Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nail polish, water, and ponytails

A couple of weeks ago, a friend remarked "you seem to be doing okay, considering."  And my first thought was "You should see my bedroom/un-mowed yard."  I'm aware that I'm putting on a pretty good show - I don't cry in public anymore, I don't look like a grief-stricken woman, I manage to "seem" okay.  But if you could only see...

  • My bedroom: my bed is unmade, piled high with books and cords and a tangle of sheets.  Clean laundry quietly abides in baskets hoping to find its way to a hanger or drawer.  Dirty laundry piles high on the floor (despite the presence of TWO hampers), mountains that I move around when I need to get to the closet/bathroom.  My bedroom does NOT say "you seem to be doing okay."  My bedroom says "surviving - barely."   
  • My yard: Too-tall grass.  Bushes that need to be trimmed.  Bald patches that should have been re-sod in the spring.  Weeds in the rocks.  My yard does NOT say "you seem to be doing okay."  My yard says "no energy for this."
  • My morning routine: My hair has gotten long again.  And I want to cut it.  But instead of actually making an appointment, I continue to put my hair up in a ponytail, over and over and over, day after day after day.  And I check facebook/twitter compulsively before work - a bizarre habit that seems to point to my desire to connect and my ennui that makes it impossible to do.  My morning routine does NOT say "you seem to be doing okay."  My morning routine says "stalled.  drained.  going through motions."
My public face seems fine and my private life reveals that as a lie, but this isn't particular to me.  I think all people who undergo terrible trauma and crippling grief experience jarring incongruity between the public and private spheres of their lives.  We can't go on wailing in the public square (and many times, don't WANT to) but the continuing nature of tragedy makes it impossible to "go back" to what life was, to continue on with our lives as if nothing has happened and that is hard for people on the "outside" to grasp. 

Sometimes I find the energy to clean my room and put up the laundry and mow the yard and do my hair differently.  This week I realized I was subsisting on sweet drinks so I've begun drinking water all day long.  And after some discussions on some young clergy women boards, I went out and bought nail polish and as I write this, am typing with bright green nails.  Sometimes my private life isn't such a depressing window into the state of my soul.  Sometimes I find the strength to be happy, competent, responsible and engaged.

Sometimes, is the key word.  I know now, after 8 months, that these high moments are in a continuum of lows, that mountains and valleys precede and loom ahead of one another.  So I'm trying to make the best of the right now - getting off the couch and cleaning (my body and my house) in preparation for the next season of listless despair that manifests itself in dirty kitchen counters and too many sodas.

If there is someone in your life (that you know well enough to invade their private spaces) that seems to be lounging in the midst of laundry and dishes and too-high grass, here's some advice: don't lecture.  Just find the detergent, the scrubbing sponge or lawn mower and love them by doing the things they are actually incapable of doing for the moment.  We'll return the favor one day.  We just have to find our way out of the valley we're in.

1 comment:

Arwen Rimmer said...

This post made me think of a line from C.S. Lewis's 'A Grief Observed':

"And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Except at my job — where the machine seems to run on much as usual — I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much. Even shaving. What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth? They say an unhappy man wants distractions — something to take him out of himself. Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he’d rather lie there shivering than get up and find one. It’s easy to see why the lonely become untidy, finally, dirty and disgusting."

But your home isn't disgusting by any definition.