The thing I’ve been having a hard time with in the last couple of days: The fact that grief feels horrible — and there’s pretty much nothing I can do about it.
I’m very used to tackling my problems. I’m used to trying to fix the bad things in my life, or at least taking action to alleviate them. And I can’t do that now. There is a basic, unfixable problem in my life, which is that my dad is dead. There is another basic, unfixable problem in my life, which is that grief happens, and takes time. And the only thing I can really do is to slog through it. There are a handful of things I can do that sometimes make me feel better, or at least that don’t make me feel worse: exercise, time outdoors, socializing, chocolate, making plans and having things to look forward to. But basically, all I can do is ride it out, sit and wait for time to pass. There’s a line from the movie “Tootsie” that Ingrid keeps reminding me of: “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”
And I. Fucking. Hate. That. I’m a control queen. I hate just sitting around waiting for days and weeks and months to pass, so I can feel better. This helplessness itself is just one more fucking thing that feels bad, just one more shitty layer of meta piled on to the core of the grief itself.
I’m also realizing that I’m feeling cut off — voluntarily, but still cut off — from one of my usual avenues of connection and expression and participation in the world… namely, the ongoing conflicts and debates in atheism. I’ve always been someone who’s relatively unafraid of conflict, who’s willing to speak her mind even if it gets blowback. I pride myself on that, and to a great extent I’ve carved it out as a major part of my career niche. But right now, I just don’t have it in me.
And that’s very frustrating. There’s a whole host of pieces I’ve been writing in my head, pieces where I think I have a valuable and unique perspective that could make a real difference in some of these conflicts… and I’m not writing them. I don’t have it in me right now to moderate a flamey, 200+ comment thread about feminism, or sex work, or Atheism+. Even the fairly small or private conflicts I’ve been participating in have been upsetting me and depressing me and freaking me out, all out of proportion. I wake up to a couple of mildly angry emails, and it fucks me up for hours. I know that holding off on these fights for now is the right choice, the best thing I can do to take care of myself. But that sense of being cut off… it’s yet another shitty layer of meta. On top of the 23,452 ways that I feel uncomfortable and restless and like nothing feels right, I have the profoundly uncomfortable sensation of keeping my mouth shut when I normally would be speaking. Keeping my mouth shut does not come naturally to me. Not saying things, solely because I’m afraid that people will be mean to me and I can’t handle it, does not come naturally to me. I fucking hate it.
(A few hours later)
On the other hand — damn. Going to the gym. I really have to remember going to the gym. Made it to the gym tonight — absolutely did not want to go, was not in the mood to go, seriously considered being a bad angel and trying to talk Ingrid out of going and into hanging out with me at the cafe instead, had to pull together all my fortitude and inner resources to force myself to go — and was so very glad I did. Went to the gym, and afterwards we picked up take-out burgers and took them home and ate them in front of “Project Runway” and read Tom and Lorenzo and watched South Korean pop videos on YouTube and let cats crawl all over us… and it felt great. It didn’t feel ecstatic or mind-blowing or anything. It just felt like a Friday night. It felt like myself, enjoying my life and my home and my marriage. Yet another note to self: Go to the fucking gym, as often as you possibly can. Do not keep telling yourself, “I don’t have time.” Your productivity is for shit right now. You are spending hours every day staring blankly at a computer screen and re-checking Twitter for the fiftieth time. Your productivity will be vastly improved if you wake the fuck up. Going to the gym wakes you the fuck up. And besides, you just like it. So go.