Friday, May 15, 2020

Grief and Blame

I still haven’t resolved the days or weeks leading up to Yosemite in 2017.  I blame myself.  

In my youth, I didn’t felt comfortable- or learn an appropriate way— to express my needs verbally.  I do remember my dad saying something like, “if you don’t like the way we discipline you, speak up” or “ask why,” but I feared I would be criticized, joked at or didn’t want to raise a stink.  I was already a cryer, good or bad, compliment or critique.  I cried.  Many jokes about how I have cried in every National Park.  

I didn’t like the critical attention.  My coping skills took me to my bedroom.  I would talk out loud, voicing frustration, unfairness, anger, sadness to my pillow or papered walls.  As I aged, journaling became a less noticeable flare-up.  I learned to let things slide—- to a point.  My personal tipping point.  As an adult, this tipping point is where friends, lovers, even parents, on occasion, would experience my sudden exasperation of incoherent emotion-thought, with a rushed and louder voice.  

As a child, I also struggled with body image.  I think most folks have/do.  I grew up with family members who are overweight, a mom who pointedly struggles with it herself and a dad who would repeatedly poke jest in obesities direction.  My dad was playful, so his remarks were indirect asides, re-writing and jokingly performing of tv theme songs etc.  I think my mothers weight concerns, dads jokes, societal trends, my innate personality and my communication fear/barrier combined for no one to take full blame.  Just a realization I have had since my late 20’s.  The pervasive need to “earn” my beer or ice cream through cardio-exercise.  

I was working on appreciating myself, my body, my gifts, my faults — the roundness of me since I finally opened my eyes, again at a very slow late 20’s.  Andrew’s death enlightened some more flaws, followed by the unfortunate downward spiral this next relationship and I found ourselves in.  For about a year, he wanted out.  At first I was amendable to him moving out, taking space.  When it didn’t happen, we found ourselves battling for our own stances, our own versions requesting “love me, respect me.”  Working together, living together—- too much in your face time --it became unhealthy.  

I was afraid to speak up for myself in a direct and compassionate manner.  I was afraid of it ending.  I was afraid to look deeper, hard in the mud.  I was impatient with myself, impatient with him.  
Afraid but why?  

For months prior to my injury, I often felt hurt, blamed, bitchy, conflicted, defensive, confused… all the things you feel when love and communication are not clear.  My memory and perspective is relevant to my experiences and upbringing. 

He the same.  Neither is wrong.  I have never felt that he was wrong to feel or express his hurt, anger, frustrations, and sadness towards our relationship, towards my accident.   Fuck to pile on them both.  I am sorry.  We all swim in the water in our own way.  

My struggle is two-fold.  Having suffered a life-altering traumatic injury, hitting my head, coupled with having a dynamic family/friend ICU experience.  I wasn’t me.  I was on pain medication, uncharted emotional, short-term memory and task oriented forgetful-land.  I feel like I am making an excuse for myself during the first nine months to a year of my existence after my injury.  I feel like I pushed people away.  I was dealing with an exceptional amount.  I may have looked “with it” but wasn’t sleeping, was depressed, didn’t want to be alive, confused, hurt——  denial, bargaining, coping.  So was he.  We don’t know as outsiders the depths of despair people wade through.  

This rant coming around to the fact, I don’t forgive myself.  The work I had been doing wasn’t enough, not even close.  I focus on my failing relationship as a reason I fell, if I had spoken up, broken up, I wouldn’t have gone to Yosemite.  I would have, could have trained for the running endeavors with a weepy heart. 

It is not his fault.  

I could focus on my parents and the body image shit, it is not their fault either.  

I could blame social media, companies for perpetuating good-looking and success.  Nope, silly.  

It makes the most sense that I am accountable for my actions.  For not honestly or more loudly expressing to Josie that my heart hurt from Hayden dying, the entire trip to Yosemite didn’t feel right because I was running away from the truth in my 4 year relationship falling apart.   

I hoped for marriage, was clinging to prove I was good enough, kind enough, worthy enough of being asked the question.  I am not embarrassed to say it, I want to be married.  I want the story tale question to be asked of me.  
I wasn’t content with the body, looking back at photos I am an idiot.  I was strong and slender, even in the “pudgier times.”  Even now when I look at my big arms, bony ass legs and more fat layered belly squished in my wheelchair.  I have a long ways to go with this work.

After another emotionally tasking climbing ranger season, I was tired.  I love my teammates but the tight, persistent and demanding dynamic could be trying.  I was confused about my relationship with rock climbing.  Not in a good headspace.  

Self-Blame.  Anyone of those phrases, said in the mirror and I wouldn’t be paralyzed.  My choice to push them all aside, or down.  Distraction.  

