09 December 2010

Relentless Internal Dialogue

Sometimes I feel like I've been plopped in the middle of a large windowless room with piles of mess all around me: things of different colors, shapes, and sizes; paper, boxes, toys, framed photos, string, blankets, old bills. Piles and piles of them. There is no order, only chaos. Before the door is shut, I'm told by a stern-looking woman with dark-rimmed glasses hanging halfway off her nose: Organize this! And don't come out until you do.

Self-portrait: February 2010

Where do I begin? I look around me and can't even think of how to find anything resembling order or peace in a space as frazzled as me.

Ewan's death precipitated for me what is turning out to be one of the most introspective periods of my life. I have always, as far back as I can remember, been an introspective person: aware of my thoughts and feelings, aware of many of my faults and shortcomings, aware of my own hangups and peeves. But now it's as if my whole skin has been turned inside out. Everything is exposed, everything is incredibly tender to the touch, and I see so many things at once, I wonder where and how in the world to begin. Could all these revelations please line up in single file?

Here is one single thread in the tangle of threads inside my brain:

Sometimes I feel like I can't see past the end of my own nose. Is this selfishness, or a natural by-product of woundedness -- or some complicated mixture of the two? I know I need to focus on healing, and I know that if I don't grieve Ewan now that it's going to come back to bite me one day. There is no avoiding feeling hurt. I feel that's what this time needs to be for.

And then I feel terribly when I really want to be happy for someone who just found out they were pregnant or who just brought their new baby home, but what I feel is hurt. Bitter, sometimes. Envious. Their joy always points to my loss. I hate that when they are celebrating, all I can think about is what I've lost. Why do my thoughts always turn to myself again in those moments?

And then I wonder if I should back off of social media for awhile -- avoid the constant and rabid influx of news and updates, drop off the radar for a bit until I find I've regained some equilibrium, some homeostasis and balance. People who go through major surgeries or who are recovering from serious injuries take time for healing and rehabilitation. They aren't expected to be up and at 'em, running hurdles and bench-pressing ten-year-olds two weeks after a physically traumatic event. Maybe the grieving need to have some equivalent of that in order to move through the world again without falling apart like a soggy tissue.

We did keep to ourselves for a bit: took a several days just spending time with each other before we went "out there" again. But I felt like I needed to do it -- I was going to have to see babies and interact with people I didn't know again eventually. I was going to have to figure out what to say when people ask me if I have any children, and how to handle it when I saw a baby boy dressed in one of the same outfits we had for Ewan. I'm glad I did it, because then I knew for sure when something was a sore spot, and what wasn't. And I learned also that those things hardly ever remain in the same category. One day I might coo and smile at a cute baby, and the next I might get away as quickly as I could, thinking get me out of here, get me out of here, all the while trying not to put on a serious display of hysterics.

And then I wonder if I'm just thinking about this all too much -- if I just need to learn to gauge moment by moment and day by day what feels right and helpful. Perhaps I'm too worried about overcoming those post-traumatic hurdles too soon, and am not concerning myself enough with doing whatever it is I need to do (or not doing whatever it is I need to avoid) so I can rest and heal, and in due time, regain some strength -- and not exacerbate the injury and consequently, put myself in an even worse spot.

Yes, that sounds about right. Test my strength, but don't expect too much too soon. Learn where my weaknesses lie and try not to lash out like a wounded animal when those places are exposed. Rest when I need it. Cry when I need it. Stay away from those things that feel harmful, but recognize that pain is part of any recovery. Do those things that might not make empirical sense or that might sound downright crazy -- like cleaning his room, washing and folding his clothes -- but that feel good and helpful to do.

I also have to remember that pregnancy and birth and the post-partum period are all very physically taxing things. Many powerful hormones are involved, as well as several substantial physical changes. I can't expect to snap back like a rubber band physically or emotionally. Would I expect so much of a friend who had gone through the same thing? Would I tell her she just needed to snap out of it, get over it, get past it, and pick herself up by her bootstraps? No? Then why do I seem to be demanding that much more of myself? Truth is, I'm really not in a great position right now to be trying to extend myself and help out in a lot of places. This is not a time to be a hero. Sure, I have moments here and there where I can help out, but on the whole wouldn't the world and I be better served if I just took it easy for a bit?

But but but ...

And then as if hands are raised in a "stop" position to calm the din, I hear from somewhere outside me: Hush. Breathe deep, breathe deep. Go gently, my soul. Go gently.