Press Fast-Forward

Brimley family of five before Marjorie became a widow

“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.

17 Replies to “Press Fast-Forward”

  1. I wish I had something wise to say or something that could provide some comfort. I’m here: reading your words, sending love, hoping that there will be breaks in the fog that allow you to experience flashes of joy here and there. And I hope that you can give yourself credit for getting through each day. You are remarkable.

    1. I love this comment, especially that you’re there reading my words. It provides such comfort, truly.

  2. Oh Marjorie – it’s true that you are the most positive and delightfully happy person I know. That is what drew me to you and that is what I so love about you. That is what breaks my heart the most about this tragedy – that this happened to you. Someone who is always full of goodness and kindness and lifts everyone around her up. It is always in my daily prayers that joy and ease come back to you soon and together we all lift you up. You so deserve that. Love you.

  3. So one of the things that pissed me off right after Shawn died, was that the world continued on like it always did. It was such a weird, sort of bitter anger – how could the news still be on at night? How could people still be going to Starbucks? How could people be going through the checkout at the grocery store? How could people still be complaining about the stupidest things in their lives? How could the world just keep on spinning after something just happening in our lives that was so, so horrific? How could the world go on like it always did when you, and your kids, and my parents, and my sister, and everyone else immediately around us was so heartbroken? It’s cruel in a way. But now I think of it as sort of a weird encouragement. Like this acknowledgement that no matter how you feel, things keep moving forward.
    We all have this tendacy or need to not want to feel sad – and certainly to not want to feel true heartbreak. I mean, who would ever desire to feel sad instead of happy or content? But the fact that the world keeps spinning no matter how sad we are – no matter what happens – I think maybe it gives you permission to just be sad. To just live in that sadness for however long it takes. It’s like because the world doesn’t need our happiness to continue to spin, we can take a sort of solace in not feeling pressure to “move on” with our emotions. I think (as long as sadness and heartbreak doesn’t turn into something that’s truly destructive), that it does take living in that emotion to start to heal (which I hate even writing by the way, as saying “to heal” sounds so contrived and cliche). It’s like as much as we don’t want to, we have to wade through the depths of grief for however long it takes before we glimpse the shore in the distance. If you try to swim through it too fast, you’ll just drown in it and never get out.
    What happened is horrible beyond what words can ever describe. The fact that you & your sweet kiddos have to now go through life without Shawn as your husband and their father is just unthinkable. That my parents lost their son. That SJ and I lost our brother. That so many others lost a friend, a colleague, a boss, a mentor, a nephew, an uncle. It’s not freakin fair. It doesn’t make sense and it will never make sense.
    But the world is continuing to spin. And we slowly wade forward.

    1. Love all of this Suzanne. Thanks so much for writing – and sharing – so much of your heart. xo

  4. Marjorie – You don’t know me but I went to high school with Becky. There is nothing that can be said to ease your pain but know that even strangers are sending love and support. Thank you for sharing this blog – your words are so incredibly powerful.

    1. I am so touched that you are reading this even though you don’t know me. Thanks for such kind words – they are really touching.

  5. Like Elissa, I also wish I had some magic words to offer–if only it were that simple. I do know that your infectious optimism when our oldest kids were tiny babies helped me, and certainly others, through that crazy time when none of had any idea what we were doing. BFC was like a lifeline for me and I wish I had one to offer to you now. I’m out here, too, reading your words and marveling at your strength and grace and honesty after all of the terrible unfairness of it all. Sending so much love to you and the kids.

    1. Oh, BFC was like a lifeline for me as well. Still is, even if we don’t see each other every day anymore. Comments like these are getting me through.

  6. Sheryll Brimley says: Reply

    Bill & I are told that this terrible sadness will gradually decrease & that some day we will be able to experience joy & happiness again. I thought spring would bring me a little joy at least, it really hasn’t. You are a remarkable woman & mother Marjorie & I have no doubt that one day you will feel wonderful & peaceful again. Our dear Shawn would want that for you.
    In the meantime, keep on writing these powerful words & know that your family up north love you & those beautiful children very much.

    1. Thanks so much Sheryll. We miss you. xo

  7. I love you, Marjorie and I’m sad you are missing Shawn and feeling alone. You are loved by so many. I’m so sorry this was an extra hard day in a long string of hard days. I still see glimmers of your beautiful optimism which is astounding given the circumstances. I hope I’m there for your next wonderful day. I know it’s out there somewhere. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Thanks mama. You know me so well and I am glad you have seen the glimmers. I know it’s there somewhere.

  8. It’s impossible to believe those days will come (and sometimes sad to think they will), but they will. And we will all be here with you everyday between now and then. And all the days after too.
    Love you.

    1. Oh, one thing I definitely know is that you will be there. And it is so comforting to know this. It makes it possible for me to move through the days.

  9. I am so glad I found this blog. I lost my husband suddenly a little over four months ago and you have such an articulate way of expressing the fathomless grief that such a loss brings. I was the optimist in our family, and I have been struggling with this as well. Thank you for writing; it helps me feel less alone to read your words.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing – it means so much to me when I can reach out to others, even though (of course) I wish we didn’t share such a terrible set of circumstances.

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