2019 has been, without a doubt, the hardest year of my life.
Since January, I have done the following:
- lost a best friend
- co-ended my marriage
- closed a major creative outlet
- buried my dad
- slipped back into old vices
- endured heartbreak
- known depression for the first time
- failed to finish writing my book.
Some of these things were out of my control. Some of that pain was unavoidable. But some of it was avoidable, and in my grief bubble, I decided to ‘rip off the band aid.’ I was so numb after my father’s death that I figured, why not just go for it? You feel nothing anymore, and doing this hard, painful thing is the right thing to do. Why not do it now?
The thing I’ve learned about numbness is that it is temporary. It will up and leave you after awhile and, on its way out, say ‘oh, by the way, here are my siblings: pain, grief, and situational depression. They’re yours now, and they will not be ignored.’
And they won’t.
Pain, grief, and depression are rude bedmates who, after you turn the lights off, don’t simply curl up and leave you in peace. Instead, they wait until you have drifted into a near-sleep to scream in your ear and pull on your hair and shove their fingers into your mouth.
(Because of this rude behavior, an alternate title for this piece was ‘places I have unexpectedly cried this year.’ Here is a brief list.)
- Work (obviously)
- The shoulder of a highway
- In a church
- Outside a church
- In an Irish church
- While petting an Irish horse
- At an Irish pub
- Most all of Ireland, really
- In front of my mailman
- Staring at cleaning supplies in Target
- The kids’ gymnastics lesson
- Three different therapists’ offices
- On a blind date
- Somewhere in rural Mississippi
2019 has been, to put it poetically, one shit sandwich on top of the other. Unsurprisingly, I have had no appetite for these sandwiches. Who does? No one does. But the unfortunate truth is, when life hands you a shit sandwich, you have two options: let it fester and make everything else in your life smell foul, or… well. Eat it. (I’m sorry for this disgusting metaphor. This has been a disgusting year.)
Historically, I’ve never been one to eat the sandwich. Not to brag, but pain and traumas aren’t new to me. They’re not new to anyone in their twenties. We may be young, but we’ve lived enough life to know the bone-bruises of real pain. Unless, of course, you’re like me, and do everything possible to avoid experiencing it.
I’m an escape artist, but not in the cool Houdini way. I can’t untie my own wrists, but I can daydream and fantasize and write fictions so as to avoid the reality of my own hurts. Except the thing about it is, when the hurts become corporeal enough to close your throat and pull out your tears and convince you it would be better not to live at all, you can’t escape your way out.
So I leaned in.
I leaned in hard.
So hard that, for the past four months, I’ve been in a haze. I cry a lot. I sleep a lot. The things I used to love doing hold no joy for me anymore. I have no appetite. I do my best to connect with my kids, with my mother and sister and brothers, but it feels as if a veil has been dropped down between us and I can’t quite reach them. What’s worse is that I don’t really want to reach them anymore.
A wise friend of mine put it like this: you are a wounded animal, and you are bleeding. What do wounded animals do? Find a quiet space in which to recover, and growl at anyone who comes too close.
If I’m not crying, I’m growling. If I’m not growling, I’m doing my best to cope with the fingers, screams, and pulls of pain.
So that’s how I’ve spent most of 2019.
But the future is happy.
I have to believe this. And I think it’s actually true.
I’ve been doing all this hard work to prepare for a better, more authentic future. It sucks now because I’m in the thick of it: I’m moving house, I’m painting walls, I’m lost and alone and tired. I miss my dad. I miss the comfort of marriage, the stability of a partner and a co-parent. I miss my family the way it was before we were all splintered and rocked by my dad’s death. I miss my in-laws. I miss enjoying holiday season instead of dreading it.
But next year will be different.
Next year, time will have passed, and the wounds I’m working so hard to clean out and dress won’t have festered; they’ll have healed. There will be some gnarly scars and I won’t ever be the same girl I was before July 4th of 2019. But I’ll be a girl with a house that’s hers, and a co-parenting partner who may not be her husband but is still her best friend. I’ll be a girl who writes and a girl who puts her words out into the world without fear of judgment. I’ll be a girl who isn’t scared to admit she doesn’t understand her own sexuality. I’ll be a girl without a father who turned all the love for him she didn’t know what to do with into something beautiful.
I’ll be a girl who saw the fire, saw that everything she wanted was on the other side of it, and instead of shrinking away, put her head down and ran through it. And survived.
I’m writing this so I can see it, and I’m putting it out into the world because it is the scary thing to do. And because I need to be held accountable; I need you to know this. And I need to stay. My kids need me; my family needs me. My story isn’t done yet. The darkness will clear; it has to. I’m in the fire now but it won’t burn forever. I will come out on the other side, a new person. Better for having eaten the stupid shit sandwich.
And the future is so, so happy.
If you need to talk, I am here. I probably need it, too. And if you need to talk but can’t show your pain to those who love you most, call this number: 1-800-273-8255. I’ve called them a lot lately. They could save your life, too.
Remember: The future is happy.
image courtesy of mitchell