Four Shades of Gray

Four Shades of Gray

(Written May 15, 2020 The Year Of Perfect Vision)

I woke up this morning at my usual just before sunrise time feeling like I had already had a full day. There was a tiredness. A heaviness. Kind of like the darkness in the gray outside of my picture window. 

Yesterday, I started a project that had been parked in my mind and on my closet floor in brown bags for some months now. A mixed media canvas project of great proportions, figuratively and literally. A 3’x5’ canvas, covered in dozens of bottles. Of pills. And dozens of bottles. Of paint. All coming together in the vision from inside my head to the outside in the form of a double rainbow, made by arching the spectrum according to ROYGBIV across the top, with the second rainbow comprised of pill bottles just underneath it.

As I moved into the project, I emptied the pills out into a glass bowl. That bowl of pills was about four inches deep and six inches across.  I was knocked back looking into the bowl, as if my life were a fire, and I was staring into the gasoline that had threatened it on so many occasions. Forcing me to seek the safety of psych wards in three states.

So more is revealed as to what will be on my canvas, complete with a Suicide Lake, the body of water asking to be comprised of all of the pills glued down in one layer of 12 rainbow inches by 10 jagged edge inches with Lost Marbles Falls spilling into it. 

I was uncomfortable. Haunted to see my life laid out in the metaphor of paint and pills. So much so,that I boxed it up thinking I would go back to it later. But I am not going to do that. Because I have already been there. Looking back has it’s value, but if I stay there, I will miss the present. Which is surviving the past. I disposed of all that you see in the images.

After seeing that bowl of pills and all of those bottles of prescriptions with names that spanned the alphabet, I began busying myself to avoid my feelings. Which were sadness, grief, distraught, anger, and shame. I prefer the happy, joyous and free variety, but those can’t be fully experienced without walking through their shadows.

At bedtime, I am usually quite tired and sometimes that is when the feelings ask to be heard.  God likes to work with me when I can’t squirm out of it. Usually tired is when God gets God’s way. Because I have no fight left in me. As if I need to fight. All I am doing is fighting the unknown and putting off my own relief. But yet, I get pretty scrappy before I relinquish my imagined control. And walk through. Or should I say walk out whatever pain needs to be let out. Of me.

When I should have been strapping on my CPAP mask (my call sign is Luna, btw,) I make the poor choice for me to log on to Facebook.  Screentime light interrupting my brain’s next efforts to wind down and get some sleep. To the rabbithole of memories of your lives and memes and news feed about world events and lives in the shitter. When the better choice would be to tend to my own shit.

Shit being my painful emotions. And my body’s need for rest. And I have a tendency to get emotionally constipated before I get the satisfaction that comes from, shall we say, taking a big ol’ stinkin’ feelings dump. 

Let’s be honest.  Sometimes one of those every three days is more satisfying than something on a more regular basis that just lacks the thrill of the moment. TMI. Sorry. I digress.

When I am emotionally constipated, it is made worse by lack of hydration. Often found in tears that are healing when I let them come.

Instead, I like to let my feelings back up to the point of going postal in my kitchen because my daughter didn’t wipe the counter off, even though she just cleaned up all the dinner and took out the trash. 

Or, as I am hanging out with that same 22 year old adult daughter in the living room packing the Christmas CD’s and movies up that were the soundtrack of her childhood and our mixed bag of a family, I don’t hold still when the twinge of pain comes at the loss of those Christmases that I loved so much as a time for giving and expressing joy. 

I am in pain. There is a lot going on in my life. A lot of change. Growth. Leaving the town that has been my home for most of my life, while a happy plan for a new beginning to live at the beach in Florida in just a couple of months is still the end of a very long series of chapters that are my life here in Tulsa, OK. And with that. Some endings. Hell, even the coffee maker that was a happy reminder of the good parts of my last relationship died yesterday. And that made me sad. And for every ending, I have learned, there is a necessary grief. For all of it. That has to be experienced. And respected. 

I don’t do grief very well historically. Nor does our society, in my not so humble opinion, but mine is the one I am responsible for. And consequently, now, when there are current events asking the respect of the grieving process, old ones that have yet to be resolved ask for attention too.

“Hey Lucinda. I notice you feeling sad about moving 800 miles away from your daughter. Who you have fallen in love with all over again as you have been living with her, delighting at the sight of her each morning, as she stumbles down the hall from her room at dawn to go off to her union job. When you finally purge that with a good cry or two, can you throw in some tears for me? I’m that part of you that is sad for the fact that it has taken you so long to get on with your life. The part that while grateful, grieves the youth that you wasted when you chose hopelessness and an unhappy marriage over joy and happiness. With you.  At the beach.” 

I did my usual prayer, read Jesus Calling, listened to Deepak Oprah meditation, wrote my three pages ala Artist’s Way and several notes to my daughter Abby in my journal to her, aptly named “Dear Abby.” 

The sun was starting to show up through the dark rain clouds and I was ready to go back to bed.

“You can’t.” “We don’t do that anymore.” 

“Do what?” 

“Go back to bed to pull the covers up.” 

