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Postcards

“Your father traveled a lot.” She smiled. “In some ways, though, it seemed like he was here. He sent postcards and letters from everywhere he ended up, at least once a day, sometimes more. He was very involved even when he was across the country. Open a box!”

He pulled the top box from the pile and took off the lid. Four stacks of postcards were arranged to fit neatly. He picked up a small stack and flipped through them.

“Welcome to Sunny California!” proclaimed the first over a picture of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. The other side was a chatty, cheerful note about tourists wearing shorts and obviously just-purchased sweaters. There was also a promise of chocolate, and he had a vivid memory of the dark, slightly bitter taste of the small pieces, carefully doled out to make them last.

A picture of a desert with mesas on the horizon, with a description of the heat in Phoenix making the roads a little bit soft, was next. “I went for a walk before the sun came up and the ground was still hot from yesterday!”

The next, a picture of pouring rain seen through the windshield of a car, had a different tone. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. I miss you both so much. I’ll be home soon after you get this and they’ve promised at least a month with no travel. We can catch up and I’ll fix everything around the house. I can tuck Nate in every night, too.”

He showed that one to his mother, and she teared up and sniffed, then smiled. “We were lucky that time. He didn’t have to ship out for six months. It was so nice to have that much time with him.” Her smile turned to a grin. “Well, except for his socks left all over the house. Small price to pay, though.”

He reached back in and picked one at random. A picture of Hawaii from the air, with “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful” across the top. The back read, “Hi, darling. I can send this because I know you’ll laugh. You are the best part of my life, and I can imagine your smile as you read this.”

He looked up and saw that his mother had gone back to sleep. He opened another box and settled in. When she woke up, they’d go through more memories. She was in her last few days, and he wanted her to be as happy as possible. For all the times his father had been gone, he did make her happy.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “”The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”” and I challenged R.L.W. with “”We are, all of us, in the gutter…but some of us are looking at stars.” – Wil Wheaton”

Patterns

I’ve been unable to write for a while, stuck in emotions too big to think about or deal with lest I get overwhelmed. It isn’t better, not by a long shot, but I’m beginning to move back into familiar rhythms, and writing is one. I will try to write, even if it isn’t particularly long or interesting. I think I need that piece of the pattern back again.

I’ve been thinking about grief and joy and venting and how I approach the world. I heard about a study that shows that venting actually extends anger rather than helping it, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Hitting a punching bag makes you more angry, not less. I’ve been thinking about how I talk when I am angry and how I can get myself wound up on the same subject again, even several hours later. I think I need to play with the difference between working through issues so I can let them go and venting, which just prolongs the frustration, irritation, and anger.

I get angry more often than usual these days. It’s almost a knee jerk reaction. My temper is much shorter than I’m used to living with and I have to take deep breaths and think through things that I used to be able to brush off. I’m slower than I used to be, too. Someone described grief as being like shoveling frozen molasses, which rings very true to me. It feels like an impossible task.

I am trying hard to look for joy, even if it’s in odd places. I sat and watched rain fall. I watch silly TV and relax. I play with Nyx. I clean and organize, and that satisfies something in me that desperately wants some order and some control over my environment right now. The good side is that the house is getting clean, at least.

It’s hard writing with no plan. I’m trying stream of consciousness, since writing with a purpose leaves me stuck, mired in complications and feeling like I should write something important or useful. I’m not sure I have anything important or useful to say right now, but just writing is good practice.

There are days I just want to curl up in a hole and pull it in after me. I don’t want to have to do anything except let the world go by and nurse my hurt. This doesn’t seem to help, though, so I continue to move. Work. Swim. Walk. Breathe. Eat good food. Work on the house. Now, write. Soon I will be dancing again. It isn’t much. It isn’t living fully in many ways; all I do is continue to move, even if it doesn’t feel much like I’m moving forward or in any useful direction.

There are nights I wake up paralyzed by grief, tears leaking out of the sides of my eyes. I am learning to go back to sleep and to get up the next morning and move on.

In flying, the most important thing is the next thing. If you screw up enough of those, you crash.

One step. One more lap. One length of butterfly. One piece of work done. One cupboard organized. One piece at a time. Nothing important. I can’t handle important or amazing or wonderful or tragic. All I can handle is the next step.

Working through

This has been a hard year, and I’m not sure what to do other than write.

First was infertility. We lost something then. Not a child, but the hope of one. We lost ideas and dreams and things we thought would be true. We grieved over it in some ways as if we had lost something more tangible. We’d tried for years, and suddenly there was a hole where all of our expectations got sucked in. It is hard to understand unless you have been through it, so many people could not understand why it was such a big deal. I am still fighting the feeling that I am not truly a woman if I don’t have a child. I know it is illogical, but it permeates our culture. Women with children have more status than women without. However unfair that may be, it’s true on some level. I get asked by women I’ve just met how many children I have, or when we are expecting to have kids, and when I say, “We can’t,” there is an often not-so-subtle movement away. The circle closes and they talk about their children and I am not welcome. That’s not true of everyone, especially those who know how much I’ve worked with children through my life, but it has happened.

