Over the past month or so there have been many reasons to grieve, and due to the back to back nature of it, it’s given me the opportunity to observe a few things about myself. Which is always interesting.

I’m standing here, having just come back from a massive emotional/mental/physical crash. I haven’t hit the wall that badly in a long time because I’ve gotten so good at pacing myself, resting when I need to, setting goals that stretch me a little but are ultimately achievable given all the variables in my life.

Until bigger things start happening, this works. Death tends to make me reflective, so I had the requisite crisis about my writing career, and the fear and anxiety over my choices, and my future. And then I threw myself into a project. A physical labour project. You see, my father in law is dying, and my mother in law said that the only thing on his bucket list is to live in a ‘finished’ house.

So, I fixated. Finish the house. It feels like literally the only thing I can do to make this easier for them. I’ve weeded, shifted rocks, done a lot of wallpaper stripping, I’ve moved furniture, unpacked things back into the shelves where they belong. And there will be plenty more work in the months to come.

Now, I love this kind of work, but I have just realized that this is a trend for me when I’m grieving. In the past it’s seen entire gardens cleared from being totally overgrown to being presentable (And I’m talking agapanthus here; my arch enemy). I uncovered an entire pad of concrete that we never knew was there at our old place. When Nana died, I threw myself into scrubbing the house we were selling to within an inch of its life and taming the gardens. And now this.

Less positive results? Some serious sunburn (multiple occasions), damage to my wrist from cleaning and weeding, which still hasn’t entirely recovered and possibly never will be 100% right, and now, massive crashes that take weeks to really recover from.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t throw myself into physical labour, as much as I want to. As much as it helps my brain to process grief, gives me something to focus on, that wonderful movement of my body bringing me a sense of peace and achievement. Because it’s hurting me, and it took being chronically ill to realize that even before now, it was never an entirely positive way to deal with those big grief emotions.

(Ha, and I just remembered that when I heard my grandfather had died I made 42 beds in the backpackers I was working/living in at the time before I could drive home. Isn’t is hilarious and wonderful when you finally see these patterns?)

Oh, Brain. We need to work out a different way to deal with stuff, because we’re not getting any younger, and death is a natural part of life.

Of course, I’m still going to make sure that house is finished, but I’ll listen when my family tell me to take a break or stop, or offer to help. It doesn’t have to be all me, and I’m just going to have to learn to deal with grief in some other way.

You never stop learning, right?