I have given up many hours of living to those thoughts, pulled up many a cover, wallowing in that darkness for what I am sure would add up to years if I could count that high.

Today, I have found the gray area of my life, thank God. It doesn’t hurt that the background in my home is walls of a gray called “passive,” painted by a former love who they may well have named the paint for.

And even though I had only been up for about an hour, I grabbed my gray pillow and laid down on my gray couch in my gray room and setting the timer for 20 minutes, gave myself permission. To rest.  And I was just getting settled into it when the timer went off. Like a cranky teenager on a Monday school morning, I let out a protestant grunt, hit the button, and got my ass up. Off the couch.

You see, while seated doing all of my spiritual preparation for my day, my body was aching. It does that. The longer I keep it in one place, the bitchier it is when it yells at me. “WHY DID YOU IGNORE ME FOR A WHOLE HOUR! I was trying to get your attention. Didn’t the ache in your hips alert you that I needed movement? What about the soreness in your shoulders from those muscles you have neglected strengthening since they fused three vertebrae in your neck three years ago!?!”

So I took me by the hand and got in the shower. Taking action. That is what my friends tell me to do. And sometimes, the action goes better when it is preceded by rest.

What I am avoiding here is what is really needing to be said. On paper. Right now. And I am fighting it with every fiber of my being. Looking at my phone. Wanting to look at Facebook. Enough already.

My pain scares me. Still today. But I know from having lived through a lot of it in the past that it is here to teach me.

The physical pain is teaching me what needs attention. Sore hips need a walk. 

Or a good stretch that I might get when I find myself romantically tangled up.

Sore shoulders need a stretch. Or a massage.

The emotional pain. That’s the one that scares me. Because I have known so much in my life, I get afraid that when I feel sadness, all the old losses that may have been neglected by me to process will have their remnants just waiting there. In a big pile of unfelt sadness.  And I am afraid I might drown.

But grief commands respect and is tenacious about receiving that. 

In writing my story, I have chosen to pause over some of the events that I experienced because at the time they took place I found them  traumatic. Pausing because, while I have done much work in therapy and spiritually to address them, I find some still hold more power than I am happy to admit. It surprised me when writing for my book about my experience with breast cancer for example, that  I felt some of the upset that went on at that time seventeen years ago as if it were yesterday.

So I stopped writing. Avoidance is not always an unhealthy tool. I avoid a hot flame. I don’t want to get burned. And I avoid a deep end where I can’t see the bottom because I have worked my ass off to tread water and I am not going there. Without help. 

There was an episode of West Wing once where the character was seeing his psychiatrist after there had been an assassination attempt on the president. The character had been shot. And was having a great deal of difficulty recovering from that trauma. Triggered by noises in the White House during the Christmas season where the sounds were in fact festive ones of music and joyful tourists, for him, it brought back the memories of the calamity of the day that he almost lost his life. And appeared to cause him to attempt to take his own, by putting his hand through a plate glass window, significantly cutting his arm.

The line that stuck with me from that episode, “You know you have recovered from the trauma when you can talk about it without reliving it.” 

TV or not, it sounded good to me. I am still plagued enough by some of the memories in my past to have them affect my ability to be fully present in my life today at times. 

I had two brushes with death when I had breast cancer. And while I know intellectually that I have survived that, I learned after writing down the details of the traumas I suffered from having the cancer, the miscare of inept doctors, all of the treatment and the 2 years of unresolved physical pain that I endured post op before finding a solution, I found myself reliving it. I have that here as I write too. All of the thoughts jumble up fighting to get put on paper all at once. My pain is trying to get my attention here. And it has it.

So instead of shoving myself through completing the process of writing that part of my life down, I stopped. And after I flogged myself first for doing so, saying, “See? You are avoiding and procrastinating. There’s no way you will ever finish a rough draft at this rate.” I made a kind decision. I had a friend’s help with this, as she is more practiced than I am at not heaping recrimination on herself for her humanness, so I took a lesson from her, remembering the time I shared that I was struggling to write because I was having trouble with my attention deficit and felt I was pushing a boulder uphill. She offered to me the option to speak to my computer as if I am speaking to my story, saying, “I will be back. I am not abandoning you. Trust me.” 

And I have a few crumbs to maybe a partial loaf of self trust now. So today, when I intended to write more of the nuts and bolts of my story, instead, I made the loving decision to give myself love. And a break. 

It is dark and rainy. I have all of my lights on around me, my full spectrum lamp in my face to assimilate the sunlight that is absent outside as I sit. With me. And my door open. To the sound of the birds singing in spite of the thunder and lightning and slapping of the rain on the patio.  

From this gray area, I share with you things that I hope will help you if you face any of this that may be part of your journey.

And if you are relating to any of this, but don’t hold hope, don’t give up. I have hope for you, just as others have held it for me when I could not. You have 100% success rate of staying alive. That’s a pretty good blank slate to work with from this moment on. 

Whatever your age, I know that you are as old as you have ever been and maybe things don’t look so good moving forward. Move forward anyway. And know that you are loved, and valued and here for a reason.

I love you.


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