In preparation for the tape gun – an Ode to complicated grief

The hollowness of my core echoes its mantra into my mind. Or is it the other way around? My mind echoes and tells me it’s my heart. Is my heart breaking? Is this pain real? Does anything ever make sense? I sit to work on my book this morning before the crew comes to pack and the house is filled with that activity. Entrenched in a re-write of my book that began early this year, I hit a serious road bump after the fire, then began again with fits and starts throughout the summer. I am writing an updated version on waiting, bringing in my “new” perspective, removing references to Jack all with the partnership of a new publisher. This is quite an opportunity but I can’t seem to get this sucker off the ground. 

With the help of my editor, I have melded new stories with old, changed the introduction, and have places where I merely need to write transitions yet each time I begin again, I wonder, just what is it I am saying? What is this waiting thing after all? Is it a phenomenon? What does it even mean to wait? Recently, on two separate occasions, I received direct reports from new readers of how my words spoke to them, pointed to where they wait themselves and challenged them to look at life differently. This is obviously quite a gift, coming in the midst of my questioning. But each time I read the words I am writing, I wonder, what am I really talking about? It’s not that I think I have nothing to say. I have a lot to say, but does it have anything to do with waiting? I think I am talking about grief, the human condition, the darkness where some of us frolic, uncertainty, true love, deep connections, our place in the world, and keeping dreams alive. Does this have anything to do with waiting? Of course I would be thrown in the midst of turmoil in writing this. It’s what I warn my author clients, it’s what I read from my favorite artists – and the opposite view is what I ignore from those who claim to channel from the angels without any effort whatsoever. Yesterday, my client Gary echoed back what he says is my mantra on writing: “You write the book and the book re-writes you.” I added, “After it rips you limb from limb…” and now I might add, “…and leaves you for dead, alone on the side of the road staring up at the vast sky and thinking, ‘WTF?”.

I have definitely found my home among the other twisted artist types who aren’t afraid to share their darkness about life and the craft itself. These musings are plentiful and help remind me I haven’t quite gone over the edge. Thanks to Gene Fowler, I know that “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Ray Bradbury reminds me that “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Anne Lamott’s entire book Bird by Bird could keep me sane, or at least normalize my insanity. She speaks the truth when she says, “You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.” (From (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith)

These fine folks remind me I am not alone. They grant me the permission I to write my truth, even if it’s not the entire truth. Really, I know there is sunshine up there, even when the clouds roll in. And, good God, I am still in the grief process. So being here, I can’t help baring it all. That it touches one heart, opens up one mind, gives one iota of freedom to a fellow traveller is good enough for me. I am in the trenches of life, marveling at the muck and grime while still having moments of grace and beauty when it all clicks, before falling apart once again. Yesterday I laughed uproariously, today I cry like a baby.

So now, I spend the last morning in this great room before the packers come and choke the hallways with boxes ready for their trip across country. As I removed the final pieces of art from the walls last night in preparation, I stopped cold at one I couldn’t budge. My father, oh so many years ago, bought framed butterflies an arranged them in a triptych beside the dining table. (Quickly, I will add that these butterflies were all collected after death, not killed for art). How long they have hung on the wall, I do not know. I was able to remove the two on either side, but when I went to place my hands on the larger one, I couldn’t budge it. Literally, my arms felt frozen. I grasped the frame, feeling it’s weight and couldn’t lift it from its spot. Instead I wept ages of tears and once again questioned why.

It’s turning pink outside, the light reflecting on the clapboard side of this lovely house. Seriously, I think my heart will crack. The pain stabs my chest and throat and I wonder if I can take it. I have been thinking of my recurring nightmare I used to have about my old house, where I would dream we had sold it, then suddenly, the realization would set in of what we had done and that there was no going back and I would fall into a pit of terror. I am afraid of that now. I feel the terror all around me. Who am I without this house? It’s always been here for as long as I can remember. I swirl into the pit as I ponder. Damn. So, I am someone who attaches to houses, that much is clear.

