Friday, June 13, 2008


My aunt, whose husband had left her several years earlier, told me this once: what it is that you need is to be so patient, and change will happen. I know you can do it.

This was the truth, perhaps the rawest, truest truth that anyone had ever told me about grieving. There isn't really any one trait that a person can posess that can really carry one through grief like patience.

Grief happens to you so slowly, like a single earthworm cultivating, turning over, and fertilizing a whole garden patch alone. It moves through you, first snatching away your whole life, dissolving and reconfiguring everything you used to have, and everything that seemed real and important. It moves in like acid being poured into a plastic cup, first boring holes, then the entire structure melting and falling and recomposing into a caustic, unrecognizable smear on the ground where the cup used to stand.

Felled, you wait for something to happen: but nothing does. Each day you wake up, and it is still there, poking you in the ribs, Remember me? I live in you now. You can't get rid of me.

As nothing is happening anyway, you begin to try to reincorporate, as time goes by, some of the things you used to do. You try to walk the same route into town, to go and buy groceries. But everything looks different. Things speak to you now. The baby aisle in the grocery store. Don't walk down here. There is nothing for you here. The woman you passed on the street with the double carriage. Yes, twin daughters, and I got pregnant by accident. Too bad for you. The person you see crying in her car, waiting at a light. Who did she lose?

Sometimes these voices comfort you, but usually they highlight you-- they separate you from the world you thought you knew, that you are not a part of anymore. It is difficult being alone. After a while, you want to go back.

Like a person looking into a little world inside a glass box, you tap on the walls. Let me in. I want to try this again. But there is no door that you can see. You try to find one, walking the perimeter, looking inside. Sometimes, what you see makes you feel strong and empowered: I can do this, I must try to get back in. But other times, what you see terrifies you, and you want to crawl back into the darkness, and envelop yourself in sadness, and so you wait, patiently, to be ready to look some more.

The truth is there is no door, because in some ways, that world has just been left behind. The old world. The one before.

Then there is a day, first just once, and then, over time, repeatedly, where you become aware that something is happening. That all the time you have spent trying to re-integrate yourself, and falling back, and crying, and feeling left out, and put out, and put upon, and seeing joy but feeling it be unreachable, you have been climbing out of the hold you have been under, that has kept you out. Somehow, you are back. You are doing again. You hear the voices, but you talk back to them in your head, and you keep on going. You begin to realize that you have moved, very distinctly, away from point A, where you could hardly lift your head, and that you are at a new place. It is very far away from where you once were, but it is a place of realness, of functioning, of truth.

Patiently, you have waited. You have wondered. You know there is still work to be done. But you also know that you have been working hard, and that over time, you have accomplished things.

So, the lesson in this is, be patient.

I have a lot to learn from myself in this.


excavator said...

Yes, that is my experience too. Thank you for illustrating it so beautifully.

I called it, "being hollowed out with a blunt spoon" and then later refined it to "having my capacity increased one scoop at a time, by a blunt instrument".

The result IS a cultivated soil (in your analogy), or increased capacity...more room, more depth. But each turning of the worm, each gouging of the spoon feels like an eternal torment without purpose.

Until the day that you ("collective 'you' ") do see that it has tempered you, and left you more fully and deeply seated into yourself.

It is so hard to learn patience on the job...

Jen said...

Carol, thank you for your writing... you are so real and true. I appreciate your words so much.

Birdies Mama said...

wow, these words are written so openly and honestly and with such hard core truth. Patience, and being patient. Before Birdie died it was something that at times I had a hard with...a hard time just allowing myself the space to be patient. That was wiped away long the space for patience in my life became enormous.

I just love this writing Carol. Its so beautiful, amazing, transforming and inspiring.