In this quiet moment, when night has fallen and the world slumbers, I sit and just allow myself to feel whatever it is that I need to feel. I concentrate on just breathing since that is work enough for my broken heart. And I even allow myself to entertain the thought of giving up. It’s not a thought with any intention behind it, but more a desire to just cease existing; to not have to face this empty world. Healing is a slow process, I’m discovering, and nothing can rush it. There is no shortcut through this valley, just a steady inching forward one step at a time. The sad memories haunt me, sometimes even torment me, but I want to purposefully choose the good ones. I need to remember the special moments we shared and focus on our love and joy. I don’t want tragedy to define me but I do want it to shape me into a better person. I feel as if blinders I didn’t know I wore have been lifted from my eyes and I can suddenly see and feel other people’s pain in a way I never have before. I see suffering and hurt in a new light and experience a deeper, more real empathy than I’ve ever known before. This life is incredibly beautiful but it is also so so cruel and I don’t think any of us escape it unscathed. We are all broken in some way. Every day I meet people who have lost a child, a spouse, a marriage, health, a dream. Something. And I understand their hurt in a new way. I am still coming to terms with my own loss, I am still struggling to accept that this is my life now, but I have plenty of company on this road. I know I take comfort from those who have survived great loss and are now living joyfully once again. If they can do it, perhaps so can I.
- I got to see an old man club at the coffee shop. I love old man clubs! They all get together and silently read the newspaper at their table and drink coffee and discuss the news. Then they ask each other what good they can do for mankind.
- Coffee. In the morning, mid-morning, afternoon and evening.
- Lunch with a friend who understands what you’re feeling.
- Eating pizza and reading bedtime stories with Nat. She makes me laugh.
- Hanging out with adorable triplets.
- Moments of hope during the day when I tentatively work at building a new life and, although it is broken, I realize it is still beautiful.
- Stories. Both true and false.
We put each other through some hellish times in our 11 years together (but really, what couple hasn’t?) and yet despite the hurt and flaws and mistakes, I always felt at the heart of us was something special, something a lot of people never get to experience. We just fit together. We understood each other and craved each other. I only ever wanted to be near him. I only ever wanted his attention and love. I know he felt the same way about me and in one of the journals he kept for me he wrote about it.
“You are my best friend. You’re more than a best friend. You know me inside and out better than anyone I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even know if I can describe what you are to me. My lover, my friend, my confidant. My everything. I feel like no matter how close I am to you it’s not close enough.”
I read those words and it’s hard to believe that he was taken from me. I need more time to be near him and love him and make up for past regrets. I just need more time. I struggle to breathe without him some days. It’s as if just existing takes every ounce of strength in me. I had this dream last night that he came back, briefly, and I had a chance to tell him how desperately I missed him. I told him that I keep his photo near my bed and I talk to him every night before I sleep and every morning when I wake. I asked him to forgive me for every unkind thing I ever said, for any time I lacked compassion, for any cruel thing I’ve ever done or failed to do for him. I had to talk fast because I didn’t know how much time we had. I don’t really know that he responded in my dream. And then I woke up and I steeled myself for another day. I heard a Nora Jones song on the radio today and she talked about feeling as empty as a drum. I feel that way these days, so empty. So devoid of happiness. I am trying to get through these difficult days so I can reach better ones ahead. I know he would want me to, and in fact even wrote once about how he hoped I would move on and be happy if something ever happened to him. It will take time and tenacity but though I might fall and fail time after time I’ll get it right one of these days. And even as I heal, I will always love him. Into eternity.
“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” – Emily Bronte
I hear crickets in the grass and my dog snoozes on my lap. It’s a quiet night, nearing midnight, and I sit here alone and think. Today, four weeks ago, I was glued to a hospital monitor watching my husband’s inter-cranial pressure climbing to dangerous levels. I held his hand and placed cool cloths on his forehead because it was the only thing I could do. His pain broke my heart. And, although I was afraid, I couldn’t fathom a time when he would cease to be in this world with me.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said to me. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
It was the last thing he told me.
Since then I’ve had some bad days, some terrible days and a few days where I felt some semblance of hope that life might still be worth living. I’ve had wonderful family and friends surround and support me. I’m slowly, slowly, picking myself back up and working my way towards a new life. Sometimes it’s a two steps forward, one step back process but I keep working at it because I want to be the best version of myself. I want to make Brian proud.
I have a Smirnoff screwdriver at my elbow and I’m attempting to do yoga. It might not be the most logical combination but my world has been turned upside down so I don’t even try to make sense. When this year began I sat down and wrote out my typical list of resolutions that included some home renovation projects, running goals, self-improvement stuff and all the other things I aspire to each year. Since then I’ve thrown out that whole list and narrowed it down to one:
2017 is all about survival. Last year I lived our greatest love story with my husband and this year I lived a tragedy. When January first rolled around I never imagined that a few short months later I would watch the love of my life take his final breaths and see his strong heart beating for the last time. It’s taken me three weeks to fully believe he is no longer in this world with me and that no amount of longing, wishing, hoping or dreaming will make him come back to me. I’ve wanted to scream his name over and over until I’m empty, but I only remain full. Full of an ocean of grief and loss and loneliness. Full of the greatest sorrow I’ve ever known. I still breathe even though he no longer does. It’s a travesty. When the surgeon came out to the waiting room and explained that my husband was on a ventilator, just a shell holding a beating heart, I felt as if I were dying with him. I remember placing my palm on his chest and feeling the steady rhythm of his heart but knowing that he was gone.
