I do this with varying degrees of success. But I am trying.
In May, everything makes me cry. Everything. I know this.
Yesterday I clicked on a story in the Post about an adopted son reuniting with his birth mother in Japan, and sobbed even before they reconnected. I mean, the guy was sitting at his desk at the Pentagon and got a phone call about his mom and I was just a wreck.
The fact is I cry at my desk no fewer than three times a day. I also have allergies, so I can always blame them if anyone notices my red eyes.
It's inconvenient, but I'm not dysfunctional. Just teary.
Now, I am trying to recognize and embrace these feelings rather than push them aside to get on with things. It is not my natural inclination.
Last year right around now, I went to see Deb, my acupuncturist (who I am linking because I love her, and am so happy to recommend). My allergies were walloping me, and I was afraid they were going to turn into a sinus infection.
I couldn't breathe through my nose, and I couldn't get a break from the congestion, no matter what I did. I used the Neti pot. I took hot showers. I steamed my head. I took Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, Xyzal.
I doubled them up and used them in combination, which Nick found rather alarming and asked me to stop.
But it didn't matter. Nothing helped.
When I saw Deb, she told me that grief resides in the lungs and this affects your sinuses. It was May. Pat's health was rapidly declining. We had recently lost our dear friend John. I was gearing up for my annual Overnight walk.
And it was May.
The period leading up to the Overnight--which I am walking again in June in Philadelphia, if you would like and are able to contribute--takes a toll. Because I am fundraising and telling my story, I think about suicide and loss every single day.
People send me their own stories. People give me names. Every one of these feels personal. Every one of these makes me cry.
And in fact, if you have names of loved ones you have lost or who struggle, please, feel free to send them to me. I do not connect my willingness to walk for people to donations.
But in this period, I have a hard time. It's not depression. It's just sadness. Lots and lots of sadness.
Now, going back to Deb, I cried to her for a while, and then she said, "People like you operate in high energy mode, and you like to stay up." At this she reached her hands in the air. She grief brings us low, and people like me, we are afraid to be pulled down, because we're scared we won't get up again.
Really, the exact opposite of that Chumbawamba song.
This made sense. It makes sense. I fear the devastation of grief, because what if I get stuck?
I don't think of myself as a high energy person, but according to my husband (who I asked because sometimes things I think about myself are not what other people see, like how I think I'm crunchy and every time I say this, my friend Sophie laughs really hard) I radiate energy and intensity.
Honestly, I am often tired. We know how tired I am and my hell it is so boring. But I think it's true that I am high intensity. (I mean, if you know me, what do you think?)
Anyway, Deb said I needed to recognize this about myself. Grief will pull me down, but I will not stay down. I could let it pass, knowing I'd recover.
She also said I needed to figure out why I walk the Overnight walk. I needed to dig down into the real reasons for me, and address this need.
And so I have given it a lot of thought. This year I delayed fundraising until about six weeks out, because it costs me too much personally to be that sad for months.
Now I'm trying to just let myself feel the sadness and sit with the grief. Not avoid or fight them, but see them for what they are and honor them in a way that recognizes that loss hurts, and the spaces left behind by the most important people in your life are huge.
You know I recently reconnected with my cousin Patti Jo. She's an artist, like her mom. I sent her the photo of my daughter wading in a tide pool last weekend, and she juxtaposed it with Aunt Jo's painting of me at about that age, and added the text of my thank you message to her.
We've been sharing family memories, and they feel good.
She and her brothers were born years before my brother and me, so when we were kids, we knew them as glamorous teens. My dad, to my cousins, was Uncle Mickey. He was hilarious, he was fun. He and my mom would come back from overseas with great stories.
They were right there in Duluth, so saw our grandparents regularly, and knew them when they were younger, before my grandmother was in chronic pain.
I don't know why it's so powerful, but I find it healing to connect with and to hear about our family. We have different memories and vantage points of the same people across time and place. We share genes. We all share a particular sense of humor. This might strike me the most.
The emotional space loved ones occupy is theirs, and theirs alone. It's not like wet sand on the beach, where when you scoop out a bucket full, more immediately slides in.
Some spaces never fill in. Your time might get filled, but the space doesn't. Weeks and months and years pass, and it hurts less. Or, maybe more accurately, hurts differently.
People leave us, but energy doesn't go away. I find that idea comforting.
I wonder, what you do to live with grief and feelings of loss?