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Me and Greta Garbo

September 26, 2008

I’m trying to prepare, mentally, for going back to work. I’ll be back on October 1, and am dreading it as well as looking forward to it. Not looking forward to it in an “Oh boy! This will be fun!” way but I think I’m ready to take this step toward whatever will pass for normality in the world I find myself in right now. Plus, we need the paychecks. Plus, all of my accumulated leave days have been spent on bed rest and recovery time. Plus, I’m running out of West Wing episodes to watch.

I’m mostly functional now. I can hold myself together most of the time, and for the last week I’ve only cried in the privacy of my home, but going back to work will be made easier by the knowledge that my office has a door with a lock on it. I’ve also started to think about what grief looks like in public, what it’s expected to look like. I suspect it isn’t expected to look like me.

A friend from work took me out to breakfast this morning, and it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared. We ate omelets and chatted about work, and we even talked a bit about Teddy’s birth, which is somehow easier than talking about Teddy himself. I’m sad about that; he was such a beautiful and special little boy, but every time I try to talk about him or think about how dear he was I start crying. Hopefully it won’t always be this way, but for now my memories of him can be accessed only through tears.

Leaving the breakfast place, we walked into bright, pure sunlight, the kind of sunlight you only see around here in spring and autumn. My friend held her face up to it, having what she calls a “sunflower moment,” but I’d forgotten my sunglasses and bright light hurts my eyes lately – a side effect of all of the crying, I think – so I squinted and watched and thought,”No sunflower moments for me.” And this is more true than I’d like: I’m not ready for full light right now in many respects. Shadows are more comfortable, and while I’ve never minded rain, at this point in my life, truly, I wouldn’t mind if it just rained all the time.

I wonder if I could wear my sunglasses constantly when I go back to work, hide my eyes, protect them from violent light, keep people from knowing when I’m tearing up, when I’m on the edge, when I’m fighting to focus. I wonder if I could use them to hide the lie when I answer “fine” to the inevitable “How are you?” or to shield myself from curiosity and speculation.

Perhaps I could even perfect my “I want to be let alone,” and develop an air of mystery, like Greta Garbo. Harder for me than for her, since she was willowy and glamorous and I am decidedly un-willowy and not at all glamorous. As it is, I look like a comfortable sort of person, like someone who’d give you her pocket change and/or directions to the bus stop. There’s something bleakly funny about being a roundish sort of “jolly” looking person while feeling so decidedly not jolly. To pull of the proper appearance of tragedy, I should really lose roughly 40 pounds, grow three inches taller, and wear better clothes and less comfortable shoes.

So much real tragedy, happening to real people, is not at all cinematic. I marvel at all of the actors who are able to cry beautifully – how the hell do they pull that off without their eyes turning red, their noses running, and their faces turning blotchy? I wish I could cry like that; it looks like you wouldn’t use up as many tissues or hurt your eyes as much.

What I want, of course, is some sort of sunglass suit, so my grief and me would be hidden from the public even when we went out into it, and even if such a suit were available, it probably wouldn’t be healthy to wear it for long. I’ll go back to work, I’ll talk to people, and it might suck, but I’ll get through it.

And if I have to, for a while, I can wear sunglasses. Me and Greta Garbo.

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One comment

  1. I feel the same as you do, about how actors can cry so beautifully.
    Good luck with going back to work. I can imagine it will be hard, and I hope your colleagues will be supportive and sensitive.
    Thinking of you.



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