I am writing today to share an experience with grief knowing full well that it may not resonate with everyone here because of two things – 1) Some people here may never have experienced grief with a capital G – the big kind that rocks your world and turns it into pre and post epochs (e.g. when Mom was here and after Mom passed). And 2) – everyone’s experience with grief is so different. I am 9 months or so into my grief over the loss of my mother – who was also my best friend and this wild vibrant, loving presence in my life and in the lives of so many others. For me – grief comes rolling in in these big waves – always changing and never to be underestimated in their size. There is a part of my brain that gets confused – the waves should get smaller, no? As time goes by they should get smaller, RIGHT!? Not so – not at least from my experience.
And this iteration of the grief waves, which arrived sometime during the beginning of July, was interesting because I have a lot of interesting work on my plate – I have challenging but exciting work helping a local economic development and workforce training organization, Coalfield Development, identify a strategy for their textile work AND I have the final pieces of the Founder’s Circle for the 100 Blouses Project and the never ending WV land ownership todo list. There are plenty of good reasons to work hard when I get tired of my grief and want to squeeze it out of the picture. But then I find myself exhausted and realize that it is not simply having too much on my plate – it is putting too much on my plate and using it to try to outrun grief (it doesn’t work).
Instead you have to do the thing you most don’t want to do. Stop and face it. Make space for it. Acknowledge what you’ve been doing – using the presentation, the muslin samples, the interviews that have to get scheduled, the unresolved issues with a textile strategy, the unmowed lawn, the refrigerator that needs filling (…into eternity) to outrun your grief. But all that happens here is that you are exhausted and then it catches you.
So I find myself these days – looking out for grief when I attempt to overwork something. Is my partner giving me a perplexed look when I talk about a work thing that has to happen by the end of the week? Am I finding myself totally wiped at the end of the day for too many days in a row? Who’s running this show anyway? Whoops, that’s me. Yep – guilty. I’m running the show and I’m overdoing it.
So I’ve been finding it helpful lately to picture grief as the shape shifting serpent. I’ve found a quiet space for it plugging away with the sewing of muslin blouses for the remaining Founder’s Circle clients. And sometimes I find myself all tangled up and there’s grief again. It won’t be outrun.
So what do we do with it? We make space for it and trust that it belongs on the journey with us. We trust that that space will only make our work better, our lives richer. This is not easy. I will struggle with this today like I did yesterday and the day before. But it is right.
If this is reaching you out there somewhere with your own grief monster (the Monsters Inc. kind, not the scary kind) I am here in solidarity with you. I believe in your ability to live out your dreams with grief in the passenger seat.
Go, fight, win.