Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When George Dropped In From The Next Dimension

"Mourning has its place but also its limits.” -- Joan Didion, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, quoted in Goodreads.


Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were part of the literary elite. After he died suddenly in 2003 and their daughter died shortly thereafter, Didion wrote a book about working through her grief.

Her book, titled THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, was published in 2005 and made all the best seller lists. She explains that “magical thinking” is a term used by psychologists to describe the way we try to change reality by thinking we can go back in time and change things. We’ll wake up tomorrow and find it was all a bad dream.

Magical thinking, wishful thinking. Grief plays tricks. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that. A familiar looking car passes us on the street and we get a glimpse of a hat, the back of a head, maybe a profile, and for a split second we think – but no, nothing changed. Reality is a dead weight on the heart.

I could tell you stories, but I won’t. Oh, all right, just one. Trust me, I’m not nuts. A little flaky maybe, but definitely of sound mind.

Years ago my favorite cat died. He was a big orange cat and his name was George. I loved that cat and couldn’t bear to give him up. When he was literally on his last legs my best friend stepped in and held him while the vet put him to sleep. I cried for days.

One morning as I sat at the breakfast bar drinking coffee and staring out the window, George walked up on my deck. He stopped, stretched, and walked off.

Maybe it was magical thinking. Maybe it was visualization. Maybe George was just showing off, his way of saying, “It’s cool, I’m fine.” I ran outside and looked around, calling him. I couldn’t find him and I never saw him again. But he was there, just once, oh, yeah.

PEOPLE magazine for Oct. 17, 2005 ran an article by Joan Didion on how she came to write her book. Here’s a paragraph that will strike a familiar chord with anyone who grieves:

Also, when you are in grief there’s something that happens to your throat. It’s from not crying. You’re choking. I recognize that, totally. It doesn’t make it easier, but I do know it will go away. Another thing is, when you wake up in the morning you have to sort of reinvent your life every day because in the dream state you try to forget.
(end quote)

“Reinvent your life every day.” We already do that in many ways. In grief it just takes more effort and energy. Eventually, it gets easier. Not easy. Never easy. Just easier. You put one foot in front of the other, and you go on, reinventing your life every day.


Photo of cats Onxy and Tango shared by Deb Bouziden, used here courtesy of Amy Shojai from her cat photos on Flickr at

Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, and the author of 26 nonfiction pet books. She also writes mystery thrillers, making her debut with the dog-centric thriller LOST AND FOUND (2012).

See her web site at http://amyshojai.com/