Finding my way through the grief and the grace

An old friend of mine denounced Facebook for paragraphs and a different kind of online presence from the sort we carefully (if subconsciously) curate for family and friends.  He and I were friends from the internet before this one, where we wrote long journal entries that grappled with our emerging adulthoods. I marvel sometimes at just how much I wrote back then–and though we are always performing our identities, whether at work, in bed, on Facebook, or in these other quieter pockets of the internet, I also marvel at how candid I was.  I wrote about my identity, my heartbreaks, my financial fears, my mother’s mental illness, my difficult relationship with my dad.  Not a lot was off limits, and in retrospect I’ve thought that perhaps I could have been a little less vulnerable.  Still–it seems remarkable, the record I kept of that time.

My friend, with whom I’d had a long and affectionate email correspondence for many years, stopped and rested at my home for a day or so in the summer of 2005 while he was driving across North America.  I was teaching then, and I had stopped writing so publicly online.  I wrote behind a locked Livejournal account from time to time, but I tried to obscure my old website and remove myself from Google searches.

While he was visiting me, my brother died.  This was certainly a defining moment in my life, one that has rippled into the work I do and the sense I make of a world that is nonsensical with both grief and grace.  He went on his way, and we buried my brother, and I only fell apart after all the visitors left my home.  My partner at the time gently suggested that I find my way the way I always had: by writing.  And so I did, for a bit.  I revived my old website (by then, perhaps, I called it a “blog”) and I wrote.

I wrote my way through it, and then I stopped.  It was what I needed to do.  My life changed, and the internet changed, and everything was Facebook (poor Livejournal still languishes!), and there wasn’t the same safe zone to be vulnerable.  Sometimes I still offer thoughts on Facebook, but I feel so exposed that I frequently delete them within the hour.  I briefly participated in some group blogging efforts with my beloved and his crowd, but we all got busy–and while I loved the chance to write again, it felt more performative than cathartic.

Lately, I have been thinking of coming back here to write, and my friend’s blog may have just given me the push that I needed.  Part of it is that my job has become blessedly less intense than it has been for the past few years, and writing is a joy of my life that I’ve just missed.

But the bigger reason is that I found out that my father has a terminal cancer diagnosis, and writing is how I find my way through the grief and the grace.  He told me about a month ago that the doctors have given him a prognosis of six to twelve months to live.  It has been easy and comfortable to be a social worker for my family, to draw up a case management plan, to start managing logistics, to check in on the holistic health picture, to keep the pulse on the Family System.  It has been harder for me to let go of that clinical role and be the eldest daughter of my dying father.  Maybe this is where I can do that.

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