Love Is A Hungry Beast

MonarchofLove It has been interesting, in an abstract way, but sometimes an all too personal, bittersweet way, observing reactions to my grief over the last couple of months. I can understand, from a distance, how the death of my sister is probably fairly insignificant for most people. They will understand in some abstract way, that it ‘must be a bit sad’ for me. But the brutal, stark reality, simply won’t be there for them. Their life goes on, and if/when they see me on a day-to-day basis, it will be the vaguely smiling, reasonably organised, ‘kind of getting on with life’, me. So they would have no reason to remember or understand how broken I am inside. Therefore, I can understand the various insensitivities and stupidities I face on a daily basis; comments like “gosh, I don’t know how you can still be here” etc. And I think to myself, “because I have to be”, and remind myself that I have probably said similar stupid things in the past. We don’t know, what we don’t know.

And what has been especially interesting, is that sometimes the people I least expected to say the most comforting things, so often have. My post-grad studies are based in the Humanities. You would think that I would benefit from the most compassion and empathy in that department, when faced with this kind of grief. And it’s true, some people have been amazing there. Well, at least one – my primary supervisor, whose main research interest is grief, bereavement, death and dying, and he has been through the fire with all this himself. So he gets it.

But I also used to work in epidemiology, based in Medicine. Professors of Medicine are not renowned for their compassion and empathy, and the Humanities are fond of pointing this out, on a frequent basis. However, my old boss of three years, a Prof of Medicine, came and found my office the other day, and went well out if his way, just to see how I was doing. He also sent me an email later, that has been extremely comforting. I have replaced all names with – : “Hi -,

Love is such a hungry beast and it is what nourishes us, whether it be our love of others, their love of us, or our love for ourselves.  – will have known you loved her, and you her love, regardless of the present and message, even though more poignant now*.  The same for -.  I hope – can be inspired by you, not that you need that sort of pressure.  It may be what she sees.  If so, that would be a good thing**.

I think tears are a strength, not a weakness, as one who does not cry has missed life completely.

– will always be with you.  Maybe you can find her strength or laughter, rather than her pain.   Maybe it is in -**.

As is often the case, it seems that a lot of different things added up to increase -‘s risk and even with them all she was still very, very, unlucky.

I’ll stop now, as I am probably upsetting you further.

Regards,

PS. I know – – and he is a wonderful fellow. He would be genuinely most upset about events***.

* Referring to the present I had sent my sister for her 42nd birthday, which was 2 days before she died, but never arrived in time. It still pains me that the beautiful sapphire star earrings and card, with a special message, never arrived in time, before she died.

** Referring to my sister’s daughter, my niece.

*** Referring to another Prof of Med who worked with my sister, and sent me a couple of very comforting messages after her death. He expressed his (surprising, to me) belief that she was ‘still with us’ and said she came to him in a dream, with important messages. It has been interesting how these guys based in medicine, have been the ones to be open in expressing their belief in the soul and an afterlife of sorts, while my friends in Humanities are often the opposite….and do not believe in the soul and an afterlife, but rather, believe that these are functionalist creations by our desperate, grieving minds. Not something I feel like dwelling on right now, nor something I take comfort in at the moment.

Cry Me a River

McLean River in Flood I had another day of crying rivers yesterday. But I have noticed that if I don’t cry my grief out, I get angry and exhausted. So I surrender, in the words of Rumi:

Be Ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.
You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different.
Surrender.
Rumi from A Necessary Autumn Inside Each

Walking the Same Path, Anew

michael_page_02 I walked a path this morning, that I haven’t walked for five years. Some of the plants had grown, and new flowers were planted. There were also a few new detours added off the main forest track. I thought about how this is a bit like grief; it creates detours in one’s life.

Grief changes you irrevocably, for sure. I have always sought out change, and strived (but not always succeeded) to develop a greater awareness, consciousness and sense of compassion. But I think grief perhaps accelerates that for people who are already working towards that. And maybe for those who are already closed, seeking to hide from change, to deny compassion, then grief makes them more fearful of change, less compassionate when the world seems to confirm their suspicions about what they perceive to be an unmerciful world. It’s easy to understand how it can be viewed as such, in the wake of unexpected death and grief.

But I felt like my feet walked with more sureness, and I noticed more; the colours, the smells, the birds and the sounds. Grief makes my heart heavy, and weary, and yet I accept this, where once I would have judged it, and been in a hurry to ‘get over it’. The irony is, my acceptance of these feelings makes them easier to bear.

So I walk the same path, in this same body, but with a new experience of the walk. Perception changes experience, and grief most definitely changes perception.

More Words For Grief

12-surrealismo___

There is a pain so utter it swallows substance up,

then, covers the abyss with a trance

so memory can step around, above

upon it, as one in a swoon travels freely,

where an open eye would drop him,

bone by bone.

                                    – Emily Dickinson

 

Breathing in, I know that anger is here.

Breathing out, I know that the anger is in me.

Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant.

Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.

Breathing in, I am calm.

Breathing out. I am strong enough to take care of this anger.

                                                      Thich Nhat Hanh

A billion stars go spinning through the night,

Blazing high above your head.

But in you is the presence that

Will be, when all the stars are dead.

                                            –   Ranier Maria Rilke

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.    

                                       – Anthem, Leonard Cohen.

A Fatherless Daughter

il_fullxfull.484680126_nd6z **I was the stroppy one. Probably a legacy, perhaps, of being the youngest. I fought injustice where ever I thought I saw it, and I saw it everywhere. My sister was fierce in her own right too, and defended me against the school bullies. She was eight years older than me. My older brother fought a lot at school too.

