displacing feelings while grieving

I got into the habit of calling my dad in the late afternoon during his last months. It was a good time of day to catch him awake and it helped me feel as though I was doing something because his insistence that I not come effectively blocked me from action. One thing I learned during Will’s illness and after his death was that movement was a good thing. It helped. It’s kind of like taking a walk after eating, helps speed the crap through.

Sometimes I still call in the afternoon though Mom doesn’t appreciate frequent base touching. She is a grouchy old woman that way. Nearing 80 and indignant about the changing of the guards as DNOS and I are now treating her more like our children than our mother in some ways.

Calling was a risk. I had spoken with DNOS over the weekend. She reads my blog and called me wanting to express thanks for my sticking up for her while still trying to remain as neutral as possible. In the course of our conversation, I got her side of the story and wasn’t surprised to learn that Mom had overstated a bit of certain points.

DNOS walks a tightrope that I am familiar with but I am too far away physically to be much more than an ear for her.

“Don’t talk to Mom about this anymore,” she asked me.

Which is where the risk comes in. Mom knows that I talk with DNOS and when things are tense between them, she will casually question me about what I might know. Since I am way done with secret keeping, I tell her.

She didn’t like it. 

It’s my opinion – which I expressed to both of them – that they need to talk. Air out feelings. Discuss expectations. And on Mom’s part, finally bury the roles she assigned us as teens and young adults and start seeing us for who we are now.

Mom is one of those people who can’t forget. In the heat of anything, she will dredge up incidents from long past that she has relied upon to define people and set the rules for the relationships she has. She did this with Dad all the time, and while she had good cause to be angry about the wasted years his drinking cost their marriage, it was pointless and time wasting in its own way once he was sober and in declining health. 

I told DNOS that I thought Mom was dealing with a lot of regret and that Dad’s approaching birthday and then the anniversary of his death this coming October were going to make interacting with her less than optimal for a while to come.

I reminded Mom of a time when I was about 10 months out when I simply went off on her over the phone and then refused to pick up her calls for several days. It was DNOS who finally convinced me to relent. It was a stupid thing. I had called to just vent about Dee. I was tired of being her sole caregiver. Not like that was anything new. I had always been a single mom because of the circumstances, but I was under pressure at work because the statute of limitations was up on sympathy for me there, I was struggling with my inability to eat without pain and first anniversaries loomed. Mom tried to compare her struggles as a young mother with my situation. I wasn’t having it. I was totally out of line. It really doesn’t matter how much you hurt, lashing out is wrong. There will always be people who don’t understand or whose experiences don’t mirror your own or your philosophies on dealing. Grown-ups deal. They do not throw tantrums or pick fights.

Mom didn’t remember that incident, but I went on to explain that she might be feeling as she does because she is grieving hard right now and that her perceptions of the gift card incident and the sale of Dad’s car might be colored by this.

Of course she fell back on trying to make me feel guilty.

“I guess I am just a bad person.”

I reassured her as best as I could and pressed the issue of the need to talk with DNOS and let it go.

“Shaping up to be a great visit for us in October,” Rob commented when I told him. 

The October visit has the earmarks of stress all over it, but I promised to attend a wedding in Des Moines and I have a best friend there who needs a shoulder, so we are going. I feel bad for Rob though. 

I expect this will hit another dramatic high or two before it plays itself out.

The new fun thing to do on the widow board these days is to take male profiles from a dating site called Plenty of Fish and post them to the social forum for other women to see and comment on. The comments are invariably cruel. The kind of stuff that passed as fun back in one’s high school or college days. It really wasn’t acceptable back then either, but there comes a point in a woman’s life where it crosses the line from dubious fun to simply a telling commentary on what kind of a person she has become over the years.

One of the less helpful side-effects of emotional pain, of any origin, is the tendency to redirect it. Often we take aim at those closest to us, but our targets can be stereotypical too. If we are suffering from insecurities related to our physical appearance, we might develop a habit of poking fun of the overweight in the form of jokes and snide remarks. People suffering rejection in matters of romance and relationships fall back on unflattering gender stereo-typing and bashing. When we see ourselves as completely misunderstood, we gladly cloak ourselves in martyrdom.  The professionals refer to it as displacement and, lately, I seem to have less and less patience with this in others and in myself.

Try as I might to always put a correct name on the vagueness that is my grief experience now, I am still not always successful. A week ago I turned fear into homesickness and as a result upset my husband rather needlessly. We talked it through and as it turns out I was homesick, but I wish I could sort out my emotions in a more articulate manner. Words are a timesaver that I don’t appear to have when it comes to how I am feeling and it frustrates me. When I watch the schoolgirl boy-bashing on the board, it occurs to me that it would be more productive for those engaged to just admit that they are afraid they are too old or unattractive and with personalities that are an acquired taste for any man to be attracted to them now that they have been thrust unwillingly back onto the “market”. It would certainly be easier to tell them to quit being so stupid if that were the case than to try and wade through the thinly veiled loathing of their situations, and point out to them that what they are doing by ridiculing these poor men is tearing them down in an effort to build themselves up. And that just can’t be done. Self-esteem is not built on the crushed bodies of others. How do I know? I used to be one of those women who engaged in similar sorts of slamming. It was before Will. And it didn’t make me a better person. Nor did it fix the real problem, which was me.

My problem now is to find a way to express what seems inexpressible. Those moments of sadness that feel connected to my now and aren’t. Take today for instance, I had to drive into Sherwood Park to the RCMP to have my fingerprints taken for a background check that Immigration needs to process my residency card application. For some reason, I felt like crying after it was all done. And it had nothing to do with being homesick, though I am a tiny bit, or with Rob and our relationship because I can’t imagine myself anywhere but wrapped up in his arms. What it comes down to is that it is another step away from Will and that past. The trigger was not the fingerprinting, but a conversation with my daughter before we left for the police station. She wanted me to dig up her father and bring his remains here, so she could have a place nearer by to visit him. The other day she insisted that we call him “Will” now instead of “Daddy”. One step and one step more. Thankfully I was able to track down the source and talk with Rob about it when he came home for lunch, and I felt better. It’s not always that easy. Caregiving as long as I did and watching Will die for as long as that took, I couldn’t allow myself to feel everything that wanted or needed to be felt in the instance that it did. Feelings were diverted and renamed for survival’s sake. Useful at the time. Not so much now.

Knowing what is wrong is half-way home to fixing it, I guess.

Somedays no matter what your intentions or how hard you try there is nothing you can do to stop the irrevocable slide into self-destruct mode.

It is sometimes easy to see the day coming, but often it smacks you from out of the blue.

And interestingly, sometimes you set the timer on the bomb yourself.

It happens, for me anyway, when frustration crowds out sense. Sometimes razzing the countryside is the more satisfying option especially when you are facing one of those no-win scenarios that even James T. Kirk couldn’t have cheated his way past.

I just don’t have the patience to think things through or wait and see anymore. Even though I know nothing is ever as cut and dried as it seems, I want it to be and act accordingly. Being sick and dealing with a sick child for the second day in a row doesn’t improve the visual field much either.

So, I acted out….in total opposition to my daily horoscope…. and with intent.