In 2012 my father had a double lung transplant from which he never really recovered. He passed away less than three years later after spending most of those years in and out of the ICU.
A few months after my dad passed away, we discovered that my mother had a form of frontal lobe dementia. Some weird rapid progressing type. 6 months or so later, we discovered that she had metastatic breast cancer. Terminal, metastatic breast cancer, as if there’s any other kind.
So, in short, and not to be crass or cold about it, for the last seven years, I’ve had a parent who was dying. Which is horrible, and sad, and all the things that you’re supposed to feel, but also absolutely utterly exhausting. Because of all the waiting for bad news, waiting for “the” call, waiting for grief to start even though you’re already grieving.
I could go into all the crazy mixed-up feelings I have about all of this, but you don’t want that, trust me, and frankly, I don’t want to, which, in a round-about way, brings us somewhat to the point of today’s post.
For those last 7 years, longer really if we also take in the disastrous experience that 2011 was, I have used books as a solid form of escape.
Because, duh, books. Other people’s lives, other people’s problems, other people dealing with them. The ultimate escape. Especially when they so kindly wrap things up neatly in the last three chapters leaving you feeling like some things DO have nice tidy resolutions.
Only I’ve taken it further. Way way further. I fell HARD into the bottomless pit of magical fantasy. Werewolves, vampires, witches, warlocks, magicals, faeries…you name it, if it was the focus of a book, preferably a very long rambling series, I dove in headfirst.
Because you know what’s even better than escaping into someone else’s scripted reality? Escaping into a reality that in no way at ALL could possibly ever resemble mine and therefore force me to confront any of the zillion complicated feelings that I so desperately don’t want to feel or even acknowledge. (Oh, how glad I am my therapist doesn’t read my blog or I know exactly where our session would be starting next week…)
Oh, you’re a witch given up at birth because your parents knew how magically strong you were and wanted to protect you from the evil magical council overlords? Sign. Me. Up.
A werewolf pack with an unusual pack member? Tell me more!
Evil heartless fairy discovers he has a heart? Please go on…this has potential!
Vaguely interesting sounding series about a vampire boarding school that has 25 books in the series. OMG, could there be anything more perfect?
And then last night I finished a book in a series (Demi-God meets super strong magical abandoned at the age of 3 if you must know) and I found myself opening a realistic fiction novel.
Picking up a realistic fiction novel feels momentous to me. Like I’m finally ready to crawl out of my safe little cave and face the world and possibly my own feelings.
This novel is about a woman whose husband walked out on her and their kids and has just reappeared in their lives. So not too relatable for me, but it’s a start because the focus of the book is on how she spends her summer rediscovering herself and, frankly, that’s what it feels I’ve been doing since we moved last July.
Beyond just hiding from my feelings, I’ve spent the last two years putting off “figure out who post-40 Jessica really is,” figuring that I’d better get through the process of grieving my mother before I even bothered. Because, remember, I’ve already done the dead parent thing and I know first hand that grief is this unwieldy monster that can’t be tamed and must rather be endured or rather waited out. Back in 2015, grief took over my life and stole months of it away and I just know that’s what my not-so-distant future holds for me.
But sometime in the last couple months I realized that I’ve spent the last seven years waiting for grief to wallop me upside the head and derail my life. And, to be fair, it did for a while, but then I just went right back to waiting for it to do it all over again.
Seven. Years. 1/6th of my life. Putting me on hold because big bad things were coming.
I can’t do it any more.
‘Taking back my life’ is a process that is starting small. I’ve started investing in my physical health. Paying for a fat loss plan that’s actually working, partly because I’ve stopped being defeatist about my weight and partly because the plan is awesome*. (If you follow me on Instagram you can enjoy my endless gushing and raving about it.) Paying for a yoga studio membership, because spending a couple hours each week breathing deeply and actually being in my physical body rather than my mind is good for me in every way possible.
I’m not sure what comes after that. Reading more realistic fiction and less fantasy fiction for sure. Possibly diving into the edits of the last two NaNo Novels I wrote. Maybe, gasp, figuring out what I would do if I ever granted myself time “off” from homeschooling, working, parenting and running a household (I’m open to any and all suggestions!).
I remember once hearing a joke about a guy who lived in an apartment. The guy who lived right above him and the terrible habit of coming home late at night and stomping into his room where he would take off his heavy work-boots and drop them on the floor. Every night, the neighbor below would bitch and moan about jolted awake by the loud THUDS and, in the morning would go upstairs to complain loudly to the offender.
Then, one night, the upstairs guy came home and clomped his way to his room, took off one boot, dropped it, and suddenly remembered to put the other boot down gently. Three hours later he was jerked awake by a loud pounding on his door. As soon as he opened it, the downstairs neighbor yelled “OH MY GOD, JUST DROP THE SECOND BOOT I CAN’T STAND THE SUSPENSE ANY LONGER!”
I’m tired of being tired, tired of waiting and putting my life on hold while I brace myself for the news I know is coming. My mother is still dying. She could pass away tomorrow or in six months. No one knows. Her doctors are frankly baffled that she’s still alive. That call is coming whether I brace myself for it or not. I might as well live my life instead of keeping it on ice while I wait.
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