The Water Wheel

The past week has been extremely hard. Mom died two months ago yesterday, though it feels far more recent. After the funeral came the a monumental work backload, the holidays, and a bronchial infection. Now that those are over and done with, there’s the silence of the house, an overwhelming amount of clean-up and clean-out work to do, and worst of all, no will to do it and no energy (physical, emotional, or mental) to do it with.

I’ve written before about the crippling depression that had periodically taken hold of me since my college years, and how I’ve had a respite from it in recent years, which I attribute in great part to acupuncture. This past week, though, I’ve noticed that I’ve been acting depressed, even though most of the time the emotional component wasn’t there. Sad, yes, but not that black despair. All that changed sometime last Thursday. I’m not sure what the trigger was, and I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say it was a very bleak weekend. This grieving business is a real bitch.

Today I seem to have recovered some small sense of equilibrium, though I can’t say I feel happy or peaceful yet by any means—just less . . . insane. I think it started yesterday evening when I realized that any step forward is in fact a step forward, one step (however tiny) closer to where I want to be. I thought of that old Psalm that went, “Your words are a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Not daylight. Not even streetlights. Just a small, flickering lantern to illumine the next step or two on a dark road.

Last night I dreamed that I needed someone to hammer a big nail into my right wrist and right shoulder. When I got up, and noticed those spots were extremely sore to the touch, I spent time rubbing them, and looked them up on my favorite acupunture points database. I found that the two places corresponded directly to two points on the triple burner meridian. Turns out the one on the wrist gets rid of Heat in the body (think of it as systemic inflammation), and the one on the shoulder activates the entire channel, regulates qi, and gets rid of phlegm, which has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now. So my body told my unconscious which acupuncture points needed treating. Not bad.

The triple burner is not an organ, but a physical mechanism that controls respiration, digestion, metabolism, and elimination: the fire that both creates and destroys. The old Chinese teachers likened the triple burner to a water wheel. It is turned by incoming water, and that turning  creates energy for accomplishing other tasks.

Which, of course, is precisely what I need in my life right now. Even a tiny step forward is a step forward, after all.

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Categories: Body and Mind, Depression | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “The Water Wheel

  1. The Ancestors say it takes 12 lunar cycles to move through the grieving process. Her passing was very near the Taurus full moon on November 13th.

    Are your pangs of grief and despair mirroring the moon phase? Moon represents the mother, the water of the oceans, food and emotions. Full moons bring a release. From what you wrote you are very full, in so many ways. Often people skip over the Moon’s energy in the whole grieving process, and she’s right there shepherding us along. Mothering. Nurturing. Blessings to you…

  2. Mali

    I’m so sorry. Grieving is tough. And unfortunately, in my experience, just when we are congratulating ourselves on how well we are doing, bam, it hits us in the face! Your wisdom though in recognising that each day/hour/minute you get through is a tiny step forward means you will be okay. You’ll get there.

  3. Oh Craig, I do empathize. When my father died—he was young, 53, and so was I, 23—I cried for five years. Not the whole time, just in bursts that seemed to come from nowhere. And now, a lifetime later, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Blessed be.

  4. indigo bunting

    I’m glad you blogged about this. I am wishing you well, still.

  5. I find such convergence of the dreamstate with somatic reality to be one of the most fascinating of things. Whether the somatic encroaches and affects the dreams or the other way around, it is amazing.

    Surely this gives you a clear idea what is going on and a direction to go with it. And it will speak volumes to your acupuncturist.

    And, may I say, well done.

  6. I should have mentioned that, since kicking depression, I have an always-existent fear that it will reappear.

    I had a dream last night I was unable to write about. I think because it was nearly all feeling. Like I was slogging through thickness, thick air, thick ground, thick. Getting somewhere but slowly, slowly. Frustrated. But just the feeling and a close look at myself unable to move.

    Then, I looked down and saw myself shaking. Badly. Not in bits like now but all over. All over. It was the night for fears to come out, I imagine.

    Depression hurts and, even after it is gone, it hurts so much, many of us, you I imagine, remain aware of it. Always a small part of our minds is looking behind us to make sure it doesn’t sneak up on us again. I think that is when it simply comes up in front of us and there it is again.

  7. Jennie

    We have talked privately about the triple heater this week, but there was more about the whole grieving process that I wanted to say to you that I didn’t have time to earlier.

