Tag Archives: grief

Craving: Reassembling in Fog

Bear with me. It has been a rough couple of weeks but there is light at the end of this blogging tunnel.

April 2022. South Carolina.

The sky poured onto the forest last night.

Now, in the midday slivers of sun, the duff warms and its sweet musk rises to mingle with the tang of pine & hickory perfume.

The scents smother my thoughts. Dog bounces and tugs happily at my side and I wonder how can his nose, so much more sensitive than mine, not be overwhelmed by this fog of tree.

My head is full—of memory, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, of a lingering love I just can’t kill—yet all this swims in the fog of tree and I can only walk and react to Dog’s alerts, lunges, and pauses.

The fog never lifts as the day wears on. As evening comes, dampness coating Blanche’s innards and exterior, I stare at my phone to try to find words, to try to string ideas and emotions together to form not just coherent work, but a plan.

Nothing coalesces.

For some reason, (the smells and tall trees, perhaps) an image from a nightmare I had years ago comes to mind as fitting of my thoughts: I was a solitary traveler walking an abandoned railroad and came upon a massive pile of rotting, human body parts leftover from some apocalyptic event.

(Yes, I have horrendous nightmares sometimes)

To be fair, it is apt; my plan for the future, my concept of where my work is going, my thoughts on how to recover from my past and move on, my ability to partner ever again, all look like random, damaged, mismatched, and hideous pieces of dead beings.

I struggle to assemble something human from the pieces, something recognizable as complete and functional.

The pieces simply don’t fit.

Sitting at my tiny dinette, I turn on my Bluetooth speaker and look through my music library on my phone. Times like this, I seek something that hits the core of my current mood and existence. I launch K. D. Lang’s “Constant Craving,” her silken voice flowing around me like dozens of warm rivulets.

When I heard the song decades ago, I didn’t examine the lyrics but assumed it was a love song. Now, of course, I know better and appreciate it even more than I did in its early days.

Several people (all women) have called me brave of late. Some, I feel sure, have sat back and thought me quite the opposite as they watch and wait (seemingly indefinitely) for me to succeed or fail.

I feel neither brave nor afraid. I feel disconnected; as far from my future and any certainty as that character in my nightmare who stumbled upon the mountain of human offal and stood in disbelief.

In my dream, I merely walked on, trying to shake off the horror of what I’d witnessed.

For now, I can only sit still and examine these pieces again and again. Hope that something knits them together.

I’ve found no answers in this particular rumination.

I wrote. That’s all I can do sometimes. One word followed by another, like footsteps on a journey.

I suppose, in that, I’ve assembled at least some small figure from the pile of parts.

It’s something.

Shadowlands: Recognizing Abandonment Trauma

I am once again in a river valley shadowland. Sunlight filters in barely; Internet, not at all. Rather than being able to walk two blocks to check in with family, I would have to drive six or seven miles.

So, I didn’t even unhitch. Not out of laziness, mind you. Hitching and unhitching have become an enjoyable part of the process. They are like the pen and paper prep of writing a letter; not productive but necessary and oddly enjoyable.

No, I didn’t unhitch because my last time in such a place frightened me with how despondent I became in such utter isolation. I had people around me, but the sense of not having family and friends in the glass rectangle in my hands was suffocating. I was disturbed enough by this second round of connectivity blackout, that I thought, “If it gets really bad again, I will just leave. I’ll forfeit the night’s fee and get on the road, in the dark if I have to, and find a Walmart somewhere that allows me to park and reconnect with loved ones.

This isn’t addiction (no doubt, that is an issue for me) but it is dependence. The fear of losing contact with my friends and family has been a recurring nightmare since my thirties — since I began to be isolated from them quite literally.

It’s a common theme in people’s nightmares but for me it became pathological; I would dream of trying to call my mother and not being able to get through despite dozens of attempts and methods. From not being able to get “bars” on my phone to not being able to make the rotary dial turn properly to having an operator tell me no such number existed, my mother was unreachable in these stressful dreams. I would awaken near tears and sometimes raging.

At the time, I blamed my physical distance from her which I considered the fault of my parents and sibling. After her death, of course, I blamed the loss of her and my grief for these nightmares.

