On this quiet Saturday evening as I wait for the coffee pot to descale and Julia has finally drifted off to sleep in my bed I find that I’m pensive. And that my weekend nights are very unexciting these days. I’ve been marinating on writing something for a few days but honestly as I began to put words to my thoughts I found it too exhausting so the computer was set aside, the silver lid firmly shut with a decisive click. But tonight I’m ready to talk.
A few months ago a friend sent me this video:
In many ways I have not stopped hearing this song in my mind since it was sent to me because it seems to echo the thoughts that I have in my mind, the aches in my heart. I’m not sure if idina Menzel is singing of her characters divorce or a death she encounters in the musical from which it originates, If/Then but to me it is the song of my heart and where my mind goes in the quiet evenings when Julia has at last fallen asleep, her lips in a determined line and our home is still. I turn on Netflix and watch episodes of Arrested Development or House of Cards episodes that I watch, but not fully. Dialogue that I tune in and out of because I cannot fully think; I cannot fully commit to anything. I’m restless and find myself flitting from task to task with little determination or motivation propelling me forward toward completion. I find satisfaction in a job well done and seeing all the dishes put away; the scarf finally knitted; the last page of a book read and its cover closed. But I lose steam midway through and the quiet of the house overcomes me like an unwelcome shadow. Too heavy and still are the hours and minutes between nightfall and when I can close my eyes to sleep.
But back to Idina and her haunting lyrics that play on a loop in my mental soundtrack. I’m struck by what I’ve learned since losing Wesley–16 months that seem a lifetime long and the feeling of living without what I thought was a certainty. To know what you are missing as a fulfilled prophecy of Tennyson’s words of loving and loss is harrowing and makes the time I spent with Wesley bittersweet because of the time I now spend alone. I feel gratitude, unending thanks for the time and life I had with Wesley but it is a life that is now lived in many ways without; I’ve learned to cope and to just close my eyes; breathe and move but that is not like the living I did before. Before I knew the loss of love and how to hold myself together with shaking hands I had a life that was unfolding and felt solid and sure, now the uncertainty permeates my waking moments. So I think on what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned to cry without sound, to mask shuddering shoulders and ragged breath. I’ve learned that the garbage man comes early on Monday mornings and the garbage cans are heavy and cumbersome. I’ve learned that the mac and cheese must still be made even when I just want to pull the covers over my head because Julia needs dinner and normalcy. I’ve learned that I’m terrible at accepting help preferring to just brave on to keep the facade of holding it all together intact; I’ve learned that looking at baby clothes is painful because it reminds me of the children I’ll not have but the children borne by friends and family bring incalculable joy. I learn to speak so calmly when my heart would like to scream and shout. I learn to live without.
I’ve learned the beauty of empathy. I’ve learned that Julia has sensitivity that floors me to be a part of and bear witness to. I’ve learned to count the blessings ceaselessly to drown out the petty plaintive cry of “Why me?” I’ve learned that my sorrow can have purpose and the feeling of helping others makes my own sadness easier to bear. I’ve learned that when I tell Julia that I’m crying because “I miss Daddy” it does not begin to encompass my loss but she usually dashes away to bring me the panda bear that belonged to Wesley as a child before I can explain any further. I’ve learned that the passage of time is at times hard to witness, the gulf growing wider between my life with Wesley and my life without.
A friend told me years ago that there are times in your life when you will be the best of yourself and have it all together and other times when you will put one foot in front of another and the act of walking forward, feet heavy and burden laden, takes in entirety the effort you can muster. I have pondered that advice because I feel that I’m in the time of my life of slow plodding motion. I try to remind myself that it is facile to think my life could be different if I just tried to put it out of my mind or hardened my heart. That with enough effort I could again be who I was 16 months ago, but I’m not. In many ways that woman seems frivolous and self-absorbed to me now. She cannot be recreated because the clay from which she was made is not the same consistency. It is harder, more dense and unrecognizable through my new eyes. It cannot be shaped again in the same way. And I’m grateful because I’ve grown strong, I have no other choice. I’m without another option.
But I’m committed to honesty and sensitivity as I strive to find a life for Julia and myself. To find a way to breathe and smile and find the joy in the loss and absence. I learn to live without–but not alone.