Monday, May 01, 2006

Misty Morning Musings

The early morning hours offer both great opportunity and wistful remorse... since we homeschool, the children stay up late and wake late into the morning. Therefore, I struggle with just how best to use the quiet time before the children rise. We're second-shifters, with soccer practices, piano and guitar lessons, tumbling, museum classes, and a computer apprentice position keeping us on our toes for most of our days, so if I don't nab a little 'me' time first thing in the morning, the opportunity is lost until the next day. The dilemma, though... what to do with that hour or so? Read email? Write? Practice yoga? Sit quietly with tea? I'm always torn.

On this particular morning, the view to the east caught my eye, and my new digital camera beckoned me to experiment. I took several pictures of the morning mist with the sunshine slowly burning the moisture from the fields... it was lovely.

I have a friend, ....e, who spends each morning having tea outside, no matter the weather. Once upon a time, inspired by her ritual, I adopted the same practice and found it rather exhilarating to sit on the porch in sub-zero weather, bundled in a down jacket, clutching a steaming mug of Snow Monkey Plum tea and gazing north. Amazing how a few simple moments in outdoor meditation can center you and start your day off with a boost. I think perhaps I'll take up that ritual again, easier now with spring peeking out all around.

I've been quieter than usual these days, anyhow.... and lately, my morning meditations have lasted well into the day; a few days, never quite managing to change out of my sleeping clothes even. You see, my father died.

Funny, I can write those words, but I cannot say them. They get stuck in my throat and add a realness I'm not quite ready for. My friend Drew asked, knowingly, if I was tired of being asked how I'm doing yet. And I told him I'd learned it's the most difficult question to answer. I don't know how I'm doing. And it changes, day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. My stock answer has become, "Right now? Ok. I'm ok, right now."

The pain is surprisingly physical - deeply physical. I never expected that. Early on, the hospital images haunted me, flashing in front of my eyes unexpectedly, unwelcomed; each time, sending a speeding wave of intense, suffocating, desperate pain through my core, making me catch my breath and sending tears down my cheeks yet again. I feared I would be forever traumatized by those visions, and on some levels I will be - but already, I've learned to slow the reel of pictures and ward them off at inauspicious moments.

In Mexico, native healers called Curanderas speak of susto. Susto, sometimes called "magical fright", is a loss of harmony between body and soul and occurs when something traumatic has happened. They believe the soul, or part of it, is lost or wandering... and must be retrieved or coaxed back. When we hurt, we heal the physical, but often overlook or disregard the spiritual or emotional. Curanderas help you to heal susto.

The night my father died, we all waltzed like zombies into a seedy hotel in that godforsaken town. We were too shocked to drive the 3 hours home, but no one was to sleep either. I spent the night rocking on my side, and I knew.... I have susto.


Drew said...

I asked my students what "susto" meant. I knew I had heard of it, but it wasn't part of my "normal" Spanish vocabulary. They said "scared." I looked it up, and it turns out the word had deep implications for me. "Dar un susto al miedo" mean to be as ugly as in the morning...and perhaps other times, too. In the Andes where I first learned Spanish, it means a nervous breakdown...from which I'm probably suffering as I write this.
= )

Anonymous said...

You are describing much of what I felt when we lost our 5-year-old son, Tyler. The feelings somewhat get numbed but never go away. The waves of emotion come and go and never on a schedule. Keep feeling, Laura, as it is okay. Father, son, loved ones mean soo much to us that it would be a travesty to have it any other way.

Anonymous said...

How I wish it could be different for you, your mom, and your family. Sadly, our own tragic events within our family allow me insights into what you are feeling.
It is not a time for judgement because grief rears its ugly head differently for everyone. I used to think,"am I the only one who feels this pain so intensely?" Therefore,why don't they feel the same way or perhaps is it ME?" The simple truth is, we all handle loss, grief, sadness in our own personal way, not to be judged by others. I found comfort in writing in my journal, rather, volumes of journals as you blog. Ten years ago, there was no such thing. I can tell you that the sharp edge of the knife dulls a bit most of the time, but life throws ambushes at us from time to time and we again fall into our own personal depth of gut-wrenching grief. I experienced another one recently. It takes time to recover from yet another disappointment, but recover I do for I have no choice. Just be kind to yourself. It hurts too much to remember just yet. Someday you will smile and remember again, but right now, it's just too painful. I miss him too; everyone who knew him misses him dreadfully. What a legacy to him as a person! I love you and take care.

Laura said...

