Maybe if I’d just…you’d still be alive.

WARNING: Some of the content below is graphic…and very sad. 

I thought it would be a memory by now, a horrific, tragic memory that happened two years ago…two years ago tonight at exactly 7:33 pm.

The accident, when my car collided into theirs…and they all died.

Most days it is a memory. Until I hear a loud crash and my body convulses, or an ambulance goes by and I can’t catch my breath, or at night, when I can’t sleep- trying to piece together how the hell I let everything get this bad- I see their contorted bodies, I see the blood…all of it, every detail.

Those days, it isn’t just a memory. It is what gutted me to the core. It’s what I fear made something snap, something I cannot fix.

I know I should be grateful. I lived. And I am. Of course, I am.

But then this day approaches, and I can’t help going back there, sitting on my knees,

…watching, pulling cold, wet blades of grass out of the ground. I watched the policeman approach the car to access the damage. I watched the fire department arrive and begin to cut them out of the car. I watched them put the boys on the stretchers and push them into the ambulance. I watched the ambulance drive away.

And there I am, here I am, trying to imagine what I could have done to prevent it. And I go there, the place I know I shouldn’t go.

Maybe if I’d just…

Run a little slower, showered a little longer, left the coffee shop a little earlier…faced going home to my empty apartment.

Maybe if I’d never moved to that wretched city, to be with him, someone I loved who did everything he could to destroy me.

Or maybe if I would have had enough strength to leave him the first time he left me, or the second or third…

Maybe if I’d stayed married to my sweet husband in our beautiful house with our precious puppy.

Or I’d stayed in Paris, never gotten married, never hurt my sweet husband or moved to that wretched city…

Where I ran too fast, showered too quickly, left later than I should have…to go back to an empty apartment where I knew he wouldn’t be, the one who almost destroyed me. 

Maybe if I’d just…

You would all still be alive.

I know this does no good. I know it wasn’t my fault. They were reckless. They put so many lives at risk. And I know if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else who might not have walked away. And I know this night won’t always haunt me, just like he can no longer hurt me.

And I know that, maybe, next year will be different, happier, and I’ll have finally put this all behind me.

 

 

 

 

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Gone Fishing

I vividly remember the first time we met. It was a bizarre exchange when juxtaposed with the way our friendship evolved.

You came up to my table and introduced yourself, said you noticed I was here every day, asked me what I did…

It was the first of many lengthy conversations, but this one didn’t end so well.  Somehow we landed on the subject of gorillas, then zoos. I, in my overly-opinionated, self-righteous fashion, blurted out that I thought zoos were prisons.

You snatched up the card you had given me, visibly irritated, said something to the effect of “we’re done here”, and walked off.  I didn’t fully understand what had just happened, but I felt terrible. I tried to apologize. You weren’t exactly receptive.

The next morning you walked over to my table and started listing off links I needed to look up. It wasn’t an ask, and you weren’t going anywhere until I did. You proceeded to explain all the projects your family had funded to improve the major zoo where you grew up. I acknowledged their contribution and apologized again. You seemed relatively satisfied and went back to your table.

The next day you walked in and came right over to me. Had I seen it? The huge gorilla painted on the wall next door? You were excited and adamant; I had to go right then and look at it. So I did, smiling as I walked out.

I was redeemed.

You were a talker, no question, but your stories were riveting- tales of celebrities, ambassadors, extravagant galas, exotic girlfriends, President Kennedy discussing the fate of our country at your kitchen table. You had lived a charmed life… but that was a long time ago.

We never went into details, really, but we both understood we were in similar places- everything had fallen apart and we were trying desperately to piece our lives back together. It seemed like you were, and you were determined to help me do the same.

You were always coming over with ideas- where I could publish, jobs I could pursue, people I should contact. I would ask how things were going, and you would always respond. “With me? Oh, everything’s fine…ya know, just pluggin’ along.”

The holidays were approaching and you knew I was struggling. You would check in every so often…”How ya holdin’ up, kiddo?”. “Fine”, I assured you, “…just pluggin’ along”.

