Life: Beyond Comprehension

I’ll never forget the moment I found out my Dad had passed away.

I had selfishly decided to leave the hospital for the first time in 28 hours to have a shower – I wanted to wash the stale scent of mystery meat and excessively pureed vegetables from my skin. In the back of my mind and in my heart, I was hoping that he would find the strength to open his eyes and see me; if by some magical miracle that moment happened, I wanted to look almost my best. But after one of the fastest showers I’d ever taken, I was on my way back to the hospital when my Mom called to break the news (and my heart). I had barely pulled over to the side of the road and from behind the wheel, my road rage had gone from non-existent to full throttle. In a matter of seconds, I was suddenly screaming in tears for other drivers to get out of my way, for the traffic lights to hurry up and give me a green light, for the universe to turn back time and take me out of this nightmare.

Within the hour, that anger was suppressed in the presence of staggering heartbreak. I sat there staring at my Dad with a shattered heart and a fierce regret for leaving his side for a damn shower. I knew that even if I had been there, I would have never been able to execute a suitable goodbye, but I never got the chance to try – and I only had myself to blame. By the next morning and as the days slowly passed, the unaddressed anger lingered in my body. When friends would check-in to see how I was coping, I’d scowl at my phone while pretending I was pleased to hear from them. On my flight to Toronto just a few days later, I had to exert all my effort into not blowing up to my neighbouring passenger while she told me stories about the family she was on the way to visit. I withheld my anger in business meetings – because, I didn’t want to be the one to make others uncomfortable with my unfortunate series of events.

For the past 4 months, anger has been simmering inside me with nowhere to go. I’ve been wandering, working, and filling my time with anything to stay distracted; to avoid unleashing my emotions where people can see them. Because death – the idea of it, the subject of it, the reality of it and the concept of it happening to us and to people we love is fucking uncomfortable and no one wants to talk about it, especially not for months on end. So yeah, at work and when (on the rare occasion) I meet new friends in this city that doesn’t feel like home yet, we don’t talk about it. Why would we want to talk about losing the people we love, when we can simply talk about what we love (that we still have)? Why talk about devastating circumstances, when there’s a million other even-just-slightly-less devastating events we can discuss? Why should everyone else feel uncomfortable, just because I’m not sure how to wrap my brain around the way my life’s unfolded over the summer?

No, I’m not trying to guilt trip anyone for living their own life and focusing on life moments that make them happy instead of sad. I’m just voicing my frustrations (because it’s my blog and I do what I want).

It’s just a bit discouraging how afraid so many of us are when the topic of death is brought to the table. It’s this outstanding part of life that we all experience in some form or another; it breaks all of us apart from the inside – yet no one wants to acknowledge the pain and maybe work together to find our way through it. I understand that it’s depressing, but it’s an element of life that we can’t just ignore; I mean, we can for a while, but you can’t outrun it forever.

So, what do you do when death unfolds right in front of you and takes over?

I’ve been trying to find an answer for months; I don’t think there’s anything really concrete. Whether it’s something we’re waiting on or an event that happens when we weren’t even a little bit ready for it, I’ve realized that death has different effects on every person it encounters. Some of us feel sad. Or maybe you get mad like I do. Or perhaps, it just doesn’t bother you at all. Actually, I think that last one is a lie – unless you actually do have a decrepit rock for a heart. But some of us are better at just not letting our emotions get the best of us and just plugging along with minimal fucks to give about what we can’t control.

But I think what I really want to get across with my words here is that if you’re ever going through something so utterly painful as someone you love passing away, you’re allowed to feel however the fuck you want to feel. If your heart just keeps breaking no matter how many ways you’ve tried to tape it up, that’s understandable. If you’re a little down and out and just not feeling yourself, that makes sense too. If you’re maybe a tad anxious, a bit unsure, slightly uncomfortable without the presence of someone who was always there – it’s not surprising. And hey, if you’re pissed right off that there’s absolutely nothing you can do to make things feel better right down at the root of it all – I feel you.

