Kromlauer Park is a gothic style, 200-acre country park in the municipality of Kromlau in the Görlitz Gablenzgasse district in Germany. An incredible attraction of the park is the Rakotzbrücke, more popularly known as Devil’s Bridge.
The impressive arch bridge was built around 1860. During its construction, other peculiar rock formations were built on the lake and in the park. Devil’s Bridge is no longer open to the public to ensure its preservation. A unique feature of the bridge is that its reflection on the water’s surface creates a flawless circle, regardless of which side is being viewed.
Morning Mist on Lake Mapourika, New Zealand by Richard Palmer (2008)
“Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live . . . the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.” ~ Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Well, we made it through the November nor’easter all right: no tree damage, no water damage, no loss of power. We were luckier than many people, for a change, and for that, I am truly thankful. I am also truly thankful that I no longer feel as if I am existing in a wind tunnel. One day is intriguing. Two days is numbing. Three days is irritating. Moving into the fourth day is like the waking dead: I can no longer tell if I am hearing the wind or if it is a constant buzzing in my ears. Oh well.
Many, many strange dreams in the past few nights: my father appeared in at least two, and that is always disconcerting. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel that I did not disappoint my father terribly before he died, but that is not the subject for tonight. Much too hard of a subject, and always leaves me depleted for a long time, and since I am beginning the post in an already depleted state, I will not even attempt to tackle something as weighty as that.
The other night I had this dream about being on a sinking boat. The dream was a complete metaphor for my life: the boat was cluttered and dirty and badly in need of a complete cleaning. And there was one other problem: there was no bottom in the boat. At some point, the boat fell (?) off the support beams on which it had been resting and flew through the air, landing atop the bottom of an old military vessel. The top of the boat and the bottom of the military vessel came together, and both pieces rushed forward into the ocean.
I thought to myself that some remedy had to be found other than the makeshift coupling of the two halves, otherwise, the ocean would be able to dislodge the two pieces, and we would surely sink. In the meantime, someone was complaining about washing the windows of the boat, which were not portholes, but panes of glass like a house, and no one could clean because there was too much clutter—boxes and storage bins and whatever else. I awoke from the dream crying because it was a fast-sinking ship, and I knew that, and just as certainly I knew that the boat in my dream was my life.
Last night I dreamed that I worked at Dillard’s again, and asked to have the home store back because that was always my favorite department. But instead of a home store, there were lawn mowers. Very strange. The weirdest part was that I had all of these great marketing ideas for different departments, and I decided that I should be the store’s roving marketing manager, going from department to department coming up with selling ideas. Also very strange as my marketing background is my least favorite part of my skill set.
So I’m still not sleeping well, even more so since the drop-off for trees and limbs that were felled by the storm is right behind the house in the parking lot of the community park that our house abuts. After Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the City set up a similar drop-off in the parking lot, but is was on the other side of the park, so the sound of the wood chipper and large trucks backing up with their beeping alarms was more removed; now, it is jarringly loud, and it seems to be right outside the bedroom window. It’s not, but that’s how it seems to my head. Lovely.
“The weight of the world is love, under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction.” ~ Allen Ginsburg
Anyway . . . I have had the following quote on my mind for days, but for the life of me, I cannot find out who said it originally (if anyone knows, please pass along the information): Do what you love, and the rest will follow.
Now, I know that there is a book entitled Do what you love and the money will follow, but that is not the sentiment that I am pondering.
Do what you love . . .
What do I love, exactly? I thought that I loved to write, more than anything else in the world. But lately, I have come to question that belief, especially since I am having such a hard time piecing together a coherent blog post. What kind of writer is that? I sit down at these keys everyday, but I do not write everyday. More often than not, I open a computer game and play mindlessly for hours, attempting to lull myself into fatigue. I feel more often than not that I am existing in an endless fog.
Let me pause here. I know that I am depressed, considerably so. That I am not taking my usual dose of antidepressant is not helping matters. Granted. However, I am depending upon samples from my doctor, and I am trying to stretch those as far as they go. No one needs to tell me that this is not how you take a medication that needs to be maintained at a constant level in order to fight the chemical imbalances that lead to clinical depression. I know all of this.
I also know that my particular antidepressant costs over $200 without prescription coverage, which I still don’t have because of the ongoing battle with my health insurance. Not even worth going into that old scenario.
And even though I know that not having my medication is affecting me, and November is affecting me, and being just above poverty level is affecting me, and the upcoming anniversary of my dad’s death is affecting me, and the upcoming holidays are affecting me . . . wait, I lost the subject of that sentence. In other words—everything in the world is affecting me.
“A fierce unrest seethes at the core, of all existing things: it was the eager wish to soar, that gave the gods their wings.” ~ Don Marquis
Last night I was standing at the sink doing dishes (because the dishwasher no longer works because this is the best possible time for yet another appliance to break), anyway, I was doing dishes and crying. Weeping, actually, and no, it wasn’t because I was washing dishes. Why so sad, joker asks?
