Wednesday, February 09, 2011

On Shame...

Just a quick preamble to say, "Yes, it's been a hell of a ride on the delayed grief train. I do hope to be reaching the end of the line soon. Perhaps I'll even blog about it someday." And now, on to more interesting matters...

Every once in a while, I stumble across some slip of paper, a picture, a piece of music - you get the idea - and I remember what life used to be like. For the most part, these memories are good ones. A receipt from the Water Grill reminds me of our anniversary dinner just 12 days before Iain was born. An article in the newspaper references the Mission Inn where Dalton's 20th class reunion was held and he reconnected with old friends. A visit to Shun Fat supermarket in Monterey Park with Debby and Iain launches me into stories about Dalton's obsession with Asian culture. Tonight, though, I stumbled onto Dalton's electronic prayer journal, and for the most part, the emotion it wrenched out of me was deep, desperate sadness and fear.

I know there are some of you that probably think I'm terrible for reading Dalton's prayer journal. But, we do it all the time with people who've been dead for centuries. No one seems to feel too badly about reading Martin Luther's works or Augustine's or about selling scraps of Picasso's drawings scribbled on a notepad in a hotel room (I might be mixing up my artists here). But, many of us actually knew Dalton, and the thought of knowing his struggles feels intrusive, disrespectful, and damaging to his legacy.

So, I won't be publishing it.

But I will be writing about it. Because, it's not the detail that's important, it's the theme that is so compelling.

Why is it that some people struggle with a deep, consuming, self-loathing sort of shame? Dalton's writings (and those of many other great artists, thinkers, philosophers, and theologians) are full of anguish. He is utterly deperately remorseful for the things he has thought, done, and said. Perhaps this was a plus theologically? It does mean that he had a great appreciation of his need for forgiveness. He was able to recognize his lack of agency in affecting any change within himself apart from God. However, I can't help but wonder how different are our two experiences of shame.

I've never known that type of shame. I've experienced deep regret over things I've done. I've felt guilty, been remorseful, cried over my lack of self control and repeated failures. I've hidden myself for a time from those who love me. But, something inside has always assured me that the discomfort of being honest about who I was/am with even just one other person would never come close tot he isolation I would endure if I kept it to myself.

Why do some people continue to live in isolation, with their struggles hidden?

Is it genetic? Environmental? Spiritual? Is it something to be sought or resisted? What should we strive for in our relationships with shame, honesty, isolation, and forgiveness? What should we teach our kids to aspire to and how should we help them get there?

Reading Dalton's prayer journal did not reveal anything to me that I didn't already know. But, it did remind me of the courage and strength he must have had to walk through every day carrying such a heavy burden of the soul. He used to say that when he took Communion, he would experience for a moment, a complete sense of cleanliness and worth. The fact that he now has an everlasting sense of cleanliness and worth is a gift I am immensely grateful for.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You have got to be kidding me...

There is no greater joy in all the world than a Saturday afternoon spent watching my spirited son sword fight his way through Chuck-e-Cheese while I savor the unrivaled culinary delights of an everything pizza, thin crust. Sarcasm, my friends. Sarcasm.

I hate Chuck-e-Cheese. Heidi, if you are reading this, I love you, love Paul, love your friends and family, hate Chuck-e-Cheese. In fact, my willingness to drive 60 miles to spend the afternoon in a circle of hell with you, is evidence of my tremendous affection. And, of Iain's love for his friends. And, of my love for Iain.

Unfortunately, I left the party with tremendous abdominal pain, indigestion, and cold sweats. If only it were food poisoning.

This has been an awful season for me. My life is like a tire with a slow leak. I have no idea when i ran over the nail, and I didn't notice the leak until the tire was so flat I could no longer drive. Sure, there have been signs of a problem. For two months I fell asleep every night at 8pm and woke up at 3:30am. For the next two months, I used my insomnia as an excuse to catch up on every Showtime and HBO show produced in the past decade. I stopped exercising. I gained weight. I passed up social invitations. I stopped seeing friends. I quit getting pedicures. I started having chest pain. I obsessed over possible catastrophic illnesses I might be suffering from. I canceled travel plans. I felt sad. I felt lightheaded. And now, I'm angry all the time.

