a world without her in it
The hardest times, I find, are the quiet ones. As an introvert, quiet is my best friend. Those moments when everyone just goes away, and I’m alone with all my thoughts and random whatever. I cherish these times, but sometimes, I also dread them.
Because that’s when it’s most likely to suckerpunch me. Those thoughts I hate acknowledging. The ones that race through my mind and won’t leave. The ones that–when uttered to someone, finally–cause instant tears. Because–yes–that’s it exactly.
Yesterday marked another milestone. One I’ve looked forward to for four years–one that represented so much. It came and went like all the winter snows we’ve ever had here in Denver. Blink and it’s gone. I barely acknowledged it myself–and yet–it was this date that’s controlled so many hours of my life for four crazy years. It was this date that caused me months of anxiety and doubt about myself. In the end, it didn’t go as it should have been. I took yet another interesting detour. This one surprised me, but also–as much as it felt like giving up–it was actually reaching out. Because I didn’t have it in me to do what needed to be done. What I got–by being vulnerable and admitting the truth about all of it–was breathing room. Time. I’ve always thought of time as the ultimate gift. And while I was so grateful, yesterday felt unearned–despite four long years of all of that. I kept telling myself I needed to give myself credit for all of that and just keep going.
It’s not really that simple. The time also comes with me deciding to change everything. Again. Which is not really unusual for this. In fact, it may just be typical. It’s just not good enough as it is. I can do better, and I won’t settle for something less than what I’m capable of. Those four years taught me to have higher standards, but to also reign myself in. I simply can’t do everything. I’m learning this more and more, every day, and that might be the most difficult lesson of all. I’ve always learned the hard way–on tight deadlines with high stakes. And many concussions.
While I’m absolutely grateful, I feel like I need to kill what was–that thing inside me that got in my own way these past few weeks. That feeling of overwhelm. That dread. That lack of belief–in me. Mostly because it has nothing to do with what I’m capable of and everything to do with why I started to begin with–and tackling that might be my next step toward the life I need.
I didn’t expect it–didn’t see it coming–but–now? It’s brought the grief back–during a quiet year of calm. It’s made the wounds fresh again in new, exquisitely painful, ways. And I’m learning there’s no end to this heartbreak–that it moves with you as you heal and grows arms to remind you it’s there with it’s strangle. And yet–I’m grateful for it, too. Because I know it’s the next leg. And I know I’m stronger than it is. That it is only temporary. That I need only witness it–acknowledge it–and let it go.
Easier said than done.
My mother is always on my mind. But, more so, especially, during December. Especially when I need a hug or a pep talk. Especially when I’m unsure. Tomorrow is her birthday. I can’t remember how old she’d be now, but it’s impossibly old. That’s all I really know. And she never got a chance to be that. It’ll be ten years of her not being here nine days from tomorrow. That number makes my brain hurt. I still can’t believe how old I am. And I refuse to accept that almost one third of my life has been without her.
I randomly watched an interview Cheryl Strayed gave about her new film, Wild, after rolfing yesterday. I’ve loved her since her Dear Sugar days. I remember crying when she wrote about loss in her column. I’ve read the book and was struck by the parallels between her life and mine. And how her discussions about grief mirrored my own. The book–her life–has inspired me to think about doing my own crazy trek. My own, possibly for my PhD project. An idea I’ve had for a while, but couldn’t really do because of the pesky money thing. But the PhD would give me an excuse to do just that–without worrying about those pesky things. If, of course, I got in and was good enough.
During her interview, Strayed said something that gutted me. It haunted me and inspired a mini-breakdown out of nowhere. I’d forgotten I was still capable of that kind of brokenness anymore. She said something about how, when her mother died, she couldn’t imagine a world without her mother in it. And now, 20+ years later, she can’t imagine a world with her mother in it.
I thought about it. About my father–who has been gone 30 of my 36 years as of last week. My idea of him shifted radically this year–because of therapy–and I feel like that shard is less sharp lately. I can’t imagine a world with him in it. It’s true. But–Mama? Every day I see something, and I say to myself, “Oh, she would love that.” Every day, I know exactly what she would think about things. Every day, I am sorta grateful she isn’t here to witness the sad world we live in. That she was, at least, spared that.
My mother is still very much in my world. In everything. And it’s been 10 years. I wondered if there’d ever come a time when that would change. I wondered when the shift happened with my father. Or if I never could imagine him in this world because he was so removed from mine.
These thoughts devastated me. I realized why–very quickly. It connected directly to what I’ve been feeling lately–that nagging sense that I’m changing too much–that my mother wouldn’t recognize me now. That somehow, as I get happier, I lose more and more of her–until she’s something less tangible. Less mine.
I don’t know how to let that go.