Kage Baker used to have to wedge her research into the narrow spaces between her fits of active writing. Usually, in fact, she had to re-arrange her schedule to cram some research space in at all; she’d triage her information needs during a brainstorming session, assign some to me. She had a system. If it was technology or science, I got it; if it was liberal arts, she did.
In practice, that often meant she’d just sort of drift into her intuitive style of searches on the Net some evenings. She’d start out searching EBay and Google for old goodies from childhood she wanted to find again: had anyone released Crusader Rabbit yet? Did anyone still make Big Boy Punch? Did anyone remember when Sugar Babies were shaped like little brown infants, and had a rude name? Because she remembered that … though it might have happened before she was born …
Gradually, as the evening wore on, Kage would float away on the tide of information. Links would lead to new ideas, or old information; she’d draw connections and follow them anywhere. I’d look up from time to time and see strange things on the screen of her computer: patterns of peacock feathers, song lyrics that people always got wrong (except for Kage), brassica recipes. In German. Which she was translating with the help of the liner notes from her in-German version of Die Dreigroschenoper.
It helped her relax. It scratched her unending curiosity itch. She got the answers to things she really needed answers for – would a giant chicken look more like an ostrich or like LA landmark Chicken Boy? – but it also gave her ideas to be kept warm and gestational in the back of her mind until she had time to write them down.
And when she had the dreaded writer’s block – that Cold Robbies of the imagination – and it was too dark or wet or cold or hot or noisy or crowded or Tuesday to garden, it was also a way to put her brain in neutral and coast a while. As long as she was engaged in something that might yield a nugget of interesting information, Kage could justify just about any activity.
I’m not so lucky. These last couple of weeks, I have been mired in the Slough of Despond., and I couldn’t clamber my way out. I’ve been horribly depressed, which led to writer’s block, and none of the things I do in my spare time could distract me, either. I felt guilty reading, when I couldn’t write. My attention wandered too much to knit, at least to knit anything more interesting than a garter stitch dish cloth. It was too hot to garden. Hell, it was almost too hot to live, but my tiresome body persisted in lolling about in bad-tempered and sweaty sloth, unable to accomplish anything of any interest.
Running North helped, with the weather anyway. I went to a birthday party, and sat about chatting with old friends. But I still cried most of the hours I was on I-5, despite strange sights and the prisms in the sky, despite the perfumes rising up from fields of overheated melons and flowering thyme. I seem to have relapsed into a former stage of grief – according to the lists put about by well-intentioned therapists, I should be approaching accommodation now, in this third year since Kage died. But I’m not.
And just lately, I’ve been missing her more than ever. It’s a huge aching hollow in me, with no resignation or healing at all. I never even hit the Denial stage of grief (which would have been hard anyway, since Kage died in my arms) and now I’m right back to Staggering Around In A Daze of Pain. Or have been. Things have gotten better since the heat broke, and I’ve even had some dreams of her …
I woke up a few nights ago because someone punched me in the shoulder. At least it felt like it. No one was nearby, except for Harry grumpily squeaking under his plaid cage cover, and the little black cat rolling crazily in my shoes. Neither one of them would have socked me, anyway. That’s something a sibling does … And as I thought about it, I realized that the moon was shining in the window, full as a pearl; and the air was damp and cool; and I was actually cold.
So I found the coverlet (which had fallen off the end of the bed and crawled away) and I cried into my pillow until I finally felt better. They were the first tears to actually help in a month. And I fell asleep, and woke up on the other side of the relapse. I think. I hope. I’ve got an enormous backlog of weird facts and sights and sounds and dreams to process, and I finally feel that I might be able to do it.
Thanks for waiting, Dear Readers.
Kate, don’t let anybody, well intentioned or not, therapist or not, tell you that you “should” be at any particular “stage” of grief. The whole idea of a human experience having neatly delineated stations, along which we progress until we’re “healed” is such an artificial construct, for Pete’s sake. It’s a comforting model, perhaps- at least for the writers of books about such things- but it doesn’t seem to match our actual experience, which is that the damned emotions and feelings just keep coming back, in no particular order, until they mecrifully begin to fade- if they ever do. Part of the ol’ Human Condition thing: your actual mileage may vary. Only love endures.
>>I woke up a few nights ago because someone punched me in the shoulder. <<
Indeed, someone did.
As eager as we are to see the interesting stuff you’ve come across, please don’t stress about frequent postings too much and take good care of yourself. Good things are worth waiting for.
From what I’ve read about the stages of grief, you can go back and forth between them. I think grief is such a personal thing, that it’s more of an idea of what could happen than an actuality.