It’s not dark yet

“There’s not even room enough to be anywhere

Not dark yet,

But it’s gettin’ there…

Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain,

Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain…”  —-Bob Dylan

God, I love that song.  Don’t look up Bob’s version, either.  Look up “Not Dark Yet,” on Youtube, with Alison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynn.  They are INCREDIBLE.

So, warning: this post is probably not a feel-good one, but if you follow along with me you may recognize many of my blog entries are not always mood-lifters.  I process through my writing, and this is what’s in my hot-flash-addled brain these days.  By the way, menopause and masks are not a good combo, in case you were wondering.

Good morning, friends. Today’s post is brought to you not by beer but by coffee.  It’s happened before, believe it or not.  Although I am now reminded of a bottle of coffee porter our friends dropped off the other day that I won’t hesitate to break open.  I never in my wildest dreams would have thought beer and coffee flavors would go together…but trust me, they do.  Porters are roasty and so is good coffee.  Enough said.  There’s also a dark chocolate bar those same friends gave me that would compliment this menu.  A breakfast of champions, right?  Let me just roll my over-caloried  and alcohol soaked self right out of April, where it’s been Groundhog day every day.  Here’s what I’ve become: Get up.  Coffee and toast.  Maybe shower, maybe not.  Maybe change clothes, maybe not.  Check email, Facebook, and current rants about corona. Deal with animals and check for evidence of poop, puke, and pee throughout the house.  Decide what will be for dinner.  Maybe write.   Think about doing zoom yoga and decide not to.  Walk.  Clean, then bake and eat hordes of butter-laden items.  Walk dog.  Check for pee again.  Make dinner and take pictures of dinner.  Dishes.  Drink.  Watch latest shelter-in-place- show, in between checking social media rants again.  Go to bed.

Sound familiar? Many of you are homeschooling and working, in addition to all of this. It’s hard, and so is the relentless monotony.  Also, I’m not joking about the animal excretions part.  Having two geriatric pets guarantees this clean-up is part of my routine now; as is nature’s miracle, Skout’s honor laundry additive, smelly kidney-helpful cat food, homeopathic drops, an extra litter box, pee pads, and arthritis meds.  Scarily,  this is possibly my future, too.  The other day I looked at the dog’s gray hair and bowlegged gait, and I announced to my husband, “Everyone’s old in this house!”  He didn’t disagree.

Most of you have seen those posts, “Take advantage of this new time!  Be at one with your spouse and your cadre of ever-growing children! Play board games and cook eight course meals! Re-evaluate your life, your inner glow, your neglected goals! Be grateful for family!”  I try, I really do.  I’ll bet you’re trying, too.  And I’m already over it, sorry to say.

Having an “empath” personality, which I do, sounds like hippy guru type stuff.  Very in touch with the universe and all that. Which I guess might be true, but it also means it’s extremely difficult to turn the thoughts off:  “I hate what this virus is doing to divide our country even more”, “I hate not seeing my family and friends, and my live music,” “I hate what’s happening to our small businesses,” “I hate that people are in nursing homes all alone,” “I hate that everyone is paralyzed with fear at the idea of touching another person,””I hate that kids are glued to computers more than ever, can’t see their friends, and might be cooped up with maniacal family members…” It goes on and on in a loop.

Sorry.  I did warn you.

It occurred to me that part of the virus-fueled fear I mentioned above, is closely related to our relationship with death. Maybe that sounds too obvious, but what isn’t obvious to many is how unskilled we are at grasping the reality of death happening.  Everything in our culture is geared toward how to stall and prevent it.  I believe the majority of us get a big fat zero at “being comfortable” at the inevitability.  Of course, with good reason.  We’re wired to fight for survival.  The older you get, though, (theoretically), the more at peace with the afterlife one becomes.

