Zeitgeber…it literally means “time-giver” in German and refers to the environmental cues like light and darkness that regulate our clocks. Your loss had obstructed all of these cues- they now seem minuscule like they’re all taking place in a model world like the one in the beginning of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. It is almost Easter of 2012- I have to tell myself.
The simultaneous timelessness along with the most unmovable, real evidence of time I’ve ever known- your irreparable loss- paired with all of the same places is what’s so painful. Today I have another small epiphany that might lead to less of that pain. What if, I imagine this is not just another time, but simply another place. Isn’t it? I prefer to believe everything appears the same, with notable growth or decay, but that it really is not. Haven’t most of the cells in my body, if not every one, replaced themselves by now?
Quite a few years ago I read a sentence in a manuscript during an editing job that stuck with me- I paraphrase: The difference between your knowledge and your actions equals the pain of your experience. I may have quoted this before, who knows. A friend I shared this with told me that left no room for grace. Possibly, but again and again, I return to this. Isn’t it really another way of saying what Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
These days I have taken the accompanying frustration/guilt to a new level. One would hope, after such a devastating, truly life-altering loss, that at least a few crumbs might fall in your favor because of the experience- maybe some wisdom, some insights into living differently. After all, losing you really is the closest thing to being dead myself- seeing my own funeral. It is frustrating to find myself with many of the same faults and weaknesses- even though- yes, I do see reality quite differently. I believe my counselor assured me many months ago that it would take time. That I would be different and live differently, but that I would not change overnight. I hope this is true.
What do I wish for myself? I think for each griever it is different. Some may decide that life is short and could end abruptly so they inherit the “Eat, drink and be merry” philosophy. I can remember one widow at the dinners I attended repeating many times, “Gotta have as much fun as you can!” Some may feel more fear than before the loss- realizing their mortality for the first time. Others, a fearlessness- “the worst has already happened- nothing could phase me now…”
A part of me finds life so draining now that I just want to get us “set-up”- a home, job for me, good schools for Audrey- so we can live fairly comfortably and simply. Most days I literally feel myself consciously forcing my cheeks to rise when I have to smile at the security guard in our building as he lets me in. Another part of me rails against the “comfortable” middle-class lifestyle and sees that the only life worth living is one in which you help others…a life where nothing is “acquired” or owned necessarily… a life where one could pick up and go wherever there is need- where life is acknowledged as temporary- ephemeral. Maybe that will be for another time, but probably not now while I have a young child. That’s part of the irony of it all…having the wisdom or knowledge about what’s important in life- but being widowed- not necessarily having the resources to do it; in fact, in many ways, you are the struggling one in need.
I know I want to live with passion like you did. I’m just not sure I have the energy for it yet. Maybe the energy will be a part of “time’s healing…” one of the few things time might offer me.
For right now, I will just go on.
But what I really hope for, is this. I hope that I can, despite this loss, somehow appreciate each present moment as it is, and be grateful to be in it. Because…how many times a day now do I think back to the most ordinary of days with you and feel I would give anything to be back there, just sitting on that couch watching bad TV in Brooklyn, or standing on that crowded train on a Monday morning holding onto you for balance, or listening to you sing your little song you sang as you changed our daughter’s diaper. If each of those days now seem so entirely extravagant, I tell myself, isn’t it quite possible that- despite the gaping loss- each of these days could also seem just as extravagant one day? This helps me cherish holding my three year-old’s hand as she drags me along balancing on every sidewalk curb…it helps me feel both contentment and sorrow as I get into bed, hugging your old Brooklyn hoodie and pulling the covers up over my head, and it helps me believe that there are many more layers of understanding than the ones in my possession. I present this as a gift to my readers- to know and realize that your life exactly as it is this day, ordinary, mundane, perhaps filtered with disillusionment or disappointment, is utterly extravagant because it could and may very well be, very different in another time and place.