Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm On Empty

(C) Copyright Amanda Stratton, 2009

I know the metaphor isn’t original, but it feels like the right one.

I feel like for the past year, I’ve been running on whatever tiny amount of fuel I had left when I walked out the door of my home and moved to my parents’ house.

And now I’m empty, because I never stopped to refuel myself. I thought that it was more important that I be strong and keep moving on with my life as if I hadn’t even noticed that anything changed. At first, I did feel better. Maybe I was getting better mileage without the weight of an unbearably difficult relationship.

But I was afraid if I stopped, took pause, reflected, or just sat still for too long, I wouldn’t be able to get back on the road. So I didn’t stop. I went to New York, I went back to school, I went to work on my business, I went on my daughter’s class trips, I went to Vegas, I went to the doctor and the dentist, I went to Niagara Falls, I went to Kitchener, I went to the grocery store, I went up and down the streets until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I went anywhere I could just to make sure I never stopped.

My days got longer and nights got shorter. I never went to bed until I was so tired that I knew there was no chance I’d get lost in thought before I was fast asleep. I never slept long enough to dream.

Everything got harder. My fuel got lower. I sputtered down streets I would have sped through before. But I still refused to stop. I didn’t want to look around. I wanted to focus on getting somewhere instead, even though I had no idea where I was headed, and I was pretty sure that wherever this was taking me, I didn’t want to be there.

I was exhausted, and the anger, sadness, and frustration that I was trying not to look at in my rearview mirror were pulling up alongside me every time I slowed down.

I fell farther and farther behind on everything. On bills, on work, on school, on parenting. I was more and more distracted, trying always to focus on anything but reality.

And then on the most unexpected of days, something happened and I stopped. And I cried.

For the first time since I had left Josh over a year earlier, I cried about it. I cried great heaving sobs and felt sorry for myself. In the past year, I had lost the family I knew, the job I had, my sense of home, and what felt like my entire identity. And every time, when friends and family members called or offered a hug, I’d wave it away. “It’s not a big deal.” “It’s for the best.” “It’s really a good thing.” “Stop freaking out,” I’d say to mildly concerned people, “it’s okay.”

And when that little ache in my chest crept up on me, I waved it away, too. For a year, I brushed it off. I told everyone, including myself, that I was fine. I wanted to be strong and optimistic, and happy in the face of it all.

But that ache persisted until that one night when I finally admitted I felt it. Like I finally noticed the gas light was on. As I watched Josh moving on, I realized I wasn’t. For all of my speeding away, I had only ever gone in circles. I hadn’t really eked out peace for myself. I had used every last ounce of energy I could to keep the appearance of it, though. And now that’s what I’m empty of. That energy is gone. There is nothing left to keep me just ahead of the ache.

I still think that I made the right decision leaving that day over a year ago. And if there is one thing that I truly believe in, it’s blessings in disguise. Or at any rate, I believe that there is an upside to almost everything, even if it takes a while to reveal itself.

But I am sad, too. I’m sad that I don’t have the family I wanted and that I thought I would have. And I’m lonely. Not simply for Josh, but for my sense of belonging and self that came from knowing all of my roles to play.

And sometimes I’m so angry I want to scream at the top of my lungs until I can’t scream anymore. And sometimes I’m so frustrated I just want to kick at the confusion until it cracks.

They’ve all caught up with me, these familiar strangers that have been chasing me the past year. So now, when most people might be starting to pick up the pieces and move on, I’m finally stopping.

I’m crying, and screaming, and kicking. And grieving.

Because all of these changes cause grief, and the thing about grief is that it will wait. It will wait until you’re ready. It will hang around in the corners of your mind, it will rest with a dull ache in your chest, and it will idle along in your rearview mirror, until you notice it, acknowledge it, and invite it in.

Grief doesn’t go away when you ignore it. It doesn’t grow. It doesn’t shrink. It doesn’t transform itself. It just waits. Patiently. Mostly silently. It waits.

I’ve seen people wait days, months, and years to acknowledge grief, but I don’t think it ever changes the way we experience it. I didn’t do my crying and kicking and screaming a year ago, so I’m doing it now. I’m pretty sure it’s the same crying and kicking and screaming I would have done then.

