January 10, 2014 by panicpony
Deep in my quite large closet is a trunk. I made this trunk in high school. Actually, it was a shop project that I procrastinated on, pretended to work on for an entire semester, and by the time the class was over I had gotten an undeserved B for effort and there was a pile of well sanded, ironed boards that weren’t put together into anything recognizable. Soon after there was a message on my family answering machine from Mr. Stegman, the shop teacher, telling me to come pick up my trunk. When my mom and I went down there, I found a beautiful, simple trunk with rounded edges stained a deep, lovely brown. Mr. Stegman had finished it for me and hadn’t said a thing. Just, “Here’s the trunk you worked on all semester!” I was already awkward enough at that age and the awkward situation of a very nice man doing your school work for you and acting as though you had achieved something pretty special was just too much. God I hope I thanked him, I don’t remember, but I now have this beautiful trunk that’s been one of my most special possessions for about 15 years now. Inside it are all the many many journals I’ve filled, keepsakes I absolutely don’t want to lose, heirlooms from my elders, and just about anything I think is too special not to hide away.
That’s the kind of experience I look back on and think, “God you’re such an asshole. You’ve always been an asshole, you’re the absolute worst!” Thinking things like this about myself has always been easier than owning up to my actions, going up to the Mr. Stegmans of my life and saying, “Look, you did this great thing for me for no reason other than kindness. Thank you.”
This is a meandering post, because my heart and mind are all over the damn place right now. There’s a lot going on and all the bad habits I cling to in time of crisis are excitedly taking their usual places in my confused mind. Instead of focusing on the pain and sadness I’m selfishly pointing the laser at myself. How wrong and bad I am, how little purpose I have, how much better I need to be to be worthy.
I don’t know if this is all that unusual. I think most of us find ways to avoid pain and grief. I don’t want to do that anymore, especially because what I’m grieving deserves the honor of my sadness. What I’m grieving is worthy of despair. It’s worthy of anger, fear, and the bleakness of the moments we are forced to face mortality.
It’s ok to admit all of these feelings are ok, it’s ok that I need as much time as I need to deal with a heart shattering loss.
It’s ok to feel your insides screaming as you watch someone who parented you slip away.
It’s ok to despair over the loss of the spaces in your life where you felt completely and unconditionally safe and loved. We were given those times to get us through the days that feel empty, dangerous, and abjectly alone.
It’s ok that the way you respond to tragedy mirrors a lot of how you deal with every day life. It’s ok to learn from this to become healthier, stronger, more aware, more gentle with yourself all the time, even on the easy days of your life.
It’s ok to get whatever help you need. It’s ok to tell friends you can’t handle anything right now. It’s ok to see your counselor every day. It’s ok to tell your doctor you need a little extra medication to get you through the pain. IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP.
It’s ok to be human.
I’m watching and waiting as my beloved Grammie makes her way from her body. Peacefully and with courage she is waiting to meet her husband and her ancestors. Would that I had the same peace and courage. How difficult this earth will be for me without this person who gives me nothing but unconditional love, no questions asked.
If anything I am learning that the awkward interactions in life matter little, that I’m strong enough to confront them. I am pulling all the energy I can around me and my family so that we may be strong enough not to confront this, but just simply to allow it and to allow ourselves to do what is necessary to heal.