grief keeps odd hours
For the past few days, I’ve been angry. I’ve overreacted about stupid things that I normally would slough off and ignore. I’ve also caught some kind of illness that surely came from added stress this past week. Still, I’ve taken pains to take care of myself. When I started my new project on Wednesday, for example, I took pains to tell my boss that I needed things from him. I explained that taking care of myself is hard. So hard. So I am working to schedule breaks and lunches on my calendar. And I need those things to be observed as sacred. And for one hour a week, I’m going to be out of pocket. To take care of me. I’ll work later or earlier, but that time is mine. He will get more out of me if these things are met.
To my awe, he said okay. Like it was nothing. And I realized that my fears about doing those things were just things I made up about life and myself. No one was forcing me to do anything. And I realized, when it came to honoring myself, I’ve been living like a victim. Which is odd–because I don’t believe in victims. At least, I thought I didn’t.
I’m getting better at boundaries and at identifying my own bullshit.
The anger piece, I think, comes from Mother’s Day. It happens weeks before. The little pokes. The seemingly innocent marketing emails and random things–the things people take for granted. People just assume you have someone to celebrate. And when they realize you don’t, they tiptoe around you–like their celebrating their mother is some thing they’re stabbing you with. Only they don’t quite get it.
It’s not that I don’t have a mother I want to celebrate. It’s that my mother died, and when I remember her, I remember the end of her–and the end of parts of me. It triggers grief, just like any other anniversary. I can’t separate that part of her story from all the wonderful things she happened to be. It doesn’t bother me when you love your mother and celebrate your mother. In fact, I lecture my friends and bug my friends to do just that. What does bother me is that we think we need a holiday for such things and that most people don’t tell their mothers these things every day, while they’re here. What bothers me is that, because my stuff is sad and unhappy–my stuff is an aside. My mother is rendered less relevant or important to the collective consciousness of mothering. Simply because she’s not here.
Truth is–I don’t want to go to Motherless Daughters events. Because I’m not Motherless. And motherless daughters, quite frankly, are often self-centered and unable to support one another. And too often, the focus is on death. And while that is so part of my mother’s life and story, I am not going to dwell on that my entire life. All I really want is to know my mother and to help other people know about her–the good, the bad, and the really fucking heartbreaking.
I want people to love this complicated woman as much as I do. I don’t want pity. I don’t want avoidance. I just want my mother to have a place in this conversation. I want people to understand that grief is appropriate and often the best way to honor someone.
For some odd reason, this year, people have been writing a lot about how Mother’s Day is for them–as motherless daughters. Oddly, these things have had the same effect on me as the marketing industry and its urges to tell her you love her and buy her a cake. Maybe part of me is still raw from her absence. Maybe I’m jealous. Maybe part of it’s because, so often, they’re attacked for saying how this day and the associated hoopla hurts them and changes their outlook. We have such a problem with grief in our culture. We feel we must attack it–that we should get over it and stuff it down. Sorry–no. I’m not a liar. I’ll tell you when I’m bleeding, and if you caused it, I’ll tell you to take back your damn knife. I have enough wounds, and I’ve bled out too long.
I’m learning, as I deal with the grief I’ve had inside me for far too long, that my mother was many things that scare me…labels and realities that I never wanted to acknowledge. And that these things hurt me. And changed me. And I’m not willing to deny this anymore to make myself more comfortable or to preserve her memory or pretend I’m okay so I function better for a world who can’t acknowledge vulnerability and its propensity to shame.
I’m doing something about it. Like making peace with who my parents were. Like making peace with who I am. Like cleaning up the crap and starting the hell over. While still adoring that woman who messed me up, in so many ways.
I’m probably babbling now. So, I guess I’ll share the thing that triggered this today. She gets it. So much. I actually could have written it. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/05/the-unmothered.html
I knew how lucky I was to have her, and I never said I loved her in any casual way. So I guess it feels a bit unfair that all these people who have their mothers and take them for granted still get to have them–and I don’t. But I’m healing that, too.