Making Meaning of the Madness
- To create:
- to bring into being;
- to cause to exist.
The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary
Within a short time after Jeff's death I found new interests were evolving and some lifestyle patterns were in transition. Much to my regret, teaching, which had been a passion, became a job, something that throughout my career I hoped would never happen. I lost interest in keeping my cheque book balanced, when the car got dirty, it stayed dirty and a previously extensive interest in televised sports waned significantly.
New interests were taking the place of old ones. They included such simple things as baking bread, acquiring computer knowledge, learning how to cure and smoke fish, perennial gardening, writing poetry and short stories—none of which I had done before. I wondered why I was suddenly doing those things, but some time passed before the thought occurred that I had an intrinsic need to create. Understandably so. We parents "create" our children, and when they are taken from us there exists a terrible void which begs refilling. I was unconsciously satisfying that need.
For weeks after Jeff died I recall reaching out to touch people; I needed the reassurance of human contact. Previously I had been uncomfortable with people who ventured inside my physical space. I had not been a "touchy" person; I would never have considered putting my hand on the shoulder of a friend or of a child while talking to him or her. But all of a sudden I found myself doing just that. I remember at the reception after Jeff's memorial holding onto the jacket lapel of a former colleague, pulling him closer while giving advice about going home and hugging his children before there came a day he wished he had done more of it. That was not me, but Jeff was gone and I know now that I needed to replace his love and his presence.
One way I could do that was to pull others close, to have their contact assure me that despite my current desolation, the world was still a safe, warm, nurturing place. I believe physically and emotionally reaching out to people was satisfying the same need baking bread and developing other interests eventually accomplished. My unfathomable wound was somehow being salved over.
While I believe those of us who hurt need to keep ourselves safe within our status quo world for awhile, I also believe creating new interests helps to give life new purpose. It is no great thing to ask oneself, "Why should I carry on?" Many of us, I am certain, have entertained that thought when pulling a blanket over our heads in the morning has far more appeal than throwing it aside to head for the shower. The answer I have is that we have two ways to respond to the question: We can choose to carry on, or we can choose not to. The majority will choose the former, finding new interests in their recovery.
Some fortunate people will find new interests readily. Others will have to work harder at discovering what gives life renewed purpose. Either way, nothing in the grieving process comes easily.
To believe I have received some "enlightenment" that enables me to put everything behind could not be further from the truth. There is seldom a day goes by I do not ask myself why this happened, the question and its impossible answer bringing me renewed anxiety. To date I have not been successful in freeing myself of this. But I will tell you that without my new interests, life would be a good deal more difficult. Of that I have no doubt. I do not wish to discount the tremendous amount of loving support, but because of who I am (unique among all others, as are we all) taking advantage of new interests, especially the writing, has been my saving grace. And on the worst of days I find if I bake a new batch of bread, somehow the process renews me.
When life seems intolerable
Fated with before and after…
If we can block looking into the future
To focus on our gifts of the moment
One day at a time
Life can be granted new perspective, new purpose.
I believe new purpose comes partly out of creating focus. We require focus to survive, an interest so we can immerse ourselves in a positive fashion. I am not suggesting survivors rush out and purchase an exotic property, begin a new career overnight or take on something sudden in an attempt to flee reality. For flee we cannot. But I am suggesting we try to develop an interest or a vision attainable within the parameters of our new lives. Initially we require diversions, activities that occupy our minds if only for moments. But diversions are temporary, and if we never progress beyond them, not very therapeutic. It is my contention that if we turn an interest into a positive focus with longevity, it then has a chance to grow and nurture us. It will increase dramatically our chances of healing and surviving.
I believe, too, that creating a focus satisfied part of looking after the "me" in me.