Now, I also blame the man I was married to, whose expectations of my behavior and his feelings about family (“family is overrated” was a favorite quip of his) kept me from pushing for travel to see my loved ones.

So this, like so many, frankly pathological, responses I have to what might just be annoyances to others, stems from a sort of slow, death-by-a-thousand-cuts trauma.

I lost decades with loved ones, with potential friends, and with places and things I loved (the Texas Hill Country, swimming). I gave those things up to be the good wife who did everything to keep him happy (translation: to minimize stress level in the home). That loss now means any separation, any risk of “never again,” frightens me.

I am sure this has played into a relationship I had as well—the Wrong man’s breadcrumbs calmed me immeasurably even though they were just that. Just knowing he was “out there” and had not completely abandoned me, gave me peace.

I am sure, in a twisted way, this fear also kept me in the marriage at least ten years longer than was reasonable. My husband was my family and only truly present friend after my daughter left. Who else would have me and how would I survive? I dare not lose my one connection. In other words, by the time I knew things were not right, I was emotionally bonded in a way that transcended the love relationship and became a pathological need for connection.

So, I had nightmares.

In addition to the phone call nightmares, I had nightmares that my husband was leaving me, literally abandoning me in parking lots as he drove off laughing. This was how much damage had been done to my psyche.

In real life, he assured me regularly that he wouldn’t leave. However, I had already been abandoned emotionally as far as my subconscious was concerned. If I didn’t behave as he wished, then he most certainly would abandon me physically. If I tried to be independent, if I insisted on seeing family by myself, if I pursued a career again that put me in contact with other men, if I made friends outside his circle, or if I “peacocked,” as he called it, by wearing or doing anything he deemed attention getting — all these were reasons, he implied, that gave him the right to abandon me.

But by year twenty-eight, I was exhausted. I was tired of wanting to die. I was tired of being apart from my family. I was tired of locking myself in bedrooms when strangers came over. I was tired of wearing virtual sacks and constant gray and brown. I was tired of carrying the weight of his expectations.

I have not dreamed the telephone nightmare or the abandonment nightmare since I left. I dream, instead, that I am with him again and he is “putting his foot down” again and I am so tired—again.

Still, nightmares or not, the anxiety of alone does not spare me in these beautiful but isolated places.

These two days have been easier, if only because it is two days, not five. I have not been careful about my choices for setting down for the night in one park or another. Once I get out of this valley and can look more closely at the coming weeks, I will be more cautious. A week without connection, is five days too long.

Perhaps, it will be slightly easier to have finally come to understand the cause of my fear. If the fear is based in “complex trauma,” that is a rational response, even though the fear itself is irrational. That recognition may allow me further and faster healing.

Just a pretty image on a positive note. Prunus sp.

The Unsubscribe Button is a Delusion: Survival & Concession as a Single Woman of a Certain Age

I’ve been contained in a valley of Wi-Fi, 5G, and visible spectrum shadows for five days. I can walk a few blocks to get a signal and walking is good for me, but I decided walking for that purpose was less beneficial. I’ve checked in with my brother and my daughter a few times, checked email, made additional arrangements for post-PA campgrounds, but largely avoided social media.

Sitting quietly this morning awaiting my Moka Pot coffee, I looked through downloaded email.

I thought I unsubscribed from this company.

Yes. Yes I did. And I have been patiently unsubscribing from email ads for weeks. Sometimes repeatedly. I have determined it is a lost cause. That effort is a scam; a method by which to inform the company that I am still here and still seeing their annoying emails despite my desire otherwise.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing something over and over despite getting the same result?

I have spent every evening since I got here attempting to write both poetry and blog entries.

Insanity.

I’ve written some truly awful poems.

I’ve written some fairly tight blog posts; posts that were well-framed, clear, concise, and led to a meaningful and valid conclusion.

Unfortunately, each post was a deep dive into the loneliness and anxiety that this valley has exacerbated. I had hoped this time away from social media would be healing. I had hoped freeing my mind of the outside world’s concerns would allow me to address my own. The latter is true. The former is not.

Stuck in my own thoughts, without the words, images, and outright agony and stupidity of the outside world, all I could see was everything I have ever done wrong and the end of my road coming sooner rather than later.

Each post morbidly reflected this. I was, in a word, done.

