“You know what I wish right now?” I asked my friend Christine.
I was drinking a beer with her on a beautiful day, watching our children play in an idyllic setting.
“What?” she asked.
“I wish I could press fast forward on my life,” I told her. I meant it.
I’ve never felt this way. Even when things were hard throughout my life, like when I was teaching in a really difficult school or homesick in a foreign country, I still loved my life as a whole. It’s one of the things I think people like about me. I’m over-the-top positive, so much so that people will say things like, “of course Marjorie is saying it was good her child just projectile vomited on the sidewalk because at least it wasn’t in her car!”
It’s never been an act. I truly have always loved my life. I’ve always known what I had – a great family and a job I loved and water that you can drink right out of the tap and no real fear that I’d ever get evicted from somewhere. I even knew what I had with Shawn was something that a lot of people don’t get. I saw all of those things in my life and I thought, “lucky me.” When people asked me how my day was, I’d reply, “wonderful,” every time and I meant it.
But now, there are a lot of days where it feels like I need to put on a mask in order to make it. Today is one of those days. I am just sad, horribly so, and there is nothing that anyone can do to make me feel better. The rose-colored glasses that I used to wear through life are gone, replaced by something that dulls everything around me. Other people notice when I am like this, I think, but they are too polite to say anything. It’s better that way, honestly. But it’s so isolating. Tommy did something adorable tonight at dinner and although everyone else laughed, I didn’t even smile. It’s like I’m sheltered in my own little cocoon trying to stave off the pain that pushes down on me.
I am sad that I don’t have Shawn to be my forever support. I am sad that I am so totally alone in the world. I am sad that I have to do everything for my kids and when I try and leave the house alone, at least one of them will throw their body on me and demand that I stay. I am sad that I can’t connect with people like I used to be able to do easily.
I am so sad that everything around me grates on me now, in a way that it never did. For example, right now I’m at my daughter’s guitar lesson and there is a new parent here who is checking his email and sighing loudly every time he opens a new one. I have absolutely zero sympathy for him. I want to scream at him, “Really, is work so stressful that you need to heavily sigh for us every 2 minutes? Want to hear about my day? I woke up at 5 am and didn’t stop moving as I dealt with a thousand issues with my 3 kids and my back-to-back classes of teenagers. Then I came home and took my daughter to get new running shoes because the other ones are way too small for her and of course running club is tomorrow. Then I made dinner, a great pork tenderloin that I had to coax everyone to eat and that got thrown on the floor by at least two of them. Now I’m at guitar lessons and then I’ll go home and try and get everyone to sleep which means putting my arms around 3 different small humans for at least 30 minutes each.”
“Do you know what makes this hard?” I’d ask sighing man (who at this point would probably run away screaming.) “I do all of this without sobbing for 15 hours straight. The last hour before bed, I let the tears come. Yes, I know I could cry during the day if I wanted. I know that people would understand. But there’s only so much crying – or sighing – you can really do each day and make it through the day.”
Maybe the sighing man is having a really hard day. Maybe he’s getting divorced or his mother is sick or God knows what else. But I just don’t care. My ability to hold other people’s pain and frustration is significantly less than it once was. I want to feel for other people, but I just can’t. I guess this is because I can barely hold my own emotions throughout the day. Grief has made me into a more selfish person – a person who is more likely to reach inward than outwards on days like today.
I don’t want to be sad anymore. I want to wake up and play music really loudly like my dad always did as we were growing up. I want to sing and dance around the house to that music and I want to pick my kids up and spin them around. I want to laugh really hard with my friends and I want to do all of this every day, not just on special occasions.
But what I really want is to go home tonight, put my kids to bed and have Shawn hug me so close that I have trouble breathing. And I know that’s something I can’t have. I can’t have that ever again, and fast-forwarding to any point in the future isn’t going to change that.
Maybe, in six months or a year or two years, things will be easier. Maybe I’ll sing more and laugh more and figure out how to ignore people who are mildly annoying. Maybe the pain and fog of the past months will ease, and I will feel myself returning.
I think I’ll know when that day comes. It will be here when someone innocently asks, “how are you?” and without thinking I say, “I’m wonderful.”
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.