Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hangin' On

This morning I put Ziva on the leash, grabbed my earphones, and headed out of the house. Walking down the street I gave myself another pep talk. I’m pretty used to those these days. They vary but the most commonly used words are “Don’t think. Breathe” and “It’s okay”. The sun was warm but not too warm. I took in the beauty of the trees and smiled as my pup looked back at me in what appeared to be a big grin. I am grateful she joined our family two years ago. In the hardships of those years, she’s been an affectionate and joyous companion. I’ve needed her.

We turned left at the corner. I spotted the big St. Bernard and decided not to turn on that street. Perhaps the two would have been friendly with one another but I wasn’t in the mood to take a chance on them. Heading the other way, our path didn’t feel right, but onward we went. Martina McBride began singing in my ear. The song, In My Daughter's Eyes, always pulls at my heart and makes me think of my daughters, but walking and hearing the lyrics again today, suddenly “everything becomes a little clearer”.

“I realize what life is all about. It’s hangin’ on when your heart has had enough. It’s giving more when you feel like giving up”.

Yes. That’s what life is. At least for me, right now. Dad died eight weeks ago. I’m hanging on, giving more. But I’m also hurting and I want the hurt to go away.

I’m supposed to be kind and patient with myself. Grief is a process, they say. I know I moved on auto-pilot those first two weeks after Dad died. Plan the funeral. Write the obituary. Go to dress rehearsals (for I had the lead role in a musical that opened six days after Dad died). Sing at Dad’s funeral. Perform three shows. Travel to Rhode Island for Emma’s college orientation. Perform three more shows. Prepare a kitchen for a new countertop (a project which had already been scheduled). The next five weeks were more of the same. Get a breast biopsied. Wait for results. Travel back to my hometown. Take care of Mom for two weeks. Make arrangements with siblings for Mom’s care. Be on call.

Then there was this past week. Life slowed down a little. And suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I felt nauseous again. I tried to trick my overactive brain into shutting down and sleeping at night by heading to bed before I got too tired. I got on the scale and realized I’d lost more weight. Oh, I love the lower numbers but this has been one hell of a way to slim down.

I need to stay busy. I go to the gym. I pull my husband out on impromptu dates. I do some baking. I play basketball with the kids. I do some laundry. I make myself read. I take more walks. I make meals. I watch television and movies. I try to avoid thinking too much but I still do. And yes, tears fall but I try to stop them from spilling over because I am tired of crying. I’m again heading another way. The path doesn’t feel right, but onward I go. Because I can’t let go, even though my heart has had enough. I can’t give up when I need to give more. That’s what life is all about. I just wish it weren’t so hard. I miss you, Dad. So much.

As I worked to finish this post, Ziva was again at my side, staring at me with her sweet brown eyes, wagging her tail. She doesn’t know my heart has been broken this summer. She doesn’t know I’ve lost my Dad. But she’s there for me, just the same. And she’s teaching me to simply savor the moments of life that are here for me now. Without judgement, she reminds me to take each moment as it comes, to feel the wafting breeze as it comes through the trees on this beautiful August day, to not worry over the demise of the deck flowers that have had too much water this summer, but to be happy playing with the little grasshopper that jumps out of the plant pot onto the decking, to jump at the light spots which streak our path. Because this too is what life is all about. And this is what helps me hang on.

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