Flood

25 09 2013

“Grief is a powerful river in flood. It cannot be argued or reasoned or wrestled down to an insignificant trickle. You must let it take you where it is going. When it pulls you under, all you can do is keep your eyes open for rocks and fallen trees, try not to panic, and stay face up so you will know where the sky is. You will need that information later. Eventually, its waters calm and you will be on a shore far from where you began, raw and sore, but clean and as close to whole as you will ever be again.” – Rhonda Riley, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

Grief is an odd, powerful, and universal thing.  For once it isn’t me I’m thinking about.  (I know, right?  I’m as shocked as you are.) And it’s entirely possible that my mad skillz in grief management are making me think that every time someone is upset or worried or angry, it must be some form of grief in action.  Nonetheless, I continue.  Ahem.

I’m fairly active in the blogging community on Shakesville.  Some days it’s profound, some days silly.  The last few days I’ve been following the postings of a woman who lost her cat.  Literally lost her cat… he left home and didn’t come back.  She is understandably heartbroken.  And she is also, in the way of so many grieving people, chiding herself for feeling so sad, for not taking better care of herself so that she doesn’t feel this way.

Grief sucks.  It sucks hard.  It is demanding and squats in the middle of your life howling for attention.  And you can ignore it for short periods; denial is in fact an outstanding short-term coping mechanism.  But long term?  It follows you from room to room and howls more loudly until you finally have to address it.  It won’t actually devour you.  But it sure seems like it will.  Sometimes it’s easier to let the sadness tip over into anger, rather than feel that inexorable gray emptiness of grief.

My son is dealing with problems at work, the unsettling part of early career when you realize that your expectations exceeded reality.  There’s plenty of talk about this in the media, as there is every few years when someone decides to write yet another fresh new outlook about Kids Today!  They expect everything handed to them!  Unlike the sober and clear-eyed workhorses of our generation.

That’s not entirely the kind of expectations I’m talking about.  I’m talking about my son’s expectation that people in the workplace would be grown-ups, that they would behave in professional and adult manners.  Most people do.  But he’s finding the people that don’t, and also finding that corporate and management motivations are sometimes not what they claim to be.  It’s a crushing discovery for every new generation, when they were raised by parents who taught them to play fair, tell the truth, and apologize when you’re wrong.  Most corporations have some variety of core values that always, always include that kind of integrity.  I’ve been at this long enough to know that those core values aren’t rock solid.  My son?  He’s still seeing it all for the first time and it is a huge disappointment to him.

It shows as anger and frustration with his workplace.  But I think it also carries loss with it – you had in your head that life was a certain way, and now surprise!  It really isn’t that way at all, and you have to build a new model.  As they called it after my husband died, it’s the New Normal.  I loathe the New Normal.  I liked the Old Normal.  And in my son’s case, this is all hitting right around the anniversary of his father’s death, and I think that it’s all tangled together in a sticky mess.

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