On Saturday, I woke up to Simon in my face rattling off a list of what we were going to buy that day. He had a plan to make slime and we hit the Dollar Store, Walmart and Michael's and then home where he and a friend made a giant vat of blue slime. When we had to put back some glue after the total of it alone was going to be $72, I should have seen the red flag warning. But as has happened so much this year, he was pulling me out of a fog into the life of an eleven year old boy trying to feel normal and I was just along for the ride.
The unveiling of Jay's headstone was the day before and I woke up exhausted and the numbness I felt during the ceremony at the cemetery on a very cold afternoon had worn off. By the end of the weekend followed by more busy, I felt like I was at the bottom of a blue slime ocean and I could not find my way to the surface.
Yesterday I felt far so from it. I was in deep and the ocean was freezing because my hot water heater was broken. I was also sick and tired of cleaning the slime my son kept making for fun and even more tired of watching his magic tricks. Slime found it's way to every inch of my house and Simon was around every corner with a new magic trick. I found myself at 9PM hiding from my son in his room behind his bunk beds covered in blue slime seaweed.
I was tired of people trying to make me feel better. I was tired of my kids. I was tired of saying "yes' when I needed rest. I was tired of being so quick to always forgive the waves. I was tired of reserving the grace for the world to witness rather than hold it close for own eyes to see. I was tired of loud waves that felt like they washed over my voice. I was tired of not knowing what was around every corner in my life.
I was tired and although I missed the red flag warning on Saturday, I knew it was time to raise my white flag and I asked for help. I texted a friend to see if Simon could spend the night the next day and she wrote back offering to keep him for the entire day and night. I felt myself rise a little from the depths. I texted another friend about my hard day and she wrote back “my heart aches for you because my year two was harder.” The echo of my truth at the bottom of the ocean floor resonated and pulled me closer to where there was air. She understood how almost a year after Jay’s death, I was having one of the hardest days yet. It felt like she was in a scuba suit with a tank on her back and a sign that read "this is normal" and if harder days were ahead, I knew someone would understand.
It’s so tempting to wipe away the truth in a world where deep suffering is all around us but yet, we are more comfortable floating on the surface. I feel myself wanting to do it every time this month my kids have found me crying. I want to wipe away the tears so they think all is OK because I too prefer to stay warm and dry and find comfort on the surface.
The truth is grief is hard. One day I feel better like I am building a sandcastle and the next day it disappears with the saltwater tide. Even when I request a top floor room at The Sandcastle Hotel, it does not make a difference and I am back to where I started when the waves are smaller and down shore when the waves are bigger. Simon is usually by my side with a deck of magic cards and Zoe is calling me from her room as if I am the concierge at our quaint little hotel that is no longer.
I know we can drown in lies so I am teaching my kids how to swim instead. As much as I wish they did not have to see our sandcastles washing away, I hope they are seeing that salt water tears and swimming in truth is where healing happens. It is where the only audience I need worry about is my own and as I do it more; I become stronger even if I feel exhausted and weak. I also am learning to trust that others are there to support me and the universe will help me find a way to rise up each and every time I find myself hiding from the world covered in seaweed.
My kids are used to seeing me cry now. Simon will roll his eyes sometimes and say "wimp" but I know when he is ready he will understand that sitting at the bottom of the ocean in sadness takes courage. It really was Junebug who was the most afraid but I am showing her and my kids that when the waves ebb, I get right back up and start building our sandcastle again. I know it is not a waste of time even if I only have a few moments. I am learning to trust that even though I fall and fall and fall, the pull of the moon is working to help us find our feet under us again and I know that one day the waters will calm for a long enough stretch and the shore will be a perfect spot for our sandcastle to stay. But I am keeping it clean, hear that Simon – no more slime!!!!!
Steve Winwood, Roll With It