Remembering Doria

One Father's Journey after the Death of his Daughter

The Second Semester A.D.

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I mentioned in yesterday’s entry that there are more coming. I feel a binge coming, because I have a bunch of entries stored up. At least that’s some kind of warning.

Life after Doria is hard. There’s no real way to mince words on that. Life also goes on. This semester was all about learning how to get that done, or at least to learn more about it. After a lifetime addicted to taking on challenges, some for great reasons and some for stupid ones, I can say that I have never seen a greater challenge than this past semester.  Without a doubt, these past few months were the hardest ones that I’ve ever seen. It really did get worse before getting better. 

People talk about the mood swings that come with grief. They are telling the truth, and probably politely underselling it. They talk about the lack of concentration, and they are dead on. They talk about wanting to stay clear of people, and they hit that target. They talk about a fear that things won’t go well, almost a paranoid state, and they have that right, too. All of that happens, all at once. It’s quite overwhelming. 

Nothing goes right, but things go on. The trick for me has been learning how to work through them. That work is in progress, but it’s starting to happen. I don’t want to suggest that this is some magic key to victory, because that’s an impossible promise, and victory isn’t secured yet. It’s simply on the way, but looking very promising. This is just where I’m at right now.

Professionally speaking, my main skills went south. I couldn’t read or write anymore. The first time I tried to do something new, I went into a panic. I got jittery. I moved the mouse 1000 times an hour. I opened and closed things faster than Sheldon Cooper could pretend to read them. I started to breathe really quickly. The heart stayed OK and all, but my brain may as well have grown wings and flown around the room. It wasn’t doing me any good at home in my skull. 

It took a while but I learned a couple things that helped me:

1. I had to pause and notice that it was coming. If I started to fly around with the mouse, I needed to step away from it for a few minutes. Since my breath was racing at the same time, I needed to take some time just to breathe and calm down. I got my thoughts sort of together (and that’s a big win at that point). When I started to calm down, I could think logically about what needed to happen. I could put a couple of simple steps together and prepare to start. And I could pray. I started by praying right away, but I was so frantic that the battle was already over, and it became a self-defeating exercise, and led to more panic. So I got things under control, had some quiet time where I could actually focus on praying, and then focus on the work ahead, and things got started.

2. I needed something to tune out the background noise. I share an office with about a dozen wonderful people. They’re great, but they’re young, and they’re loud. I got some bright red headphones to block out the noise and play some Southern Gospel music. It took away the distraction and added something much better. Then I could read, and have that bright red “I’m doing something” symbol out there. It could sound rude, but it had to happen. It was better than failing every day.

3. I needed a plan. I’ve always been governed by plans, schemes, and structures. I needed something to hold things together, along with a willingness to see the plan fail and accept that things weren’t falling apart. They were just normal. Plans fail. That’s usually been OK to me, but I had to relearn it again. Relearning that was good. I had to be careful with the plan, because I had to take into account my actual abilities. I’ve been used to reading a book every day, and that makes grad school fun for me. I’m not back there yet. I’m getting dangerously close, but I’m not there. I had to relearn what realistic planning meant, and I’m going to be relearning that for a while as I get back into shape. 

None of that made things perfect. Let me be clear on that. It’s not perfect, but it did get things done. As I look at the tasks ahead of me, I know again that I can do them. I can read and understand things. I can write about them. There’s improvement to be made on both of those things, but I’m getting better at them. That’s nice. 

 

After looking, this is where I think I’m getting stronger right now:

1. I can do things. That’s so much better.

2. I seem much less convinced of failure. I see success happening, and more on the way. That’s very much better.

3. I can do things, focus on them, and enjoy them again. 

Since this isn’t a perfect stage, but a growth stage, where I’m not so strong:

1. New directions. If you ask me to do something I’m less familiar with, expect a blank and vacant stare. I will have no idea what you’re talking about, and probably not why.

2. My memory is stronger, but it’s nowhere near what I’m used to it being, or thinking it is. I forget stuff, and I forget a lot of stuff. I have to plan in much more detail because I can’t fully trust my memory yet. It fails at embarrassing and comedic times. 

3. I still want more of my energy back. I grew used to 16-18 hour rampages, and I can’t do anything near that yet. I’m not sure that the old timeframe is realistic, because it really wasn’t realistic before, but I want to get closer to it.

4. I don’t have my speed back, either. I’m rebuilding skills, but that takes time. I see the victory growing and growing, but I see so much more room for it. As kind of a perfectionist, it’s tough to wait, but I can’t force it to go faster. But if I could……

Life after Doria is tough. The second semester was much worse than the first, but the finish was so much stronger and sweeter than the first. The biggest lesson of this semester really has to be that the valley experience had to happen. There isn’t any way around that on the road of suffering, and that ends up to be a good thing. It sure isn’t good in the middle, but it gets to be something like better. Eventually. After it hurts like crazy. They both have to happen.

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