I haven’t been actively posting to social media or blogging recently and it feels good to “unplug” and spend time away from my phone after work. When I don’t share my life or feelings in some public way, it seems like I have a if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-and-no-one-hears-it kind of relationship with this digital age we’re living in, but most of the things that I’m feeling are messy and uncomfortable so I prefer to share them in real conversations or in grief-related spaces. And I want to document the good parts of my life right now, but if I only share those shiny parts without context, it feels incomplete and insincere. Still, I want to document some things, so here’s a life update that bounces around into all of the difficult and joyful pieces of my life lately. Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one.
Truthfully, I feel disconnected from a lot of people right now. I attribute some of that to my own social isolation but I’m also just tired of explaining that I’m still grieving. When someone asks how I’m feeling, I never know how to describe it. I have a giant hole in my life where my dad is supposed to be and I can’t even begin to put into words how much I miss him. Or how homesick I feel when I think about the version of myself that I got to be whenever I was around him. Winter darkness and cold temperatures reignited a lot of my pain and trauma so Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas and now this winter just feels like a weird place lodged in time that doesn’t fit into a normal, chronological calendar year.
I don’t feel fully present most of the time. Most of the time, normal conversation topics feel too “small potatoes” to me, and whenever someone talks about their dad or says anything that remotely reminds me that my dad isn’t physically here, my heart aches. Sometimes I get angry, sometimes I shut down, sometimes I cry. Sometimes I push my feelings down and keep it all together, but that never feels good.
At the same time, while grieving, I’m out in the world doing normal, functional things. I was just in DC, for example. I worked in a real office with real people (I’m kind of over teleworking right now) and one night, I enjoyed a bottomless champagne happy hour with coworkers. In that moment, I felt light and free. Then, I got to spend some time with my sister and baby nephew and brother-in-law and cousins and I belly laughed. It was so wonderful. I doubt I would be in a healthy place right now if it wasn’t for my incredible sister’s patience and perspective. And I’m so very grateful for the friendships I have with my cousins. We are abnormally close and I love it.
I have a lot of good things in my life. And I have a lot of good moments, but good days are regularly interrupted by tough emotional work and even though my therapist assures me that I’m managing everything really well, grief makes normal life feel helplessly exhausting. It’s something I never understood before – how intensely grief can take over and become a part of everything you do and think and feel. I’m grateful for the people who get that, but I don’t blame the ones who don’t.
It’s been hard to live so far away from my support system, but making friends in Boone, especially friends who understand grief, has made this freezing mountain town feel more like home. For a while, all of my Boone friends were couples with babies and while I adore them and value their friendships so much, no one was ever available to hang out after 8pm which made me long for my Tallahassee and DC and Harrisonburg people. I’m so grateful for recent weekends where I’ve stayed out until midnight (what???) enjoying things like Cosmic bowling and late night dinners and empowering conversations about resistance and activism right here in sleepy ol’ Boone. Last week, we had friends over just to watch the Olympics until 11. On a week night. I loved it! I also grabbed coffee with a new friend one morning and had such a good conversation about life and faith and being more engaged in change – it was such an energizing way to begin the day. Spending regular face to face time with people feels so good and so necessary (especially after a week of teleworking!) and it’s something that I was missing for a while.
I still need to spend a healthy amount of time “off the mountain” as they say and Bret and I have a lot of travel coming up. We both have work travel and fun trips on our calendars – some together, some separate. When my snack time co-founder was like, “Hey do you want to go to Canada this summer?” I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’m hoping that by always having something to look forward to, I can fight the uneasy feeling I get when I’m stuck at home for too long. I may have over-scheduled myself, though. We’ll see how I’m feeling in a few months.
That trip wasn’t all smiles, though. Enter, grief. While I was in Disney, I thought about my dad constantly. And I love thinking about my dad and feeling close to him, but grief can be such a crash and burn out of control experience. One day, it seemed like every turn of a corner reminded me of another happy memory with my dad. Those memories felt so recent – some of them happened just a year and a half ago – and it made me cry. It caught me off guard every time. Bret comforted me whenever that happened and it was mostly manageable but it reminded me that I can’t just run away from grief.
I think I keep chasing after feel good experiences because I WANT to feel happy. I want to do normal things. I want to make positive contributions to the world. I want to keep living the way my dad would want me to. I’m hopeful that each year will bring more peace and comfort and healing, but grief is a slow, painful process and I’m still in it. Sometimes, I wish I could just set it down for a while. I try to push it down sometimes, but it always boils over.