I decided to write this one today, 1. because I said I would be writing it, and 2. the big reason, I am tired, and being tired really brings the grief close to the surface. Also, I was hanging out with old friends last night–friend’s whom have witnessed several of my hardcore life-changes (me and mom before my mom got sick, before and after my break-up (huge lifestyle change, hahaha!), during the sickness, the death, the immediate reaction, and, after a few years’ absence, me now)–and that splash of guilt that I always carry when it comes to them, was enough to capture the attention of my wretched abyss, and four hours of sleep later, it’s tailing me.
What do I mean by “The Abyss”? If you have to ask that question, I envy you, because it probably means that you do not have one. I am not, however, talking about the 1989 movie, The Abyss, with the most handsome Michael Biehn (but that mustache though!)–however the concept of diving down to unknown depths where an unforeseen extraterrestrial monster could very well destroy you, is not that far off from the way that my abyss feels to me. However, I would rather attribute the concept of 1998’s The Sphere–diving to unknown depths where your very worst nightmares can, and do, come true? Yeah, that sounds about right.
Picture a meadow–a vast beautiful flower strewn meadow surrounded by the most phenomenal, colorful, and plushy trees you could imagine. White fluffy puffy clouds drift lazily across a cerulean sky, the sun shining brightly, illuminating all of the amazing flowers in the giant open space. But look behind you, the sky is a virulent greenish-black and swirling purple. There is a storm coming–there is always a storm coming. And suddenly you hear it, the wind, like the impassioned
whispers of a million fiends, and, still looking behind you, you look down. The abyss is coming. Like the nothing from The Neverending Story, the abyss is searching for you, destroying everything in it’s wake. A vast seething void, a vacuum, a black hole, intent on sucking you down. Fear grips you, because you don’t know what lays inside the abyss–you are sure that there must be a bottom, but the thought of what may be found along the way, paralyzes you. It is getting closer, as is the storm, and the icy cold vise-like grip of the abyss’ searching fingers have seized your ankle–it is going to suck you in! Violently, you tear yourself from it’s grasp. Anger has consumed you now. How dare that abominable, but somehow omniscient, creature, try to pull you under! So you run. Run from the storm, run from the abyss. Ducking and weaving, dodging and zigzagging, you desperately try to get away. But unbeknownst to you, the meadow is not a flat expanse–the flowers hide the pitfalls and the potholes, the cracks and crevices, the eroding artifacts of time. Now you have to attempt to outrun the abyss, avoid the storm, and try not to break your leg in the process. Fabulous!
This is the poetic description of my life. I do, predominately, see it as beautiful–a sun-drenched flower-strewn meadow. But there is always a storm a’coming. Or, as it is known in my household, “It’s always something.” The storm doesn’t always equal death. It doesn’t always become one with the abyss (but it can, and it does, a lot, in my world). The storm is just something that will eventually come along and, “harsh my mellow.” Often, the storm encompasses several events, that, in their way, make up the storm as a whole. For example, it has always been a general rule, a saying, in our house that if you, “spill your first cup of coffee, you might as well go straight back to bed, because today is going to be a sh*t day!” Spilling the coffee on the freshly mopped floor, leads to hitting your head on a cabinet door, which leads to losing your wallet, which leads to running late, which leads to burning yourself with a cigarette because you’re rushing, which leads to speeding, which leads to a heart-pounding moment of passing a cop, which leads to getting stuck behind the slowest person ever, which leads to being late to work, which leads to nothing at work going right, which leads to….you get the picture. We base a lot of our day on the perilous life of that first cup of coffee.
The hidden pitfalls of the meadow, represent other people’s problems. I am, unfortunately in my opinion, very empathetic. It started young. I felt the losses of my parents and my family, from the moment I was born. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I was born into a loss (my uncle had just died right before I was born), and I was impacted by living with five people directly affected by that loss. And by the time I was born, both of my parent’s knew extensively about pain, fear, death, agony, loss, grief, and all of the other horrible adjectives that we have given to the human condition. My mother was more upbeat than my father, but even she knew she had more blessings to be counted than he, despite all that she had been through. It is a quite lengthy and torrid story, much too long and extensive for a blog, but simply put: between the two of them, they had seen, heard, lived, or touched pretty much all of the darkness that one can imagine in this world. So yeah, suffice to say I was born into a world already jaded by tragedy–but we were somehow still happy. The abyss was there, it always had been, but the meadow was boundless and alluring and I was ecstatic to be there.
