Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's Your Numb?

For some it's alcohol. For some it's work. For me, Netflix.

What do you go to when you want to shut out the world, when your mind races and your thoughts jumble until you're incapacitated?

I'm not one of those people who deal with difficult situations by running, or gardening, or one of a number of healthy and productive ways to numb my mind. When I need to calm my brain, I watch TV. I gobble up the HGTV offerings on Netflix, one show after the other, as I daydream about marble backsplashes and an updated fireplace.

I'm glad my numb doesn't include alcohol or running away. I'm here. I'm sober. But I have a new understanding for anyone who chooses unhealthy, or even destructive, means of numbing.

So, what's your numb? Or are you one of the lucky people who don't need a numb? Do those people exist?

Thursday, September 14, 2017


A very difficult year is finally over, what should have been Mark's senior year. His friends have all left for colleges around the country. I won't have my breath taken away when I see them in person and realize how much they've grown. I won't have to listen to their happy parents discussing college acceptance letters. And I can go to the high school and not be slapped in the face by what they're doing that Mark isn't. It was a year to be endured, culminating in me sending very late graduation cards with heartfelt wishes for his friends to go out and be the best they can be. It hurts to think about all the things Mark isn't doing, but I sincerely want his friends to live wonderful lives, especially knowing how his death might have shaped their high school days.

Saturday is Mark's 19th birthday. How can that be? The anticipation of the day is the hardest part. I feel unsettled, erratic, like I want to yell at strangers for no good reason, smoke cigarettes, blast AC/DC and Aerosmith until the neighbors complain. If past years are any indication, I should be back to myself by Sunday--quiet, non-smoking and polite.

This doesn't get easier, you just figure out how to live with your heart split wide open. How to protect it. How to avoid those who can't see it. How to surround yourself with those who can. How to fall into the grief hole, climb out, brush yourself off, and breathe again.

Monday, May 22, 2017

I'm in Vienna. Why, you ask, are you in Vienna? I'm meeting my oldest and her university choir here later today, and then on Friday she and I will go on to Germany to stay with the family of the German exchange student who lived with us five years ago. We have a tradition of taking the kids on a trip somewhere in the US one-on-one with either mom or dad when they turn 7 and 15, and now, apparently, we're setting the precedent that at age 21 you get an international trip. That's fine by me!

Until the choir arrives, I'm touring Vienna alone. It isn't the first time I've been alone in a European city. In college I visited a friend doing a semester in Rome. She had class during the day, so I saw Rome by myself. And when I went to school in Japan, I spent plenty of time wandering around both Kyoto and Osaka alone. But I was younger then, and invincible. Now I'm old and a little bit scared. I've had to reawaken my self-reliance and tap into my forgotten invincibility. When I arrived safely at my hotel yesterday, I patted myself on the back for successfully getting myself on three different flights, and then finding my way to the hotel by train and subway, pulling a too-big blue suitcase behind me.

Back home Mark's classmates are preparing for graduation in a couple of weeks. I don't know where I'll be the evening of graduation, but I do know I won't be anywhere near the high school. My heart can't take seeing happy families celebrating what we can't. Envy is an ugly emotion and the one that has surprised me the most since Mark died. I should probably talk myself out of it, but like other emotions I've experienced the last 2 1/2 years, I just let it be. These days I'm most comfortable around people who live with their emotions openly and honestly, and who give me the grace to do the same.

For the next week, though, I get to enjoy Austria and Germany. I'm not sure I could ask for a better distraction from what can't be. Prost!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rotting Vegetables

Another cucumber went bad in my fridge.

It's a symptom of my brain not working.
It's evidence of my inability to plan meals and execute that plan.
I forget. I forget that I have fresh vegetables. I buy fresh vegetables like I used to, before when my brain worked, when my brain had room, room for things like a mental inventory of the fresh fruits and vegetables in my fridge.

I'm at the store nearly every day buying that day's dinner ingredients because I can't plan ahead. But some days I get overconfident. I buy like I used to, but I have no plan, and so I forget.

There's asparagus in there, too. I was going to make it the same day I bought it, but when I got home, I forgot. We had leftovers and hot dogs for dinner that night. Now the asparagus is limp.

Grief lives in my refrigerator as rotting vegetables.