But when it came to family dynamics – where we so often faced our toughest and most relentless, powerful bullies – I was the stroppy one. The trouble maker. I think my brother and sister took their anger and frustrations elsewhere. I did too, but also expressed them in the homes (which were always changing).

My mother, and the man I grew up believing to be my ‘dad’, separated when I was five. My mother had a string of boyfriends and husbands after that, and we moved around a lot.

From age 13 I moved in with various other families and went to different schools.

It was around then that I started questioning my paternity. I had heard rumours about my mother having an affair and running off with an American man just before she became pregnant with me.

When I questioned her about this man, she said that he couldn’t possibly be my biological father ‘because he smoked a lot of dope’.

I was naive enough to believe this for a while. But then I started questioning it again after talking to medical professionals.

To cut what is quite a long and twisted story short, in all likelihood, the American man is my biological dad, but it’s not  100% certainty because DNA tests have never been done. My mother went back to ‘dad’ around 9 months before I was born, thus creating a giant question mark. I wouldn’t be surprised if she already knew she was pregnant then, and she had certainly told the American man that she was, before she left him.

So in that sense, the rejection of me by my ‘other dad’ shouldn’t matter. And yet it always has, to varying degrees.  I think that imprinting in regards to attachment and self-worth that we learn as children, from those we know as our parents, even if they aren’t, biologically speaking, must be quite powerful. ‘Dad’ still signed my birth certificate, even though he wondered about my paternity himself. He wanted my mother back. I guess when it all went sour again with her, he also soured on me. I can see the logic in that with the eyes of a grown up, but still couldn’t imagine being so callous with a child, any child.

He sees me as a ‘waste of space’ and ‘troublemaker’, among other things. I was rejected for some time by both my mother and him (though I had long been rejected by him, which is why I went a-searching) when I wanted to find my bio dad. Which I see now, as an adult, is a very normal thing for a child to want to seek out, particularly given the chaos and rejection I experienced in my home life. I was seeking the love I so often didn’t get there, elsewhere.

I was always the one to point out the gigantic elephant in the room, to disclose the sexual abuse that went on, and plead with everyone to try and get some sort of healing, so that we didn’t pass on this inter-generational chaos, to the next generation.

But I was just seen as a trouble maker for doing so.

The person I grew up calling ‘dad’ phoned me late the other night, to yell at me. I have labeled it a ‘Bizarre Angry Rant’ (BAR), because it was. It was not based on any sort of factual, rational evidence. And it was truly bizarre in that he kept confusing me with my mother. I swear he sees us as one in the same.

It doesn’t matter to him that I have gone on to achieve quite a lot in my life so far:  A+ grades at post-grad level, scholarships, awards, work in the community, good friendships and a happy relationship, among other things. I am still a trouble-making, waste-of-space failure in his eyes.

And initially, his BAR made me cry, and I felt the acute sense of rejection, failure, and being unlovable all over again. I had been crying most of the day about my sister’s death, as it was, so was already feeling vulnerable. And I had decided to give him another chance after her death; I felt sorry for him and thought his heart might expand a bit.

I was wrong. I knew objectively, from all my bereavement research, that grief often does this in families; amplifies old hurts and rifts, but I had been in denial, having one last desperate hope.

So I came through the fire, again, that night. The long dark night of the soul. I didn’t sleep, just wept and contemplated, about how desperate my sister and I always were for his approval. I think we thought that if we could achieve his impossible standards for approval, then he would love us. So many wasted years, seeking the impossible. He loves our brother. He’s a boy, and the only one ‘dad’ wanted after the marriage separation.

Right up until she died, my sister sought his approval, but never felt his love. She had told me she had simply lowered her expectations, and was always just grateful that he occasionally visited her and talked to her on the phone. He had a lot more time for her than me, which as she said, wasn’t saying much.

So I’m not going to waste any more time seeking his love and approval. I disengaged from him a couple of years back, which didn’t concern him in the least. In fact, I think he was relieved.

So just as quickly as the old wounds are ripped open, so too can they be stitched back up and given time to heal again.

Nobody needs Bizarre Angry Rants in their life. And these days, objectively, I know I’m worth something to this world.

** The first quote at the beginning is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the second one is said to be by Napoleon.

Rain

rain_in_night_2013_by_txvirus-d5q15ou

It Falls,

Relentlessly.

Rain.

You think the clouds,

Owe you something,

Some kind of Message,

Symbol,

That the Earth will open up,

And Show you,

The Way,

Enlightenment,

That Life “Really Does Go On”.

But all you’re left with,

Is a desperate kind of scrambling,

For meaning,

For Hope.

And the anger,

Like fear,

Courses,

Until you’re sick in the stomach,

And the Why,

And the How.

You know the futility.

But still.

And it still crashes down,

The rain,

The dreary everyday,

Of expectation and Necessity.

We all carry on,

Because that’s what you do.

But the hope,

It hides,

In unexpected corners,

Because it must.

Yielding, But Not Breaking

Image

Her father phoned me this evening,

To yell.

I would have accepted him as my father,

Never searched

Wondered

If he had loved.

But he didn’t.

Not even with her,

His flesh and blood;

He wanted pride,

Not love

Of the unconditional, parental kind.

Somehow,

His words still reduce me.

Tears are not new  – they are everyday now,

Familiar,

Unlike him.

I think of the sky, the trees, a sign, Her

Anything,

To grasp, at Hope

At Love.

I think of my Heart,

Not as the broken pieces of today,

But the renewed Hope of tomorrow.

He has a part of her,

But it was her desire to be loved.

And I, I have her Faith.

Image Her with Me.