Rocky Road

As if the grief itself wasn’t enough, I have now been diagnosed with postpartum depression.   I was feeling the intensity of the grief gradually lessening and slowly peeling away, and now this whole new level of emotional complexity has slapped me in the face.  It’s not the kind of depression that makes me want to stay in bed, close the curtains, and become a vampire.  It’s the kind that makes me swing ever so high and low.  I alternate between bliss and gloom.  The highs are out of control, where life appears to be full of amazing options and possibilities, and I can’t wait to jump on all of them.  The world vibrates with color and yumminess.  The lows, on the other hand, are not as fun.  The fire of the drive gets extinguished and I become a lump of misery full of stagnation, surrounded by the theme of death and abandonment.  And to think that this is just the hormones playing their devious games!

I used to hold a theory that we are all moving in an upward spiral.  I say “used to” because these days I find myself running in circles, and even frequently spiraling downwards.  It’s as if I am turning back into a child; one that’s in a constant state of a tantrum.  Then for a minute, I snap out of it, become an adult once more, shake my head at my immature behaviors, and remind myself that this is a process.  Until again, the tantrums come on and I degrade one more level, back to where I started some years back.

I have always been a sensitive person but sensitivity has now gained a whole new meaning in my life.  I cry when someone gives me a bad look, or when I accidentally kill an ant in my attempt to bring it outside to safety.  I scream in my car when someone cuts me off or when the traffic is not moving.  I cry for being an angry person.  I yell at my partner for not being there for me, when I don’t even know how to be there for myself.  Again, I cry.  I push him away.  I pull him in.  I throw lamps, kick walls, break things.  And then I sob, uncontrollably.  In the midst of my tantrums, I turn into a wild animal.  There is no reasoning with my mind in that state because my mind has been emptied of reasons.  The only reasons that are left are the ones worth crying over.

Where are these crazy emotions coming from?  I was told that anger is one of those forces that once expressed, gains power instead of dissipating.  I also read somewhere that the more I reject a part of myself, the stronger it becomes.  But I am having a really hard time accepting this “new” me because it’s ruining my life.  And like I would never do to a child, I scold the one in me, afraid to accept it and love it.  Sometimes I think that I’ve created a child in my emotional being so that there is someone to take care of, in the face of losing Leif.  I’m constantly trying to find some sort of tangible explanation for my madness.  The hormones don’t always resonate with the mind that seeks a more solid explanation.  Where the hell is the off button?

I have chosen the naturopathic path to recovery, hoping to bring back some balance into my life through good old herbs and acupuncture.  I’m tired of running into the wall, and just  really want harmony present in my life.  This has been a bumpy ride on a rocky road, to say the least.  But I’m still learning through it all.  Perhaps the learning is the upward spiral, after all.  The mind/heart space is a deep and complex space and experiencing new depths of it, as hard as the experience might be, is always in some way enlightening, even when the lights appear to be out.  Onward, I move, to see what exists around the bend…

Surrender

We are here to learn.  Every experience, good or bad to our relative perception, is in some form a lesson.  Throughout the past three months, I kept on asking myself what exactly I have learned from the experience of losing Leif?  I am a different person than I was then, there is no doubt about it.  My capacity for love has broadened, I have discovered new depths of my being, worked through my own childhood trauma and conditionings, found a new sense of compassion for the suffering of others, and have been shown the magic of surrender.  I always knew that we had little control over our lives, but this concept became much clearer this time around.  It has lost its conceptual value and became pure experience.  We don’t learn from concepts, we learn from experience.  I thought I was in control of my pregnancy.  I ate the right food, did all the rights things to care for this growing being inside of me, and just like that, it was taken away.  Unknown acute infection, they said.  A mystery in a life where all seemed solid and in control.

