Last night I experienced a classic grief moment. I watched an episode of Mad Men. It was the best episode I have ever seen, drawing out amazing performances from the actors. Both Don! And Peggy! Cried! In this episode! Catharsis, character development, it was great. When the episode was over, I wanted to write something about it on Facebook. And then I realized what I really wanted was to tell my mom about it. And then I burst into tears. The desire to simply call her and tell her about it was like a reflex — and no one, absolutely no one, could fill that void. No matter who I called, it would never be like talking to her. My heart filled up with this realization, with pain and aliveness. Why is life so wonderful? Why is it so painful? And why can’t I share any of it with my mom anymore, ever?
The classic grief moment continued as I then got ready to go out for a drink with a couple of friends. What am I going to do with all these feelings?, I asked myself. In light of the fact that life is precious, should I share what I’m thinking with my friends? Should I become like an evangelist, sharing the Good News (or let’s face it, bad news) of our mortality? When our friend Jamie arrives at the Hopleaf, should I hold his shoulders, look into his eyes, and say: “Jamie, we have to live RIGHT NOW, it’s ALL WE HAVE!”
In going through a huge loss, I feel like the rose-colored glasses I’ve worn all my life have been cruelly stripped off my face. But the thing is, some of the people around me are still wearing the glasses. And it makes things a little awkward. A couple of months ago, one of my friends said in passing, “I’m so fortunate that I’ll always have my Mom’s support.” She didn’t mean anything by it, but still, my jaw almost hit the floor. It took all of my strength not to intone, “No, Jenny, you won’t. Death is real, Jenny.”
I might as well walk around muttering to myself: Don’t become the grim reaper, don’t become the grim reaper, don’t become the grim reaper.
I’m being funny here. But the thing is, there’s no real risk of my becoming the grim reaper. What happened in the Mad Men moment is that I was in love with life. In love with a great story, great performances, and the feeling of being drawn in. Simply put, my most joyful moments are also the hardest moments. It’s hard to reconcile the joy of performing great music, the joy of marriage, the joy of little babies, or the joy of Peggy & Don holding hands with the pain of losing Mom forever.
My poor little brain is creaking under the weight of the cognitive dissonance. But the dissonance is better than a long, lonely drone of sadness.