Right before Christmas, you asked what my plans were. I avoided answering and assured you I’d be fine. You waited until I went to the bathroom and slipped an envelope under my computer on your way out. It was $100 bill with a message written on the envelope. “Just go do something fun, will ya?” By the time I saw it, you were nowhere to be found.

I still have the envelope.

Almost every time you walked by my table,  I would hear a single ‘doo-da-doo”. I wondered why you did that, but it always made me smile. Maybe that’s why: your way of telling me to keep my chin up.

The last conversation I remember having, you came over announcing that you’d just been paid. “Let’s go to the grocery store and stalk up. We can go right now if you have time”. “Absolutely not”, I replied. There was no way I would let that happen, regardless. But I also knew you weren’t in the position to do it.

But it wasn’t about the groceries, was it? You wanted to do something kind and you wanted a friend to spend time with. I denied you both. I could have just went to keep you company. But I didn’t. I was too busy ‘pluggin along’.  I thanked you several times, but no, I couldn’t possibly. You looked disappointed and left.

We didn’t interact much after that. I knew you weren’t doing well on some level. Every time I looked up, you were engaged in conversation with someone new. You weren’t reading as much, just talking. It bothered me. I’m not exactly sure why, but it did. It seemed exhausting for everyone involved. As if you were desperately trying to be heard, to convince everyone that your life wasn’t always like this…to be remembered.

But no one else seemed to be bothered by it. Because you were charming and intelligent, interesting and kind. And it was never just about you. You genuinely wanted to know all about the person you were talking to. You asked questions and listened attentively. You gave advice, and without fail, I would hear, “Good for you” from across the room.

You truly just wanted everyone to feel good. You wanted to connect and encourage and lift everyone up. And you did.

You didn’t show up Monday or Tuesday. By Friday, we started to worry. We knew you had to move out of your place. Were you just in the thick of moving? The following week we sent you an email. You didn’t respond. Nobody had your number.

‘J’ came over to me this week and asked if I’d ever heard back. He handed me the card you sent.

“Gone Fishing”

You were clearly saying goodbye, but it didn’t seem like that goodbye. I emailed you again.

But you didn’t get it. You were already gone

I’ve moved to a different spot. One where I can’t see your chair. The one that remains empty. Except now, it’s not empty because you decided to move. It’s empty because you’re dead.

And one thing has become painfully clear: your presence always filled the room.

Now, so does your absence.

—-

April 25

Look at you, just up and disappearing on us! I would be mad at you if I wasn’t so concerned.

I hope you found a new place you love. I hope you feel loved, because you are…and very missed.
Big hug and warmest wishes,

Brooke

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The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift (published in Elephant Journal)

Perspective is generous at its core… always offering us gifts when we’re ready to receive them.

The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift

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* This is from a writing prompt for a course I’m taking at Elephant Academy (awesome 3-month, online course, definitely check it out).

Remembering three boys I never knew

A year ago today, thirty minutes from now, three boys died. I hit them with my car, and they all died. I know it wasn’t my fault, most days. I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time. But there are still those moments when an undercurrent of guilt won’t fully submit to logic.

I think about them a lot, although not as much as what might be considered normal. Not because I am callous or unaffected by it. That’s not it at all. I just had to implement an emotional amputation of sorts. This was only one of a series of events that were so unbelievably heartbreaking, distancing myself from it mentally and emotionally was the only way I could avoid self-destruction.

But I think about them, especially on holidays. I think about their families trying to just get them over with. I picture the empty spot at the dinner table they pretend to ignore and the memories that must haunt them when they think about what they were doing this time last year. I think about what I was doing this time last year, which was sitting alone on a balcony in Arlington, Texas, just trying to get it over with, wondering why it was me who lived and not them, and kind of wishing it was the other way around.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about three boys who had their whole lives ahead of them. It’s to send out love to them, (wherever their souls reside) and to their families and friends who miss them terribly. It’s to say that I truly know the pain of having to wake up every morning and think about what I was doing that same day last year…when they were still alive…. when they still had their whole lives ahead of them.

