8 Years Today

I did not write last year. I still feel conflicted about that. I was busy with the distractions of life, sure. But mostly I just couldn’t bring the words up. I couldn’t write about how the 7 year mark brought little shift around the grief, anger, despair and rave once again about the pain of it all. I also couldn’t find the words to express the new ways I was experiencing life both in an enjoyment of and anguish. Reflecting upon this time last year, I see where I was deeply entrenched in the Patterns around my various traumas and simply had nothing to say that felt acceptable to write the World.

I am unsure that this year’s post will be any easier around the expression piece. Yet I am writing.

I don’t have the acute agony to write about at this point. It feels normal. It is there. This agony. Is it still considered acute? It is more like void that can never filled. I have come to realize that is simply a part of my baseline of being in this world. Many days I enjoy life, I smile, and even laugh on occasion, and the agony is still there. I’ve learned that having one emotion doesn’t ‘cancel out’ or ‘even the field’ on another. If anything, in the last couple of years I’ve learned that in order to truly be present and feel any of the ‘desirable’ emotions like joy, happiness, contentment or peace; I also have to be open to the pain, grief, anger and despair that is often up. This often seems like entirely too much to truly feel in one moment. At times, I sit in complete silence, unable to wrench a single sound from my throat even as every muscle in my body contracts from waves of anguish and rage, somehow shackling all movement but the tremors of tension my individual muscle groups exude. Grief and despair seem to suspend my actual heartbeat, time doesn’t exist here, what gasping breath I can get is gone in a second and the weight on my chest lasts an eternity. It is utter agony. My physical body literally can only experience the various emotions I contain for so long before it tries to tear itself apart. As someone who has been run over, crushed and dragged by horses many times; I feel I can honestly say the expression of ‘I feel like I got run over by X’ and it is exactly how my body feels after such intensity.

In all honesty this ‘dark’ anniversary from an outside perspective looks pretty quiet. I may not sleep much around this time – but I’ll fall asleep for a few hours rather suddenly from what I’ve come to see as simply sheer exhaustion from witnessing the various thoughts and emotions I experience instead of just reacting to them. I’m often too tired to do things I really enjoy – like hunting a spot to view the Northern Lights outside of the city. Years past I’ve often judge myself harshly for this type of weakness. For ‘allowing’ this date to dictate me so, to miss parts of a class or the start of the Iditarod yet again. Instead, I have come to a wary place of peace around the fact that grief has its own timeline – and doesn’t give a rats ass what the world or the people in my life think it should be.

I personally struggle the most with being around people on this day. I really do not care to force a smile because it would make someone else feel better. Or to put a little ’emotion’ in my voice so it doesn’t come off as less than alive. I also have no desire to inflict my frustration at the lack of understanding and space upon those who probably do not know or may not remember why I am extra dark today. Most of all, I simply do not want to feel more than I already do on this day, to be around people and their own stuff. This year I have many things I could do, and few things I want to do. Choices like being around various friends and events, or space and quiet.

A sleepless night has left me with no profound words to share – only that this day is here. 8 years of eternity since I heard my Mother’s laugh.

~ Joannie

 

6 Years Today

The world moves faster than ever, each year fuller and longer, yet somehow short all at the same time. Like many of the previous years, I don’t have much in the way of new things to say. Maybe just a different way to say the same things. Who really knows anymore.

Similar to last year – I am en route to the East Coast for my WildernessFusion class. While the class does not fall on the true date this year, it is close enough that I feel as though I am again going to be sharing this rather Dark & Twisty place that is my mind during this week.

I have even less ‘updates’ to share than I did last year in terms of what my family is up to on this Anniversary. I, like many others, hope they are well.

For me personally, this time of year is incredibly difficult and rather despair-ridden. I often opt to stay busy or ‘distracted’ as my classes would call it, only touching just under the surface tension of the water that is the bottomless well of grief for just a moment, and even then barely feeling the temperature change. I occasionally remark on something, and then let it fade away just as quickly as it came up. At this point in my life I rather feel like I am inflicting my own Dark & Twisty upon those who are in my life. I have little-to-no faith that anyone could actually desire to be in my presence when in such a place.

