Endings

Endings are difficult for me. I love potential. This deep rooted love guides many of my feelings. Potential means that anything is possible. As a person who has committed her life to story, creating something from nothing is what I do. It’s a magic I believe in, and anything being possible is the heart of this magic. This makes endings complicated. Endings are the death of potential. Not always, of course there are certain times when it’s only a partial death, but still, death. Death is a word that makes my heart slow with sadness and fear. Death to potential is something that makes me feel deep sorrow. Within a project or at the end of a show, I will and have done anything to delay the end. I also love to focus on the ways those things aren’t ending. A theater performance is only done if you stop working on that character, or so I say. Any mental back-flip I can use to avoid admitting the end will do.

For the last while, I have been spending much time focusing on myself and how I work. Part of this work was realizing that I had many, many almost done projects. They just needed to be filed away so that I could reference them again if I wished. These almost done projects weighed on me. They took up brain space and I needed a way to clear some of that space out. I needed to finish the projects, but that meant embracing the end. So I created a form, trying to encourage myself to celebrate the end. I love definitions, so I looked up the word eulogy, below is what I found.

 

Definition of eulogy

  1. :  a commendatory (compliment, praise, recommend as worthy) oration or writing especially in honor of one deceased she delivered the eulogy at his funeral
  2. :  high praise

 

That didn’t sound so bad, “honor” and “high praise,” I could do that. So I began the process of finishing my almost done projects. It felt amazing. I still have several to go, but I have begun to embrace endings. They are healthy and good. A good story is so much about its’ ending, how it leaves you.

I was on the road to acceptance and then a different kind of death came to visit my life. A distant aunt passed away and then my husband’s grandfather also passed away. I was forced to look at the leftover items from others I had lost in recent years. Gifts sent after their passing, by those that remained and unopened cards of condolence.

The death of a person is the ultimate end of potential. Even if you believe in an afterlife, the potential for that person as they were on this plane of existence is done forever. As a lover of potential, this is hard for me, forever done.

As I have comforted my husband these past months, a thought occurred to me. I was reminded of the feeling I had as I finished the almost done projects. Finishing them changed how I felt about them. Yes, they were done and the potential for them was done, but something shifted in my feelings about those projects. They didn’t weigh on me anymore, leaving room for the projects I am actively working on. I started to wonder if I needed to do something for those I had lost. As it is now, all that exists when I think about them is sorrow.

That eulogy definition came to my mind. There is no sorrow there. The perspective is one of hope and honor. It’s almost forward thinking. Maybe there is something in the process of taking time to honor them and their memory that shifts feelings from sorrow to something else.

It feels horrible thinking of releasing the sorrow to make room for those still alive in my life. I don’t want to forget those who have died. They mattered to me. Their lives mattered.

I have to believe however that there must be a way of somehow honoring them and letting go of the pain. Letting go I think is the important phrase in that last sentence. I have to learn to let go and embrace the something else that awaits me when I do.

So I think from time to time I will write eulogies for the things and people I lose and post them here. One small step in letting go and accepting the death of potential.

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A Black Scar in the Carpet

a creative nonfiction piece

As she past the black dress on the floor, she was reminded of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Many years previous, in her theater design class, she watched a documentary about the designer of that memorial, Maya Lin. During the documentary, there was a veteran who had called the memorial nothing more than ‘a black scar’ within the earth. This dress was that for her living room floor.

She had set it out to dry two days ago. It was to be worn at the funeral of a distant aunt. The young woman didn’t own any black dresses. She only ever ended up buying them for funerals and then never wore them again. Her mother had suggested that she go to the local thrift store. She had and was happy to find two outfits for under fifteen dollars. The young woman had planned on attending both the wake and funeral. This was before she knew that later in the week she would be traveling to Arizona to help her husband say goodbye to his grandfather. Now the dress would be worn to the grandfather’s funeral instead.

Death had been lingering in her mind for a few weeks now. A conversation with a friend had reignited an old curiosity around the death of one of her uncles. He had died at the hands of the police. There had always been mystery around his death. He was alive. The police officers entered the room. They pushed him to the ground and then he never got up again. This was all the family knew. She had promised herself that someday she would meet the men or women who were in that room when her uncle died. She kept thinking about her uncle.

This had led to thoughts of her other uncle, the sweet grumpy one who had died less than a year ago. His birthday was coming up. He would have been 51. She knew this because for his 50th birthday they celebrated. Her mom got pizza and ice cream cake and invited all his friends. The young woman and her husband had joined. She had taken many, many pictures that day. She had felt connected to her family and so happy. After all, a main reason she moved to North Dakota was to get to know her family better.

