Monday, June 23, 2014

Death and the ugly side of curiosity.

On June 15th, long after I got home from celebrating my birthday and Father's Day with my family, I was laying in bed thinking about what time I needed to be up in the morning. My boyfriend walked in with his phone clutched in his hands and it was one of those moments you just knew something wasn't right. I asked what was wrong and he just handed me his phone and laid down next to me wrapping an arm around me. I read the words on the screen but I couldn't make sense of them. So I read them again. And then a third time. Then I read the names three more times because I was in shock. My friend and her ex had been found dead in what had been the home they shared together up until a few weeks ago when she had begun moving out.

I sat there staring at the words on the screen trying to make sense of it. It was Sunday night. She had been fine Friday. We were having a party on the 21st that she was coming to and was excited about. Instead, my Saturday started by going to her memorial service. That wasn't the way I was supposed to see her that day but that's how it worked out.

Her death made the local news. I went into work the morning after I found out and told my boss what happened so he would understand the mood I was in. He offered to let me go back home and have the morning off. I declined. I needed the distraction and needed to keep focused on something else. Anything else. My co-workers there that day found out from my boss and were supportive and respectful.

As the days passed and a few more details emerged, some of my co-workers and acquaintances decided to start speculating about what may have happened. The death was a murder-suicide so there are so many things left unanswered and unknown. I know people like to talk and speculate about things like this so I avoided news stories and tons of things posted on Facebook and Twitter. I asked my co-workers not to talk about it in front of me.

I learned a new lesson about death. One of the worst things about a friend's death getting media coverage is so many people want to talk to you about it. They'll give you space at first but then they'll get curious and they'll want to talk to you. Because you knew them and maybe you know something that's not mentioned. They'll offer their opinion on what they think happened, an opinion that's based on nothing. Or worse they'll try to pry details out of you like you're just a vault of secrets. Most don't even care that you're hurting, that you're grieving. Their own curiosity is more important than how you're feeling. Some will even get annoyed when you refuse to discuss it. How dare you put your pain ahead of their curiosity! The story was on the news and in the paper so how could I not want to discuss every tantalizing detail?

To them, it's a news story and they're emotionally detached from it. It's something to solve and try to figure out. It's interesting despite the circumstances being unpleasant. So they ask questions and offer scenarios and opinions and want to discuss the whole ordeal with you because you have a better grasp of things and more knowledge of what's going on. It's not because they care, it's just human nature to be curious. Discussing the details and listening to speculation is really the last thing I want to do. To me, I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm confused. I feel lost. I'm aching to understand, to make some form of sense of why this happened not because I'm curious but because if I could just understand, I could cope better. I'll never know more than I know now. I'll never know how things played out and I'll never know why this happened. It's crushing in a way that sudden deaths usually are. I don't find the mystery of all the unknowns interesting; I find them heartbreaking and feel them like heavy rocks weighing me down.

I've had countless people attempt to pry for more details after I've said I don't want to discuss what was on the news. I've had many more offer opinions that I didn't ask for despite me saying I didn't want to discuss it. I've had people try to tell me how I'm supposed to feel and think about my friend because they saw the story.

I understand curiosity, I really do. I'm a very curious person myself. However, I also understand being a decent, respectful human being and understand putting a person's feelings ahead of my own. I've been on the other side of a situation similar to this. Prying and offering speculation to a person directly affected never even crossed my mind. Support was all that I offered because I wanted to help, not do something to make things worse or make them feel worse than they already did. Explaining that concept to people has been exhausting. And it's mostly co-workers, acquaintances and friends of friends. It baffles me that someone would be annoyed or angered by a grieving person not wanting to discuss or speculate about the death of someone they cared about. It's confusing and enraging that a few have even acted like I owe it to them to discuss it.