At the 5-year mark I noted how much more anger and sadness was in my well of grief. This year I am noticing that under the anger, grief and sadness – is despair. Deep. Soul wrenching. Despair. Despair of the reality of the events. Despair that so many people walk around quoting ‘the tragedy’ in my life with no context. No understanding of what that feels like 24/7. What it means to live in such a reality. The fact that people even ask me questions like – do you still wonder “why did He do it?” or my personal favorite – “Do you feel like you’ve moved on yet?”.

Um.

No.

Fuck.

No.

Am I really supposed to? I cannot change the past, and pretending like it never happened just makes me crazy. So yes, I use the word despair versus sadness or grief on purpose.

I rarely go longer than a moment or two without thinking of my Mother in some context. I don’t know that I can, nor do I have the desire to remove her from my thoughts. She is in everything I hold dear. Nature. Dogs. Mountains. Adventure. People important to me. The list goes on. Often people ask me, “where did you learn such [insert praise words that I do not like – i.e courage, loyalty, strength, love, etc]?” and the answer is often in some form ‘My Mother’. She is entirely human – made up of faults and good intentions gone wrong – yet somehow, instead of running away from them or pretending that she wasn’t just as prone to such base, shallow whims as anyone else, she owned them. And that made her larger than life. The integrity of her commitment to living fully and deeply – even in the not-so-pretty places.

Often we would have these intense, complex talks, spanning hours or even days. Life, death, spirituality, love, greed, the human experience and just about anything you could think of. Often she would ask my perspective, my opinions – not just to have something to respond to, but because in her own words, I ‘had more depth than anyone’ she knew – and ‘there were things she needed to learn from me’. So many times she would say to me in full sincerity, “I don’t know why I was given this gift in life, why I was chosen, but I am truly privileged to be your Mother”.

I didn’t always understand, and still don’t fully grasp what she meant by that statement. I wish I could remember if I ever shared a similar sentiment with her. I deeply regret that I don’t know for sure that I did.  Because I am, even with everything that has happened, beyond lucky to have had such a great Mother, teacher and friend. Most of my time is spent in pursuit of the person my Mother insisted I am… One poorly placed step after another.

Much like Cheryl Strayed in the popular memoir – turned movie ‘Wild’, I am on a lifelong journey of living closely to my Mother in the physical reality of which she is no longer apart of, yet still very much alive in spirit.

My Life SHATTERED on this day 6 years ago. For reasons I shall not go into, I was already a struggling survivor of things less than ideal in life when Mom was killed. In an already Dark & Twisty world – Mom was my Sun. She was my champion. She was a humble reminder of what simple joy in the human experience can be. The power of unconditional love and the strength of choice. I wish I could express the depth of her meaning to myself and everyone she touched.

Renée in Alaska

Renée in Alaska

I see the understanding in others who have lost their mothers suddenly. They touch on places I personally struggle to get the words for. These little collections of sentences make me feel the depths of that well of grief where recounting the entire story of loss doesn’t even brush the surface.   Many of you may have read the book by Yann Martel or watched the movie they made recently of ‘Life of Pi’. From his book, he is narrating his story of losing his whole family, and says this:

“To lose a brother is to lose someone with whom you can share the experience of growing old, who is supposed to bring you a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, creatures who people the tree of your life and give it new branches. To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches. To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you. It is like losing–I’m sorry, I would rather not go on.”

I agree Mr. Martel.

Author Kristin Hannah also neatly sums up what it is like to go on living without your Mother figure:

“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ”

And a more recent author (for me anyway) Cheryl Strayed – Wild:

“I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I’d wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could full. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.

One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret.”

All these quotes and more share a little tidbit of my reality. Both the wonder at having such a Mother, and the absolute agony of losing her before her time, in such a sudden and terrifying way. I both want to share these things with you, and never write them down let-alone speak them aloud.

And finally, for my family:

“The amount that she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Ching’s universe and then ten thousand more. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned. Every day she blew through her entire reserve.” ~ Cheryl Strayed.

And this is mine:

“What a gift we were given.

To know you.

To be known by you.

To love you.

To be so loved by you.

 

What a curse we bear.

To know your loss.

To feel your magic fade.

To live in agony.

To carry your light on.

 

What a contradiction we live in.

This gift.

This curse.

That love your love connects.”

~ J