(Or Movie Mash-up: “Get busy living, or get busy dying, Dude.”)
Shawshank Redemption. Good movie. No, GREAT movie. It was on last week and I watched it for the hundredth time. I was reminded of the quote, “get busy living, or get busy dying.” I also watched the Big Lebowski…the Dude. I had forgotten most of it, and it had me busting out laughing. Every morning now, I hear the soundtrack in my head, asking to “see what condition my condition is in”….
I was in a very dark place recently. And while in this “condition”, many things happened. Mostly, I was mourning the loss of my husband, remembering the months we spent in the hospital, worrying that I will forget his wonderful qualities, wondering if I will ever come out of my grief. Have I made a single step forward? I often feel stagnant, boxed in by a very narrow vision of my self.
When I started this blog, I didn’t know what I was doing, or why. Stuff was just pouring out of me. It had to come out. But not without some trepidation, about sharing publicly. Worried that no one would read it, worried that anyone would read it. When I got my first follower, I had a panic attack. Then, as others started following, I got even more confused. Why are they even reading this dark shit? I haven’t posted anything funny for weeks! And why do I even feel the need to be funny? This is a blog about loss. Again…what am I doing? Why?
I’m really not a glass-half-empty kind of girl. At least I don’t think I am. I’m mildly cynical, but not a complete cynic. I would call my attitude and approach toward life somewhat “wry”. It always has been. I know there is “good” and “bad”. There are times when life is funny, and times when life sucks. Last year, was a year of suck. Starting right at the beginning of January when my dad died, leading into the next months, when we found out my husband had terminal cancer. Then in May, he died, too.
Whoah. Wait. Wait just a minute. Did that really fucking happen? ? ? ?
That is one of the many things that grief does to you. It blankets you in a bubble of disbelief. But this bubble is very important. A crucial, though incredibly thin membrane, that allows you to continue living. Yes, I do mean that. I could not have survived if I wasn’t numbed by my body’s grief mechanisms. But this bubble can be confusing too. You kind of lose sight of who you are. Who you were, before your loss. Who you will become, as you stick your little pinky finger out, through the membrane, poking at the new world. It can start to feel like a prison.
But as I struggled through my grief last week, as the reality of his death became more clear, I also caught some glimpses of myself again, my wry self, in humor, and in darkness. I am pushing against the walls of my grief, and I think I have made some small strides. I need to start counting those steps.
One. I am writing this blog. And I care about it. I even signed up for “Daily Writing Tips”. That is a sign of life, right? That I actually care about grammar, and am trying to improve something? My favorite tip so far, “How to Style Profanity”. Fucking awesome! I’ve attached an image that communicates my thoughts on the topic. It’s called, use a fancy font.
Another sign of life, of my “self”? I laughed at the Jackie Treehorn scene in the Big Lebowski. It’s delightfully unexpected. Clip attached. My humor still seems to be in tact – just not always at the forefront of my grief. Especially because I loved laughing with my husband. No longer having him to laugh with is a huge loss. Laughing often ends with crying, now. But that’s life, right? The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly.
Speaking of which, I also found a card that I have had for years, that really sums up my attitude. “Reaching through the gross to grasp the secret of beauty”.
I am trying to turn this ship around, steering through the dark innards of an ugly year, toward that little “pinhole” of light the end of the tunnel. I am not sure if I am “busy” living, but I am trying, one word, one movie, one breathe at a time, chipping away, like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank. Remember what he crawled through? I’m determined not to become a prisoner of grief or sadness…but also to honor my true self, my beliefs about life, wry as they may be. I am suffering deeply because I loved deeply. It is a path I choose to continue on. Even knowing what I know now, that the most beautiful flower I find, might only live for a season.
P.S. Did you know that dung beetles navigate by the stars?
Shawshank Redemption is on my list of top ten favorite movies. Love every thing about it—the writing, the acting and the casting. I love your daily writing tip. I need to sign up for that and I do see it as a positive sign that you’re starting to care about the “details” of living.
