I’ve long been aware of a rising tide in my chest, one that flows up from my heart and chokes me, ever so slightly, at unpredictable times.
In the Pacific Northwest, we are warned about not climbing on fallen logs in the ocean (Yes, there are logs in the ocean, because the forests, in a few undeveloped areas, do come down to the sea). The signs read “Beware of sneaker waves”. Sneaker waves are sudden tides that can pull you into the ocean, and they are especially dangerous if there’s something in the water to hit you over the head. I had a friend who was terrified of them when her girls were young, warning them about wading out too far, to look out for logs. The rest of the mothers would tease her about “sneaker waves” occasionally when she seemed too overwrought about the possibility.
Several years ago, another friend’s husband died of stomach cancer. He had been in poor health most of his adult life. My friend described her and her twin daughters’ sudden outbursts of sadness years afterward. She had decided to call this rising tide in her chest “sneaker waves”. She said “there’s no real reason for them…suddenly, you are a mess…tears, or maybe you just can’t eat”.
I am having attacks of sneaker waves now, especially while driving. I think they are about the divorce, but they are also about other things. The pathways to the ocean of grief are so well worn now…like the tributaries that empty into the ocean, the pattern is easy to follow. I remember the deaths of my parents, the loss of a love, the sudden diagnosis of brain tumor that heralded the end of shared times and the promise of reconnection with one of my best friends. I long to speak with my mother about my marital failure. I wish my father were here to provide some perspective, or just to look at me. I feel somewhat unseen, like the sneaker wave has pulled me under, the scenario feared by my friend 17 years ago when she had tiny children.
I remind myself I have rocks to hang on to..the friend who checks on me nearly every day, though he lives far away. The art group friends that are new to me, relatively, yet provide a hug, a brief question, a smile, and something to do. Soon my students will be back in class. I feel they need me, even if they might not. Another friend traveling the same road as I have. Television I enjoy, where friends share a common adventure. Is this what I need?
I keep swimming, and swimming, I think of Dori from the Disney movie. The waters are a bit rough right now.