For the first time since my marriage, I was thinking of a way out. Not just passively wondering if I wouldn’t awaken but actively writing goodbyes.

People in my life do not, cannot, grasp the tenuous hold I have on sanity and self-esteem as a result of being told, both in word and deed, for thirty years that my only real value was in being half of another person.*

They do not, cannot grasp how this impacts everything I do or don’t do. That to say, “I won’t feel insecure about my talent or intellect,” is as pointless as repeatedly hitting that unsubscribe button. My history is as tenacious as those repeated emails, bashing me daily with reminders of what I should want and do with my life and what I gave up.

I do not have an answer. Hiding in a connectivity desert is, apparently, life threatening. That much I have determined. Trying to unsubscribe from my thoughts and history is a waste of effort.

The pat answer is “get out there and grab what you want.” When your hands have been tied with worthlessness for twenty-three of thirty years and with training against and emotional beating for being independent the entire thirty years, how do you just magically slip those bindings and grab?

So, here I am, yet again, struggling with purpose, pointlessness, and isolation. Hitting “unsubscribe from this insecurity?” like a lab rat hitting a reward button.

Insanity.

* To be fair, to ask people to understand this when I do not reveal details of my relationship is probably a bit much. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. Lots of people believe “two become one.” How is that so bad? I will not detail that here, however. This blog isn’t about him.

Setting Boundaries. Fighting demons.

Sunday night. I am alone in the RV loop. Everyone else has gone home or moved on to their next berth.

The world here is peaceful. The world here doesn’t reveal the turmoil beyond the park’s border.

It’s a cold night reminiscent of a Texas winter: temps falling into the 40s, rain, still. I have to remind myself it is May.

I have been thinking a great deal about boundaries. A minority faction of the US wishes to destroy boundaries we all hold dear but because they have attacked an issue some deem one of morality, those same are not clear on what they too are losing.

I have been raging and tearful for days but, if I’m honest, I have been raging and tearful for ten years.

For many years I would lose my temper over the mildest events. Almost always, they were mistakes I’d made: Where is my wallet? What have I done with my keys? How could I forget that appointment?

The man I was married to at the time once asked, “Why are you so angry all the time?” In the moment, I had no answer.

As the years passed I began to incrementally discover the source of my rage: I had allowed one person to determine my boundaries and overstep them on a regular basis. I raged at my little failings because I was so angry with myself for the big failing: allowing that constant and agonizing transgression.

I left that marriage in 2020, bent on not allowing such transgressions again. Some slipped through the cracks as I tried to fight off loneliness and grief. Since taking to the road, however, I have gained significant strength against people trying to impose their will on me. My rage and tears have been aimed at the men in my life rather than my own errors.

This last few days had been difficult for so many. It will continue to be difficult for some time. The episode of rage and sadness it is triggering in me is small compared to that felt by marginalized groups. In the grand scheme of things, it directly affects me very little. For now.

As I sit in the growing gloom and silence of this park in the Blue Ridge mountains, I feel significant guilt for that last fact. I shouldn’t have such outwardly peaceful environs when the country is on fire for others. I shouldn’t be fighting such tiny demons while others fight dragons.

I simply don’t know how to contend with this — this sudden silence and isolation after several days of busy and boisterous neighbors and personal anxiety. It leaves me cold and emotionally void as this Blue Ridge mountain air.

Sloshing: Trauma, Memory, & Blurting

In the grand scheme of things, nothing I do or don’t do is of any value. I am not a young military engineer sacrificing myself for my country in the destruction of a strategic bridge. I am not a nurse or doctor saving lives in some COVID-19 ward. Nor am I on the wrong sides of either of those equations; I don’t actively try to destroy life.

I am neither the activist screaming for change, nor the bloated capitalist determined to keep his millions a day earned on the backs of those he treats shamefully. I neither build nor destroy. I exist.

My life is perhaps one of the most meaningless lives on this planet. I am merely a vessel for memory and the shreds of hope left in the wake of leaving a life locked in a Hardie plank box. I have flashes of goals—flickers so brief they could be illusions like the sparkles you see when you press your eyelids hard against your eyes.

I have moments when I believe the ember of love remaining for the wrong man can someday regenerate for someone new — moments quickly smothered when I see behavior in men that mirrors that of one of my exes.