Let’s see, other than the litany mentioned above, Corey burned his arm two nights ago, bad burn with scalding water, but he has no health insurance. As I applied antibiotic ointment and dressing, all I could think of was that burns get infected so easily. Corey shrugged it off, but I’ve been watching it carefully. It seems to be healing well, but still . . .
And then, the dryer isn’t working right. The dishwasher is now broken. The house as a whole is in horrible shape, cluttered, dirty, depressingly in disrepair. I used to be so anal about cleaning, every weekend, top to bottom. Now, I cannot run the vacuum for the clutter. Did I mention that I cannot write? My phone has been turned off, and basically, I hate life. To be more specific, my life. I hate my life.
Don’t misunderstand. I do not hate the people in my life. I love the people in my life. They are probably the one thing that sustains me at the moment. But my life, per se? The circumstances of my life? I hate, h-a-t-e it. I want to go back to work. I want to have a career again. I don’t want to feel like a burden for which Corey must bear the full weight. I don’t want my spouse to feel that he is a caretaker. That gets old, fast.
I want to sleep through the night, wake up in the morning, get dressed, and go to work.
That I should be happy that I awaken each morning with a roof over my head and some food in my fridge . . . yes, I know that. We’re talking emotions here. Logically, I know that I have so much for which to be grateful. Logically, I know that millions upon millions of people have it so much worse. Logically, I know that in the big scheme of things, my problems are a tiny little puddle in comparison to the monsoons that invade so may people’s lives.
Yes, I know that. Does it makes me seem ungrateful to say that knowing that, I still feel as if I am slowly losing my mind? Losing patience with everything? Losing the ability to cope? Probably, yes, I probably seem ungrateful.
But damn, it just feels as if I am existing, counting days, not living. That’s it. It took me all of these words to get to the heart of it: existing, not living. I want to enjoy life again. I want to be the woman I used to be, the woman who took pleasure in small things, who thrived on stress and pressure, who laughed more, bantered frequently, and bemoaned fate less.
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath
Do what I love and the rest will follow . . . such a seemingly innocuous platitude. Perhaps even good advice. But how do I do what I love when I can no longer identify what I love? And what is it that will follow? What is the rest?
How did I get to this place in my life, this place at which life is a calendar filled with numbers but not with days? How does anyone get here? What scares me the most is the fear that perhaps I have lost hope.
Lost my way? Is my path occluded? Have I forgotten to pay attention to the journey in my single-minded pursuit to survive? Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe I have allowed myself to get so caught up in counting the days until our situation changes that I have completely forgotten that life is to be lived, not endured.
What do I love? I love to write, to read, to engage my mind, to watch the sun set, to walk along the shore, to find a shell, to smell the rain, to discourse, to converse, to contemplate, to cherish, to embrace. I love the smell of a baby’s skin and the scent on the air after I have a bath. I love a cup of tea and a good movie. I love freshly cut herbs and spring blossoms. I love the sound of water and the blue of the deep ocean. I love the wind in my face and the touch of the first snow on my lashes. I love the company of good friends and the peace of the mountains in the fall. I love to listen to good music on a Sunday afternoon, and I love the freedom to sing at the top of my lungs in the shower.
I love to be loved, to feel love, to exude love, to share love.
“Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.” ~ Paul Coehlo
Do what I love? That is so much harder than it seems. Life is so much harder than it should be. Please don’t think me small-minded, and yet, why do I take the time in my stream-of-consciousness to apologize, to care what other people think? Isn’t that always the way?
I have some pondering to do, some searching. Perhaps, though, my search has already brought me to this place of realization: I must get back to myself somehow, before the bottom of the boat falls out and I find myself at sea, a castaway along with the scattered debris that is my life.
I am reminded of a poem by Raymond Carver, one of my favorites:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth
Yes. To feel beloved and to love. Perhaps that is truly all that is necessary.
John Singer Sargent’s “Repose” (Nonchaloir), oil on canvas, 1911: This is how I felt yesterday
“Sadness is always the legacy of the past; regrets are pains of the memory.” ~ Author Unknown
“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ” ~ The Wonder Years
Well, yesterday was an eventful day, so to speak. We found out that one of the avenues of employment that Corey was pursuing is unavailable. Big disappointment there. I really thought that that part of the plan was going to work. Perhaps that’s why I shouldn’t be optimistic: It always ends up smacking me in the head.
Speaking of being smacked in the head, have to say that so far, the massive doses of magnesium are not helping with the usual morning headache. Each morning when I awaken, I have a headache, not a migraine, just a tightness. I don’t know if I am grinding my teeth, but I don’t think so. Corey would have told me by now if I am grinding. So each morning I get up and take 800 mg of ibuprofen and two Sudafed. This usually helps somewhat as I think that part of the reason is my fall allergies kicking in and causing sinus pressure. Oh well.
Another interesting not good thing that happened yesterday is that I had a minor breakdown. Let me explain.
I was looking for something for Alexis that I had been keeping for her. I had thought that it was in the small lockbox in which we keep our passports, birth certificates, etc., but it wasn’t there. Then I thought that I might have put it with her stuff from when she was a baby. I pulled down everything in the top left of my closet as that is where I store the things from the kids’ earlier days.