I learned so much about death when I took a hospice volunteer training years ago.  This was before I began losing family members in what felt like a three year plague.  When that plague hit I remembered what Hospice taught about dying.  I remembered that it’s natural, that we should take control of the process as much as we can, to see that it happens peacefully and with minimal suffering.  For ourselves, and our loved ones.  I think that’s what’s so terrifying for the world at this point.  A disease like Covid-19 attacks our choices, our say in how to carry on, and how we might die.  My preferred method sure as hell isn’t laying with a ventilator behind a partition, petrified that I might be infecting the nurses taking care of me.  My personal mini-pandemic a few years back resulted in me clarifying what I DIDN’T want for myself when that time came, and to make sure others were aware too.  So when I think about my end I’m not really afraid, unless it’s that above hospital scenario.  If I knew tomorrow would be my last day on earth, there are two things I would regret: missing out on grandparent-hood, and not finishing my #@$damned book.  No pressure on the kiddos, but I hereby put my writer friend Kris in charge of finishing the manuscript if I don’t.  She’d make a fine author.  I might have to will her a lifetime of coffee porters to see it to the finish.

Here’s the eternal, painful, predicament: the deeper the connection, the harder the loss.  But what else would we do?  Not have the experience?  It’s certainly tempting to take a pass after a pet dies.  Who can stand the thought of going through that over and over?  My son and daughter-in-law are in this anguish as I speak.  Yesterday, their kitty of seven years named Beatrice passed away quite traumatically.  Black and white, docile, chubby, and agreeable Bea, with her rotund belly and disproportionately tiny head.  She enjoyed sitting in boxes too small and lounging on the windowsill, but most of all she liked laps with blankets.  Unlike most cats, she was decidedly ungraceful, making us all laugh with her failed attempts to land jumps.  But also unlike a lot of finicky felines, she was cuddly and loving as could be.  As fate would cruelly have it, one minute she was there, the next she was not, and we are all heartbroken.  I can’t stop crying as I think of her, and my daughter-in-law trying to help her.  Although it’s on another level, this kind of jarring loss is comparable to that of a violent crash.  The unexpected shock, vs. the long, downward decline everyone dreads.  And always, always, the question that haunts: was there something else that could’ve been done?  The answer for people who wonder this is almost always no, but asking it means you loved, and you cared.

It hurts.  Living hurts, I guess, if you do it right.

It all stings deeply, whether its the old, young, animal, human, and if the demise is fast or slow.  I feel the effect is magnified during a time when we’re forbidden from having contact except through a screen.  I’m sad in a myriad of ways due to the last couple of months, and although I may want to drink through it, I won’t make the mistake of clamping down or denying it, and you shouldn’t either.  Why are the tears we shed from an onion chemically different than ones shed from grief?  There’s a reason why God made us in this fashion.  Not to be overly dramatic, but this limbo we are in is like a mourning, and we should treat it as such.  It’s when we wallow endlessly and obsess in our despair that we need a change to take place.

Ready for my one paragraph of positive prose?  I think I detect a pattern in my blog writing.

There is light coming, like shards of sun peeking through the blinds.  Logically, we know this.  Spring is here, and so are the blooms that give us joy.  Babies will be born, kittens and puppies will frolic and be adopted and help heal aching holes, and there are bluebirds nesting in my twenty-something year old box.  Orioles will come to feast on the fruit and grape jelly, dazzling in their orange and black glory.  I have to tell you how much I cherish those birds.  In elementary school, my son Danny brought home a mother’s day card with the word mother in an acronym. The other words for the letters were typical adjectives describing me, clearly suggested by a teacher.  With one exception.  For the E in mother, he wrote, “E is for eager to see oreal birds.”  I was so glad his teacher never corrected his spelling, making it that much dearer.  And never have I been more eager to hear their lovely warbling than I am right now.

Along with nature, in the coming months some shops and pubs will emerge unscathed, while delicious beer will be made, and concerts will be held again.  We will get to kiss and hug without personal protection equipment, and even if so and so says we shouldn’t yet, I will do it anyway.

I’ll be okay.  I’m even going camping this weekend, where 6 feet away friends and a campfire await.  It’s not dark yet.  And that was more than one paragraph of good news.

Cheers, friends. Until we can meet in person, send a little love or good vibes toward the famed rainbow bridge that just welcomed another furbaby, and the two humans who loved her the most.  Rest in peace, sweet Bea.