Let it Be

November 26, 2018

Two years ago, my family spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii with Daddy-o. It was the first major holiday without my mother, and we just couldn’t bear staring down a turkey on our own turf.

We were there to scatter ashes, but in the end, Daddy couldn’t stomach it with us there. He waited until we left.

It was windy there, and warm. The Maui air smelled like salt and flowers, like it usually does, and it surprised me somehow. It’s ridiculous to think that the air would smell different without Mama, but somehow I expected it to.

You could say that we ran from Thanksgiving that year, and you wouldn’t be wrong. We did. It felt better to run. And doing it together, it felt kind of subversive and renegade–like we were giving a collective middle finger to the holiday. Piss off, Thanksgiving. We don’t need you.

Last year, we had Thanksgiving at home but I don’t remember it.

At all.

I’m not shitting you. I really don’t remember anything about it or what we did or what we ate and I could probably dig into the archives of this blog to find out but then again, why bother? I think sometimes situational amnesia is God’s favor to the grieving.

This year, a week before Thanksgiving, I woke in the middle of the night, heart racing. I did what I usually do when I wake in the night: I got a glass of cool water, I took a pee, I got back into bed and practiced breathing. But this wasn’t normal waking and it wasn’t the occasional annoying sleepless night. It felt crushing, impossibly heavy and I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack–either that or a big wooly mammoth was sitting on my chest.

“It’s a panic attack, you idiot,” I told myself. “You’re not dying; it just feels like it.”

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a feeling you don’t forget and you hope not to have again. It’s terrifying and it wrenches your guts out. You feel like all of the nerves in your body are suddenly outside, exposed to live air. I’ve had probably 5 panic attacks in my life and I always hope I’ve seen the last of them but naturally, if you have one, you’re probably primed for another at some point.

This past week, I had 12.

Most in the night, some in the day. Sometimes I threw up, sometimes I didn’t. A few times I got in the bathtub, blankets and all, for no reason other than it was cool and felt safer in there. Once I took the dog in with me. Turns out, he’s not a big fan of the bathtub.

Thanksgiving day, half an hour before guests arrived, I pulled the ham and beef tenderloin out of the oven to rest, violently threw up in the sink, rinsed it out with bleach and turned my attention to the potatoes. Somehow I made it through the day and made small talk and smiled and remembered the butter for the rolls. I have a feeling I won’t remember this Thanksgiving, either.

Do I know what the hell is going on?

Do I know what I’m going to do?

Do I care?

Not necessarily, which is (maybe?) a problem? I think I probably ought to care. Then again, should you worry about not caring to care? That sounds ridiculous.

I’m trying not to overthink it, though it’s hard when your body might be saying otherwise. Maybe it’s just the universe telling me to pay attention. To what, I don’t know. But something.

For now, I think I’ll just let it be and sit with it.


There will be an answer/let it be.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie November 26, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Oh honey. I love you and I’m so sorry these are knocking you down right now. Sucks big time. Call anytime. Xoxo


Michele Ford November 27, 2018 at 11:11 am

It is a terrible feeling to wake that way, or be awake that way. I love you and I am here, always xoxo


elizabeth November 27, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Ugh–I’m so sorry these last two Thanksgivings have been rough on you. I can only imagine how difficult these next few weeks can get–try to treat yourself with grace as much as you can and look for ways to self-care, both big and small.


megan phillips December 4, 2018 at 5:35 pm

well, I hear ya. I know what panic attacks are like. The biggest,worst thing for me is that you open, try to inhale and your lungs won’t breathe, somehow the air goes somewhere else. Which is alarming…racing thoughts…”Breathe dumbass you need to slow down…” AND like I can’t do any of those if I don’t breathe. I have found that biting into something sour helps me in 2 ways. I am distracted from the panic attack and my body switches into autopilot and won’t let me drive…a large gulp of air is coming in to take out the Very Sour bite of lime. It’s not glamorous but it works.


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