Her efforts had not gone as she had hoped. They were all busy and had lives of their own. They were also different than she was and many of the numerous clan didn’t know her. She had grown up in cities far away. Many of them had grown up in North Dakota on farms or ranches. She knew they loved her, but during family events she always felt separate, not really knowing who to talk to. Her family loved her, of this there was no question, and if she needed help they would drop everything for her. She had desired something else though. She wanted to feel that she belonged. This would only come with time, but she knew her time in North Dakota was in its final lap. Her husband and she planned to leave within the next two years. Now was the only time left to make true connections. Being a military brat, she knew how hard it was to maintain relationships over a distance.

This desire to belong was only deepened by the sense of cultural bankruptcy which became more apparent daily. She had grown up off her reservation, away from her tribe. She didn’t speak her language or understand the traditions and customs of her people. In the past year, for the first time, she had bumped into many who were interested to know and understand her culture. Which put her in a particularly difficult situation since she didn’t know it herself. Her mother had done what all the elders of her time told her, “Get off the rez.” Now this choice, made before the young woman was even a thought in her parents’ minds, caused her to feel set apart from her tribe.

On top of this, she missed her church family. It had been two years since she had been to church, but she finally missed them. She had left because of questions she had about the character of God. These questions had proved large and vast. They would take time to answer. Sitting in church growing bitter would do no good, or so she believed.

Quietly she sat down at her black kitchen table, staring at the dress. All she could think about was the great longing in her heart. Since moving to North Dakota she had lost a friend, an uncle and now an aunt. Soon her husband would lose a grandfather. Her mother had somehow survived the loss of both her parents and three brothers, not to mention the aunt who helped raise her and the grandmother who was a mother to her. The young women questioned if she had the strength to be like her mother. Could she survive more loss? Did she even have a choice?

The long black dress on the floor seemed to grow and shift. It was a reminder of the trip her husband and she would take in two days. It was a reminder of another ending of a life. The names of her uncles, her friend and her aunt pounded in her head.

Endings had always proved problematic for the young woman. She loved potential and an end was the death of potential. In the past few months she had become more comfortable with endings, but the end of potential for a human life still caused her great trouble. She had yet to open the cards she received after her sweet grumpy uncle’s funeral. She couldn’t. Like many she sought to delay the end. This was a lie.

Truly, the only lie she tolerated. You can’t delay the end of a life. Maybe this was why she couldn’t bring herself to pick the dress up off of the floor. If she disturbed it, something could happen. If she moved it, she would have to acknowledge that something was happening.

This day was the day her distant aunt would be buried. The day before, the young woman had seen the grieving family. They had asked her to return tomorrow, but she knew she couldn’t. Being at the wake had made the names pounding in her head grow louder. She had to be there for her husband. Soon he would be the family grieving.

She felt inadequate. Her power had always been in words. They made things clearer and signaled so much in her life, but when death came to visit the young woman, words failed. The things she depended on so often. They failed her. They were useless and wrong and out of place. They were nothing. They are nothing.

Reformed Codependency

It is Thanksgiving. I feel like some sort of supernatural being just punched my gut and reached into my chest and ripped out my heart. Somehow I am not in the fetal position on the floor.

Things you should know: 1. My mother is a recovering alcoholic 2. I have spent almost the past decade trying to work through my feelings about this and gain a healthy relationship with her 3. Lots of therapy 4. We are in a good place 5. A really good place

Today I will celebrate Thanksgiving with my wonderful mom. About an hour ago I called her to see if she saved the giblets from the turkey. I need them to make gravy. She said she had and seemed really flustered on the phone. She asked me if I could come over early, I couldn’t. I still had a pie in the oven and cornbread that needed to go in. She sounded disappointed but politely said she had to go. I leapt into action, quickly giving instructions to my husband so I could head over and help my mom.

In the car on the way over I was happy, everything was going to be fine. If I am honest as I charged into my mom’s apartment I felt like a superhero, “Here to save the day”.

I helped some, then my mom’s friend Lori arrived. I turned to my mom and said, “She’s early.” I didn’t understand. Then I realized, my mom had asked her to show up early to help. Her friend not me was the true hero.

I could tell my mom felt bad, she didn’t want to hurt me. As quickly and politely as I could I grabbed what I needed and said goodbye.

This doesn’t make any sense. She used someone else instead of me. I should be shooting through the moon with joy. I have been trying to get to this point for a little under half my life span. And here is the moment. We are no longer connected in the deathly way we have been for most of my life. But I feel sad and my heart hurts.

I imagine the way I feel is most similar to how most parents feel when their children leave the nest.

For most of my life, starting at about 13, I have been the parent in the relationship. I have been responsible. I have thought ahead. I have planned. I have cleaned up messes. This is not how things should have been but it is how they were.

Today for the first time, I received the clearest sign that this time is over. From this day forward I am free. It is as though an invisible thread tangling my mother and me has broken.

Yet, I feel sad. She doesn’t need me anymore. We are no longer linked in the spiral toward oblivion. We now walk on separate paths. It is the end of a journey.