Last night I had a dream that I was dying. It was a procedure that took several days. Each day I had to take a different set of pills, and then I had to complete a task, and on the fourth day it would be complete, and I would leave this life.
One day I had to collect lanterns. They were red, with a yellow flame. The next day I had to go to a field of grass and collect crystals. Whether it was part of the procedure or not, I also gathered giant teddy bears. All of the things I collected were gifts to be given to my children. As I realized this, I began to visualize them after I was gone. I thought the teddy bear would be good to hug, because being able to hold something and hug it really helps when you have deep grief.
I am actually sitting here sobbing as I write this. In the dream, as much as it was an inexorable process that I had no power over, I never got past the second day, because it just started to be too much for me, so I woke myself up. I don’t think we ever die in our dreams. We always wake ourselves up before that moment. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that way?
I am reading Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed. This morning I picked it up and opened it to the next chapter, titled Aches. It turned out to be about Glennon’s lifelong anxiety over the fact of loss, that when her cat purred and rubbed against her face, she wanted to melt into it, but thought no, she will die soon. Keep your distance. Quite a synchronous event, although I don’t know what to make of it.
My youngest daughter has that ache, that particular anxiety. Yet she has been really brave in the face of my diagnosis with stage 4 breast cancer.
I have no words of wisdom about all this. Just that it is. And it makes me sad. I have had to feel a lot of feelings this weekend, honestly just small cracks in my heart, things that will blow over and leave barely a shadow in their wake. But you know I don’t like those moments of grief. It’s like, what do I do with this? What, really, can you do with those feelings??? Sitting on the couch crying doesn’t help at all. The only things that feel like they might bring relief are just socially unacceptable. Screaming. Breaking dishes. I know the latter is socially unacceptable, because I actually did it once in the second year after Michaela’s kidnapping. I stepped outside my back door into my private, fenced off side yard where nobody actually stepped, and I threw dishes onto the cement and broke them. My neighbor promptly came over and yelled at me for breaking dishes in my yard. So I screamed at him. Two birds with one stone. Screaming, not directed at anyone, just screaming screams, feels like it would bring so much more relief than this wimpy weeping that I do. But the neighbors would probably think someone was beating me, or that I was unhinged.
This is why I distract and deny. They are without remedy, these feelings of grief. Time helps heal, but also, grief builds upon grief. You can never feel one grief without all the others that came before clamoring, me too, me too.
But I do want to tell you one thing. After Michaela was kidnapped, not only did I distract and deny, I really shut down my feelings. That is not good either. And I tried to avoid situations which would create those feelings, now or ever. But this is what I learned. If you act out of fear, you end up bringing what you fear upon you. If you avoid love in order to avoid loss, you will have lost love.
And then there is that thing, the way repression impacts your health. Perhaps the answer is in silence. Perhaps it is in releasing it all. What I have been doing doesn’t work. I have to find a new way.
Be brave, friends. Life is not for the faint of heart.
Sending you love for the journey,