Our minds have a landscape. Each person builds their own landscape over the course of their lifetime. Over here is where the filing cabinet with phone numbers and your Social Security Number is. And this is the path you take every morning when you get up and put clothes on. And this is the cul de sac of morose thoughts that you can get trapped in if you aren’t careful.
My landscape has a heavy dose of Doctor Seuss and a little bit of the Fade from Dragon Age 1. It has twisting paths and weird tower things and grass and worn trails. For the most part, it is brightly and unrealistically colored. There may even be a Lorax. Most of it is familiar, though certainly not all of it
(I think that this metaphor also works for folks struggling with depression. The negative self-talk, the suicidal ideation, all of that is a well-worn path. It is easy to walk this path because it is familiar. That doesn’t mean it is a good path. For some people, this means they are constantly looking at where they are putting their feet, making sure that the path they are on is a good one, not just the easiest one. This is why depression, and being not-depressed, takes up so much energy.)
Here is where we start talking about grief.
My landscape is currently inhabited by a grief monster. Mine is somewhere between a puppy and a dragon. It’s kind of cute, honestly. It has big floppy ears and a lolling tongue and a scaled ruff like a lizard. It breathes fire and likes to dig and chew on things. And therein lies the problem.
If I’m not paying attention to it, it goes and digs holes in the paths and chews on the filing cabinet and decides to just burn some things to the ground for funsies. And I don’t know what destruction it has wrought until I’m walking along a familiar path and suddenly there is no ground under my foot. Or when I try to open the filing cabinet and it is jammed because the grief puppy slobbered it shut.
I have to attend to this grief monster constantly. I can put it on a leash and tie it to a lorax bush, but there is no guarantee that it will stay put. In fact, it probably won’t. I can hold its leash, or the scruff or its soft, scaly lizard neck and keep it in check, but then I am constantly holding it back and expending that energy. And honestly, I want to attend to it constantly. I want to cuddle this thing and keep it close. But that isn’t the choice that allows me to keep living my own life. So instead, I put it on a leash and hope it doesn’t slip out this time.
It is really good a slipping its leash. Like, any excuse at all and it is gone and out of my grip racing across the sneetches beach and trying to turn sand to glass with its fire breath. Or maybe it’s that the leash just isn’t that strong and it breaks frequently, like when someone sings Let It Go. I’m not sure about that part.
So, there is a metaphor. The landscape in my mind is being ravaged by this thing I want to hold close and cuddle and care for, but also that I can’t control and in its wake, I’m left with sudden lurches in my stride, lost access to parts of myself and a general sense of being a stranger in my own mind.