The cape I wear is no fashion statement

I had homework to do this week that included reading three chapters of a book on grief and how to move beyond loss.
I’m not supposed to go further in the book until I’m instructed to do so, nor am I supposed to use it to teach anyone else—and I won’t. But already I can see how extraordinarily beneficial this choice to get counselling on grief recovery is going to be for me.
A well-meaning friend called me a “hurdler” the other day. I wasn’t sure what she meant by that. Was I the type who met life’s challenges with fortitude or was I the poor sap who, despite my best efforts, constantly is faced with obstacles that challenge my soul?
Hmmm. Maybe I’m both.
Today I am the latter.
I’m wearing a long, flowing black cape these days. It’s at least two city blocks long and it’s there all the time, double-knotted around my neck and complete with arm sleeves that prevent it from being mislaid.
My cape is there with me in the shower, it covers my pajamas at night, and lies around my feet at the kitchen table each morning during breakfast.
Even when I’m driving in my car or walking down the creek bed, my cape follows behind me billowing in the wind. And as soon as I slow down, it snaps to a stop and falls in around me.
I know this black cape to be one of the many faces of grief. And as much as I’d like to rip it off, soak it in gasoline, and burn it, I know I have much to learn from this unexpected bounty hunter.
I will wear it, touch it, feel it, and stay with it until it falls off on its own.
Self-care is something I thought I knew about. I don’t use white sugar or salt, nor for the most part do I eat processed or fast foods. I don’t drink alcohol and I exercise (or at least I did up until 30 days ago) four-six times a week.
I read a lot, get enough sleep and wear sunscreen.
But there is so much more to self-care that I have yet to learn—like slowing down in life and giving myself more attention than the me who is the caregiver of others thinks I should.
Self-care also is asking for help, seeing a counsellor, and calling a friend or my mom and dad when I’m lonely or sad.
Self-care is about stopping everything I’m doing for everyone else, and sitting down and taking off my mask and having a good cry.
Self-care is clearly about giving up control and allowing life to teach me what I need to learn. This unfolding Universe is showing me that over and over again.
In hindsight, I think the Universe gave me a kick in the pants in that direction about 10 days before Jon died. And although I didn’t know it at the time, I’m convinced the event, which I wrote about in my diary a few days ago, was meant to be a lesson for all of my todays:
“I keep thinking about that day in early January when I was outside giving the dogs their food. I was coming back in the house with my slippers on and I fell.
“I fell like someone had pushed me down all at once, on all fours, all at the same time smashing my knees and the palms of my hands into the cement pad at the top of the stairs outside.
“I remember looking back to see what the hell did I trip on because I just don’t fumble. I never fumble. The pain took my breath away.
“It’s Feb. 19th and I still, after six weeks, have a mark on my left knee from the fall. It was mind-boggling to me the smashing of my body against that cement pad.
“I never really made any more of until after Jon died and I started trying to reason all these things out. I wonder if that was some kind of Universal force that took me down as a reminder to me that I don’t have control all the time about what happens in my life.
Maybe I was meant to realize it now; along with everything else I need to learn. I just don’t know.”
I wonder why it is that those of us dealing with loss put ourselves on the back burner when we need help and recovery from grief. Our immediate need to begin to recover from loss shouldn’t be any different or delayed than getting a car windshield repaired after a rock splits it.
You need that car to get you where you need to go the same as you need your mind and your body and your spirit to get you where you need to go.
If I am a hurdler, so be it. But I’m going to learn the right way to let go of this black cape so that I can leap into life again with happiness.

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