After reading my blog, one of my faithful readers shared her own realization that it’s not the places, it’s the people. I know what she means, and I have to say, I resist that. Places stay solid where people can’t. And, yes, I know I have the ultimate in best people in my life. It’s not that I don’t know that (just read my last blog post for proof). I am just grappling with the illusion of certainty. The illusion that something that feels and appears solid really is. That it might last forever where people don’t, won’t or can’t. This place simply holds me right now. Nothing changes, it doesn’t have moods, it won’t snap at me one moment and be kind the next. Do I sound like someone who has gotten the lesson in non-attachment? Yeah, I don’t think so either… But I am grappling with it, as I knowingly say goodbye to this beloved place when I never had the chance to say goodbye to my last.

All of this comes on the eve of where we might land next. The house that we want may not work out. Many items came up on the inspection that may be too big for us to walk in to at this point. It’s a dreamy, artsy place where in my mind, I have already placed many of precious items from here on shelves. But morphing the expectations of a buyer and a seller isn’t always smooth. The house needs some pricey fixes and even with my overwhelming craving to create a home, I need to keep my wits about me. So we may land somewhere else. All of this we will know in the next week. Right now, still, strongly, I want to stay in this room, in this house that I know and love so well. I want to live in this little town where everyone knows each other and I have a history that is older than I. My great-grandparents are buried in the cemetery here. My grandparents lie next to them. And, my eldest sibling who didn’t get to take a breath of air as he fell from my mother’s womb too early, lies there as well.

Are we making the biggest mistake of our life, I wonder? But please don’t ask me, “Do you have to sell it?” It’s too late for that. Too many wheels are in motion. Still, I feel ripped from the womb myself. Torn away before I am ready and thrown into this world that I still haven’t made friends with again. The pink has turned to gold and now it begins to warm the grass. A neighbor cat prowls across the lawn and returns victorious with a mouse in his craw. I will await the packers, who hopefully are highly skilled in dealing with people like me whose heart breaks at the sound of the tape gun.

What am I waiting for? Maybe I am just waiting for the world to make sense. And, yes, if this is so, I realize I may wait a long long time.


  • Dusty
    Posted at 12:51h, 05 October Reply

    In my mind, I’m rescue you…swooping in to the house today and instead of you driving away from the empty place, we glide through the air on our magic carpet, the wind whipping through your hair and laughing. Lots of laughing.
    Then I remember there is no magic carpet.
    No rug at all.
    We are with you…every single heart cracking step of the way.

    • Kristen Moeller
      Posted at 13:34h, 05 October Reply

      You are a poet, Meehan woman. I absolutely fricken adore every molecule in your being.

      • Janna
        Posted at 15:21h, 07 October Reply

        Kristen, I am definitely with you on this journey. As I sit in my father’s empty house awaiting his funeral I am having to ‘let go’ of the sense of belonging that comes with a rich family history. This house – the town where I grew up, attended school, dated, brought my children to be with their grandparents, etc. – this house is going to be sold. The cottage on the lake where my heart feels the most at peace drinking coffee on the deck as the sun comes up and watching the loons glide by – the cottage is for sale. I am not ready to let go, but it is what is on my timeline. I think we kinda get sucked into the ‘Cheers’ perspective that everyone should know our names. The other side of that of course is that you make new names for yourself and can remodel yourself easily. Love to you!

        • Kristen Moeller
          Posted at 15:32h, 07 October Reply

          Yes! To all of the above. I love you dear Janna. I am with you from afar.

  • Lauren Byrne
    Posted at 13:16h, 05 October Reply

    What Dusty said…<3

  • Christine
    Posted at 15:21h, 05 October Reply

    What Dusty said was perfection…just want you to know I am here, reading, being with you.


  • Sandy Golnick
    Posted at 17:02h, 05 October Reply

    So getting this, Kristen as we begin this journey as well. We are so very attached to this house we created and shaped to express who we are! How can we leave it and step into the unknown…now when it seems like time to settle in?

    I find myself not wanting to be open to discovering a new place for us to live…not caring about a new “adventure”. I want it to just be easy! I know you are there and I likely will need to call upon you as a guide as I enter this process.

    Thank you for being out front and showing us the way. xx

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