Pollyanna had a Pity Party. Just when I thought I had this grief thing down to manageable pieces, just when I thought I stuck the landing — I landed on my butt. There was no big crisis; nothing I could say “Oh, geez, now why did THAT happen.” Nope. There was just an avalanche of little teeny things that crept up and smacked me upside the head. Was I oblivious or just naive enough to think I had grief nailed.
I almost didn’t write this post. I didn’t want to burst the bouncy bubble of my usual optimistic posts but into every life some rain must fall and we have all had our share of floods. As I’ve said before, I might talk a good game but no one would accuse me of having it all together. That said, put on your slickers, kids, here we go.
Life is hardly predictable or neat. Each time we think it might be, things pop up, like a gophers in a mine field, and knock you on your keister. All the things and people that once made us so happy are the very things that can take us down when they are no longer there, simply because — they are no longer there. Sure, those sweet spirits will eventually bring only healing memories, smiles and warm, fuzzy feelings but until then, things can be iffy.
Trauma creates changes we don’t choose. Healing is about creating change we do choose.
This fall, It will be 3 years since Elvis (otherwise known as my husband) left the building. It’s hard to believe all that time has past, yet here I am, folks. Just me. And sure, I’m doing okay, or as fine as you can be after your life went off a cliff. Every person who’s ever had a rude coupling with loss gets it, boy, do they get it. After loss, you may be under construction for awhile; you might even need a few critical renovations. Still, as time goes by, tears become less copious, days become less brutally empty and even laughter sneaks back when you’re not looking. Slowly, you find a new normal but even then, there are always those days some dopey ‘little things’ pop up. They use their inside voice to say, “hey, remember how it used to be?” and then your new normal becomes a freak show. Now isn’t that special.
It was some of just those pop-up thoughts that paved the way for this past week’s emotional dive bomb:
• Bringing my recently relocated 94 year old father’s shirts to the cleaners, knowing they’re no longer my snappy dressing husband’s, it registers with a thud that I’m not in Kansas anymore.
• Grabbing a book I never quite finished and finding the holy card from my guy’s funeral marking the last page I read. No words needed on that one.
• Doing the Saturday grocery store run. Racing through the store, it’s hard to miss couples, splitting their list for maximum efficiency. In other words, teamwork. Yeah, I remember that.
• That flower bouquet that doesn’t walk weekly to my door in my impulsive husband’s hands. (Even though flowers have never really been my jam having spent my teen years in my parents’ florist, it really was the thought that counted)
• These days, if I want to go somewhere, I’m the Uber. Knowing my propensity for falling asleep in the car, I miss my other half taking the wheel. Funny, how that worked considering some might have wondered why I actually felt safe and comfortable with a driver affectionately dubbed ‘Crash’ for his fender benders. I guess you’d call it love.
• Backing up in front of the guy who knew instinctively that a girl with a history of 4 whiplashes, needed a neck rub. His magic hands could always be counted on.
• Knowing, like ET, I could call home – and someone would answer. Just the idea that someone knew I was gone, and would worry until I put the key back in the door, God we take that so for granted.
• Dinner — with conversation. Strange how, even eaten on a nice plate, a solo dinners in front of my TV don’t quite count as sparkling evenings. Miss the chatty man who most certainly, especially in today’s political climate, could be counted on for active arguments with nightly news shows. Where it once drove me a little nuts, it now is all part of the fabric of missing.
Little things almost went unnoticed in the alternate universe we once lived in. Foursome dinners. Ordering a whole pizza. The differences are endless and aching. In a completely changed world, they also can be a freaking billboard that blinks endlessly ‘Before.’ Even the silliest, simplest things can still your brain momentarily. Does it happen when I take out the garbage, change the lightbulb above the outside door or call a plumber? Okay, that was usually me but still, you know where I’m going with this.
Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. Robert Brault
All this is not to say life sucks. Hardly. Do I adore being my grandkids’ plaything, lunching with my friends, and yes, even writing? Damn right. Yet, none of that is all I am or was. Once upon a time, I was half of a ‘we’ and I guess that half isn’t ready or content to be merely an invisible backseat driver. I suspect it won’t ever will be. Why else would Peggy Lee singing ‘Is that all there is” be a haunting earworm? (If you never heard of Peggy Lee, never mind. You’re too young and the fact that I’m not is another reason for that pity party invite. But we’ll save that for another day, maybe that big birthday this year.) It’s the crazy realization that this solo thing is your gig from now on that becomes a broken record, spinning an endless loop of Ground Hog Day. There’s no app for that.
Today is just a day. And there’ll be another day . . . if we’re lucky.
Just to recap, yes, Virginia, this just may be life from now on. So what? Have you noticed the world right now? Geez, every single corner of it has got more problems each minute than you have in a year. Still, every one of us has walked through our relative own set of brambles and we know a thorny abyss when we see one. We’ve seen death already; it’s the life after we’re trying to figure out.
I’ve been alone before. What’s the big deal? What’s different? Apparently – everything. Redefining your life in singular terms doesn’t come with a playbook. Ding. Ding. Ding. Just like a pinball game, your shell shocked little mind bounces all over the place. As it knocks against the walls, lights blinking, we remember great times, daily whatever times, even those 10 year cancer-flavored times. It can get anyone a little dizzy, even make you want to sit like a two year old with a hissy fit, refusing to move one more step. That wild emotional ride can create one hell of a pity party — or a new life.
When we are quiet, open enough to listen, we know it was that life we miss, the good and bad, joys and brokenness, fear and gratitude; those bittersweet things can upend you. It’s the wanting to hang onto what was known for dear life, knowing well ‘dear’ life can be taken as it was given.
“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end” Song lyrics, Mary Hopkins
They say ‘this too shall pass’. What seems to already passed was my mojo, my hubba hubba and all the rest that comes from the ‘you girl; me boy’ thing. You know exactly what I mean. Yes, we have the kids, the friends, the grands and boy, are we ever grateful, but it’s human to want the whole enchilada, once we tasted it. Maybe it’s the peanut butter without the jelly syndrome, although chocolate works, too. We want to feel part of, matched with and partner to and once gone, it’s forever missed.
For better or worse, I’m a different person now, not better or worse, just different. How could we not be? Would those people who were once as close as our own skin recognize the people we’ve come to be, had to be? Life is all about change so I guess we’re on track but that doesn’t stop us from days, weeks of wishing change never had to happen. The times when remembering the sweet, painful, even mundane little things that made an ‘us’, make only sad memories now. There is no more us just things that make me miss the ‘me’ I was when he was here; the me that will never be again. It’s that never part that trips me up.
Maybe we need to remember that the little things that squeeze the heart are the currency exchanged for what once expanded it. Nothing is going to change the remembering. Nothing will ever change the missing all the little things, the take-for-granted things, that made life big. All you and I can do is buckle up, hold on for the ride and cherish what we have still, those little things we hold in our hands right now.