Wow, has it ever been a long time since I’ve talked to you! You can blame whales and Warpworld in equal parts, as well as the occasional visit from friends.
So, I was in the kitchen one morning not too long ago and–
Oh, did you think I was going to do some kind of catch-up Coconut Chronicle? Sorry. Where was I?
In the kitchen. Chopping onions for a slow-cooker meal. (Basil chicken curry, a recipe I found on Facebook). So, there I am chopping and sniffling, with stinging, onion-cutting tears running down my face, and suddenly it hits me: I can’t remember the last time I cried.
This revelation was right up there with the day I realized I could finally drive a standard transmission vehicle without having to think about the mechanics and the movements. One day you’re grinding gears, the next you’re downshifting instead of braking and not even aware you’re doing so.
One day you can’t stop crying, the next you no longer buy Kleenex in bulk.
Or so it seems.
The final one year anniversary passed quietly. I spent July 25th on Cortes Island with the California family, and there was lots of love, laughs, and life. I blinked and the day I had dreaded was over. One year without my dad.
Back to the onions.
As I put the tear-inducing onions into the crock pot, I asked myself how I was feeling. I’d been so busy, it had been a while since I had last checked in for a status update. The short answer was: better. Not “I’m completely back to my old self!” better, but better than I had been. I was sleeping well most nights, my appetite had stabilized, my desire to write was coming back, I experienced moments of genuine happiness, colour had returned to the world, and of course I was no longer frequently weeping at random intervals. Perhaps my writing partner Josh summed it up best recently, during one of our online production meetings, when he wrote, “I see you’ve rediscovered your exclamation points.”
Yes! I have!
The next question I asked myself was: How did I get better?
Time was the most obvious assistant. Without a lot of fanfare or hoo ha, time did what it does best and filed off the sharp edges of memory. Honesty had also helped. Writing about being in a depressed state, admitting that I was struggling, felt like someone giving me a big push on the swing set. Friends and family played a vital role–thank you all! Being busy and productive kept the momentum of that swing set push going. My Real Job was a massive help in this regard. Just knowing that I had to be at a place outside my house at a certain time, for a certain number of hours, and had to at least pretend to be cheerful, almost every day, prevented me from getting mired in my sadness. Exercise! (Which has been sadly lacking since the whale business got busy and the push to get book number four out the door intensified). I went to yoga, I went to the gym, I went for walks–happy body, happy mind. My husband–both from his emotional support and his new business, which went even further to alleviate the financial stress. Sunshine, the ocean, good books, keeping my visual entertainment on the light & fun side. (Yay, Kimmy Schmidt!)
Oh, and kittens. Two litters of foster kittens followed by two little furry munchkins that I fell utterly in love with and could not bear to give up. After eight years, Fred and I have finally re-catted and every day is now filled with spontaneous joy-gasms! #catnerd
The final question I asked myself was: Are you over it?
The depth of my grief has surprised me. I always believed that grief was a thing you experienced and then “got over”. That’s how it had been with every other person I had lost in my life, including my mother. I had been sad, and then I’d gotten over the sadness and moved on. Not this time.
And that’s okay.
See, what I’ve learned through this experience is that you can move on, be happy, enjoy every second of the incredible journey that constitutes being alive, and still grieve.
I’m never going to be my old self again. That Kristene is history. I will still laugh, tell bad jokes, drink martinis, talk about cats too much, devour chocolate like a boss, liberally use exclamation points in my online conversations (Josh!!!!), and share my cranial gumballs with the world, but I will always feel the absence of my sister and my father. I will never forget the profound sadness that settled into my bones when they died (it is still there), nor will I forget the people–those beacons of light, those Ridiculously Kind Persons–who were there when I needed them, who carried me when I could not carry myself.
I don’t think you ever “get over” something like that and why would you want to?
Despite all the delicious-sounding ingredients, the curry turned out bland. I won’t make that recipe again. That’s okay. That’s what life is after all. Not everything is good, not everything is bad, you try new recipes, you cry sometimes and then you don’t, you gain, you lose, you rejoice and you grieve, you learn, some things you get over and some things you don’t.
And that, my friends, is absolutely okay.