coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Friday, July 24, 2015


We have acclimated to the climate and, except for the steamiest of hot summer days, we do not turn on our air conditioning until mid-morning.  That means we still keep the sliding glass door to the lanai open in the early morning hours.  Our cat, Buddy, appreciates this.  He hunts lizards in the pool area and likes coming and going as he pleases.   

I am not a big fan of air-conditioning, but it is essential here.  I cannot imagine what life in Florida (or anywhere in the Deep South) was like before air-conditioning.  Still, we both like to put off turning it on until the sweat is dripping down the back of our necks.  Like everyone else in Florida I bitch about the heat; however, I would rather live through a Central Florida summer than an Upstate New York winter.  No contest.  I like the heat, and the humidity makes my hair curly. If only I had lived here in the late 1960's during my Janis Joplin hair phase.

I am slowly coming out of a deep funk that started when my mother died earlier this year.  I am surprised at how hard this has hit me because I thought I was ready for her death.  It is so confusing, this grief thing.  I have lived through the deaths of my father and two brothers.  As Amy Shumer's boss says in Trainwreck, this is not my first rodeo.  I wonder if it is hitting me harder this time because I am retired and I actually have time to grieve this loss? 

The past few weeks I have noticed a change for the better.  About damn time, too!  I am becoming more aware of myself and the world around me each morning.  I take this as a good sign.  I do not know about you, but I can usually predict my mood for any given day by how I experience morning. 

Early mornings in Central Florida are almost always stunning.  The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and there is lush green foliage everywhere.  The first 8 months we lived in this house I woke up every single morning thinking, "Another day in paradise!"  Then Mom died and I did not notice much of anything.  

The worst part is I have not been aware of what was happening to me.  Grief sneaks up on a person like the proverbial thief in the night.  I am reminded of a big cat when she is on the hunt.  She approaches soundlessly, quietly; the prey rarely knows she is coming.  In an instant she pounces and tears into the neck with her killing teeth. Clamping on with that unforgiving death grip, she shakes that poor critter till it dies from a broken neck. The only difference is that Grief goes for the heart.  Grief has taken me like that.  She shook me like an alcoholic housewife shakes her first martini of the day. If you have experienced grief
OR if you are (or know) an alcoholic you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Not surprisingly I have spent this fallow period longing for the past, yearning for a whole shitload of things I have lost along the way.  You know - my amazing flower gardens up North, living in a progressive and liberal college town,
my black-handled scissors, and a time when I still had a mother.  This really has to change.  I want to move on.  One can effectively deal with the present and make necessary changes that will affect the future; but the past is just that. Those things are GONE.  Except for the black-handled scissors, I think they are someplace in this house.  But anyway, here's the deal: Living in the past involves very little actual living.

All I have done for 5 long months is complain.  I cry, I lose my temper, I behave badly.  I am not trying to be this awful person - at some point I simply lost control.  Please do not misunderstand my complaints about grief; I think grief work is important.  It has meaning.  A person needs to go through it, needs to feel their emotions, blobbity, blah, blah, blah.  I am just so *^!%# tired of it.  Enough!  I am ready to be done with mourning.  I wonder if I can pull that off, change myself just by wanting it?  What are the practical limits of desire?

This morning I stayed in bed long after waking up, a guilty retiree pleasure.  I eventually got up and walked into the living room.  The sliding glass door was open to the world.  As luck would have it, I noticed the blue sky, the pool, and the palm trees out back.  I can assure you I was not looking for them, I just turned my head and there they were.  I immediately thought "Wow, another day in paradise!"  I felt good and I wanted more.

My handsome husband is an early riser and he always makes the coffee before I get up.  This is yet another reason why I love that man.  I poured myself a cuppa joe and thought how great it was to have the morning to myself.  I went into my home office (aka N's playroom) and turned on the computer where I sat down to check email and, perhaps, to write.

The view from my office window caught my eye.  I used to look out and observe my neighbors' comings and goings.  THAT was a waste of time! Consequently, I moved my computer screen and now it blocks the lower part of the window.  I no longer see my neighbor's houses.  Now I pretend I live in the woods.  I see blue sky, two large sycamores, a part of the neighbor's live oak, and the top of our screamin' pink crepe myrtle.  It looks like this:

Grief is a common ailment.  I have friends who are also mourning the loss of a loved one right now. For some the worst will last a few months, for others it might last a year or even more. Grief is not a one-size-fits-all emotion.  I do not believe the feeling of loss ever completely goes away, but at some point we find a way to rebuild our lives without the people we loved and lost.  This is what we do.  There is no shame in being human.  There is no shame in feeling pain or in feeling loss.  It is perfectly okay to ask for help.  These are the lessons Grief is teaching me.  If I learn my lessons well maybe She will leave me alone.


  1. I'm going to try this sample thing and just send it this way....because in the past when I have commented I've gotten a "cannot send" because it tries to deliver this to a university site !!!???
    So here goes , if it works then I write a real comment. fingers crossed

  2. It took me a year to stop crying about mum. For that first year it was the first spring, the first mother's day, my first birthday, etc, without mum. After the first year it got better. I still mum, it's been 2 1/2 years but I can remember her fondly now and truly.

    Grief is the same as a wound. It takes time to heal, it leaves a mark on us and still sometimes aches, even years later. It does get better though.

    And I'm jealous of your view. The view from my computer is the parking lot of my condo complex, hidden by a lovely tree thank goodness.

  3. Grief has it's own calendar. And it is a tricky thing. Just when you think the ride is stopping and you can get off, it starts up again. Hang in there. And I'm with you on the a/c. On the prairie, we have hot Summers and frigid Winters. I, too, prefer the Summers. We are always the last holdouts on our block to turn on the a/c. It has to hit 90 before we cave in to it.

    1. Thanks. I have been touched by the things you have written about your parents.

  4. I am happy that you are finding your way back to your life in paradise. I agree that grief never goes away, as we get on with our lives, doing what we do, perhaps living more in honor of the loss of our loved one(s). I like the view from your office window! We live across from a big park and when I sit in a particular chair and look out one window, I see across the trees to the lake and I can imagine myself to be on my tropical island! It's the little things that bring us joy (and sometimes get us thru the day)! Love you!

  5. I lost my mom a few years ago. It is a hole in my heart that will never go away. But at the time I was so busy with life that I I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Last week one of our cats died and I am feeling a loss that feels out of proportion. I suspect it is the remnants of grief I never had time to feel over my mother. Yes, grief has it's own timeline and agenda. There is no timetable or rational. But I do believe it will have it's way, one way or another. Might as well sit with it and let it do its work.

    As an upstate New Yorker I would much rather have the snow and cold than the heat and humidity. Although I will admit to wishing our winters were a bit shorter. Fortunately there is always a plane that will take me to a warmer climate if I need to get a beak.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful words. I may not miss the winter in Upstate New York, but I REALLY miss the beauty and the people. And the pizza. Can't find a decent pizza down here. Same with bagels.

  6. And then I got sidetracked and didn't come back....gawd!
    My mom died last September. We didn't have a good relationship at, but in her last few weeks a lot got forgiven and forgotten.
    I am often torn between being relieved that she's gone and missing her. Grief is complex but you captured it very well in your last paragraph. Thanks for that.

    It's been hotter than hell here, 102 today. I'm not a fan of air conditioning at all, but I sure could use one now!

    1. Sorry to hear about your Mom. I do understand the relief/grief thing. It is confusing, but I also think it is normal. So glad to hear you were able to come to some kind of truce at the end.


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