Which may be yet another cloud of hubris encircling my head, but I'll take it. Since my thirties yielded none of the things I expected (marriage, nope; kids, nope; career success that makes sense to my mother's book club, nope) and I'm now staring down the barrel of a brand new decade, I will take what I've been given and like it.
(While also sending up a request that my forties feature exponentially more fun and exponentially fewer grief cycles. Thanks.)
Here's what I've learned about grief:
Grief is the heaviest emotion.
As the grief rises through your system, it lifts every other emotion up and out with it. Misery, fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, you name it. It's a feelings cocktail mixed by one of Satan's underlings and served with a maraschino cherry.
So you think, "Well, hey. This royally blows, but at least I get a maraschino cherry." Then you bite into it and have to hack it into your napkin because it's so damn foul. You didn't even think it was possible for maraschino cherries to go bad, but then your horned bartender turns to you and grins the grin of someone who ruined a maraschino cherry on purpose.
I joke about hell's minions, and that's often how the process feels, but my father's death was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I say that feeling like a grade A twisted asshole in my human self and like it's 100% true and perfect in my higher self.
Being forced to drink the grief cocktail is nothing you'd ever want to put on your calendar, but it swept me clean of so much emotion that I'd been carrying around my entire life.
I think of my dad's death as my Cracking Open Moment. Those are the moments that shatter you, but in the breaking, you let all the sticky emotion flow out, everything you were holding onto and protecting without even realizing.
After you put yourself back together, you realize that there's so much extra room now. Room for joy, room for love, room for peace.
Grief comes in waves.
Sometimes when you're angry, you're really grieving. Sometimes when you're lonely, you're really grieving. Sometimes when you're pissed at the world and especially everyone currently driving a car, you're really grieving.
Sometimes you think you're done, and you aren't - and the grief wave knocks you into the sand.
See: grief cocktail mixed by Satan's minion. This time with gritty sand in indelicate places.
Don't beat yourself up for riding the emotion roller coaster.
Be extra careful with big financial decisions while you're in a grief cycle.
Everything is all over the place, so stay out of your bank account and away from your credit cards if you can.
But since life happens, you may need to sell a house or something. Call in someone you trust with a dispassionate perspective to help you do whatever needs to be done.
But also trust yourself. If you need to take some fancy trip, maybe that's the exact perfect thing for you to do.
(But don't do what I did, which is try to take a trip and then end up not taking the trip after paying for half of it. Whoops.)
Love doesn't die, it only changes forms.
I believe the more of the grief cocktail we drink, the more room is created for this to make sense.
Do whatever you need to do to get yourself through.
If that means developing a weird relationship with a stuffed otter and taking her on road trips, so be it.
Go on long drives with your therapy otter, take classes in things you're terrible at, read anything you want, eat fried chicken in bed, upgrade to first class.
Ramp up your self-care exponentially. Shower every day. Treat yourself like a toddler, making sure you've napped, eaten, cried, and played with crayons.
Let yourself feel without making it mean anything.
One of the grand challenges of being a human is allowing your feelings to be felt.
Feel them as physical sensations, as something passing through, rather than something that needs to be stuffed into your spleen until one of you dies.
As the feelings are rising, your brain will frantically try to give you reasons why the feeling is happening, and it doesn't care if those reasons make you feel better or not. So your brain might make those feelings mean something about you, something about your life. Do your best to disengage your brain from the process. Just feel. Let the energy move through your body. Up and out. Hush, brain.
Keep crawling through the tunnel of sewage, Shawshank Redemption-style.
Keep going, keep crawling, keep putting one foot in front of the other.
You've got this. It will pass. You will feel better. You will feel joy again.
You just need to move through this season of your life until the next season arrives with cherry blossoms and red convertibles driven to Mexico by Tim Robbins.