I stumbled across my own blog entry today from almost two years ago. (little did I know on the date I wrote it that I was writing it on the almost-one-year countdown to my father's death-date. Little did I know that by June 2011, I would be completing, along with my family, a sort-of vigil around his last week, and also by that time, not only would my father leave my life in this form, but my aunt would also leave. The circumstances around that are murky still, they nudge at me from time to time, but for the most part, I let sleeping dogs lie there. But I don't want them to wake up).
I was musing about courage today and its many forms, and when I referenced my blog I had the feeling I'd written about courage in the past, and I had (the link to that post above). In the post I talk about needing all my strength and yes, courage, to get through all that was swirling around me in my uneasy world at the time.
I needed courage again last spring when my father received his final diagnosis and there were so many loose ends that needed tying up.
And then, in those final weeks, to steel myself for the loss that was coming, the support my family was going to need, now more than ever.
After that, as my friend A. said, the 'little things' go away for a time. They do, you know. In grief, life is crystal-clear, priorities are arrow-fine, and all those nuances, those irritants, they tend to dissipate, to vanish, and you are standing there on your own, stripped but for the clouds looming close around you, forming a nice misty barrier between you and the rest of the world.
Outwardly: you look normal. You are normal, really. But your inner life is in chaos, and you don't own your thoughts, your reactions, your needs, your memory.
Gradually the little things move back in and resume their never-ending demand that you pay attention to them. Your memory is not so absent. You function properly, you send birthday gifts to friends that live far away. You get married, in a small ceremony. You send thank you notes to the people who attend, you go on a honeymoon. All normal. You move your remaining parent to smaller, more suitable accommodations. You privately wonder if this is the last time they will ever need to move. You file tax returns for yourself, and your parents (yes, both of them. One return is the last one. It will be a closed file after this one).
But one thing is different.
I wrote to a friend in an email recently, someone I hadn't been in contact with for a long time, that I haven't quite been the same since. Since being since my father's illness, suffering, and subsequent death. I didn't even realize at the time that I was writing that. It just kind of pored out and as I read it over after sending the email I thought, I haven't? I haven't been the same?
I tried to pinpoint the differences myself. The social withdrawal I guess is one example. There was a very lonely time in my life when alot of my good friends were getting married, some moved, others were busy getting to know someone, and I was alone alot. I worked two jobs (long hours at both) but still found myself with energy and time to burn. I moved, and that took time, and that was around the time I began to look at Sundays with dread and anxiety--so many hours to fill, so much lonely time. Now, after adjusting, a Sunday ahead of me with nothing to do and no one to see fills me with more joy than I'd like to admit. Because the adjustment did happen--I trained myself to not only exist with my own company, but to enjoy it.
Another thing is my complete indifference to rise to the occasion of a disagreement, an argument, or a situation that involves conflict, that creates resentment, that makes someone feel bad about themselves. It's like the grinch in Dr. Suess. A rudimentary metaphor; his heart grew two sizes.
For me, my compassion dial turned up higher, and I can't seem to turn it back down. So, in essence, I just wait for the conflict to evaporate, for my feelings to calm, for my responses to neutralize.
Don't get me wrong; I can still get very angry at things, work being a good example (I hold it in though. Not the healthiest thing, I know). And I know that regular readers will point out that I have been far less than charitable when musing about my ex's fall on extremely hard times, and in letting my aunt back in my life. I know all of this, believe me. And it does eat at me at times. I turn the lens onto myself and I am wanting and lacking every day. But it doesn't compel me to just give up on ever improving, which is how I USED to look at it.
The title, the aim of this post; don't forget me. Hmm. Courage.
Where do the two co-exist you ask?
I don't want to forget that courageous self who did all that stuff. I know that we tend to look back on portions of our lives and extoll our own virtures (ie, "Oh I was so fearless back then, how can I get that back" when really, we're fearless all our lives, every time we do something new, meet someone, make a friend, extend a hand, start a project, heal our hearts).
A friend shared some news today which I felt showed real courage. I'm not sure if they are there yet in their estimation of how courageous it was, but it resonated with me. It also reminded me I can't forget about myself and the timelines I want to remember. One of them is that when my father was my age, he had twenty-five years left of life. I remind myself: Carolyn, if you knew that was all you would have, what would change right now? And for the most part I know the answer. That's probably what makes courage all the more necessary.
For now I tread water, fill in paperwork, and get ready to 'make the leap' or so it seems.