Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reflections at 4 years

It is now officially the day before the 4th sadiversary of A's passing. I say “officially,” because it's just past midnight, and no decent person should be awake now, but I am.

I found out tonight that one of my best friends is moving across the country. Like next week. I knew it was coming this year, but had no idea it was happening so soon. I've been awake pondering my widow entitlement issues...the ones where I think that I shouldn't have to lose anything or anyone else in any way because I lost A, and that's more than enough for one lifetime. I know it sounds ridiculous when I say it. Nonetheless, my inner widow is, evidently, 5 years old and is stamping her little foot and saying, “No, dang it! No more.”

My 38-year-old self would use stronger language.

It's what's best for my friend, and what she's wanted for a long time, and for that, I want to be happy for her. But I've cried a little, what I'm sure will not be the last tears on this subject. I will see her Saturday before she leaves on Wednesday, and then who knows when I'll see her. She hasn't even met my new dog! How can she leave now? Or rather, the real question is, "How can she leave me, too?"

So I'm awake and feeling sorry for myself. My mind is running on two tracks, though, as it often has in the last 4 years. The one track is the emotional “I hate this” track, and pity-party central. The other track is the one where I've learned that I can be faced with unpleasantness (often in the unimaginable extreme) and shrug, because, hey, shit happens and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

I am pleasantly surprised to realize that I'm in pretty good shape so far this week. I am totally aware of Thursday's milestone; it doesn't stray far from my thoughts and hasn't all month, but I'm feeling reasonably strong, even if my emotions are easily stirred. It doesn't help that I'm hormonal and I've been sweating in an 85-degree house for 2 weeks now; tends to make me cranky under the best of circumstances. I was talking to E about it tonight, and he mentioned those things, and I reminded him that it was the anniversary of A's death, too, and seriously, what else could be piled on this week?

Then I got the e-mail from my friend who's moving; why do I tempt the Fates in this manner? What the hell is wrong with me???

Where am I at at 4 years? Let's see... I finally weaned myself from the widow board in recent months. I've only been back twice in the last 3-4 months, and both of those were me testing myself to see if I would get sucked back in. I did not. Prior to insisting to myself that I walk away (for good, this time—I've tried before and always went back), I spent a lot of time there, out of habit and boredom, especially at work (see the aforementioned boredom), but I started realizing that being there, even when I was trying to help others, I wasn't helping me. Every visit yanked me right back into grief central, and even though I didn't break down in it, it had a definite effect of depressing my mood, and taking me out of the present moment, and my present life. And I had the sense that if I was going to make this life work, I had to focus on it, not just this one aspect of my life, which was becoming a scab I was reopening myself every time I logged in. The support of other widows is invaluable, even now; the raw hash of drama, demons, and death that is the board no longer serves me, nor I it, I think.

I'm not sure that I've gotten over the existential crisis that was a long epilogue to active grieving. It's not that I've lost the sense that most things in life are pointless (at least unto themselves); I still think that, but it's in a more benign way, in that I think it's supposed to be. It's that I've found a way (most days) to see that the value isn't necessarily obvious, or discernible beyond there being a value to any and all experiences. I'm trying to accept the idea that, as far as my purposes as an earthling are concerned, sorrow is as valuable as joy, even if it's not as pleasurable. It's a hard sell, but I'm working on it. My mind on that second track accepts that intellectually, but I know I don't really understand it in my bones, in a way that allows me to rejoice in it all, without a trace of self-pity. My current incarnation just isn't that evolved. Yet.

I think a lot about my potential next life. I joke about not coming back unless I have a strong, healthy athletic body that doesn't plague me, and also I want to be rich, and still play music. But more often, in the quiet of my own head, I think that I would not come back. I cannot imagine why I'd ever give up getting it, understanding it all, to come back here and muddle through life again, blind and ignorant; hell, I can't imagine why I did it this time. What was I thinking? I wish I knew.

I have had 4 years to get used to A's absence...the fact of his death. (I needed to use the word “death” at least once here...I tend to avoid it even now.) And in terms of the day-to-day, I am used to it. Even so, the other morning I woke up with that thought again, about how I sure don't talk to him like I used to...why is that?...oh yeah... I don't talk to him as much as I used to because HE'S BEEN DEAD FOR 4 YEARS. Jesus, what is that?

That's my soul speaking; it hasn't gotten used to A's absence one bit. My brain gets it, and soldiers on, but my heart....for my heart, it happened yesterday. And when my heart and my brain try to get it straight once again, and my head says “You know this...” and my heart says “Seriously? He's dead? How the fuck did that happen? That's not supposed to happen! Doesn't he know that I need him and love him as much as ever, possibly more, and he's supposed to be here?”