Through it all, I am struck by my memory—how in one instance it is hazy and fragile, the next, in sharp focus and fully formed.

I understand the whys; in one space the memories are the fog of trauma and reaction while in another they are the unforgettable shining of pain, rage, and love.

However, I can’t walk around day-to-day simply being a glass of the past, sloshing around and occasionally spilling onto unsuspecting passersby. I can’t continue to just spill all this trauma, drama, and emotion on people who stumble into my path.

The jar refills and I keep going, keep sloshing about. Nothing changes.

I wrote a poem and it speaks to this:

“Every night I try to empty myself

of you through

                 my eyes,

                 my throat.”

Every night. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day, I try to empty myself of my memories in hopes of moving on and finally being someone, even something, of value.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day when the light is strong and I am “doing things” I can convince myself I am making progress. Then darkness arrives and I am simply alone, simply in the same space, simply treading water still.

I have no desire to give up.

I have no desire to continue.

I have no desire to do anything.

What would I do? Crack open this vessel, spill it all on this screen and let everyone see? No. I’ve been trying to do that. People don’t like that. If I shatter my vessel, theirs will take a hit in some way and we can’t have that.

So, once again, I am biting my virtual tongue. Not writing or living for me because I have always protected others. At least tried to.

And what of these memories?

I am astonished at how little I now recall of my second marriage. I know, rationally, that we had good times. I know I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone and more than I thought possible. Up until year 21, I’d have told you that despite some rough patches, I loved him more each day than the day we married. Up until year 28, I couldn’t fathom a life without him even though, by then, I was no longer “in love” with him and questioned the wisdom of staying.

I still have snippets of memories of good times. Laughter. Love. Passion. They simply hold no emotional value anymore. They feel like window dressings. Peeling paint on stucco.

I do recall many, many bad times and what triggered them, and how, always, I was ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████

As far as my first marriage, I recall almost nothing. My first husband was a raging, physically abusive alcoholic.

By contrast, I can relate myriad details of those encounters with the wrong man in 2020-2021: every glance, every vocal nuance, every careful touch. Every conversation we had, good or bad is still seated firmly in my mind. It’s not that this relationship was exceptionally safe or secure, it simply didn’t warrant me blotting it out in rage. My writer’s brain demands I not relinquish those memories. No matter how many times and ways I recreate them on the page, they remain. Blessing and curse.

That same writer’s brain demands I not relinquish the anger-inducing memories of my second marriage despite months of therapy and multiple attempts to journal them away.

I know, ultimately, I must put these things on the page in a formal way, perhaps even on social media, if I am to heal. Not because I need to reveal anything or anyone to the world, but because I have wounds that won’t close as long as I keep stumbling into people in my life and blurting my pain in a haphazard and confusing manner. My siblings, my best friend, any potential lover, can only take so much of my blathering before they tune me out entirely. In my anxious blurting, I often make no sense or the import of what I say is lost on them. It is not the individual events of thirty-six years that formed and informed me, but the cumulative.

Will this theoretical/hypothetical formal documentation of those years mean anything? Will it change my earlier statement about being and doing nothing of value? Eh, probably not. I have come full circle then. Can I really justify, knowing potential harms, letting this vessel spill in its entirety?

Chaos & Growth: An Auspicious Anniversary

In short order it will be the anniversary of “leaving.” I left my former home (and by extension, my second husband) in mid-March of 2020.

What should have been a rush out into a new life with new possibilities, was, instead, a rush from one form of isolation and loneliness into another.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a whining post.

It was a bit of a shock, I’ll admit. Leaving a person who wanted me to be as housebound and uncommunicative and as much of an introvert as he, only to have a virus force me into being very selective socially — introverted and uncommunicative. Ha!

It was still an improvement, and in some ways, that continued isolation was a positive thing. In many ways it was awful, but I want to steer away from that. Many of us have experienced the awful of 2020 and early 2021.

The good stuff:

I spent a lot of time on the phone with my brother who is also, necessarily and unfortunately, isolated and grieving. Our different griefs, shared in long conversations, allowed me to see my circumstances through his lens and not just through my self-involved pain. This has been an empathy-building experience, not just with him but with others, as well. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in that regard, but learning to balance my needs with that of others is a process, not so much a goal.

