Butterfly Pose

I was the only one to show up for the restorative yoga class on this holiday weekend. The teacher taught it anyway. Towards the end she put me in a “butterfly pose” to, she explained, “open up my hips and heart.” She propped my head on a pillow and put bolsters on either side supporting my legs. I felt so supported and enclosed, like I was in a cocoon. It was relaxing, and I settled in for the 5 minute pose.

A few minutes in, I felt tears run out of my left eye. Then, tears out of my right eye. It was as if someone turned on the faucet. I had no control over it. I didn’t feel sad, I wasn’t thinking sad thoughts; it was just happening to me. Then I gasped and sobbed. It was like the pose really did open up my heart, and it found the pain. The pain is there whether I feel emotional or not. It’s always there. She held my hand while I let it out.

It happens sometimes, she explained.

Ready

His flannel shirt caught my eye. I was on the floor doing some Pilates. As I lifted my head, I saw that flannel shirt, hanging with all his other clothes on his side of the closet. And I knew that it was time to clear out his clothes. Just like that.

People say that you know when you’re ready. Today, I was ready.

I waited for daughter to come home from riding. I served her some hot apple cider, then I brought her to the store. She’s the one who can squeeze into the storage spot under the stairs, so I needed her to gauge the right-sized storage bins at the store. I didn’t tell her why I needed the bins. She didn’t ask.

I’ve spent the afternoon pulling his clothes off the rack and out of his drawers. The only awkward moments were when I would reach for a new batch of clothes. I felt a tingle, like….I don’t know like what. One of the dogs plopped himself on top of a pile of clothes, as he is wont to do, but then he sniffed around. He came over to me and put his head on my lap. We took a moment together to miss him.

Otherwise, it has been straightforward. Most of the clothes are going into bins until my son can fit into them and can decide if he wants to wear them. Those that husband never really wore are going to the thrift store. Some are staying upstairs, for painting jobs or whatever. I sorted his socks and kept the good ones in the drawer. Son will fit into them before long. Is it weird for him to wear his dad’s socks? I dunno. We’ll decide later.

With the big drawers cleared out, I have space for the quilts we brought back from his aunt’s house. They’ve been lying in a box in the hallway for the last few weeks. Now there is a place for them, and I can clear out the hallway, too.

Thanksgiving

We made it through the holiday. We walked the dogs to my colleague’s party in the morning. We stayed for about 20 minutes. I worked on our pies for 2 hours straight and produced a pumpkin cheesecake, a chocolate sweet potato torte and a maple cranberry cream tart. None of them were pies, actually. While they chilled, we popped in our first Bond video. I fell asleep on the floor. I brought out the pies for the second movie, putting a slice of each on a large plate for each of us. We could hardly make a dent in our slices, they were so sweet and rich. I like that to think of that as our obligatory performance of Thanksgiving gluttony.

I felt like I was holding my breath the whole day. I felt some resentment that no one invited us over. But, really, if someone had, I would have stressed about having to be social. This was a hard day. It was a hard day alone, it would have been a hard day with others. There was nowhere we could go to avoid the pain and loss. Laying low, as we did, was probably the least difficult way to get through it.

In the evening I got together with some friends at a pub. Our favorite pub didn’t open as scheduled, so we went to the only open bar. There we were–four women faculty buying pitchers at a young person’s bar. Luckily all the regular young people were out of town this weekend. I found out that divorced women are also prone to spending Thanksgiving alone. It was like I visited the underbelly of the holiday, and I learned that there are plenty of other people there, too.

That’s Reader, FicheReader

Part One of our Bond Thanksgiving is going well. I took the kids to see the new James Bond movie after school, so we could start their long weekend without thinking of the looming holiday that we’re excluded from.

I wasn’t expecting a psychoanalytic treatment of Bond, who contended with his old-fashioned status in a digital world. Bond had to go back and dig deep, both in time and into the earth, to regain his footing. He went back to the beginning, not to stay there, but to destroy it, and to reemerge in the here and now. When we see a TOP SECRET 007 file on the desk in the last scene, we know that Bond is reconstituted, bringing the old into the new and bringing himself into the here and now.

Bond has found his new normal.

I was counting on Bond to help me escape from my life this holiday. I didn’t know he would help me reflect so much, and admire the process.

Oh, James.

We really were built for this

Grief has something in common with pregnancy–our bodies know what to do, even if we don’t. You don’t need to understand it, you just need to go with it. We really were built for this. I trust this process.

The trip to the east coast did a lot to push me along this journey. There’s no going back. It’s clear that there’s nothing (nowhere, nobody) to go back to. My old life is gone. This is my life now.

That’s Acceptance, I guess.

While I can accept that this is my lot, I don’t like this life. It seems so barren, so colorless. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t aspire to this. And there’s nothing to aspire to these days. I’m stuck here. Now, I just get things done.

Chop wood, carry water…fill the dogs’ water bowl, mop the floor, make the kids’ lunch, drive them here, drive them there. Do it today, clean up, then do it again tomorrow. I know this work is important, but I feel like an unpaid servant. Moreover, it’s boring. Is it possible to be bored in the midst of crisis?

