Thursday, July 8, 2010

Now What Do I Do?

When my father was suffering from Alzheimer's, one of the most heartbreaking phrases he would repeat was "Now what do I do?". He would ask this after completing the first part of a task with no idea at all about what to do next, whether the task was eating, getting dressed or getting into bed. Knowing that the part of his brain was gone that had connected activities, thoughts and tasks was at first inconceivable to me,and then just unbearably sad, and of course so confusing to him.

Yesterday I re-met with a woman who I had first met just after her forced retirement one year ago. This is a woman who stops traffic whenever she walks into a room, due to her vibrant personality and even more vibrant clothing style. (Think orange hair, lime-green leather jacket, yellow shoes, in other words, fabulous!) When I met her, she was lost, had absolutely no idea what she would be doing post career, as her work had been fulfilling, challenging and stimulating and she had expected to continue that career for many years to come. Unfortunately, one year later, she is still drifting, feeling she has lost all her spark, and still wondering "Now what do I do?", fearing she is stuck and lost in a fog.

At the end of a great creative effort, or the end of a love affair, or the end of a job, it's not uncommon for me to feel the same way. During all I am so wrapped up in the excitement of the process, the anticipation and wonder about where it's going, that I pour myself into these experiences and feel a bit empty at the end. But unlike someone with Alzheimer's or any other permanent brain injury, this empty feeling is just that - a feeling, an opportunity to reconsider, a chance to refill differently. My wonderful therapist has told me that the phrase "Get over it" is ridiculous. We don't get over losses, but rather mourn them and re-weave the fabric of our lives differently. Or knit the fabric, if you are me!

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