Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Public. Private.

I always assumed I was a varsity-level external processor.

Hand-wringing about which food processor to buy, how to re-arrange my furniture, how to deal with a leaking water heater, why my colleague might be angry with me, what to cook for dinner--these have always been hashed out in public, with my friends and family.

I've been single all my life, and I always thought that needing all that feedback was a kind of handicap for a bachelorette. But there it was, and so I just took it as a further paradox in the long list of things that have struck me as quirky about myself.

But I had never tested this theory with grief. None of my most immediate family had died, no close friends. Somehow I'd been spared that. Until this past week when my cat died. I knew it was coming; I knew I would grieve.

What I didn't expect is how completely I switched into an internal mode. I didn't want support at the vet's clinic for the euthanasia; I was awkward in phone calls from my friends, as appreciative as I was of their care; I didn't leave the house; I let no one in; I was downright rude to my best friend, who came by to bring me a loaf of bread and sit with me.

The solitude was right. It was what I needed, as stunned as I am to acknowledge it. I needed to mope, wail, clutch toys to my chest, let dishes pile up, clean them, vacuum up cat hair, refuse to change my sheets where he had slept, forget he was gone, remember with a start, scrub and disinfect his litter box, clean his brushes, look at pictures, look under all the furniture for sparkly balls, choke up, smile at what my friends had remembered in their e-mails about him.

And I didn't need spectators.

Who knew? Grieving isn't made more difficult by being alone, at least for me. Quite the contrary.

I would never have imagined it.

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