I was working on healing, working on accepting the new way of thinking and approaching life, and the next piece happened. My grandmother, at almost 93 years old, stopped remembering people and places. She stopped being herself, in some ways. It felt to me like that hole from infertility got another part dug out, widening it a bit. I had always wanted to have a picture of four generations of my family: grandma, mom, me, and a baby. The baby was not going to happen, and now grandma was slipping, too. Another piece of grief, although for me this was kind of anticipatory grief because I had to face the likelihood that she would not live a whole lot longer. She might; I don’t know. I hope, if she does, she is enjoying life. It was another blow, but we were coping.

June 9, my younger brother died completely unexpectedly. He was 28 and had no health problems that would explain the blood clot that killed him. I still don’t really have words for what that did to me. It took the grief from infertility, the grief about my grandmother, wrapped it up in a physically painful grief, and dropped a bomb on me that opened up a chasm.

I have never had such a physical response to grief before. Food has always been a comfort when things got bad. Now food is necessary, but not enjoyed, and I often have to be reminded to eat. I don’t taste much, and my stomach hurts all the time. My back hurts, too, and sometimes my feet, and sometimes my head. The first three days my chest cramped up regularly. I have never had such physical pain related to mental anguish. I am tired all the time, too. I’ve been sleeping 10-12 hours a night just to be able to get up in the morning, but I’m not sure I am resting very well. I’m exhausted. I get through by focusing on one thing, one step, the next thing, on making sure I eat and drink enough, on sometimes just breathing deeply.

I don’t know how to talk about this. I talk around it a lot. I cry a lot. I talk to Xander, who is possibly the only reason I have gotten through this. He has been amazing. I spend a lot of time with Nyx. She has been very attentive and snuggly since this happened.

I have a really big hole inside me, surrounding me, engulfing me, and I don’t know how to heal. I know that all of this is normal, but it’s harder than I knew it could be. I’ve lost a lot this year, and every once in a while, when I’m just holding still, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me, but I know that won’t help. The world keeps going. I can grieve, but I can’t disappear.

Having work to do helps. Having some purpose, the feeling that I’m doing something useful, is good for me. Dealing with people right now is hard, and by the end of the day I’m wrapped up in pain again, but I’m mostly making it through the days. Weekends are spent on the couch, reading or watching TV. I don’t have much interest in going out.

We went for a walk down to the farmer’s market yesterday. That was the first day I’ve been able to do anything even close to exercise since Daniel’s death without getting exhausted or cramping up within five minutes. It was a good, long walk. We got food for the week and picked up nectarines to eat on the way home, and mine actually tasted good.

It’s not better, though. I still can’t work through my little brother being a pile of ashes, never seeing him again. I had nightmares the first few nights, and one of them was just a voice, saying over and over, “There are supposed to be new lives in a family before the children start dying.” I was standing in the dark, listening to a voice. That was all. I woke up crying because it was true and I couldn’t make it better. There were others, much worse, but that one, I think, shows how all of this wraps up together in my head right now. On some level I can’t believe that I won’t see him again. He was the focus of our family from the time he was born. I knew that at some point I was very likely to be at least partially responsible for him again. We had talked about how to work him into our lives if it became necessary, and we knew we could handle it.

Daniel was incredibly important to me. It’s very hard for me to use past tense. I keep slipping. I woke up with him when he had night terrors. I could tickle him from across the room and bug him from hundreds of miles away. I could make him laugh, and he could do the same for me. We had nicknames for each other that other people didn’t necessarily understand. He gave really good hugs. We loved to sing together and we’d crack each other up when we sang certain songs because I’d be silly on purpose and he’d add to it.

There’s so much more to him, though. There was. I can’t explain who he was as a person because I don’t have enough words, or the right words. I am floundering. Our family was centered around him. He gave us focus and meaning. I would not be who I am without him, and I don’t think the rest of my family would, either. He changed how I look at the world. He made me more compassionate, more willing to look for the good in people instead of stopping at the differences. He showed me how frustrating it can be to know where the goal is but not quite be able to reach it, and also how angry it can make people if someone tries to help when the person wants to get there themselves.

I don’t know if I’m making much sense. I needed to write. I’m sure I will write more again, but I’m not going to be on any consistent schedule for a while. We’re going to go see family soon, and I don’t know how to write about that, either.

The world is a lesser place without him.

Indie Ink relaunch!

Indie Ink is back!

Wait, what? You don’t know what Indie Ink is?

Ah, time to remedy that gaping hole in your life. Indie Ink is a website created by the amazing Anastacia Campbell. It’s a site for writers and artists, and it is non-competitive. It’s a place to showcase work that might otherwise not get as much of an audience.

The reason it’s being re-launched is that a bunch of us are getting to be involved in this extremely neat endeavor. Anastacia decided to open it up, so Indie Ink is now run by a really interesting group of people. I am lucky enough to be one of them, to be a small part of this team of artists and writers with a common vision.

I’d like it if you would go take a look. If you have friends or family who are writers or artists, please ask if they would be interested in submitting. They keep copyright, so that is not an issue. Please feel free to talk to me or any of the administrators if you have any questions. This is going to be an exciting, vibrant, interesting place to look for art and writing you might otherwise not get a chance to see.

The first post of the relaunch is one I really like, too, which helps.

I hope you take the time to look and see why this is so exciting. I think you may find something you like.