Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Muscle memory

 Grief is a funny thing.  For me, it has this sneaky subtle presence.  I don’t just fall apart in tears.  Instead, most often I fall asleep. I just get so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. And, I don’t normally associate my fatigue with grief. I just assume I’m tired because of life.  Lately, I assume I’m tired because of pandemic life. And, let’s be real, part of pandemic life is grief over all the things that can’t be right now.  


This last week I’ve been tired. Like ready for a nap at 9am kind of tired.  Granted, I get up at 5, but still naps at 9am aren’t normal for me.  I wasn’t sure what was up but try to eat right, take my vitamins, keep exercising and listen to my body.  


And then yesterday I got a text “thinking about you today. I love you.” And it took me a minute. She’s a friend, so it wasn’t that weird…but why that day in particular? Oh, August 24th….the day my mom died.  And then it hit me…my fatigue was likely my grief speaking.  


An hour or two later my sister messaged me, she wasn’t going to do anything for the day and she was preparing to tell her family they were on their own for lunch.  So I asked, “does it have anything to do with mom?” Oh…I hadn’t thought about that…maybe? 


Four years out and my mom’s death isn’t ask breath taking as it used to be.  But it’s still hard and even if my mind is too distracted to remember, my body isn’t. My body remembers, which is so weird that somehow rooted in my muscle memory is the pain of that loss.  


My sister asked what I was going to do about it. I said I felt I should lean into it, but had other things to do, so maybe I’d just get things done and then come back to it.  Which is pretty much what I did…or tried to do…because that dang blanket of fatigue is so heavy and at times during the day I just couldn’t. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t get up and go for a walk. I couldn’t do more. 


But resting and sleeping don’t actually fix the fatigue of grief. I actually have to do something to actively grieve, and the thing that has helped me the most is to write. I write about my mom. I write about what I miss. I write about the weight of it all, and somehow the words that I write, or type, pull some of the weight from my body to the page.  


We have a portal in the living room and when I walk into the room it activates and shows the pictures I’ve posted on Facebook—currently lots of pictures from our recent trip. Our trip home. Our trip to see family.  And pictures with some of those we love and were able to see.  But no pictures of my mom. Of course not. That’s obvious after 4 years.  But pictures were her thing. She loved taking pictures and back in the age of film we would sit or stand in place FOREVER until everyone cooperated and smiled like they were supposed to.  And she would insist on family pictures on major holidays. And she would insist on grandkid pictures with the grandparents.  And for years it was annoying and frustrating, especially when certain family members were less than cooperative.  Ahem.  You know who you are and I am not naming names. 


And my heart aches because I wish my mom were here. I wish my kids knew her—like really got to know her and enjoy her. She would have doted on them because that’s who she was. And she would have been able to help us when we fall short as parents and don’t know what to do. And she could have helped us come up with a plan for this hybrid school year that feels so likely to go south and be all online. But she’s not here. 


And yet she does help. Who she was and how she raised us and the things she taught us…those are in my muscle memory too.  I think part of the reason I can forget the date of her death is because she was an amazing mom and we had a solid relationship.  Sure, we had our issues, but they weren’t profound or harmful.  So I can hold the goodness of who she was without open wounds, or tender scars, or words left unsaid.  I knew she was dying and I got to say goodbye. And she taught me in such a way that I was able to help Ruth say goodbye over the phone too. My mom wasn’t conscious, so that wasn’t the point. The point was helping Ruth learn how to let someone go and release them into the arms of God.  She was only 5, so she doesn’t remember it well, but it was there…a healthy muscle memory that will hopefully help the next time we have to say goodbye.  


I never know quite where these stream of consciousness writings will take me. I try to just follow it and let the words come, and then stop when they don’t.  So here we are, stopping without conclusion.  



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