like people around the globe, we have been on the instant pot train for a couple years now. i love that appliance, i really do, and if you’re thinking of buying one, i’d say you should. (no this post is not sponsored. i don’t even know how i would go about getting it sponsored. and no, am not interested in finding out). (oh and ps, it was invented by a canadian, pocketbrit! which i’m well aware will instantly incite disdain and eye-rolling, you predictable ridiculous woman.)
but why i thought of my instant pot was because there is this thing on it called a release valve. when you are using the pressure cooking function you can wait for things to cool down (a “natural” release), or you can hit the valve, and in an instant, all of this hissing steam comes blasting out of the lid, fogging your windows, and filling your house with the smell of whatever you’re cooking.
and somehow, yesterday, i seemed to have hit an internal release valve, except what came pouring out was grief.
it took me by surprise – not the grief per se, that had been there, simmering in the background, after a series of difficult texts with my mom, whose main purpose in life seems to be to remain clueless about difficult things and to undermine anyone who challenges her cluelessness. i had just been grocery shopping, and the tears had threatened close while i was there, as i texted with pocketbrit, but were easily blinked away. i parked my car in my driveway, clicked the ignition off, and was going to open the door to get out, when i started sobbing. full out, full on. no particular precipitating thought or reason for it, just pure, unfettered anguish. and so, i burrowed my chin into the beautiful soft scarf pocketbrit knit me, and let it out.
my grief fogged up my car windows. the wet on my cheeks felt so cold, and my feet froze in my boots as i sat and waited for its waves to subside. had i not been startled by a sensor light turning on suddenly at the side of our house, i may have sat there even longer, my breath ragged, my voice not even seeming my own. but as quickly as it started, it sort of stopped, and i made four chilly trips in and out of the frigid black evening to bring in the groceries, and then started to unpack them.
my daughter didn’t see my face, but my wife did, right away. and she put her hand on my arm, wanting to draw me into her, but the thought of it made my eyes well up again and i choked out that i couldn’t, not just yet. i poured myself a cold glass of water, hoping to swallow the lump in my throat, but instead my eyes spilled over and i could feel another wave coming, so i excused myself into my room, and i muffled my sadness into my stuffed dog and my pillow for i don’t know how long. and eventually, the waves became ripples, and my breathing slowed, and i mopped my face and nose and went back to join my family.
and then, my sweet daughter noticed my puffy eyes and splotchy face, and suggested that we have a cuddle in our beloved cuddle chair (a big leather chair in our living room, perfectly suited for the snuggling of one grown up, and one growing-but-not-quite-grown kid). so we did that, and she asked what had happened, and i just told her i was sad, so sad, i wasn’t sure why, but the feeling just go so big, did that ever happen to her? and she said it did, and she also said that it was okay, that i could be sad if i needed and she would be there. (and frig, that almost made me start up again because hello, who is this beautiful, sensitive creature who is just freshly nine years of age?!)
so then we had dinner, and did our bedtime song and dance, and after i’d tucked that beautiful, sensitive creature into bed and crawled into my own, there was a part three to the release. and i don’t know what exactly precipitated this series of releases, what button i hit, but even though it was exhausting and made my head pound and my eyes burn, i was just so grateful for the emptiness it left behind, for the feeling of my exonerated, exhaled grief in the room.
and in fact, it is only just now that it strikes me why it felt okay, why i can feel grateful, and it’s because of how gently i was held through it: by my wife, my child, by pocketbrit. by my t, when i told her about it today. and mostly, that i managed to hold myself through it, that somehow, i managed to sit with it, and let it be there. that i finally discovered a mute button to shame, under whose rule i’ve been living for weeks.
i know the relief cannot last, but for today, it is enough, it is welcome, it is good.
i’m going to try and write about some of the words i’ve missed over this past month. december was really difficult, and january is proving to be hard, too, but i want to catch up. i know it’s kind of not the purpose of the blog, as pocketbrit and i first intended, but hey, evolution.
whittling away at all those words just feels important.
i am a very warm person, in the temperature sense of the word. i mean, i hope in other senses too, i think i am, but my body itself is warm. i need to have a foot hanging out of the sheets at night, coz i get overheated. my hands are almost always warm, as are my feet, in fact, they are often too warm (which i hate). my wife and friends will often grab my hands to warm theirs up, which i am more than happy to do, i have plenty to go around! i can always tell if i am tired or if i am getting ill, because i will feel cold, and it is such an unusual feeling for me.
i wasn’t always this way, i don’t think. my internal thermometer first seemed to have gotten reset when i lived in india. it was so so so SO hot there, and maybe, by living there, by loving it there, by learning so much about myself and about the world while i was there, i absorbed india into my cells? i don’t know, but it changed me, made me warmer, brought heat to my life in a way i hadn’t had experienced it previously.
and then, when i carried my daughter, something seemed to permanently reset. i mean, lots of things did: i became a mother. my body changed, the meaning of my life changed, so much was altered. but when i was pregnant, i was a veritable furnace. you could feel the warmth radiating from my body, i was a heat source, and i stayed that way afterwards. was it hormones? sure, maybe at first, but i’ve stayed that way.
i’ve always craved warmth in people. my parents were intermittently warm, my mom confusingly cold and then less so, at times. and to me, warmth was about words, but more about the feeling you got around someone. how they looked at you. how they held you in their gaze. how they physically touched you, or didn’t, but made you feel they were. the tone and cadence of their voices. the care with which they moved around you. i noticed all those things, valued all those things that belie words and defy description.
my little one, or the version of her that i carry, wants more than anything to be held. all the time, to be held. i am not sure i realized the depth of that need until recently, but that’s pretty much all she lives for. she is my little spidermonkey (arms and legs wrapped around your waist, face buried in your neck), a wee love bug, a cuddle monster. wrapped in layers of blankets, snugged in so tight.
maybe all kids are like this. maybe the need for this kind of closeness and warmth is totally normal, but in her, it has reached a fever pitch, because of how often that need went unmet.
whenever pocketbrit and i meet at the sea, we often have a posse of little ones all around. and there are blankets, and softness, and glowingness, and a fire, and warm drinks. the winter and cold and raging sea are all out, and we are tucked safely in. warmth means safety. warmth means love. warmth means belonging, and togetherness, and holds the promise of being okay. it’s the best bit, that. belonging and togetherness and the sense of possibility that we will be okay. i wouldn’t be without it.