I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Circles

On the very same day last year, at almost the very same time, I was in exactly the same place. That place would be the Qantas International Lounge at Melbourne Airport, waiting to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Last time, I couldn't see where I was going because I was crying so hard. I needed the use of DH's strong arms just to keep myself upright, and moving in a forward direction. My eyes were literally burning from all the tears I'd cried in the intervening 24 hours. I sat in the lounge, and I called my sister, and I told her over and over, "I'm coming, I'm coming, we're on our way." It will probably be the hardest phone call I've ever made, and the hardest trip I've ever taken. And here I am, exactly a year later. I'm in the same lounge, but I haven't made any phone calls to anyone. I don't have DH here with me. I'm on my own, and I have a few minutes just to think about what the past twelve months have been like.

Truth be told I could probably write all about the 'process' of grief. How some days are just normal, okay, life-is-normal days and how others are I-can't-breathe sort of days where you are painfully reminded that your world is one person smaller. I could write about the many hours I've spent crying - either in the arms of my supportive husband, or by myself in the car as I drive to or from work or school or wherever. I could write about how horribly lonely this past year was, purely by virtue of being an ex-pat and not having anyone in Australia who knew my Dad well, or wants to talk about him, or who can even begin to allow me to wallow in my grief. I sat in the lounge last year and I headed to a world where everything had changed - my American family's daily lives are affected by my Dad's absence, while here in Australia nothing had changed for my immediate circle at all. I think some people think that should make it easier for me... but being alone in one's grief is perhaps the most alone one can really be.

So. I could keep writing about all of that, about how much it's just no fun at all to be alone and lonely and sad and trying to keep the "I'm a capable mother and business owner and over achiever and woman and wife and fabulous person" persona going. But I don't think my Dad would appreciate that. So instead, I'm going to write about all the new things I've learned in the past twelve months of life without my Dad. In no particular order...stuff my Dad's death has taught me:

1. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does provide perspective, and peace. I may never 'recover' from losing him, but I'll be at peace about it. Eventually.

2. Life is about seizing opportunities even if they are terrifying...and it really is true that with every closed door, another window opens. This is hard to appreciate when it seems (as it has lately) that everything is falling apart around you.

3. Nothing is worth fighting with your family about. State your piece, defend your honour...and then walk away and shut your mouth. Learn to move on because ultimately, your family is all you will ever have in this world. Long after boyfriends, jobs, houses, and money - your Mom, your siblings, your kids will all still be there.

4. Chocolate is not ever a good solution to sadness but it does make a reasonable band-aid, as long as you remember that band-aids are not meant to stay on forever. Eventually, you'll shower.

5. Exercise is the single best mood-improver there is...and going (to the gym or a walk or whatever) when you LEAST want to is the BEST time to do so.

6. Putting on a brave face doesn't make you strong. Being strong makes you able to put on a brave face, and sometimes you're doing it for yourself as much as for others. "Fake it till you make it" actually works.

7. I don't need to do the things my Dad did in order to remember him. I don't need to keep his traditions, I don't need to folllow his rules, I don't need to emulate his personality. The single best way to remember my Dad is to live by the life lessons he taught me and be the person he raised me to be. THAT person would never take on someone else's traits because they missed someone - that person would walk their own path, in their own way, doing their own thing. He often used to tell me he appreciated my intellect, my wit, my stubborn ability to do things MY way. The best way to keep his memory alive is to keep being that person, knowing that if he could see me now, he'd be as proud as ever. The question I've asked myself is not, "What would Dad do?"...the question I ask is, "What would Dad think about this if he could see it?" I am often surprised at how different the answers to those two questions are.

8. Sometimes choosing to be selfish is the best way you can be nice to someone else. This past year I've chosen to go on dates with my girlfriends, go to the gym, spend time on ME. I've felt selfish every single time I've done it... but I know that the free time I've had has made me far more able to be a good wife and mother.

...and I'm sure there are many more lessons I've learned, some of which will not become clear until much later. But for now, my flight is about to leave, and I've got to go back to my family and bask in their love and affection and good humour. Because it's what my Dad would expect of me, what my family needs, and because I know it's the single best thing I could be doing for myself.

3 comments:

Claire - Matching Pegs said...

Wonderful post Em.

I hope you have a really lovely visit with your family.

Christine said...

My father died 8 years ago Aug. 7. And my grandfather died 1 year ago Aug. 7 (same day - strange, huh?). So this has all been very fresh on my mind and I am very touched by your post. Glad to hear you are surrounded by family right now. I could not agree more with your lessons - especially #1. No, you don't entirely recover and I still have days when my father's death feels like a slap in the face but they are fewer and farther between, and more often when I think about him now it is with smiles instead of tears. Wishing you peace.

-Christine

DH said...

Amen.