Sunday, November 24, 2013

White grief

I was quite ready for my daughter to leave the country last February. She had come and gone a bit, quite amicably. She had some good reasons for moving. We kept in touch online. It was all good.

Then someone asked me how I was doing. And I said, spontaneously, 'I am suspended in an aspic of white grief'.

Because, yeah, I actually talk like that sometimes.

I realised I had seized up. I had an inescapable image of myself suspended, immobile. It was as if I was hanging in a white fog, in silence, almost blind. I has stopped reacting to anything. I was, in fact, actually suspended in an aspic of white grief.

Traditionally melancholy has colours, and white is one of them. I figured, I know what this is. People write poetry about it. It's not unique. White melancholy isn't violent or self destructive or reddened with anger or fear. It's just paralysing. Everything just - stops.

I did not want to go about this in the ways sanctioned by society. I did not want to see it as a crisis, or pathologise it, or medicate it, or flee from it, or deny it, or cheer myself up about it, or fight it. I wanted to lean into it, learn from it, surf it, discover it, find the health and truth in it.

I began by checking myself over. I was safe, as far as I could work out. I was still sort of functioning. I didn't need any 'help'. I felt I could tolerate this state for a while, if I needed to, if that was what it took.

Then I did what I usually do in these circumstances, I took off with my sleeping bag and stayed in a camping ground. I walked a lot. I slept a lot. I didn't have a great time; I felt sour and ungrateful and nothing was what it seemed. There was no epiphany. I didn't get to tick a box for my next step towards enlightenment.*

But, gradually, gradually, I gave myself a new image. In this one I was in a tiny boat on a still sea at night, lit by a full moon. I was entirely alone in the boat. I was not afraid. The lessons of the night are often obscure. We need to listen carefully, I mean with care for ourselves. The light is dim under the moon, and the wisdom lies in the shadows. We don't get to see the light of truth here. We get the merest, dearest hints of true things here.

Slowly, very slowly, I was being carried by tides and a whisper of wind towards land. I could even feel the swell of sea become shore waves lapping, pushing me gently, until eventually

I made landfall.

* I never do!

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