The fact is that we never know what is going to happen.  My reality today is so different than it was three months ago, or even ten months ago.  It’s constantly changing.  The change does not always come about because we plan it so.  Most times, it occurs without our consent, or even knowing.  I can have plans to go to Hawaii with my partner in two months, but who knows what could and will happen between now and then?  The possibilities are endless, so then what are the odds that I will actually end up going?  Make a plan but do not attach yourself to its outcome – this is one of my most important ongoing lessons.  The only experience that is solid is the one that happens now.  Too often have I been disappointed by the lack of realization of future plans.  I am learning to surrender to the moment-to-moment experience and the unseen forces that control it.

Surrender to higher forces is a hard one to swallow and accept as part of life.  We have been taught from early on that our lives are in our hands.  When we run late for an appointment because we hit every damn red light on the way, it is still somehow our fault.  Most of us do not reach beyond the ordinary to see that every one of our actions creates a ripple effect in the world around us.  We don’t always mean to create these ripples, but they are necessary for existence to continue.  If we are late, it is because we were supposed to be late.  It is because we were supposed to be at this or that intersection in this or that moment.  We are always exactly where we’re supposed to be at all times, to fulfill our destiny.  With that hard understanding, surrender slowly seeps in.  I do not exclude the power of prayer, intention, or free will.  I strongly believe that they are all part of our path and manipulate the higher forces at hand.  However,  the lesson is to make the prayer or intention and let it go, or to make the choice and surrender to its outcome.  It’s a constant practice, but one so worth investing our souls into.  We are always ok, no matter what.  We are always learning.

Somehow with the process of surrender, life becomes more organic and trustworthy.  Expectations are gone, standards are lowered, and disappointments disappear.   We open the door for pure contentment.  Then why is it so hard to let go of this need for control?  Through my experience, I have come to understand that part of the reason is because of how we have been shaped and conditioned by our parents and society. As a child, I learned that if I don’t get something that I want, I should be sad and cry.  Nobody ever told me that it’s beyond my control.  I was told that when I grow up, and work hard, I can make anything happen.  I can have anything that I dream of.  I will gain control over my life.  The lesson of surrender comes with disassembling these hard beliefs.  I have yet to see the end of the process in my own life, but with each trial, the conditioning weakens.

Even when I drop my own expectations of myself, there are those of others.  Those around me expect me to be a certain way, needing to control that which is even further beyond their control than even their own lives.  How can we set expectations of others, if we can’t even control what happens in our lives?

I am making a vow to accept reality around me as it is, with the understanding that I am EXACTLY where I need to be at all times and that everything that happens in my life is for a higher purpose.  I am here to learn.

Healing

A slippery, synthetic duvet is slowly suffocating me, pressing me into the pillows that feel like they’re filled with rocks.  I’m tossing and turning to the sounds of the Beagle snoring at my feet, on top of my feet.  More heaviness.  I can’t breathe.  My throat feels like it’s clogged and someone is stomping on my chest.  It’s emotion.  Feeling displaced.  Both, it, and I…

Where am I?  This was a place I called home at some point, for some time.  The room has been transformed from a colorful teenage chaos filled with posters of Weimaraners dressed up as people and the beautiful face of Jim Morrison, to now, an office with two computer monitors and a couch that pulls out for my arrival.  My mother is sleeping in the room next door, ecstatic to have her little girl home, to tuck her in to a bed that was made with love for a sleepless night.  I drift in and out of consciousness, looking for home on this couch-bed, but home was left behind in Boulder, Colorado, and home is out, dancing and being free for a night away from me.

I try to push the Beagle over, to make some room for breath, for blood to reach my tingling feet, and in the innocence of her sleep, she growls.  Why am I here?  I gaze over and next to me, buried under a ton of heavy air sits “The Tibetan Book of The Dead,” and I remember that I am here to heal.   Here to process the anger that has been erupting like a volcano, being projected at home, on home; the anger that they say is the final stage in the grieving process.  But if grieving is cyclical and if grieving is a process, then how can there be a final step?  Perhaps, a spiral into the ether?

