Tuesday, March 4, 2014

survival of a winter, herald of spring {an essay on grief}


the snow has melted. that is, i suppose, the way in which some people know that winter is over. for me, it happened on a saturday afternoon; the baby and i were driving from a nice afternoon at the fernbank museum—where we tried not to get stepped on by a myriad of small people who were all rudely using two legs instead of their hands and knees to get around (in real life i am never this sidetracked in conversation, you know. i hope??)—anyhow, we were on our way to meet up with the papa for some outlet mall shopping. the sun was shining on the downtown Atlanta skyline, the heater was off, i had no coat, and that is when i knew: winter is over! put away your groundhogs!

and here we are: the ground all soft and somewhat browner from its encounter with two snow "storms," our galoshes caked in mud, our dogs shedding early, and not one plant left alive inside. if i never see another bowl of oatmeal it will be too soon. you know what i mean. winter is a time for eating oatmeal and lusting after fur coats you can't afford and unsuccessful attempts to have your fireplace brought up to code and planning beach vacations. check check check check.

this winter was not so bad. i wanted to join in with the rest of the january/february-haters and say this winter brought the doldrums, but is that really fair? i mean, can i really blame a season for any apathy/tiredness/discontent? and was it really that bad? it didn't seem like it while we were going through it. but, the moment that springtime hit on saturday, i knew we had been under a bit of a cloud. a staying inside all day, playing with the same dull toys (albeit learning great, new and wonderful tricks like teething and crawling and standing and cruising and sleeping through the night!), eating the same bowls of oatmeal, marking the same terrible anniversaries kind of wintery gale.

don't get me wrong, all the newness of this baby turning into a pre-toddler has made it seem like we have our own private sun shining in our house every day, and we have had the best winter in years and years and years.

but i'm not sorry to see it go. i think we all need some fresh air. a chance to open the windows and breath deeply. a time to turn our face to the sun. to soak up some vitamin D and let it come out in words  we've been keeping inside too long.

here is what hit me on saturday, in the wake of spring: i am happy.

such a little thing to say. so vague. so presumed. so often not true, too. but in a larger sense than the immediate situation—which, if you are a parent (or a human being??), you know that the immediate situation changes startlingly drastically from one moment to the next throughout the day (can someone make a comic strip about that please?)—that is the kind of happiness i mean. a happiness that has nothing—and yet also something—to do with my immediate present. a happiness that i have very slowly found my way back to. i wrote a little about it here, a year and a half ago.

they say you change every seven years. maybe that's just your physical body, i don't know. but it has been seven years since that moment that i have not been able to talk about, which has yet informed all my writing, all my existing, and gripped me in an intractable embrace of silence and fear.

i think sorrow is not the word for it. sorrow is what you feel when you acknowledge it, and i didn't want to acknowledge it. instead, it was a continual drowning. a continual fear of the pain of sorrow. but instead of escaping sorrow, it became fear.

i read this essay recently and it struck me how much healing i robbed myself of, by not really letting myself grieve. i think mostly i was afraid to grieve. afraid of what it meant to acknowledge it, which is to let it be real. i didn't want to, and i didn't know how.

and yet, that didn't change its being real.

i think you have a choice. maybe you can either travel through the wasteland of grief, physically, painfully, forcefully, despairingly, but with acknowledgement and sorrow.

or, you can get lost in a wasteland, physically, painfully, forcefully, despairingly, but in denial and in fear.

and maybe you don't really have a choice. maybe you can only choose what you will choose because that is who you are. maybe it just takes some longer to acknowledge it, to accept the sorrow. maybe seven years is not even very long, comparatively, for a winter.

but i'm ready for spring.


  1. I'm afraid that any words I put down as a comment will seem trite and insufficient. This post is so deserving of praise and respect and admiration and awe---all of which I am full of, though I hardly know how to express it. I'm reminded of the pause that follows a particularly beautiful orchestral performance---that moment the audience takes, stunned and humbled, to honor the music before shattering the silence with an inadequate clatter of applause. I felt the same sort of "silence" when I read this piece, and I wish I could praise it less clumsily. It is truly lovely---in so many ways.

  2. a friend once told me that spring always follows winter, no matter how long the winter is. This was beautiful B. May your Spring be longer and so overwhelmingly happy that it carries you through whatever other winters may come your way. love you!