I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again”
I knew for those formative high school years that I had something special to share, and that maybe people would fall in love with me for those reasons, over and over. Of course they were careless thoughts, and they were young thoughts. Fairy tale thoughts in a storybook world in which everything is, of course, easy and flawless and painless. I remember thinking it though, as I stepped outside of myself and watched myself interact with boys. (always boys, and now men) It was like I had a love and joy in me that was brimming to the top, ready to overflow and wrap the world in its hot lava wake. It’s funny how we can get smaller as we get older. Sometimes our dreams shrink, our senses of invincibility must shrink, and do, and sometimes we lose the parts of ourselves we should be gaining. I know I’ve told you before that I always thought I’d be BIG one day, and that I always thought I’d conjure magic, and maybe I still believe that I will be, or am, or will, but it’s a different kind of BIG magic. It fades and materializes. It dulls and glistens. Maybe it’s about that what you want is what has changed. You don’t have to shrink yourself to fit into this narrow world. You don’t have to shrink the world either. It’s like those toddler shape sorting cubes, and we are all of us adapting and changing shape. Over and over; never to stop.
My romantic story was that I loved him and he loved me. Both of us knew it, but it was the “old days” and we didn’t yet have social media or even smartphones yet. We had landlines and dorm lines and college parties and grand gestures. He was (still is, I’m sure) funny and charming and kind and that’s what got me; it’s that he could make me feel like gold on a terrible and terribly gloomy day. I had pushed away romantic suitors before then, writing these grand love stories that existed in my head only (and didn’t please men to find them out well after the fact). And then one day, it hurt more to hold up those walls than to let down my guard, so I lowered them and got overwhelmed in love. I still do that, many boyfriends and a husband later. So I raise and lower those walls, as if I have any chance at all of controlling these overwhelming waters. It is better to let yourself get drenched, and maybe even half-drowned, in that potent mix of love and pain and fear and everything more boring in between. It hurts to lower. And it hurts to raise.
And for someone whose early life was marked by loss, I’ve grown remarkably terrible at grieving. I’ve lost many people at this point – entire generations of my great grandparents, grandparents, and great aunts and uncles. These were often expected losses, and they ranged from terrifyingly unmanageable to barely a blip on my radar because it was someone I didn’t quite know. I wasn’t awash and immersed in love. When my mother’s mother passed away, I told my therapist, “See, it hurts unbearably, so I raised the walls so the waters couldn’t get in and drown me.” She told me it’s a matter of grieving in smaller, more palatable bites. You’re feeling it and you’re awash in it and you’re dealing with it, but then you sometimes have to push it back, or box it up in a neat pile for another day. So you don’t drown yourself and others in pain enough to fill an ocean, and more. I never got good at that, though. It was compartmentalizing or drifting away from these feelings. Missing myself, sometimes, more than the actual person who passed. Missing who I was when I knew them; who they were before they knew me and grumpiness/illness took over.
I don’t succumb to the drowning, even when I feel I should. I lost a friend two years ago, and although I hadn’t seen him in over a decade, I was reminded of our childhood closeness. To see his gorgeous face in photos, even now, is too much to bear. I can apply the filters and raise the walls, only because I hadn’t even known him as an adult. And also, his beauty and youth and promise make his passing unfathomable; with the pain and grief threatening to overflow and wrap the world in a hot lava wake. Pain can burn this world down, but of course, apathy is much worse. It backfires anyway, because you’re never really hardened, and if you are, you’re able to crumble and break. And then nothing remains; nothing to be cleansed and cleaned, burned and formed into something new. Not harder, but stronger. Able to withstand the storms and the heat. And no one can ever really get used to grief, or have it hurt less, but we can get better at grieving. And that’s with confronting it head-on, and allowing ourselves to love big, because that always leads to big pain. And yet, I’d choose it every time. Maybe, I’m learning to choose it.
My uncle’s death in late June has left me in its waking gasp. And really, everything from about mid-May on, has sustained me, barely, in this existential and hopeful and morbidly depressed and hopelessly positive and surprisingly negative me. The grief hits me in these bursts and fits. Sometimes I can wake up and think about anything but this unfathomable and overwhelming darkness. The baby gurgling in the bassinet; picking up his legs and slamming them down again. I’ll wonder when was the last time Cassidy and I shared a bed without being miles apart in sleeplessness, COVID, and babies. I might think about work and our town’s COVID count and if I care enough to ever do a Wordle again. Sometimes I wake up and all I can do is cry, text my mom and sister, and cry some more. I’ll never forget Rider’s stricken face when I emerged from our Starbucks drive the other day, me completely tearstained, and him with a cake pop stick stuck to his hair. That’s the beauty of toddlers, though. He doesn’t compartmentalize. Rather, he sees it, takes it in, learns from it, and spreads his sunshine through the day; through my day.
And so I wait, but for what(?) and then I write. It may take three months, or three years, but this is my way. I was going to write this, a million times, but I’ve been battling against the deeper darkness, wondering what my words could do, should do, and if they’ve ever mattered. I’ve been meaning to write this, and I’ll be meaning to write this, over and over, as this story rewrites itself, as I rewrite myself, as my narrative and perspective changes, and as I gloom and hope and lead my way out through this Uncle Jamie-less world and existence. Full of beauty and hope and light, always, and full of sadness and sickness and terror as well. We, the living, with our words and our wonder and our wishes stringing along the night sky, like connected lights on a wire.
There’s just a few things coming my way this time around, now
Thought I’d see you, thought I’d see you, fire and rain, now”
I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday (FTSF) for a new prompt. FTSF is back and better than ever! And this week’s topic is “I was going to write this, but..” Link up your own post HERE.