Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dealing with sadness

It’s been an odd day. There was a deep emptiness in my house when I got up this morning, such a clear absence of old Jake’s spirit, his lumbering shuffle into the kitchen for breakfast, his way of pushing the other two cats away from the water dish, his incessant in/out game to get to his outside sleeping place, a cardboard box with two gray towels in it, then to come back in and check the food again, then go back out.

It’s impossible to know what the other cats think. I noticed that Reinie was sleeping in Jake’s box outside, something he rarely did. And Nellie seemed particularly restless, but then I was leaving today and she gets restless when the suitcase comes out.

I made it through the evening last night—I had dinner with a friend but didn’t want to stay after we ate. I was deeply sad. Nothing much appealed to me, not food, not the Internet, not work, not movies, nothing. I just needed to be with my feelings some more. I needed to sit with missing Jake.

For some people, this is familiar behavior. Something sad happens, you sit with your feelings. But it’s not all that familiar to me. I’ve spent a lot of years being very briefly with big feelings and then getting busy. Don’t just sit there, do something was a familiar refrain in my growing up years. My mother believed that idleness led to melancholy and the cure was work of some sort. She had no end of projects for us if we ever complained of boredom. The fact that these activities weren’t engaging or satisfying was of little consequence. The point was to be busy. I learned to feel guilty if I wasn’t active. It’s not surprising to me that I started to drink in order to be idle, in order to tolerate downtime, and when I stopped drinking, I went back to eating. Get enough sugar and fat in me and I didn’t feel so guilty, so at loose ends.

So I’m uncomfortable with this grief, this unmedicated sadness. And I’m learning that it’s bearable.

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