Because that's the truth. I've got my life all back together. I'm not wandering about in abject nihilism. I'm creating and living and my relationship with E is strong. But it doesn't matter; the missing him hits me so hard sometimes. I miss him terribly, and still have so much I want to share with him, to talk over with him; I miss his company so much, and his unconditional support, and his wit. My only defense at this point (and I'm grateful to have the strength to be able to do it) is to not let myself go there, not too deeply, anyway. But sometimes, it comes upon me so fast, I don't even have that.

It goes just as quickly, and I know that it probably will. After 4 years, I have no doubts about my ability to survive a grief wave. And I suppose that's given me the confidence in my ability to survive just about anything this life throws at me; the only question is whether I want to. I'm still tired, if I am honest with myself. Sometimes I wonder if the good parts of life ARE enough to outweigh the bad ones. It won't make the difference as to whether I live or die; it'll just make the difference as to whether I skip through my remaining years, enjoying and marveling at my experiences, or slog through wondering when I can be excused from the table. I still have these moments, these thoughts, that amount to “Sure, I'll play your little game (for the next 60 years)...what else am I gonna do? But I see that you're jerking me around; don't think for a second that I don't, and I don't appreciate it!”

After 4 years, my thoughts still tend to go instantly to the worst-case scenario. Tonight, E and I had to go get some paperwork notarized, and I ended up at the place a good 10 minutes before he did, because of how we hit traffic, though we left at the same time. By minute 3 of waiting for him, he was already dead in a terrible car accident and I wondered how I'd find out and what was I going to do about the A/C? And then his car finally rolled into the parking lot, and I nonchalantly asked “What happened to you?” Nonchalant my ass; I'm just dialing back the panic and hoping no one can see. This can happen to me several times a day, with everyone I know, and I hate it. It's the dark side of “The cup is already broken.” Everyone I know is already dead; I'm just waiting for the call. That's what it comes down to, and I hate it. I hate the scenarios I create. They are creepy as hell, and I have this deep, barely acknowledged fear (thanks to The Secret, and thousands of other guru-types that have permeated my consciousness) that by imagining them, I will manifest them in some way. I don't really believe that, but I'll be the first to admit I don't have the universe all figured out. What if I'm wrong? It's fucking neurotic, and I wish I could stop, but I can't seem to. My parents are on a 3-day roadtrip, and I start imagining them (in a bit of maternal irony) dead in the ditch somewhere across 10 states, and have to cut myself off. All I can do is try to stop the scenario in progress from moving forward by distracting myself. I suspect this is going to be a life-long battle, too. When someone you love dies suddenly, you know that anyone else can as well.

I guess the good news at 4 years is that I'm not freaking out about this sadiversary (so far), I am able to examine my feelings without being overwhelmed by them, I am reasonably content in my life, and I know I've come a long, long way in positive directions despite the stuff that still plagues me. And I keep doing it the way I've been doing it since that day 4 years ago: breathe in, breathe out, one foot in front of the other. There is no other way. I guess I've learned that, too.

I love you, Sweetie; I miss you. Stop by if you're around, wouldja, please?


  1. I found this past year that friends moving away--particularly good, close friends who've stuck by me the past 5 years and who I did stuff with socially--is really, really hard for me...far harder than I thought it would be. So I totally get what you're saying about your friend moving away.

    I often think, too, that I'd simply like a hall pass for a long, long time. I put in my time, thank you very much, Universe; now please don't hand my any more hard shit to have to deal with. So far I don't think the Universe has listened to my requests much, but at least I've had almost a full year's reprieve with nothing too terribly awful happening.

    Good for you for weaning yourself from the board. I don't seek out new widow blogs anymore, and I don't really interact with new-to-me widows either anymore. I needed it for a period of time, but after a while, it just got to be too much to handle. I needed to focus on life--my life, and living again--not death, and immersing myself in other people's grief wasn't helpful to me. So I did the same thing as you. I keep up with my friends' blogs and supporting them through their trials and celebrations, but I don't do "grief outreach" much outside of my friends.

    I think part of the task of grief at 4-5 years out (or longer) is finding an appropriate space for our loss and the grief. I personally don't think it's healthy to hold onto it in the same ways as we did early on....and as much as I hate phrases like "letting go" and "moving on," I do think a person has to do them, at least to some extent.

    I hear the healing you've made in the last 2 years since I met you. I was just thinking of one of your posts at the 2-year mark for you. I can't remember the content of it at all but I remember reading it, and I was reflecting on the holistic changes in both of us since then. Hooray for us. Healing is hard, hard work...but we both need and deserve it.

    Thinking of you and sending you many warm, loving hugs,

  2. I am impressed with your honesty. We humans are constantly trying to retreat into places of imagined safety. The disappearances of life have pierced you and I see you are unfolding in a much more authentic way. That old way of being was an illusion anyway.

  3. I have so much to say and I don't know where to start. But I need to let you know I've had this window open all day waiting for the muse, who doesn't seem to visit houses where bored boys are threatening bodily harm to each other.

  4. I'd like to know what you were thinking, Alicia. I value your input, always.