“Grief has its own agenda.”
I read this last year. Cursed and then typed it into my smartphone’s ColorNotes app.
It has rung instructively true this year in this long walk through escape and into healing.
Grief’s autonomous agenda has shown itself in the lives of friends who have loved and lost. No two sorrows the same.
Grief has its own damn agenda.
A few years ago, I mucked up my foot while goofing around at the pool – just days before a triathlon. This was a race that I’d systematically prepared for; I may have even had a chance to show well in my “age group.”
Race Day: Out of the water and to the bike I ran. It wasn’t until I tried to tie my shoes during transition that I realized my dilemma. My foot was so swollen that I was unable to close and tie the shoe. No worries, I’ll bike with it untied.
This worked okay over Missouri hill and dale until I tried to run. Somewhere in the first quarter mile of the footrace, I flung my shoes into the brush and ran on.
Ow. Ow. Ow.
I ran until the hot asphalt and stones in the path made running a bloody affair.
So I walked with a woman who was racing herself away from cancer and chemo.
Even when my IT band screamed, “STOP IT NOW,” I kept going. Pushing through the pain and all that.
Not my wisest life decision.
I did not win and the shoeless pounding on pavement turned a lesser injury into a persistent pain because I refused to rest. Dedication and Kahonies? Pride and Stupidity?
All the signs pointed to rest, but rest was not on my agenda. After having approached several prior races with lackadaisical training, this was going to be my chance to do my best. Now, I am still paying for refusing to call my own race.
As it seems with grief…its own damn agenda.
In my life, I can easily and clearly see the harm of trying to out run and push through pain and grief. I wanted life and love and joy and shared history/impact and perfect comic timing (not really).
By ignoring or stuffing pain and becoming impatient with its agenda, I added to it ex-po-nen-tially while unwittingly increasing Madi and Kenan’s pain, too.
Now, I find myself in a fresh grief – a year and change past the detonation point.
And I am empty.
Unfilled in a way that is often peaceful and restful. Sometimes the empty is alarming, but never dulled.
Terror, fear, anger, brittleness, and desperation are largely absent in this season’s empty. Instead, something like contentment has settled in the void like oxygen fills a house.
It is temporary, too.
Recently, I tried to explain it like this:
I’ve crossed the tempest and the ocean with a hungry tiger and the bones of my hopes and the duplicitous promises believed. We’ve made landfall.
Now, the hurricane’s eye passes overhead. No longer in danger of drowning, I climb the cliff to escape the unseen tiger. A year of scrambling and slipping in the torrent has led to a place like a meadow high in the cliffs.
It is calm with enough resources to sustain life. I’ve made friends with the swaying grasses and solid oaks.
Each evening, the tiger roars his approach.
He is on his way.
He won’t devour, but he will wound and this knowledge keeps me on my feet, unattached to the home made in the meadow peace. Soon, his roar will be loud and long enough that I’ll begin the climb again, further on and further up.
For this moment, rest is job 1.
My yes and no are most true
Still knocking on the door of what I cannot see and am no longer convinced of
Healing and renewed strength
A multiplicity of unanswerable questions keep me company.
I will not try to outrun grief’s agenda.
Some injuries are worse than a pesky IT band.