I have a few pieces of clothing that I really like which have begun to fall apart. The cuffs on one shirt have worn almost through and the elbows and the last bit of the seam on the back of another have gotten very thin. I decided it was time to fix them this weekend. I turned the cuffs up and stitched them, chopped off the sleeves on the second shirt and made them half length instead of full length, and took the seam in the back, split it, and made the shirt kind of have tails. They aren’t perfect, but at least I can wear them again without worrying that they look too odd.

The thin spots are rather reflective of life right now. I look like I’m doing fine, mostly, but there are places where I’m just worn so thin that it wouldn’t take much to punch a hole and show the ragged edges. I have a day off today which is being spent sleeping in a bit, watching a movie while mending, doing dishes and laundry, baking bread, going on a hike, and going to a Zumba class this evening. It sounds like a lot for a day off, but it’s all part of mending me in some ways. Making the house nice helps me feel comfortable and relaxed. Baking bread is a very centering activity. Sleeping, of course, is always good. Hiking with Xander and Nyx gets me away from everything and unhitches my brain from the hamster wheel. Zumba, while I’m a little nervous about it, sounds like fun, and a dear friend is teaching the class.

I’m putting patches on the thin parts of myself, trying to make sure that nothing rips too badly. I’m becoming a patchwork of joy stitched over holes made by pain, peace covering grief, kindness covering old hurts. I suppose that’s not a bad thing. I always rather liked patchwork dolls and patchwork quilts, things put together from pieces that wouldn’t make anything by themselves. It still isn’t easy some days. I am very lucky to have Xander, who is so good to me on so many levels and who can make me laugh anytime, good friends who accept who I am, joyful or quiet or talkative or broken, a family who tries hard to be good to each other, and a dog and two cats who are very odd but very good to be near. With patches like those, I think my thin spots won’t rip too badly.


I spent yesterday morning puttering around the kitchen and the afternoon hanging out with kids. A little tiring, but ok.

In the evening, Xander and I and a teenager who is the daughter of a friend of ours went to Controlled Burn’s Compression, the yearly Fire Arts Festival. We went to see the belly dancers, essentially. Someday I will have enough energy to stay awake until the fire dancers actually go on, but they weren’t on until 9:30 or so, and the night before had been more waking than sleeping, so this time it was just for the belly dancing.

We got there just in time for Hipswitch, which was fun. I enjoy watching them, and maybe next year I’ll be back to dancing with them. Depends on how much energy I have at the time. I got to say hello to people I haven’t seen in a few months, which was good. We sat on the grass while various ballroom-type dancing was going on.

I was surrounded by people. I was there with two people I enjoy. As I sat on the grass, though, I felt dislocated and lost. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, and I was overwhelmingly sad. I had a wave of missing Daniel more than usual, wanting him to slide his fingers between mine as he had since he was tiny, to go for a walk and tell him all the strange and wonderful things I’ve seen. I wanted to make him laugh again.

In the heat, in the midst of people, watching people dance and talk and wander and eat and drink, I was very, very alone.

By Xander’s request, the teenager came up next to me and stuck a piece of grass in my ear. It’s very hard to be lost, unhappy, and wrapped up in my own head when someone is sticking grass in my ear. It made me laugh and jolted me out of the long minutes of sadness.

We watched a belly dancing group in from another area. They were technically good, but they didn’t seem to be having fun. Not one of them smiled. The response from the audience was half-hearted. Yes, it was pretty, but it was a remote kind of prettiness, nothing anyone could connect to. It seemed somewhat disappointing.

Asha World Dancers came on, and the audience perked up. They were having fun, being silly, playing, telling a story, and the audience was coming along with them. The energy was totally different. People were laughing and paying attention, and the dancing was very good. When they finished and went offstage, the applause was louder and more energetic. The audience had fun. The first set of technically good dancers had come across as somewhat remote, professional, doing their job but not loving it. They felt like artists putting on a very careful show of their talents. Asha was technically good, too, but they seemed to be having fun, despite the heat. They drew the audience with them and made us laugh. That’s performance on top of artistry, and it’s a lot more fun to watch.

We went to dinner after watching the dancers. I didn’t have the energy to be around that many people for much longer. The food was good and we relaxed. I got very sad at one point, which still happens often. I try hard to control it, but sometimes there is no controlling the emotions, and I am learning to just let them wash over me. I’m not very good at that yet.

There are good moments and bad moments in every day. The bad are still really hard to deal with, but there are good ones even on the worst days. I am allowed to cry, to be sad, to feel lost and disconnected. At the same time, when someone pulls me back into the present, I am allowed to be happy and silly and goofy. It’s a balance I haven’t learned to walk yet. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, learning to balance this new kind of life with a big hole in it, is not easy, but family and friends are helping me through.