I shared me “blah” feelings with the acupuncturist. I explained that I’m pretty steady–I don’t freak out when things get bad, but I’m never enthusiastic, either. I’m not depressed, I’m just…blah. She said she had just the treatment for me: The Joy of Life.

Joy? Joy sounds nice.

I haven’t felt joyful since then. But I did find myself tearing up while listening to a mixed cd* a friend made for me. Tears of sadness, tears of gratitude, the reason didn’t matter. My friend cares about me, she sees the possibilities when I forget. I felt that. That’s something.

I sent off a revision to my co-author, came home, and tackled the family room, which has become the domain of the kids’ butterscotch binges and doggie den. I stripped the pillows and blankets and tossed them in the wash. I pulled out the special vacuum cleaner attachment and suctioned up layers of dog hair from the couch. I filled a bucket with said friend’s natural cleaning product and got down on my hands and knees to scrub the wood floor and reached way up to get the window frames. The room felt crisper, cleaner, and scented with lavender. The room is all ready for our James Bond marathon planned for Thanksgiving Day. We’ll sit out the national day of gratitude with some pies and a lot of James Bond. I didn’t feel joy, but I knew it was nice.

Maybe the joy can be wrung out of this sad, passionless life. It ends up that deprivation of passion, purpose, joy, is common in widows. Go figure.Maybe joy is not elation, but wringing out the possibilities in the little things. I don’t feel that, but I suspect it. I gotta trust it.

 

 

*All the linked songs are from the cd my friend made, naturally.

I’d rather have a tube up my butt than grieve

I had my first colonoscopy today.

The doctor ordered no driving. Before I could melt down (I have no husband to wait for me in the waiting room! I have to drive my kids!), friends swooped in to take care of the logistics–one friend drove me home, another brought daughter home from school, a third brought son to his therapy appointment after school.

The prep? A day and a half of no food and evacuation of bowels? It brought me out of this grief and made me think about something else for a day and a half.

The procedure? All I had to do was show up. And I got an excellent nap from the anesthesia.

That third friend sent my son home with soup, salad, and bread. Although I’m mobile, son insisted on heating the soup and serving me in bed, on a tray. He came in halfway to ask, “Is everything to your satisfaction?” Indeed, it was.

I’ve got to admit, it felt good to be waited on for a change. And it felt good to snap out of this monotony of grieving.

My next colon screening is scheduled for five years from now. I’m hoping that by then, it’ll be a pain in the ***.

Loss

We reached Highway 27 as the sun hit its magic hour and there it was, that magnificent light at the end of Long Island. My husband and his uncle and the aunt and uncle’s two cats will always be here, bathed in that light.

Daughter and I made the trip out to East Hampton to scatter husband’s ashes at his aunt’s house. She and her husband built the house in the woods 40 years ago, before the Hamptons became the new money vomitorium it is today. All weekend, she shared stories about bringing in electricity when they were the only house on the road, about cycling home from the beach with a basket full of strawberries that popped out along the way, with the remaining berries turning into strawberry jam. She has sold the house. It is our last visit. The house required too much upkeep and the taxes are so high and we knew this was coming, but, oh, how heartbreaking it is. On Friday night, the estate sale guys came by to assess the place. Next weekend, the house will be opened up and everything will be picked over and bought. As the guys walked through the house, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my body. How could we be sitting here on this lovely Friday night watching all this end? Makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop.

The loss. There is so much loss.

I took things, distinctive things so that we can keep a little bit of it to remember, to invoke a happy time. We stopped at the charming Wainscott postoffice to mail them back home. We had Dresser donuts on East Hampton’s main street. We spent an hour at the well-appointed Animal Rescue Foundation “socializing” the cats and dogs. We went to Bookhampton in Sag Harbor, just to browse, but when we walked out I insisted that daughter buy the book she was looking at. They gave her a charming bag and a coupon for 15% off when she comes in for the next book in the series. She won’t be back for the next book in the series. We stopped in the old Schiavone’s grocery store. I picked up a lime, because I saw a few bottles of gin on aunt’s shelf, and she needed to get rid of them, and were were going to need g & t’s. We came back to the house for leftover real Italian food from the night before. We mixed the g&t’s then. And then we went outside to leave husband’s ashes. We went to the place where he used to howl in the woods. Daughter broke down. I held her while aunt continued. Daughter couldn’t take it. Aunt left me to finish up in private. I sobbed underneath a white pine, then I just dumped out the rest. I left the ashes, and since my heart was ripped out already, I left that behind, too,  in this place that has become a second home to me.

Daughter was trying to console herself with her math homework. “I want to go home,” she cried.

Home? To our sad remains of a life? So be it. I recovered what was left of my heart. We caught a flight out before the hurricane. I cried silently on the plane. Daughter leaned her head against me. When I didn’t stop crying, she clung to my arm. When I stopped, we smiled and she said she is happy to be going home.

I am bereft. I have lost so much, and I left it there. Those woods now contain the person I was, the live we lived together. It finally felt like the end of an era. I’m finally able to accept this loss as real. I can’t feel the comfort my daughter does, but my job now is to make sure she feels comfortable in this life. I’m hoping I catch up to her.