Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Riding the wave
My mom says that grief comes in waves. You feel better for a few days, then worse for a few more, then back to better again. The idea is that eventually the better days are more frequent and the bad days less until you can think of the departed without being devastated.
Today is a better day. I looked through the box with Joel's things in it. I touched the box that holds his ashes, I looked at his little footprints, I saw the little blood smear on the ribbon of his impossibly tiny hat. I was sad but I didn't fall apart. I added the picture that the Pudding drew of Baby Joel up in Heaven and lingered for a moment, then put the lid down and went on about my day.
Sunday night was a bad night. I went to the grocery store after the kids were in bed and on my way home I just felt so alone and sad and generally depressed that I really wanted to hit that old Self-Destruct button. For those not familiar with this one allow me to explain.
For women from a certain background, usually children of divorced parents, often with some form of abuse during childhood, good things feel unfamiliar. When women from this certain background get sad or depressed about something, they seek the familiar and for them, it's usually more crap. This concept explains most of my relationships in my early 20's. I saw the pattern repeated in more of my friends than I know how to count. We'd get an urge to do just the worst thing for ourselves that we could. Sometimes that was to eat too much, have sex with inappropriate people, drink too much, max out a credit card, quit a good job, ditch a nice boyfriend.
That last one is one I actually did to poor Dilbert when we were dating. He'd just driven me to Wisconsin and back for my step-father's funeral and I was a wreck most of the way back. I'd been trying to do the strong, supporting daughter/sister thing for my mom/step-sister while we were there and about 5 minutes after we got on the road to come home, I snapped, hit a dear, broke Dilberts headlight and cried my head off to my incredibly sweet and supportive boyfriend. Needless to say, he drove the rest of the way home to DC.
A few days after we got back I told Dilbert that I didn't deserve him. He didn't deserve a mess like me. He was a nice guy who deserved a nice girl who would treat him accordingly, not someone who freaked the fuck out every couple of months. I told him I had so many issues to work out right then that he couldn't help me with and he didn't need the hassle. He cried, I cried, we cried some more and then he went home.
I hung out with my crazy friends that week that we were apart. I drank too much, smoked a lot of clove cigarettes (my chest ached) and had cheese puffs and Mountain Dew for diner a few nights. I was on the phone with one of my guy friends and strangely enough we were talking about relationships. I told him about the way that Dilbert always listened to me so well, like he was really trying to understand me and how selfless he was in driving me across the country to go to a funeral of a man he'd never met. I talked about how he'd talked to my grandparents even though he really didn't care much about old cars or religion. My friend said, "If you've found someone like that, why are you on the phone with me?" I took the hint and called Dilbert at 12:01am, February 14th, 2005 and married him 9 months later.
The funny thing here is that I had to make the decision against my gut instinct to do the thing that was good for me. For most people the thing that is good for them is the thing they would rather do. Not so for me, the thing that feels familiar is not good, the thing that I gravitate to is usually bad for me and will leave me feeling just as helpless and scared as I spent many of my formative years.
Since I married my Dilbert, the self destruct urge has fallen off quite a bit. Yes, I still get the urge to spend too much money or eat the entire pan of brownies knowing that I'm going to regret both later but for the most part, I'm much more even keel.
This last week, not so much. Not only do I want to eat the whole pan of brownies, I want to do it while downing a 6 pack of hard cider and possibly smoking more cloves. I want to do things that would be bad for me because then maybe the hurt would be controllable. I know how to dig myself out from under my own mess, I've done it more times than I care to mention. I don't know how to dig myself out from under this and when I have one of those bad days mentioned above, it feels like nothing is going to feel right ever again. I feel the weight of the decision we had to make and the judgment of every right-to-lifer who has never met me and doesn't know my situation. I feel my own judgment and that of every friend who had a funny look cross her face when I told her what we were going to do. I feel the weight of the judgment of every mother who carried to term with the knowledge that her baby wouldn't live and just counted herself grateful for the experience. I don't know most of the people mentioned above but I feel the weight nevertheless. That weight makes the 3 lbs I'd gain from the brownies seem rather insignificant.
But, on days like today, all that judgment doesn't seem to matter. I know my baby is being cared for in Heaven, I know that he was able to feel a mother's touch if only for a moment and I know that I did all in my power to make his short life sweet for him while making things manageable for myself. I know that my conscience is clear on this particular point and I know that God understands the choice I made and loves me none the less. Secure in that knowledge, I will continue to ride the wave as best I can without aid of the self destruct button.