Sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days now. I was doing fine. Getting the house ready for Christmas and thinking I was dealing with my grief pretty well. And then wham! I got caught in a massive riptide of grief that dragged me off my feet, and I’ve been trying to find my footing again ever since. I had heard that the first Christmas after a significant loss is hard. Hard is the most useless word to describe it. For me, it has been utterly debilitating to the point that I can’t do anything much except cry. The pain I’ve felt the past two days has been spiritually excruciating. I miss my mom more now than at any other time during this grief “process.” Yesterday I thought I’d try to make myself feel better by putting the lights on my little tree. After finishing, I was looking at it thinking how cold and harsh the lights looked this year. There was no soft twinkling glow at all. There was no anticipation of the upcoming holiday that I had been looking for. I felt even more miserable and also thought about taking the lights down again and putting the tree away. I’ve contemplated not having Christmas at all this year because the pain is just so intense. I’m not seeing the world as it is right now and I know it. I’ve heard of rose-colored glasses; I wonder what color grief colored glasses are. I’m thinking a swampy greenish-brown color. I feel like I’m just treading water until the day that I’m dreading arrives and departs as it does every year, just surviving instead of living. I don’t know how to change my mentality but I know I want to. I hate feeling this way. My mom wouldn’t want me to feel this way. But if I try to swim against the grief, I know it will just drag me out of my life even further, and I’ll drown. So I’ll just keep treading and try to move forward towards Christmas and hope I find a way to get through it without her.
Why do some pieces of music
Make me weep?
Certain strains of violins
Or harmonies of voices
Move my soul so intensely
On my skin
And making tears fall
From my eyes.
I become so enraptured
By the beauty of sound
I release all control
Of my being
And immerse myself
Becoming one with
Its simple complexities.
Yesterday, my niece and nephew came for a visit. I had them help with a few things while they were here including taking my mom’s bed apart. Seeing the pieces of the bed my mom has slept in for over 40 years was very emotional but having to walk by it every day had gotten to be much too painful and I knew it was time to remove it. Hours after they had left when I was getting ready to go upstairs for the night, I went into my mom’s room and looked at the dark empty space where her bed had been and asked if she was okay with my removing her bed. I wasn’t expecting an answer, how could she answer me? Taking one last look, I went into the front hall and turned on the lights, one in the downstairs and one in the upstairs. Climbing the stairs, the light behind me blinked on and off one time. “Once for yes, twice for no.” flashed through my mind and I stopped mid-step dumbfounded. Could it have been her? I don’t know. There was no accompanying cold or air or feeling like she was there, but I’d like to think it was a sign from her — a sign that she’s okay with me moving on and changing the house to suit my new needs. It’s also comforting to know that her spirit is still around watching over me.
The closer Christmas approaches
The more I feel you near.
Memories won’t stop unfolding
And it’s leaving me in tears.
You’re ghosting all the corners
Of every single room
Tis the season of light and merriment
And I’m deep in grief and gloom
I’m hearing snatches of your voice
As if your still here with me
I see the brightness of your love
in the lights on the Christmas tree
I don’t know how to do this
The holidays without you
How do I heal this ache in my soul
And figure out what to do.
This poem doesn’t want to be finished. I’ve been trying for several days now, and this is where it wants to end. Maybe once I get through this challenging time I’ll be able to look back and come up with an ending, I don’t know.
If you aren’t free of yourself how will you ever become yourself?
— From the Tao Te Ching
Well, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is over for another year. In the beginning, the thought of writing 50,000 words in one month was daunting, as it always is. But I stuck with it and started over several times, keeping the older drafts to keep my numbers up, and I ended up with over 51,000 words by last night. The first time I started over because I could feel my story going off into a ditch I knew I couldn’t get out of. So, I reassessed and changed that position that the story was told and began again. I was barreling along at a pretty good clip and excited about the new direction. I had gotten rid of some story plotlines that didn’t really work once I put them into motion. I brought other characters that had been minor, forward slightly because they wanted to be heard more. Then on Tuesday, I was driving home from an appointment when an idea occurred to me. An idea that meant starting over for the third time. An idea that will probably turn my book idea into a longer short story but it was so exciting it wouldn’t leave my mind. So, even though NaNoWriMo is over for another year, I’m definitely sticking with this story because I think if I work with it more it’s going to turn into something quite magical and different than anything I’ve ever written before, and that for me is the most exciting thing of all.
Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday. She was born in Stockholm, Sweden and every year for her birthday she had to have a Princess Torte (cake). A Princess cake is a Swedish dessert with white cake surrounded by layers of whipped cream, raspberry jam, and a thick cream filling, surrounded by a cover of green marzipan (almond paste), dusted with powdered sugar with a frosted pink rose on top. When we lived in Massachusetts, my sister would drive to Worcester to The Crown Bakery and get one for her every November. Once we moved to Maine, that became too much of a drive, so poor mom was deprived of her cake for a couple of years. Then last year, I found a European Bakery near where we live and to my surprise and delight, they sold princess cakes. I arranged to get one for her, and she was absolutely stunned when she saw it. She ate the entire 8-inch cake herself over the next week and said she wanted more. Last spring when she was in the hospital I got one for Mother’s Day to make it more special. It was one of the last solid foods she ate before she passed. I’m missing her incredibly today but having the memory of last year’s successful surprise is helping me immensely. So, happy birthday mom, wherever you are, I miss you incredibly, and I love you like crazy.
So, I’ve written 40,000 words so far on my project. I’ve actually started over once but kept what I had written before in case I wanted to save something from it in the future. Through the process of writing this, my story has taught me several things. The first being it doesn’t want the flood that I thought was going to be such a huge storyline. So, the bridge never breaks. The main character is going to be far more mentally unstable then I initially thought she’d be, this surprised me a great deal. And finally the story is going to be told through the perspective of different characters. I’m loving this process of writing this book because of the way the plot is finding directions to go in that I never expected. Does that sound weird? Do any of you sit down to write something with a course in mind only to have the project decide it wants to be something different?
Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers, I am so grateful for all your support and words of encouragement over this difficult year.