The healing has been slow.  Is slow.  I’ve allowed the past to partially scab over, but picking my scabs has become a bad habit.  Sometimes, I just don’t want to forget.  I scratch to remember what I have lost, longing to hold it close to my heart.  Other times, I wish is to forget, but I bump into things that remind me, and the wounds re-open, get dirty, infected.  I bump into babies on the street, or people who don’t know.  I run into people who know but are too uncomfortable to face me.  I bump into smells, sounds, tastes.  I run myself crazy with memories.

I don’t know what I bumped into tonight, in the room from my past or the room of my dreams, but I am startled awake, remembering and feeling; the density of life.  I miss my home.  I miss Leif.  I miss all that never was.  I’m learning how to live so that I know how to die.  I’m trying.

There will be scars, no doubt.  Wounds like these don’t go unnoticed.  Anger alone leaves streaks behind, welts the size of small mountains.  But I will take scars any day over fresh wounds.  The scars show that I’m a survivor.  My heart beats stronger, and day by day, I’m healing just a little bit more.

Writing through the Taboo


Why are we, as a society, so afraid of death?  Why is even the word itself so hard to say out loud?  Death is just as much a part of life as birth, and yet we celebrate one and shun the other.  Shouldn’t death be just as openly received as its counterpart?  And isn’t death just another birth?

I have stumbled upon these questions all my life, but their significance has never become as clear and apparent as it has in the past month.  I gave birth to death exactly 31 days ago.  But in the time since, I have come to notice just how much more was born out of this experience than just a still body.  I gave birth to love, pain, wonder, depth, friendships, compassion, faith, hope, questions, and so much more.  I, myself, have been reborn.  I touched upon places within myself that I didn’t even know existed.

We held a “Wiping of the Tears” ceremony for Leif on Sunday, which was led by a local Lakota Indian community leader.  The ceremony was beautiful and deeply moving, intended to cut emotional ties, and allow for the spirit to move on to “the better world.”  Since the Natives believe in the connectivity of all beings, seeing everything in nature as a relation, this kind of ceremony serves as a soothing balm for the pain of the survivors.  However, it is not about saying goodbye, but simply acknowledging the passing and understanding that souls always meet again in another time.  The ceremony was followed by a purification sweat, in which we All prayed, regardless of race, sex, religion, or age, as a family and a community.  The prayers extended from the micro world of myself, Nathan, and Leif, to the macro world of relatives, friends, strangers, animals, spirits, plants, and elements.  We prayed for peace, health, and harmony throughout.  As we cleansed our minds and bodies and purified our souls and intentions, I came to a still place of acceptance.

I am so blown away by the how the Lakota people regard death, and the way they honor the passage.  There is a deep understanding and open reception of the internal pain that resides in our souls following a loss.  There is also a strong sense of encouragement to move forward and feel gratitude for the lessons offered by the Creator, as well as everything that still remains in our lives.  With death, comes the appreciation for life.

I was raised in a culture much different from that of the Natives.  I’ve dreaded funerals in my life, finding them dark and depressing.  I never understood why I had to wear black, even to funerals of those who led extraordinary and joyful lives.  There have been times when I wanted to celebrate the life and not mourn the death, but my desire was not supported by the culture.  Whenever I mentioned death around anyone sick, I would stun the room into silence.  Even these days, certain people who know me try to look the other way when they see me approaching, avoiding the life-death connection at all cost, and escaping the discomfort that this taboo presents.

The only guarantee in life is death.  We can plan on experiencing many things, but nothing is ever certain or secure, except for the reality that every living thing will eventually leave this plane and move on to another.  And yet, I feel that we avoid talking about it, looking it in the face, in hopes of never experiencing it.  What is it that scares us the most?  Is it the pain?  The separation?  Or is it the journey into the unknown?  Perhaps breaking through the taboo, and letting go of the fear and discomfort associated with death, can create room for more appreciation and freedom in life.  Maybe with shedding the fear of loss, we can stop grasping and start loving.  How can our society open to the reality of the only inevitable?  How do we break through this taboo?