It’s to say that I feel the weight of it all today, fully, and that it breaks my heart, and that I’m so very grateful that I still have my life ahead of me.

But I would give anything for there to be three less empty spots at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.

Original Post: The accident (warning: graphic in some parts…and sad.)

Father’s Day. June 21, 1992.

My dad died on Father’s Day

Kinda sounds like a punch line to a twisted joke. It’s not, though. That’s really the day he died.

I can’t remember the exact day we found out he was dying, but I remember the day exactly. I had called in sick to school, because my dad was, and I had to take him to the hospital to find out how sick.

I helped him out of the car and waited until he got his bearings. I casually linked my arm through his so he didn’t have to ask for help. His pace was painfully slow. I wondered if it was because he was in pain, or because he didn’t want to find out why.

I just wanted him to hurry. I wanted to get this over with. I needed to study for my SAT the next morning. There was a party I wanted to go to later, and I needed to go to my friend’s house and grab the jeans she said I could borrow.

I wanted him to hurry- so they could start the surgery, so we could find out what was wrong with him…so they could fucking fix it.

I woke up a few hours later, laying on the lobby floor with my head on my study guide. They said it would only take around two hours. It had been almost four. I opened my book back up to the algebra equations, shut it, opened it again, and flipped over to the vocabulary section.

I’d learned a good trick for memorizing vocabulary. You take the word and use it in three different sentences. But the sentences had to memorable, something funny or bizarre.

Aberration: a state or condition markedly different from the norm

  1. My dad’s yellow skin is an aberration.
  2. Sitting in a freezing cold hospital lobby by yourself waiting to hear if your dad is going to die is an aberration.
  3. A 17-year old girl without a father is an aberration.

I laughed to myself. I was using death as a study tactic…an aberration, to be sure.

He came up behind me, asking if I was William Breazeale’s daughter. My book slipped out of my hands when I jumped up, sending my notes flying in all directions. We both watched in silence as the pages drifted to the ground. I looked up at him and tried to smile. He didn’t smile back.

“The surgery went well. There were no major issues. But we did find cancer in his pancreas that has spread to his liver.”

I slammed the door behind me, and his head shot up. He hated it when I slammed the door. “Sorry, dad!” Did I wake you? God, Sorry. How are you feeling?”

I cringed every time I asked him that. What the hell was he going to say? “I feel amazing. That last can of Ensure you shot into my veins tasted fantastic and is digesting perfectly. I’ve been tortured for the past hour because I’m too weak to make it to the bathroom. Other than that, I feel great.”

He attempted to smile. “I’m fine. How was school?”

“Fine. I have to go back, it’s only noon. I just came home to check on you”.

“It’s only noon?”

“Yeah. You hungry?”

“No.”

“Well, were you able to drink some of the juice I bought you?”

“No. I haven’t felt like it.”

“Dad! You have to eat, whether you are hungry or not. You are literally wasting away! Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?”

I stormed into the kitchen and brought back a glass full of juice. He took a small sip, giving me a look that made me sit down and gulp the rest of it down.

Jesus, Brooke. He already feels horrible and now you’re yelling at him, telling him how terrible he looks.

“Dad?”

“Will you make sure I’m here, that I’m with you when you go?”

He smirked slightly. Well, I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises”

“No dad, I’m being serious. You have to promise if I’m not here, you won’t leave me until I get back.”

“Brooke, I can’t promise you’ll be here when I die. But I promise you, I’ll never leave you.”

While the next few weeks dragged on, I acquired a slight obsession with the calendar. Every morning I scrolled across the row of days, then down the column of weeks. Which day was it going to be?

I flipped to the next page looking for…an aberration, I suppose. My eyes landed on the only words on the page.

Father’s Day.

I laughed out loud. You’ve got to be kidding me. My dad is going to die on Father’s Day?

Of course, I didn’t tell anybody this. How morbid and sad was that? The worst part was that I didn’t know which I felt more, sad or relieved.

