Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One Foot Back to Counter It

There are things I say to my therapist, not because I necessarily believe them, but because I want to believe them. That if I say them out loud, allow them to resonate, to bounce off the walls of the small, warm converted 2-storey walk-up where she works, then they will magically turn themselves to truth.

One of those things is "grief is not linear."

In my logical brain, I know that. I know that it is as true as anything that's ever been said. That you don't just "get better", with all the days lined up in neat rows, waiting for the "5 stages of grief" to tick by. But I can't help but feel that some days are setbacks, that I am not moving forward, that I am stuck.

I hadn't cried in weeks. I was showing up for work, if not on time, then at least close, did my job, and did it reasonably well. I was taking the bus again, and I went to trivia night, and made dinner, and paid bills on time, and did everything that, just a few weeks earlier, had seemed nearly impossible. And then, easily, delicately, like someone tugging at a loose string on a beloved sweater, it all neatly fell apart. On Monday morning, I stood staring through the front window, mud room door closed behind me, and I could. Not. Move.

I mean that quite literally. The simplest act- putting one foot in front of the other, walking down the porch and trodding the 6 blocks to the bus stop - seemed absolutely insurmountable. I could feel myself growing hotter and hotter, the weight of my winter boots around my ankles, the knitted hat my grandmother had made, lying itchy on my head, and yet I stood there, dull, doughy face peering back at me in the hall mirror. I envisioned myself picking up my purse and unlocking the door, but in reality I just stood, staring. After 5 minutes or so of this, I said aloud to no one, in a voice that sounded too small to be mine, "I don't think I can."

The Little Engine that Panicked.

I slowly took off my mitts, my boots, let the hat fall from my head, and went back into the house. I sent an email to work that blamed my absence on a physical illness instead, too cowardly to admit I'd been made catatonic by something deep inside my head, and too weary to put up with the sympathetic looks I'd get once I slunk back into the office.

I wasted the entire day in a forgettably boring fashion, watching YouTube videos of the Oscars, eating whatever was about to go bad in the fridge, and annoying the dog. I told TB, who was sweet and sympathetic as we made dinner. I got a good night's sleep and had a hot shower and went through my morning routine as normal the next day, hoping that I'd at least be able to make it into a cab tomorrow, if not the bus stop. But as I slipped an orange into my totebag, I heard a noise. A high-pitched wailing tone that was half mechanical, half animal. It was coming from me. 

I'd heard the idea before that some moments take us out of ourselves, that we feel as though we're watching ourselves from above, like we're in a movie. Like bolting upright when you've had a nightmare, I always thought that was just a cliche. But I get it now. I could see myself brace both hands on the dining room table, I saw my face crumple in on itself as the first droplets of my turns-out-it's-not-waterproof mascara hit my cheeks. I watched as my legs buckled, and my palms slapped the dirty wooden floor and my tears and drool made splashes on the cracks in between the hardwood. And I heard everything. The worst noise I've ever made, and one of the worst I've ever heard. I never fully understood what it was to 'keen' before, but this had to have been it. A rhythmic, rocking, shrill explosion that seemed to come simultaneously from my chest, my throat, and the top of my head. It sounded like some kind of alert, or alarm, though with no logical course of action. Less of a "Fire! Everybody get out!" and more of a "Let us all remark on the utter unfairness that fire destruction can cause!". Like ADT if it was run by Sartre.

The dog was totally perplexed. Here I was, about to give her breakfast, with maybe a biscuit if she did her business outside, and now I'd decided to eschew all that in favour of lying on the floor like a simpleton. She was not impressed, racing back and forth between her bowl and my pathetic display of surrender, trying to encourage me to pick up where I'd left off.

And with a shuddering breath, just like that, it was over. The skies cleared and I was back. And I slowly picked myself up, dusted myself off (seriously, we have to figure out some kind of chore wheel, we're slobs), and went back in the kitchen to feed the dog. I glanced at the clock on the stove as I walked by it - the whole thing had taken me less than 5 minutes. I may not be good at managing my emotions, but my God, I'm efficient.

Today has been better. I've had a few close moments, but no tears today, and I'm trying to go out and meet some people for drinks in order to do something that doesn't involve hibernating in front of a space heater or staring blankly at the myriad of glowing screens I possess. And hopefully the weeks and months ahead will be filled with more moments of normalcy and pleasantness than not.

