Those not-so-perfect moments
Over the weekend, via “the Twitterverse,” I heard some very sad news. An individual who was well known in the social media world committed suicide… just hours after his final few tweets, which seemed optimistic, full of plans to travel from his home in South Carolina to see friends in the UK. I don’t know how or why this person died because I wasn’t personally acquainted with him, but those details aren’t relevant to the thoughts I’m thinking tonight.
Relax… I’m NOT thinking about committing suicide. But what struck me was the way in which we create and then defend our online personae… we might be tough, or strong, or funny, or a good parent, or outrageous, or righteous, or whatever. We create those identities and then we tend to write things that reinforce them, and tend not to show anyone anything that might call those identities into question.
I have been told so many times over the past year, and especially in the nearly three months since Kurt died, that I am a very strong person. In Kurt’s blog, and now again here, I have tried to focus on good news, optimistic framing, finding good things in the midst of all the bad, and above all continuing to put one foot in front of the other… slow steady progress through caregiving, grief, and whatever will come next. I have tried, I suppose, to show you that I am indeed strong.
Well, I want to part that veil just a bit. Sometimes I do not feel so strong. There are many days when I have to drag myself out of bed. There are many days when I am so wrung out by mid-afternoon that I can’t work any more, I feel overcome by exhaustion, and I have to take an afternoon nap. Then there are many nights when my head hits the pillow and I instantly know that I will not fall asleep for hours.
I sit in my office at my desk looking out the window, and a part of me is always listening for footsteps, looking for Kurt to come walking up the steps to the front door, or waiting for my phone to ring with his special ring tone. But he’s not there. It’s just… quiet… so quiet, and I do not feel strong, but only lonely.
I suppose there are different ways of being “strong.” I suspect that my having the nerve to put in writing that all is not roses and lollipops for me, that my grieving is going to be a long, grinding, wrenching process of false starts, bad stops, and seemingly endless loneliness, is in itself an act of strength. I think you would tell me that. There will be times when I will not believe you, no matter what you say to me. Those will be the times when the only way I can keep going is to just keep telling myself: “One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.”
In choosing to be public with this blog, I relinquish control over who may be reading it or what effect my words may have on readers who don’t know me. I recognize that when I tag my posts with words like “grief,” I am making my experience visible to anyone who may be feeling just as sad and lonely and shredded as I do right now. For their sake, as well as for my own, I do not want to sugar-coat this experience. Losing one’s dearest loved one, one’s life partner for 25 years, is not something you just shake off and move on to the next adventure — no matter how appealing the idea of being “strong” may be.
Still… I think that life does go on, and it will go on for me. It will take time, and I have no idea how much time. It’s not a process that is quantifiable like miles run or race finishing times. It will simply be whatever it is, and take me wherever I am going to go. It is a process that will probably never “end,” but I want to hope that someday I will look back and recognize that the worst of it is behind me.