And interesting text exchange with Lisa (we have lived though letters, email, and now texting. Gosh, we are old):
Me: Lying fallow is a challenge. Busy is easier for me.
Lisa: An idle mind can wreak havoc.
Me: It's not the idle mind that is the challenge.
Lisa: What is?
Me: A mind without direction, without goals, and without a partner. Limbo-like life. In the Catholic sense -- a life without god.
Lisa: Perfect time for Pema Chodron or the like.
Me: Very nice idea. I have some at my bedside.
And an interesting service in church conducted by a man whose experience is wide, varied, and quite unusual -- "Holy Feculence and Crazy Wisdom" by Doug Smith
Both have my mind wandering while I sit with Julia.
It is a lovely, really, really lovely day outside and she prefers to sit inside and do our work together. I would quite happily take it all outside, but she wanted to be inside. I will be up for this battle -- one worth fighting -- during this summer, but today, I will let her do her work inside and contend myself with a walk that we have put on the schedule for later.
Schedules, schedules, we always have schedules. It might sound cumbersome -- all the schedules -- but Julia finds such comfort in them and we get a good deal done with them. Some written, some just done with our fingers.
So, now she sits drawing in her new Summer Reading Journal after reading a story about princesses not liking camping in her new Highlights for Kids magazine. I think I had a subscription to Highlights for a few years as a kid, so did Cheshire, and now it is perfect for Julia. She really likes finding the hidden objects, so we started there yesterday. Today, it was reading a story and now writing the title and a sentence, and drawing a picture. I think the princess is turning out to be a dinosaur princess.
It is so beautiful outside that as we were driving to church, the thought sprung into my head: David, how could you be missing today? I don't often think of David's death in that way. What? Can I understand him being dead easier during the coldness of winter on a dreary wet day? During this long chilly spring? But today? No.
On Thursday, at the acupuncturist, he told me that he felt that David was very present. I believe him, although for someone who is missing the whole of David, it is very hard to appreciate a bit of him being present.
What I set out to write is how I am feeling about this fallow time.
Fallow just got hard.
The last 11 months have been full of busy-ness. I travelled after David died. I got back from England and set about getting Julia ready for school last August. I plunged into PTO work and into LEND reading. I may have been grieving hard, and that took up time and energy but it was gut work. I could have done that sort of grieving while moving mountains or writing a dissertation or brief writing. The body was engaged in the grieving while my mind was kept busy with other things.
Maybe this is common. Maybe it is not. I have no idea. I must ask someone. I have not read about it in any of the widow books I have. This was my process, however, and just that, neither good or bad, just how I got through the worst of the initial sadness.
By April, I was exhausted with my tasks and ready to think as well as feel the loss. Oh, I am making this orderly and neat, and lord know, there has been nothing neat and orderly about my grieving. Was I exhausted holding back part of the grieving that I had to do? Was I tired trying to accomplish something? Was I tired of just doing the tasks I had set out for myself, dragging my grief along like heavy trunks? I wanted to give up everything immediately and looked forward to this fallow time -- time without tasks and responsibility. It felt like there was a crack in my universe again. I could no longer shoulder responsibility and learning and needed to immerse myself, body and mind, into the grieving, mourning, and healing process.
Again, this sounds like a plan. Thoughtful. And it is not so.
When PTO and LEND finished in May -- just about a month ago now, I proclaimed my freedom from both and swore to stay free of leadership and learning. I almost gleefully took on sorting papers, cleaning the garden, and planning the house renovation -- all would allow me to think, let my mind wander and fall down rabbit holes and deep morasses of pain. This has happened and the self-pity and hurt has been poured out here and to a few friends.
And then, yesterday or the day before, I awoke bereft of purpose. It was almost frightening. Cutting myself off from the tasks that give meaning to my days, from the people who peopled those tasks, I had no identifiable purpose, no reason -- Was I cleaning my house, my body and soul for no reason? I have had purpose and goal since I was in the eighth grade. I clearly remember realizing that there was something that I was always working towards. The goal has changed. Certainly. There was a time when I decided to give up theater and look for something else to do, but at that time, the looking itself became the goal
Caveat here: The easy answer to this is Julia! My girls. Julia and Cheshire. Should I not be living for them? I answer, well, of course. Since I first laid eyes on Cheshire, I have always lived for my children. But I lived for more as well. And it is this more that seems to have suddenly deserted me. No, it did not desert me. I gave it up! I abandoned purpose. I abandoned purpose, no, I did not have any real purpose and abandoned all that I was doing, gave myself to do. Was it all merely busy work? That may be something else to think about.
Today, getting through today, set other wheels inside a turning. Feelings like: loneliness, desolation, abandonment. Questions like: What do I have to live for? Internal moaning like: I am certainly too old to find purpose and/or partner. And why the hell am I planning for anything?! This all jangled inside of me like some orchestra all out of tune, fighting to tune up and failing. And then, during our walk, all went silent. I was present. Walking. Talking to Julia about bugs and the smell of dead fish. Politely greeting other walkers and gardeners taking care of weeds and things.
I was silent inside and content to go back to sorting papers, cleaning my desk, making dinner, and reading Julia a story. I wonder now how many of these bubbles of tumult I will meet. I wonder if living without stated purpose is a goal or a stop along the way. I wonder about the vulnerability of letting go of a need for purpose. I wonder if this is the path to healing.