Paralysis gripped me as I sat before my computer and thought about writing the specifics of any part of my past. It seemed like I was stuck in an insufferable loop of wanting to write, or at least knowing I should want to write, but still avoiding it. And then I realized I had danced through that stumbling two-step before . . . And before that . . . And. . .
I looked at the folder that has all my short snippets of writing in the prior months, and I found a theme in the following posts:
Do I Really Need to Dig?
How Does a Crazy Person Know?
Quilt on my Soul
Tenacious About Nothing
What Is The Point?
Why Do I Want to Write?
Why is Grief So New?
Writing My Way Forward or Not?
There were loops and angst in each post as I tried to write my thoughts and then bundle them as little dust bunnies and send them into a corner of my computer hard drive. It might have been better to sweep them entirely out of sight—like under my bed. But under the bed, I feared they would expand and rumble through the mattress to keep me awake for more than the restless nights I’d been experiencing. So they remained gathered in a folder called “Daily Writes.”
I figured I shouldn’t put up with the anxiety and depression I was feeling without some effort to manage my psyche a bit more positively, so I went to see my health plan counselor. I’d visited with this woman years before as I juggled a job, a spouse, and the needs of family members in the generations before and after me. At that time I was fighting personal health issues, and my existence indeed seemed to be on the verge of coming unglued.
But recently, even though I struggled with writing, life was pretty stable. The generation ahead of me was only lingering in my heart, and the generation after me was managing life well enough for me to believe nothing was about to run off the rails. Still, I was just stuck in a loop of gloomy anxiety over dang near nothing but the story of my life.
After the visit with the counselor, I looked at what she wrote on my post-visit summary and saw that she described my current state as a Complex Grief Reaction. I stared and thought, “What the heck!!!!”
I knew that the real reasons for the anxiety were the writing assignments that had me dredging up my history. Goodness knows I wished I could turn back the clock on the decision to take that sucker of a class, but I signed up, and now I was running into a maze of memories without an apparent escape. I’d read an article recently about a woman experiencing Complex Grief, so I was already familiar with the term—it happens to old folks who have lost and not moved on. But in my case, it seemed that it was because I looped back to thirty years ago and started over.
Or maybe I just started grieving for the first time.
At the fulcrum of catastrophe, I was last in line for grieving, and I knew my place. It would not have helped me to raise my hand and ask those around me, “Can I be the one grieving now?” Nope, I knew others were too young, too distant, or too damn depressed to be helpful if I should decide to grieve. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other (or one hand and knee in front of the other) and figure out how to do my part to get out of the thicket that flourished in tangles and impossibilities during the recession of the early 1980s. I felt I needed to do my best for the memory of the child I lost, for the grieving four children still at home, and for my husband, Michael who was using guts to hang on through nearly paralyzing gloom as he coped with the loss of a son who was also his best friend and racquetball partner. At that time we faced a business failure, loss of our home, and impending financial ruin, so when I rolled out of bed each morning and made a mental list of “to-dos,” I never thought that facing sorrow or regret belonged on the list.
The counselor did leave me with a suggestion that I should continue writing and find a mindfulness app so that I could slow down the circular tracks of unease and sorrow by becoming more attentive to how I felt. By about day 21 of my “mindfulness journey” and although I indeed could not be called genuinely mindful, I began to witness the dusty angst bunnies with interest as they formed before I swept them under the refrigerator where they had plenty of company to keep them warm.
Until they blew out for me to manage again.