06 March 2018

The Year of My Life

In my second-to-last therapy session with the woman who saw me through all my stages of grief, I found myself brimming with a fierce optimism and hope as I recapped where I had been that week. My dad's one year teeters two weeks away, but I couldn't stop telling her, "I get it now. I get what everyone who had grieved before me kept trying to say. There is another side. I can see it, I am closer to it now than ever before." I had spent an entire year clearing the branches to find a trail, clear as the eye could see and I was ready to start hiking it.

My therapist folded her hands and told me that I had put in the hard work and that I deserved to feel centered. From the moment my dad died, I knew I needed to take on the pain head-on and I got myself into therapy within weeks. It was so hard for so many, many months. Everything hurt. Talking about it hurt. Realizing things hurt. I was in more pain than I could handle, but I did handle it.

We use lots of ocean metaphors, but it always works. I'm tired of them, but they are the best ones.

As we wrapped up our session, I remembered a dark moment that I had way back in the beginning. 

I was telling her that when I first found her facility, I spoke to her colleague who was running a grief group at the time. I remember talking to her on the phone from the living room of my apartment encapsulated with rain and crying so hard I almost hyperventilated. 

It must have been only a week or two after. I told my therapist’s coworker that my family was destroyed; I begged for an answer, clean and clear: tell me what to do to feel better. There was a very long pause and I almost thought I heard her choking back. 

“I can tell you I lost my dad when I was your age,” she said over the telephone wires. “And I promise there is another side to this.” I sobbed and sobbed. “You aren’t ready to do a group yet,” she told me gently. “Do individual and we can talk in six months.” 

I cry and cry, so hard like a kid. “But what HAPPENS” I moan into the phone. The pause is a valley. 

“You’ll be more resilient,” is all she said. 

My chest heaves, she confirmed my appointment with my therapist and we hung up. I hold my hand up to the window and feel like there is no end to the valley of sadness I am trudging through and the resilience she speaks of is the biblical flood many believe but I know is geologically impossible. But yet she said it. So maybe. Maybe. 

I cling to the maybe for what seems like years but is actually months. I am now 28, but more like 98 and I know it all. I am the flood. 

I practice lent because it feels like the right thing to do. 

It feels like something that will keep me accountable, something I can believe in. A higher power becomes more and more into focus and my daily prayers, my daily religious/astrological/philosophical conversations with anyone and everyone increases. I don't feel so anxious anymore, I don't feel the need to explain things. All my emotions are rooted, planted. What was once spinning wildly through space is now in the dirt, spreading calmly through the ground. 

I am okay, I am okay. 

I start talking about God with Ben. He tells me he loves my ideas, but urges me to use another word. 

"God just has so much to it," he says finally. "You're talking about such great stuff. Don't associate it with that word." 

"I think that is the word I want to use," I tell him back. "It's not anyone else's God, it's my own God."

My strength. All my powers. It remains hard to describe, but like the glowing ball of white-hot rage I used to feel, there is peace. I didn't need to defend anything.

A month after my dad died, Ben and I took a train to New Orleans and it was terrible. 

I thought our marriage was over, I thought my mom was gone for good, I thought I would never feel safe in the world again. I did not want to go, but I worked it into my head that survival meant never saying no and that I would be stronger for going. That saying no would hold my head underwater for that final, fatal second. I could not. 

Many things happened on that trip and though the changes that ultimaltley occured happened after, all moments reached their breaking point. I remember that trip as a dark acid-trip of screaming multi-colored streets, drunks with their arms clownishly outstretched and a moment where I almost ran right into the arms of an Evangelical Christian group promising to save my soul on Bourbon St. 

On our way back home, quiet and dull, our flight experience turbulence like I have never felt before. Drinks were not served, lights were turned off and a chilling silence overtook the passengers as the plane rocked and dropped angrily through stormy clouds. I began to actually panic and think, maybe this is it. Maybe I could die. 

I thought of everything my life wasn't and all the ways I wasn't good enough, all the ways I had let people down. All the ways I had failed my marriage, my father, myself. How so, so much of my life was genuinely over, that this really had ripped through me, had broken me. I could reverse time and stop my dad's crash, I couldn't tell him everything I had always wanted to say. The good things and the bad. I couldn't have a second chance to see him or have him see me. I couldn't do a thing but sit in a seat and breathe. 

Salvation was nowhere and nothing, the answer to my suffering was in myself. The only person who could give me what I needed, who could open the door to peace, was me. I would be BETTER. I would be STRONGER, KINDER, SMARTER. I would live through this turbulence, I would live through the difficulty in my marriage, I would live my life. I would fear nothing but the concept of fear itself. I was the only person I needed. 

The plane landed and everyone cheered. I walked off calmly and threw up in the closest bathroom, too sick to even close the door behind me. But the next morning when I woke up, shaken inside and out, I finally felt awake. I was still a fraction of myself, paranoid of car crashes and memories of things I never said, but I went through all the motions with my eyes open. I wept many times between that morning and this one, but it was no longer an endless road of grief. I had named it, I had seen there was an ended. 

I switched paths and I started to walk like I was thunder. 

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