Death & Birthday Musings

I have been feeling very funky lately. Not the good funky (disco music, dancing around the house), but the not-so-good funky (depths of doldrums).

A dear friend passed away last week, after weeks of struggle. It’s a surprise that is not a surprise, you know? How can it be a surprise and not a surprise at the same time?

New grief brings up all the old griefs, and so I am remembering losses from the past, layered over with this loss. My father’s mother died in October 2008, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. (My brother didn’t speak to me at that funeral, because we were in the epic fight of the ages.) My aunt Edna, after being sick for a long time and not seeing a doctor, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in November 2009. My uncle Mel started having alcoholism-related seizures in 2009, but didn’t die until October 2013.  The kid who sat behind me in study hall, quarterback of the freshman football team, who was nice to me: March 1986, of cancer.

The difference between funerals of my Aunt Edna and my Uncle Mel – those four years – is the story of how sobriety works. I was aware that I had an alcohol problem, perhaps in 2001, but didn’t do anything until October 2009. That shame-filled saga is for another post. But I was sober 28 days when she died, and I went to the funeral and drank until I blacked out. I woke up with a bruise on my breast the size of the palm of my hand, thinking, “At least I didn’t have sex with anyone, because I’m with family.” Then there was a breakfast casserole – which I wasn’t able to eat, needless to say…

For my uncle’s funeral, I brought my coins with me – one each per year of sobriety – I had three. I looked up the schedule of meetings in Elko, NV.  I mostly missed the 11:30 am-full-freaking-bar wake, because I went to a meeting.  I was able to cry and stay present. I was uncomfortable, but I was able to stay sober and not make a complete ass out of myself. I guess in those moments, everyone is grieving, and you never know what people are going to do: but nobody wants to be that asshole who gets so drunk they don’t remember what happened the next day, even with family. Even with a funeral of someone who died from long years of alcoholism. Let’s all have a drink in his honor.

Having survived both, I would definitely advocate the sober funeral. Feeling your feelings is definitely better than avoiding them. Rather, avoiding the feelings doesn’t work anyway. Feelings are less scary in the present.

It is my daughter’s first birthday today. I know I should be happy, but I can’t quite get there. This has been a year of postpartum mood disorder, slogging transitions and piercing joy.

Being uncertain, and remaining in the uncertainty is one of life’s most difficult challenges.  It feels like there’s no movement, no traction, and then bam! Something moves. We may or may not buy this house where we live. The crack in the foundation of the house will likely be fixed very soon, before the end of the year. I may or may not accept G’s television being on nonstop. (I don’t take it personally, these days. I still can’t stand Judge Judy.) LG may or may not poop on the potty.

The realization that “okay” is in the transient moment, rather than the past, or the future, is a process of remembering. Breathing in and breathing out – that’s where I find the “okay of now.” The only relief I’ve felt from all this sadness is when I pray for others, that their suffering be relieved. I have felt unmoored in this process, but not drowned. I’m still hanging on.

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