two and a half years, it was so very sweet to see how much she loved Daniel. She came to see him every day and rode with my mother-in-law to drop him off every afternoon.  After our many years of infertility, we had worried about whether Jimmy’s grandparents would have the opportunity to know at the very least that we had a child.  We are thankful for the years that Jimmy’s grandparents have had with Daniel.  Mum called him her “bandito” and thought he was awesome.

We’ve been trying to gently talk to Daniel about Mum being in the hospital and having “sickies.”  He hasn’t seen her since late December, yet how do you prepare a 2.5 year old for this situation?  Or do you?

This post is a lot more scattered than I would like, but maybe that’s ok.

Eighty-nine years ago today, Mum entered this world.  And eighty-nine years later, she left it.

Au revoir, madame.  Nous t’aimons et joyeaux anniversaire.

SOC Sunday: Winter

#SOCsundayToday I’m linking up with Fadra for SOC Sunday and today’s prompt is about winter and how it makes you feel.

I typically like winter and the colder, the better.  I can say that as a native Southerner who hasn’t experienced brutally cold winters and months spent buried under snow.  In my part of NC, the best I can hope for is a decent snow storm (meaning a couple of inches) once a year.

While I love cold weather, cozy sweaters and snug coats, I don’t like January.  January is so new and gleaming, it hurts my eyes.  It’s a brutal reminder that the holidays are past and it will be a long time until they come again.  I associate colors with the months (and sometimes letters and numbers), and January’s is stark white.  And I don’t look good in white.

This January has been weird.  It has been warm and then chilly, so your body barely has time to adjust to one extreme before the temperature swings wildly.  This weekend was one of the chilly periods.  We usually take Daniel outside to run around the yard for a while before lunch to burn off energy, but temperatures have been so slow to warm up that we have kept him inside, snug in his footie pajamas. We’re probably being over-protective.

This winter has also reminded me that the season is barren.  Winter is death. Cold and unrepentant.  This year, winter seems to be mocking us as we deal with our family issues.

I’m longing for a green shoot or even a cleansing snow.