The Key of Grief

It used to be that I wrote by building a lock around the shape of an absent key. I wrote about the thing by circling it. By stepping near, then far, then near. The actual topic of each piece I wrote – anxiety, heartbreak – was never mentioned, and I think this hiding of things, this absence of things was the armor that allowed me to speak without fear of anyone actually who it was who did the wordmaking.

I figured if someone already had a key that fit the lock, they would know it and know me.

People who know anxiety know that Mars in Retrograde is about living with an anxiety disorder (GAD. Well controlled. Easier to live with than it used to be).

If you didn’t know, now you know.

I am less interested in locks these days.

I am much more interested in keys.

But keys are small and simple. They don’t make for interesting writing. Or rather, they are sharp and they have teeth and I would rather pretend I don’t see them. It is more poetic, I think, to amble and look up at the sky and comment on how Aristophenes proposed that once upon a time human beings were not one and single and sole, but two beings fused and whole.

The shape of today’s key is grief.

Someone I love is dead. He went suddenly and I hadn’t talked to him in months, maybe even years. (Time works differently now, as you know.)

My closest friends all know that it’s normal to not hear from me for months. I hope he knew, too.

His celebration of life was today. A barbecue clustered round a park pavilion. I stayed for a few hours, then drove home.

Three hours later, my boyfriend walked onto the back porch to find me sobbing in a plastic, broken Adirondack chair.

Anxiety has taught me a lot about grief. The phrase “waves of emotion” sounds like a metaphor but it’s literal as hell – emotions hit you full in the face, then they tug at your ankles as if threatening to pull you, inviting you to be dragged along.

Have you ever stood in the ocean?

Do you remember that feeling of the sand getting pulled away from beneath your feet with the exhalation of the waves? It feels like the earth dissolving, doesn’t it?

But the earth is not dissolving.

There is exhilaration in the waves.

The first time I had homesickness, I remember being drunk and crying in bed and feeling like I was drowning in a maelstrom of grief and yet even then I felt so lucky to be missing the people, the places I was missing. That which dragged me under buoyed me up.

You must know the twin phrases carpe diem and momento mori. Seize the day, because you will die. I love this pairing. I really do.

Because it is also this: love, because someday you will lose.

I believe love is worth it.

I write the same things over and over. Fear and grief and love are my leitmotifs. The recurring melodies of my internal world. I am, frankly, relieved that I find them interesting. I am glad I’m not afraid of them. They will be with me for the rest of my life, after all.

I’m lying, of course.

I’m still afraid of a particular kind of fear.

The kind that cannot be faced and must be approached in retrograde.

I’m sure it’ll come up later.

For today…

I miss you.

I’m sorry.

I am so grateful.


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