Allen Keys and Agonies
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
"Baby, life's what you make it...you can't escape it."
- Talk Talk 1986
Do you remember when you got your first apartment? And you went to Ikea to get your new stuff? The excitement of opening that box with wordless cartoon instructions on how to assemble whatever piece of furniture you were able to afford? The crisp snap of a styrofoam packing piece as you slide that particle-board goodness out of the box and begin your mathematical adventure of trying to assemble it with the provided Allen Key and minimal direction? If you loved that whole experience, that is amazing! Good for you. I hated it. Except for the part where I got to flip through a design catalogue or browse in home décor shops I hated every second of that process and reached out to the first person who would accept several beers in exchange for HELP! Otherwise....
One of the best things about falling in love and living in partnership with Darcy was finally having someone to do all the shit that I was not so great at. Assembling IKEA furniture, trip planning, administrative tasks and making waffles (have I mentioned how much I cannot stand the idea and mess of waffles?! Gah). I also loved bringing my own skill set to the table. Complimenting his shortcomings by slinging my culinary talents all over the place, managing the laundry, remembering birthdays and playing the role of social convener.
One of the worst things about losing someone who is a part of your every day and your teammate in the game of life is having to face all these new tasks. It isn’t just the time and the learning curve and the mess (waffles!) … it isn’t just my complete lack of interest in learning how to figure out how to add Disney + to the Apple TV or having zero bandwidth for pet care…it is the experience of getting punched in the throat by this loss, again and again, every time something comes up that Darcy used to manage for our family. Out of nowhere, these reminders pop out…surprising me…reminding me that not only do I not know when the garbage and recycling go out…but he is gone. He is really gone.
It’s also the things that I know are coming down the line, as the kids get older and life goes on. The future issues that I just knew I could rely on him to handle. I see a razor commercial and wonder who will teach Miller to shave when he starts to grow facial hair? (I was especially NOT looking forward to THAT task cause Miller lives with Cerebral Palsy and has a tremor in his hands… I don’t think I should let that kid loose on his perfect face with a razor!)…and when the weather perks up, who is going to keep teaching Summer how to ride her bike and resurrect the mason bees they all started raising last spring? These details are everywhere. Just when I feel like I am moving forward, I glance around the house, the yard, the garage and BAM…I am inundated AGAIN by something I am not sure I will be able to do well and the acute reminder that my favourite helper is no longer around to do it for me. My biggest fan isn’t here to cheer me on. Talk about adding insult to agony.
(Gratuitous shot of my wild children, Miller and Summer, helping me wash the truck for our Spring Break trip. This was the FIRST time I have ever washed a car in my life. No joke. I didn't even know what kind of soap to use. It was a complete shit show and way too emotional. Perfect example of a stupid task that can completely derail me if I let it.)
Everywhere we turn, the kids and I have subtle painful reminders of his absence. It is relentless and it is the thing that other people just cannot possibly understand. It's these little things that remind me of my aloneness. Of course, so many people in our life miss Darcy, but unless you have weaved together your every breath with someone, you simply do not experience that same feeling of having the wind knocked out of you at every turn. That is my cross to bear, mostly alone.
Case in point…six months into our grieving we arrived at Spring Break. Always a time to head over to Grandma’s house on Vancouver Island and this year was no different. We also planned a mini-getaway, with our extended family, to a great location we had traveled to a couple years ago with Darcy and it was meant to be pure fun! I couldn’t have anticipated how hard it would be and we realized that sometimes a happy adventure can just turn excruciating when grief decides to ride shotgun on an otherwise awesome road trip. We just don’t seem to get to choose when grief moves from its spot - neatly packed away in the trunk - into the front seat and starts grabbing for the steering wheel. Our happy holiday went off course quickly.
We talked a lot about Darcy on that trip. As we sat at the beach, watching the waves crash in and skipping rocks into the tide pools we had JUST been exploring with him, we discussed how, while we may not have a choice about when grief will rear it’s ugly head and try to take the wheel, we DO have a choice about how we react to it. We can fly off the handle and get mad or lash out – and believe me, that happens from time to time - but that kind of resistance just pushes the real issue away temporarily. It solves nothing and usually causes more damage in its wake. The better choice is to sit with the pain, hands firmly on the wheel… let it rise up…be still...don’t give away your power by over-reacting…just surrender and watch what happens.
One day, after a long emotional hike to the ocean, we were put to the test. Miller and I sat on the beach with the sun and tears streaming down our faces and we just FELT our grief. We felt his absence so strongly and we decided to accept it. Before long, our sad memory mingled with a funny recollection and now the memories that had been so painful, just moments before, were bringing warmth into our hearts. The hard moment had passed. For now, anyways. The stillness and acceptance had transmuted the pain into love, and that same sad memory emerged as a source of joy. We even laughed! We acknowledged the pain, allowed it to process and move through us. This is exactly what we accomplish with EFT tapping (for all kinds of things besides grief!) and if you ever want to try it, let me know! That kind of relief is really something. A break in the intensity. It was our chance to intentionally release some tension, catch our breath and remember Darcy with love and gratitude for the memories we had made together in that spot. All the sudden we could feel his presence instead of his absence. Those memories with him are gifts - whether they bring us pain or joy in the moment - they will eventually bring us BOTH. Those memories belong to us. He belongs to us.
I believe that every time we choose to acknowledge and accept life's pain we get THAT much closer to healing. It happens over more extended periods of time, and it also happens in the little moments, like every time I get hit with one of those agonizing chores that used to belong to Darcy. Just writing about it now stirs up all the feels, including anger, and let it be known that I have flipped the bird at the heavens more times than I am proud of and dropped MANY F-bombs at spirit-Darcy over the past months. Still, the optimist in me inevitably steps in and each frustrating “some-assembly-required” task becomes an opportunity for me to accept the challenge, be still, figure it out, transmute the pain, consciously choose to love my life a little bit more and watch myself heal, one stupid task at a time.
Bonus… I am getting pretty confident at assembling furniture!
Til Next Time,
Heal and Be Healed.