“When our grief is undeniable, we move like a blind person through a maze….” ~ Stephen Levine

Thanks everyone for sending email to see how I am…I know I haven’t checked in so I’ll do it now. I just feel at this point as if I’m repeating myself…as if I am confronted every day by the same old thing.

While in Phoenix I downloaded Stephen and Ondrea Levine’s Grief audio. I actually went to this seminar (maybe not this exact one but the same format) in Boston sometime in the early 90s. So it was very familiar to me. He talks about opening your heart in hell. That to be open to grief that is what you must do.

I know this material has comforted me before and made a huge difference (as those of you who know my work know how much he has influenced me…and this blog takes its name from one of his quotes)…and I make it through the initial meditation and then I can’t seem to go any further…and I know that he is comforting and healing…but I’m going slowly and tentatively it seems.

But the phrase “open your heart in hell” stayed with me and reminded me about his teaching and I’ve tried to stay open to my process even though it seems like it’s the circular staircase that C.S. Lewis talks about: am I going up or going down?

I had a good flight home and good day the next day…but then I start to feel the waves crashing over me. I start to think I’m back to square one even though intellectually I know that I am not. I fall in and out of searching mode still and sometimes it’s such a surprise to me that it smacks me right in the head.

I looked at a photo of Michael this week, just a random passing, not something I planned…and I literally reached out as if I could touch him…and I wanted to jump into the picture. It was a photo where he didn’t know I was taking it and I caught the back of him in just the right way, where it was so real and so him. And I looked at the photo for maybe two seconds and I was overcome with distance…with how long it’s been since I’ve touched him…and I just wanted to jump into the photo and back to that day.

Then yesterday I was moving some stuff around in the basement and I came upon his pants that he was wearing the day of the night that he had his seizure. I haven’t washed them, and they were old and faded and had holes but when I came upon them the next week or so after his seizure I just put them away in a hamper and they somehow wound up in the basement. When I spied them the other day I picked them up and just sobbed into them, all spontaneous…nothing that I planned. I picked them up to move them and then I was sobbing.

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I was watching my bird feeders the other day and I noticed a lot of marauding English sparrows picking on the chickadees and finches, so I looked up ways to discourage the sparrows. A few articles said to use microfilament fishing line and drape the feeders with them as they bother the sparrows but not the other birds. So I thought, I have a ton of that stuff thanks to Michael and his compulsive fishing supply buying.

Some articles said use 6 lb and some 10 and some 20. I found box that had all brand new lines in every weight and color under the sun. At first it made me smile that he was so predictable…that I knew just where to go to get it.

Then, I put it on the feeders but the sparrows fed at the feeders despite the microfilament. I tried a few different ways on a few different feeders. On one feeder I tried letting it flap in the breeze and on another I tried anchoring it down as I saw in a few pictures. Nothing seemed to work. I kept waiting and watching and then the sparrows would come and congregate and I would go back out to try to re-install the fishing line. In and out…in and out…try this….try that…

I was standing in the rain putting the feeders on and off the hooks and at one point I wasn’t sure if I was taking them down or putting them up and I just started crying. Michael would know how to do this. I would just explain what I wanted and he would do it. He was the mechanical one in this organization.

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Finally I said screw it and got myself together and read another article that said if you put wire through the seed ports it upsets the way the sparrows feed but not the other birds. So I go down the basement and he has wire (did not take long to find) and wire cutters and the biggest oldest scissors I have ever seen. It almost made me laugh when I came upon those scissors. Michael had everything. The world’s biggest pack rat and I actually got him to throw things away over the years. But so many things he had that I didn’t know about because they were in the tool chest or other places I didn’t go….and when I find the oddest things I laugh sometimes.

So I found the wire and cutters and scissors and brought them all upstairs and once again brought the feeders in. There was no diagram on the article, just an explanation and none of it made sense. Gina and I stared at the feeders and re-read the article about 20 times. Again, I felt frustrated and I stopped what I was doing.

Later on Gina went out with her friends. I don’t know if having an empty house is my cue to freak right out. I felt normal when she left and then I started putting around (putting around is always a bad idea). I took all of the stuff back to the basement: the fishing line, the wire, the wire cutters, the giant scissors, and I just put it all away. What I’m saving any of it for I simply don’t know. It might have made more sense to just throw it all out, but I put it away. I stood there wondering why I was putting it away and putting it away at the same time.

Before I backed away from the tool cabinet, I just stood there and stared wondering what to do next.

I turned around and was confronted once again with all of Michael’s things that I can’t touch, I can’t throw out, and I can’t deal with but I can’t ignore as it’s everywhere.

I stood frozen.

And then I heard this gut wrenching scream come out of me (as if it was coming from someone else). I knew it was coming from me because my throat was scalding as I don’t normally scream like that. Then I just yelled into the emptiness, “Where ARE you???” and repeated that about 10 times followed by heavy and heaving “I miss you SO much…” And crying in a way I haven’t since the week he died. And still not believing, not able to believe, not wanting to believe…that he’s gone.

Stephen Levine says that grief is absolute absence but that on the other side of working your way through grief is to feel connected to your loved one once again.

I do the grief for that reason, for that promise that I know is true…that this absolute distance and horrible separation will subside and I will integrate my experience of being loved absolutely into the core of my being and be okay for what it was and what it will always be.

But for today my heart is still in hell and the distance and absence is absolute.

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