This pandemic has me at another layer of loss for distraction, similar to the year following my injury.  I am not traveling.  I don’t have a job at the moment.  Friends are struggling to maintain their business’ or sanity in this small town.  We are supposed to be socially distant anyway but that doesn't feel new to me and COVID times.  Friendships, as a whole, are a can of worms since my injury.  I feel an overwhelming sense of sorrow for my friendships.  Many lost.  I feel lost.  I still struggle.  Where we are now, far far away.  Am I still pushing you guys away?  

Why am I writing all this?  Writing is cathartic and when I return to reread in a few days before possibly publishing, I can sort what I mean on paper but also in my mind.  

Why am I sharing it? In my haze, have I told those I love, and strangers afar, I love them, I am thankful?   Thank you.  I am so incredibly grateful for the cards, the books, the chocolates, the weekly visits, the hugs, the exhausting heart-broken repetitive conversations they listened to, the moody nerve pain days and answering the “surely she is crying again” phone calls.  I know I have said it in person to them but for some reason feel it isn’t enough.  I still feel a need to convince others I am; thankful, sorry, working on being pleasant, genuine nice, mostly kind, loving, a great listener, caring, compassionate— good enough—- worthy.  

This is not all them.  
This is obviously is a pervasive trait that I need to still sort.  Why do I need approval?  Why am I so concerned with others perspective of me?  The perfectionist is resistant to forgiving myself, as I am in this obvious seated position due to my own choices, habits—- me.  


Unknown said...

With Covid-19 people have stopped hugging in the fear of spreading the virus, but wish I could give you a hug and maybe for a moment I could make you forget about what you have been and are going through.

Britney said...

Quin, you are a vibrant, intelligent, beautiful soul. I read your writing and can relate to much of it. If I were your friend, I would consider it an honor to be your friend. Much love. ❤

Visitor said...

I'm not in a similar position to yours as I don't have to deal with the aftermath and adjustment of a major accident as you are. And yet I can relate to your emotional and social struggles, to feeling isolated, to questioning whether you're good enough, "pleasant/easy/fun enough" to be around, be a friend, be a partner. I have learned that I am my own worst critic, that it is most often myself who stands (alone) in my own way, that my doubts and sadnesses are biggest in my own mind and not seen as so substantial or justified from the outside. I feel with you, I feel for you, and I feel less alone. What a mess we humans are, and what a trial this life can be. I'm sending you a big heartfelt hug, stranger to stranger, and would like to thank you for sharing your struggles so openly, for making yourself so vulnerable and shining the light so brightly onto yourself, because it makes me feel less alien, less alone, and more like we're all in this together.

Jupo said...

I've been following your blog since your accident and you have been and continue to be an inspiration. I know the pain of a debilitating injury and seeing your strength and determination makes it so much easier to accept life as it is. Your are one hell of a fighter and a beautiful lady, inside and out.

Sri Alexander Valarino said...

"Writing is cathartic..." Indeed!

ChefNick said...

Wow, this is all the way last year? No posts since then? Quinn, I also have been following this blog since your fall and as a stranger and not a climber, can I perhaps suggest your accident was just random chance? I know that's not a popular view, especially among the climbing community who view it as a personal failure to fall, but need I remind you, Ueli Steck, the so-called Swiss Machine seemingly just fell out of nowhere on another solo climb? Dean Potter, others not with us . . . I raged on some climber's Youtube video that he was taking chances with his life and his wife and small child might not be so supportive when he was dead.

But he was taking the same chances every climber takes every time they climb up some rope-assisted rock face: namely, ropes fail, rocks tend to fall on your head or you just slip on a smooth surface . . . no matter. Random chance decided to take you that day; it could have gone a very different way and you might not be here at all. Or maybe nothing at all could have happened that day, but would you have gone "Whew, I'm glad I missed that fall that would have paralyzed me!" . . . of course you wouldn't. But it's what all climbers should be doing; and if you ask me (I know you didn't) all climbers should just stop, every single day and look at what they're doing with a very critical eye and perhaps consider a different hobby.

Because what I have discovered to my great cost is that we only have one of ourselves, and if that goes away we're left with no choices at all. Ever. My wife died months ago of a rare illness. I feel like blaming it on something but I know that it was random chance that picked her, helped along by her obesity, but still . . . so don't be too hard on yourself. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

Eileen said...

I check back here every year or so and I've learned a lot. You're still doing cool stuff, keep going. All the best!

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Patrick Dundon said...

Quinn, I just today learned about you when reading a shoe review by Jenny Abegg. I'm a crier too and a lover of Yosemite (working in TM for YC), but your story hit a nerve. Perhaps because I'm an OR nurse, I have seen paralysis. I feel that you will continue to find purpose and eventually peace. I wish you all the best and will check back in hopes you are able to share progress.

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