Monochromatic Days

My father once commented on the passage of time. He said, “Minutes are like seconds, hours are like minutes, days are like hours, weeks are like days, months are like weeks.”

Seven months into this pandemic, I think about my father every day. I feel like I have greater insight into what his days were like as he lived them out alone in his house. Day after day, unremarkably the same.

Monochromatic days. There are colours and yet there are so many more that are missing.

Wake up. Feed the cats. Make coffee. Scroll through social media for longer than is wise, especially given the chaotic nature of these times. Have breakfast. Go for a walk. Shower. Fill in the day. Finish up the day. Have a glass of wine. Read. Feed the cats. Plan a trip to the grocery store. Make dinner. Have another glass of wine. Watch an episode or two of a favourite show. Give the cats treats. Go to bed. Rinse and repeat. Plug and play.

I am grateful for all of the things that are part of my plug and play. A day a week with my grandson. The great 2020 Painting Odyssey with multiple days of painting the rooms in my house. Work that includes zoom calls, writing, strategizing, monitoring the discussion boards of the online programs we are piloting. Visiting my granddaughter. Visits with my kids some days or a friend or two on other days.

And yet most days I wake up with sadness, sometimes grief. There is a sameness about the days. They lack adventure. They lack work with clients – how I miss that work right now. They lack planning for the next trip whether for work or pleasure. They lack the in-person connection with my sweetie who I haven’t been with since March.

There is a listlessness. Even as I bring new colour into every room of my house and marvel at the transformation, the endless march of days miss the full spectrum of colour. They are monochromatic. How is it already October? Time has been sucked into a vortex of repetitiveness, even with the plug and play.

I miss my life. I want it back. But, for the moment, I will go apply a second coat of paint to my bathroom – room/area #12, finally feeling like I have turned the corner of this painting odyssey with only 3 rooms left after this. When the painting is done, one less plug and play for my days. Pining for the days of full colour spectrums.

I Love You More

We didn’t always say “I love you” to each other, but in his latter years, when we did, with increasing frequency, dad would say, “I love you more.”

This remembrance came to me this week as surprisingly deep wells of grief have opened, hearing about the passing of another in the group of friends who boated together for decades. Seven months since my father passed.

Dad once said to me that in his family, growing up, these words were never spoken. I don’t know where or when he decided to say, “I love you more” but it would make me smile every single time he did.

Even without the words, I knew he loved me. He knew I loved him. He loved me as unconditionally as he knew how and this was not easy for him – a perfectionist who liked order and control.

I learned to love him in the same way – as unconditionally as I knew how. I have written that he was not the easiest person to be around at times. He could be grouchy. He had moments of feeling sorry for himself. He had his own moments of deep grief that I witnessed through listening. Just listening; witnessing. Holding space for him and his process. Not trying to make it better, explain it away, side with anyone. At times he focused more on who wasn’t coming around than who did come around. He yearned for the joy, happiness and fun of the past when everyone was younger and mortality seemed a long ways a way. A past that our family friend was part of.

From “the good old days”

Dad knew his mind. He knew what he wanted. I came to recognize his humour. How he lit up when he gently flirted with waitresses or other young women he came into contact with, as inappropriate as that may be in this day and age, and even though my mother was his one and only true love. How he used to tell everyone, “She’s not my girlfriend…. She’s my daughter.”

He cherished his independence even while at times he was lonely. In the last year or so of his life, his ability to get around became increasingly impaired. He had leg pains and he couldn’t breathe. He had difficulty getting up from a chair and walking up stairs. I always honoured his independence. I would adjust my pace of walking to his. I would carefully watch him as he struggled to go up a set of stairs or get out of his seat. I would not do for him what he wanted to do for himself, even when it was hard to watch.

Last summer, we were trying to get him qualified for home oxygen, paid for by the province. We went to the hospital for a test but his legs gave out before his oxygen could register at a qualifying level. We were told, when I asked, he could go back for a retest. It was his idea to do the stairs because they taxed him more than just walking. I will never forget the young technician’s ashen face as he emerged through the door of the stairwell with my panting father. If he wasn’t so young, I think having dad on the stairs may have given him a heart attack! It did the trick though. Dad qualified for home oxygen. Unfortunately, it was not the “cure” dad hoped it would be.

I miss him even as I feel his presence with me every day. He is often in my dreams. I “saw” his welcoming committee when he arrived on the other side. I “see” him welcoming the newly transitioned friends as the clans regroup. I feel the emptiness of what was and the fullness of what is. I allow my grief to leak through my eyes as I smile at the memory of, “I love you more.”

What Futures are You Mourning?

Easter morning 2020. This already would have been a different Easter since my dad died in January of this year. Like most, we typically would have gathered as a family, my kids and grandchild – here at my home or, as has been the case more recently, we would have taken Easter to my dad in Lunenburg.

March 1-2020

March 1, 2020 – the last time most of us gathered as a family just after my father’s funeral.

