More on My Mental Health

Last night a friend texted me. She’s the kind of friend who composes lengthy missives describing what’s going on in her life. We don’t text every day, but when we have time. Or when we remember. Sometimes a week or two pass before one of us responds to the other’s most recent texts. Which is fine, because when we do text, we are thorough. She’s a much better writer than I, but I often reciprocate in length and efforts at thoughtfulness when I reply to her.

When I received a series of long texts from this friend last night, she asked how my June was doing, and that it took a long time before a certain difficult month for her became significantly less difficult.

That’s when it hit me.

My erratic sleep. My lack of motivation. My blanking out a lot of the time. My distraction.

I replied that she just might have gotten to the bottom of my depressive behavior.

My subconscious self still seems to be grieving.

Coming off that very first day of June–our wedding anniversary but also that extremely mournful day in 2019–a lot goes on this month that trigger layers of different feelings.

That’s the main cause, and that’s what makes the most sense. I generally love summer. The heat. The sunshine. All the quality time with loved ones. But June this year feels off. I don’t know if I’ve processed things enough, or if I have guilt from not moving on or moving on too quickly. Or that I have grief appropriation: she wasn’t my mom, but my feelings somehow can’t compare to Carla’s actual relatives.

And I know I shouldn’t be comparing feelings. And I have feelings about that.

Anyway, I guess sadness waxes and wanes, and this month in particular is waxy. And has a high pollen content.

I’m so exhausted.

Cemetery Time

We visited Nana again last night, June 1 being the second anniversary of her passing. In addition to the many bouquets of flowers left at her gravesite, we launched some balloons in her honor.

It’s a lovely idea, really: the releasing, the floating. The beauty of the symbolism.

And the evening was perfect: the coolness, the breeze, the perfect sky.

Reilly’s sister picked up the balloons. She chose colors that match Carla’s favorite rose from the front flowerbed. Reilly’s dad; his sister, her son; his two brothers, his sister-in-law; a close family friend; me, Z, and he. Each of us held two balloons.

Z counted us down, and then we let our balloons go. They drifted away together. Upward, joining the heavens, becoming sky.

From Instagram June 3, 2019

I wrote this two years ago:

Carla loves gardening and working on her yard. If you’ve seen her yard you know the love and great care she puts in the beauty she creates. I’m no gardener, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been out in our yard, pulling weeds, planting flowers, meditating, crying: devoting that time to her. Yesterday morning I was pulling weeds, Z was running around in the yard, while Reilly was working on the obituary. It occurred to me that not only is this yard work–this beautifying a space–a good way to remember Carla, it’s a quiet way to feel a certain communion WITH her. It is sacred.

For the past couple of days we’ve been working hard trying to rebeautify our yard. I really love remembering Carla this way. It crossed my mind today while pulling weeds when we first found out she was sick, I wanted to ask her about all her gardening secrets. Which I didn’t do. And I didn’t think it was appropriate as her time here shortened.

I took some video footage of some of the greenery in our yard and put it to music. A modest tribute.

June 1 Eve, 2019

Two years ago today I weeded one of the back flowerbeds in the afternoon. My mother-in-law’s condition had taken a drastic turn for the worse. Her life in the balance–one foot in mortality, and the other beyond–weighed heavily on my mind. I thought of all the things I wanted to say to her. I knew we’d be heading down to visit her at home that evening. Thrusting the shovel into the soil and crying. Pulling weeds and crying. Standing in the middle of the flowerbed, feeling the most profound sadness.

We drove down. Nana lay in bed, writhing from pain. I said some of the things that crossed my mind earlier, not knowing if she was lucid. She seemed to have heard me and calmness swept over her.

We came back home. Got ready for bed.

Reilly got a call around 2am.

We drove back down.

Seven hours later she was gone.

We wouldn’t really sleep again that whole week.

We visited the cemetery last night with Reilly’s family. The entire grounds popped with bouquets on every gravesite. Memorial Day weekend.

As we pulled next to Reilly’s mom’s plot, Z said, “Hi, Nana.”

We all sat by Nana. Papa watered her bouquets, and we told stories. Z sang for us and kept us laughing.

There’s a lot of people to remember this weekend, but we’re always going to remember Nana first.

Damn, This Album: Blue Heron Suite, by Sarah Jarosz

A friend recommended this album a couple weeks ago and added her own warning of its emotional impact. This morning I finally played it. The songs carved out my flesh and left my soul bare.

This album is a song cycle Jarosz created to contemplate her mom’s cancer diagnosis coinciding with the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (See story here.) Jarosz explores place and nostalgia in a Gulf Coast town her family frequented during her childhood. She employs symbol in a blue heron fleeting the coast.

These songs are well-produced, yet its rawness rekindles (revisits? revives?) some of my own grief. It’s not the same initial process of mourning, though: every opportunity to remember death of loved ones lets me see how my grief has evolved over time.

I may try providing commentary of individual songs later. Sarah Jarosz is indisputably talented, both as an instrumentalist and songwriter. She can tap into the heart of our most cherished experiences, our precious memories, our suppressed and neglected heartbreaking moments.

This one’s going into the rotation.