Just as discouraging as our minimal discussion about death, is the fact that so many people don’t recognize anger as a healthy emotion. Maybe it’s not healthy to be consistently angry – so angry and unstable that we let it fuel our habits and turn into destructive monsters – but I think it’s necessary for us to be mad about things that happen and to recognize what makes us tick. If we’re bothered and really shaken up about something, we shouldn’t just throw that away. Except, all too often I think we just feel the need to find a way to calm down, let go, distract ourselves with positivity.

Anger is just as important as any other emotion and if it’s surging through your body, I highly recommend taking the time to feel it (feel it hard!). I mean, if your lover broke your heart or the universe lit a match to your carefully thought out plans or if someone stabbed you in the back – or if your parent died the moment you stepped away for a 20 minutes – then I think you’re more than deserving to be mad about it — on top of whatever other emotion(s) you feel, too. In fact, I’d be super curious as to how dark and empty your soul is if you felt close to nothing at all in any close to awful scenario that happened to you.

It’s important to remember that you’re entitled to however you feel, but also to be mindful that other people may not feel the same or understand what you’re feeling. I’ve constantly tried to make my pain relatable to others, but no matter how I try to explain it – they’ll never feel the pain the way I do. And as frustrating as that truth is, that’s just how it goes.

So no matter how jealous, bitter, pensive, sad, or just plain miserable I feel — I’m just learning to live with it. Unfortunately, that means other people sort of have to, too. I’m doing my best not to lose my cool or cry excessively, and I’m trying to similiar to the fun, energetic self I was 5 months ago (before everything changed) but sometimes it just happens all that stuff just happens because I’m just too tired to stop it. Sometimes, getting upset  and feeling unhappy just needs to happen.

Grief seems to do whatever it wants to, and it seems as though the healthiest way to deal with it – is to just let it do it’s thing without feeling too bad about it.

If you haven’t faced it already, I’m sorry to say – but you will eventually. And when you do, I hope that you’re not too hard on yourself and give yourself permission to be incredibly imperfect in the process of navigating the pain, hurt, and uncontrollable way it affects your life – whatever that turns out to be. It may be bearable or it may feel impossible, and there’s really no way to prepare for it. The only thing I can tell you is that it probably won’t make sense.

But hey – neither did taking a shower, just to smell and look good at the hospital.

I guess that’s just how life unfolds sometimes. We just gotta’ keep doing what feels necessary in each moment that presents itself,  and the do our best  to take another step forward and figure out the rest from there.

the Neverending Puzzle

Vancouver > Castlegar > Edmonton > Vancouver > Kelowna > Vancouver > Calgary > Edmonton. You’d think I’d have this whole ‘moving to another city’ thing figured out by now.

Show up. Set up. Go and make friends, find your place in social circles. Sounds simple and sort of easy enough, doesn’t it? Especially after I’ve gone through the puzzling process numerous times.

Except – it never is. This time around, it’s definitely not.

As I drove home on a recent Friday night, I was slightly conflicted between the extreme desire (and necessity) to be a couch potato for the weekend… and the loneliness that lingers with a lack of friends in the city.

***Shit. If you’re reading this and you’re one of the few people I know in Edmonton – I’m doing my best not to offend you. I swear. It’s not you – it’s me. [I’m an only child. It’s always about me, duh!]

Real talk: I’m at a point in my life where I need / want my go-to comrades and soulmates – the people I can spill my guts to without fear of judgement, while sitting in sweatpants with way too much dry shampoo in my hair because I haven’t washed it in approximately 4 days. And yes, I know you’re going to tell me that you don’t care and that none of that vanity stuff matters, and that I’m more than welcome to show up looking somewhat homeless. I know, I know. But it’s not the same. We haven’t reached that level in our friendship yet.

I’m nothing but completely honest on these blog posts, so I’ll admit:
I really just don’t feel like making new friends right now.
There – I said it.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a tornado for 3 months; an EF4 tornado that causes epic destruction and devastation. My father got sick and passed away within a month, and within a week of his passing, I had travelled between 3 cities – moving, packing, unpacking, relocating and then starting a new job.

Overwhelmed” only begins to scratch the surface of how I feel. Underneath that lies emotions like sadness, confusion, doubt, and tiredness [is tired an emotion?]

