Monday, September 28, 2009

Stagnation's Purpose

This is Part 4 of my Mid-Live Crisis series.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every event under heaven.

"I would watch you sleep in my arms or in your crib," she said long, long ago. "I'd be loving not only you, but every breath you took."

That worked both ways. One of my earliest memories was loving her scent. I most definitely was a Daddy's Girl, but she was my first addiction. Decades later, when life began breaking my heart with disappointments, she was the drug I turned to, the one that would console me.

"I know you love me," she said matter-of-factly, sometime before I recognized that she was become more fragile with age. "Just don't lose your mind when I die."

I laughed then, but until this year, it never occurred to me that it could be a possibility.


I sold my house seven years ago for a tidy profit, and moved in the same apartment building as my mother, right down the hall. This enabled me to look after her, i.e., take her to medical appointments and on outings, and in return Casey had an after-school babysitter until I got home from work. We all had a marvelous time.

It was also hard. She had mild memory loss, which both of us pretended wasn't happening, and her personality was changing. I'm not sure she recognized this, but I did, and it was upsetting. In other words, she had mild Alzheimer's and very early onset Dementia.

Her death brought the spirit, Irrational Guilt, but he was largely hidden in the back of my mind. I had been on top of everything that pertained to her, except one thing I overlooked.

Her main doc was always sending her for tests. All kinds of tests to rule out this and that. He was damn near as old she was and she refused to change docs. When he ran a test, I'd call him a few days or week afterwards and ask him the outcome. He'd say "everything's fine."

It wasn't.

By the time I found out, she was dead.

Had I asked for a copy of the lab test, he'd have realized he didn't have one and would have caught the problem. My only consolation is that she died a good and peaceful death before the memory loss and personality changes transformed her into something she would have hated.

Shortly after she passed away, Irrational Guilt paid me a visit.

He whispered in my ear, "She could have lasted at least another good six months and maybe more, but she didn't. It's your fault. For all you know, she ain't even in heaven. She did have an abortion, remember? You might have sent her to hell a little early. Maybe you'll get to see her again, down there."

Oh shit.

"Go away!", my mind cried. "She's in heaven! She was good. She was just young and scared, like me one time. I regret it. God might be forgiving. It says so in the Bible. Now leave me alone!"

Too late. Irrational Guilt's voice quieted, but the thought that my best wasn't good enough were seeds planted way in the back of some cesspool in my mind, so far back I hardly thought about it. It was like a spiritual brain tumor.

It made it impossible to get to the fifth and final Stage of Grief, Acceptance, where you finally accept the fact that a loved one is gone.

I clung to what was left of her life: a chair here, a wall picture, statue, and vase there, a couple of tables, a small computer desk, the plates we ate off, even the worn out throw rug in the living room. We couldn't walk out of the front entrance of the building without passing by her apartment and feeling her presence. She was everywhere. I thought of her as a secondary guardian angel, watching over us from heaven.


June 2009

She'd been dead five years. When in the hell would I stop grieving her death? Or for that matter, stop feeling like a sad and pathetic little basket case when Loneliness would make an unexpected sneak attack on me?

Many of you know how that goes: you're out and you see The Happy Couple. Suddenly you're reminded of how much you wish you had a companion. It's funny how that goes; my experience is that Happy Couple may be looking at me and my youngest kid, thinking of us as The Happy Parent & Child, wishing they had a kid and longing for one.

Eh. As I learned as a child:

As a rule, man's a fool.
When it's hot, he wants it cool.
When it's cool, he wants it hot.
Always wanting, what is not.
Never wanting what he's got.

So I, the fool, was wondering what was the point and purpose of this new metaphorical visitor, Stagnation? In the waters of my soul, there was no movement, and my lifestyle began reflecting this.


Just when I was getting the hang of doing absolutely nothing that wasn't absolutely necessary, my dead mother paid me a visit in a dream.

Her face was grim and tinged with disgust.

"I've been hanging around you for too long," she said. "You're not doing anything for yourself. I'm leaving you. I'm moving on. You're on your own."

I was shocked. What? Her spirit was abandoning me?

We stared at each other wordlessly.

And then she was gone


Mama vanished. I could no longer feel her presence in my home or when I walked past her old apartment. Everything looked drab and faded. It felt like she died a second time.

Stagnation brought me to whole new level.

"Do even more of nothing", he whispered. "Just think, and when you're too weary to think, sleep."

I began to worry that the spirit, Depression, would make a visit. I met her back in my late teens, and she's a real pain. She likes to come along with Loneliness. I knew she was knocking at the door, but damned if I'd let her in.

A family member advised me, "Go out. Just go out. Anywhere. You need to get out of the house and do something."

Their unsaid words: your new behavior makes me feel uncomfortable and I don't really care why, so why don't you chill out and escape your pain by numbing it with pleasure?

Or from others: Take medication. Smoke a joint. Have a drink. Find a new man and get laid. If all that fails, go shopping.

The advice was well-meaning, however, I'm not a fan of alleviating symptoms without removing the cause. I don't approve of medication unless it's due to biochemical imbalance in the brain. Most crap that screws up people comes from external events and sources of stress, not internal problems with the mind. The rest of the advice is generally good for the minor bumps in life, but it didn't feel like the right remedy to escape this gloom.

Being a therapist, I know too many personally to go to one. Being your own therapist is sort of like being your own dentist: difficult, painful, and the process takes longer.

