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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Out of Sorts and in Pieces

For the last few weeks, I've been very "out of sorts". Discombobulated. Disconnected.

Yeah. "Out of Sorts" says what I probably most need to say. Such an imprecise idiomatic phrase and accurate as to my ongoing present condition.

There's been a lot going on in my life personally, spiritually, practically, even physically. Some my fault (sin!), some the impact upon me of the sin of others, some spiritual get the idea. In other words, it's life.

My story isn't any different than anyone else's. 

Last week, my co-worker/friend's father passed away. Even though it was expected and there have been many close calls over the recent years, she had a hard time with it. Not a "hard time" she is really sharing, but knowing our friend and her aversion to suffering and grief, well...she's gotten extra prayers.  From experience I know to let her grieve in the way she must, and to not "pen her in."  I've done my best to be "normal" around her, which is surprisingly easy, and having been there before I know that I was most grateful when people didn't fawn all over me, but rather let me be in that moment, whatever it was at the time.

The hard thing with grief is this: it is transitory. It is sharp one moment, and like a distant memory in the next. It never really "goes away" for the one who was loved and is no longer there is still loved and still present, if in a different way.

This particular co-worker/friend and I share a particular aversion to being emotional in public. We'd prefer our tears to be in solitude. We don't mind admitting having shed those tears, but we prefer they remain between us and God, that our grief and weakest moments be with Him alone, for only He can truly console us.

So ironic, then, the other day as we spoke of grief in general terms. I was fine, and spoke of losing my Dad when I was 20, having to miss the first day of class  of a new semester in college because of Dad's funeral...and then being immediately thrust back into college life as though nothing had happened.

As if it didn't matter.  But it did.

My friend lost her mother long ago, when she was young, and now, losing her father....grief beyond words and mere understanding.

As we spoke, sharing, quietly, our own stories of grief and loss, I felt fine. I empathized with her and spoke of my own past grief in even clinical terms. We both knew that grief is real when it comes and goes; it is surprising in its sudden agony in unexpected moments, ebbing and flowing, losing its sharpness over time, and yet...still able to twist in the very core of the soul making it once again fresh and unrelenting. What changes over time is the surreal quality of it; grief can perhaps be experienced more deeply over time, just like the fresh-turned earth over a new grave.

That evening, I told my friend the details of my father's loss, and how, when I went to school, I was angry in general. My entire persona was anger; I felt little but anger.  I wanted to talk to someone, but whenever anyone offered a shoulder, I fled, holding back the tears.  The VP of my college, whom I had come to know because of his visit to our study-abroad group while we were in Mexico, was a particular confidant, and he made it clear that his door was open to me. Yet whenever he tried to get me to open up about my grief, I found a reason to leave, yet I always thanked him for the invitation, telling him I was fine.

I was lying and he knew it. I'm not sure many others knew I was running about with such a burden, but Brother C. knew, and I give him a great deal of credit for being so available to me, even though I didn't take him up on it.  I know he has no idea how much help he was to me back then, but for various reasons I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tell him.He probably doesn't remember me anyway; I was one student among many and Br. C. tended to have an open-door policy, always taking time for those who came knocking on his door.

Even though Dad died more than 15 years ago, at times I am still almost taken by surprise, and in fact, the other night was one of them.  As my co-worker and I shared our experiences, there, as we stood in the office, having just discussed the transient and surprising quality of grief, I told her of how lost I was when I went back to college after Dad's funeral. I told her how it took 8 months of anger before I actually "lost it" in the presence of another.

That evening, suddenly, I couldn't study. I couldn't focus on my assignments, and even reading for pleasure could not engage my attention. I tried to work out, I tried the computer lab, thinking maybe a little internet surf might be helpful. I looked up grief and its effects, finding nothing. I tried humor sites but could not laugh.

I gave up and headed back "home" to my dorm. En route through the college center building I passed the piano room, where a good friend of mine was practicing.  I walked in,  closed the door, said hello, and sat down.

She asked me what was wrong.

Nothing, I said.

She was silent, staring at me, waiting.

"My Dad isn't going to be there when I get married."

I burst into tears. "This is so stupid! I don't even have a BOYFRIEND!"

"No", my friend told me. "He's NOT going to be there when I get married, or when I graduate, or have any other huge event in my life where he would be an honored guest".

His seat would ALWAYS be empty. 

I'm not sure she said THAT, but that was the image in my mind.

The other night, when I spoke with my coworker about this conversation, at the very moment I said, "My Dad isn't going to be there when I get married", suddenly, unexpectedly, without any prior notice, tears overflowed.

I don't know where they came from. They were just...THERE.  Suddenly I was crying.

I have shared this experience many times, I have thought of emotion whatsoever. But the other day, and right now as I write this, I confess, I couldn't/ can't seem to stop the flow of tears.

Even as we laughed about grief, about the very POINT my own sudden squall of tears made about the transitory and fickle nature of grief, there was consolation in simple understanding. I prayed mightily that no one would enter our office. As it was the squall faded away and God's Providence kept the office door closed.

When someone did finally enter, both of us were as dry-eyed and normal-looking as we'd ever been, and joking as usual.

No one understands grief as mightily as Our Lord, and I think He has a special regard for those who weep out of such a deep love and loss.

Grief isn't everything, though...

I've also been out of sorts because I've been feeling, once again, that I'm being torn into pieces. 

While I was in college a friend once told me that I suffered from "option overload".  I had so many options I didn't know what to do. Every door was open to me, and every door was legitimate.

It's different now, and yet...the same. I am once again suffering from "option overload". Once again, there are too many doors opened to me, all are good, all are legitimate. The doors aren't as prolific, the options not the same or as lucrative.

It's a whole new game now,'s not a game.

This time it's for keeps, and I'm long past my expiration date in that regard.

This Old Maid, stuck with, as we used to call it in the midst of the game, the "cute card!", has landed in my hand.

I never knew such a stupid and pop-culture card game could become the icon of my life.

As long as I hold this particular card, I am losing the game that isn't a game; no one is called to be an "Old Maid".

God has a plan and Vocation for EVERYONE.

But this particular Old Maid is partially ripped and torn away.

Yeah. I'm out of sorts. I'm a bit melancholic, I'm a bit lost. This will pass.  The pieces will come together. Eventually. 

The only thing I'm trying to do right now is hold on. As a Confessor said to me recently, the only thing I can do is hold onto prayer like a dog holds onto a bone.

Prayer is the only thing I truly possess.

The just fluff.  Transient bits of cosmic hiccups.

I don't even know where to store that!

Guess I'll just keep chewing on my bone......


The Ironic Catholic said...

That is one big prayer in that picture. :)

btw, I heard some news about Br C a year ago...I'll share via email if you wish. Doing OK, basically.

Adoro said...

IC ~ is one big prayer!

I'd love an update on him. :-) Dish!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for the great words about discombobulation since enduring same for several days you words help to endure. As always you have my prayer and I count on yours.
Fr. Joseph

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Me too

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro--when I get a chance, I'll email or get on fb...hitting the hay right now.