By Stacey Shannon
The thing about grief is:
I can’t trust myself.
No matter how I rail against this part of my life/year/self, that is the bottom line. It is part of me. And though I may disregard it for 11 out 12 months of the year, it’s always there. It WILL come at me like Shane Stant came at Nancy Kerrigan with a club. When it arrives, it does what it always does. It hobbles my knees and runs away as I fall to the ground, asking “Why, why?”.
No, I’m tired of asking why. I’ll never really know. Moving on, next question:
When? Nope, done asking when. When will it be over? The answer to that one is always the same and it is this: never.
How? That’s a good one. Let’s unpack that. (Don’t you hate when people say that? It’s so douchey. “I know you are feeling rotten right now, let’s unpack that’! How about, NO?) How best to navigate these two weeks every winter, every fucking winter, 18 winters and counting. How? I’m not going to answer that. Because when I do answer that question, I immediately discount my own answer. Simply because: I can’t trust it.
I can’t trust my decisions. Chocolate or booze? Yes, please. What seems like a good idea in the morning is far too much effort in the afternoon. What looked delicious in the grocery store yesterday holds no appeal today. Have I brushed my teeth today? When did I shower last? There is no consistency, no base, no grip. I. Have. No. Grip. And don’t tell me to get a grip. Because I cannot. I cannot even. I am so far from gripping that it is pointless to even discuss it further. So let’s not.
I am in a free fall of contradictions and endless bullshit. The only constant is the not knowing. Except in the knowing that there is no trusting. Of myself. None. I live in a constant state of doubt. Also: self-loathing because I have been rendered completely and utterly useless to all who depend on me. It’s PTSD. It’s “fight or flight”. It’s white noise, and beeping monitors and regret and gratitude and its all swirled together like a Tide Pod which looks good enough to eat. (BTW, what is up with that? Come on people, this is why we can’t have nice things. You know, like a functioning government.)
I’m cranky. Of this much I am sure. So I withdraw, retreat, because I can’t trust myself to be kind. What if I am unnecessarily rude to the clerk at WaWa? Maybe he deserves a dressing down. Maybe he has it coming to him and I’m just the crotchety old lady to dish it out. Or maybe not. Maybe I’M the one who is having an off day, Who can say? Not me. I just considered eating a Tide Pod….
I cannot trust my math. Should I balance the checkbook and pay bills? Definitely not. I am reckless, on tilt, so I will write too many checks, thinking it will all work itself out. And if doesn’t, who cares? Not me.
I cannot trust my words. Should I take my children to task over their failure to (fill in the blank)? Keep in mind, because of an unending parade of snow days here in Pennsylvania, they have attended exactly 3.5 days of school since Dec. 22. They are sick of each other, sick of me, and I am sick of them. Sick of myself. What if I am unnecessarily cruel in my criticism? I can’t trust my tongue to be measured and sane. So I let them do what they want. They eat nothing but pizza, chips and popcorn because the scurvy they are likely to contract is preferable to whatever lacerations my horrid behavior may inflict upon their hearts. Scurvy is treatable, I’ll buy some Cuties next time I go shopping. But damage done by their mother’s disproportionate response to their messy rooms? Nope. They’ll keep that shit forever. Like luggage, baggage even.
Makes no difference that my other mom friends who have been cooped up with their kids for the same period have taken to day drinking in an effort to curb the urge to eat their young. These are women I admire for their creative, compassionate, energetic, focused, consistent, disciplined approach to parenting. They too, are ready to snap. I listen to the hysteria just simmering under the surface of their voices and think about how justified they would be, we all would be, if we shoved our entitled children outside without their coats and screens for 30 minutes just so we could hear ourselves think and maybe binge a quick Outlander episode in peace. It can be done in 30 minutes if you fast forward over all the history lessons in order to get to the good parts. “Turtle Soup” anyone? It would be fine for them if they were to do it. But not me, I can look at them and think they are justified. But to envision myself engaging in the same activity? Nope. That is just the grief exacerbating my already lamentable Mommy Dearest tendencies. And, as previously discussed, anyone who considers eating a Tide Pod should neither vote nor parent.
I cannot trust my love. Everything about my husband pisses me off. He doesn’t do chores. Or he does chores but not the way I want them done, or when I want them done. This is the guy with whom not more than a month ago I celebrated 25 years of marriage. We went away for 3 days and two nights, lived in a bubble, just the two of us, bonded, fell a little more in love with each other. This morning I looked out the window at our unshoveled sidewalk and thought, “Maybe I should just leave him.” See? See? This is what I am saying. I can’t trust my thought processes and I can’t trust my love to pull me back from the subway platform where I wait with my toes hanging off the edge for the train to Crazy Town while mulling over getting on that train or jumping in front of it. What if I do something to torpedo our hard-won bliss? Maybe all bliss is temporary? Who can say? Obviously not me. I don’t know what the fuck I am talking about this week. So I avoid my husband. No kissing. No sex. Engaging in those intimate pursuits will only ensure that I will crack open like a forgotten Easter egg. That Easter egg hidden in April but undiscovered until January. You know that egg. You know that smell. He doesn’t need to deal with that putrid mess. And why should he? He is his own forgotten Easter egg. And his putrid mess has been hidden for much longer than mine.
I cannot trust my driving. At present, I am on autopilot whether behind the wheel or not. I am like Karen Walker, full of vodka, singing along to “Hey Ya”. Yeah, its that bad, honey. I miss turns. I drive without the radio on because my PTSD addled brain craves the quiet. I cry, I curse out other drivers. Ok, I curse out other drivers on good days as well, but my point is the crying, and the fact that I don’t know if its my fault or the other dude’s fault when we are flipping each other off. Maybe I deserved that Bird. I don’t remember, I was too busy crying and being Karen Walker.
I cannot trust my cooking. I wander away from the stove, leaving the burners on. Ditto with candles, so I don’t light them. In cleaning out the refrigerator of Christmas leftovers, I keep food that is too old. Judgement? I have none. But will probably have ptomaine poisoning by the end of the week. Does this sound like a woman who should feed her children? “Hey kids, I cooked up some Tide Pods for you!”
So here are the takeaways:
There are no answers here.
If there were answers I wouldn’t believe them anyway because I am unable to trust much of anything that filters its distorted way through the grief.
Tide Pods. They are what’s for dinner.
Stacey Shannon is a stay home mom who is ready to go back to work but has not clue what direction to pursue. She is now mothering two teenagers, which is as much fun as everyone said it would be.