For many years I have been telling grieving patients and friends that they needed to be nice to themselves because grieving was hard work. So I wasn't exactly unprepared for this, but some things have still taken me by surprise.
It is hard because it is new and because it is unfamiliar and because it isn't really something you can share with anyone else. At times it is rather all-consuming and occasionally it becomes embarrassingly public. For someone that is not accustomed to showing emotions publicly, is used to being "in control" of her life and is terribly introverted it is a trial.
I understand the emotions and how powerful they are and I didn't expect in any way to be exempt from them. But I have to admit that I didn't think they would affect my daily life quite so much or quite so unpredictably. The tears that come in the cookie aisle of the grocery store, or while discussing the gas bill are quite annoying and frustrating, confusing too.
But the biggest surprise and the hardest to deal with has been the effect on my brain. I've been calling it mush-brain and find that it greatly resembles the effects of early pregnancy - loss of focus, scattered thinking, scrambled memory. For someone who prided herself on being attentive, thoughtful, organized and logical this has come as a huge surprise and an enormous bother. I can't manage several trains of thought like I used to. My memory has gone from being a sieve to more like a colander. My sentences have big gaps where I have forgotten the word that belongs there. I have to make lists of lists so I don't forget to make the lists.
I KNOW this fades over time, but I really expected it to move faster than it has. It is especially a problem when I get tired, either mentally or physically. Once that happens, I have a zero threshold for frustration and almost non-existent problem solving skills - then comes the weeping. And once it starts it is devilishly hard to stop.
So. The bike tour. I learned very quickly that fatigue causes me more problems than I really need or want to be dealing with. The fact that I haven't been able to ride much over the winter means I have to work harder to get in shape. The two things do seem to be at odds with each other, don't they? Since I came on a bike tour to ride a bike, I've been concentrating on that and it is going quite well, I'm not as fast as I'd like to be, but I can do a 60 mile ride in the highest gears. But the other reason to come on the tour is to socialize with friends and meet new ones. I've done quite a bit of that too, sometimes with the help of my Southern Tier friends running a bit of interference for me and keeping the conversations light.
The past two weeks I have been figuring out how to manage my energy so I can do both without a major meltdown. It often means judging how many things I can balance mentally at one time - like narrow shoulders, head wind, dogs - and not wind up totally flustered and overwhelmed. It sometimes means limiting my exposure to and participation in large groups. It occasionally means skipping a ride or taking a nap, or going for a quiet walk by myself.
I am slowly coming to realize that I might have to do this kind of self-management for a while longer and that it just has to be ok. Mostly (actually completely) it has to be ok with me and it has to not matter to me what anyone else thinks. Funny that I've never much cared what other people thought, but now it kind of bothers me that someone might think I ride in the van or avoid some types of rides because I'm not a good enough rider to do this tour.
That's ridiculous. I am considering the thought further evidence of my impaired thinking and letting it go at that. Back on the bike tomorrow.
PS - We are in Blackshear, GA - a lovely little town and a very nice hotel.