Scattered Thoughts

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I am rather scattered these days. Scattered, in the sense of being spread among different places. It sometimes teeters onto the edge of overwhelm or being spread too thin. But not quite. So far I am able to talk myself down from the moment of angst, usually with a decision to change whatever I’m doing. It’s a kind of emotional biofeedback technique I suppose! And, rather effective most of the time.

I am scattered for really good reasons. I am working productively, creatively and steadily. I am in a period of growth. I am stretching my wings again in all areas of my life. (I just had an image of a flock of birds flying and swooping. The kind that fly one direction together, break apart, then all turn back in synchronicity as if nothing happened) I feel myself settling in to my personal new normal. I don’t always like that this means adjusting, being, without Dave, yet it is. The sense of distance from “was” can be disconcerting in a slightly guilty passion for what “is.”

Here a Writing, There a Writing

My writing is scattered. I have multiple outlets outlets for expression, no longer a single thread. I have unpublished Grief Reflections adding pages to the first words I started two years ago. I journal with the Navigating Grief community. I am penning new articles once again.

I completed a writing class this week for which I have continued my exploration into widowhood, life changes and personal grief. I found myself deciding to do the work there rather than letting it all hang out here. I know that I have important insights to share through this exercise, yet I now have to create some distance between personal grief and supporting others in their grief work. I make a conscious distinction between Reflection and the work itself. (Being a participant observer is my nature.)

These decisions are part of my grief assimilation process. I internalize more, because… Hmm. Why do I internalize more? Maybe it seems not so important to others any longer? Every nuance of loss doesn’t really need witness, just acknowledgement? (Writing accomplishes acknowledgement for me to witness.) Acknowledge and release? Because that is all one can do? Acknowledge and honor the feelings. I still do a lot of that! I internalize more because this is where I need to be.

The Spaces

I’ve been thinking about the last two years; the time of caregiving and the slow decline of Dave’s health. Maybe it is just easier to be vulnerable as the face of another, as Dave’s caregiver, rather than in my own personal role of grief. Or maybe it’s the distance that is naturally occurring, the space between the life bits scattered in the wind of time.

That space is what hurts. That empty place that can’t be filled in the way it once was. There is the space of familiarity as simple as flipping through the TV channels to see it was Pumpkin Chunkin’ time. How often did we watch the Halloween marathons of grown people catapulting pumpkins? There is the ritual space for placing my anniversary ring on my finger each morning, the thumbprint necklace around my neck, and taking them off each night. There is the silent space as I say goodnight to no one in particular, to Dave who isn’t here, and to the cats because that doesn’t seem crazy. There is the meal space that is missing its social component, as I often hurry through to fulfill a need, occasionally self-nourishing as a want. There is the memories space, the flashback that occurred when an anchor covering Superstorm Sandy mentioned the dire needs of people without power whose lives depend on it (A snow storm put us perilously into hours without oxygen during Dave’s illness.) The spaces are both comforting and anxiety ridden even now.

This is still a period of grief and mourning for me. But it seems more personal. These are the parts of me that I have to wrestle for who I am now. It is the separation that comes from no longer being a wife, a caregiver, a partner. This is back to re-defining Joan, the individual. This focus is a strangely enjoyable process, much like the time I first moved away from my childhood home and recognized I could invent whomever I wanted since no one knew me. In my new location I had only a limited space to bring along what I wanted.

Don’t Remind Me?

After a couple of hours of catching up and having lunch, as a good friend dropped me off at home, she suddenly noted,  “Oh I didn’t find out how you are feeling?!”  The reference is to my physical health after surgery last May. I said I was glad not to be asked, as I try to forget that I have lingering symptoms that may or may not go away. Then I let lose the frustration of my changed health. The reality is that I do like the time when I am totally distracted, not remembering that I have an ailment. I only want to bring some of me along. Yet, not a day goes by without being reminded about my SCDS – I sway a bit, I have an earache, my pulse returns to my head whenever I lie down. I’m so much better, yet changed. I can’t forget.

The same for my loss. There are reminders every day that Dave is not here, that I miss him. Almost nine months later I am better, yet changed. How could I forget?

On the outside, in the compassionate world of other people and friends I see that they can’t win on this question. Do you ask or not? Do I want to not be reminded or not? (Anytime there are double negatives we are confused.) Obviously, I always carry the loss with me. If you don’t ask will I be offended? (She doesn’t care? She’s forgotten?) If you do ask, are you “harshing my mellow” of the moment of being myself and distanced from the pain, the part of life I’d rather not think about?  This is such a proverbial situation, especially as time wedges into lives, and less immediacy and perhaps need to talk about “it” – health, loss, grief – gives way to other matters.

Yes, ask. In my scattered state there is a lot to ask about: along with grief, health and loss, is work, play, philosophy of life, politics and current events. So we talk. This is how life is today, a conglomeration of normal that is comprised of one more (big) life experience. You aren’t reminding me of something I already remember.

But if asking slips the mind of a friend, I’m OK with that. It means we both have more on the top of our minds in the present. If I need to talk I am just as capable of starting the conversation, or dropping in a reference of Dave or complaining about the effect of air pressure on my head. And if it seems I’m a bit scattered it’s because I am! There is so much yet to do in life and not enough hours in each day.


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