The Language of Suffering

It’s been almost four weeks since I delivered Leif.  I remember being at the hospital and wishing that I was not a part of the present.  I wanted to teleport into the future, to at least a month from where I was.  And here I am now, almost a month away from then, and a part of me is still longing to be in the future, the time when the pain will be gone.  But will the pain ever really be gone?  And is the pain ever really that bad?  I truly believe that the Universe never gives us more  than we can handle.  The grieving process is beautiful in its own way.  It has gotten me in touch with reality more than any other experience in the past.  It has put me in the present moment, even when at times, I wish so much that I could escape it.  It is in the present moment that I can really feel myself being alive.

There is suffering everywhere in the world.  It is part of life.  However, it is the perspective and the attitude that we take on the suffering that manages its intensity and duration.  I believe the worst kind of suffering is the mental kind.  I cannot say that a person starving or being subjected to atrocious genocide is suffering more than the CEO of some corporation, always on the go, always craving power and money, always dissatisfied.  I am in no way a judge in whose misery is easier or worse.  The starving person can have an understanding, the in-depth wisdom that recognizes the lessons and the blessings in every moment and situation.  Meanwhile, someone who we perceive as successful and happy could be tortured by his/her mind, by lack of love.  We just never know and yet assumptions, judgments, and projections come to us so easily, muddling authentic reality.

Suffering is suffering, no matter what form it shows up in.  Pain and suffering are Universal languages.  I am learning this innate language.  I feel connected to those who are experiencing pain, for we share this collective theme.  I listened to Democracy Now the other day and heard a 10-year-old Afghan girl testify against American soldiers for coming into her house in the middle of the night and murdering her family.  I cried in that moment for her loss.  Losing an entire family can be seen as much worse than losing a fetus, but pain is pain, regardless of its circumstance.  And in that pain, I can feel the pain of the world.  My grief is teaching me about compassion.  It has taken me out of my little Universe and opened me up to the world outside.  I am being shown the way to Love all beings, realizing that anyone might be suffering.  With small steps at a time, I am changing perspective on my own suffering.   I’m acquiring a new found sense of gratitude, inspired to be a more compassionate and loving human.

Meltdown


I’m bored with food, even when I’m hungry.  There is nothing that I crave, no food that I’m in the mood for.  The taste is bland, and no amount of spices can make it any better.  I cried tonight because I looked at a piece of fish after not eating for seven hours and nothing about it excited me.  It was a piece of wild caught salmon, food that used to satisfy my soul, and now it’s just a piece of dead fish lacking flavor that I feel so sorry for.  It has given its life to sustain me, and I can’t even appreciate it.  I look for food to satisfy me, to somehow fill this empty space, but it just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

I am so sad.  I realized tonight that I live between two worlds – the one in which I cry and get overpowered by feelings, and the one where I don’t feel much.  I weave in and out of these worlds, making the switch in my sub-conscious mind.  There is no choosing.  It chooses me.  While I’m in one world, the other one seems far away.  The world of my past in which I used to look forward to the next day, where I used to laugh and feel light, that world seems to have disappeared altogether.  I’m left with the memory and the hope that someday I will return there.

I write from a place of grief.  I write to relieve some of these feelings, to transcribe what goes on the inside to the world outside.  I write to share and to touch those places that lack emotion.  But as I read my posts once the switch is made from one world to the other, I feel completely detached, as if it was someone else who wrote those words, who exposed themselves so nakedly.  I listen to people express their sorrows for my grief and look at them, wanting so badly to console them.  I want to say, “Don’t be sorry.  Don’t feel sad.  I’m not.”  And I mean it in my mind, for sorry is not what I feel when feelings are not present.  But then I go home and I try to make dinner and I look at a piece of fish and feel sorry.  I feel sad for the fish, for the world, for myself.

When I’m numb, I long to feel.  When I feel, I crave numbness.  I’m lost in a sea of suffering and I want to find my way out.  I pray for it to end.  I’m trying to keep everything together but feel myself coming apart at the seams.  I want to run and hide but there is nowhere I can go where I won’t find myself.

