Santiago works through his pain . . .
He settled comfortably against the wood and took his suffering as it came and the fish swam steadily and the boat moved slowly through the dark water. There was a small sea rising with the wind coming up from the east and at noon the old man's left hand was uncramped.
I understand Santiago here. He remains focused and resolute, despite the aches and cramps of his protesting body. So much of life is like that. Working through all the roadblocks until you reach your destination. Sometimes, those roadblocks are tiny--a cramp in a hand. And sometimes, they're huge--the death of a loved one.
Since my sister's funeral at the beginning of the month, I have found myself, at times, struggling with day-to-day obligations. Yes, I've kept my head above water, but I feel as though I've been treading water a lot of the time. Often, when I get home, I'm too exhausted to think of doing anything but going to sleep.
I'm not sure how much of this struggle is mental and how much is physical. Certainly, I'm still working my way through the grieving process. I can go for days without feeling sad, but then I find myself weeping in my car at a traffic light. But I've also noticed that, since having COVID back at the beginning of January, my body simply doesn't want to function much past 8:30 p.m.
So, if you are a friend of mine, and feel as if I've been distant or uncommunicative, I apologize. If you've sent me a text or email, and it's taken me two days to respond to it, I am not ignoring you. I just find myself a little . . . paralyzed at times. Or asleep.
I think there's a perception in society at large that, once the funeral is over and leftovers from the wake are eaten, you must rejoin life fully, without missing a beat. Doing anything less than that is considered a weakness. Like you're wallowing in self-pity. (Think Cher in Moonstruck, slapping Nicolas Cage in the face and shouting, "Snap out of it!")
I am here to tell you that it's not that easy. On top of that, I'm a poet, and poets tend to obsess. We do things like write entire books about a single mushroom. At the moment, my obsession is a little existential. Doing the tally, since 2014, I have lost three siblings and both of my parents. Mortality has, more or less, been my constant companion for close to eight years now.
It is Saturday night. Everyone else in my family is asleep. I am sitting on the couch in my living room, staring at the lights on my Christmas tree. (The fact that my Christmas tree is still up is not due to my current state of mind. I often leave my Christmas decorations up for a long while. They make me happy. Remind me of my mom's holiday hams and family gettogethers at my Grandma Hainley's house.) I am thinking of my sister Rose. And my mom and dad. My sister Sally and brother Kevin. All gone now.
British psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes said, "The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love; it is, perhaps, the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment."
Saint Marty will add to that statement: the price of grief is sometimes exhaustion.