Unexpected death is hard enough to deal with without having to deal with people you know and others you hardly know pushing you for details and/or offering their opinions on the situation because they saw this here and read that there and that lead them to this conclusion because. I appreciate everyone that's offered their support and respected my wishes to not discuss things. I appreciate that so much more now than I did a week ago because so many people just don't understand or don't care enough not to pry and push.

It's not hard to be decent and respectful. It's not hard to think of how someone else is feeling in a situation where they've lost someone they cared for unexpectedly. Especially when they're telling you how they're feeling and telling you that you're overstepping. It's not difficult to be kind and put their pain ahead of your own desire to feed your curiosity, your desire to know. At least it shouldn't be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Death Of A Loved One.

“That was the thing. You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it's reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking.” -Sarah Dessen

Today marks the third year since my grandfather passed away. I didn't think I'd cry today because the days leading up to it, I was fine, unlike the previous two years. I thought that meant I must finally be okay with it. I know I'll always miss him but I thought maybe I was finally to a point where I wouldn't cry over it anymore. I woke up this morning and I heard thunder and pouring rain. That seemed fitting and comforting because the sound of a storm always comforts me. I laid in bed and thought of thunderstorms that happened while at my grandparents house and how sometimes, they'd let us go out and play in the rain if it wasn't a dangerous storm. I smiled and got up to start my day. I felt the familiar dull ache I always feel in my chest when I think of him being gone but still, I didn't think I'd cry. 

I hate to cry and I rarely do it. It's not that it makes me feel weak or silly or anything like that and I don't actively try to prevent it from happening. It just takes a lot to bring me to tears. I used to feel bad about that because I felt like something was wrong with me. I've moved passed that. If it happens, I let it happen. I just dislike feeling that vulnerable, that open, even if I'm by myself. I also never feel better after I cry. I know so many people that talk about how cathartic crying is but I don't feel that. I always feel worse and I'm not sure why. 

So today when I heard a song that's about a man singing about his pain and grief over losing the man he loved and respected and trying to cope with that, I didn't try to stop the tears that spilled from my eyes and streamed down my face. I was happy I was in line at the bank drive-thru at the time and not back at the shop because crying in front of people is awkward. I didn't try to stop myself from crying again when I was putting my groceries in my car after work and I happened to look up and oddly see an older gentleman who looked a lot like my grandfather. As much as I hate crying and even though it doesn't really ever make me feel better, holding it in is much worse.

I think too many people get caught up in trying to move on and file away their sad feelings into a place where they can't bother them anymore. Maybe that works for them. That's all you can do, be honest with yourself and find what works for you and do it. Myself, I can't always focus on the good things and sometimes, I need to be sad about something. It's okay to get sad once in a while over losing someone you love, no matter how many years have passed. You can't let that grief and sadness consume you because it will act like a wildfire in dry brush, it was spread quickly and overwhelm you. It will swallow you whole and won't think twice about it. There's a balance and sometimes it's a very delicate line. 

People always say that time will heal all wounds. That time passing is all that really helps you move on from losing someone you love. In part, that's true. It doesn't happen over night. It never happens as quickly as we like it to. It took me a year before I could change the phone contacts in my cell phone from "grandma and grandpa" to just "grandma." It took me even long to stop referring to it as "grandma and grandpa's" house when I'd say that's where I was going. He died June 9th (which unfortunately also happens to be one of my brother's birthdays) and Father's Day in 2011 happened 10 days later. That year, seeing all the "grandfather" cards out for Father's Day felt like a harsh kick to the gut and I ended up leaving Target a sobbing mess because it hurt to much to think about him being gone. A year later, it was a weird realization that I wouldn't need a Father's Day card for him because holy damn it had been a whole year already. I read some anyway and remember getting sad because I'd never need another card for him again. I'd never get another hug after he read whatever sweet but cheesy thing that card said. Sometimes, it's weird things that set you off. Time does make it easier because those things that felt gut wrenching the first few months on up to the first year didn't sting as sharply. You don't cry as easily. You still miss them but the mass that's made up of all the pain and grief is smaller, duller, not as bright, not as sharp.