I had a date. This was going to end at some point, and it was going to be soon. I would be able to leave the house again without having to find someone to watch him. I could go out with my friends without worrying about him. I wouldn’t have to give him morphine shots anymore or clean up after him when he didn’t make it to the bathroom. And I wouldn’t have to sleep outside his bedroom door, hearing him moan in pain, crying myself to sleep because there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.

I wouldn’t have to do any of those things, because on Father’s Day, June 21st, my dad wouldn’t be dying anymore. He would be dead.

I spent that morning with my best friend and his family. I reluctantly agreed to go to church with them, cringing at every metaphor emphasizing the importance of celebrating “our father.”

We headed to a movie after. I asked if we could stop to buy a Father’s Day card before we went. I’m not sure why. He obviously wasn’t going to read it.

We made it to the front of the line just before the previews started. I grabbed my ticket, turned to his dad, and asked him to take me home.

I closed the front door behind me, making sure not to slam it, then peeked my head in his room to see if he was still breathing. I plopped down next to him to sign his card. The pen was out of ink. Of course, it was out of ink.

I went into the kitchen and started digging through the drawers, then stopped. I thought I had heard something- a moan or a whisper. I kept digging. The noise wasn’t coming from him. He’d been on a constant stream of morphine and hadn’t made a sound for days. I grabbed a pen, then dropped it and sprinted to his room.

He was dead.

“No, no, no. Dad, NO! You promised! Did you seriously just wait until I left the room to leave me? I sat down next to him, studying his face for some sign of anything. There was nothing. He was gone.

“How could you do this? I came back for you. I made everyone miss the movie for you. You were supposed to wait until I came back!”

The tears I had been holding in for weeks unleashed. He couldn’t just give me this one thing? He couldn’t just let me say goodbye?

Or god, maybe he was trying to hold on for me. Maybe he was scared, trying to work up the courage to do it, and I’d left him. I grabbed his hand, my head buried in the blankets, my mind reeling. I had left him alone…and now I was.

My guilt morphed into fear. I couldn’t move. I just sat there, crying, clinging to his hand.

Until I felt it, a gentle squeeze. I looked up and saw a tear make its way down his cheek.

That was 25 years ago. Yes, it was terrible, but it was so long ago.  The reality is, I haven’t had a dad longer than I had one.

Now, when I see my friends worrying about how badly they are fucking up their kids, I wonder what issues of mine are directly linked to him. My dad was an amazing father, but not always a great one. He, like all of us, had demons he never quite figured out how to conquer. Whether he was drunk or sober, wealthy or broke, in love or lonely, I just never felt like he ever found happy.

I’m sure watching my dad struggle negatively impacted me in various ways. But I also think it’s what made him, and our relationship, beautiful. I saw his humanity. I saw him keep a smile on his face when things were terrible, or conjure up some sort of silver lining, or scrounge up his last dollar for me and my sister.

Even if he wasn’t happy, he always made sure everyone else was. His life could be a complete mess, but he would do whatever he could to fix everyone else’s. He could be reckless and stubborn, but he was the person you went to when there was nowhere else to go. He was patient and kind and generous. And although he was guarded with his words, we never questioned how much he loved us.

For me, the most tragic part of all of this is the fear that he didn’t live the life he wanted because of me (us). I think he sacrificed so many of his dreams for us. That is the very last thing I would have ever wanted, and it breaks my heart.

Usually, Father’s Day doesn’t phase me. But today, as I sat watching the constant stream of fathers and daughters waiting in line for their coffee, I thought about him.

I thought about the past year and how desperately alone I’ve felt, and I realized something. Yes, I’ve felt lonely, to the extreme, but I’ve never felt truly alone.

Maybe this is just what I want to believe, but I think my dad had something to do with this. I think he has never been more present in my life than he has over the past few months- the beautiful souls who have come into my life; the books that have ended up in my hands; the words that have mended what we all thought was irreparable damage. These are the things that reminded me what love feels like, what hope feels like. These are the things that saved me.

