Running ahead of the storm

When I came home in mid-February, I was exhausted but optimistic. Marmeee was okay, for a couple years at least, probably. The Old Buzzard was losing his marbles but at a rate of only two or three a week, and his Alzheimer’s medication had transformed him into a happier, pleasanter person than he’d been in years. It was good to be back in Washington, and not too painful to be gone from my people in South Africa.

It didn’t matter that we were seven weeks into the year. I named 2016 My Year Of Reclamation, convinced that 10-and-a-bit months was all I needed to finally, at last, once and for all, turn my life around. This was the year I would have a productive vegetable garden, get serious about training Argos the Madcap Malinois, lose weight, start riding again, get our finances under control, and clean my house from top to bottom and end to end. I had a great idea for a series of fun, lightweight (but, of course, also thought-provoking) novels and I was going to start writing every day, and make money from it. And blogging. I promised myself I’d start blogging regularly every week about my fascinating life and amazing insights – you know.

collapsing like a house of cards
House of cards. (Source)

Yeah. That was the plan. I even signed up for Evernote and started a whole new super-efficient system of to do lists.

Plans are like card houses. You build them ever so carefully, handling each card with the most delicate touch as you add it to the structure. And then someone opens a window and a draft blows in and all your cards go flying.

So here it’s the end of July, and I’m looking back at the year to date and shaking my head and wondering what the fuck happened. I have been in such a horrible funk! I’ve been gobbling my way through books, most of them lightweight, easy reading or stuff I’ve read before – because even the most two-dimensional borrowed life has been more appealing than the one I’m living. I’ve been eating way too much crap, and suffering the usual consequences. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep, and when I do I wake up tired.

Depression? Well yes, but I’ve had reasons to feel sorry for myself, even without tripping over the Trump of Doom or Shillary every damn time I log onto my computer. (Seriously, America? I cannot believe that’s the best we can do!)

First, in February I accidentally overstayed my US passport’s welcome in South Africa by a whole 22 hours, and was declared an Undesirable Person and forbidden to return in under 12 months.

So then I tried to renew my South African passport, and learned that I had accidentally forfeited my South African citizenship by becoming an American citizen. I’m still trying to figure out why this was devastating, apart from the practical difficulty it caused. As someone who fears and distrusts the patriotic impulse, I should simply shrug it off with a casual “Whateverrr” … but in fact I feel robbed, and also homeless, and I’m sorry but the Land of the Free just can’t get my heart soaring the way it does under an African sky.

Then my precious Marmeee went into a downward spiral. Just before I left South Africa the oncologist told her she probably had a couple years to live … but apparently without me there to keep reminding her of this and force-feeding her chocolate milkshakes, she just … got tired, I guess. And then she died. And because of the bloody bullshit with my passport, I couldn’t be there to hold her hand. I know this was a “God thing” – I’ll explain why in another post (probably) – but it still aches.

I did manage to get through the border in time to help with her memorial and to figure out What To Do With Increasingly Dotty Dad, but while there I got sick with a deathwish-inducing flu that I didn’t shake for nearly a month. It made the 25 hour trip back a lot of fun.

Before I left we got the Old Buzzard into a home – a pleasant, homey sort of place – but instead of continuing to dole out his marbles one or two at a time he started throwing them away by the fistful. In a matter of months he went from affectionate, forgetful and occasionally grumpy, to aggressively uncooperative, to unwilling to walk and unable to speak coherently. He died a couple weeks ago. I’m not going back for the memorial, which is this coming Saturday … there’s no point, really. Today I have to write a tribute to go into the order of service, and I have no idea what to say.

I haven’t been able to grieve either of them. And mixed up in all that unexpressed grief is another deep sadness over the loss of my brother. He’s still walking around, breathing, saying things to people … but somewhere in the middle of everything else that’s been going on I learned that he hated me, has hated me for more than 30 years, has badmouthed me to people I care about – and they believed him. His claims about the way I treated him, his perceptions of who I am, have been woven into the fabric of our family dynamic – and until a few months ago I had no idea of it because the one person he never spoke to about it was me. I learned that the man I thought he was didn’t exist, the relationship I thought we had was a figment of my imagination. He has morphed from the sibling I loved most deeply and missed most painfully (even while he made my eyes roll) into The Stranger. Even if the latest nastiness “blows over”, the kind of confidence borne within mutual affection is gone. Trust is broken, and the loss feels like a death.

Sailboat in front of a tsunami
Fleeing the tsunami. (Source)

So grieving has become complicated, and I’m trying to stay ahead of it for now. Every now and then I feel tears starting to well up, but … I’m so busy, you know? If I could run away for a few days, just me and my dog, maybe then … but right now my to do list is simply too long. I don’t have the time – I don’t have the capacity – for a tsunami.

Oh – and I nearly forgot: earlier this month the Hubbit broke his arm. He tripped over his own feet, but of course he blamed my dog. Then he insisted he didn’t need xrays, didn’t need to see a doctor – so of course he ended up needing surgery. And bad tempered? Let me tell you, my guy is a generous fellow. When he’s in pain, he shares it. We all get some. So even though I got to say “I TOLD YOU SO” on several satisfying occasions, life would have been better if he’d managed to stay vertical.

Oy … this post has turned into quite the pity party. I’m sorry about that. I’ve been gone for a while, and I thought some sort of explanation was in order.