So be it.


Sometimes in order to get out, you have to go in.


I dived into the murkier depths of my subconscious. Deeper, deeper, each day, mentally re-reading past chapters in my life and thinking about the roles the other characters played.

I'd ask, what's wrong with me? Why am I so lonely this year? Why am I sad and don't know what I'm sad about?

Why can't I get past my mother's death?
Even she made a special trip from the After Life just to tell she was bailing out.

My daughter's probably gonna be trying to figure out how to drive off into the sunset soon if I don't get my shit together.


"Stagnation," I asked, "Just what are you anyway?"

He was silent. I googled for the answer.

Water stagnation occurs when water stops flowing. Stagnant water can be a major environmental hazard...

Stagnant water may be classified into the following basic, although overlapping, types:

* Water body stagnation: stagnation in lakes, lagoons, rivers, etc.
* Surface and ground water stagnation
* Trapped water stagnation. The water may be trapped in human artifacts (discarded cans, plant pots, tires, dug-outs, roofs, etc.), as well as in natural containers, such as hollow tree trunks, leaf sheaths, etc.

Emotions are like water, I thought. Fluid. Needed for growth. Vulnerable to pollution.

"Stagnation," I said. "Show me exactly where you live."

He complied.


I dove deep into the stagnant, toxic waters of my semi-conscious.

It was there I found Irrational Guilt. He had planted two weeds which were wrapped around my heart, choking it. I pulled them out by their roots, then confronted Irrational Guilt.

"Why in the hell did you plant these here? The guilt doesn't belong to me. It belongs to that semi-senile doctor my mother used to see! My mind always knew this but until now, but my heart felt otherwise. This is why I could never accept my mother's death, and without that acceptance, the grieving would not end."

Irrational Guilt tried again to snare me into his way of thinking. "You think you're so smart," he hissed. "You're still going to hell, and you know why."

"Eff yo' views on abortion and hell," I answered. "Your cousin, Rational Guilt, and his friend, Regret, told me long ago that I did wrong in not letting that unborn child have a life. I think about where he or she would be each year as the years go by, wondering what he or she would be doing now, but I also understand that I was terribly young and dumb and feeling trapped. I made a mistake that cannot be undone.

knows this", I continued, "I learned that hard lesson from him, and Rational Guilt keeps me honest. Those two are a useful team, because they keep Denial away, and you know how that bitch likes to sugar coat shit.

"But I will never have an understanding with you, Irrational Guilt. That shit you laid on me and my mama going to hell is irrational, just like your name. You don't really know what will happen to me or anyone else when they die. Only God does. He'll will have mercy or He won't, and I can live with that."


"Shut up."

I glanced around and saw a few more weeds planted by other negative spirits, including the one planted by Stagnation. Right now I was too tired to pull his up. I'd come back for it later.

I swam back to the surface and looked for Stagnation.

He greeted me in his usual lazy voice and said, "Waz up?"

"I'm weary," I said. "That's quite a little weed you got growing down there in my subconsciousness."

"Well," Stagnation replied, "the psychic crap we all go through has to go somewhere. Mine is just a bastard hybrid child of the others."

"True," I said, as I crushed the two weeds from Irrational Guilt in my hands. "Before I begin cleaning up the rest of this swamp, I want to say one thing."

"Waz that?"

"You led me to the others. Thank you."

"You're welcome."


This was Part 4 in my series, Mid-Life Crisis.
To be continued...


  1. Well damn.

    (that's all I got for now.)

  2. It takes a lot of courage to write this post and to do the work you have done. I know a lot about Irrational guilt personally, it stayed with me for so long because I isolated, kept secrets and suffered in silence. It wasn't until I went to a trusted friend that I got the much needed feedback I wasn't alone, others had been through similar issues.

    That's how my journey began.

    I hope your insightful and brilliant self discoveries lead to you accepting that your mothers death was not your fault. I pray that you find peace being in the moment and enjoying life the best you can from this point forward.

    God bless you and may your mother rest in peace.

  3. Truth, Thank you so much. Yes, it took some courage indeed, but I know most people if not all experience the less attractive emotions that make us look like idiots. Even when we 'know' something intellectually, our hearts may feel otherwise. We hate to reveal this b/c it makes us either sound so foolish, or worse, some might not understand and blame us. We see this in love and/or family relationships all the time. I'm glad you got the feedback you needed to validate what your mind told you to be true.

    Rainebeaux, heh-heh. Thanks.

    Others lurking, How do you all like this writing style I'm experimenting with, i.e., using the Spirit World metaphors?

  4. Kit,
    I love this series, you should submit this to Literary Mama.

    As a lurker, yes I think the metaphors are really powerful, evoking strong emotions, yes, like truth said, this took a lot of courage to write, and I love that part of it, too, the inner feelings we don't always share with each other, but we all seem to share in some way or another.

  5. Anonymous, Thanks for your comment and link which I'd never heard of. It was nice to hear your feedback, b/c to be perfectly frank, I'm wondering if it's boring the tears out of my usual readers, lol. Quite a shift from much of the newsy commentary stuff I've done, eh folks? Lol again.

    If that's the case, it's all good. Like most writers, I write best when I write for myself, and I have a whole bag of metaphorical characters that I'm building a fictional story around now. Given that I came up on Aesop's Fables, this is thrilling for me.


Hi, this is Kit.

I haven't posted since summer 2010, and comment moderation has been on for a very long time.

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