Fractal Art by Nicolas ArtPro

Thank you @nicolasartpro for allowing me to share your art on The Glog.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. There will be copious amounts of food, dollops of various alcoholic beverages, and a heaping amount of underlying grief mixed with family and friends. This will be the second year of holidays without my husband partner and my stepmom. My kids and I will be with my parents, aka my in-laws or as my kids call them GGZ, in Chicago. I haven’t seen them since I returned from my surfing trip in Costa Rica at the end of October. They had come and spent the week with my kids while I made another attempt at some sort of “life-after-loss reset.” Since that trip and my return, my life has evolved yet again in huge ways, those fractals of me are blooming and rescaling at a rapid pace. I’m just trying to keep up.

I have yet to write and post about my learning to surf. I have written several “parts” of various experiences, but I find myself in a writing log-jam. I’ve been writing one post titled “Greener” since the first of November, and I just can’t seem to wrap it up and most notably, I’m hesitating in saying some honest and private thoughts. How much should I really be “saying” in these writings anyway? Is there such a thing as “too much of a grief thing?” In just tying to “keep up” and be present with everyday life, I have realized that I have unfinished “threads” to be written and posted: one more bike ride for “Reunion” at Delaware Water Gap on the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border, the continuation of “Storyboard” currently telling about our family trip to Canada, and yet-to-be-titled various cycling adventures. I’ve got a lot to say about bumpy roads, rainbows, and diners.

Through all these goings-on, I have found grief support through my Writing Your Grief writer’s group, with Megan Devine and others who share their grief experiences through writing, to be an essential part of trying to make sense of something that can’t be fixed. I’m a problem-solver, and you can imagine my frustration at not being able to wrap my head around this whole loss situation and especially shock at discovering my lack of ability to identify and empathize with other people’s grief. I can now assure you, no two “griefs” are the same, and I have so much more to learn. I am also reading and reviewing It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine. Through reading her book, I am exploring and working toward how to better emotionally support not only myself, but others in my own grief circle and the grief community as a larger whole. I am on the ground floor of the “grief revolution” willing to not sugar-coat and write the truth about my grief. Hint: It sucks. It doesn’t really end.

In the further-out-expansion of fractal-me, this past couple of weeks has also introduced an opportunity and I have accepted an invitation to join a Working Out Loud peer circle group. A 12-week experience created by John Stepper begins in January to challenge me to figure out my “what’s next”: where do I really want to go in the new-book-of-me and my life, as if there is some point to discover. We’ll see, I’m hopeful at the prospect to possibly solve something when so many other things cannot. Just like the grief writers group, it’s a supportive “no judgement zone” environment, and I can always use more of that. In preparation, I had a marathon 2.5-hour video chat interview with our circle facilitator, Simon RJ Fogg, last Saturday. My knee-jerk response is to do a self-critique because watching myself on video is cathartic in itself: I discovered I have some quirky mannerisms, I never realized I talk with my eyes closed, and I prelude many statements with saying “this is really funny” like I need to send out a humor-alert or be humorous in the first place. I do enjoy a good laugh, and would rather see things from that perspective. Maybe I’m just a fan of the “power of suggestion.”

As I was getting ready early this morning for our road trip today, I had many thoughts about the next few days. Mostly, I’m trying hard not to freak-out about having a grief-freak-out. All that “everyone under the same roof” coming on, plus the going out to stores and those dreaded questions like “How are you?” can get me needing some kind of exercise, or finding refuge on my phone, or blocking out what I hear around me suddenly hearing only my own thoughts: all-and-any effort to deal with my anxiety of feeling sad, alone or misunderstood. I want so much to be truthful about my feelings, while at the same time, listen to others around me and be open to hearing their point of view. It’s a battle of checks-and-balances and wants-and-needs. There will be no cycling in Chicago, but an outdoor run is a possibility. I will try to brave the cold, unless there is snow.

