So, everyday this week, I have been continuously reflecting on everything I did on that date 7 months ago. Today is the 26th. August 26th, 2014 was a fantastic day. I hiked Rattlesnake Ridge with my BFF. I practically ran up that thing–passing people (which doesn’t happen often for me)–all the way to the top and the beautiful views all around us. On the way down, my friend and I had frivolous discussion about all the reality tv shows she had been watching recently. So much adrenaline, so much beauty–I felt wonderful…and so blissfully unaware of how that was the last time I would feel that way–possibly forever. Unaware that my “AFTER” was going to begin less than 24 hours later.
A close friend of mine recently gave me a book entitled “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion. (I’m sorry–I haven’t figured out how to add a link yet!) I didn’t even read the blurb on the back to find out what the book was about. I just jumped right in. I’m still at the beginning of the book, but basically it is a memoir written by a woman who lost her husband very unexpectedly and suddenly. As I read this book, I have started noticing that at times I am holding my breath. I have to remind myself to breathe. I think it is because her feelings so far–are so close to my own that I feel as if she has written my story. She has done quite a bit of research on the subject of grief and mourning, and as interesting as her tidbits are, I’m not sure I currently have the attention span to do the same. But so far, this book has been comforting to me. I’m not alone and I’m not crazy. Other people experience these same feelings of “magical thinking”–like keeping Jake’s toothbrush because he’s going to need it when he comes back. This feeling that somehow this is all reversible if I wish hard enough. I can’t remember if I have mentioned this before, but I have detailed fantasies that this all really didn’t happen and Jake is off hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. He’ll come back very stinky and hairy and so very happy because he’d achieved that goal.
A lot of people say to me “I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through”. Very accurate. Just like I can’t imagine what anyone else is going through. Well, maybe I can imagine, but I can never know truly know. I’ve known this for a long time. It started when I was pregnant with my first baby. People told me all about how hard it was, the sleepless nights, the colic, etc. and I actually thought I understood. I remember thinking, “I pulled a lot of all-nighters in college and besides, my baby is going to be perfectly happy”. I imagined myself sitting in the glider and rocking the baby while the baby peacefully looked into my eyes and cooed at me. I imagined dressing up my baby and waltzing around the mall to shop with all my “free” maternity leave time while everyone stopped to admire my beautiful, perfect baby. I would be super skinny of course–as soon as that baby came out–I’d be prancing out of that hospital in skinny jeans and a tight t-shirt. I know anyone who has ever had a baby is laughing right now. Because we all know that having a baby is nothing like we ever could have imagined. No matter how much people try to warn you. We cannot know. I remember trying to tell people who couldn’t wait for their own baby to come–“Trust me–that baby is way easier to take care of inside your uterus than outside of it”. But I always knew there was no way they could even imagine. With babies #2, #3 and #4-I had planned C-Sections (because the first one was an emergency c-section). With each one after the first one, I asked the doctors to please leave the baby inside of me as long as possible until the point it became dangerous. Then they could take it out. “How far after the due date can we push this event out?”–I remember asking.
One night, Jake announced to me “I’m going to get up early and go run around Mt. St. Helens tomorrow. Is that okay?”. Of course it was okay. I also had a million questions like “How many miles will it be? Don’t people usually train for runs like that? What time are you leaving? How long will it take you to get there? How long will it take you to run it? When can I expect you home?” I never thought to ask him what particular trail he was taking or any of the really important stuff. This was the first time he had done anything like this, so I was unschooled in the appropriate questions and proper warnings to him. I did ask him to call me when his cell phone came back in range and he was on his way home. Well, the time he told me that he expected to be finished came and went. I didn’t hear from him. It started to get dark. I started to panic. I began calling his friends to ask if they had heard from him. I researched “search and rescue at Mt. St. Helens” on the internet. I called his buddy who was experienced in doing this kind of thing. His buddy told me not to worry. It probably took him longer than he expected and the worst possible scenario is that he would have to hunker down out there for the night. But he would be fine. Jeez Louise! My imagination went absolutely crazy. I was in full panic mode–pacing my house–crying–IMAGINING that I had lost my husband to a bear or cougar on Mt. St. Helens. I imagined what was going to happen the next few days. I imagined the newspaper headlines. I imagined what my life was going to be like without Jake. When he finally called me, I screamed and cried and yelled. He apologized profusely–he felt terrible because he knew I’d be worried but it took him longer than expected and he couldn’t get a cell signal to let me know. I think about that day sometimes. I imagined really awful, horrible things. But the worst of my imaginings didn’t even come close to what it was really like to lose him.
We never truly know until we experience it–until we we live it. Hopefully, very few of us ever have to live through something like this in their lifetime. But I know people do. I know people I love dearly that have been through worse (what I would consider worse). I have no words for these people-I have no idea what it’s like to live in their shoes everyday. I wouldn’t even dare to try and compare.
In writing this blog, my goal is to tell my story (like Mary Meatballs said). My intention is not to spew anger and disgust at well-intentioned people who say things that aren’t particularly helpful for me. I know that sometimes–okay, a lot of times–I might come off that way. I realize that my grief is oftentimes directed in the form of anger at really good, caring people. I’m not saying that’s okay. I’m just saying that’s how it is for me. I’m sad and I’m angry and I’m wishful beyond reason.
But most importantly, as lonely as I feel, I know I’m not alone.