The Sideways Hourglass

Back when Mike would drive me to the train station for my commute to my high-stress job, we’d sometimes arrive early enough to see the train before mine go by – it was an express, and our daughter loved the thrill of watching it blast through the station (from the safety of the car, of course.)

We came to call these express trains “whoosh” trains, because they’d “whoosh” by.

Every once in a while, she still asks to drive over to the station, to see a whoosh train.

Whoosh trains define my relationship to time, now – time that is whooshing by like a train I’m not on.

I feel like I should be “better” by now. It’s been over two years and we’re coming up on our third Christmas season without Mike. I finished my book and I’m working up the courage to start sending out my query letters about it. I’ve painted rooms, given away almost all his clothes, including, finally, the barn coat and boots. I’m still working on figuring out what to do with his collection of war games, and the telescope and the tandem are still in the garage. But still.

I’ve had days when I felt happy. Days when I didn’t think about Mike, and then felt guilty about it. I’m surprised by this new wave of grief that has hit me, now, at the start of the season of joy.

The train whooshes by. I’m supposed to be trying to live with love and laughter, and right now, I suck at it. I’m doing OK with the love part, I guess, except it feels like it is coming from a still, quiet place that just sits there – it isn’t an active kind of love. It’s an, “OK, get up, one foot in front of the other, let’s try to be a decent person today” kind of love, and I still fail at it regularly.

I feel an odd sort of responsibility to “make progress,” and I feel like I haven’t made any. I keep getting older and I’m every bit as alone. I keep losing and regaining the same three pounds.

The panicky anxiety is back. Mike could fix that. One hug from him and I was OK. I felt safe.

I don’t feel safe. I feel exposed. Unlocked. Threatened and afraid.

I sure as hell don’t feel like I’m “making progress.”

I feel like someone knocked the my hourglass over sideways.

Everyone else’s hourglass is efficiently sifting its sand, and when it is just about done, they’ll just “strike the bell and turn the glass” and start a new day.

I feel stuck in a place where time passes, I get older, but things don’t get better. Just dustier, greyer, yellowed. Old. Dried up.

chess and hourglass still life

I kept one of his many chessboards, the one he won as an elementary school champion. I still have his hats, though the smell of him is fading from them. I have too many dried up roses around the house. Feng shui, or something like it, says not to keep those, and to throw away the chipped dishes and cracked glassware. Working on it.

I haven’t been reading anything other than the deluge of catalogs that come this time of year, which I find oppressive. Maybe this year I’ll just do one of those, “Anne has made a donation in your name to…(insert laudable charitable organization doing the good in the world that I don’t seem to have the will or gumption or energy or courage to do.)

From darkness riseth light, right? Right?

Each year my church has a “longest night” service for people like me – people who need comfort because they feel left out of the joy.

That’s the message, though, isn’t it? He came in our darkest hour – never mind that we appropriated a pagan midwinter festival designed to address fears that the dark of winter would last forever and light would not come again. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness.

And to unburden us of our sins.

I feel like failing to be happy is a sin. I feel like I shouldn’t have to work so hard to feel grateful for the life I have and I don’t understand why I keep thinking about the life I never had instead of the one I do have, now. I don’t understand why I keep making the same mistakes, over and over again.

I’ve been slipping in my observation of the Middle Aged Woman rules. I’m in danger of giving up, drying up, sinking into a cronehood made up of joint pain and thinning hair and sagging spirit…well, let’s be honest here, sagging everything.

I have to go wash my hair, put on some lipstick, and take my daughter to see the holiday model train display. I’ll try to be quiet, and let her just enjoy it.

And maybe when they start sprinkling the fake snow from the ceiling, I’ll look out the window at the specks of real snow that is falling, and remember that spring will come.

From darkness riseth light.

In the bleak midwinter.

Time to buy a tree, and smell the piney-ness of it, and find the joy, even if it is small, and deeply buried.

Until then I remain,

Your humble, flawed, struggling, hanging on to hope by a thread,


11 thoughts on “The Sideways Hourglass

  1. you write so beautifully – your post brought tears to me eyes. i have no idea what hell you must be going through but i sent a prayer up that God will send you peace and love your way. may someone bring a smile to you today and may you feel God’s presence in a very big way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was really beautiful and well-said. The holidays really do bring everything out of the grief woodwork, even things you thought you’d worked through already.

    My mother-in-law lost her husband and son within a couple of years, and this time of year she typically sums up her feelings as, “I know I’ll be able to feel happy again, once I figure out how to completely change the meaning of the word happy.”

    Love and light to you. Those who aren’t with us anymore would want nothing less for us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Maggie – but wait a minute – I’m so sorry – I was down so deep in my self-pity puddle that while I read and appreciated what you said about your your mother-in-law (she’s right – working on re-defiining “happy) and I do believe that Mike would want “happy” for us, it didn’t sink in right away that if your mother-in-law lost a son, that might mean you lost a husband??? but certainly means you lost a father-in-law and another family member when she did – I’m so sorry for her losses and yours. Peace to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the kind words. It was my husband’s brother. I had only been married to my husband for less than a year when it all happened, and I didn’t get the chance to know them very well. I wish I had. The best I can do is give my husband all the love and support in the world!


  3. I love how real this is and how you aren’t afraid to look at life for exactly what it is and yet still hold on to hope (and your sense of “ridiculous” poignant humor).


      1. You know, as I was typing out my comment to you, I thought “If she had never had chickens, I would never found and started reading her posts in the first place.”

        As far as missing your chickens…I know, situations change, and we do what is best for our beloved feathered friends, but we will always have our fond chicken day memories.


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