Not only is my dad gone, so too, for many of us is any sense of traditional celebration or family gathering for this year. Day by day the assessment of how long we will have to self isolate and physically distance seems to extend. It started with two weeks, expanded to two months and now there are ruminations that it could be as much as two years.

This means an indeterminate unknowing about what the future holds. Groundlessness continued for an indefinite amount of time. Will we reach a breaking point or a breakthrough point? Probably both. Probably more than once.

I am mourning my family celebrations. I grieve that my family and I cannot come together in person and reminisce about my father, among other things. I get this is for the greater good and the longer-term future but that doesn’t mean I can’t grieve this current moment or that I can’t grieve the future as I imagined it to be. As we all imagined it to be. We all get to acknowledge our emotional reactions and the rollercoaster global moment we are in. It is healthy to do so.

I grieve the uncertainty of knowing when I will be able to be with my beloved again. The time of reunion keeps getting pushed off. First it was maybe the end of May, then June, then the summer and now who knows when. We have a long distance relationship nurtured in mutual love and respect and the ability to travel to be together frequently. Now complicated by the fact it is an international relationship – me in Canada, him in the US. I feel despair in this, even as I know our relationship is strong enough to weather this.

What will be the impact on our business? Our livelihood? I get this is a moment of great opportunity in the midst of uncertainty. But what will that look like?

In the middle of all of this, I am clearing out my father’s house, getting it ready to hand over to new owners. It is a lonely task thanks to social distancing. I drive from one empty house to another, bringing back contents from one to the other, waiting for the opportunity to give away that which my brother and I have decided to let go of. Holding onto other things until such a time as he can travel back to NS from PEI safely and my kids and I and my partner can gather.

It is not just this moment that is unsettling. It is the loss of futures we dreamed of that are not available to us right now. The weddings that are cancelled, postponed or happening in a different form. The funerals that can’t be held right now. Being with loved ones in the time of death or the time of birth. Birthday, anniversary celebrations and so much more. We each have our own lost futures and it is okay to grieve them. Give yourself permission with compassion, forgiveness and care.

Grief and Love

I have been thinking a lot about grief lately. How we each carry grief. How we experience it differently. How it is sparked in different ways. It could be the loss of a loved one who has died. This is the way we often think of grief. Yet, there are so many other sources of grief.

Grief for one’s own journey. Grief for the journey that someone you love must experience although it is heart wrenching and heart breaking to observe.

Reminded over and over again that you cannot save another person from their own journey and you cannot rescue them. Patience in the waiting and the observing is a practice to be recalled over and over again.

Will they find their way? You cannot know for sure until they do. Or do not.

But you can hold the faith, in whatever way and practice that shows up for you, that they will.

The grief you feel personally may be amplified by any grief you feel for the state of the world these days. For Mother Earth and a climate crisis you might feel helpless to prevent. Grief amplified by the toxic state of public discourse that has created so much fragmentation and polarization in our communities and in our families.

It can be hard to look. It can be hard to look away.

Overwhelmed by grief, it can be hard to remember to tend to self, to your own internal condition. Yet, without this, survival feels remote and joy feels impossible.

You can grieve and also allow joy. States of the human condition do not need to be mutually exclusive. You can feel both and even more at the same time.

It starts with allowing yourself to feel. This can feel risky, even dangerous. There may be fear that allowing yourself to feel will result in becoming more deeply lost, though it is in the feeling you can move through the faces and phases of grief and any other emotional state you may be experiencing.

Sometimes it is head down, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other – literally or figuratively. Remembering to breathe. Breathe deeply. Breathe into the pain. Breathe into the love. Breathe into the heart and the soul.

Other times it is head up, looking around at the wonders of the world that still exist despite the desperation of the times.

The rising and setting of the sun. The phases of the moon. The rising and ebbing of the tides. The stars. The light drizzle. The pounding rain. Snowflakes and snowstorms. The fresh morning air, the high heat of a noon sun on a summer day, the cooling temperatures at dusk.

Look within. Look to nature. Look to love. For what is underneath the grief but the sense of loss. For people. For relationships. For other things held dear.

And if there is grief, there is also love. Love that lives on that, when you touch it, you can touch beyond your grief and find your way into another day.

Sunset on the St. Lawrence SeawayJPG

Grief.

It washes over the soul

Like waves wash over the pebbles

On the beach.

Sweet agony

Captured in the constant

Roar of crashing waves.

Grief.

The soothing motion

Of gentle waves

Lapping the shore.

Tears well up,

Dropping into the endlessness

Of the ocean,

Becoming one

Both with the tumultuousness

Of raging storms

Close to the surface

And with the quiet depths

So far below.

Grief.

Not just one face.

Not just one expression.

Not just one cause.

Feel it.

Let it wash over you.

Go deeper

Beneath the storm

To the calm.

Find the love

Beneath the grief.

~ August 2019