classical grief.

I could once play this piece by Schubert by memory. Now I can’t, but the point is: once upon a time, I could. Life changes, focus shifts. (I put this first so you can press play and listen to a song of melancholia that will really go well with this blog entry.)

Today I don’t feel like writing anymore. No more blog posts. Maybe it’ll pass. But today I feel like going: this is a bunch of horse crap. Throwing it all away. D O N E. I’m just going to read other people’s writing. No more blogging. No more putting out there all this intimate, personal information about my feelings. First of all, no one really cares. Second of all, it can be used against me. And last, no one actually cares, except my mom and my sister in law and maybe 2 other friends I haven’t managed to alienate. I didn’t and haven’t made any real connections to anyone because of blogging about my inner Me. Oh, wait, that’s incorrect. I did get stalked. I made a connection with a mentally unstable human being with a flaky sense of love.

So obviously I’m going to write a blog entry, now that I’ve just written I don’t feel like writing a blog entry.

Actually, maybe what I’ll do is set up another blog and just write about things that have nothing to do with me. I have friends who write cooking blogs that have more followers and readers than this one which tells me it is quite possible I’m going about this blogging thing all wrong – focus on flippant things, Amy. Focus on THINGS, not emotions or internal struggles.

image source: http://www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org

The Kubler-Ross stages of grief. You go through them, not step by step, but like a manic ping pong ball. You get stuck in phases and can’t find your way out. I’m back in the anger phase now with one foot, an arm, and a kneecap in the depression phase, I don’t know if you can tell or not. Let me process this and live out loud for you:

Denial – I think all last summer was denial. I lived off my credit card for cash flow, trying to pretend all that had changed was my address. Now I could do what I wanted, go where I wanted, be with whoever I wanted but everything else was the same. I frolicked with things that were completely inappropriate for me. I am still frolicking with some of these things, because this is just what I do. And some of these things are now part of my grieving process, too. I am grieving my marriage, my old life, and some other things now. If Summer 2015 is my Summer of Denial, Summer 2016 will be my Summer of Reckoning, I believe. But from the Denial angle.

Anger – Oh, the Anger Phase and I are becoming very good friends. Anger likes me best when I brood. And I like Anger best when it helps me judge others. We’re a team, Anger and I. A team of indignant, how-could-you?! tag team of infuriated tears.

Bargaining – Cannot tell you how long Bargaining and I have been flirting. Bargaining tells me if I just look at this situation this way, then it’ll be fine. Or if I just do THIS, it’s totally cool. Maybe if I stop caring so much about this thing over here, I’ll let go of all that judge-y thinking. But this is totally acceptable, because of this other thing here. Bargaining and I have been having a most indecent and vulgar affair, Internet. For YEARS. Don’t tell Anger, or there will be a gigantic blow up of enormous irate proportions.

Depression – oh, Depression. You come to me every night, and make love to me in ways Denial, Anger, and Bargaining never could. We are more than just lovers; we are soul mates. We understand each other in ways the other Three Stages never will. We’ve known each other for eternities, it feels like. Melancholy soul pains are things I’m very familiar with, since childhood.

(Once, I woke from a nap and couldn’t find my mother anywhere in the house. I located a picture of her – her smiling high school senior photograph, I think – and wailed in agony over it…my mother had left, probably died, and now I would be alone for the rest of my life, at just 5 years old. I walked out to the garage, clutching my mother’s picture to my chest for dear life, and my father – cleaning something in the garage – asked what was wrong. I said dramatically, “Mommy died and I will miss her forever.” And my father said, grumpily, “What?? Your mother just went to the grocery store. She’ll be back in about 3o minutes. Go find something to do.” Oh, I really miss my father’s no-nonsense approach to drama queenery.)

Acceptance – I don’t know you yet, Acceptance. I’ve heard lots of good things about you, though. Only positive things. You’re so happy. You’re not perfect by any means, but you’re calm and peaceful and really just a lovely place to hang out. You still have some melancholy, and a lot of ick about whatever you’re grieving, but you’re generally quite awesome. A blue little island in a red churning sea of yuck.

