The Grieving Day
The grieving day starts early. You wake at three or four in the morning after a solid hour or two of sleep, ready and raring to go, except for the ready part. Or the raring to go part. All you can see is a solid wall of dread. It’s a big wall, and even though it’s metaphorical, it can be seen from space.
You notice is that even though you’re lying down and not expending much in the way of energy, your heart is doing a half decent impersonation of a drummer in a big hair band. It’s pounding so hard you can practically hear it. So the first action of the day is to suck down a few big breaths, something your yoga teacher has promised will make you feel better and calmer. You feel neither calmer, nor better.
You lie in bed, waiting for the sun to come up. Waiting for the panic to pass; for the pain to stop.
The sun comes up. You get up. Your morning routine has become somewhat streamlined. Coffee is out of the question, unless you really, really want to be gasping into a paper bag.
Breakfast is out of the question. Food is punishment. Everything takes like sandpaper, even yoghurt. Besides, being thin is now your sole consolation. You can be found, several times a day thinking, my life may be doing an excellent imitation of multi-car pile up, but at least I’m thin.
You bathe, pull on some clothes—all your clothes are baggy, and your hip bones stick out, but hey, at least I’m thin—and head towards the subway.
There are people around you, heads bowed over their smart phones as if in prayer. They are close, but far. You see them through a glass darkly. They are happy. You are other. You are a leper. You might as well have somebody walking in front of you yelling unclean! Unclean!
Idly, you wonder why the heart, of all places in the body, hurts. It’s just a muscle, shunting blood around your body. It hurts like hell. Really and truly.
Work is an oasis. There are things to do that, while they don’t exactly take your mind off your agony, can at least tamp it down a millimeter or two. There’s a nice quiet toilet in the basement where nobody will hear you cry.
Midway through the afternoon, at the dreamy point in the day when the light starts to signal that the earth is turning away from the sun, you look out the window and imagine the future. The vision is bleak—you are old, alone and uncomfortably housed in cardboard, under a bridge. You wonder how you will ever have the strength to face it. “It would be easier if you weren’t alive,” whispers a voice that you hear a lot. “So, so much easier.”
You remind yourself that you have only one goal for this day and that’s to get through it.
The moment slithers past.
You retrace your steps home.
The grieving person plans their social life very carefully. Too much time alone is the equivalent of handing yourself a sharp knife and asking what the best possible use for it is. Kind friends and neighbors know this and have formed a relay team of sorts to ensure that you are busy a lot. But sometimes being alone is unavoidable.
You turn to the opiate of the masses, but selectively—only shows that do not depict happy couples. Modern Family is an absolute no-no. Ditto any comedy that stars Steve Carrell. The works of Jane Austen have been buried deep underground in a lead coffin and are being guarded by crack team of special ops. The only reason Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam are happy because the story ends when it does. He’ll soon be miserable and cheating on her and leaving her for the scullery maid … wait, what? Oh, sorry. Got a bit side-tracked there.
Television shows, movies and books that portray absolute, appalling misery are the only safe place to be, because then you can reason that no matter how wretched your life is, at least you’re not on death row for a crime you didn’t commit, or being tortured by overpaid mercenaries in an underground cell in Islamabad. Greek tragedy is a solid source of solace. Classical Greek writers had an assured grip on the angry bitch, the Oresteia practically has one on every page. The Bronte sisters served up unhappy, thwarted lives by the bucketful.
The desperate, the lonely, the unhappy, are your brethren now.
Thus occupied, the day creeps to its end. You’ve done it. You got through. Maybe not with any style or aplomb, but the bar is low, by necessity.
All that’s required is to do it again tomorrow.