Ever have the desire to really scrub out your brain? I don’t mean down-time, kick-back, take-a-break. I’m talking cut the skull in half, open it up, and take a Brillo pad to the grey matter. Dig into those nooks and crannies. Loosen the dirt and flush it away with a high-power hose.That’s where I am right now. My mental shit quotient has tipped the scales into the red and I am currently functioning on autopilot, resources depleted and utterly exhausted.
Some of it has to do with my dad’s death in May. I really thought I would handle it better than I am. That may seem an unlikely surmise, ridiculous even, but considering I had little in the way of a positive relationship with my old man, the notion didn’t seem so far-fetched. Boy, was I wrong.
I’m not sure what my problem is or why I’ve stalled in the grief process. I mean, let’s face it — it’s difficult to miss someone who was basically a stranger, absent while being physically present. When I look at his vacant chair in my mother’s living room, it’s more like he must be in the computer room playing solitaire than that’s he’s died. Nothing feels missing. Heck, I had a stronger reaction when Jim Henson died and I’d never even met him.
I’m beginning to think that part of my difficulty stems from that exact issue. I think I’m grieving what might have been, the relationship we could have had if things had been different. I’m grieving the realization that time has run out, there are no more chances to “save” our relationship, to make a foray into that shadowland that existed between us, meet on the path, and at least acknowledge each other. In truth, I believe that time ran out a long, long while ago. Dad wasn’t about to change or open up, and he certainly wasn’t about to take any emotional risks with me. Maybe he didn’t know how. I certainly didn’t. A body can be rebuffed only so many times before the fear of enduring the pain of rejection one more time makes you unwilling to even make the attempt.
Another issue that plagues me is the constant back-and-forth to care for my aged mother. I’m not alone in this — the burden is shared by my eldest sister and my niece. (There are those who will bristle at my use of the word burden, but that’s what it is. Doesn’t matter how much we love her and want to do right by her, the persistent long-distance travel, health issues, hearing issues, money issues, dementia (the list goes on) takes its toll.) My sister put it very well this afternoon during a phone call: Even when you aren’t there, you can’t help but think about it all the time, wondering what’s coming next. None of us is very good at switching off; I’m not sure we know how. I’m not sure we can.
It doesn’t help matters that Monkey Mind has taken up residence in the already cramped environs of my mind. You know what I mean, don’t you? The voice that says you’re useless, worthless, that your writing sucks swamp water. I’d picked up quite a head of writing steam in May…and then Dad went into the hospital and died and everything went kaflooey. I’ve tried to get back into it since, but it’s been an uphill battle. I need to get tougher about it, less willing to be distracted or lured away from the words. I need to go back to making it a priority even in the face of things others need from me. I need this!
And how to balance the other draws on my time and attention? Thank God my husband is patient and understanding and supportive of this entire thing (even going so far as to spontaneously drive three hours north to keep me company when it seemed I might crack). Some of my friends have also offered help and understanding, but others clamor for my attention, wanting a shoulder, an ear, advice, a pep talk, a pint of blood and a pound of flesh. One in particular lives a life of unceasing drama, most of it self-inflicted. In the past, I’ve tried to be supportive, but no more. I don’t have it in me. My energy is focused elsewhere. And honestly? I no longer care. It’s the same old story over and over and over. Nothing changes and she refuses to get out of her own way. My strength can be better used elsewhere. It’s hard to say no, but I’m going to have to. And she probably won’t understand. But…in a way…that’s not my problem.
At least there’s one I can ignore.