The Great Sadness (archive material: October 2013)

Oh Great Sadness. How long have you been nipping at my heels and how long have I been running from you? I had a good think today, cleaning out someone else’s kitchen drain. (there’s a reason I chose a job cleaning up other people’s messes) I’ve been running from you, Great Sadness, for probably nine years. When Dad died the day before my first year wedding anniversary, while I was six months pregnant. I couldn’t face you then. I was afraid you’d seep into the baby. I had to wait to grieve.

Normally I am strong aclose up eyes closednd take you head on. I let you stare me down, seep through my skin with the elegance of steam, burrow into my bones, leach into my blood stream and then evaporate through my sweat and tears and be gone.

But the list of catastrophes tumbled from there at the rate of Nonna’s Spanish Italian dubbed soap operas. Without all the shirtless impossibly handsome men. (well…okay, maybe a few.) Oh the episodes! “Remember the one where she threw the wake and spilled twenty gallons of soup in the back of her friend’s car? Or that ultrasound? The ex-girlfriend? The seat belt scene?” Such drama! Tune in next week!

Ah…and all the while the insatiable hunger grew and I did not always fill it with prayer, yoga and art…I got through. Working and raising a child. I got through.

But now, now…the dust has settled. The soap opera is…dare I say…not renewed. Finally, I am in my home. HOME.

But an insatiable hunger gnaws inside of me incessantly. What is it? What IS it? Certainly I don’t require a second supper. Surely I can exercise this restlessness away. I don’t need cigarettes, or this extra glass of wine, or another bad romance. All I have left to kick is white flour and Netflix. I can’t get rid of this need to fill myself with…well…have a glass of water. See friends, visit family…what am I craving? And this morning it dawned on me…I hunger for you. Oh Great Sadness. But I have been running. I bury away behind my keyboard in my asexual pajamas and munch on my ten o’clock ham and cheese sandwich and invent imaginary characters to do all my grieving.

This can’t continue. I will turn into a toad.

All this time I have thought you were…not the devil, not evil, but certainly malevolent. I have got it all wrong. Oh Great Sadness. You are the blue in the rainbow. You are the rain for the wisteria. You are the dead salmon that eagles feast on. You are part of what I understand God to be. You are Necessary.

Right now. Right now. I have the strength and time to turn around and face You. I invite You to enter me. And I have to trust that You, being Wise, will not consume me entirely.

The Great Sadness II


So, I decide to face and absorb what I call the Great Sadness. “Bring it on” I say, having freshly been warned of it manifesting as a Black Dog and a Claw, I eye my hefty Caribbean blue le creuset frying pan. If it does get nasty, I’ll whack it over the head.

(if only it were that simple)

I fantasize my conversation with the Great Sadness might be akin to Ivan Pavlovich’s conversation with the devil in The Brothers Karamazov, but with an oceanic theme.

So…I make supper, I do dishes…I make room. I wait.

But, the Great Sadness, being a part of what I understand to be God, decides, in typical fashion, to just damn well show up when It pleases. Because…well…because It can.

I write to a friend. Nothing. I go to bed. Nothing. I fall asleep. And then I have the audacity to have two lovely dreams. One with a friend off to a retreat and one with a man who kisses my neck.

I wake up to sunshine warming the back of my ear.

And the day clips along: the extraordinary holding hands with the ordinary. My favourite moment: the laundromat on Comox street. As I pull out the sheets, an elderly lady pops up behind a basket and squawks, “When I first got here, there wasn’t a soul. And I knew – oh there had to be sun outside! But now, all the washers are full! It’s amazing!” And it is amazing to her. She is truly amazed. And as she declares this outrageous phenomenon she waves around her big white cotton underwear like a peace flag.

Then, I stop to eat lunch on the balcony of the 25th floor, overlooking Stanley park, the ocean, and that amazing full grown tree on the Penthouse balcony of a building on Pendrell Street. I have no idea where all the roots go. I imagine they curl down through the ceiling and along the walls, forming knots and curves that serve as tables, chairs and bed frames for the rich who pretend to be moles.

Then I go see my boss who thanks for me for a job well done. And we have a nice little chat. I have known her for over twenty years. She asks about Nora and I gladly share about my ringlet-headed wonderpants and then she asks about our divorced parenting schedule and I say, “one week on, one week off” and then she asks, “Do you miss her?”

And this is the point where I usually avoid anything sad and say very very sharply and very brightly, like a tinsel Christmas star, “I make sure I work hard on my alternate week so I have plenty of time for play and Michael is a FANTASTIC DAD, so end of the day, I probably spend as much time with my daughter as any other parent.” And this is all true.

But today…oh…this is when the Great Sadness looks me in the face. Oh not in front of Wendy. Please. She’s so classy. But I promised I would not look away. So, I simply admit, perhaps for the first time, “Yes. Yes. I miss her. Terribly.”

And two tears stream down my face. I apologize. I am surprised. And you know…Wendy doesn’t mind a damn bit and it’s over in five seconds.

And it felt so good. It felt so good. It felt so good. To admit…I miss my daughter.

And the grief washes clean. Nothing clings to it like, “Well, you don’t deserve to have her, you’re a shit mother, guess whose fault the divorce was anyway…” All that sort of thing. All the true enough to be listened to, but not true at all.

No. None of that.

I am just sad. For a moment. And then it passes.

Once I finish cleaning the apartment (Miss Piggy’s took 12 hours and it was only a one bedroom…wow…my hands actually can’t close anymore, they are so sore) I drive to Michaels to pick up Nora. My part of the week. She leaps into my arms and I don’t feel the need to say “I missed you”. I say, “Let’s go play on the piano, I fixed it”.

And I’ll tell you, it sounds dreadfully great, this clunking duet, neither of us know how to play the piano at all. But today, we sing to it anyway.

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