As I’m thinking about this and drying off after my shower, it’s now time to pick out my face cream for today. I admit, I have a “collection” of face products. I don’t have gobs and gobs of makeup, but I do have special moisturizers, anti-wrinkle firming whips, and hydrating serums that are supposed to help my stressed skin look half-decent and especially to smooth out those thinking-lines on my forehead just above my nose. I tend to press that spot on my head with two fingers throughout my day for added resistance to these “crinkles.” This is me making an effort to take care of myself in the simplest and kindest of ways, a daily routine that has steps and I can count on doing it. I also like visiting my face-cream-lady, Mo, at the department store, and when I see her, we chat as she’s patting on cold blobs of this-or-that and I’m trying to pay attention to instructions. She gets me, pampers me, and she knows how to sell products to me without being too pushy.

Towel wrapped around me, my hair is still dripping wet as I run my fingers through it, raking my fingertips on my scalp to adjust it away from my face. I lean forward over the sink, blankly staring into my bathroom mirror, the overhead lights always make me look like I haven’t slept in days, causing bluish circles to come forward under my eyes. I look down on the sinktop below to the familiar line-up of jars and little bottles. It’s time to choose. First, I pat on an under-layer of my face-vitamins serum, like an artist applies gesso to a canvas. It soaks in, and it calms things down. Then, time for the main cream, and for today’s application, I’m feeling the need to go straight for the night cream: a thicker, more penetrating concoction. I’m all-in for extra crinkle-control today. First, I dip my right index finger into the glass jar, and I dot and distribute the light-pink tinted blob on to my other fingertips of both hands. I carefully press, press, press it all over my face, starting with my forehead, then corners of my eyes, cheeks and around my mouth. I decided to put the same amount on my neck, with the same dotting, patting, and pressing. Standing away from the mirror now, I take off my towel. Besides my hair still dripping, I’m mostly dry, and I quickly hang my towel on the long bar to my right. When I turn back to the mirror, my face looks slightly shiny, and I flash a full-grin to myself. Time to get dressed. Something is missing.

One more thing. Eyes back on the sink line-up, and I see it: a tiny clear-glass vial the size of a largish grape, it’s liquid contents a sunshine-yellow hue. Instead of picking it up, I gently slide it on the sink towards me, just close enough to pinch it in my left hand in between my thumb and index finger while with my right hand, I slowly unscrew the white bulb dropper. Tap, tap, tap, and keeping my eyes on the dropper, it comes to rest right on the middle of my forehead, and only a couple drops are quickly placed. Without looking down, my dropper hand finds the bottle, and it’s cap is secured. Both of my hands now are immediately raised and cover my now closed eyes while my fingertips spread and methodically swirl the smooth liquid across my forehead and moving to the delicate skin of my temples and pat, pat, pat under my eyes along the rims of my orbital sockets. Full palms now cover my face, press, press, press, touching every part of it, slightly sticking to the layer of night cream in place. Better. Found.

What did I find exactly? I found that moment where all I’m thinking about is what I’m feeling with my hands, inhaling an intoxicating fragrance I can’t even describe found in a tiny bottle, and in the “doing-and-enjoying” of it, all other things can wait until it’s done. I’m preparing myself for everything going on around me: this road trip, the Thanksgiving holiday and rest of the holidays around the corner, and for the next wave of changes in my life that are happening fast. A most simple thing, like applying face cream for a few moments, is a kindness to myself when everything else seems so, so, so, impossibly hard. When I can’t seem to breathe through difficult conversations, when sudden tears flow in response to realizations of being alone, and the rush of memories are the only places where I find what I’m looking for, and of course when I can’t get on my bike or to the gym to deal: face cream will be applied, as many times and as often as possible. ~Paula

Thursday, November 23 – an added note

This is really funny, but after having arrived in Chicago at my parents house in early afternoon yesterday, it only took a short couple of hours for my dad and I to get to having one one of those philosophical “life” discussions. He has once again presented me with new information, which I now will share with you: his belief in “The 3Gs” – Gratitude, Growth, and Giving. As we are talking, I say “I think we should add a fourth “G” – for Grief – and instead of one leading to the next like you’re saying, maybe it’s kind of all mixed up.” Powers of suggestion, please don’t fail me now. ~P.

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