Sleep was better last night. It was dreadful and then I realized I was doing something to make it worse and I stopped doing it and went off to sleep and I when I woke up, I said, “Oh, crap,” and got up, because I had turned off the alarm in my sleep or never set it and I was an hour late.
And there was no black hole.
The thing I was doing was closing off the flood of memories of sleeping next to Natalya that would naturally wash over me at bedtime if I let them. I was not letting them. And this was making bedtime infinitely worse. Then I just had grief. I had grief and no happy to offset them. I had double grief, because I had lost both the real person and the remembered person.
I don’t know exactly why I was shutting them down: a part of me worries that, in remembering, I am getting confused and trying to wish her alive again. Maybe that’s the reason I was doing it.
But last night, I looked up at the ceiling in the darkness—it is a very Country X ceiling—and I said to myself, “I know I am in Country X. I know she is dead. I am not confused.” The link between cuddly blankets in bed and cuddly Nata in bed is just very strong. And one triggers the other quite automatically.
They are happy memories. If I was tucked up against Nata with her arms around me and drifting gently off to sleep, I was happy. I have a lot of shitty memories, and from time to time it is just really nice to have a happy one for a change of pace.
Once the grief is stripped away a little, that is what is underneath: Happy. Nata is this little stripe of happy all through my childhood. There is very little other happy aside from that. She was more or less it. There was trauma and there was frantic juggling of balls to try to cope with trauma and there was just blank, muddy trying to get through the day. And there was Nata.
I can’t get to adulthood and remember only the shitty bits and the blank bits. I can’t go back and pull out the good stripe just because she is dead now. She wasn’t dead then and she was wonderful.
I have this whole well of happy memories of childhood because of her. I have blini when I was sick and ginger cookies on Valentine’s day and a birthday tea party and I have her singing to me and reading to me and I have sneaking off behind things to make out and I have pure contentment when she held me. I have the electric touch of her hand brushing mine eating French fries together and her assurance that she would always love me. I have report cards and I am so proud of you. I have so many things. And it is those good things that get us through later. It is the good things that give us our foundation.
I didn’t know this, because it’s all new to me. I never had a foundation before. I just lived in the present. There was no past—what I knew of it was too terrible to contemplate—and the future was mostly too bleak to think about very much. So you can’t blame me for not knowing what to do when I began to have all three.
But what you ought to do with it all is just let it be. And I wasn’t.