I’m slowly melting down…

Waves

Three weeks ago, on my way out to California, night after night, I had repetitive dreams about huge tidal waves.  The dreams were all different.  In some, I was drowning beneath them, while in others, I was simply riding and playing amidst these gigantic swells, but even then, I experienced a sense of fear, dread, and anxiety.  Since I’m a very avid dreamer, remembering up to 15 dreams in full detail per night, I take them quite seriously, especially with their frequent reoccurrence.  And so I looked up what tidal waves in dreams represented, and here is what I found:

“A tidal wave is a very strong symbol and can simply indicate that there is something stronger and more powerful that will just sweep us away without warning. It may symbolize our wish to protect some vulnerable family member.”

The first thing that I thought of while reading this interpretation was little Leif in my belly, whose movements have slowed over that week.  I was worried about him and put my hand on my belly, only to feel him give me a strong kick a few minutes later, as if saying “I’m OK Mom, I’m here.”  At least that’s what I gathered from that interaction.  That same night was the last time I ever felt Leif’s movements.

It’s been so hard to look back and follow the course of events right before Leif’s death because I end up blaming myself, questioning what I could have done differently, or trying to rearrange the past that already happened and can’t be changed.  But as I sat up in bed in the middle of the night last night, I remembered the waves, as I felt myself drowning, not only in my own tears, but in grief.  These past two weeks have been all about dwelling in these waves of emotions, waiting for one wave to end so I can resurface and catch a breath before the next one comes in and crushes on top of me.  Did I actually foresee this coming?

At times I feel that life is trying to drown me, that I won’t have enough strength to get through the next sets of tsunamis coming at me.  I get beat up, held down at the bottom, only to come up with what seems like the last breath left in me, and experience a sea so calm, that all feels like a dream.  I am living my dreams, and I can’t seem to wake up.  Life has become spontaneous, unpredictable, deep,  and  demanding, and though I can’t foresee it lessen in intensity, at least I’m becoming a damn good swimmer.

Fears

Nathan half awoke in the middle of the night, asking me what was on my mind.  I responded, “everything.”  That’s all he inquired in between dreams and snores, sensing my restlessness, before he rolled back over and resumed his nightly excursions.  I envied his childlike sleep in that moment, frustrated with my over-active mind.   I had already laid there for hours, watching him breathe as my thoughts raced from one thing to the next, not following any particular pattern.  I was grateful for him then, as I am now – he, the father of my son, and the love in my life.  But as I watched him breathe, I also imagined him not breathing, and the grip around my heart grew tighter, throwing my body into shivers and plunging my mind into darkness.  Fear took over my being as it has many times in the past two weeks, poking my neurosis with the question, “what if something would happen to him?”  He gets irritated when my brain gets consumed with such paranoia, but the fear seems solid and ever-present and I struggle with both, facing it and making it go away.  I’ve become scared of losing the ones who I care about.  I’m afraid that losing everything of value is somehow a lesson in this lifetime that I need to learn.  I’m petrified of being alone.  In the frequent times that these fears arise, I strive to reach deep into the vast knowledge I’ve picked up over the years, perhaps over lifetimes, towards the source that tells me to trust.  I recall the Buddhist and yogic teachings of non-attachment and the impermanence of life.  It makes sense and settles my mind for some time until the part of me that’s human, the part that is so attached to this life and the people in it, the part that’s so deeply emotional, rebels against these concepts.  After all, that’s all that they are – just concepts.  I don’t know how to align my experience with these beautiful philosophies.  I get them, grasp them fully with my intellect, but my experience just doesn’t comprehend.  My heart loves, so deeply, and with that love comes attachment.  Is this the game of ignorance?  Am I completely blinded by this illusion of life?  How do I embody the wisdom that resides deep down, the insights that come from beyond just this life?  How can I learn to live out these concepts that make sense on one level and don’t on another?  The idea of an equanimous mind is lovely, but how can I not  be reactive to something as tragic as death touching a life that keeps going?  Where does the grey between experience and theory become distinguishable?

