These weeks leading up to Father’s Day have been really hard. I am bombarded with emails about what “dad” needs for Father’s Day. My first instinct is to cringe-then I immediately delete. The younger kiddos have Fathers’ Day events and crafts and presents at school. Everytime I walk in the door to the preschool the notice about the “Father’s Day Picnic” stares me right in the face. Right at eye level. The kindergarten teacher changed the event name from “Doughnuts for Dads” to “Doughnuts for Dudes” and I have been incredibly grateful for that. Two years ago on Fathers’ Day–I don’t think I even noticed how much Fathers Day was in my face everywhere. Now I notice every little thing. Except they are not little things anymore.
I work at reminding myself about my strength. I work at being mindful. But I sometimes wonder at what expense? Everytime a sad memory or image pops into my mind I STUFF IT DOWN. That is exactly what it feels like. Stuffing it way back down to the boxes in the basement. But, the boxes don’t go away.
I very much sense people–people I love, kind-hearted people, well-intentioned people–feeling that I really need to “get past this”. If I smile or laugh, people think I’m “fine”. If someone asks me how I’m doing and I say “good”–they breathe a sigh of relief because I’m finally moving past “this”. If I go out on a date, people think I must be doing fantastic. In the BEFORE, I would have probably thought these very same things about someone else. And really-I believe it is comforting for people who love me to think these things and if it is important enough, I will let the “people” know otherwise. But what I despise–what makes me angry to my core–is the judgement. I was not perfect BEFORE and from August 27, 2014 forward-I fall at the opposite end of that continuum. I am often flustered, overwhelmed, and forgetful. I don’t tend to care about things that really don’t matter (like when my daughter cut her own hair a few weeks ago-it doesn’t look so great, but it’s only hair). I alternately feel disconnected and so connected to my kids. I love them to pieces and can’t wait to see them–until five minutes (or less) after I pick them up and they are driving me crazy. There are still days that I just crawl into my bed and sleep because it’s easier than staying awake and feeling the bad feelings. I don’t do this everyday. I’m not apologizing for these imperfections. I’m done trying to explain to people who will never understand why I’m not getting past this. The only person I really need to answer to is myself. It’s my brain that bears the beating. I can choose to beat myself up like some other people do, or I can reconcile the facts that my family has suffered a senseless tragedy and it’s okay that I climb into bed every so often during the day. It’s okay that my four kids drive me crazy sometimes because I am the only parent. There is no shared custody here. I am it. I’m totally giving myself permission to get angry and yell and scream sometimes because I am an imperfect person, in pain, raising children who are in pain, and I’m doing it alone. Yes– I have a lot of help and support. Thank goodness. But ultimately-it’s on me.
I’ve mentioned my support group-for survivors like me-before. I have not missed one meeting since last August. Sometimes I don’t want to leave. I want to go home with these other people who totally get it. We are all in different stages of “new-ness” to the events that changed our lives forever-but there is absolutely no judgement and when we are there–nobody interrupts anybody else. We all say what we have to say and sometimes we cry for each other and sometimes we laugh with each other-but there is never judgement and there is always, always space. We give each other space to be. At my last group, one person made a fantastic analogy that I need to share. It’s like the person we lost had this huge box of shit and they couldn’t deal with it anymore. When they died, they passed that huge box of shit to us and a TON more shit was added. Now we are all holding these overflowing boxes of shit and there’s so much of it that the box can’t hold it so we are all getting covered in shit. Because of this–no one wants to be around us because they don’t want to get any shit on them. Nobody wants to share the shit (who can blame them?). We can’t clean the shit off without putting down the box of shit and even if we put down the box and clean up a little–we always have to pick that box up again at some point and get dirty. It reminds me of something I’ve said before–the person we love, took their temporary pain away and spread it out on those who loved him/her permanently. Forever.
Every year on Father’s Day weekend, there is a huge Washington Brewers Festival. I remember Jake and I (and the kids) going to it a few years ago and having such a great time. Jake loved good beer. He loved craft beer. It was like his Disneyland. We had so much fun. For the first time, I am going back. Not as a party-goer-but as a volunteer. I don’t know why. It just seemed like something different to do that might be fun. (I’m kind of dreading the commitment right now because its cold and rainy outside…but oh well). I’m going into this with one expectation–that I will be filled with happy memories of Jake everywhere I look. I also think, Jake would have been there, bragging about his wife who was pouring beer for X brewery. I know he’d come over to my spot every so often, say “Hey hun” and give me a kiss or a slap on the ass, and then go off to try another beer.
There is one other thought I had recently that I want to share. A few months ago I pulled my hamstring–a common injury for trail runners because we trip a lot (and sometimes fall) and have to catch our balance. I refused to rest-knowing that my running is my best therapy. I just couldn’t really run uphill anywhere. So, I ran and did a lot of stretching etc. Recently on a run, I started thinking about how good my hamstring felt, and how I could probably get back into my routine of running hills, etc. Not five minutes later–I kid you not–not only did I trip-but I fell HARD to the ground and just felt the pain in my hamstring as I practically heard it shred. Once I checked to make sure I wasn’t broken or unconscious-I got up and limp-ran the rest of the way. I even laughed at myself out loud because I thought it must have looked really funny when I fell (even though no one saw me). But I also started thinking about how analogous to my life and my journey that whole situation was. I wrote a post talking about how great I was doing and strong I was and hear me roar etc. Then I started to get inundated with Fathers’ Day events and emails. Then I sensed judgement from people who love me the most. Then I fell. I didn’t, however, just lie there and wait for the bears and cougars and snakes to come eat me. The super important thing I did, the most important thing that I did even though I was hurting more, is that I got back up, picked up my box of shit, and kept going.