I let my domain name lapse, and I figured I'd get around to reinstating it at some point or another, when I jolted up in bed the other day and thought, shit, people might think I'm dead. That sounds dramatic but literally when I'd come across a blog of someone who'd had cancer and it was defunct, or neglected, my first assumption was that they croaked. I did not croak. I am here.
My mom's not, so I've been wading through that experience, quite literally wading through the metric tons of her belongings that she kept inside her house. I wouldn't call it hoarding but I'd say...a very extreme case of a pack-rat. On the plus side, it's allowed us to explore her as a person through tidbits of her life (diary entries, little pieces of paper she'd jot thoughts down into), and on the down side, it's been an emotional excavation, a prolonging of pain and grief and stress. The house itself fell into some degree of disrepair in her later years, as her mobility declined. Plus, absent of taking her places when she wasn't able, everyone brought stuff over instead. And so she accumulated and accumulated, and whenever anyone would try to--God forbid--move something, she'd call out (not even seeing you!) - "What are you doing in there? Leave that there," or something like that, so you wouldn't dare throw anything away.
Aside from all that, it's my first free summer since age 13, now that I've become a teacher, and while much of it has been dedicated to the house, I'm looking forward to some rest. I mean, I need a goddamn break. I'm writing every day and reading and working out, so far. It's glorious. Not having to squeeze "free time" into finite vacation weeks (it never felt truly free), to wake up, to know I can have a casual routine, not the pressure of being casual, of "relaxing" but to truly just go about my day without the prospect of work...it feels wonderful.
The writing feels a bit like a job but a job I like, plus my little side gigs, but I do those when I feel like it...because without them I think I'd feel like a deadbeat.
Here's to summer, to emotional excavations, and to feeling free.
PS: I was honored to be asked by some readers of The Hollow who were taken with my experience (I'm assuming they read this, or used to read it) and they asked for me to send them words of encouragement. I found myself bursting at the seams trying to fit in all my anecdotes and advice into these little cards, so what I left out I'll place below. I left this out, because when I re-read it, it was much too geared to my mother's death, and pretty dark. Really, it was a note of reflection to myself. Here goes.
My mother died two months ago (seven years, in increments of deterioration and indignities, s l o w…) a terminal diagnosis that went deeply south in April. I believe I saw what could possibly have been the worst death many will witness in their lifetime. And admitting this to anyone is hard, because no one wants to hear that, and everyone wants to believe in this self-assured peace that washes over you as you die, and the truth is, no. Sometimes people are placed in agony and it is not their fault and they did not deserve it and all you can do is wish for the end, so that they can truly be at peace. And she is at peace. And I am at peace for knowing this, and I see her in the cardinals and I smell her in the lilacs. And I am glad for the experience because it truly makes many of my worries vanish, it clarifies my wants and needs and cares. Because so long as you’re not dying, you are living.
Also, I do feel that to be 100% honest with yourself, with how you’re feeling, with how other people make you feel, is the key to growing as a person, and we should always, always, always, be actively striving to become a better person. So if you’re going through hardship, acknowledge the pure, unadulterated shit of it. Talk to people about it, people you trust, and of course, a therapist (I have had, at one time, two of them listen to me yammer on and weep!). Keep your body moving as long as you are able, and keep your friendships dear and close and nourished, stay interested in many different areas of life, and keep a balance of work and play and love. We need it all. And you want it all, and there’s no shame in that.
My mother was a hard-ass English teacher who dealt with far more hardship than anyone should ever face, who loved her friends and her children more than her herself, who was a complete bitch sometimes and would never apologize for it, and whom I had the honor (but not pleasure, not the slightest) to see imprint and then absent this earth.