Last night I went with a friend and her seven-year-old daughter to see the Pixar movie “Up.” I thought “Ah, what better than a nice, animated children’s comedy to finish off the week!” Turns out, it wasn’t quite the pick-me-up I was looking for. The previews are quite funny and bill the movie as documenting an grumpy old man’s haphazard adventure with an accidental friend when he floats his house off the ground into the big blue yonder by inflating a bazillion of colorful balloons. Now, I won’t spoil the movie for you (it’s a Pixar film – not much to spoil, really) but the previews only told part of the story. The story is actually about a once very happy man who loses his wife to illness and then spends the rest of his days coping with her loss, ultimately deciding to pursue their mutual lifelong dream as a final tribute to her. Oh, man. And it hammered the point home all the way though the movie. Gawd.
I haven’t been around too much death in my life, thankfully, so I don’t know how people who are grieving tend to act. But, were I a guessing man, which I am, I’d guess that you could expect those in the throws of tough grieving to do strange and unproductive things. Drug and alcohol abuse, probably. Buy expensive toys or cars, yup. Overeat, certainly. Sleep too much, sure. Fly to Vegas and rent six hookers for a week, oh yeah. Reckless abandon.
The reason why I’d expect people in my situation to do such things is very clear to me (as one with grieving goggles on.) I can feel this thing, this something-er-other somewhere deep inside, a void or itch that I can’t quite put my finger on. Something definitely doesn’t belong. Something’s just not right. It’s not a feeling I’m familiar with so I just can’t find it to scratch it. To try, I search down my list of usual suspects. Hungry? Nope, just ate. Sleepy? No, not really. Maybe I’m ill or badly out of shape. No way. Thanks to copious amounts of focused anger and my gym membership, I’m in great shape. Is the iron on or the fridge door open? Well, I’m home so no, probably not. Did I feed the dogs. Yup, did that, too, and they’ve both done their business outside (thankfully.) Then what the hell is this feeling? It’s miserably uncomfortable. It just sits there, heavy, like a meal of bad fish flopping in my gut.
To satiate or temporarily drown out the unpleasant and unfamiliar discomfort, I’m drawn to more and more psychologically noisy things. Fortunately, I’ve have some self control and can use my reserves of logic to temper the demon that could be let loose. Or maybe I’m just scared to let them run. Either way, my risky behavior thus far has been limited to skeet shooting, seeing a band in a 4th street bar, and flying to Vegas to rent two hookers (not six.) Well, that last one is still in the very early planning stages. But none of that has helped much.* The discomfort sits unwavering, unaffected, uncomfortable. When the ringing in my ears from both the skeet shooting and the concert faded, the discomfort was still there, waiting for me to become reacquainted.
* As a side note, I really, really, really wish people would stop asking me questions like “What are you thinking about?” I’ve been trying very, very hard to be polite with my brush-off answers. I’m going to become much less polite soon. It is the all-time #1 stupidest question of the decade. If you don’t know what I’m thinking about or can’t make a pretty good guess at it, you are an idiot and I don’t want to talk to you anyway.
The best way I can describe the discomfort is that it feels like my soul is convulsing. Rightfully so. I’ve spent ten warm and cozy years snuggled up to She Who Made My Life Complete, the soother of my soul. Now, she has been ripped away and my soul is both burning and freezing at the same time. I have to wonder, before Maggie and I met, did I feel like this all the time but had just gotten used to it?