Last Sunday was the first time that I have felt truly relaxed in so many months. I was relaxed in a way that I knew wasn’t going to be quickly snatched away from me. I wasn’t stealing a moment. I wasn’t supposed to be doing something else. I wasn’t on my way to someplace. I simply was. It was genuine and comforting.
T and I were on our way home from a pleasant trip to Milwaukee. We had an hour behind us and several hours in front of us. The kids were all happy and accounted for. The weather was perfect, and the sun was shining. We were driving in the new car and enjoying the heck out of it. The sunroof was open, and music was blasting. I felt safe, and I felt relaxed.
Feeling calm and happy has become a foreign sensation. Turmoil, fear, stress, inadequacy, guilt, and worry…those are the things that have become familiar. It is only now that things are beginning to settle down that I realize the full impact of the events of the past two years. I certainly haven’t have many moments that were calm, peaceful, or full of contentment. Feeling bad had become the “new normal.”
It has felt like I have been uncoiling a tangled mess of yarn in the weeks since my mother’s death. Sometimes I make progress, and then the frustration sets in again, and I have to walk away from the “untangling.” I have had to learn to give myself permission to have a few unhappy days from time to time. I hate the phrase, “two steps forward; one step back,” but that’s how the past couple of months have been.
I see the path that I’m on, but sometimes I plop right down in the middle of the road, and I’m not able to go any further until I gather up a little more strength. During those times, I am stop looking forward down the path, but instead, I look behind me at all that has been lost and all that has changed. I suppose that’s called mourning.
It is during these times when I feel that I am lacking progress when I find that I have actually taken some of the biggest steps. The setbacks are often followed by incredible strides in a positive direction.
One difficult night recently, I found myself unable to sleep. I was tucked in and comfortable, but my mind was racing. I had a bad case of the “what if’s.” As I lay there mulling over things that are beyond my control, I imaged these negative thoughts as a nugget lodged in my brain. The thoughts were like a popcorn hull stuck between two teeth. They were irritating me, and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them. The thoughts were out of place, and their magnitude had grown out of proportion. All of my energy and focus was clustered around this nugget of thought. It felt dark, ominous, and oppressive.
I felt my entire body bending toward these thoughts. Once again, I thought of the tangled mess of yarn, and I knew that it was once again my job to untangle myself. I took a deep breath. It was up to me. I was the one in charge here. “Let it go.” Seems easy, huh? Easy in theory, but difficult in practice.
I closed my eyes and tried to irradiate the negative, unwanted thoughts. I saw the them as a tight, black cluster, and it reminded me of a leafless tree hosting a flock of birds, ominous, busy, and loud. And then I did it. I imagined the birds taking flight. Up, weightlessly lifting, and I felt my body begin to relax and unbend from the thoughts.
I am learning to let go.