This is where I live now, in-between extremes.
A current life because of my past life. And an enthusiasm for it because of despair.
In one version of myself I have a beautiful life.
I have my dream career. I have outpouring support. A fiance who adores me and treats me like a queen. Four amazing children. I have hundreds of quality friends. A beautiful home and a new car. Peace.
I am surrounded by people who allow me to be me and love who I am. I live so intensely. I have never been happier.
But, then there’s this other version of me… where my life is plagued by hardship.
I am working towards my dream career, but I do so while I babysit an addict. I don’t have support, I am often ostracized. My children don’t understand what’s going on. Why are people talking funny? Why is there constant fighting? I have lost contact with many friends, I am too busy keeping tabs on my spouse. I think something bad is going to happen and I cannot shake it. I want a home but everyone is telling me its a bad idea. Our car keeps breaking down, it has no handles on the doors. We cant afford to fix it. Chaos.
I am surrounded by people who think I shouldn’t do anything, go anywhere, be anything. My ideas are shot down. My spouse dies. I have never felt such pain.
These polar opposite situations are both mine. One past, one current. One with addiction, one without. One with death, one without.
So since they are both me, it leaves me feeling split in half constantly. My life changed drastically in an unfathomable way. Then less than a year later, significantly changed again but in an amazing way. The second me is in the past but she still exist in the future. I can’t just rid myself of the hurt, but I do actively face it everyday so it is less.
Regardless of good or bad changes- they were both equally terrifying as it demonstrated yet again I control nothing.
Past me definitely tried to control situations:
I knew it was just my anxiety, Jesse would be fine. Right?…My thoughts of him dying were just worries. Everyone said anyhow.
Wrong. He died. Drastic change.
Then I tried to control current me without even realizing it:
I knew I would rot after his death, I couldn’t even breathe most days. I would never be happy again.
Wrong. I flourished. Drastic change.
With these drastic changes I have become one person with two lives. I still try to control things but these two events are reminders I really don’t control much.
My two lives are completely opposite. One is unhealthy and the other is healthy. They coexist since his death and it does feel weird, I am just getting used to it.
I never thought I would see flowers grow from cement, but they did. The cement and flowers both exist at the same time. They do not cancel each other out.
When I am in grief group and asked “On a scale of 1-10, where are you?”
I can reply “0 and 10” and I am not lying.
I am able to feel intense sadness; then almost immediately bounce back to pure joy. Prior to his passing, I generally just felt one group of emotions at a time (sad ones or happy) but now I can feel intensely sad and happy all within seconds. And you won’t even see my face change. I interchange grief and gratitude frequently.
When I go to widow meetups. I feel so lucky to call these people friends. But then I remember the price I paid to join that club. Very unlucky.
I am so proud of myself for creating one of the only, if not only, active widowed and pregnant support groups. But I had to sacrifice something so large to try and help someone else.
I love my line of work in personal injury and wrongful death (currently paralegal, when I get my license attorney). I literally get to use my pain to advocate for others. I DO know the despair they feel. I actually love that I know it so well, to me that means they will get authentic support and justice. When I advocate for them, in a way I am advocating for past me. When I was early in my grief and confused… disoriented, wishing someone had all the answers. Wishing someone knew what to do for me. It is the most bittersweet of feelings and opportunities. I get to be the guidance I desperately prayed for.
I love that I finally get to travel. My fiance and I took a trip to California. It was perfect. I had never felt the feelings of having no stress- but I did with him on that trip. I woke up every day so thankful to be there, to be able to see the beautiful scenery with my eyes. To live.
And then the wind blew a certain way around me, and my body sunk. And I stared into the valley. How is this fair…. Or even real? How am I standing here having the best damn time of my life… how am I the happiest I have ever been but you are dead? How is that?
That sounds disgusting when I read it back.
But I am not happy because Jesse is dead, I am happy because I am alive.
I always heard the phrase “live like you were dying,” and I thought that was an appropriate way to live. But no matter how hard I tried to do that, I can easily say I never got close.
I had days where I felt the sun on me and was thankful to be able to feel it. Days where I saw leaves changing colors on the northern trees and thought they were breathtaking.
But I never had my feet touch the ground while I was mowing the grass and begin to cry. Cry because I was able to experience how they felt in dirt. I was able to touch a lawn mower and push it. I was able to feel desire to do a chore. I was able to physically move in the way I needed.
This gratitude I feel is completely different than how it used to feel, and I want to keep it. I love it.
I wanted to scream and tell people how lucky I am to mow grass. But obviously I would look insane, so I’ll just write it permanently on the internet instead.
But the gratitude is not without the grief. It always catches me with the worst timing. That’s what I mean when I say I can feel on top of the world and drowning in the ocean at the same time.
As I stand there and feel so lucky about whatever menial tasks I was given another day to do, it always directly juxtaposes itself to this ugly leech of a thought I have.
“Jesse is dead.”
“He didn’t get to do anything.”
It whispers to me every second of every minute. That thought is just another blink or breath from my body. It never leaves. It is thick permanent black marker etched in my brain.
“He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”
A relentless silent sound.
I often hear we “carry” grief with us forever, but the word carry implies I can put it down. I can’t ever put this down, not even for a second. It’s a permanent extension. It has just become natural.
I experienced the slavery of grief and was able to turn it into the freedom of joy. Some days I am a prisoner and other days I am liberated.
It is an abnormal normality that leaves me feeling ambivalent. I love what it gave me but hate it for what it took away.
For now as I go into a third year of grief, this is how I feel. It changes. It ebbs and flows. What I say today may not make sense or be relevant tomorrow. It does as it pleases.
It doesn’t matter though.
No matter how much cement it lays down the flowers will always find a way to stay.
Credit for photo above: https://viola.bz/plants-that-never-give-up/#google_vignette