You're thinking hypothyroid, right? Well, maybe. But now I have another possible culprit - delayed grief. You have got to be kidding me...

On Saturday, in my 5th circle of hell, I met a woman whose husband had died when she was pregnant with her son. As she relayed her experience to me and explained the delayed grief she encountered 6 years after his death, I felt my chest begin to tighten and my mind begin to shut down. I knew that I needed to hear what she had to say, but I desperately wanted to get the hell out of there. Not this. Not again. I was done!

The idea that I might have more grieving to do is exhausting, infuriating, embarrassing. I'm strong. I'm resilient. I'm capable. I'm a testimony to God's grace. That might have been me two years ago, but if I really am suffering delayed grief, then it was all a sham, a neatly wound cocoon everyone thought was surrounding a butterfly instead of an ugly old silkworm moth that can't even fly.

I'm still going to get the thyroid checked. It's on tomorrow's agenda, and a thyroid disorder would probably be much easier to fix than trying to connect with my grieving soul. Either way, something has to change. I don't like waking up angry, being irritated by everything my son does, feeling hopeless, anxious, unable to breathe. I hate panic attacks and I hate feeling blah.

As an aside, this wasn't what I would have planned as a kickoff post for the spunky, spirited blog of a widow boldly plowing through life with a take no prisoners sort of attitude, but I guess that one may have to wait until next time. Until then...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well, hello there...

I can't believe I'm writing this. I mean, it's been nearly 2 years.

But cancer doesn't know the difference.

The past few hours, I have been rereading the blog posts following Dalton's death. Horrifically, cancer claimed the life of another dear friend today, and I wanted desperately to be able to say something profound and helpful to his wife and son. Unfortunately, what I remembered almost immediately is that there is really nothing to be said. Grief cannot be cured by insightful retrospective. It isn't soothed by witticism or even empathy. It doesn't even have the decency to manifest similarly in each of its hosts.

But, I think, grief is gracious. And, I hope it will be gracious to my friend.

I'm sorry that so much of the past two years has gone undocumented. But, that too may have been a necessary part of the process. I've learned, after all, that regrets are worthless and that everything we do has value and meaning in this life - even the things we fail to do. For tonight, anyway, I feel compelled to write and to do so publicly. Only God knows about tomorrow.

On Friday afternoons,
we'd sit on the balcony
and pray.
We'd pray
and drink red wine.
White in the summer.
The three of us would talk about our husbands -
how their lack of detail
irritated us
how their childish humor
tickled us
how their Godly love
humbled us.
We prayed for
right hearts,
gentle spirits,
and kids.
Babies were hard to come by.
Miscarriages and monthly disappointments were the norm.
But then, Daniel.
And Elliot.
And Iain.
God was so good,
We were so grateful.

Perhaps we should have kept meeting.
Drinking wine on the balcony.
Then, maybe, the cancer wouldn't have come
and snatched two of our
We prayed for
right heart,
gentle spirits,
and kids.
I only wish we'd known to pray for more.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Moving Forward

I think it's time. Perhaps I'm narcissistic. Perhaps, just curious. More likely, I suffer from narcissistic curiosity. Regardless, I googled myself. To be fair, I googled you as well, but most of you don't have a publicly readable online journal of some of the toughest times in your life. When I googled myself last month (after googling someone I'd met through an online dating service), I was shocked to see that this blog topped the list of results. Immediately, I felt naked and hid it from your view. It's not that I'm ashamed of what I've written but I was terrified that this blog might be the first and consequently only impression that someone could have of me. It's not exactly the whole package, and the fuller my life gets, the smaller no-sleep tricia seems.