In the end, I think it’s the grief that will transform me. This past year, I’ve been going in circles because change upon change took place, and I refused to let the grief in. I’ve tried to search my soul and heart and mind, but I wouldn’t look in the places where I knew there was grief, because I wanted to pretend it wasn’t there.

I lost what I thought was me, but I never moved toward a new me, or a more authentic me, or the me I wanted to be, because I didn’t know where those things were. But I think the road map to them started to be laid out when I let grief in.

It’s filled me up first with the energy of anger and sadness and frustration, so that I can learn to be full again. And as I empty myself of those things, I’m finding little pockets to fill with different kinds of energy, and newfound pieces of myself.

And one day, in the who-knows-how-distant future, that lest vestige of grief will fall by the wayside, and I’ll move on down a better road. I just have to be patient with grief. Like it was with me.

(C) Copyright Amanda Stratton, 2009


Bobby Earle said...

I'm so glad you posted it :)

harmony said...

wow! One of the best posts I've ever read.

Kristin said...

Me, too. Great post, Amanda.

david smith said...

I don't know you, but this put into words things I couldn't explain. I've lived in that world for 2 years. Great writing.

Amanda Jane said...

A very personal post. It is very brave to write it out for the world to see, as well as a true way to face all your grief. Write it down, and make it real.
I believe your healing has now begun because you have accepted that you were hurt, and that you have wounds that need to be tended too.
Slow down. Park. Take time just for you. That is easier said that done, because sometimes you don't know what will be relaxing, and what will feel like more work.
It's good to cry sometimes. Grief is trapped in our tears, and we have to let it out.

If you ever need someone to chat with, always around here somewhere, and if you need someone to not chat about it... I'm here for that too :)

Talk to you soon

luke said...

Beautiful post, Amanda. Really glad you were able to share this with us. Thank you, and I hope sharing it with us strengthened you a little more too. Can't wait to see what the road ahead of you holds :)

Tracey said...

Wow! You made me cry. Not only because your writing is so beautiful and real but also beause my heart aches for you. In some ways I wish I could fast forward to a time when life is all better and you have done your grieving but at the same time I look forward to seeing the woman you become as that grieving happens. You are brave and strong - not only for writing about the tough side of life but also for making the tough decisions in the first place. Stop, take time and refill your gas tank. You will be happier for it in the end. Love you!!

Kelley said...

Beautiful, honest, open post. So glad you decided to share it. It's part of moving forward. Hoping that you can find the strength to 'refuel' and start yourself off in the right direction. Sometimes the road is rocky, but also very worth the journey.

Heather said...

Amanda, you really have a gift for expressing yourself through writing. You've explained your feelings/experience so well here. I have found that when I am able to write things out so clearly, it means that I have come to a realization/epiphany that allows me to move forward with learning something I needed to or changing in a way that I've been working toward. It sounds like that's a point you're at too. I agree with the commenters above- it is really refreshing to read such an honest entry, and I'm glad that you shared it. I can see that you are a strong woman getting through something really difficult and that your girls are blessed to have you. I am really glad I 'found' you online and was able to meet you, too! And I wish you all of the strength that you need as you work through this difficult process, toward an even stronger you.

Jenny Skibo said...

wow, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you continue to find peace and love to replace the grief. God Bless You

Marissa Rodriguez said...

What a powerful post. So honest and raw, it must have been hard but I thank you for sharing your experience. I think your healing has begun and I wish the best for you. I hope sharing this has given you a little strength to continue on.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had something to write that was even 1/2 has clever as you write... but all I can say is I love you... and hang in there. Trust me. One day you will look back and realize all the pain was worth it, promise! Miss

johnlo said...

Thanks for sharing Amanda. :)

Anonymous said...

Amanda, I was so touched by your post that everything around me went silent, I was so consumed in it. Thank you for sharing that with us, real life. Take time fro yourself and refuel. It has helped me open my own mind, thank you. Your work truly touches me.
Thank you!

Angela said...

What a beautiful and honest post. I cant even begin to imagine how you feel...but my thoughts are with you. And a a lighter note..I love our blog, reading your tips and seeing your amazing photos - When I grow up (ha ha I'm 34!!) I want to be as good as you!! :)