I’m just taking stock of where I’ve been vs. where I am now. On the one hand, it’s summer. It’s been sunny, consistently, for over a week now. Cannot tell you how much that helps with my inner ick. On the other hand, I’m having to let go of some things that have really been important to me over the last year, but without losing the core of the things themselves, and that’s hard and sending me through the Kubler-Ross stages. And I’m at a fork in the road. I think I’m slowly coming to a resolution with that, but crap that’s going to be hard too. I think of all the grief stages, if I had to pick one to hang out in for an indefinite amount of time, I’d pick the Denial stage. Denial is fun, because you can pretend everything’s fine and nothing is different.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve moved far beyond the Denial stage. It’s in my rear view mirror, a tiny dot on the horizon I’ve left behind. Now I’ve got Depression riding shotgun while Anger and Bargaining bicker in the backseat about who gets to ride upfront next. Acceptance refuses to ride with any of us – it says we’re all insane and it’s got better things to do.

Most people, most good people who know a lot of the details of my story, say: be patient. Work through it. It’ll come. And so I am. I promise I am. I am being patient. I am trying to work through it. I am trying not to alienate too many people, and beg for forgiveness when I do.

But I will confess (since this isn’t an arts-and-crafts-focus-only blog…YET): I am not a patient person. I took piano lessons when I was growing up, and I remember how frustrated I’d get with the scale practicing – what’s the point?? My Cuban piano teacher Ileana, raised in Havana and taught in a music conservatory where they were brainwashed into believing Castro was the planet’s savior and she had nothing nice to say about THAT, told me scales build stamina, and stamina builds skill, and skill builds good art. I suppose she was right. And therein lies my problem: stamina. I got skill. But I lack stamina.

When I met Ileana, I’d been learning piano in a church basement from a lady who taught me pop songs like You Light Up My Life. Then she retired and Ileana auditioned to be our teacher (there was group of about 5 children the retired pop song piano teacher left in a lurch and the parents hired Ileana because she had amazing credentials and was willing to teach in our homes). Each summer, Ileana came to me with four large and impossible pieces of music by masters most people who knew better would be terrified to play. I didn’t know any better; I just thought they were songs. I remember she tried to pick up where the church lady had left off, with pop songs…but her heart just wasn’t in it. She was classically raised and trained, so that’s what I learned – I am a classically trained (former) pianist, taught to play the masters by someone who never questioned that I couldn’t do it. Anyone can play the masters, if you break it up into small pieces, was Ileana’s philosophy. And so I’d be given pieces by Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Grieg, Tchaikovsky…at one point, I could play – by heart – at least one piece by all of these people. (Now, of course, it’s been years and years since I sat at a piano and I can barely pick out Chopsticks.)

Oh my god, the frustration I’d feel at her teaching technique and expectations: Czerny scales, for at least 30 minutes. Up and down, down and up, the piano. And then to the four pieces we were focusing on for the year: she broke them up measure by measure. First we’d learn these five measures on the left hand. And then we’d learn the right hand’s five measures. And then we’d put those five measures together, both hands. For 30 minutes each day, I was to practice ONLY these five measures on my left hand. Then when Ileana was satisfied they’d been mastered, I could do the right hand’s five measures ONLY, 30 minutes a day. Until the master was satisfied.

For someone like me, this was excruciating. I just wanted to PLAY. And so I’d sneak and try to play the whole piece, both hands together, before the master said okay. And every single time, damn if Ileana wasn’t onto me. She could totally tell. She was a master, trained by masters, after all.

I feel like the life phase I’m in, and have been in, for the last few years is like this. I am being given scales to practice until my fingers hurt. And then I may only practice THESE five measures until I’ve proven I got it. And okay, now that you mastered that, here are five more. Only these five – don’t work ahead. AND DON’T PUT IT TOGETHER UNTIL I SEE YOU’RE READY, YOU SNEAK.

Meanwhile, Anger/Bargaining/Depression are hanging out behind me bitching about who’s got the best view. And I can SEE Acceptance and all its awesomeness up ahead, but I gotta practice these stupid scales first. Excruciating. For someone like me.

Here. I’m going to finish this up with another piece I could once play by memory. I can’t play Bach by heart anymore, but you know what I can play now? A Czerny etude that I practiced scale by scale, for hours each week. Life foreshadowing. Who knew that would be the focus of my life well into adulthood? Practice, practice, practice. Up and down, down and up.