“Well, the good news is it appears your grief is not pathological” my psychologist, Chris, said in that unassuming manner he has.
It’s been well over 5 months since Chloe dropped the bombshell on me. Her plan to move out slipped from August, to September, till finally on the 4th of October (2 days after my birthday) she moved out. “I’m going to miss this place” she intoned before she gave me a hug and was out of my life for good.
“Not pathological.. that sounds good, I think I’ll write that down”.
It has been a bumpy ride to get here. I remember quite clearly sitting in a hotel room in Wellington on the 23rd of September. I had an appointment with Chris but had to do it via Skype because I was in Wellington for an important client meeting.
“I turn 40 soon” I lamented, “I’m going bald, my left hip hurts and the love of my life moves out forever next month.”
“So, what’s going well in your life then?”
“…my job” I barely managed before sobbing uncontrollably into the microphone.
It certainly felt pretty bleak and existential at the time, but really the only thing that was missing was a sense of purpose, or a sense of what I wanted out of life, my own goals, independent of anyone else.
Chris helped me come up with a set of values to drive towards, and I turned that into a Kanban board of tasks and priorities.
I didn’t really have much time to feel sorry for myself, because in true me fashion, I picked up a few dependents at about the same time as I lost Chloe.
About 3 months before Chloe moved out, I met Lilith (right). She had been having difficulties which culminated in her being homeless about a month before Chloe moved out, and on pretty much the same day she moved out, Vincent (left) also moved in because he needed a place to stay.
Now I know what you’re going to say, slipping into a “helper” mode is so very classically me.
Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm
And yes, you’re right. Still, it’s a lesson I have to keep learning for myself over and over till I learn how to set healthy boundaries. I think I am getting better. I have this trait strongly in common with my father: I tend to be drawn towards broken things.
Without getting into too much detail, October and November were rocky months for all three of us. I remember distinctly a moment when Lilith’s computer was broken and possibly lost forever by the courier company taking it in for repairs. It was just one more thing on top of everything else and she was beside herself.
“Everything can be fixed” I said as I hugged her tightly, and I really mean that. In fact, “fixing” things has become a theme for me these past few months, and not in a bad way.
For example, take my beloved Nikon camera. I turned it on optimistically with the hopes of taking some photos. Nothing, not even a friendly little light or an error message. Nothing, and that was after charging the battery overnight. I took it in to the repair shop and the young gentleman from behind the counter declared that a camera more than a decade old is not worth trying to fix. “Just buy a new one”. I suppose you could try get a new battery, but we don’t sell those anymore.”
A new aftermarket battery means the camera works just fine. The next challenge was the lens which could no longer focus. I sent it in for a repair quote. The quote came back at $1000, so I declined the repair and thought I might take it apart and fiddle as I had with my other lens.
Simply sending it in to get a quote was enough to get the lens working again. No grand investment required.
The camera has become a bit of a metaphor for me: so often in life, we despair that things are irreparably damaged.
So this then brings me to the title of this post and the subject of the song I have been practising. At first I was practising it so I could use it as a foil to discuss my need to be needed, how I tend to be drawn to people who are in trouble, just like my father was. I was even going to talk a bit more about his own personal situation. But you know what, my perspective has changed.
I don’t think the “you” in the song is about “you” after all. I think it’s about “me”. I think the song is about “me” or the person singing it. At least, over the last few months it has become about me: everything in life can be fixed.
I say everything in life and that does deserve some small caveat. You see on Saturday 14th December, someone in my local community passed away from pneumonia. He was young (34) and it happened so quickly. He is survived by family, friends and his partner who is beside herself with grief. Everything in life can be fixed. Death, however, is something we have no fix for as yet.