You know when you take off running — just to slam to a dead stop? (No pun intended) Seriously, I was running to catch the door of the bank last week, just as it was closing — and completely missed the curb. My bad. Actually, it could have been worse – a lot worse. Lying on the cement, two things came to mind: is anything broken and, of course, did anyone see me. No to both, thank goodness. Luckily, my only casualties were scraped knuckles, one bruised elbow, a ripped pair of jeans (which still didn’t make designer status) and a completely raw knee. Ouch. But, hey, I wasn’t a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.
What really tripped me up, though, was the smackdown of my confidence. I’m usually a pretty strong chick. I cry easily and am a total pushover for everyone I love but I take care of myself (almost as well) as I took care of my kids. Yet, one misstep on a curb and I’m suddenly back to Grief 101. What the…?
More than the raw sting of my knee, it was the raw absence that greeted me at home that really got to me. Somehow that morning, I was still surprised that my husband wasn’t there to ask what the heck happened. He’s has been gone for a year and a half and it should be pretty clear he wouldn’t be answering the door. So why was I suddenly caught between a surprise pity party — and getting the fraud of the year award?
Smack in the middle my second grief year, I’ve been doing pretty well, if I do say so myself. My blog posts have slowly evolved from the devastation of my man’s death to something almost similar to, well, optimism. Far from puppies and rainbows but edging up to Orphan Annie’s “The sun will come out tomorrow’. But all I need is to trip over my own feet and suddenly I’m that tiny gray mama on the lap of her now grown little boy in “I’ll Love You Forever”. (I still cry every time kids ask me to read that book) Waaaah.
Last week, this hybrid combo between Pitiful Pearl and Pollyanna, gimped down the stairs for another ice pack with “Is that all there is?” repeating in my mind. Great, I thought, now I’m singing Peggy Lee. It’s not as if I’m abandoned by humanity, sitting on a pitiful little island wondering how I would get my Greek yogurt. I’m actually nicely nested in a place with some cool (if I do say so myself) coastal décor, have great kids I’m really proud of and grandchildren I’m addicted to. I’m blessed with so many caring, amazing friends, I wonder what I did to deserve them. There’s some really good stuff in my life, so why does it always come back to the man who holds my heart? It’s very clear that Elvis left the building.
I think last week was inevitable. Like a stock market reset, life constantly adjusts our emotional temperature. You’d think sudden death was more than enough rocket blast but there’s always something more. No matter how stalwart or plucky you are, into every life a bad day – or bad week – falls. That’s life. Happy and sad reside in the same body. We can still fall in more ways than one because being strong doesn’t mean you’re going to stick the landing every time. Sometimes you’ll still land on your face – or your knee.
Yet, I had a major light bulb moment. When something ‘takes you off your feet’, it can affect more than just a limb. Fear, insecurity and all the ‘what if’s’ you’ve held in tight rein are suddenly off the leash and living large in your head. Even as you’re grateful that nothing was broken (this time), what COULD have happened is a flashing billboard in a solo life. What if there’s a broken hip, a fall in the shower, or other scary unknowns age brings? One stupid fall and ‘Mother may I take one giant step backwards?’ takes over. Can you spell v-u-l-n-e-r-a-b-l-e?
My knee feels so much better. I slip into my sneakers, take an almost-brisk walk and — breathe. Whew, it was a week; not forever. The worst we ever imagined already happened. And guess what? GOOD things happen like that, too. If they didn’t, I never would have met the man who makes living without him so damn hard.
I’m hardly perfect. Hey, I tripped over a curb just to grab a closing door! I can pretty much guarantee that this week’s meltdown won’t be my last. My husband is still gone, the house is still empty and, on occasion, solo life ad infinitum seems like groundhog day. Every so often this crazy roller coaster will make a sudden descent that puts your heart in your mouth but the good news is, the ride always rolls back up again. Count on it.
After all, if groundhog day is going to happen, I have my eye on a helluva lot better one.