photo by  Kate Inglis

photo by Kate Inglis

Hello, Darkness, my old friend. You've come to sit with me again.

Except this is not darkness—I can see just fine. This thing is cold, tight-gripped, and weirdly paralyzing, channeling all the energy I have into racing thoughts and fidgeting extremities, leaving next to nothing for useful productive things. This is anxiety, and it is here, again, to remind me that A's birthday is coming up. As if I need reminding.

It comes on way back in December, around the time the fall semester ends. Pinpricks at first, warning shots. I'm coming, they say, and you'd better not be planning to accomplish much in the next while. As New Year draws closer, the grip tightens. One month, New Year's Eve whispers, one month exactly. This pisses me off—New Year's Eve is a big deal in the Old Country, and I want to be enjoying it. Tick tock, it replies, unmoved, one month. There is distance between me and everyone else at the party.

I miss my son. I miss him always. It is a fact of life, not new or exciting. In other news, water is wet and sky is blue. But January is sharper than other times, more in my face. The ache is more physical and more illusory all at once. We're coming up on nine years. Imagining nine is blowing my mind.

It's exhausting, the grief season. Laundry, cooking, shopping, shlepping-- the daily tasks still have to get done. And tomorrow the new semester starts, with student names to learn, classes to prepare, work to grade. All while the thoughs race and the extremities fidget, and the heart aches. January rolls on, counting out the steps, and I roll with it, trying to be gentle with myself, trying.

I know all the major stops on the route. Whatever happens from year to year, I know which days are likely to sting, which are going to be bittersweet, and which are packing a punch. There is a secret shelter, too, that I've fashioned myself along this route, two and a half days where sheer busyness and exhaustion make everything else take a break.

Over the last several years I've stepped up to take a bigger and bigger role in running a chunk of an annual event, and as it became more and more of an all-encompassing thing for that weekend, I've come to appreciate the opportunity to take a little break from January. Friday is all about prep, and Saturday and Sunday makes for a double marathon of 18 hour days. When the days are a non-ending series of concrete tasks, and when every last bone in your body feels too tired to function, but you have to function anyway, anxiety has to step off. Not a sustainable strategy to be sure (especially since feeling all the feels is a big grief commandment for me), but a needed breather.

I'm past my shelter now, rejoining January, already in progress. I'm back with the whole bloody gamut of emotions. I understand that each of them is a reflection of a different facet of my love for my son, and so I own them-- this is the way it goes. Though I still wish anxiety would bugger off. The anniversary, the birthday, they are just around the next bend in this road. Ready or not, here they come. But I think I'm ready.


How does your grief season go? How do you deal?