A while back I signed up to enter a couple of things in the upcoming royal Melbourne show. I think it was mostly unconscious, but I figured a new project, a deadline, an absorbing task and some learning curves might be good for me. So I've been captured in machine knitting a fairisle cardigan and I suspect it's about all that's been keeping things together.
It's been a really strange time. I can't explain it well, but I think I've started doing something a lot of people always do, which is putting up walls in my mind. I don't have good days and bad days, I have good places and bad places. But I don't have reliable maps. I can be working away, in a meeting at work, making breakfast for the kids, watching something funny on TV, I can be in the moment and happy and cognitively aware of my reality, and be OK with it. In seemingly familiar and comfortable terrain. I can even talk about mum, about the mum of the past as well as the mum who got sick and died.
But more and more (and I really feel it should be less and less, no?) I am gripped by a sudden and blinding grief. She's gone, it's over. It's over forever, she's gone forever. It's not news, I know it, but it smacks me in the head and in the guts with substance. The realisation cripples me. I'm not where I thought I was, nothing looks familiar and I'm totally disoriented. How can I possibly function knowing what it means for her to be gone? To know one day my kids will feel like I do now. That she will never know how the story ends, and neither will I.
I have to summon the rational side of me to wrestle those thoughts down, because life doesn't stop 20 times a day while I have another pointless, endless meltdown. I have to talk myself back into the immediate now and push that stuff away. I have to build a little compartment for it, a box I can open when I'm alone in the shower, or in bed at night.
But as I write that down I know I can't even pretend like I think that's a great strategy. Grief doesn't go away just because you turn your back on it. If I didn't recognise it as a flawed idea I only have to look as far the nightmares to know there is not box big enough or secure enough to contain whatever this is. I wake from these visitations of deepest despair with an overwhelming sense not just of sadness but something much worse. There's an awful kind of regret and a yawning, consuming wanting, searching for something that isn't her but is something to do with her.
I have been wondering whether the whole let's conquer a really complex finicky technical task with precision idea isn't just more wall building. More fingers in ears lalalalala ing. More if I don't think about it, it can't hurt me ing. Is the project just another mechanism for repression and denial?
I'm hoping it isn't. I'm hoping its more in the making a safety net line of things, the making meaning, weaving together broken ends kind of thing. Because life doesn't stop for grief, at least my life won't. And the tiny slices of life where I might be free to look down into the chasm of meaninglessness that follows loss and be struck dumb just aren't big enough. I'm hoping the making is opening up a little breathing room where even if I'm not staring it down, at least I'm not needing to waste all that energy trying to control it. And maybe when I'm strong enough to really let it out of the box I'll be securely anchored by those threads I'm working together.
Because this isn't some pill I can swallow and get it over with, cure it and put it in the past. The task now is about trying to find a way to live in these parallel tracks without the wild uncontrolled swings between them. The be able to hold both the joy of the now and the sadness of its loss in the same moment without going mad. And between you and me, it does feel a bit like this could be mad making. It's certainly fatiguing and alienating.
It's good to know at least I'll be stylishly dressed if I lose my shit. Between the fairisle cardi and some very successful craft camp sewing I'm doing a great job of papering over the cracks while I feel around for some actual structural repairs.