In the days following my father’s passing, I was in a complete fog and was fully reliant on people around me to tell me where I needed to be, to feed my children, to make me tea. Now I seem to be in a different phase. I am largely keeping track of my own schedule, although it is somewhat limited right now so I confess it’s not all that difficult. I am feeding my kids, and making all but my first cup of tea for the day. But I feel unease, I would say dis-ease, but it’s not that bad yet. I have this sense that I SHOULD be doing more (there’s that word, the one I was going to UNchoose this year).
If I sit with should, I can give you a fine list of all the things I SHOULD be attending to right now. And I struggle nearly as much with the unease this creates as I do with my own grief. Truth is my body will not have it, will not have me doing more than I can right now. I fall asleep sitting up, typing. I nearly fall asleep at the dinner table. A dear friend reminded me that grief will not be denied; my fatigue tells me this is so. My dear coaching friends remind me that grieving is my job right now. My darling brother asks if people are wearing clothes and if anyone is starving. My sister and I check on each other, giving each other permission to opt out of our shared obligations and joys. Right now it’s all about the bare minimum.
The thing that I always forget is that I get to decide what the bare minimum is. For a few days I wished that I was not self-employed, so I could use someone else’s list of tasks to determine what the bare minimum is. But I am self-employed. I have the great and at times indescribable good fortune to work for myself, to create my own life (as we all do), and it is my own bare minimum to which I must attend.
The gift of my grief is that it makes this whole quandary quite plain. I cannot tolerate more, so it all comes into pretty clear focus. I can see which parts of my life are most necessary, most fulfilling, most joyful, most liberating, most effective, most helpful, most restorative (this has been an interesting exploration), and most quiet (really important). I can see what drains me as I fall asleep after I do it. I can see what social obligations are fine when I’m fine but too much when I’m not. I can see how my coping differs from those around me and I can unapologetically take the time I need. I have no choice. It is a strange gift this clarity around the bare minimum, but the definition is not the same every day.
January 12 is my twins’ 10th birthday. Ten years ago the doctor said: “Think you’re ready to get them out of there?” And I said:”Oh dear lord yes.” Turning 10 is a big deal. We have made it bigger by holding out on a proper birthday party until now, opting for small family events in years past. So, in the next 48 hours I will celebrate that day, the birth of my stunning children. I will do what needs doing. I will make cupcakes. I will wrap gifts. I will light candles. I will sing. I will drink my boy and girl in so that the miracle of their existence will fill me.
And when the party is over, and the candles are put away, I will take a long, hot shower, wrap myself in my robe, say a prayer for my Dad, and allow my sweet dog to deep breathe me into sleep, and I will wake to a new definition of my own bare minimum.