Sometimes a moment is all I need to bring me back to realizing that there is good in the world or just that a teenager needs to have grass stuck in her ear, too.

Pieces of joy

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Some of it is fluff – silly sci-fi and fantasy, letting myself ignore the world for a while. Some of it is books about dealing with grief. Most of them are anecdotal, stories about people dealing with grief or, in some cases, really not dealing with it. One was a look at the physical side of grief, which was basically 100 ways to take care of yourself. That was rather nice, since the physical side of grief (not sleeping, random cramping, muscle and joint pain, headaches, loss of appetite, and that’s just a partial list) is not talked about much. It was basically a book about how to take care of yourself while you are grieving. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it helped a bit.

Another book I read was The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss. This helped me more than the anecdotal books did. The authors actually studied how people handle great losses and discovered that, for the most part, people are resilient. Until about six months after a loss, it’s hard to tell how someone will handle it long term, but humans get through things. A lot of what it said helped because I felt like what I am going through was strange, too much emotion, that it wouldn’t let up, but at the same time normal life is settling back in, and I feel almost like I’m betraying my brother’s memory by being able to move forward.

My friends have been helping me a lot, too. When I am overwhelmed by fury, they tell me they’ve been there. It’s a normal reaction. When I can’t do more than one thing at a time, when I feel like I can’t keep up with the world, they tell me it gets better, eventually. The pain of loss doesn’t go away, but it eases, though it will take time.

I saw one therapist and we did not fit at all. I have another appointment this week with someone else; hopefully she will be able to help more, give me tools to help get through this. I don’t have any issue with experiencing the pain and dealing with what I need to deal with, but I don’t know how to handle feeling like I’m in deep water, toes just touching the sand, and waves keep knocking me down.

I’ve also been trying to keep up with the people I usually follow, reading their blogs and laughing at silly Twitter posts. I read something on Stop Motion Verbosity recently which made me think about what I write and how I write. “When a lot of what you read, when many of your friends, put so much negativity out there it is easy to feel that the world is a much darker place than it is….There’s good things happening all the time, even through the really shitty times, and the best way to get through those shitty times is to recognize the good. And yes the good times are often smaller and far more fleeting, that’s the nature of the good bits, frankly. It’s a great sandwich, a smile on the street, a tiny memory when a song you love plays – those are all great moments of happiness that need to be cherished and recognized.”

I’m dealing with some hard things right now. I will not pretend otherwise, and I’ve never seen the world as all roses and sugarplums. There are good things, though. Last night Xander made BBQ sauce from scratch and grilled shrimp and pineapple on skewers for dinner. He cooked down some of the sauce and put it on rice. It was exceptionally good. The shrimp came out a little bit smoky tasting, the pineapple’s sweetness was emphasized more by cooking, and the BBQ sauce was very good. We sat, ate, and talked, relaxed despite the heat, and it was a good evening.

A few days ago, I was puttering around on the computer and Nyx was in the office with me. She stood at the door and opened it by pushing against it with her nose. Then she closed it partway. Then she opened it again. I sat and watched her do this for about ten minutes until she shut the door a little too hard and couldn’t open it again. I thought it was quite funny.

Yesterday morning I got up early and weeded the strawberry patch, weed whacked the front yard and the courtyard, took a shower, and we ran some errands and went to see a movie. When we got back, I cleaned house, and it felt good to be tired. I got rid of a chair that has been falling apart for months, and I enjoyed physically pulling it apart, breaking it into manageable pieces.

I am de-cluttering. I feel the need for more organization, more space, more clarity. I am donating books that I won’t read again, giving some of them away, letting go of things I don’t need. It isn’t a bad thing.

There is still grief. Sometimes it slams into me like a freight train and I have to find somewhere to sit and fall apart for a while. Sometimes a song will stick in my head and I will miss my little brother terribly, just wanting to be able to see him again, to give him a hug. Sometimes I think about my smart, witty, funny grandmother who adored teasing Xander and I find myself mourning the loss of that person. When we saw her, she seemed a little afraid of him, uncomfortable, not sure why he was there. I miss the person she used to be.

With all of this, though, as overwhelming as it can be, and as painful as it is, there is still reason for laughter. There are still good things. I’m sore today from pulling weeds and making the house a little nicer. It’s a good kind of sore.

Spider Robinson, one of my favorite authors (Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon is one of those books I have several copies of, one to re-read, one because I’ve had it for years and it’s falling apart, and one to loan out), said, and was quoted in the blog post I mentioned earlier, “Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased.”

Here’s joy in the midst of a hard time. I am trying to pay more attention to joy even while I’m dealing with the hard parts and working through them. I hope you find a little bit of joy today, too, no matter how hard the rest of life can be.