Written sometime back in April 2020. Originally posted on HitRECord.
It’s almost summer time here in Oman. I can tell because we have to keep the AC units on in the house for longer periods in the day. And it’s getting to the point where it’s pretty unbearable to sleep at night without the AC units on. Open windows are no longer an option, even though it’s so quiet outside these days.
Inwardly, I sigh at this recognition, knowing that the wonderful temperatures of the cool season here in Muscat are finally coming to a close, and we have at least six months ahead of us of sometimes humid, sometimes dry, almost always nearly unbearably hot weather to look forward to. You’d think that growing up in Florida would have me used to the heat; but the sweat drops that collect on my temples, on my neck and at the back of my knees the second I leave an air conditioned room speak otherwise.
The heat is the least of my problems. There is another, scarier heat that’s been brewing for a while now.
My mom died last June. And from her funeral to now, I feel like I’ve been on an endless, repeating cycle of weeping and whining for a person who I honestly didn’t know very well, for a person who honestly didn’t know me very well either. All the same, I’m still grieving.
But a part of me recollects something that my sister said to me on a What’s App video call a few weeks back: we’re so glad that she didn’t live long enough to go through this. Her life had been hard enough at the end. To add to that pain the inability to be with her family, to die alone with strangers surrounding her. That would’ve been a terrible way to go, and I grieve along with people I’ll never meet who have had to suffer loss and leaving this life in such a way.
But for me, the isolation isn’t strange. Self-distancing has been my constant bedfellow for nearly a year now, since I quit my teaching job. There were a lot of reasons why I had to, but the main one had to do with my mental health. I wanted the freedom to work through my issues with no work stress, with time. And when my mom passed last June, and when the chaos of planning a funeral and going through her things had come to an end in the last days of July, I was starting to agree with my husband that quiet, silence and alone time would do me some good. So I didn’t work, and I sat alone with my thoughts for most of the day. It sounds terrible, but it was definitely what I needed.
I know I’m blessed with physical comforts these days. Probably in ways that others would like, and so I don’t share too much about how I spend my time at home on social media like I see other people doing. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with it. I know most people do it to keep their spirits up and to help others keep their chins up too; I just can’t bring myself to do it. Mostly, because I’ve just not been that cheerful for a while now, well before the pandemic started spreading like wildfire.
And if I were really honest, what I’d put up would be hard for people to stomach. Where I am these days is quite up and down and often dark. So I post poetry and silly photos of my dog. I keep myself busy these days sharing haikus I’m writing daily for the 100 Day Project. They started out fairly heavy in tone, but lately I’ve been writing silly haikus about animals. Mostly because I don’t want to bring anyone down. Now’s not the time for all of that.
You see, even though I wasn’t close to my mother, I am still suffering through her loss, her absence and all the quiet she left in her wake. Grieving what we didn’t have and what I wish we did. Something that is now forever unattainable. And as much as people tell me to be who I am, to be honest, to not shy away from my grief, that it’s normal and natural and shouldn’t be buried away, I just don’t believe people would really be able to handle it. Not all of it. At least, not for the length of time it is still taking me to process it all. So I share in small bursts. And I hide behind half-truths.
However intimate your relationship is with your mother (because let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like losing a mother no matter what your relationship was in the end), what they don’t tell you about losing her is that it squeezes everything out of you, everything you’ve hidden neatly away. Even the things that have nothing at all to do with her. Like heat squeezing out precious moisture. You sweat and tear and seek out a cold room, a cool drink of water. But you can’t escape the throbbing headaches, the quickening dehydration. You try in vain to wet parched lips with a dry tongue.
And that’s what I’m left with these days. Though I finally feel myself coming to terms with losing my mother, I now find myself swimming frantically against the current of everything else, every other sorrow, regret, sadness that I had stowed away in neatly packaged boxes labeled “To Be Determined,” and “To Be Continued.” Some days I successfully keep my head above water. Other times, too much has spilled out of the boxes, and I find myself drowning in an ocean of things I tried to forget.
Grief unfolds you. Everything, every part of you. And there’s no way of putting anything back into place the way it was before. You have to figure out a new shape to be, a new form. The pandemic for me is certainly not the cause of dealing with the heavier stuff in life these days; it is rather a prison from which I can no longer escape, forcing me to deal with everything I had hoped to keep boxed away, at least for a while until I felt ready to open them again.
I know this is all pretty self-pitying, help-me-I’m-drowning type of talk. But it’s honest, and it’s where I am. I’m hoping that, at the very least, what the world is today is forcing me to confront everything I have been trying to run away from. And perhaps I’ll come out the other end a little stronger, a little tougher in spirit, along with everyone else.