Some Sunday Thoughts

The Little lost another tooth.

After a year of only bottom teeth–the four front ones–Z finally lost a top tooth.

Losing teeth always feels like a milestone. Part of the child goes away and a little bit of adult takes her place. Like sorting through outgrown clothes, this aspect of development saddens me a little.

I love that girl so much.

We watched part of the Grammys tonight in Payson. Talked about a few bands that Carla liked. A few songs that are hard to listen to. I walked into the living room to check on Z and my eyes landed on the photo used for Carla’s obituary. One of the tunes we’d discussed just moments before earwormed, and tears welled in my eyes.

“Golden Embers,” by Mandolin Orange.

I’ve always watched the music video of the band performing, and not the story form video. I’ll post the story here, still not having watched it. Not sure I can handle crying right now.

Lyrics here.

Mandolin Orange’s Tides of a Teardrop is a tribute to Andrew’s mother. It’s beautiful, poignant; very relatable.

It’s still hard. That’s really all I can feel right now.

Just Keep Swimming

I posted this on social media two days ago: Monday, 6/24.

Just keep swimming.

This past Saturday was three weeks since Nana’s passing; two weeks since her funeral. June 22 is Nana and Papa’s wedding anniversary. Z woke up, and she led me through her morning routine. I asked what she wanted for breakfast.

She looked at me and said, “Nemo.”

I very deliberately paused. “You want to watch Nemo? Ok, let’s go turn it on.”

We watched about 30 minutes of the movie when Reilly got home from the gym. After pausing the movie, we went upstairs and started eating the donuts he brought. Then Z headed back downstairs to finish watching. I followed her.

While the movie was playing I had my laptop open, writing and reviewing some personal thoughts. Then I heard Dory sing, “Keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

I stopped typing. This was the motto Nana had applied to her own struggles and afflictions the past couple of years. No matter the procedure, the pain, the fatigue, nausea, heartache: she pushed on. With a smile, even.

As Dory sang, I cried. As Marlin guided her through the swarm of Portuguese Man-o’-Wars stinging her, and Dory fought to stay conscious, she sang: Keep swimming.

After Finding Nemo, Z asked to watch Finding Dory. Young Dory sang “Keep swimming” when a current swept her away from her parents. She sang it throughout her search for her parents. That was how she survived. And succeeded.

I cried again.

It had been a while since Z watched either of these movies, and Reilly suggested she was feeling nostalgic. I agreed, but not just for the movies, but for Nana. I know she misses her.

Z knew what the day was. It wasn’t a coincidence she wanted to watch those movies.

Then while we were in Payson yesterday for dinner, Cousin Jessica made and brought these dogtags for all of us. A reminder of Carla; a talisman for how to live our own lives.

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We’re gonna just keep swimming, Nana. We love you.

A Break for the Tear Ducts

Places I’ve cried in descending order of frequency:

  1. Garden/Flowerbeds
  2. Shower
  3. Work
  4. Car, on the way to/back from work
  5. Talking to Z, tucking her in
  6. In my own bed, trying to fall asleep
  7. Family room

Today might be the first day in over a month I haven’t cried at all.

Weird.

 

It Was A Beautiful Day

June 8, 2019

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This was two weeks ago. I don’t know how that happened, where the time went. Not that it passed particularly quickly or slowly, but that it . . . moved.

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The service at the church was beautiful. Poignant music. Heartfelt words. A lot of tears. Some laughs. Many hugs. There are a million stories that could come from that hour and a half at the church. And a million more that could come from the hour-long viewing beforehand.

Graveside. Sunny, mid-60s.

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Z could not have been been better behaved. She understood the day.

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Carla would have loved these flowers. A coworker relayed that Carla actually chose her spray. Her colleagues were more than eager and happy to oblige her. For this day. This one wish. Something in the way her coworkers regard her is particularly touching to me. They were also her friends, but there was something about their relationship that somehow resounds with me.

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Two weeks sometimes feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. These perceived lapses occupy the same space. Or maybe they’re layered on top of each other. Or interwoven. I don’t understand it. Maybe a part of me wants to believe that understanding it will help me feel better. But what I should understand is that I’ll feel better with time. Whether that time is in slow-motion or warp speed.

And “feeling better” isn’t a singular event. I’ve felt pretty darn ok in certain moments. Laughed, even. I’ll take what I can get.

I’ll give what I can, too.

Today is Blake and Carla’s 41st wedding anniversary.

This isn’t an easy month right now.

We’re all going to watch Reilly’s brother play in the Utah Symphony as they accompany a screening of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire.

Should be fun.

A Voice

“I sure do love you.”

This.

This is the soundbyte.

Over the last few months. Probably the last year. Carla would say that right into Z’s ear whenever she gave her a hug.

Whenever this memory bubbles up, I hear her loud and clear, as if she’s in the very same room. As if the memory is present. In real time. The inflection. The tone. The depth and pureness and sheer truth of this statement.

I don’t ever want to not hear it, for it to fade.

At bedtime, I try to say it to Z the same way Carla said it to her.

I want to keep hearing it. I want Z to hear it. Forever.

To feel it.