November 24, 2010

An Order of Birthday, Happy on the Side

I thought about calling this "An Order of Birthday, Hold the Happy," but I decided that wasn't really accurate or honest. I don't want to hold the happy, I'm trying to embrace the happy. It's just that it's not front and center for the the first time on my birthday.

Birthdays have always been a big thing in my family, something I've probably written a few times here on this day in the past. But celebrating one without my mom here just seems...incomprehensible. There's not much more I can say about it than that.

I'll be spending the day, and Thanksgiving, with my now-smaller family and I'm grateful for that, just as I'm grateful for all the kind wishes that I'll receive from my friends. I just don't know if I'll be able to get through the day without bursting into tears and thinking, "She should be here. She should be here. She should be here."

The fact that I'm fighting to keep my dinner down right now tells me that I'm going to have to leave it at that. For those of you who are all about honesty and being real and revealing yourself on your blog, there's nothing more honest or real or personal I've ever written than that.

November 09, 2010

One Ping Leads to Another

I need to write. I know I need to write. But deciding what to say and how to say it ties me up in mental knots. Because this blog has always been a balance between the impersonal and the vaguely personal; it has never been something like a diary. That's not me, that's not what I do. Others do and it works for them, and I say good on them if it's what they want, but my blog is just that: mine, however I define it. And laying bare all my thoughts and feelings here is as alien to me as saying no to chocolate. It just doesn't happen.

But I'm not sure I know how to "just blog" while there's all this distracting emotional stuff in my head following my mother's death. It feels like there's simply nothing else for me to write about at the moment, and while I've happily taken a blog break before, that's not what I really want to do.

So, how do I bridge that gap? How do I go from talking about the universal to the personal, and still feel comfortable and true to myself? The only thought that comes to mind is: Baby steps.

I'll start with something that occurred to me today, and what really prompted me to finally sit down in front of the keyboard and at least try to start moving forward.

The biggest problem I'm having is that there are so many things -- so many, many things -- that remind me of Mom, and they pop up constantly, pinging on my consciousness. Our lives had become so intertwined, and I was so used to caring for her and thinking about getting and doing things to help her, that thinking about her when I'm out and about is second nature. I've always been a person who has a very visual memory. I see a stuffed lion and I think of my dad, because he was a Leo. I see a "Back to the Future" poster and I think of the summer we spent in Maine, the year it came out. I see an owl and I think of my mom, even though she stopped collecting them almost two decades ago.

Going to the grocery store is a mini-nightmare. Get a cart, go in, see strawberries, think of Mom. *ping* Keep going, see the apples she liked, think of Mom. *ping* Push on, see the oranges, think of Mom and resist the impulse to buy her one because it was a thing we liked to have on hand for when her blood sugar was low. *ping* Get out of produce, go down an aisle. See the biscotti she liked to have with her coffee each morning. *ping* Look to the other side of the aisle, see the braunschweiger (don't ask) Mom loved to have on crackers. *ping* Continue on, another aisle, remember a conversation we had right there about Eggo waffles. *ping* The hits keep on coming and finally I get to the checkout. Oh, and there are the pumpkin seeds that she loved and that we were buying constantly the last year to help her fiber intake. *ping*

Each of these reminders has a different feeling; some are somber, some are melancholy, some are funny, some are regret-inducing, a few are a little painful, some are surprising, while others are just "Oh, Mom would have liked that" kind of moments. (Not all of them are related to food, I swear. The grocery store was just where I was tonight -- the first time I'd gone back to that one since Mom died, as it happened -- thinking about it.) All in all not really bad things, but I just feel bombarded by them in a typical day. When I'm overwhelmed by them, I tend to think about and recall the more painful aspects of losing Mom, like the last 48 hours in the hospital and the last few minutes of her life. When I flash on those, and they tend to get gloomier the more I think about them, that's when I start to feel down and teary and like I will never stop feeling like this, like the bottom has dropped out of my life.

Then, as I was driving along tonight, it hit me that I need to find a way or simply get to a point where these reminders bring me moments of happiness instead of pings of sadness. For some reason, just realizing that and feeling like it can happen seemed really significant to me. It doesn't give me the slightest bit of insight on how to get there, but it feels like a starting point, at the very least.

So, there's the first pylon. Or whatever it is you use to start a bridge. The real question is, will it be the Bixby Bridge (short, scenic, stylish and leading to sunshine), the Bay Bridge (long, winding, keeps breaking, closes down every once in a while and its repairs won't be finished for years), or the infamous and least-desirable Bridge to Nowhere? (If I need to explain that last one, all hope is lost and you should move along to LOLCats or some such.)

I have no idea. I'll just be pleasantly surprised if I can successfully build it.