by Holly Mohr
For the past two or three weeks, I’ve found myself crying during yoga. Pretty much every time I go in my room, close the door, and let my guard down, I start to feel the things I’ve been putting off for the past year.
When I came home from burying my dad last summer, my therapist asked if I needed her to send me info about the stages of grief. I read what she sent over and over, but I couldn’t find myself in any of them.
“I think I’ve been grieving for the past twenty years, honestly,” I said. Something about that is true. But there’s other stuff that’s true, too, things I haven’t found words for.
The tears have been coming towards the end of my practice, usually around the twisting stage. It’s when I’m low to the ground, out of the sight line of any of the neighbors, heading toward savasana. It happens when I’m in that place of finally feeling some trust, some release, but also an uncomfortable bit of loneliness.
Usually I love alone time. Space and time to be alone are rare, for one thing. And, generally speaking, solitude is like oxygen to me, introverted, bookish being that I am. But lately when I close my door and let myself take a breath, I’m feeling the aloneness in a way that’s more unmoored. I’m entering a space I don’t think anyone else can get to, and I’m not so sure I like that.
The space feels familiar, though. It’s been a while since I’ve visited, but it’s a realm with which I am well acquainted. I spent much of my childhood there, burrowing deep inside to a world that made sense only to me.
Well, and maybe to him.
I’ve been wondering lately if I can give myself permission to grieve. So often I don’t let myself, not only because of the frenetic pace of life in the 21st century with three kids and a full-time job, but also because I don’t know if I’m allowed to. I don’t know who I think makes those rules, or who I’m afraid is going to catch me. Do I think the Grief Police are going to come and put me in handcuffs, asserting that I’m not allowed to miss him? I broke his heart—I moved away, I put up boundaries, I stopped saying it was okay when he hurt me, or my mom, or himself. And now I don’t know how to make sense of how to both miss him until my bones ache and at the same time cry with relief that the pain and fear are over. As Catholics say on Good Friday, It is finished. And yet, and yet . . .
Yeah, I guess I am afraid of that. I’m afraid someone will come and revoke my right to mourn, so I catch myself, I hold myself together, time and time again.
But in those moments at the end of yoga, I’ve been remembering our shared solitude. I’ve been remembering the dad that I mourn now and that yes, I’ve mourned for decades, as he got meaner and meaner and less able to access his vulnerable self. I miss the dad whose eyes would twinkle when he told a joke only I would get, and we would giggle together. I miss the dad I would read to when he would take a nap during the days he worked a split shift. He would tell me I had such a soothing voice and that he could finally relax when he heard it. I miss the dad who would take me to elegant restaurants for lunch and teach me how to recognize beautiful food and wine. It felt like a secret and refined language meant only for us. I miss feeling seen more than anyone else by someone who adored me. Well, someone who adored me sometimes.
It’s hard to square that with the other dad, the one I can’t talk about too much here, because I still haven’t defined my boundaries, internally or externally.
I still don’t know what I can hope for, what amounts to a silly fantasy, and what might fall into the category of a theological virtue.
“We are totally transformed in the Kingdom,” my priest friend reminded me. The Kingdom is the place where we love fully, the place where we find total connection to God and all of God’s creation. It’s where we become most fully ourselves, who God created us to be, before all the pain, trauma, deformations of our lives and our character. Affirming that Christ frees us from sin is supposed to mean Christ frees us from all the shit that holds us back, that keeps us in chains, separated from our deepest selves and from one another.
Was the twinkling eye guy who you really are, Daddy? Or is that me clutching at straws, hoping against hope in a way that’s not going to be good for anybody?
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just keep crying during yoga. Maybe it really is just alone time, and I should embrace that and let it out, as they say. But I keep watching and waiting. I keep wanting to find you there.