It's not a step back, I know it isn't. But maybe it's a bit of a kick. A gentle tap of the toe saying "Hey, hotshot, this thing is bigger than you. And don't you forget it."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks is dying. His piece in the New York Times is beautiful and sad and true and haunting. I love it. This part resonated with me in particular:

"There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death."

The world will be a poorer place without you, Mr. Sacks. Though I suppose you'd say the same of any of us.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

But he's a fool

One of the best presents I received this Christmas was a subscription to Netflix. As the cold and blustery winter months continue to batter us, we've been happily making our way through Archer, Portlandia, Arrested Development, one ill-conceived episode of Pretty Little Liars that has thrown off all my "recommended for you"s and a bunch of stand-up specials. Last night we decided to peruse the movies section as we munched on perfect grilled cheese sandwiches (seriously. Watch it. Life changing) and sipped upon the finest of Dr Peppers. Given our love of butt-and-dong humour, we decided to watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which TB had seen but I hadn't.

As the credits rolled, a familiar song played, albeit in Hawaiian. I hummed along with it, and TB looked at me, quizzically.

"How do you know this?"
"You don't?"
"No, what song is it?"
"You'll get it, just wait to the chorus."

As the familiar strains started up, I turned, expectantly to him, mouth open in a Muppety expression of "eh?? EH??? *NOW* do you see?" But... nothing. Blank stare. I belted out the chorus.

"Nooooothing compares! No-THING compares To Yooooou*!"

Silence. Blankness. Lack of comprehension.

"It's Nothing Compares 2 U! Sinead O'Connor? Written by Prince? Huuuuge hit in the 90s? The decade that defined our upbringing?"
"Huh. I don't think I've ever heard it."
"WHAT?? No, no. You must be mistaken. You've heard it. Here, let me pull up the video."
*gets video on YouTube*
"Come on, now you know it. Close up of Sinead's face. She's bald. She's pale. She's tortured."
"I know who Sinead O'Connor is."
"HOW? HOW WOULD YOU KNOW THAT? Why would you have any reason to know who she is without knowing this song?"
"I'm sure she has other songs."
"I'm sure she does, but that's not the point. No one says 'Oh, the Baha Men. They sing 'We Rubbin', right?I'm not familiar with them letting the dogs out, no."
"Look, there's plenty of popular movies you haven't seen and I don't rib you about it."
"That's true, but I know of their *existence*"

The conversation then basically devolved into me calling him a homeschooled jungle freak.

He is not, however, just a less hot version of me. He outranks me.
But that's weird, right? A kid who's born in the early 80s, has lived in North America all his life, has been going to movies since he was 5, loves 80's rock and 90's pop and dance music, but has never heard of what is, arguably, one of the most popular songs of our defining decade?

In truth, I'm kind of glad he was clueless about it, though. It gives me something to screech at him when he's complaining about how I've never seen Star Wars. Checkmate, Cady.

*2 U

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Nice Start

Somewhere in the sleepy moments between when TB got up to shower and I rolled over to watch the dog puke, she was there.

We were with my grandfather in his backyard, her standing and looking at me, and my grandfather in his favourite outdoor chair, playing with cats that wouldn't do as they were told. I told her about the arguments my sister and father had been going through, about my therapy, about the realizations I was having, about the conclusions I was tumbling toward. They listened, as they always did, as I ran through everything that was swirling through my head.

What made this one so different from the others was that all along, I knew she was dead, and I knew it was a dream. 

"I've been waiting for you to come to me," I said, "Not just as a side player in some larger story, but as the star, for a real visit. They say I'm supposed to feel you everywhere, all the time, or at least when I need you most, but I don't. You're there, and I'm here and that's how it is. But this, this is what I meant."

She nodded, and we hugged and I thanked them both for listening and for visiting and for just... being there. Letting me catch them up. Allowing me a moment to unload.

And then I was awake, everything fading rapidly except for the feeling of fullness, contentment, rising out my chest. Of course, writing this, it now feels like a tugging, grasping ache, a tidal wave of desire to be right back on that sunny lawn with those I love and two bizarre little kittens. But in that moment - it felt like being home again.

I'm not a big believer in religion or spirits or anything like that, but I hope you'll forgive me my little indulgence today and allow me a moment to think that maybe, a little message made its way from the great perhaps this morning. 

Thanks, mom. Now, if you'll excuse me, the dog's puking yellow again.