Doing It Anyway: Pushing Through Fear

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Written Nov 21:
So my latest update on moving and homesickness and new places: it still fucking sucks. Don’t get me wrong, being close to Mike is wonderful… and things could not be better between us. The joy he brings into my world is immeasurable. But as the weeks go on in this new landscape, other things are actually feeling worse, not better.  Things are starting to wear me down… like the house still being in complete chaos and not being able to find anything when I need it. And not knowing how to get anywhere without my map on my phone telling me what to do. And not even knowing how to find some of the things that I am looking for – like a good community of artists or writers. And not having anything figured out in regards to work yet.
Okay, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, these are all good reasons to be freaking out. It’s a lot. And it hasn’t even been a month since I moved here. It’s completely normal to feel all of this. So why can’t I just accept it? Why am I fighting it so hard? There’s a good reason for that too. After Drew died, I fought tooth and nail to find my joy again. I battled day in and day out with the pain and the sadness and the lack of motivation and the chaos of grief… and finally I had begun to pull out of that. Finally, I’d found my way back to joy, and groundedness, and peace. Finally, I could sometimes go to bed at night only feeling normal tiredness and not complete emotional exhaustion. Finally, I could wake up and not STILL feel exhausted. Finally, I felt like I was living. I do not want to let go of that. I do not want to have to sit in pain again.

I can’t avoid it though. I mean that is life. Struggles won’t stop happening just because he died. And just like the darkest days of grief… I am feeling exhausted all the time again. Suddenly, that joy I fought so hard for, is feeling harder to get to. That groundedness within myself is feeling shaky. The peace I had begun to find is feeling distant. A change this big is no doubt trying to pull apart the very foundations I have worked so hard to build. And suddenly I am feeling myself very much in fear and feeling lost. Fear of losing myself, fear of becoming bitter or isolating. Fear that I won’t be able to adjust to all of this. And especially fear that I will not be able to figure out the next steps for my work, which is very much my life as well. As an artist and writer, I’m still at the very early stages of building a career. I am on the cusp of continuing on and maybe one day “making it”, and giving in and going back to working for someone else. I am living off of savings just to give this a shot. So right now, I’m feeling paralyzed with what steps to take next to balance bringing in some better income with my art and writing. And that is where it ties into grief a great deal.

The unknown can sometimes be an exciting place. Other times, it’s terrifying. Like grief. This whole minefield of unknown pains. It’s so easy right now to see my unknowns as the same kind of minefield. I feel like I am just waiting for another explosion to happen somewhere nearby. Almost 3 1/2 years after Drew’s death, I am still trying to figure my life out. And I am just tired of trying to figure shit out. I am not in the depths of grief any longer. I have met someone new and wonderful and he has brought so much joy back into my world. But there is still so much that I do not have figured out… and sometimes it just gets scary, and exhausting, and frustrating beyond belief.
I forget sometimes that I somehow did make it this far. I am even still HERE and I have worked through a huge amount of grief and pain and heartache and anger in these years just to get to today. I have created a beautiful series of photography and essays on grief in the process of all this, too, and it has taught me much about healing with creativity. I have learned so many things that I still wish to shared with others who are grieving… things that can help. Lately, I’ve forgotten all of that. And all I’ve been able to see is my fear. Fear about how I will sustain doing this meaningful work. Fear about which directions to take it all in.
In the process, I’ve forgotten that the only way I got this far, was by choosing to push through the fear. It’s the only way to make room for things to begin to happen. I already know this. Ugh. I mean WOW how our minds tie us in knots sometimes. I have felt so small and confused and lost lately… being in a place where I know almost no one and everything looks and feels very foreign. How quickly I’ve lost sight of things, and of myself. It was by pushing through fear that I ever made it to Ohio. I was terrified on the drive up here from Texas, and I did it anyway. I was petrified to begin to date someone new for the first time since Drew died, and I did it anyway. I guess I just need to remember all those experiences, take a deep breath, and ride it out… because indeed – despite my fear – I am going to push through, do it anyway, and trust that things will work out.

Building from the Grief Up

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Written Nov 8:
We took a trip to Pittsburgh yesterday. It was my first time to ever visit Pennsylvania. I’m not sure why, but I’ve wanted to visit this state since I was a kid. As we approached I was so surprised. The city itself was so beautiful… and the landscape was nothing like I’d expected – although I am not entirely sure what I expected it to be. The hills all around were steep and towering, the city itself built up within the twists and turns of the natural world. It felt inventive, and sturdy, and wonderfully adapted to the landscape. Tall, skinny houses on steep slopes. Narrow winding roads to accommodate the inclines and declines. A system of bridges to connect things amidst the two rivers that surround downtown and meet on one end.

I’m always fascinated by cities built up in areas like this. Even more impressive is that this city is 400 years old. You could feel the history of this place just driving through it. There was a certain feeling of grit and determination about it. A sense of the ingenuity and adaptability it took to create. I started to consider the idea of a place like this as a metaphor for human life and all it’s struggles…

Sometimes in life, we are born into a place with steep inclines and deep valleys. Other times, we are delivered to such a place somewhere along the way… by events like the death of a spouse, parent, child or other loved one. Or by some other catastrophic event.

The city was a reminder to me of our ability as humans to be adaptable. Despite the harshest of landscapes that life puts in our way, we can survive and create amazing lives. This city was also far more interesting and beautiful because of the hills and valleys that people had to work around to build it. And so I think it goes in life. Grief is the harshest landscape we will likely ever have to build the city of our hearts within. As we adapt though, we create something breathtaking. Every beautiful street in our hearts is influenced by the slopes of our grief. Each step took hard work, but work that was meaningful. We might start out in the bottom of the valley, where things feel overwhelming, but over time, we build up. We reach higher up the slopes. And eventually, we are looking down over the landscape of our grief and seeing a thing made beautiful – not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.