For example, I have a huge Raggedy Ann that Alexis’s Aunt Ann made Alexis for Christmas one year. The handwork on this doll is amazing. I kind of feel sorry for all of the grandkids, nieces and nephews who came along after Alexis. Everyone was tired of making handmade presents by then. I mean, for the first five years of her life, Alexis was it in the family, so she received handmade Christmas ornaments, dolls, cross-stitched pictures, you name it.
Anyway, Raggedy Ann and a much smaller Raggedy Andy are stored in that part of the closet, waiting for the day if/when Alexis has her own children. I also have a bag of puppets from Germany. They are called hampelmann, which are hand-painted puppets of sorts. Alexis had about seven in all, and they used to hang over her changing table. I would use them to entertain her, and then later, her siblings.
(Aside: Today when I got home from picking Brett up from school, the Pluto hampelmann had been eviscerated, torn limb from limb. I’m pretty sure that Tillie did it as she was the only dog that was hiding from me.)
“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” ~ Willa Cather
Back to the closet. I have kept just a few pieces of clothes from each child, favorite shirts, etc., and I have a bag for each one. There is also a plastic cubed storage container in which I have put several things that belonged to Caitlin. Well, in pulling everything down from the closet, this container also came down.
I made the mistake of opening the container and opening the box that was on top inside of the container. This box holds several things from that hospital, including a sock doll that slept with Caitlin the entire time she was in the hospital.
Let me back up. I’m not a craftsperson. Never have been. But while I was teaching at ODU during that semester in which Caitlin was in the hospital, several of my students brought in things for her. My most cherished gift is a sock doll that one of my student’s mothers made especially for Caitlin. These sock dolls have been around for centuries. They have been called hush-a-bye dolls because mothers used to give them to their babies to keep them quiet in church.
Anyway, I took the doll in my hands, and that was pretty much as far as I got for the next hour. Corey walked in, took a look at the things spread on the bed, and immediately knew what had happened.
“Love lost is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food our tousle their hair . . .But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” ~ Mitch Albon
I came across an article about two weeks ago on a syndrome that some psychiatrists and mental health care researchers are trying to have approved for insertion into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association). The disorder is called prolonged grief disorder, or something like that. PGD is a disorder in which the individual simply cannot get over the loss of a loved one within the “normal” time periods.
PGD is different from depressive disorder, and currently grief is not included in the DSM. In one article, researchers contend “that PGD meets DSM criteria for inclusion as a distinct mental disorder on the grounds that it is a clinically significant form of psychological distress associated with substantial disability.”
Apparently, PGD occurs when grief following lingers and become a serious health problem.
I wish someone would have asked me. I could have told them that years ago. I know that my grief is not normal. I have known that forever. It manifests itself unexpectedly, sometimes mildly, sometimes to the point at which I am completely paralyzed. Granted, I do not have these hour-long crying jags everyday or even every month. But I can count on having at least one Caitlin/Dad related episode in a year.
I really don’t need a psychoanalyst to tell me that my bereavement periods are longer than most people. I do not need confirmation that the pain should not be as acute as it still it. And I will freely admit that even I am astounded by just how severely I am affected when it happens.
I also know that a lot of the reason that my grief has hung around for so long is directly attributable to my feelings of guilt over both of their deaths. I had to make the decision on whether or not it was time for Caitlin, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to view that as not being questionable: Was it time? Should I have waited? With my dad, the guilt arises over the fact that I wasn’t with him when he died, even though I had promised him that I would be there.
“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” ~ Cicero
Logically, you don’t have to tell me that I should have let go a long time ago, or point out my inability to let go. I know all of this. But holding that small, soft doll I could swear that it still smelled of her essence. I know that that is not possible, but grief and despair do funny things to a psyche.
I did look a little more in the storage case: I found the blue smocked dress that I have talked about, which was a real surprise as I have believed for many years that that particular dress is with Kathleen, along with the other dresses that I sent her. I also found the dress that Caitlin was wearing when she had her one and only portrait taken.
Eventually, I was able to put everything away, and Corey put the box back in the top left of the closet. The rest of the things that I pulled down are still in a pile in front of the closet. My accidental encounter with the past left me depleted, bereft, numb.
Too much at once. I’ll get to the rest soon. I think that I am saving it until I can actually enjoy the contents of these bags and boxes. After all, they are filled with items that recall good memories—like Alexis’s tiny Virginia Tech t-shirt. That made me smile.
So I’ll go through the rest, probably tomorrow, refold, repack, and replace on the shelf. I’ll take the time to bring to mind some of the good memories that are associated with these things: Brett’s baby blankets, the various humpelmann, Eamonn’s little cap from the National Zoo, Alexis’s Mary Janes. I find myself smiling inwardly even now as I type about these things. And that’s a good thing.
At times, I can balance with unbearable with the wonderful, the heart-wrenching with the endearing, which only proves that I am human after all. And even if it’s a lie, I will try to believe that it will be all right.