Jean, you can view tips at this website (or sign up for sign up for the newsletter): http://www.dailywritingtips.com/
Out of curiosity, what are some of your other favorite movies?
In Pursuit of Honor, Seven Years in Tibet, Dances With Wolves, A River Runs Through it, A Time to Kill, Birdcage, Legend of Bagger Vance, and Shawshank Redemption are my all-time favorites. Currently, I’d add P.S. I Love You because of the widow theme. Thanks for the web address for the writing tips.
the part of your post about forgetting an ugly year reminds me of this song:
it came to me as a pleasant surprise on a mixtape made by a friend a couple years ago. last year when i would listen to it, some of the lyrics would stand out to me as being very important in the future after the deaths were all over. maybe it might make you smile, too. the video is weird, not sure if i love it or hate it.
Thanks for sharing! I like it. Even the video,(the party at the end is a little odd), but I kind of wish I had a smiley robot that would accompany me, and I could introduce him as my sidekick, grief….he’s gonna’ be hanging around for while during this terrible year…
that would be nice, huh? i’m partial to robots in general.
Bender in Futurama was one of my favorite robots…
You do not at all sound like a prisoner of grief here. You’re in it. You’re moving through it. It’s where you are, it’s not who you are. The tunnel in Shawshank Redemption illustrates it.
Don’t worry about your tone, and please don’t think your audience expects you to be funny. There is so much beauty here, in the midst of this real heartbreak.
By the way, thanks for the photo of the dungbeetle. Daughter and I treated ourselves to breakfast this Saturday morning…and found ourselves trapped in the restaurant for an hour and a half. We bided our time with a tumblr of nature documentary gif’s. We were entranced by the dung beetle gif, with a dung beetle rolling down a sand dune with a…ball of sand? And here you have a photo of it.
Thank you so much for sharing this!
I love the: “Reaching through the gross to grasp the secret of beauty” quote. SO TRUE! So much of what you said in this post resonates strongly with me.
I have only lost one parent this year and without meaning to upset you… the thought of losing my husband too at this stage is simply unbearable. I’m so sorry this is what has happened to you, but I also want to say that part of my purpose for writing a blog about grief is to share that humour and humanity that doesn’t just disappear and I guess, to show that while the going remains hard (and yes I too have the ‘Did that really fucking happen???’ moments frequently!), we can work through and eventually get through our tragedies.
Reading material like your blog (although I hadn’t yet discovered it at the time) as my mother was dying, gave me the strength to know I could get through what was to come and reading your blog now, after she has gone, gives me further reassurance that not only are there similar minded souls out there dealing with bereavement in similar ways to myself, but also that should even worse happen to me in the coming weeks, months, years, decades, as it has to you, I will be able to take a leaf from your book and keep going. Thank you for that.
Would you mind if I re-blogged this post on my blog??
Sorry, it takes me a while to respond to comments! I am still very much a distracted person. Thank you for your comment, it really does help to know that by sharing, we can help others. There were several blogs that helped me during some very dark hours, and they weren’t necessarily about the same kind of loss. When we share in our grief, it helps, and humor is an important part of healing too. I don’t mind at all if you re-blog.
We really have to meet up and and see a movie – you’ve mentioned two of my favorites here. Apart from that, you keep seeming to write exactly what I’m feeling (albeit in a much more eloquent manner).
Yes…if anything strikes our fancy, we should make a movie date. No pressure, though. I’ll still enjoy your movie reviews if you choose to go alone! I am glad that we can find blogs that we relate to in our grief. Yours was one of the first I found, and I don’t think I am in any way more eloquent. I really enjoy your posts and voice.
I can feel the life in this post. The yearning toward living. This is the kind of post that made me sign up for a sailing trip in a rainforest with six strangers (talk about close quarters!) and take a phtography class so I get good photographs of the bears. Getting busy living.
The dung beetle article was fascinating.
Your trip and adventures sound amazing. Very inspiring. How long was your sailing trip?