Sunday, May 18, 2008

Every day, it seems, it rains just a little. Our forecasts have been dismal, but then each day I awaken to sunshine streaming in the windows, and it takes half the day or so for the clouds to roll in, and the fat drops to begin to darken the pavement. Then I can hear the cars as they drive by, below me in the street. The smell is wet, and damp, and the rain is here.
The lilacs droop, as they always do in May, and I think of Charlotte.

There is something so respectful about this pattern of weather that May always seems to bring me, except for the year when she died, when it rained for a month without stopping, but that seemed respectful, too. The sunshine comes, it brings warmth, and beauty, and allows me and my children to romp, and frolic, and breathe in the world around us. And then the rain comes in, and it falls softly, reminding us that it helps sometimes to turn inwards, to take the time to be quiet and together. The colors are dimmed and everything is darker, and I need this, too. I feel the joy in the sunshine, and I feel what's missing in the rain. Both of these things feel good.

I was struck today, realizing how different it feels to me each year as I am anticipating the anniversary of Charlotte's death, and then after it happens. It doesn't seem to make sense that there is a release when the day passes, but there always is. I went to a brunch today, a gathering with a group of friends I fondly call "the old playgroup", because when Liam was a baby, there were 4 of us moms who got together every week. Two of us have returned to work so the playgroup itself dissolved about 2 years ago, but we still have family gatherings every other month or so. The kids are always full of so much joy, and the adults have a great time, too. It has always felt good to do.
But last May, we had a gathering and it was on the 6th of May, maybe? It was right in that awful, heavy period of time where I can barely think, barely lift my head. I always know that this is the way I feel, but I am determined that I walk the walk anyway, I do go about my life and try to do the things that make me happy, because that's just what I do. But in this instance, it bitterly failed.
I can remember being in my friend's kitchen. All I could hear around me was people complaining about their children. Truly, it wasn't complaining. It was talking. It was the banter that flies between mothers and fathers, about sleep deprivation, about picky eaters, about naughty antics that can honestly drive you nearly crazy if you let it. But in that time, with my head stuck in a hole like an ostrich, I heard complaining. I heard people who weren't grateful for their kids. I heard people not appreciating the amazingly good fortune they had to have living children here around them. I was bitter. Maybe a little rude. I might have left early.
I was aware, the whole time, of course, that this was happening, and I knew exactly why. I knew that what I was seeing, at that time, wasn't really exactly what was happening. I could feel how jaded my viewpoint was. But knowing that didn't make it any easier, and I felt miserable. It felt so awkward and uncomfortable to feel like I needed space from my own friends. I did.
This year, a brunch date was propsed for today: May 18. I thought, will I want to be there? It's the week of Charlotte's birthday. Will it be like last year?
It was not. I felt completely, totally normal. I was happy, delighted to be in the company of my good friends. This, after a period of anticipation for May 13th that felt particularly difficult, and a birthday and day-after that felt slightly more fraught with spontaneous crying. I had a great time. I loved what everyone had to say. I heard it with my ears that are only just me, and those ears are of course affected by my life, but they aren't the same ears that are so weighted with grief that they can't understand that love and good natured complaining happily coexist in most people.
What is it, then? Somehow having had it pass, has lifted this weight? This feels awkward, given that five years ago from this day was a period of time that I almost cannot ever remember what it felt like. I can't remember because it was so unbearably painful that I get goosebumps thinking about it, my stomach feels almost nauseous, and my body resumes its ravaged, empty feeling that plagued me. You could say I choose not to remember, but I think the truth is that my brain works very hard on an unconscious level not to remember, and I do intentionally pull out those memories from time to time, because it makes me feel human and me and reminds me of how very far I have come.
I am grateful that the weight has been lifted. No matter why, or for what reason, or whether it's right. It is hard to be sad. It makes me anxious, it can get me grumpier a little faster, and it makes my kids sad, too. So the mood feeling good, feeling up? Thank you, I am grateful for it. I could use a little breathing room.

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