Questions

I am being haunted by questions, all the Whys of my life chasing me around.  I’m trying to understand this reality, these universal acts that occur without our active consent, these unpaved, bumpy roads that we find ourselves on – Lost.  I long to understand the reasons, the purpose behind each experience that changes the course of our lives so drastically.  Why did Leif have to die?  Why was he conceived, and why did I have to carry him for seven months?  Why is this a part of my path?  Why did we have to experience such an intense loss?  Why are there so many unwanted babies in this world?  Why did a baby that was so loved and wanted have to go?

I always believed that there is a higher purpose to everything that happens in our lives.  I’ve always preached it to those who were experiencing tough times, to those whom I believed were receiving lessons in their unfavorable circumstances.  But now, I am one of “those,” and the part of me that is buried beneath depths of grief is providing all the questions, fighting the idea of a higher purpose.  The part that is my Ego self wants to know why this happened to Me?  What could I have done differently?  What have I learned from this experience?  What has this prepared me for?  I grapple with these questions, this world of labyrinths and its dead ends, but all I get is more questions.  When will my life’s interrogation stop?  How long before I accept all that has been and is, and move on?  How long before I look back and see all the answers?

Pain

There is no hiding from the pain.  Sometimes, it’s the perfect attacker, hiding behind closed doors and sharp corners, pouncing on its prey at random intervals.  There is no telling when the attack will come; there is no time to prepare.  The pain follows wherever I go.  It comes into the shower, guards the back door, rides the waves in music, even penetrates my dreams.  Other times, it creeps up slowly, taking over the whole place, the whole body, the whole mind.  It cuts right through the core like a razor, or a knife,  or a fucking machete.  It brings back the past that I long to leave behind.  There is nowhere to go where it can’t enter.  It can’t be escaped  because it lives buried inside, with the world around only reflecting its existence.  I have come to know the many faces of pain, the unbearable footprint of emptiness it often leaves behind.  But I have also learned to welcome the pain as it makes me feel in times when the everything around seems dull.  The pain makes sense of love.  The pain shows that I am human.  While my heart weeps, I get stronger.  The pain has shown me what it’s like to be a warrior.

Following the Body

It’s getting harder and harder to think in a linear way, to think logically, to think beyond this experience.  I’ve been advised to write, but how can I write when I can’t think?  How can I try to make sense of thoughts that are following the body?  Not just the body that has passed through and on, but the body that is still here, recovering slowly, dripping at the edges with wasted nutrition, now only absorbed by starry hemp pads.  How can I allow words to be written down and follow the body down the rabbit hole, where sadness and grief reside?  The body doesn’t know it.  The body is oblivious.  The body believes it has just given birth, whole and breathing, and now expects closeness of both bodies, closure of something that has been opened.  The mind follows this body, my body, that follows the scent of his body, still residing on my body.  The seams are popping at the edges, craving touch, wanting to hold what is no longer here, he with bright red lips and feet too big for his body.  The thoughts are confused, riding the roller coaster of emotions that come and go, and come again unexpected, like waves, like tsunamis, of tears, of sweat, of breast milk.  They don’t understand; reason cannot back them up.  There is nothing.  There is only a void that gets filled with visions no more exciting, not sufficient to keep the mind alert and active.  The drive for life has died along with him – my little hummingbird.

The uterus is closing, the pores are drying up, the body is slowly healing and shrinking to fulfill the space once occupied, to bring the space back to its original state, before the seed was planted.  The only miracle remaining open is the heart where emotions go and dwell.  This space of love painfully expands, stretches to dimensions not yet comprehended.  It beats, steadily, and in that beat, echoes and sounds reverberate that used to represent Life itself, growing and becoming.  Now that Life has passed on to a place that the mind with its thoughts cannot perceive as real, cannot digest as food, cannot rationalize within this body.  The body is human, it knows only of what it’s been programmed to understand.  There is a glitch in the system that seemed so perfect, that has kept me in awe over the past seven months.  It is a virus, contaminating thoughts which have no mind of their own, which follow the naivety of the body.  How can I think when all appears irrational?  How can I free my thoughts from the grips of error, in life, in the system, in the body?  How can I write?