Early in my grief, I came across a visual representation of the grieving process. It displayed a glass jar containing a large blue ball. The ball, labeled "grief" barely fit inside the jar which was labeled "life". It perfectly illustrated how I felt at the time. Everything revolved around my loss of Dalton. I was so full of sadness and loss that there was barely room for anything else. The second picture was surprising, though. It, too displayed a glass jar containing a large blue ball labeled "grief" In fact, it was exactly the same ball, identical in size and shape to the first one. What had changed, however, was the size of the jar. In the second picture, the jar was much larger. Consequently, "grief", even though it was the same size occupied a much smaller space in "life", and there was room for other things. That is how I now feel.

My experience with cancer and the loss of my husband, best friend, and father of my child has forever changed me. It will always be a part of my life in the same way that every single thing we ultimately affects who we are. However, it is no longer the defining characteristic of my life. I am many things of which widow is only one. I am mother, friend, activist, advocate, Christian, optimist, thrill-seeker, dinner party host, writer, soon-to-be triathlete, business owner, realtor, connoisseur of indie music and modern architecture. I am playful, trusting, unflappable, inquisitive, peaceful, passionate, compassionate, and generous. I struggle with many things which will remain unwritten.

Consequently, I'm really struggling with what to do with this blog. I keep thinking that it's time to stop writing in this space, but even when I type that, it feels wrong. I think, instead that I will change the names to protect the innocent and guilty alike. Hopefully, that will alleviate the google problem while still allowing those of you who care to keep tabs on me a way to do so. With that being said, I will soon post an update on both me and the boy who will subsequently be called PB (short for Pooh Bear, the nickname given to him by his father who will subsequently be called DJH2).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Small parts

Sometimes it riles my skin
to think a part
is still

Two years
His body wrapped in satin

I am peeling today.
I forgot my spf 90.
The flakes fly to his chair.
Where he sat

Settling in.
Crawling into nubs of peppered upholstery.
Working their way
Encased in wool
Small parts still here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Unremarkably Human

Over six months. I'll make no excuses, so don't ask. I couldn't answer if you did.

I haven't been writing much. Funny, I quit my job in the name of writing and have written less in the last six months that in the six weeks prior to that event. Unless of course you count papers on the economics of stewardship and effective leadership in times of change - in that case, I've written a bunch.

Shortly after I stopped "working", I realized that my focus needed to be on school. On May 3rd, fifteen years after finishing high school, I finally graduated from Azusa Pacific. See, Dalton and I met while I was finishing my junior year at Santa Clara. One thing led to another and I never quite finished up those last few courses. When he died, I figured it was time.

So now, I'm at a loss. At least for clarity of purpose. Or maybe more accurately clarity of income. You'd think after everything I've been through with God, I'd be better at trusting Him, but only just a little. What I want to do, what I feel called to do is launch a business focused on the needs of cancer patients and their families while writing a book or two about grief and redemption for the unremarkably human Christian. What I keep coming back to is a nice safe job in some downtown financial services firm and a life that looks, well, normal.

For most of my life, I've felt different. A little too heady. Too sarcastic. Too dreamy. Dalton and I had finally achieved the look of normalcy when God reminded me that normalcy wasn't in His plan for me. He had something else in mind. So now, I need strength, encouragement, discipline and faith to embrace that idea, to trust Him that it - whatever it is - will happen.

In the meantime, I'll once again try (gosh I hate my own lack of follow through) to write. Musings. Poetry. Chapters. Who knows? I may even need to put some categories into this blog for those of you who are more interested in reflective thoughts on God's mercy than on the difficulties of an uncoordinated single mom trying to teach her desperately athletic 3-year old how to properly throw a baseball. Both are me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nothing to Write Home About

Nothing profound happened today. Nothing at all. I woke up, got ready, fed Iain, took him to school, came home, cleaned my house, did some schoolwork, picked up our Christmas Cards, ate lunch, went to the bank, went to Target, replied to some emails, picked Iain up, played trains, fixed dinner, gave Iain a bath, read some stories, and watched Private Practice.

See. Nothing interesting.

So, I need to figure out what to write when the day doesn't provide much material. Should I write a short story, reflect on something I read, present a dilemna, post pictures, or just let it go?

For today, I'm letting it go. Nobody wants to read filler, and at the moment, that's all this is!