Either way, I’m currently experiencing tired. ALL THE TIRED.

A good night’s sleep is a unicorn in my life. A sweet dream, if you will, that only comes at the aid of ZzZQuil, a combination of B100’s + Cal-Mag tablets, or other sleeping pills I’ve been prescribed. When my brain ditched the ability to sleep through the night, it also ditched it’s desire to remember anything and now I rely heavily on calendars, post it notes, a whiteboard, and written reminders on my hand to keep me accountable to every errand, appointment, and event I shouldn’t miss.

In the process of the last 3 months, I’ve lost: an iPhone charger, a camera lens cap, two hoodies, a set of wine glasses, a bra, a pair of gym shorts, a laptop case, a pair of headphones… there’s definitely a few more things I can’t seem to remember at the moment. I feel like I’ve lost my sanity, and my ability to be a functioning human being at minimal effort.

I’ve mastered the art of faking it until I make it. Waterproof mascara helps immensely and so does a hot summer with endless sunshine. Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been riding the high that comes with assorted compliments from the best kinds of friends and even random strangers to keep me smiling through even the gloomiest days.

The tornado that swallowed my life up a few months ago changed everything and shook me up mentally, emotionally and physically. Because of it, a lot of my life these days feels somewhat like a chore and it’s weird. I’ve spent more times crying in bathrooms and behind sunglasses in 90 days than I have in my entire life – and I don’t like it. But it is what it is…

There’s something about death that’s both terrifying and beautiful. It’s a harsh reminder that eventually life is going to come to an end – quite possibly, when you least expect it. It’s a warning that people we love will disappear from our life one day, and all we’ll have left is memories of their best contributions to our existence. And it’s one of life’s smaller but significant gestures to us that everything we do matters – to those we love and to our legacy.

I recently decided that my final story is going to be something I’m immensely proud of, even if I won’t be around to hear about it; not that I wasn’t already in the process of writing a great story – but now, I’m putting more thought into the sentences I write and the pages I fill. Except, it’s hard to focus when you’ve lost more sleep than you can fathom and you’re always worrying about whether or not you possibly left your straightener plugged in and turned on (again), while also wondering if you left the kitchen sink running (this happened while I was on my way to the airport) and stressing about all sorts of things you can’t tend to because you’re stuck at the office, in traffic, or out and in the middle of something for a few more hours.

I’m just trying to be real with myself, mostly. We live in a world that can easily convince us to be “on” all the time – that the hustle should be constant, that every expectation should always be met, and that there’s always something higher, shinier, brighter and better to keep on reaching for. And while there isn’t anything wrong with hustling and setting new goals for yourself, you’re allowed to take a breather when life becomes more than you can handle. You’re allowed to turn your tolerance down a few notches and take time to simply do YOU.

In light of everything that’s taken place over the last few weeks and with the intense life and self-reflection that’s transpired in the aftermath, something inside my soul has shifted. It’s both interesting and confusing, but it’s forced me to accept that all I can do is what’s best for me in any given moment. And so, I’m going to try and keep my worries to a minimum about why the puzzle pieces haven’t matched together yet and why certain aspects of my life aren’t magically falling into place. I might just not be ready (fact: I’m definitely not ready). I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept of devastating grief; how to balance an abundance of it with this burning desire to unfold the next chapter of my life. I’m also mindfully practicing getting through days with less crying and more genuine smiles, while also attempting to catch up on sleep, give my entire existence some well-deserved rest and avoid a constant empty battery and complete meltdowns.

And I’m chasing after life experiences that I truly enjoy, rather than committing myself to anything else that I feel is ‘expected’ of me.

Life is short, but it’s also not an experience we should rush through or simply participate in for the sake of other people’s fulfillment. So, if I can offer a piece of advice should you feel the same way I do at any point, it’s that you never have to force yourself to do anything you’re not ready to do. Life isn’t about pleasing the masses – so don’t feel like you have to exert extra effort if there’s an aspect of life that just doesn’t jive with you. No one likes that person that tries too hard anyway, y’know?

