Monthly Maunder: May 2019

I suppose I spoiled the surprise of my “big return” with last week’s post (oh, but that one was fun to write!), so…I’m back. Back in the New York groove, you might say.

Well, Ace Frehley might say, anyway.

And I’m happy to be here, truly. I’m also really glad that I took a break from writing. For the better part of last month, my brain was just not able to fire off the right neurons needed for telling coherent stories. Not that I know that it ever was, but after eight years of doing this, I guess my brain knows something I don’t.

So, yeah. Last month was tough. It was initially painful, sleepless, and stressful. It ended peacefully and somewhat reserved, with everyone picking up the pieces and resolving to move on. Because that’s life. And now, things are better. I am better. A dim haze of sorrow still hangs, and random moments of tear-shedding still occur, but the overall feeling of negativity dissipates a little more with each new day. Moving forward will be different but it won’t be impossible thanks to family, friends, and all of you here. YOU are awesome. Please don’t ever forget that. 

One of the most common phrases I heard last month was “take all the time you need,” this in reference to dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one. I alluded to what I’m about to elaborate upon in last month’s maunder, because while I appreciate the sentiment, the underlying tone behind the phrase always seems to imply “but not too much time.” Because it’s not like one can be in mourning forever, right?

I suppose that’s true in some respects, but as far as present-day America goes, it does seem like one’s time to mourn needs to occur quickly and privately. Which is interesting considering that it wasn’t all that long ago when we had something of a…well, a rather lively culture of mourning. And by “lively” I don’t mean celebratory (though celebrations of and over death are nothing new), I instead mean that it was a public and strict rite of passage that was supported by a whole economy.

The (rich, highfalutin) Victorians were noted for many things, one of which was a firm adherence to social etiquette. And during much of the 19th century, when someone died, the prevailing etiquette demanded that women, especially, were to go through over two years of mourning. (Yep, you saw that right. TWO YEARS. I literally could not imagine anyone’s reaction today if I was to say “Welp, so and so died, and I need the next two years off. See ya!”) I’m being glib there in the parentheses, because those Victorian mourners didn’t just get to hide away for two years eating ice cream and playing video games. Mourning was a very public affair that involved different stages of the act, along with — and this is where the economy of mourning came in — mourning clothes and accessories, like household decorations, stationary, and pictures (morbidly so, as was the case in death portraiture).

Over the course of 100 years, society changed, and so too did its practices. Some of them, anyway. In looking through various collections of historic documents, 19th century mourning stationary is common, but its not uncommon to also come across a piece of it from the early to middle 20th century. I get the notion of wearing black, and I wanted to wear an awful lot of it myself last month. But that feeling rose less out of duty and more out of necessity — black clothes always match, no thinking involved when you’re in a hurry to be somewhere. But everything that I did involving grief of all shades, I did by myself or with immediate family. Other than red eyes and a tired smile, I didn’t output to the world at-large any indications of mourning. And I certainly can’t imagine living in a time when I would have been expected to do so. At the same time, it’s a little disheartening to live in time when everyone is seemingly forced to wear their “brave faces” all the time. You know as well as I that it’s not easy pretending to be okay when you’re really not. It is encouraging that, as a society, we’re becoming more sympathetic. And I say this in spite of the annoying rise of “react” and “outrage” culture. While bothersome and outright horrific(ally amusing) at times, at least people have some sort of outlet. It’d be bad if everyone just started spontaneously combusting.

Or maybe that just’s with farting.

Some things are still best done in private.

And that pretty much derailed my historic train of thought.

Well, while sadness still looms, I don’t have a black veil or funereal images or mourning cards to show for it. To be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to reminder. I’m okay with the closure I received, the solace that came afterwards, and my own perceived “rejoining” of society. I’m not quite ready to spontaneously combust yet… … …though this delicious bean burrito in front of me may have other ideas.

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