Thoughts: On Dead Weedeaters

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Friday I cut my grass.

When I finished, I went into the house to get my weedeater. My weedeater is nothing special. It’s a small electric thing my parents gave me the first Christmas after I moved to Vermont. Cheap and small and light, it has served me well.

Until Friday.

Friday, it was dead. And the thing about electric weedeaters is that unlike their more robust gas powered versions, they can’t be fixed. Dead is dead.

I cried.

Yeah, THAT took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming. But I think it unleashed some residual grief. My dad died 18 months ago. My mom died a year before that. I have grieved plenty, but as is the way of grief, the pain lessens. You move on. The grief finds its place in your life and you make peace with it.

Until it jumps out at you in the most unexpected times.

There’s no revelation in this. Everyone who has lost something or someone important has experienced this. I still have moments when grief for my father-in-law, 20 years dead, pops out and overwhelms me for a moment.  All of us, when we get to a certain age, have felt this kind of “out of nowhere” grief, when the sadness we have neatly tucked into a closet somewhere, breaks out for a moment and reminds you of what you have lost, and how important it was  to us.  And things  you never expected to be a talisman, like a cheap electric weedeater, suddenly becomes something way more.

I have very little original to say. I came to realize that a decade or more ago. While the particular combination of experiences and emotions I live with are unique to me, each emotion and struggle, taken by themselves are pretty universal. All of us have lost parents or other people they love. All of us have experienced broken hearts, new love, pride, fear, dark moments, the whole gamut.

I am pretty ordinary, it turns out.

I used to think I was pretty creative. After all, I do things that people call “creative”. I write. Poems. Short stories. Books. I create images. Photographs. Watercolors. Oils. Drawings.  All sorts of creative endeavors.

Only… I don’t feel they are that creative. e.e. cummings was creative. Langston Hughes was creative. Picasso was creative. They changed the whole nature of their art. They created things that were new, always fresh, sometimes jarring.

I don’t know that I do that. What I am, I have come to accept, is expressive. I take my very ordinary emotions, and in my struggle to understand them and make sense of them, I make stuff.

That is not to denigrate what I do.

I have come to realize a lot of us, not just me, struggle to express emotions. We feel things deeply, but saying it is hard. We (and this was my struggle for a long time) are not equipped to deal with our feelings. We are afraid to. Or we don’t have the words. Or the chops to paint. Or whatever. There’s a lot of whatever. And me sharing some of the stuff I deal with, feel, experience, helps other know they are not alone. Because we all share those common emotions.

It took me a long time to understand the value of putting words to feelings. To understand the value of naming the things going on in our head and heart. Too often, for too many of us, emotions are overwhelming. They take on epic proportions.

But giving those feelings names, makes them smaller. Less daunting. We can deal with them easier. More effectively.

At least that is how it works for me. When I read a poem, or a novel, or see a moving piece of art, I am touched. I feel connected. Those words and images make me realize I am not alone with my emotions. Others have sorted through them. They help me, strengthen me, and help me find my own peace.

And that is part of why I out things out there. Why most days I write a poem, or some verbal meanderings like this. I LIKE not being alone. Life is less scary. My own struggles have purpose.

Even something like crying at a broken weedeater.

Sometime this week I will buy a new weedeater. It won’t be the same. But I’ll feel my parents with me when I buy it. And that will be nice.

Be well. Travel Wisely.

Tom

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