Another advantage of the solitude: I didn’t immediately go nuts dating. (not that I didn’t immediately go nuts looking.)

Here’s my history: I went straight from High School to my first marriage within a year and dated only my first husband in that time. We had two dates before he proposed. Yes, I was young and stupid. Why do you ask? 🙄

After our divorce, I immediately fell in love with my second husband who I had known at work for well over a year.

Fast Forward to 2020: the year of living slightly less stupidly, if only because that’s what universal chaos made me do. I couldn’t date after this divorce—because COVID! I have a little job and I meet a lot of lovely people, but they are brief and transient exchanges about the work, the village, beach life, etc.

I did not meet anyone with which to fall in love. I did not date and decide to give away my autonomy again out of loneliness. I worked, I wrote, I flirted, and I felt the sting of rejection here and there. Though it did require meeting/dating some in recent weeks, I learned rationally and viscerally, I really don’t NEED men. I do enjoy a man’s company and perspective (among other things), but needing anyone right now is a disquieting idea for me, especially needing a dedicated companion. This is my take on companionship and not a reflection on how I think others should behave. See here for key points.

All of this points to a single, fundamentally positive notion about 2020 and early 2021 from my selfish view. While it had its hellish days, days I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, I grew.

I had to go through a bit of the “boy crazies,” because I never had that chance as a young adult. I had to experience being completely without another human being in my home for months on end, because I have never had to do that. I had to relearn to be open and friendly like I was thirty years ago, because it is a normal and healthy part of life that I require. I had to relearn how to interact with others without the fog of self-hatred. (Still working on that one)

I have to heal these things, and more, for me to move on and start the real work of determining where I want to be this coming year and the years after that, if Universal Chaos allows.

I have ideas but lack a plan. I’m winging it and winging it is scary. But, when I left that house (and by extension, the order and planning the man within it brought to everything), I knew I was walking out into something unpredictable at best.

And that was the beauty shifting subtly under the pain of leaving and isolation: escaping suffocating order and expectations to greet chaos and growth with joy.

The Weight of Fog: Processing and revisiting the last two years.

I’ve always loved Texas winters. Our glimmering summers can be brutal and suffocating in their airlessness. Winter, at least when I was young, was tolerable. I could move, breathe, and be active.

Here on the immediate coast, winters are particularly damp and gray and in the past week, each day has been punctuated with fog horns much of the day as boats move up and down the Intracoastal Waterway.

Aging has a way of changing your views of these things. I don’t mean the obvious stuff like how it’s damp cold and it gets into your bones and it’s harder to warm up. I don’t mean things like the fear of slipping on algae-coated stairs or driving in darkness after 6 pm. I’m not talking about the pure physicality of the seasons anymore.

I’m talking about, yes, again, grief.

Once again, it is the anniversary month of the loss of Big Dog (January 13th, 2019), my father (January 12th), and my mother (January 29th). I survived the holidays and my isolation by working and keeping in touch with my family and friends. Early January was filled with distractions on the political front and I have had concerns with some personal relationship stuff.

But here I am, revisiting my older blog entries and memories and how last year at this time not only was I reliving the loss of my sweet, furry boy and my parents, I was also in the throes of a separation that only I and my husband of the time knew about. The looming death of that relationship seemed it might be avoidable. It wasn’t.

I’m feeling sick currently and can’t know (yet) if I am just suffering a cold, allergies (Cedar Fever season is starting), or the dreaded COVID-19. Results of a test taken Sunday should come back soon. Whatever the cause of this malaise, I am leaf-drifting back into my grief. Thinking of Big Dog. Thinking of Dad. Of Momma. Of Elise. Of Twenty-nine years. In the midst of the sadness, the days have, one after another, been foggy and drizzly. My floors are constantly damp. My dryer has died, so clothes hung to dry refuse to do so. These little annoying things make me angry at winter. Angry at loss. Angry at grief.

Why can’t it be over with already? Why can’t I just be done with it?

I remind myself this is a process. I stumble through little relationships with friends and potential suitors and find I am not able to be present for those people the way I should because this recovery process is so all-consuming. I am not unhappy most of the time. I am not happy most of the time. I am simply here and functional (sort of) and waiting to get back to being a full human being.

