It’s disturbing. Perhaps someday I’ll look back on this particular aspect of grief and find humor in it but as of this moment, it’s anxiety provoking.
Fireman Nick and I are on our way to Key West FL from Connecticut and as I drove yesterday I happened to glance at the mileage indicator which caused me to flip up the visor to see when Pink Magic is due for an oil change (which I wisely prepaid upon purchase). Which caused me to exclaim loudly “Fuck!” as I realized I’m 2000 miles overdue. Which sent me into anxiety when I considered our tight travel schedule over the next couple days before arriving at our destination and the more than likely unavailability of a Ford dealership being convenient and available.
Grief. It’s a physiological happening, among everything else, and I’m seeing it play out viciously in my life. I’m keenly aware of it and strive to counteract it but my efforts fail miserably in all directions.
The forgetfulness is rampant. My brain synapses are clearly misfiring and it would be almost fascinating to me if it weren’t, as I said, anxiety producing.
I know I need to get oil changes on the car every 5000 miles. I’ve had one done since I bought Pink Magic and a tiny note is penned in the upper left corner of the windshield to remind me of the next one. Somewhere I also wrote a note as a further reminder. Here’s the thing. I don’t even remember where I was when I got the first one done, or where the paperwork is from it. Probably in my files. I know where my files are at least but the physical and mental effort involved in searching inside of the files for the paperwork is beyond me. And pointless really-why make the search? Bottom line is, I need to make an appointment post-haste for the next one. Which requires figuring out where we’ll be for a long enough period of time to get the car unhitched from my T@b trailer to get it into the shop. I won’t bore you with the mental energy required to get that all in place.
I could be, and some part of my brain is, in awe of how this grief is playing out in my brain. At some point far in the future, when I care again about such things, and if such a thing could be done, I’d be interested in seeing a live-action shot of my human brain, highlighting in bold colors what happens to the brain when the person it belongs to is in survival mode. All I can imagine now is a snow globe being shaken furiously up and down and back and forth unceasingly. That’s a much more gentle picture than it feels but it’s a start. Possibly.
Phone calls. So many loving, supportive people (and I’m blessed with many) check in on me and I love and need those phone calls and I make a mental note to myself and save the calls so that I can return them. Then forget to check my calls so that I can return them. Or I forget to call in the first place until the name of the friend/family I want to call places front and center in my mind and I want to call them but it’s the wrong time or I have no emotional energy so I don’t call right away and then I forget to call until their name places again.
Emails, notes, cards (when snail mail can reach me). I read them, make a note to myself to call or write in return and promptly have no idea where I put them, even if I put them in a place where I won’t forget them, or, in the case of emails, forget to go back to them. Yes, you say, send an email immediately in response. That sounds like something the old me would have done. This me, which is not the new me, it’s just the me I am currently, stares at you blankly as you suggest that, acknowledges your very obvious solution and mentally folds up at the energy required to immediately respond to any communication and, oh yes, also promptly forgets the conversation in which you offered that very obvious solution.
As I’ve traveled from California after Handsome Husband’s death, a trail of sometimes cherished belongings have been left behind. It has often taken me months to realize I’ve lost whatever was lost, then another thought to acknowledge the emotional value of said belonging, and yet another to consider the emotional value, a space of moments to feel anxious about the loss and one more to balance the loss with the affirmation of “it’s only a thing”, and one more to let the loss go.
Traveling as I do, full-time, has always required organization externally as far as our space, now, of course, my own space (writing the word “my” is in and of itself an emotional tsunami for me). My brain patterns adjusted accordingly to living our traveling life and I could always lay my hands on whatever I sought and my mental file of what needed to be done was sharp and on target.
This isn’t life-threatening, I know that. None of this is and to that I say, thank god. But so much if it is important. I need to keep my car in top condition so that it runs smoothly so I don’t break down on the road which, believe me, you don’t want to see the results of that happening. My T@b trailer needs to be in the same good shape and, well, that will definitely be a process of learning because it isn’t a matter of remembering with that one but a process of learning in the first place. I count my blessings that I’ve even remembered to hitch it to my car. Maybe I should weld it permanently?
When Handsome Husband died, he took with him, along with my emotional peace and security, a world of knowledge and skill sets. If I forgot something, he remembered it. We were a great team, made stronger together, and we made this traveling life work well. There’s a huge learning curve for me now, both in remembering what I already know how to do, and in learning the how-to’s of all that is my new life. The old me feels anxious about the remembering, intimidated at the new learning, and overwhelmed at how much I’m stumbling and falling and not remembering either. (And yes, I do acknowledge the new things I have learned to do which I never thought to know).
I know that I’m forgetting, so I do use reminders to remind myself to remember to not forget to write it down and put it in a place easily found and seen so that I will do whatever it is I need to not forget to do. It can be right there in front of me and I can stare holes into it to remind myself and not only do I not remember it, I’m not even really seeing it in the first place. You can stand directly in front of me and we can have a discussion about something I’m realllllly interested in, and seconds later I’ll recall none of it. It gets embarrassing. Or it would if I had the energy to be embarrassed. I’ll ask for some help or clarification on any given problem when not only is it not actually a problem, but it needs no clarification because the answer is directly in front of me and when that is pointed out to me my only response is “hmmmm”.
This new not the real me just the current me exhausts and concerns the real me who is inside of this shell of me because I need to create a life for myself and have to create a life for myself and I’m traveling and need to be on top of things and all I can think of even as I write this is how really I’m not thinking at all I’m only feeling and that should be alright but I need to think of at least the most basic things and I try to think and remember I really really do but it doesn’t seem to be working, does it and the anxiety builds and I wonder how on godsgreenearth have I managed to drive across country and buy a car and buy a trailer and network and visit our kids and attend his family reunion and plan and carry out his memorial service and lay a foundation for this new unwanted life of mine and be on the fucking road South and then North and then West when I can barely remember to brush my teeth in the morning and all that is in my mind and heart and soul no matter how hard I try otherwise, is the idea that he is dead and gone and the fucking knowing-ness that he will never come back to me and this is it the rubber meets the road and I just need to drive and drive and drive and hope (though I don’t have any real idea of what hope even is) that I have enough sense somewhere in me that will keep me at least safe and the rest of it will get figured out one way or another and who…
I was going to write “who cares anyways?” A terrible thing to write. Lots of people more than care and I love them for that. I wish I cared. I know I’m supposed to care so that people won’t think I’m depressed or self-pitying and that’s another whole argument for which I have no energy. Maybe a deeply buried part of me cares but the conscious me cares only to the extent that I am, yes, supposed to care. Also, I need to breathe. I need to write a note to remind myself to breathe and hope that I can find that note. It’s all so bizarre, really. Remind yourself to breathe, Alison. Remind yourself to drink water. Remind yourself to exercise. Remind yourself to be open to life. Remind yourself that you can do this. Remind yourself to not be overwhelmed at reminding yourself to do all of everything that is necessary in order to be healthy, to function, to keep your life functioning, to fucking live.
And it’s funny because it all sounds so simple and I’m complicating it and over thinking it and all I really need to do is get the damn oil changed.