The number of times in the last decade when I though that if I stopped concentrating I would collapse into a puddle of my own pain, hurt and frustration is uncountable.
But whenever I faced another crisis that affected the people around me — my father, my mother, my sister — I knew I had to stand and take charge. I learned to be the carer early, animated by love and by duty.
Inside, though, was the puddle. And now, all that huge, buried reservoir lies just under my skin, ready to be tapped at any time. I may have my strength back, as much as possible after my neglect of my own health, but there is so much swirling underneath, sloshing about in a way that always threatens to knock me off my tortured feet.
All I need to see is that southern peaches are back in season, at .98 cents a pound and all those peaches I peeled and cut and took to the hospital, day after day, week after week, month after month come back to me, the duty and the love, of course, but also the exhaustion, frustration, fear, pain, stress, and damage are also right there, in that peach that needs to be bought and left to ripen, like my feelings.
Draining that reservoir is very challenging. I haven’t yet been able to crystallize it nicely in finely pointed text, haven’t been able to take that massive narrative full of moments of abject love and horror and turn it into prose.
I have searched for bereavement groups, but their experience mostly isn’t of the kind of stress I took holding up a family through tremendously trying times. They have lost loved ones, yes, but they didn’t end up taking the burden in nearly the same way. And if people who have had loss can’t come near this raw lava from inside, then what hope do I have of anyone who hasn’t gone through this understanding? The obligation to package it in a digestible way just seems awesome and awful, seems less than useful to help me process and unpack that huge vat that threatens to unend me.
And so, I know that puddle I wanted to turn into last year, so many times, is still in me, big and wet and messy and hurting, always threatening any balance. I kept the outside together for my family, to do the work required no matter how much it cost me, but my family in many ways didn’t do their part in keeping it together for me.
There is no place for me to turn into a puddle, like Odo in the arms of Lwaxana. “Shouldn’t I have all of this and passionate kisses, passionate kisses from you?”
A puddle, a sea, all wet, if I stop concentrating.