Three weeks later and I sit on my living room floor listening to The Greatest by Sia and drinking alone. I imagined my love and I would grow old together and have years of adventures ahead of us, not an abbreviated love story that ended at the best part. I had to plan my darling’s funeral and see my beautiful husband laid out in a casket, his strong hands still and lifeless. Those hands held me so gently and with such love, how could they be so cold now? None of this makes any sense. I no longer plan and dream for the future. I just live each day as it comes. I get up and I keep going and complete necessary tasks and do the things that need to be done. I quit my job and cleaned out my house. It took two weeks to work up the nerve to move back into our home and even now it feels so empty without my love here. I wish I had just one more chance to tell him how much I love him and how much he meant to me. I’m not sure he knew how much I needed him. I’m not sure I knew how much I needed him.
When we met 11 years ago I didn’t foresee the heartache ahead, but I’ve come to believe that we were meant to be together. We were meant to love and grow and learn together. I stayed by his side through all our struggles and he remained beside mine. We became the greatest friends and lovers and I’m grateful I was given a gift that some live their whole life and never receive. Maybe we loved each other too much for this world. Though I remain behind I long for him and hope for a day when we are together again. In the mean time I’ll have to learn to live again. One day at a time.
I promised myself I would write a blog post today so here I am at the kitchen table, lap top open and eagerly waiting, fingers poised to write something great.
And that was 20 minutes ago.
The only thing I’ve accomplished since then was a 15 minute scroll through my twitter feed and another 10 minutes catching up on Instagram with a few extra minutes thrown in for some random web surfing. I do that a lot. I could be productive if it weren’t for the countless distractions of the Internet.
Although truth be told, I’m just plain tired. Too late to bed last night, too early to rise this morning, and a lot of hustle and bustle in-between means my brain feels a bit like mush. But if I don’t blog today I will feel like an epic failure. A worthless bum who will never amount to anything, wracked with guilt (and in my family, we do guilt RIGHT), and on the brink of complete ruin and despair. Thus, here I sit, completing an obligatory blog post and staving off a morsel of guilt for the day.
I had intended to write about this fabulous list of books that apparently everyone should read by 30 (yes, I realize I’ve missed that boat), and even though I’d rather be sleeping, I’m going to take a stab at it.
The entire list can be found here.
I’m a fairly voracious reader, typically consuming one book a month, if not two or three, so I was surprised to discover that out of the 30 books, I had only read one – The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway.
The list includes such classic authors as Virginia Woolf and Tolstoy along with others that aren’t quite so well known.
The first book I tackled was “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers. I picked it up a week ago and finished it in about five days. It was wonderful. Eggers doesn’t dilly dally around setting a scene and primly introducing characters, you’re pulled right into the deep end and promptly taken on a trip around the world. The book follows two friends still reeling in the aftermath of a close friend’s death. Will and Hand decide to go around the world in a week, giving away a sudden windfall of money Will comes into possession of, and detailing their (mis)adventures along the way. Although there is a lot of solemnity in the book, it also had me laughing out loud multiple times. I would highly recommend it and plan to pick up Egger’s other book as well (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius).
I hope every novel on the list is as scintillating but I have my doubts…Next up is a book of short stories by Alice Munro, which should also be pleasant reading. In fact, I may close this laptop and go read it now.
It’s funny how when I was a college student, the whole point of my education was to complete the class, get an A, and move on to the next class, one step closer to a bachelor’s degree. I think since graduating, about 90 percent of my education has come from self-initiation. I read books and news articles, look up things that pique my interest, and try retain at least a fraction of it. I love learning but completely forgot that during my college years. And these days, we have such an abundance of information right at our fingertips. Thousands of news stories are accessible on our cell phones. Google searches will bring up any fact you wish to know and if all that fails, there’s still the library with its cornucopia of resources.
This year, my sister and I set a goal. We want to learn about the world. At one point, I could rattle off every state and its capital. I sure can’t do that anymore. I wouldn’t be able to identify the countries on the African continent or locate Laos on a map. I admit, my knowledge of world geography is shaky.
So we decided to remedy that. Every week, my sister and I take turns picking either a new country or state to study. With 196 countries in the world, this could take awhile, but it’s been a fascinating process already.
We’ve gone through Delaware (second smallest state. Capital is Dover) and Somalia on the Horn of Africa, known for its pirates and famines and terrorist groups and are now on Cambodia.
I think the point of this challenge is to not only improve our geography skills (and pick up some awesome and impressive trivia along the way), but to always be life-long-learners. Education shouldn’t end with a college degree, it should be just beginning.