No matter how hard I try to peer through this dense sky around me to see what might be ahead, I remain clouded with doubt and distrust. I know, in my heart, not “all men are X.” I also know that I am just not capable of judging them with any kind of clarity or fairness, right now.

No matter how much I know I must move forward in all areas of my life (work, art, caring for my dog), I am often hamstrung by anxiety.

No matter the weather, I am fogged in.

This winter has been unpleasant for me not because it is cold, gray, foggy, and unforgiving, but because even on the blue-sky, sunlit days, I recall the past two winters of pain. Summer will bring with it still other memories (good and bad) of my first year alone and the turmoil of that season.

This is what age does to us. It loads us down with memories throughout the years such that beautiful days and ugly days alike become representative of pain and joy alike. Winter is no longer just chill and rain. Summer is no longer just heat and children playing in the surf.

Seasons can become weights. Perhaps they can become buoyant breezes again, eventually.

Happy Holidays: The purge, the recovery, and starting over.

Now and then, especially given the small space of my new home, I clean and purge. This holiday, with just the dog, seemed a good time to purge.

Wednesday, I cleaned my guest room. It has become a storage space of sorts. Bike, sewing/embroidery bits, stationery, cleaning supplies, and tools. All the things I don’t use daily, but need regularly, reside there. I have a china cabinet/hutch in that room that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I sorted through it and found some items from my second marriage.

I have clung to these things, believing that I wanted the good memories with which they were imbued. I found photographs, cutesy keepsakes, jewelry, and pens. All were weighed down with emotions.

Instead of feeling the warmth of good memories, I dropped into rage, ambivalence, or indifference.

Part of the process of recovering from divorce is learning to be alone through all events, good or bad, right? Still, therein lies part of my anger. I was never meant to be alone at this stage of my life. This should not be. Yet here I am.

Thirteen months ago I was more alone than I’ve ever been in my life despite being married. Thirteen months ago I was convinced I was unneeded, unloved, and a burden. Thirteen months ago, I tried to end my life in a very feeble way—by swimming out to into the Gulf of Mexico on a red flag day. At the time, I didn’t even view it as an “active suicide attempt.” I just thought, “If I drown, I drown. No one will be the wiser.” After a treading water in crashing waves, then a quiet panic, and finally finding my feet on the third sandbar again, I made my way back to shore in tears.

Now, I’m divorced, not dating, COVID-19 forces me to avoid being too social, and my child and grandchildren are 240 miles away. Yet, I do have more friends in my life than ever and more care and concern for and from them than I am accustomed to. My siblings and I are closer than we have been in years. Life, while constrained by a virus, has opened up by working on the beach, rescuing birds, and reawakening my interest in human interaction. Some days, many days, in fact, remain difficult. Some days I just wait to get to nighttime so I can shut my eyes and shut out the world.

But I never want to swim beyond that third sandbar again or take any other drastic measures as I wanted to many times in previous years. I am grateful I failed in my attempt.

I will spend the coming holidays with Sammy making new traditions just for us. Many thousands who have lost loved ones this year will not have that luxury. I hurt for them, knowing as I do that my loss pales in comparison to theirs.

I now have new and better memories I am building in this life. I expect to spend future holidays with my daughter and grandchildren and create still more memories. I will create things for this space and those to come that I won’t need to purge.

Reboot: Divorce After Fifty

So it goes.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. used that phrase to mark every death, to signify the inevitability and perhaps our pointless flailing at death, in his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. I have avoided the phrase in speech and writing since I first read the novel many years ago. As if, in uttering it, I might condemn someone or something to their or its demise.

July 21, 2020 officially marks the death of my second marriage after slightly more than twenty-nine years.

So it goes.

Anyone who thinks that because I am “the Leaver” that I have not grieved this death as deeply as any other death I have experienced, has never been through a divorce. Anyone who doesn’t understand what it takes to leave twenty-nine years of entanglement and love, rage and joy, argument and, eventually, resignation, doesn’t understand and will never understand how difficult the decision was, how painful leaving has been and, ultimately, how strong I was and am to have left.

