I haven’t had a chance to write. Sometimes because it’s too painful and feels absolutely fruitless. Sometimes because I live like a fugitive, trying to keep us busy because 1) I feel guilty that this is Audrey’s life so I try to take her to fun places, etc. as much as I can and 2) if I keep moving, maybe I won’t get “stuck” in all of the sadness. So I plan and we go…Korean story time at another town library, Maple Sugaring at a local nature center, Irish step dancing on St. Patrick’s Day, a class planting seeds at Whole Foods…
I suppose when you’re with someone for your entire adult life, you make memories all over the place- I am astounded sometimes how much ground we covered. The other day I am walking on the street in the town where Audrey goes to preschool and stop at a store window. There is the store that I have not stepped into for almost eight years…the store where I finally found what I thought were the perfect wedding shoes. The ones I took out of the tissue paper and box a few times a week and stepped into, imagining the day that was coming. It’s the store where I also wound up buying the most petite chandelier earrings for the occasion as well. For some reason, you were very proud that you always remembered that I bought those earrings in the shoe store and you always pointed it out, “You got those in the shoe store where you bought your wedding shoes right? Good memory, right? See, I listen!” I stop in front of that window and notice the setup looks the same…in fact, the woman behind the counter- of Middle eastern descent, also looks like the same woman who sold me my shoes and earrings. How can so much be the same I am always thinking…and yet this.
A week or so ago, Audrey and I took her tricycle along the river path and I promised to buy her ice cream at Whole Foods. I offer her a dozen choices in flavor and wait …knowing somehow all along, that she will choose the mango sorbet- mango sorbet over chocolate gelato, vanilla chocolate chip, rainbow colored sherbet and on and on, mango sorbet- your favorite- what you would have chosen. It’s happening- what many told me …she is growing and changing without you- and yet so much of you is coming to life inside her.
While we sit on the river eating it, I think about all of these things quietly and then breaking the quietness, Audrey looks at me and says, “Mommy- you have a really pretty heart…” This is life- beautiful and heart-breaking, hideous and mysterious- all at once.
The isolation continues. I realize I am, in many ways, out of the game. I can’t even pretend to have the same concerns as most people. While I once may have done many things to impress others, or even the invisible others, “the invisible they” my therapist had called it years ago, I no longer do this. I don’t believe I could really convince others that my life is enviable. Second, I see now that even those who say they have no faith, all seem to live with a trust in some invisible force that makes all things turn out well…somehow- that things usually happen for the best. Often it’s not put in these terms, but it seems to be always there…like the lighted pathways on the movie theater floor. I don’t have this anymore. I also realize lately, that through no fault of their own, most people sound incredibly self-entitled to me. As if jobs, nice vacations, pregnancies or children, or even a delicious meal they cooked are hard evidence that they are successful or doing life as it should be done…when all of these things, our position in life, the family we’re born into, the health conditions, intellect, abilities we have, are largely- gifts. They all seem lavish and luxurious to me now…but certainly nothing to take pride in.
A couple of things I do have- this survival mode instinct I used to get when Dan was away- only now it’s all of the time- do everything the easiest, simplest way. It also includes “treats”- any thing that helps comfort me or distract me temporarily- the kind of thing most people do after a difficult week…splurge on that latte at Starbucks or whatever it may be…only now I feel like doing this all the time. It’s not really financially viable for me, plus it causes weight gain- so I’m thinking soon I just get that every week and every day with this loss is a difficult one- but not necessarily indulgence-deserving- but sometimes I think maybe everyone should live like this and this is actually the right way to live all of the time? Another insight that plays in my head throughout my day is the kind of funeral my husband had- the kind of things that were said about him- the sheer number of people there. I ask myself now, “Is it funeral-worthy?” when I’m spending two hours organizing my kitchen cabinets or making more lists of things to do. What I mean by that is, will people at my funeral talk about how organized my cabinets were? Is it funeral-worthy?
Two small epiphanies for me in the past week:
1. There are two different things that I am suffering: the first is the loss of my beloved husband. The second though, is the trauma from the news of his death and all that followed in those early weeks…the funeral in particular. Separating these two has been helping me. I believe I am slowly healing from the second- the trauma of receiving the call, making “arrangements,” seeing my husband’s shell in a box as I approached down the longest aisle. The first, however, the loss- is mine to keep.
2. The second small epiphany is that perhaps the grief term, “acceptance,” isn’t so much about accepting the loss- which you can tell from the above- I don’t think ever happens…but I have decided, it is accepting the good things that you still have and receive in life afterwards. I receive and acknowledge that in spite of this tremendous blow, I have a lovely daughter, am wealthier than the majority of the world, have a good family, cherished friendships, can enjoy a good cup of coffee, and still see beauty in the white tree blossoms falling these past days as if it is, well, raining flower petals which seems to me the most creative, beautiful idea. Some days will still reek of self-pity and I can not find one thing that isn’t marred. None of these cancel out the loss or make the jabs where I am just rousing from sleep and suddenly understand afresh that you’ve died- completely afresh- no- it does not get cancelled out. And no, never, will I accept it. But I acknowledge and receive the gifts in my life that I find- like the petals sprinkled with such grace and subtlety on the wet pavement today.