Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grief: Transforming Fear Into Accidental Good Stuff

I couldn't think of the best title for this.  Every morning when I wake up I'm fearful.  In the old days they called it free floating anxiety.  I don't know what they call it now.  I know why I feel fearful.  It's partly because my first unconscious thought when I open my eyes is, "Another day without Artie being alive."  You would think after almost three years that wouldn't be so surprising.  Consciously, it's not.  Unconsciously it's still a driving sense of loss, fear, confusion and sorrow.  It shows up a lot in my dreams.  I have dreams where I search endlessly for my husband and I can't find him.  Other dreams are versions of re-experiencing him being dead.  That's another reason why I wake up the way I do.

I have nothing to be afraid of.  I'm safe.  I know I'm safe.  I know Artie is with me in spirit.  I still feel fearful without him.  One of the reasons I am procrastinating with my writing is that fear.  I can feel it in my chest even now.  What will the words on the page say?  How can I write without him being my first reader? How will I feel love and life without all that sadness creeping in?  I want to say unbearable sadness - but it isn't.  I am bearing it.  If you are reading this you are bearing your sadness as well.  I am always searching for ways to bear it with a little more determination, a little more grace, a little more accomplishment. 

I tried what someone recommended, giving up media for a day.  I didn't.  They are my people; those TV characters.  I know they aren't real but they fill the emptiness when I am alone.  They come and go at the touch of button to distract me from my life.  Silly that.  I should be engaging deeply in my life.  That's my goal.  Even when Artie was alive I had a bad habit of saying, "It's too hard.  I can't do it."  I don't know how to separate myself from the pain of others.  I feel it and use my sensitivity to try to comfort.  When Artie was alive and I felt that way he would hold me.  I would grab on to his shirt like a little girl and cling to him.  Once when I thanked him for holding me, he said, "I need it as much as you do."  When I wrote that line there was a huge burst of thunder - I call them thundercracks.  Coincidence - or a shout from the sky? 

The only thing I still know to do is to force myself to show up.  That's why I call it accidental good stuff.  A lot of times I'm not planning to be happy.  However, I've put myself places where happiness happens and I am having a good time.  I am laughing.  A lot of times I'm not planning to accomplish anything.  But, if I'm sitting at the computer I might write something.  Yesterday there was an e-mail from someone about a place to send 1500 word stories.  I took two old stories, modified them and submitted them.  It's been a long time since I did that.  Submitted my work.  I did it "accidentally" because I was sitting in the right place to do it.  I show up at exercise.  I am "getting fit" someone said.  When I'm on the rowing machine if I picture Artie beckoning to me I can row faster and and stronger. 

What I said in the first sentence of the last paragraph isn't true.  There are lots of techniques I can use to feel better.   I have to use them, though.  Sometimes I do.  Some have become automatic.  If I see a store where I used to buy Artie something I don't feel sad anymore.  I feel happy that I found things for him that made him smile.  That change happened because I consciously changed my thought every time and now it comes automatically.  I wish I would practice those techniques more. 

I would like the fear to go away.  I don't know if it ever will.  I miss so many things.  So much happens that I want to share with a physical being.  There's that thing again.  If I want that - I have to take the wedding rings off.  I have to be open to meeting someone.  Not ready to show up for that.  Maybe someone will magically appear.  The thing with all this transformation - all this making Artie's death an inspiration instead of something that keeps me paralyzed - is that it takes effort.  I read and hear people say the same things over and over again.  I watch them absolutely refuse to change.  You have to choose change.  You have to make an effort.  On the days when I make that effort the fear goes away.  Oddly enough, when my body hurts a lot and I want to cancel exercise but I go anyway - I feel better afterwards.  Movement takes emotional and physical pain away.

The first step is the hardest one.  It might even be what I say to myself.  I was walking through Central Park on last Sunday, a beautiful sunny day.  I walked past the bench that has our plaque on it and wiped it clean.  I was thinking of death.  I was thinking of being lonely.  I was choosing that.  It's not a bad thing - but it's not going to make me cheerful!   Yesterday when I was walking home I kept my attention on things outside of me.  There was a woman wearing a black and white dress with bright red shoes.  I saw a lot of things.  Maybe when I wake up in the morning I should say, "Hello fear. (there's a second thunder crack! - is fear answering me?) Welcome.  I'll spend five minutes with you today and then do other things."  What else can I do?  What can I do today to make me feel good about my day? For the whole day?  Not quite up to that yet.  Although some days I do quite a lot.

Take the actions that will bring you accidental happiness, accidental confidence.  It's purposeful in some ways.  In other ways it's okay to let it surprise you.  You're not cheating on your beloved dead.  They  - I believe - love it when we find a way to remember and honor them with smiles and accomplishments. 

I'm putting some of my things away because I've never had this apartment professionally cleaned.  I'm going to when I'm with my daughter.  Cleaning my apartment, cleaning my mind, cleaning my body.  One thing is for sure.  I'll always have Artie's clean, shining face before my eyes and in my heart.  Keep strong, grief warriors.  It's a worthy battle you are fighting - and one that you win with every breath you take.  xo

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