The Best Way Is Through
A month ago, as a member of a great team of leaders, and after a year of getting ready for my next career adventure, we launched a new business. Also a month ago, we lost my mother-in-law, suddenly and...
A month ago, as a member of a great team of leaders, and after a year of getting ready for my next career adventure, we launched a new business. Also a month ago, we lost my mother-in-law, suddenly and unexpectedly. Life has a way of reminding you that you don’t have as much control as you think you do. Sometimes, life is like a video game. As soon as you’ve conquered a level, the screen clears, and the next, challenging level starts. You take the skills and tools you’ve acquired, or plundered, from the previous levels and add to them, hoping to avoid the pitfalls, dodge the lasers and take down the monsters. Once in awhile, there are secret passages where you can avoid the battles, but most of the time, the only way to get to the next level is straight through.
I’m not an expert on the grieving process, but I have been working on living. Illustratively, here’s how it’s been going over the last year:
There are peaks, valleys and plateaus, but you can see the trend line is positive. Yes, in case you’re wondering, there is a big part of me that plans to go back through my journal and plot actual data points. I’ve been periodically analyzing the qualitative data to see what leads to the peaks and what helps me move out of the plateaus. I’ve very creatively named this research “what helps.” I now have a list of things to do that help get me through the valleys, out of the plateaus and prepare me to deal when I’m knocked off the top of the mountain by a purple-scaled warrior yielding an electric sword and riding a flying, saber-toothed tiger.
So What Does Help?
First of all, it helps to be curious. Just the act of looking at my feelings and actions like an observer is helpful. Second, I refer to my list. Most of it isn’t rocket science. Actually, none of it is rocket science. It’s things like: go outside for a walk, write, listen to these songs, call a friend, go to yoga, listen to this particular podcast, read funny parenting tweets, play 42 games of Wordle and Sudoku, read this particular passage, reread the text from my aunt who is praying for me, read anything by Donna Leon, do the next thing on my to-do list, schedule a meeting with someone, do the next thing no matter how small. Go through.
Stuck In A Moment, And You Can’t Get Out Of It
I have many great memories from freshman year in college, and one of them is my dorm neighbor, Amanda, being completely obsessed with U2. I’m thankful for these memories and for U2, because sometimes (almost always) a song can help identify exactly what you’re feeling. I’ve had “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” stuck in my head for the last two weeks. I’ve been playing it and singing it, of course without my kids around, because pre-teens. Just the act of admitting I felt stuck helped. Carrying grief is like dragging a fully-loaded toboggan behind you everywhere you go. In our case, we have four, fully-loaded toboggans in our house right now.
How To Make A Rainbow
But the snow is melting, and I can see us switching from toboggans to hiking backpacks soon. The climbing pace is picking back up. There will be more obstacles in the climb, and we will certainly be in more valleys, but rain and sun make a rainbow. We can’t avoid the rain and have to fight through these storms and battles, but at least we can enjoy the rainbows along the way, cherish the metaphorical coins we collect and enjoy the victory music as we inch up the winner board. So for now, I’m moving on from U2 to John Prine: “In spite of ourselves, we’ll end up sitting on a rainbow. Against all odds, honey, we’re the big door prize.”