Friday, June 19, 2009

Kindness, Grief and Wild Geese

Yesterday afternoon while I was wallowing in my own misery, I received a lovely note (which I have posted below my own ramblings) from Anna N. (aka Gabrielle, wordzzler and poet extraordinaire whose blog is Wild Goose Scoops Moon). She was right on target. I'm having a very difficult time. I'm in a state of deep grief. Just to be clear, though, I'm not grieving for my brother. I won't go so far as to say I'm glad he's dead. I'm not glad or sad. His death is not tragic. He was ill with Parkinson's for a long time and at the end more vegetable than alive. I always think death in such a case is a mercy not a tragedy. As I have said before. I didn't like my brother, but I did love him in spite of everything. I would not have wished him ill.

But I'm not grieving for Phil. I'm not grieving for what might have been had we not become estranged. Estranging myself from him probably saved my life and what sanity I have. I'm grieving for myself. I'm grieving for a childhood of a thousand tiny cuts that went un-nurtured. I'm grieving for 12 years of my life given to caring for an ungrateful sadist. I'm grieving for the fact that - in part because I allowed it and in fact colluded with it - he got to play the victim and I was cast in the role of abandoning villain. I'm deeply pissed. It was my childhood all over again. My brother does something awful - brilliantly awful - does his brilliant lie while telegraphing the truth in such a way that you can't prove it - and gets away with it. In fact, I'm told to have compassion for him. It took me almost 40 years to ask the question: "What about me?"

At one point in the estrangement process I asked my father (in writing): "If what my brother did was physical, if there were broken bones and black eyes and bruises, if there was blood, would you still want me to stay friends with him?" His answer, honest and awful was: "Yes, I think I would."

So, anyway, I think I'm mourning for the life I didn't have, the love I didn't get. I'm mourning (this is petty) for the credit I didn't get for the years I spent being super nurse and super friend at the cost of my own happiness, at the cost of a life of my own, at the cost of my late 20s and my 30s. I'm mourning for a childhood in which my own feelings were so negated that I had to learn at 40 what they were. Was I sad? Angry? frightened? I didn't know. I was always "happy." I was always cheering everyone else up. What about me started to come out in therapy, but I think now that the wicked warlock is dead, my inner child is finally wailing her heart out? What about ME she is screaming. What about me? I don't know the answer. I only know the question. I learned early to be cruel and judgemental about myself. I'm kinder than I used to be but the voices that whisper how selfish I am still mutter under the surface. And the internal agument rages. "No I'm not. Yes I am. No I'm not." God, being crazy is exhausting.

So anyway, Anna's kind words and the beautiful Mary Oliver poem were like a healing balm on the crying infant who is in almost total control of me at the moment.

The crying infant also does not have much patience for computer problems. She is pissed about them too. She is just dedicated to feeling sorry for herself at present - about anything and everything - and is still working on finding a way to offer herself the tenderness she wants from parents long dead... from others onto whom she projects them. She is (I am) a wreck. My therapist (Dr. Jim) is such a God-send. He is very kind to her/me... but he also tells us the truth. That's what makes him so good.

Anyway, that's my story for the moment. I'm not much good to anybody and not much for fighting two sets of browsers, neither of which works very well.

Thank you so much Anna, for the kind understanding and the beautiful poem. Here, after all that introduction is what Anna/Gabrielle so generously and kindly sent me:

Dear Katherine,

There is no pain like the one you must be feeling in the wake of your brother’s death. When these wrongs are committed by kin, it is not easy to separate. Yourself from them. Blame placed here, anger falls there. A vortex of grief. Often there aren’t words at all. Just an ache that won’t go away.

This poem has brought me solace in times of distress; I hope it helps to lift some of the heaviness.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do
not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred
miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of
your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will
tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the
clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the
prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the
wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over
announcing your place
in the family of things.

Just to let you know I am thinking of you. Your heart is so big and so tender. And therein lies your strength. I hope you are finding some peace and beauty in these days.




RainbowPax said...

sending some love to ya and letting u know will get the computer problems fixed have not forgot about it.
much love

DawnTreader said...

What a lovely poem, and what a kind thought from the friend who sent it. You are absolutely right to let yourself grieve for your own loss and all of the feelings that are brought to the surface by the death of your brother. No one can dictate what grief is supposed to be like for another. Most relationships have more than one side to them, and when someone dies, we can no longer argue directly with that person; we have to solve it within ourselves, in our own way.

MaR said...

I lost my only brother under tragic circumstances two years ago...we were not close, we were thousand of miles away, I hadn't seen him in years, but still... I couldn't blog about it, it was too much for me.
Sending hugs your way, Raven.

Akelamalu said...

That is indeed a beautiful poem.

I feel for your inner child m'dear. Please accept the Reiki I am sending to you with love. xxxx

quilly said...

Raven, I had a feeling that you were grieving, not your brother's death, but the fact that now you would never receive the validation you have always deserved. Please know that even though they chose to withhold it, you did deserve that validation. You are important and valuable and your wants and needs were and are every bit as important as there's -- maybe even more important since your needs were most often for the greater good.

You don't need their validation. Look to the people who love you now. Concentrate on them. (Yes, I know, easier said than done, but give it a try.) Focus on the positive as much as you can. My prayers are with you as you try to find your own center and a sense of peace.

Carletta said...

Raven, I wish we your readers and friends could take all the hurt away. I know we can't. You will someday find healing - perhaps where and when you least expect it. Meanwhile there is love, and friendship, and prayer sent your way everyday.
Hugs and Blessings.

CJ said...

Raven, You seem to be going through a painful time.
Several years ago my husband found a book at the library called "Toxic Parents." I think it helped him to understand his parents and himself. On the back of the book, there was a list on the cover of the characteristics of toxic parents. My husband's parents fit every one of them. When both of his parents died within a year of each other, I thought he might feel better about himself, since the people who constantly made him feel 'small' were gone, but it took him a long time to get past it all, because then he knew for sure things between them could never be resolved. I'm sure much of the book might apply also to a toxic brother --for that seems to be what your brother was. We can't remember who wrote the book, (perhaps Susan Forward?) but if you search for "Toxic Parents" on Amazon, you will find several similar books. The editorial and customer reviews might help you find a good one.
Remember that the pain will pass. It's just no fun going through it.

Felisol said...

Dear Raven,
I have not much wisely to say.
Just that reading your tragic story makes me hurt too.
And that's not what you want.
I cannot fully understand, but I am angry and in pain on your behalf.
And I am praying for that little girl to get free.
From Felisol

Rev. Melissa Dean-Pardo, Hedge Witch of Lakewood said...

I'm sorry for the frustration and conflicted emotions you're feeling. It makes sense, as you wrote, that you're mourning for the feelings that were negated and never validated. Sometimes it seeems like the only person to validate us is ourself... at least it's a start. You're not required to make everyone happy, to "be friends" when that is toxic to your soul. Wishing you strength and recovery..