One day i said to my mom.... I can't believe anyone ever smiles when there is this much pain in the world, all the time.... while I know this is part of the great circle of life, I'm still shocked and paralyzed by the intensity of it, and ever more amazed at the vitality and spirit that must reside in us to live on, joyfully, in spite of the pain. I'm not there yet, but I am surrounded by shining examples. Whoever you are, thank you for sharing. Love, L

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about the shining example, but I have become pretty successful at making everyone think I'm fine. I will never be "fine". But I owe it to those who remain and who love me to put forth the best effort I can. I am a survivor. It took me a long long time to even get that far. You see, a sign of healing is when one can reach out and actually think of someone other than oneself. That is huge. Grief is all-absorbing. Laura,YOUR wisdom shows when you introspectively know that in order to be there for others, YOU must be able to see beyond YOUR own personal grief. Too soon for you, way too soon. I remember seeing people walking down the street carrying on with business at hand and realizing that for the rest of the world life is much the same. But, how could that be when nothing was or would ever be the same for me. It was surreal. Compare yourself to no one and conversely, don't judge others. You have no idea how they are handling their grief; to many people it is a private thing. And, that is ok too. The act of grieving is both tedious and exhausting. It will remain that way for a long time and as I stated before, the ambushes after years and years are exhausting as well, but for the grace of God, the time between them widens. It's good that the only demands you place on yourself are your family. That's enough for the time being. Somedays just getting through until the sun sets is enough of a challenge. There is one danger that I would like to share...the time spent in personal grief should not be linked to honoring those who are no longer here. One has nothing to do with the other. I'll leave you with one last thought...the memory lapses are all part of grief; I'm smiling as I remember and write because it comes back and you aren't going crazy as I once thought I was. Another time I will share with you the good that came of my loss as it relates to me as a person...... Sleep well

Laura said...

I would like to hear more about not linking personal grief to honoring those who've passed... would you elaborate? I've not yet visited my father's gravesite, and I feel great shame in that. But it is not time yet for me. If it's better, I'm at

Anonymous said...

Tied your email address, but I think it didn't recognize my name of so I'll continue here.

You are working through your grief by writing...keep it up but seek help if you stagnate. Never link time spent in grief with honoring your dad. I'm not certain that happened within my own family, but I do know that some have taken longer to move forward than others. That is not to say that one loved or honored the one who died any more than the others; it was handled differently. I DO BELIEVE that the one who could not move forward, has not fully dealt with the loss. And that is and remains very hard on that person. At some point, allow yourself to smile and remember without feeling guilty. Your dad would be better memorialized by your strength than the time spent grieving. Oh, the grieving will be forever, but I'm talking about the intense grieving.
Keep his memory alive by recalling events or things you remember about your dad to your loved ones.
He will live within you all because
of that. It might hurt to do that right now, but think about it for the future. It is a very good thing. I mentioned the good that has come in the midst of my own personal tragedy. If one leads the life of a fairytale existance, one has no idea or at least little idea of how to reach out to others. Not their fault. I'll give you a "for instance". Not long ago, we sat behind an older woman in church who was recently widowed. She clearly struggled throughout the sermon. I didn't really know her but found out by asking someone in our congregation who she was. I went home and looked her up in the church directory and dropped her a simple line or two on a notecard to let her know I cared. She actually wrote me back and thanked me and we have been talking in church ever since. It's not that I wouldn't have felt pain for her before, but I would never have had the capacity to reach out to her in that way before my loss. That is a gift; a positive result of my own personal tragedy. There are other examples, but I think you get the idea.I like the person I have become, scars and all. The scars, rather than a bad thing, have become a good thing for me. We have to search for the good that has come of our horrible horrible loss. Can we ever know exactly what someone else is experiencing? Absolutely not! However, the capacity to reach out and at least attempt to understand someone's grief can unfold. I guess we call it "compassion". I like that about myself. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? How can ANYTHING good possibly come from such a horrible thing?

Colleen Anonimity

Madeline said...

Laura, I am currently reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I think you would really relate. This was beautifully shared. Even three years later, it is still difficult sometimes, isn't it? But there is less soul wandering; at least there was for me.

Ket said...

Laura, reading your first post really touched my heart. I cannot completely relate, but your words and thoughts definitely touch so many hidden places as I face the end of my mother's life. Tener susto is that necessary in-between place - between reality and acceptance - and even as I write this, I realize: that's exactly what I have since my aunt passed last June. Namaste. Ket