You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
for a simple reason.
And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
The above excerpt from one of my favorite poems seems to sum it all up perfectly for me today. I am feeling unexpectedly melancholy, the fires of life which I have to swim through feeling very nearly unbearably hot, and I am just too tired to keep swimming just this moment. I ended up sitting on the edge of the bed this morning in tears, filled with a sadness that has no explanation, a feeling of loss and grief so sharp and deep that I was breathless for a moment. I sat there for a few minutes simply weeping, and I don’t know why. Now, later, I am all right, the feeling of sadness lingering but not debilitating, and there is no reasonable explanation. I want to sit back in the quiet and examine this feeling, because it is trying to tell me something. I want to hold it in my hands and turn it over and over to feel the round, full shape of it in my hands, to put it in my mouth and taste the salty sweetness of tears and sadness rolling around my tongue like tiny little pebbles. I want to try to figure it out and put a name to it, forgetting that sometimes grief has no name.
This happens sometimes, this sudden and unexpected visitor who brings the weight of years past and damages done and she sits on my shoulder and says Hi! Have you missed me? And I say no, actually, I haven’t, thanks for asking. But she says that’s okay, I missed you, and like poorly tolerated house guest, she comes in with a large suitcase filled with recriminations and guilt and blame, and just in case I have run out, a fresh and heavy supply of shame. And I can either try to pretend she isn’t here, frantically filling up my hours with thoughts and words and tasks to make me forget she is here, alive and well, biding her time, or I can simply acknowledge her presence and feel the weight and simply let it fill me, for as long as it needs to.
I miss my mom. I miss the mom I never had, I miss the one that I should have had, and how is it possible to miss someone who doesn’t exist? I miss the person with whom I could sit and tell about the fears and the newness and the wonder of living with a man, of learning to love a man. I miss the person who could hold me close and smooth my hair and say it doesn’t matter how much those babies of yours rebel against you, they love you and need you and your job is simply to love them and kiss them and teach them how to live. I miss the woman with soft hands and perfumed hair who could comfort me with her presence, her soft sweet breath and quiet tones soothing me to sleep at the end of a long day. Again, how can I miss a person who if she did exist at one time is long gone, buried underneath her own layers of anger and pain and the bitterness of life? If she was there, and she must have been at some point, she was gone long before I met her.
Each time she comes, this bitch that is grief, I try to take each thing out of the suitcase she has filled and decide over and over again what I need to unpack for good. Like thrift store clothing sitting in the back of the closet, I pull each piece out and decide whether it still fits. Maybe this particular brand of guilt-I don’t love my mom-is getting a little too big now, falling off of my shoulders like a too-big prom dress. And maybe this time I can simply discard it instead of exchanging it for a smaller, more appropriate one. No, no, I still need that, because good girls love their mothers. Maybe there is some shame in there that still fits well, the cloak of I must have led him on and the blame of it’s your fault and why didn’t you try harder. Each time I do manage to let go of a particular item, one that has served its purpose, she doesn’t stay as long-yet always, always she comes back.
I am taking a vacation, even though reason and common sense and the grown-up responsible person I am says I should just stay home and not spend the money and use ot for bills. I should do that, but I am not going to. Instead, we will figure out the money stuff and we will pack up the car and leave in the morning. Is it irresponsble to say that I need this, that I need these few days to simply be, to sit on the shore and let the water soothe me? Is it selfish to say that I need to strong clear sun and the smell of the pine trees, the feel of the dry dust between my toes? Maybe it is, but I feel this strongly, that I need to go. I need to have time to sit alone and visit with grief, to cry if I need to and to let her stay as long as she needs to and then send her home.
I need this. I need to be able to come to terms, again (and again and again for as long as it takes), with the fact that I have no mother, that there will never be comfort from her in that respct. I need to remind myself how to be nurturing and kind and loving to myself. I need to learn how to stop missing something I never had.