Categories, Boxes & Space

Today is Friday, June 16, 2017. This is day two of working on this writing below. I’m still coming down from my 30-day grief writing course crazy-high, of putting out so much emotion and taking in even more from other people in my writers’ group. What is bothering me is that several things have collided at the same time: end of writing course, end of school year, beginning of summer, and remembering that Jon was alive at this time last year but not for much longer. My kids each have the first of the summer trips coming up in a few short days: my daughter is traveling out of the country with her high school language class, and my son has time away with his Scouting troop. The three of us need to prep and plug in to pack for their traveling. My kids and I have to work together, and we are just so exhausted. The emotional cracks in our relationships are showing, and it really hurts to feel that we stress each other out so much. We are three teenagers living in this house, my parenting skills are just not cutting it. We are all at a new point in this grief process: we need to redefine ourselves without the constant anxiety of watching my husband fight death. All that went into that time last summer is no more, but we are still haunted by the fresh memories of it all. I hate the fact that I can’t just hug it out with my kids, instead I turn everything into a speed-wobble, and I can’t hold it much longer.~P.

The writing…
You can learn a lot from an American public middle school lunch room. It’s like the biggest, smelliest ball pit put you can imagine. Table seats are claimed, no one can sit over there, or some kids eat alone. It’s a fast-paced, loud environment, and you better keep up and watch out for cutting in the food line. Kids gravitate towards other kids who are most like them: plastic colored balls are sorted. They seem to judge each other merely by what they see and what is said and heard about others. When kids see a “new kid,” instantly they are sized-up and mirrored against themselves, needing to know what sport you play, what you’re wearing, where you come from, details about your race and ethnicity. Middle-schoolers are most comfortable by putting each other into certain cast-type categories, and the “popular” kids group is at the top of this pecking order. Many strive to be at the very top, but usually there is that one kid who outshines all the others. People feel most comfortable if they can say “oh yeah, she’s the lacrosse player” or “there’s that emo kid.” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of overlap between groupings, and if there is, well, that’s a group in and of itself, too. This thinking of needing to sort kids into identifiable boxes at such a young age baffles me and I’ve cringed when I heard stories from my kids about it. The ages of 11 to 14 are those young years when kids are just getting a sense of independence and their minds and bodies are changing on an hourly basis. For my kids, the fact that their Dad died has put them into a group outside of all other groups. Neither of my kids talked about his passing at school, but of course everybody knew their situation. Their sub-group is like a shadow that other kids can’t quite see unless they squint their eyes, but they know it’s there. I think school this year was a place where my kids could attempt to be grief and loss free, having to just get on with what everyone else was concerned about, not to mention learning a few things, I hope. 
I am afraid since we are now on the summer schedule, my kids will be without their grief-free zone of school, and I will not have time to myself. Since 2002, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. We will now be sharing more time together than we have since before Jon died. The three of us are so stressed about it. My mom-skills of late have really sucked. The root of all of it is that I have a broken heart, and this loneliness thing is robbing me of my sleep most nights. I am cranky in the day because I’m not getting enough sleep, usually waking up as early as 3:00 a.m., and instead of going back to sleep, I get in to writing, reading or listening to music. I My kids absolutely pick up on my stress and it adds to theirs, and we’re going to have to figure it all out this summer. My kids and I have a weekly family meeting, but I think step-one to ease in to summer is having meetings any time we need them. I’m working on getting more sleep, in fact today I slept in till 6. 
I can say that grief doesn’t “resolve” so much as “evolve” kind of like a sun burn. One of the reasons why I took the writing course was to help me work through my own grief issues while the kids were in school, like “finals for the grieving.” I’ve made some progress, but some things seem to be leading to new problems and realizations, kind of like those Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka). I feel like my grief, having been taken out of one box, only reveals more boxes that I need to be mindful of or must figure out how to escape from. I’m using the word ‘escape’ purposefully, because repeatedly I have felt that in the last few weeks, I’m leaning toward adding things to do to get out of this house mentally or physically, and not doing any one thing well.
Here’s the thing about the boxes and categories: I am putting myself in my own categories and I don’t like it, so why the hell am I doing it!?! Good mom, happy friend, dutiful daughter– as I read my own writing out loud, I see wanting to be “something” in these “roles.” This has added pressure I’m putting on myself, driven mostly according to what others think of as acceptable, and my kids are getting the brunt of my frustration in not being really good at any one of those things. How can I and why don’t I just fucking “be”? I need space to think, or maybe it’s that I shouldn’t need to think at all. I somehow can’t do it in real time. When I keep adding activities and things to do, I am actually putting off what is most important… I need to let it all in and be me according to me. I want to leave my broken heart on the floor for a while, and get some sleep.~Paula

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