There are some things in this world I am never going to understand.
Like massacres. Killing. Cold-bloodedness. And inhuman cruelty.
Last week too many mothers had their hearts broken. Their stories and the faces of their children filled my head even after I turned off the TV. I tried to escape the images of their agony, but wherever I turned, in Wegmans, in the woods, Netflix, Facebook, …their despair followed me.
It was too difficult to write about people senselessly losing their lives. And the tormented families and friends left behind. Memories of my own pain resurfaced each time I tried.
So I sequestered myself in the quiet corner of my living room, in the depths of my computer and the distraction of Photoshop, thinking I could paste together a pure fresh collage on a blank canvas. There was no escaping. Even there, in the limitless layers of Photoshop, I found traces of my own heartlessness.
“I love being home with you,” I told the dog, when everyone I knew was out somewhere having fun, and I was feeling antsy with nowhere to go. “But now let’s find something beautiful and joyful to photograph. Something besides you,” I said, and followed her flickering tail around the pond, stopping to take pictures of the water and wildflowers. A colossal pink cloud floated overhead. I snapped a dozen shots of it, awed by its rosiness.
The cloud would be a perfect illustration of joy, I thought. After weeks of watching the garden dry up in the drought, after howling my grief songs and driving people mad trying to move boulders, I desperately wanted to blog about something joyful. So that night I stayed up late, turned on the TV, made popcorn, poured a glass of sherry, pulled over a cozy chair for the dog, and began playing with the image of the pink cloud. And over the weekend, I missed a picnic and passed on a dinner invitation, as I Photo-shopped the cloud in the water, in my face, around a lone girl. I Photo-shopped the heck out of that cloud.
Then, I Googled “pink cloud” to get an idea of why I was so taken with the cloud, and what I might write about it. But there was no joy in any of the articles listed. It was a term used in alcohol and addiction recovery programs to refer to “unrealistic feelings of well-being and happiness experienced during times of despair.” It represented “ignoring life’s problems in a dangerous euphoria,” … “flight from reality.”
I looked at the picture I’d spent hours composing. I looked at the dog. And then I had to consider that maybe I’m the one walking around with my head in a pink cloud, convinced I’m solidly planted on a sure path to healing.
“Hold up yaw sistuh,” my mother said years ago as she posed us for a photograph. But my sister didn’t need my support, even then. Most of my life I’ve hung onto her because I depended on and needed her, and didn’t want her to fly off without me.
This past weekend we got together to celebrate her birthday, at my mother’s place. Shortly after we arrived, the conversation turned to last week’s blog post where I’d Photoshopped an age progression on a picture of my daughter who died.
“Why do you feel the need to do that?” my mother asked.
I am not going to share who said what about letting go, hanging on, moving on, and so forth, in the skirmish that followed. It got me wondering about the differences.
Holding up is to keep something from getting away or falling, to keep in high regard, to endure. You’re holding up quite well under the circumstances, I like to hear, as opposed to why do you have to keep hanging on? Hanging on is to hold tightly, to grasp, perhaps in desperation. Hanging on is waiting, persisting with some effort despite difficulties or setbacks. It is clutching at something and letting it lead you who-knows-where, maybe even allowing it to drag you backwards or under.
“I am not hanging on,” I insisted, and then announced, “I’m gonna hold Marika forever.”
Are you hanging on to someone or something for dear life? Or are you holding up your dearest memories of a most precious one in order to honor her and recycle your love for her into something more. Can you carry the one you love, and thought you lost, into your future even when others are telling you to get over the loss?
I’m not saying whose resolve was not budging and who was close to tears defending her position.
“I loved your latest post and the age progression photo you did,” my sister said. I shut up and smiled gratefully. She had my back and was holding me up this time.