I AM NOT OKAY.
Coffee Brewed: Sample of a new bean. STOKED.
|Country||Papua New Guinea|
|Region||Wahgi Valley, Western Highlands|
|Farm||Various smallholder farmers|
|Variety||Arusha, Bourbon, Typica|
Cup: Mellow, sweet and tart with praline, almond, cocoa and citrus fruit flavours.
I AM NOT OKAY.
I will be okay.
These two sentences changed my life.
My Dad died unexpectedly just before Christmas. (I always say “unexpectedly” which seems to imply that knowing one of your people is dying is less fucked up but of course it’s not. I only mean I wasn’t ready. You know?)
Then GRIEF punched me in the face.
For such a "normal" life event, there is no normal, no static space we get to inhabit to grieve, to flow through it, to accept it and we have absolutely no say on how we grieve. It's BRUTAL.
One "minute" I am numb, separate from it, living my life next to it, aware of a rumour that Dad is gone. The next moment I am concussed by his loss, knocked down to the ground unable to communicate and trapped beneath a sadness I have never experienced binge watching Bones.
Grief continues to punch me in the face (and throat and guts) and I continue to resist.
I understand that resisting grief is futile. Grief seeps out in sneaky, terribly unhelpful ways when we don't allow it space whenever the hell it feels like showing up (insomnia, anxiety, low emotional regulation - aka losing my shit because someone is chewing too loudly, etc) and yet I still try to have a say, to control how I feel.
Here is the kicker: I DON’T BELIEVE DAD IS GONE.
Isn’t that odd?
I WAS THERE. I know what I saw. The EMT’s continued to pound chest compressions but I knew he was gone, I felt sorry for them. My Dad was no small human to heft and pound around and there we stood consuming this bizarre theatre.
My heart and brain continue to not-so-quietly debate the realism of this theatre.
We WILL hear his wicked, contagious gut laugh again, see his mischievous eye twinkle letting you in on the fun, be wrapped in THE BEST bear hugs in the world that made you feel so fucking special, loved...
I read Joan Diddion's description of this experience after her husband died in her book The Year of Magical Thinking:
I stopped at the door to the room.
I could not give away the rest of his shoes.
I stood there for a moment, then realized why: he would need shoes if he was to return.
The recognition of this thought by no means eradicated the thought.
I have still not tried to determine (say, by giving away the shoes) if the thought has lost its power.
And then I fell apart AGAIN.
I walked laps around our kitchen island looking for a way out, inspiration or just relief from the dread and fear.
I started out my days with small goals.
Well, I started out with one goal: PLEASE DON’T PANIC.
Wake. Make coffee. Now write. Get it out of my head, to sort my thoughts, to navigate My Great Unraveling....(insert scary, inappropriate, hysterical giggling)
Doesn’t that sound good? Dramatic. Full of intention.
Fuck. Not so much.
I was scared and paralyzed.
Grasping and gasping...
Then I hit the wall and slid down into a heap on the floor.
I am not okay.
I called a wonderful friend who also happens to be a psychotherapist and said:
"I am not okay. I need help."
My beauty friend heard me, triaged me in the moment, suggested a few trusted therapists to reach out to and said:
"Good. Go slow. Sleep. Eat. Stop giving to others. Receive love."
"You are not okay AND you will be okay."
I RECOGNIZED that my chest of tools acquired so far to navigate life did not contain the tools appropriate for this job AND I wasn't able to do this job on my own.
I was RELEASED from the self-imposed pressure to manage this experience all by myself because it's "normal".
(This experience of normal is right up there with the experience of childbirth as "natural". Puhlease.)
By SIMPLIFYING my needs down to the basics, as suggested by my excellent, mad-skilled friend, and by clearly COMMUNICATING to myself and to my people that I was not okay, I was unencumbered by expectations.
I TRUSTED and followed my guts. It was truly a last resort.
For the first time I didn't question my intuition. If that meant today's work was to shower my filthy bod, make popcorn and watch Bones, I listened. If at dusk my guts suggested I grab my boots and my dog and hit the road for a couple of hours, I listened. If 1am rolled around with my eyes wide open and my guts suggested I should probably start writing, executed.
Nap? You are on Wise One.
Slowly I came to realize that my guts are fucking brilliant.
They were warming me up. My guts slowly, gently guided me to shine light into my dark corners full of slimy, slithery things I do not want to make out and I avoid at all costs.
The shit. My shit.
This is what grief has done FOR me.
Grief is forcing me to slow down, breathe, to feel, to look hard at all my stories and to question everything.
To navigate this experience, I had (have) to actually experience the grief when it shows up (all uninvited) and allow it to flow.
It's also liberating to unabashedly grieve and to mine my stories as the myths that were handed down to me to uncover what actually serves me.
Amazing, delicious, juicy, alive things grow out of shit.
That's what I'm going after. The good shit.
Most impactful for me so far is recognizing that there is no switch to being healed, to being "new".
It's LISTENING mostly, giving something a hook, wiping out, getting back up on base, PAUSING, assessing those rad moves, keeping what works, LETTING GO of what doesn't, hugging it out, RESTING and giving myself serious HIGH-FIVES for showing up for my messy self.
I WILL BE OKAY.