It's good to focus on the happy things and the good memories you have of someone and I'm lucky to have a lot of good memories and things to laugh and smile about. Sharing stories and memories helps. It brings you closer to the other people who loved the one you loved. You bond in a way that you don't bond with anyone else because you're sharing thoughts and feelings that they truly understand. It's good to remember the positives but it doesn't fully take away the pain of losing them, doesn't help the ache you feel inside when you miss them and doesn't fix the piece of you that feels like it's gone now. I've come to realize that just because the wound of losing a loved one is healed doesn't mean it never hurts you anymore. You just get better at living with it.

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” -Lemony Snicket

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Life can be annoying but don't let that get you down...

There are some things in life that are simple little mistakes I'll probably always make and little life annoyances that will always occur from time to time. 

Or trying to open the front door to my apartment with the mail key or better yet, the bulky key to my car on a day where I'm tired, quite stressed or just distracted.

My face or scalp starting to itch just as soon as I get a fresh coat of paint applied to my fingernails.

Or as I'm not so patiently sitting in the floor or on the couch, forgetting my nails are still not completely dry  and grabbing my phone when a notification goes off. This will undoubtedly smudge my polish leaving me to decide whether to leave it or start over on that nail and fix it. (Unless it's really noticeable to the point that it will bother me, I leave it, because I don't care that much.)

Putting away groceries and then BOOM, I remember that other thing I definitely needed to forget but forgot.

Sometimes, I forget to put the juice back in the refrigerator and don't realize it until I'm back home from work much later that day.

I've put my keys somewhere other than where they usually go when I've got a lot of things in my hands when I come in and now I just don't know if I'll EVER SEE THEM AGAIN.

Forgetting to stop by the store for some item I want or need on the way home from work.

I set my alarm for 5 PM instead of 5 AM and wake up after 6 AM in a panic with very little time to get ready. (On these days, I'm especially thankful I live 5 miles from my job.)

These are just a few examples of little mistakes and small annoyances that occur in life. These things can be quite inconvenient and downright annoying. I could get angry or let myself become filled with annoyance and become grouchy for a short amount of time. (Or a long one if a lot of them happen in a short span of time.) However, I don't focus on things like that and let them have that kind of power over me. I don't see a reason why a little annoyance should ruin my mood or wreck my day. This is definitely easier said than done, at first. It's like anything else though; once you make it a habit, it's no problem at all. 

"Shit happens" is something I've heard adults say since I was a little kid. I didn't understand it then but I get it now. Sometimes, shit happens. 

I think a lot of people get too caught up in the little things when it comes to what they let get under their skin. Sometimes, if you've had a bad day and a lot of things have gone wrong, it's hard not to let the little things just get to you. They're the annoying little ants trying to take away the little crumbs of happiness and peace you have left after a trying day and it's hard not to blow up and want to smash them with a hammer as if they're these large, terrible things coming at you. For me, I've learned to just breathe and try to keep things in perspective. I've made a habit of stopping, taking some deep breaths, really thinking about what the annoying this is and then deciding how I'm going to react and handle it. Usually, it's just something to laugh off and let go of. These things are like papers being stuffed into a binder. If you hold on to them, seething and remembering them and holding on letting them continue to be a part of you, you're going to get to full and then everything is going to come spilling out in a big mess or in short spurts of little explosions. 

So, as trite as it sounds, I don't sweat the small annoying stuff or minor errors I make because they don't really matter in the long run. You can't control everything that happens to you and you can't even always stop yourself from doing something stupid or doing something annoying. You can control how you react and how you let it bother you, though. Letting something so trivial steal any bit of happiness isn't worth it. So when I do something that doesn't really hurt anything or cause any real issues, I just laugh it off because I'm not going to remember tomorrow anyway so I'm not going to let it bother me now.

Happy Thursday!