Also, here’s the thing – and I need to write this down so that I can come back as often as necessary and read it: I know that tsunami is coming. I know I can’t escape it. But I am reclaiming my faith in God – not that I lost it, but I’ve been angry, confused and resistant. I lost myself for a while. That book series I mentioned? It still looks promising, and every day I see my heroine more clearly. I like her a lot and hope you will too, when I set her loose upon the world. And the weeds didn’t completely win in my veggie garden this year. I’ve found tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and onions lurking out there.

As for right now this minute … I’m here, right? I’m blogging, aka writing. I’m not sure why that matters, but it does. It gives me hope.

In other words, to hell with the funk – this is still My Year of Reclamation.

So … how’s your summer going?


Author: Belladonna Took

Well into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, perpetually at risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic.

28 thoughts on “Running ahead of the storm”

  1. Wow, that is a lot of loss compacted in a short time period, it sounds like. Writing about it is probably the best thing you could do.

    Grieving is a complicated and varied concept. My dad died when I was 19 and in college. I didn’t bother to take the time to grieve, because my life was exciting and really just getting going. When my mother died 46 years later, I went to a hospice grief group. Who do you think I talked about? Right, my dad. It took me that long to have my catharsis about my anger at him for leaving me too soon.

    Good luck with the reclamation. And no, apparently, America cannot do any better than this. What a sad state of affairs.


    1. Hey, Al, good to hear from you. Yes … it feels strange to be mostly quite cheerful, talking about my Mom as though tra la, she’s dead, no big deal. More complicated with my Dad because we didn’t have a great relationship. I’m focusing, on the one hand, on giving myself permission to feel what I feel and not castigate myself for not feeling “enough”, and on the other hand not giving way to the drag of depression.

      As for politics … oy. Interesting times. I’m going for Gary. Who knows … maybe with both parties presenting such appalling offerings, we can finally open the door to a strong and viable third party.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You deserve a huge wave of sympathy for that pain.

    Well, what you say about cards and plans, I think of about about people – rebuilding foundations on shaking ground, scraping away the debris from previous collapses and trying again with magic glue to stick another building together.


    1. Thanks, David. Kind sympathy appreciated!

      Interesting what you say about people. I hadn’t thought about relationships in quite that way but yes, you’re right, it can be a lot like that.


  3. I bought some kohlrabi at the farmer’s market last weekend – I can stick googly-eyes in one if you want to wear it on your head 😀

    You’ve had a lot of pain descend on you in a short amount of time, but you’re still here, alive and kicking (and blogging) – that’s something.

    And although my spiritual ways walk different paths than yours, remember that life is like the forge, and God is your blacksmith – the fires of trial and error anneal the steel, make it stronger, sharper, more beautiful, and ready to transcend a single lifetime. You’ve a beautiful soul already, Bella – these struggles will only make you more so.

    Sending big, snuggly cyber-hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, bless you, Peg! That is such an encouraging thing to say – and you’re right; He’s the potter and I’m the clay, He’s the silversmith and I’m the silver – and His work involves fire. I do hope the end result will be something that gives Him pleasure! In the meantime, yes please, a kohlrabi hat with googly eyes sounds perfect!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My friend, my heart goes out to you. It sounds like you are going through so much right now and life is justifiably difficult! I’m sorry about the loss of your parents and I’m also very sorry about the loss of the relationship you thought you had with your brother. All losses are hard, no matter when they happen but to have all of this at once is just so much to handle!
    Sending you love and hope for an easier tomorrow.


  5. Oh, Val, so much here. So glad you are writing again. I so get what you mean about how the different griefs – all three of them. Love and strength as you deal with all of this and reclaim what you wish. And right now, it’s winter, here….. 😉


    1. Hey, Fiona! Yes, winter there, and quite the heat wave here. I’m not complaining, though. Winter will come soon enough – and, having spent last Christmas in SA I haven’t really had winter for too long!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m in a very similar place right now, so I get your pain. I so wanted 2015 to be over, but oh boy – 2016 is the year from hell… A series of betrayals, family issues, bad news and more bad news. I keep sane by writing, drawing, riding, spending time with grandkids and my dog. It’s a survival game. Loss hurts, and so do all the country issues… But we have to believe the wheel will turn. Xxx


  7. Funk, and far more than a funk, seems eminently deserved, at this point. Not to make this all about me (which, though, aren’t all things??) but I have been thinking about you, wondering how you were doing — and I am glad for this update, much as my heart hurts for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow. This has been a hard year, and so many points of loss. I’m glad that you’re writing again. I’ve missed your posts. I’ve been wondering about your mom recently, and praying for you all. I am so grateful that you can hold onto your faith in this. It’s hard with wave after wave hitting you. May you feel your angels supporting you as each wave crashes, and helping you get through to the calm at the end of the storm. Blessings to you always.


  9. So so glad you are writing my friend. So walked the road with you here in SA and so understand the pain. Every time I wear one of your Moms scarves it brings a pain right under my right breast. So glad your Dad left us before we had to see him as I saw and nursed my Mom. It was grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Goodness – I didn’t know about your dad. Mine died in 2011 and I still haven’t grieved so I can understand now you feel and why you didn’t come back for the memorial. As for your brother, I am shocked. You were always so supportive of him and positive about him.The Living Dead hit us hardest of all..


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