And that’s okay. Because I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself. I am, as it happens, the only one I’ve ever had to answer to. I’ve spent a lot of years being convinced I had to behave a certain way to please others: spouse, parents, child, siblings, and friends.

I was wrong all those years. I only ever had to live up to my own expectations.

I’m finally doing that now in the smallest and grandest ways.

So, with the death of my marriage also comes the death of my fear and dysfunction. Comes the death of my accepting the will of another. The death of my need for the approval of others.

So it goes.

One…

Saving the Wounded: Balancing Independence and Support

I know.

I know that this will get better – this masked, COVID-19 isolation after seventeen years in a desolate bubble.

I know because I began to break that bubble in the last two years and walk a path of personal growth.

I began to rescue and transport animals in my community in 2018. In the collage above are (clockwise from top left: baby raccoon, immature Northern gannet, White-tailed deer fawn, Screech owlets, baby opossum, and immature Brown pelican).

By spring of 2019, I had done several transports and releases. Transportation of smallish wild animals is fairly straight-forward: go to someone’s home or business, scoop up a box, get a form filled out by said person, drive animal to rehabilitator. All done with minimal contact with people.

Rescue, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking at first. I had no formal training and the one rescue I’d helped with was that of a sick and weak pelican that wasn’t up for a fight. Complicating matters, I have always been shy and called myself an introvert. I was uncertain how future rescues would go if I was working without a fellow rescuer.

On my first solo pelican rescue, the pelican was hungry and wanted my shad. I lured her in and grabbed her by myself. Other pelican rescues were a mixed bag. Some went great (for me, not so much the bird). Some failed completely as the birds could still fly enough to escape even four or five well-intentioned, but sometimes intimidated, helpers I recruited on the beach.

But always, if there are people on the beach, I have learned to recruit. I’ve done so with other sea birds and Black vultures, as well. In so doing, I’ve learned I’m no introvert. I am shy, yes, but I actually like working with and getting to know people.

In turn, people are almost always willing to help even if they find the larger birds a bit frightening. I am not prideful. I don’t have to do things myself to prove that I am capable or special.

If a large bird can’t be lured, it sometimes has to be rounded up by several of us like closing purse strings. We try to do this quickly to reduce stress on the bird. Sometimes an injured bird can be flushed toward me by one or two helpers so I can then grab it easily. Sometimes, it’s just helpful for someone to distract a sickly, scared gannet so I don’t lose a finger.

Other times, rescues fail and the bird flaps away. The bird will either heal on its own or it will get worse and we may catch it later.

Whatever the circumstances, I always prefer to work with people nearby. This makes them feel good, teaches them about the animals, and gives me a better chance for success. It also connects me to the community. We have a cheerful exchange as they bubble with the excitement of having helped a little furry or feathery life and I love seeing them brighten with joy and pride.

In all rescues, I treat all parties, the animal in need of being saved and the “recruits,” with respect and I work to gain the trust of both.

We all, volunteers, me, and animal, have to work together.

In recent years I have sought personal autonomy (self-government) and some in my life have interpreted this as a need on my part to do everything single-handedly.

I don’t want to stand alone.

I don’t want to walk this life without support. I simply want the right to choose when, how, and who I ask for support.

If I am lonely or hurting, I would like all the normal things lonely people need: affection, attention, someone who has my back.

If I am angry, give me space. My spicy language will give you a clue and I may say outright, “I’m angry. Back off.”

If I’m grieving, well, grief is a strange monster. I’ve been dealing with a great deal of grief in the last several years. I have tried to communicate my needs. I have sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed. People have sometimes just failed me.

Grief has at times closed me off to people and yet opened me up to rediscovering who I used to be.

I can tell you it is harder to know how to help the grieving. I can tell you that leaving someone to flounder in their grief is not a solution, nor is making promises you can’t keep.

I can tell you that I give what I get: Respect, trust, honesty, love, and friendship.

Respect. Trust. Honesty.

Sometimes, as I grieve now, it seems I am the bird healing myself or waiting for things to get bad enough to be caught. Perhaps I just need to be distracted (socialized) so someone can grab me and help me. Probably, it is a bit of both.

I’m still learning how to socialize my shy self after many years of being hidden and wounded. I will figure it out — with help — even if I have to do it with a mask on.

I know.