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Aftermath of a Crisis

“I don’t love you anymore

I don’t think I ever did…”

–  from Eurythmics “Don’t Ask Me Why”

I have always loved that part in the Eurythmics song that got massive airplay back in the 90’s on radio stations everywhere.   It was such an “in your face” kind of comment, the type someone who is REALLY hurting says, and I had been that person really hurting from a relationship that had crashed and burned, so yeah, I felt I could relate.  Annie Lennox always sang it so well, with just the right amount of emotion and scorn, as only a person who had really experienced it could do.  I remember feeling as if she and I were soul sisters of sorts, honorary members of the same club.

Those two lines popped in my head again as I read “This is Not the Story You Think It Is” – a novel written by a mom of 2 that I received as being part of the From Left to Write Book Club.  But the difference was, it wasn’t the author’s theme song – it was her husband’s.  Ouch.  And it wasn’t being said to her because she hurt him – he was just saying it, without any real cause or provocation.  He up and decided this one day (the easy out: blame everyone but yourself) and threw it out at her.  I felt her pain, like women often do for each other, just as you would for your own dear friend.  I was ready to grab Annie Lennox (or at least her CD) and head off to the author’s home in Montana to welcome her into our club.

Yet author Laura Munson didn’t handle the whole thing the way most people would have.  She took a very different tact.  And as I read her book, I kept asking myself: could I have done what she did?  If MY husband told me “I don’t love you anymore.  I’m not sure I ever did.” Would I have been able to say, “I don’t buy it” as she did?  Would I have been able to see through his words, right to the heart of his pain, and been able to be a big enough person to do all the things she did that summer as she dealt with the chaos that ensued?

She first wrote about it in a piece that appeared in The New York Times that apparently created quite an uproar.  It was the top story emailed that day and they finally had to shut down their comments site.  Perhaps like me, others were wondering if they would have handled it that way.  Was she right not to respond to his fighting words with ones of her own?  Crazy?  A little of both?

She talked about turning to the comfort of the kitchen to help her through.  Fixing family favorites to feast on.  Getting the kids in there to help.  Pulling out her family’s china, setting a beautiful table, enjoying that whole process – from food preparation all the way to arranging the crease-ironed napkins.  As I read it, I was struck by what an awesome thing that was to do.  To bring your family around you, even those who have passed on, through the use of their serving platters and heirloom crystal, especially at a time when you need them the most.  It never would have occurred to me – and now all I want to do is get in the kitchen – MY kitchen – and do the same.

You see, I’m hurting too.  Not thank goodness because my husband said he didn’t love me, but because my mother just died.  And although I’m so grateful she’s not suffering as she did near the end, I am so sad for me.  Part of me wants to go into the kitchen and cook (or bake) just the way Laura Munson did.  I want to go to the Farmers Market (Laura could just go out to her garden – gotta love life on a 20-acre spread) and choose the freshest of ingredients.  I want the smells and aromas to surround me as I take the time to use my hands and create nourishment, just as my mother (and those before her) once did.  To serve it on a platter she once used, to then sit down and savor it as we often did with meals in my childhood.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, it can feel like a whirlpool sucking you under, and sometimes you’re so busy fighting to keep your head above water you forget to take a breath.  That’s how the 4 days before she died felt to me; I was at the hospital the majority of that time….fighting for information, fighting for the proper care, fighting for composure. You run on fumes, energized in some strange way from all the stress, until that part of the crisis is over.  Then if you’re like me, you are left there merely with all your emotions – and the pajamas she was wearing the night she fell and was taken to the hospital now wadded up in a hospital property bag.  And the eye glasses she took off before she went to bed that same night she fell that remain there on her night stand, still waiting for her to reach over and slide them back on.

It would seem this is my summer to figure out how to get to a “good place” – just as it once was Laura Munson’s turn.  She did it through cooking and writing and learning to be responsible for her own happiness and well-being (even during a crisis).  She chose a word, one word, to think of and rely on  – as a mantra to help her through those tough, tough times.

I hope to get to that place somehow, that seemingly calm place – the one this Zen Mama Wannabe often strives for, that seems so elusive at times.  A summer to cook and write and take things down a notch.  Where I can learn to be with my thoughts of my mom without tears streaming down my face.  A time to figure out what MY one word is – and use it to guide me through. Maybe it will be the same one Laura chose.  No – not because she did, but because I heard it tonight on the radio and it spoke to me (and it didn’t hurt that it was Eddie Vedder’s husky voice doing the singing):

Yes, I understand that every life must end.” And then a bit later he sang, “Let’s just breathe.”

* * * * * * *

(I was given a complimentary copy of This is Not The Story You Think It Is through the From Left to Write Book Club but received no compensation for writing this article.)

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12 Responses to “Aftermath of a Crisis”

  1. Sharon Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Taking care of yourself and getting to a “good place” sounds great even when you are not hurting, but especially when you are. Your post is lovely.

  2. Linsey Krolik Says:
    July 20th, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Ah, that sounds like something you need: “A summer to cook and write and take things down a notch. Where I can learn to be with my thoughts of my mom without tears streaming down my face.”

    I don’t really cook during or after a crisis, but I clean and organize. Same thing perhaps? My mom is a cleaner, an organizer.

    I like the word “breathe” – it has been mine for a while now, actually and it struck me to see it there in Laura Munson’s book.

    Hugs and thanks for a wonderful post.

  3. LarkLady Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Calm is good — but don’t be afraid of the tears: they can be very cleansing and cathartic. Grief deferred can multiply and eat at your soul, gnawing away at the fiber of your being.

    My dad died nearly ten years ago, but I can still remember standing in the shower almost as wet from tears as from the shower… being engulfed in the feeling that a lynch pin in my life was now gone. But it cleared away the misery and let me get on with life without forgetting him and how important he was to me. It let me move on to deal constructively with my grief.

    Baking used to be my way of dealing with stress and disorder: for years my husband might come home to find 2 loaves of bread, a fresh batch of cookies, and homemade pizza for dinner and would know I’d been through the wringer. Maybe it was the kids; maybe a situation at work… sometimes even an argument with him. Baking somehow helped me put it all in perspective.

    Now, when I start CLEANING, watch out: when I’m angry, I clean like a madwoman! Maybe it’s a good thing that my house isn’t usually neat and clean. 🙂

  4. Laura Munson Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my book. I hope it has helped. I’m so sorry about your mother. Yrs, Laura

  5. Nancy Brown Says:
    July 25th, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    It is so true…the one thing we forget to do when stressed/scared/angry… is BREATHE. It’s amazing the difference some measured breaths can make in your mind as well as body. So breathe. They say take 10 slow breaths in a row and it can change your life. Or change your mood which sometimes can be the same thing. This is because you will be clearer and calmer in your head and heart and that indeed can be life changing.

    I wish I could take your hurt away, but it is a process most children go through, seeing their parents die, seeing their last indelible link to unconditional love move on and no longer “be there” for them. Not in the temporal sense anyway. And now you become the parent, and it becomes your child’s turn someday. Ah yes, the infamous circle of life. There are times when I tire of that @#$% circle and wish it would just straighten out into a clean linear line.

    In my thoughts always, n.

  6. callieandbatido Says:
    August 7th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss but so appreciate your thought provoking words.

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