    In the first few months after my mother’s death, my siblings and some of my other relatives thought that I had gone insane, and I would probably would have had to agree with them if I had not already had a fair academic understanding of grief. There were times when I would have to turn up the music in my room, lock myself in the bathroom, and literally howl with grief, with the magnitude of loss. I would sink to the floor and be wracked with screams and sobs and moans and groans. I went about in a daze. I felt fortunate on that odd occasion I was able to function enough to feed myself. The sensation was an odd mixture of numb detachment alternating with overwhelming loss and pain, alternating with a giddy and guilty delight in the freedom from the burden of her care, and a bewilderment of how to account for its absence. Others wanted to know the status of the will (I was the executrix), and when I would go through her things, the things that surrounded me in the house we had shared, the things I was living with day to day, that hourly reminded me both of her continued presence and her awful and gaping absence. My mother had always been my very best friend, and when I felt down or lonely, or unsure of what to do, it was she that I turned to for a kind and wise ear, a joke and a laugh, a comforting word, and now, facing the greatest loss of my life, my reflexive urge was to talk to her, to tell her, to have her make it all better — I wanted my confidant, my counselor, my friend — I wanted my Mommy, and, of course, that was the one thing I could not have, and would never have again, and the stark reality of that was like a black hole in the center of my being.

    The others in my family, those who wondered why I didn’t get over it and move on, proceed with the important business at hand, dispose of her effects and leave it all behind, had not been there through her illness, had not seen her or even spoken with her on a daily basis for many years, and her loss did not rip apart the very fabric of their lives the way it did mine. My brother visited my mother at home exactly once, for about an hour, during her last four months. For most of my life, and certainly for the four or five years before her death, I had spoken with my mother nearly every day, usually for well over an hour each time, and visited her often, staying for days at a time. For months prior to her death, J.D. and I had been living with her, tending her round the clock, 24/7. I slept on a mattress on the floor next to her bed in case she needed me in the night. My days and nights revolved around her needs, her rhythms, her hopes and fears. When she died, my life had to be completely remade. It was a monumental task. My relatives could take comfort and strength from the familiar routines of their lives, but I could not, because the routines of my life were no longer there. Everything I did was accompanied by a reminder that she was gone. Even things that I had not been able to do while I was caring for her that I was free to do now served to remind me of her absence.

    For adult children who have not been the caregiver of a parent, who have not been immersed in the intimate details of a mother or father’s daily life, who have not grown accustomed to sleeping with one ear open for a sound that might signal a fall, or a pain, or a fright, who have not for years chatted with their parent over breakfast and dinner, or routinely prepared meals with an eye toward tempting the appetite of a parent grown frail, thin, and listless, or regularly bathed a parent who could no longer bathe herself, the extent of the chaos and loss that the death of the parent, though long expected, brings with it cannot be comprehended. These children of the family Diaspora have long ago built a life separate from their parent, a life of their own. They can grieve, and do, but the magnitude of the loss is not the same. For the bereaved child caregiver, on the other hand, there is no possibility of returning to normalcy quickly: normalcy is irretrievably gone, and a new life must be constructed from the ground up.

    My heart goes out to you.

  8. Deloney

    Jennie, that’s one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read by anyone about anything. Craig is lucky to have you around.

    Craig: I have a Pooh-brain as you know. But if you were here I’d drag you outside and through the power and charm of my personality alone I would compel you to sing your favourite Jimmy Durante song out loud as we walk along the Danforth startling everyone we pass. And I’d take you to the Court Jester for nachos and beer, I’d kiss your worried forehead because you’re an inspiration to me, because as Marty said of Angel Clare in the Hardy novel you are “a good man who did good things.”

  9. I have, once or twice in my life, sung out loud in the streets. One memorable time was in downtown D.C. around 1 a.m., warbling “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” while doing my impersonation of Dame Peggy Wood as the Mother Abbess. The neighbors were not amused.

    But I like your idea of “September Song” on the Danforth better. And the nachos and beer afterward.

    And the company of the best friends, met and as-yet-unmet, that anyone could possibly imagine. Thank you all for your immense and most healing support.

  10. Uh OH! As a fellow walk-down-streets-singing-out-louder, I think Craig might need a night out. In downtown Melbourne there is a biker bar that is just crying for some external showtunery.

  11. It’s a slow slow slow slow business: but you will sing through.
    Now where’s this biker bar? Oh, Melbourne in Florida…..

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