But the hidden debris is there, and there are a lot of people in this world….that is a lot of stuff to avoid…
So what is the abyss? For me, it is my own loss, the all consuming grief, regrets, guilt, and the loss of the unknown. It is my darkness, my demons. I stuff them away, wrap them up in a thick, durable, blanket of anger–anger at the world, at the powers that be, at the injustice of it all, that we have to endure without knowing why. And I avoid it. I gaily frolic in my meadow, thinking myself clever for always being one step ahead. But sometimes, the abyss gets me.
I do not care to count out for you, all of the family and friends, even beloved critters, that I have lost in my short lifetime. Already, I can see myself acting like one of those old ladies who is sad every day of the year, because, “I lost so and so on this day in nineteen-ninety–,” or, “two-thousand and—” But January 9, 2010, was by far the worst. My very worst nightmare come true. On that day, I lost my mother. I heard her last breath, I watched my dad perform CPR to no avail, I called 911, and I watched them perform every last trick in their bag to bring her back, and I watched it fail. It seemed like the longest day of my life, but really, I can’t have been aware of more than six hours of the entire day. We woke up late that day, all of us, for whatever reason. Well into the afternoon, start of early evening, the entire household slept–including the three house-guests lurking in the basement (there were eight people in the house that day). And even with the rest of us finally stirring, mom laid there, systematically breathing, until it stopped.
See, that is the thing I have learned in my “old age.” The sound of the death rattle. It sounds a lot like the mechanical breathing of a life support machine–each inhale and exhale perfectly timed, like a metronome on which you can perfectly keep the beat of time. You do not need a machine to produce these calculated breaths. I heard it first with my mother, and the lesson was cemented into memory when Grandma passed three years later.
Five years of universal torture preceded that horrendous day. Five years to watch my mother die. What started with surgeries to fix her collapsing arches, ended with a light-lost, a chemo-mush brain confined to a wheelchair. Every single time she tried to fix a problem, it got worse. Fix her feet, she gets neuropathy. Take Chantix to quit smoking, it makes her sleep-walk, and she falls down the stairs and tears her meniscus. Fix her meniscus, she goes septic with pneumonia, a UTI, and E-Coli. After she completes her rehab, falls and fractures her hip. Gets diagnosed with breast cancer, she has a horrible reaction to the treatment. Begs the doc not to perform the final day of radiation treatment, he does it anyway, the next day she is waking me up with an exploded wound–the incision site where the tumor was removed had festered from the inside out. These instances are only a taste of what she went through those last five years of her life. It seemed like, “it was always something.” We were never going to break free.
I cannot say that I was happy when she died, no. I mean, good for her to be able to escape from the whirlwind of pain the fates had leashed upon her; but I was, am, jealous. Jealous that the next world gets to have her and I don’t. Jealous that she “is in a better place,” and I am not. Jealous that I see that the world can be beautiful–that true love does exist (of course not without it’s faults), that dreams can come true, that there can be happy endings–but I only get to see, hear and touch; never get to live these things. That is my abyss.
And the world just keeps adding to it. I keep adding to it. Berating myself for guilt I have carried for years, adding new guilt, a dash of something new to be angry about….but the ringleader demon in the pit of my abyss, is my mother’s death. She was my best friend. The strongest, most beautiful, most spiritual person I have ever met. A decently non-judgmental active listener (unless you were her kid–she would judge you then, haha!) No one can take her place. Without her, I lost my light. I lost my faith. I lost my safe place. Everything really was going to be all right, as long as she was by my side. And now she is not.
My abyss centers around my mom. How about yours? If you do not have an abyss, I envy you.
And this is why I run. I would rather fight the darkness’ hold, and frolic gaily in the light. But you can’t run forever. Eventually I will fall, I will break, and I will be forced to confront those demons.
I should probably just confront it. Light that candle and curse the darkness, head on, as it were.
I’m currently working on trying to heal it. I will let you know if that works out…
she loved Winnie the Pooh….
**pictures were all found either on Facebook or random google searches. Look for quotes about loss.**