I’ve shown up and I’ve started to settle. I’ve been as strong as I can when it was necessary to get through the moment, but I’m going to just be for a little while now. The rest of my life and the other steps in the process… will happen eventually. And maybe one day, I’ll find my new Edmonton friends or they’ll find me. Maybe one day, the puzzle will start to look a little more like a picture and less of an abstract mess.

Who knows.

All I know is this: we can’t force the pieces of our life to come together. The best puzzles {and life IS a puzzle} are an elaborate process that require patience and time.

“Okay”

“Okay”

That’s my response to  most things these days – when everyone asks how I’m doing, when people ask how life is going, when other people invite me to join them in their plans.

“I’m okay.” “Things are okay.” “Sure… okay (followed by a heavy sigh).”
It’s all… okay.

Every day is different. I can’t tell you how I’m going to feel in 5 minutes, an hour, tomorrow or next week until we get to that point. I can’t promise that I won’t cry or forget anything, or that I’ll be keen to dress up and go out for a night of fun.

Because for the most part, I’m okay… until it all comes rushing back: when that vivid memory of me holding my Dad’s chilling hand, minutes after he took his last breath takes over my brain. I remember I can’t pick up the phone and hear my Dad’s reaction to the ridiculous life I sometimes live.

The reality of his death sinks in again, and in an instant – I’m barely okay at best.

Grief is a puzzling process.

There are no rules to grieving. People keep reminding me that there’s no right or wrong way to manage it or maneuver through it; you get to do it all on your own, as you please.

But that’s the blessing, and the curse. For me, I feel like I’m constantly searching for a stretch of feeling ‘normal’, but my mood is hardly consistent. For the last 3 weeks, I’ve perpetually made plans only to cancel them hours before they happen.  The idea of socializing with old friends and new faces seems exciting in fleeting moments, but usually transitions into a sense of exhaustion as I contemplate the idea of spending time with people and making small talk. I’m stuck on a rollercoaster of ever-changing emotions, perpetually moving through moments of sadness, anger, misery, emptiness, heartbreak, and contentment.

To quote someone else: “Grief makes us crazy.”

I want to go on and live my life, while simultaneously sitting in a pool of my own tears. I want everyone to leave me alone, but I don’t want them to leave. It’s been 4 weeks, and yet I can’t tell whether it feels like just yesterday or an eternity since he passed away – the reality is so fresh and raw and it doesn’t make sense.

How is it possible that just a couple of months ago, my Dad was sitting on the phone with me complaining of being ‘just tired’? And then weeks later, he died of a furiously spreading cancer? It’s not fair, and I want to stomp my feet and demand answers… but nothing.

The only thing I really want is to pick up the phone and hear his voice again. I want to fly home and smell the stale scent of his familiar sweater, to hear him snoring in front of the TV, to see the spaces between his wispy white hair on his head. I want to listen to him chuckle at my silly remarks, to watch the smile light up on his face when I tell him something charming, and just hear him call me Miss Pennifer — one more time.

But I’m asking for the impossible, and so there’s no fix for my pain. I’m destined to suffer indefinitely – which isn’t an easy reality to accept.

My heart is both empty and heavy all at once. I’m systematically programmed to live in auto-pilot mode, coasting through the motions of a set routine most days. I put on a brave face and fake my way through my workout, my job, and even at the grocery store.

In between it all, there are good days. There are days when my laughter is genuine, the smile and the joy I feel are real. I can make it through some days, only crying for a few moments or only feeling sadness for a short span of time. But there’s also bad days, and awful days – where I can’t concentrate on anything beyond the fact that my Dad is no long a physical human being. I cry endlessly, I feel lifeless myself and comprehending anything past my sadness is unimaginable.

Death. It’s an inevitable part of life, and yet something we can never properly prepare for. Looking back, I don’t know that I could have ever readied myself for this pain… and so, I’m doing the best I can.

I sit at home and stare into the sky – wondering where he is and what he’d be doing right now if he was here. I wear his glasses and try to imagine the world through his eyes, sift through old emails from him, and think back to all my favourite quirks about who he was and how he inspired me to be me.

Life isn’t easy right now, but admittedly – it’s not awful aside from the significant loss I’m experiencing.

So uh, yeah. I guess you could say I’m okay.