Originally published on July 27, in The Next Family.
There’s been a massive heat wave in Ohio and much of the US this
summer, and drought conditions are occurring across the country. Last
week, we had some reprieve in the form of rain, but not nearly enough.
It’s nearing the end of July, and that’s oddly big for me, because
summer, especially July, is a busy time. Family birthdays and
anniversaries, the fourth of July and summer vacations, and juggling kid
care with high research season and changed schedules all lead to stress
and a touch of insanity in our household. Add in stuff with this
historic house around town and trying to keep it off a garden plot, and
you can just imagine.
The good thing is that I like working under pressure. In fact, as I
type this piece, it’s a mere couple of hours before this piece is due.
It’s how I roll, I guess, and I’ve tried to stop procrastinating-
because, honestly, that’s what it is- plenty of times previously, and I
may even try again. Tomorrow. Or later on this week. Maybe. Whatever.
Last year, on July 31st, my sister added yet another “thing” to my
July schedule when she pulled the trigger on that .25 that her husband
had given her. It’s been nearly a year, and I thought I had made so much
progress, but anniversaries get you. Especially that first year, you
can start to notice the days ticking down. My mom’s and first
surro-girl’s birthday is the 22nd; nine days to go. Mom and Dad’s
anniversary is the 23rd; eight days to go. Dwight’s birthday is the
25th; six days to go. And so on, ticking away until the 31st, with the
tension and pressure building the whole time.
I know this pattern, but I just started seeing it in myself this
year. I know the pattern because I’ve seen it plenty before. I saw it in
family members after my dad’s death, and I see it in them now, and if I
could look back on teenage me, I would probably see it then, too (one
more reason I want a TARDIS). In my experience, the “gearing up” is
shorter and shorter as time passes; at this point after my dad’s death
(17 years), it’s really only the day of his death that I get uneasy. The
world goes on, life gets busy, new memories fill one’s head while older
ones get dull and blurry and faded over time, and that’s a GOOD thing!
It lets us heal and not dwell on what pain has happened to us in our
lives; our brains are pretty dang compassionate that way.
The last year has brought a lot of change in our house, some of it
due to Kim’s death, and some of it not. Other changes are due to my
dissertating, and job changes, and Kenny growing up. These changes
haven’t been easy, by any count, but they’ve helped me learn a lot about
myself and the world, and I can’t think of a case where learning-
gaining knowledge- is a bad thing. I will admit that some of my learning
in this past year could only have happened with the help of my grief
counselor. I know it’s the twenty-first century, but I grew up with the
idea that you didn’t talk about “personal problems” with strangers, that
counseling or therapy wasn’t an acceptable alternative, and instead you
just “get over” grief, anger, and other negative emotions. (Oddly,
prescription drugs were OK, though? I never said family made sense…)
Unfortunately, sometimes the stress of day-to-day life is already a lot,
and adding on a painful, heartbreaking event is just too much for us to
get over on our own. When that happens, it’s not just smart but
efficient to ask for help of some sort. The pain still needs worked
through, processed, and dealt with, but that help- whether chemical or
outside professional emotional support- can be the difference in making a
painful time manageable or simply leaving a great, festering wound. I
mentioned the weather to start this whole post off because that rain in
the midst of a drought was healing, like a good cry in the midst of deep
pain. Just like tears, we need rain in the right amount. Too much or
too little, and life gets a heck of a lot harder, not just for the
organism experiencing too much or too little water, but for all the
organisms around it, through direct and indirect consequences.
I put all this out in the open for a number of reasons. Getting it
off of my chest helps me, and maybe it will help someone else who needs a
gentle reminder. I doubt it, but you never know. Knowing yourself isn’t
easy in my experience, which is part of what makes having someone
exterior to the situation helpful. At the very least, maybe this will
help you, Reader, whoever you are. Sometimes the world is too much.
Sometimes we all need help. That’s not a bad thing, it means you’re
human. I can’t do anything now to help my sister, I can’t make her go
and get some form of help, or be there for her any longer, but there’s
still 7+ billion people on the planet, and maybe one of those people I
Best of all, maybe one of those 7+ billion people is someone that you
can help. Maybe there’s someone that you smile at today who needed that
smile more than anything else. Maybe a listening ear that you lend lets
someone release enough steam that they don’t blow up or break down.
Maybe that coffee with a friend gives someone the strength to keep
going. Maybe the compliment you paid a stranger makes someone’s day.
Maybe your lost dollar bill buys someone else who needs it a lunch.
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that’s OK. It’s Monday, and the
world is full of potential, and anything can happen. Today might even be
the day I get that TARDIS…