The third anniversary of my dad’s death passed and then the fourth anniversary of my husband’s suicide—five days apart. The grief of each of these days burns and the pain radiates in razor sharp edges in every direction. If you imagine a drop falling into the ocean, the pain and fear of grief are felt as the drop reaches the surface and has not yet discovered the grand ocean that awaits. If you imagine a seed, the pain and fear and rage of grief are felt as the seed shell tears open and before the roots emerge and anchor into the soil. If you imagine a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the struggle of suffering is the process of eclosion—when the butterfly breaks through the chrysalis, and unfolds, expands and dries its wings and prepares to take its first flight. I think of grief as my broken hallelujah, a refiner’s fire.
January is a long month financially and adds a dynamic of forced choicelessness which seems to intensify and draw out these days of burning grief. A daily photographic gratitude practise, one I sometimes complete even before I get out of bed, helps me train my brain and my heart toward the light. Even on those days when my heart feels heavy, I have decided to be kind to myself and Bismillah, offer up this heavy heart and burning grief as a blessing from The Beloved. I am the drop, the seed, the butterfly. Some of the darkest days I spent thrashing about, unable to settle into myself, seeking comfort in hot baths—several of them throughout the day—and raging and weeping myself into a state of exhaustion such that I would sleep for two or three hours.
I have realised it’s possible to make room for joy whilst in the throes of this raging and heavy grief. I make joy my lens to view the world around me. Everything I have adds to my joy. My partner. My cats. My books. This roof over my head. Rick and Morty. Bob’ Burgers. The imaginary cat dimension underneath my bed called Cat Vagus. Rain. Trees. The hedge just outside our balcony filled with chickadee song. Music. Specifically, punk. The Ramones. Dead Kennedys. The Idles. I have so much. Even when I feel low I still have so much and have walked such a journey. I treat pain like an invitation—wounds are doorways to The Beloved.
I enjoyed food for the first time in several days today and my stomach almost forgot what to do with food! I had that weird bloaty sensation that gastroparesis can cause. I thought I might have a gastric emergency whilst walking around downtown but that was a false alarm. Menopause has reared its ugly head in the form of increased hot flashes and night sweats. My thyroid is a raging train and for the first time ever, I think, the dosage of my synthroid has been decreased. Funnily, I think my cat has a raging thyroid and I have to take her to the vet to get her checked out.
I have a strange craving for McDonald’s french fries right now. And I’m thinking about a friend of ours who has just been diagnosed with stage 3 glioblastoma multiforme; since she first fell ill on Boxing Day her condition has changed significantly. Life can change just like that, without warning. When you look at her picture you can see a change. And it reminds me that our bodies are shadows of our souls, and also that a person no longer looks like themselves once they have died.
Life is weird. The land of the free is passing laws which seem to violate free speech and is being governed by a deranged and narcissistic man who has committed treason, abused his position to further his personal interests, and compromised his country and the world. Canada has always know the devil that America could be. Part of being Canadian is that we are not American. In this sense, to be Canadian is to be negative space—you know like in art work. What we are not is partly who we are overall.
We say sorry alot. Sometimes we mean sorry, sometimes we just mean hey—I see you, sometimes we mean what southerners mean when they say bless your heart. We don’t like gushing displays of national pride. We like quiet patriotism. Our brand of patriotism is that we tolerate cultural differences—the mosaic—and get fiesty when haters rise up. We have a hard time facing the fact that Canada was founded upon genocide, it weighs deep on the collective psyche of the people so much so that we hate to speak of it with honest harsh vulnerability. We don’t want to dominate, we aren’t a warring nation. We have been known for moderation, peace keeping, compassion.
Several things can be true at once and truth isn’t static. One truth is that I wish the Safeway would stock jalapeño and/or feta stuffed olives again. Another is that this Coronavirus epidemic seems a bit dystopian and scary. My cats are weirded out on catnip because I brought home some strong catnip for them today and they haven’t had any for a while. I think they might be broken for a few hours, haha.
How much of writing involves thinking about writing, thinking about how you think you should be writing, and then procrastinating—before finally actually getting the writing done? Why is writing hard for writers? It really does feel like bleeding. Maybe because when we write we perform surgery on our selves. Maybe because giving birth to anything involves a painful struggle.