It’s that time of the month when I need to check-in with myself again.
Me: In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, what’s goin’ on?
Lar: Been feeling kind of shitty lately. You?
Lar: Makes sense.
Me: What’s happening brother?
Lar: Can you turn off Marvin Gaye mode for a moment?
Me: Sorry, dude.
Lar: I’ve just been feeling overwhelmed. It’s not one thing, it’s everything that’s happening and not happening.
Me: What do you mean?
Lar: I don’t know. I thought the grief thing was going to get easier. Not easy—never easy—but easier. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? Time heals and all that garbage.
Me: Well, it really hasn’t been a lot of time, Lar. And I hate to tell you this, but grief lasts a lifetime.
Lar: I know. Maybe I just thought there would be less pain by now. I’m still so damn sad most of the time. Since Rob died, there’s been no joy. I’m distracted even when I’m in the middle of something that’s supposed to be a distraction. Playing tennis has stopped being fun. Nothing tastes good to me anymore. I’m not sure if this is grief or mourning. What’s the difference?
Me: Grief is what you think and feel when someone you love dies. Mourning is more about dealing with the loss. In other words, grief is the beginning of mourning.
Lar: That explains my mourning breath. All I know is that the whole thing fuckin’ sucks.
Me: You’ll figure out a way to tolerate the pain. It never goes away, but neither does your love for Rob. That love never dies.
Lar: I don’t know, man, there are just some days when it all comes crashing down. It’s like an avalanche. It starts quietly with one small thing—the proverbial snowball in hell—and then everything collapses and slides downhill.
Me: You’re talking about the email.
Lar: It’s like you know everything about me! Yes, the email. I was writing to an old friend who I haven’t spoken to in a while, really just doing the networking thing, and then I had to tell him about Rob. And when I typed “Rob died a few months ago” I just began to cry.
Me: It took you by surprise.
Lar: It did. I hadn’t had to tell anyone the news in the past month or so. And I was a total mess for the rest of the day.
Me: You’re still so raw. You cried when Tiger won the Masters.
Lar: When he hugged his son…I still get choked up just thinking about it. And then that same night, I cried again right before the first episode of Game of Thrones.
Me: Because Rob should’ve been sitting there watching it with you.
Me: So what are you doing to help yourself? How do you like our new grief shrink?
Lar: I like Lauren. We connected right from the get-go.
Me: What did you guys talk about in your last session?
Lar: You know. You were there. Sometimes you can be so annoying!
Me: Right back atcha.
Lar: I was telling her about my recent visit with Fleur the psychic/medium and also about chanting.
Me: I’m sorry, who are you again? Have we met before?
Lar: I know, I’ve been living in L.A. too long. We ran out of time before I could tell her all the details about Fleur contacting Rob and what he had to say, and I’ll write more about that experience in the future. But for now, the short version is that Fleur or Rob or whoever it was who was talking from the great beyond said several things that no one else could have possibly known about.
Me: Like you writing a eulogy on the plane to New York and then totally changing it?
Lar: Yes, but more than anything it made me think that maybe there is something about our spirit/soul/energy that continues to exist once we shuffle off this mortal coil. And that made me feel…not good exactly…not comforted…I can tell you all the things it didn’t make me feel…
Lar: Yes, that’s the right word.
Me: Hope is the thing with feathers…
Lar: It’s funny that you said that because Fleur mentioned that Rob wants me to be on the lookout for feathers. It’s a sign that he has come to visit.
Me: Mkay. Let’s talk about chanting. WTF!
Lar: I know, I know.
Me: I just flashed on the Mad Men episode where Paul Kinsey becomes a Hare Krishna.
Lar: It wasn’t like that. I was talking to a friend at the dog park (back when we had a dog) and telling her about losing Rob and how shitty I was feeling, and she confided that her brother committed suicide. A few days later, she brought up chanting and asked if I’d be interested in checking it out.
Me: I have to tell you, it sort of amazed me that you said yes.
Lar: It amazed me too. So I went over to her house last week and she and her husband explained how they came to this particular Buddhist practice, described some of the basic principles and shared personal stories about how chanting changed their lives for the better. After 45 minutes or so, I interrupted and told them that I was having trouble processing everything they were saying. I was less interested in becoming enlightened and more interested in how it would make me feel. I think that’s what I was looking for. To see if there would be any sense of relief.
Me: It’s also about asking for things, isn’t it?
Lar: Yes, but that comes later. We went into the living room and sat down. They handed me a prayer book and a card with the chant written out phonetically. Before long we started to chant: Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. I was nervous that I was gonna screw it up, which I did a bunch of times, but then I sort of figured it out. Near the end of the ceremony, there was a prayer for the deceased and I pictured Rob and began to chant louder, losing myself for just a few seconds really, and then it was over and—spoiler alert—I burst into tears.
Me: Chanting and Tiger Woods. Who the hell are you?
Lar: Well, that’s the point of this story. Lauren asked me if I saw any connection between talking to Rob from the not-being-alive side and chanting. At first, I thought it was just a spirituality thing, which would certainly be different for me, but then she noted that these were things that in the past I would never have considered, much less tried. Could it be possible that I’ve changed since Rob’s death?
Me: In every book I’ve read about grief, there’s a chapter called “Forever Changed” explaining the most obvious thing in the world—that you’re not the same after the loss of a child. No shit, Sherlock. Thanks, Einstein.
Lar: But it’s true. I have changed, in ways that I can’t even describe to you. I’m more forgiving now than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m letting a lot more things slide.
Me: It’s difficult to imagine that something good could come from Rob’s death, but maybe there is.
Lar: I’ve been describing myself as an open wound, but that also means that I’m open. In every meaning of the word. I remember talking to yet another shrink years ago, when Rob first went off the deep end, and telling her how I walk around feeling like a closed fist all of the time. All I want, I told her, is to be able to do this: I then slowly opened my hand.
Me: Rob has broken you open.
Lar: The fuckin’ idiot has.
Me: Coincidentally, I’m reading a book that begins with this quote from Anaïs Nin: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Lar: That beats my fist metaphor. Speaking of quotes, let’s end this 90-day chip celebration with another one from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking: “Everything’s going along as usual and then all shit breaks loose.”
Me: That about sums it up.