The messy and painful process

I promised myself (and my followers) that I would not flake on this project and process and since the last post, the idea of crawling away from this has been alluring, but I’ve been forcing myself to work on this post for awhile, so here goes.

Whenever you see some talking head counselor or psychiatrist on TV talking about grief, they always define it as a neat little process. The grieving person moves from step to step until landing on the enlightened step of acceptance. I’m calling B.S. on that. There is nothing neat and process-like in grief, plain and simple. These last two weeks have been testament to that.

As a few may know, I’m in the process of completing tattoo number three. It is a far larger and more complex endeavor than the previous two. It’s going to take four or five visits to complete, because there is only so much stabbing a person’s skin can take, apparently. What I’ve realized is getting this tattoo is a really good metaphor for the way I’ve been handling grief these last 4 months.

Yes, some of those stages of grief have been present, and they are kind of like when the artist is doing the initial black outline of the tattoo. It hurts, but it’s bearable. Trouble comes, though, when it’s time to go from the black outline to shading, or from the neat little stages of grief to the actual realities of living. On this tattoo, I’m at the place where my artist is done with the outline, the basic shape of the tattoo. In my grief journey, I’m pretty much in the same place. I’ve kind of outlined what it is going to be like living my different life without Kelley. What no one talks about is how much it hurts when you’re filling in the details of that life.

August 2nd was to have been Kelley and my 10th anniversary, and it smacked me hard in the face. It felt like I went back to grief day one. The corners of the house became more haunted again, and everything reminded me of some moment with her. Honestly, I thought I was past that, but I wasn’t. It was kind of like today at the tattoo shop. I have gotten pretty used to the process; it really doesn’t hurt. Today, though, Emily was adding color and shading, filling in the details of the tattoo. It hurt more than any of the previous three times, just like remembering our anniversary hurt way more than any of the celebration, and really more than any other time since the actual night.

It’s also a messy process. Right now, with all the coloring and basically trauma, my arm looks like hamburger, albeit hamburger with a cool design on it. My life feels a bit like hamburger too. Kelley’s been gone for basically 4 months now, but things happen all the time that pull me back into the whirlwind. Even stupid stuff like the two hour conversation that I had with Spectrum because the bill came out of Kelley’s account, which is closed, but they messed up moving it to my account so I had a $600 bill built up. That was little, but it triggered a lot of stuff. Eventually, those things will heal themselves and my life may cease feeling like hamburger.

In the end, I know that tattoo number 3, (and I’m not sharing it until it’s done) is going to be beautiful and badass; just like I know eventually, my life will be beautiful and badass. I mean come on, a fifty year old middle school teacher with tats who rocks out, how can that NOT be badass? I just wish the process was a little less chaotic and more organized.

Now for two cool announcements:

One: A former student of mine and I have a project in the works that is actually getting a little traction on the national level. I can’t say anything much about it, but send us some good thoughts. It may turn into something reasonably big.

Two: The blog has hit enough followers that I want to try a little experiment. Starting September, basically once school starts and gets into swing, I am going to be inviting guest bloggers to write for the travel bag.

Bonus: Number three: I’m also going to start a weekly podcast probably mid-September. It is going to cover all kinds of topics and feature guests.


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