Walk Down a Different Street

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Walk Down a Different Street


A year ago today, I was watching my grandfather die.

For weeks after his death, I was afraid to fall asleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see my grandfather’s corpse and remember how cold his skin felt underneath my lips when I kissed him goodbye for the last time: like stone more than flesh. I’d hear his agonizing screams when he would take a breath in the hours leading up to his death, the sound curdled by the fluid in his lungs; a “death rattle” as the hospice nurse called it. 

And if I managed to fall asleep anyway, my subconscious would fill in the blanks of what happened after his last breath, when the paramedics had been called and the morgue prepared.

In vivid imagery, I’d see the ambulance that came to take him away. I’d watch as they lifted him up from the bed, his body like the iceberg that took down Titanic, frozen and large and unyielding. They’d place him in the big black bag, and zip it up over his face. 

At this point in my dream, I would cry and beg and claw at the paramedics—all of them dressed in black like Grim Reapers, me dressed in the onesie I was wearing that night. But no matter how loud I screamed, they couldn’t hear me, and I was stuck in one place by the door, unable to move, reaching as far as I could, but not able to grasp anything. 

I could only sit and watch as they carried him away.

In real life, my grandmother was the only one who watched the paramedics carry my grandfather’s body out and away from us forever. She had my aunt, uncle, and father usher the rest of us into another room, closing all the doors and shutting us out from witnessing this last bit of bitter end.

But that hasn’t stopped my nightmares from filling in the blanks while I sleep.

The nightmares have become less frequent over time. I’ve found ways to prevent them: a consistent yoga practice and a willingness to greet the intense emotions as they come up.

But this week, the haunting images have been creeping up on me again, perhaps because of my refusal to deal properly. 

What we resists, persists. 

And I’ve been resisting the hell out of feeling the grief being brought up this week.

Which is why I woke up before the sun this morning, and went to yoga. 

The class is taught by one of my fellow classmates from teacher training, a wonderful woman who was our groups “Big Sukha Sister” during our 200hr teacher training. She was the only one in the group who was already certified, and was just starting to teach weekly pre-dawn classes at our studio. I’ve been setting the intention to go to one of her classes for months, but I could never seem to bring myself to get out of bed once the alarm went off. It’s still too dark outside, I’d tell myself. 

Today, I made no excuses. 


I could have remained asleep. I could have woken up with more hours in my sleep bank, but I would have felt heavier for it, the weight of my unacknowledged emotions still present. I’ve grown so used to this weight, though, I could probably carry it around with me all day. I would have less energy, but I would be fine. I wouldn’t have to cry. I wouldn’t have to feel. I wouldn’t have to deal.

However, avoiding grief doesn’t mean the grief isn’t there. The grief is more present than ever, and the more it’s denied, the bigger it grows. 

Until eventually it swallows you whole.

I’ve been there before. I’ve lived in that hole. 

There’s a poem by Portia Nelson my instructor read to the class once that perfectly encapsulates what that's like:

THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same situation.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
But I still fall in…it’s a habit…but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it
.
Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

It took every ounce of strength in me to pull myself out of that hole in my sidewalk. 

But I made it.


And today, I walked down a different street.

Will you?

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