I made it. I made it five years. Do I get a badge now? A congratulatory cookie? Is there some kind of database my name goes into detailing that I survived this … darkness? I really wanted to ask what I get for making it five years, but let’s be honest. Life isn’t fair and no one gives a rat’s ass what you are coping with. What I get is what I give myself. Period.
But what does five years feel like, you ask? It feels like three actual journeys around this planet by planes and buses and trains. It feels like visiting fifteen countries. It’s ten summers in a row. It’s shedding 10 million tears. It’s laughing at 1,000 jokes. It’s having two ex-boyfriends who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It feels like five somewhat satisfying jobs. It’s countless side-jobs. It’s 1,000 excuses why I haven’t tried to live up to my own expectations. It feels like living in 15 or so homes. It’s keeping my belongings into what I can carry with me. It feels like 50 awesome warm-water scuba dives. And two whale sharks. It’s nearly 400 jumps. It’s about 20,000 miles in four crappy cars. It feels like 1,826 days. It’s watching each of my fingers become deformed from an AI disease. It’s learning to run again. It’s learning to be happy again. It’s learning to do everything for myself and not for anyone else. It’s saying good-bye to Don, Will, Adam B, Chris, Shane, Sean, Adam C, George, Steph, Steve, Max, Jordan, Alana and Uncle MIke.
Five years has felt like constant change. Five years has felt like a search beyond the scope of anything I knew. Five years has been a journey I am grateful for, but wish on no one.
I told myself I wasn’t going to write another one of these, but here I am … writing.
Shortly after Dave died a friend spoke to me. He told me that his doctor told him it would take five years. He had asked his doctor when the feeling of losing his wife would go away. When he would feel normal again. His doctor told him grief is complicated, but that time helps. Five years was the going rate.
So this deadline has been vexing my mind since that conversation. Five fucking years? And sure, I wondered if it was true for everyone. I questioned if I had superior healing capabilities. Surely after years of journal-keeping I was much more adept than the common cat at healing my heart and head. I tried to bargain with life. I’ll be 39 when that deadline is up, I explained. People will question why I’m so old and never got married. People will wonder what’s wrong with me. People will decide I’m probably damaged goods. Damn you, Dave, I thought. Who will love me now? I mean, who will love me come then? Who can love damaged goods. And can damaged goods still love?
It didn’t take me five years to come to terms with the loss I felt I endured. But it almost did. What I didn’t understand in the early stages of grieving was the guilt. Every time I tried to move forward I felt guilt. It didn’t make sense. Where was it coming from? Dave wanted me to move on. Everyone around me wanted me to move on. I wanted to move on, but I was scared. I got so used to being damaged goods that being a functional member of life without some sad excuse to fall back on when I couldn’t hack it petrified me. It wasn’t really an excuse. I know everyone has problems. Everyone has dead people. I wasn’t special in any way, shape or form. Each step forward I suppressed the guilt and went on auto-pilot. It was mindless. My heart wasn’t in it. I was faking it. I so wanted to be a healthy, well-adjusted adult that I just pretended to be one. But deep down I was harbouring a battle ground. My guilt and my grief and my love and my logic and my heart and my past and my dreams all fought to be recognised at the same time, something I used to be so good at – and then suddenly had no idea how to do.
I thought all these things inside the tornado in those early days. I felt guilt for wondering what was left for me out there only moments after everything I thought I had disappeared. It was guilt, but not because I was still here and Dave left me in a shit-pile of emotional unrest, longing, questioning and deep grief. It was because him leaving this earth had nothing to do with me, but I was making it all about me. I missed him instantly. I still miss him, but not quite in the same way.
Have I moved on? I don’t think it’s quite that basic. But I’ve accepted my new normal. And the stuff I don’t like, I continue to work on these things. I’ve decided I’m not damaged goods, for that to be true most people on this planet would fall into that category. And having some emotional unrest or complicated pain is no excuse to be an asshole. Having an inner battle ground is kind of normal it seems. And multi-tasking is just a normal state of life. Life goes on. If you let it. If you let yourself, you can too.