You know when you have a cold, and your nose is stuffed up and you can't smell or taste anything? All the food you put in your mouth is bland and unappetizing. You try to smell the savory stew simmering in your crock pot or the warm, buttery popcorn cascading out of the machine at the movie theater, but you can't. The world is flavorless. Muted. You lose all excitement for eating because you know you won't be able to appreciate it. And you miss it. You never realized how much you enjoyed it until it was taken away. No worries, though, because soon your sinuses will clear and your senses will return, and your world will be back to normal in no time. Right?
The world has lost all flavor for me. I am here but not here. I try to be present and alert, but a part of me is always fuzzy headed, distracted, somewhere else. Recently, I took a trip to the mall with two good friends from work. We grabbed lunch (of which I ate about a third) and got our nails done. A typical ladies- day -out good time. As we are sitting in the booth eating our lunch and then later sitting in the massage chairs getting our toenails painted, we are chatting and laughing, but not all of me is. Things I once enjoyed immensely are no longer as engaging to me. It's like eating with a cold. If I can't taste it, why bother?
Hold on a second while I switch metaphors...
While my public self participates in all the goings on, the rest of me can't focus on anything at all. It's almost like my conscious brain and my subconscious brain have switched places. My subconscious has taken over my daily interactions, making socialization automatic and purposeful thought unnecessary, while the other part of me is looking at the world from under water - wanting to be a part of it, but unable to. Voices are distorted and incomprehensible. Figures are shimmery and liquid.
Some days are better than others. Some days, I am closer to the surface of the water and I can poke my face above the waves. I take a huge gulp of air, filling my lungs before I am pulled under again. Other days, I am so far below the surface, my world is dark and silent. I can look up above me and see the ripples of the water filtering sunlight down to where I sit, but it fades long before it reaches me. Most of the time, I am right in the middle. Treading under water. Knowing the world is going on without me just a few feet away.
Grief plunges you into this sea without a second thought. It leaves you no life boat. It throws you no rope. You just have to figure out whether or not you are going to sink or swim. It's easier to sink. It's easier to succumb to the thrashing waves and the angry currents and just let the water take you down, down, down. It's easier to buckle under the weight of the sea and give up. The coldness of the ocean numbs you into not caring whether or not you ever feel warm again. Your pupils adjust to the dark. The farther down you sink, the calmer the water around you becomes. It's ok. Just relax. The world up there is hard. The seas are rough. Up there, you are tossed around like a rag doll between the waves. Down here, it's quiet. It's dark. It's soothing. It's easy.
But, nothing worth doing is going to be easy, and you can't live your life from the bottom of grief. Life is hard. Survival is hard. It's so much harder to fight the sea and try to swim. At the surface, the waves crash and churn. They pummel you from every side, smashing down on you with the force of a thousand elephants. You are broken and exhausted, but you've chosen to swim. So, you do. One arm, then the other, you slowly pull yourself through the water. Every piece of you aches with effort. Sometimes, you slip beneath the surface. Just for a little bit. Just to get away from the tumultuous waves for a moment. Not too long, though. If you stay under too long, you start to sink. You have to keep yourself moving. Pushing. Fighting. You have no idea how big this ocean is, or how far you have to swim to reach land. You never know when the seas will be calm, allowing you to swim with more ease, or when a violent storm will rise up against you, making forward motion next to impossible. You just keep swimming, and just hope that it will be enough.