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.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Category: my life