Perhaps my dad knew that he was losing me, that I had lost myself, so he immersed himself in my day to day to remind me that he’d kept his promise.

He would make sure I made it back, and he would never leave me.

 

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The Accident

WARNING: Some of the content below is very graphic…and it’s sad. It just is.

Pain.

Mine. Yours. Theirs. Is it real? Is it worse? Can you understand mine? Can I yours? Does hearing mine make yours hurt less?

When I was little, there was a lot of it. But I didn’t understand it, really. And I certainly didn’t talk about it, mainly because I was horrified. But also because I knew that it would make people sad to think of me being sad. I didn’t want anyone else to be sad, so I just didn’t talk about it.

This was the impetus for what came to be a lifelong survival tactic. I would seek out others whose pain I thought to be worse than mine, whose pain was real. This would give me a perspective of how trivial mine really was. Maybe I could even help them feel better. Maybe I would feel better. Sometimes I did. And sometimes it all just made me feel worse.

Admittedly, for the most part, I really didn’t believe pain was relative. I tried to empathize with my friend’s sadness over a broken heart or a fight with her boyfriend. I tried to understand why she was so sad and thought her life was ending. I mean, I tried. But I couldn’t shut off the voice inside. “Really? You think that is pain? I could tell you what real pain is, but it will make you sad. And I don’t want you to be sad”.

On the rare occasion that I did share my story, it was done with a tone of indifference so as to not make anyone uncomfortable. I would remain detached while describing the last few minutes before my father’s last breath. I would even leave space for some comic relief if necessary. I would be laughing and my friends would be crying. But I didn’t want them to cry. So I quit telling my story.

I trained myself just to listen, to offer advice when appropriate, to empathize but not draw too much attention to my pain. I just listened to yours. Yours could not possibly be as bad, right? Besides, I needed to cry, and I could only cry because of your pain, not mine.

As bad. This is what gives pain its power. I compare mine to yours, you compare yours to mine- whether to minimize or justify it.

We all know we are going through different versions of the same thing, that we all have the same pain to varying degrees. We all know sharing our stories and naming our pain will help us heal.

But we all still default to either believing ours is all there is or that it’s nothing at all. We don’t want to be the victim. We don’t want to be the cause of more sadness or pain. We don’t want to be exposed or weak or stigmatized. We don’t want to be in pain.

So this is how I tried to navigate my story, constantly trying to find ways to deal with it while not exposing it. I minimized it, numbed it or found ways to trivialize it.

But this time I can’t. This time, it’s too big. There is no hiding it. It can’t be minimized. And I can’t find anyone else’s that will allow me to trivialize it or help me gain a perspective. This time, I have to go through it. I have to feel my way through it.

I was flying back to Texas after spending a month in Paris. How bad could my life be, right? I had just spent a month in Paris. But I spent it by myself, completely heartbroken in every way possible.

On the flight to Paris, I truly believed we were going to make it. He was going to do whatever it took to make it work. Maybe he could even come meet me in Paris at some point. But none of that happened.

I was furious with myself. Not because I was sad. I deserved to be sad. I was furious that I couldn’t stop crying over him, while their parents most likely couldn’t stop crying over them. All three of them…who are now dead.

But I wasn’t. I lived, I was flying back from Paris, all limbs and organs intact, save one.

I was in the right-hand lane, trailing about 6 feet behind the car in front of me in the left-hand lane. I heard them hit the other car, and then they hit me. Or I guess I hit them.

I still don’t understand what happened exactly. I’ve replayed it over and over in my head, trying to make sense of it. I was told that a car full of three 22-year old boys swerved into our lane coming from the opposite direction, going 80 miles/hour.

They hit the girl in front of me and then catapulted into my lane. The car spun around 180 degrees, and I slammed into the two boys on the driver’s side. I didn’t have time to hit the brakes. They were my brakes. And they all died.

I tried to throw the door open to get out. It was jammed shut. I finally stumbled out and just stood there, paralyzed, trying to get my head around what had just happened.

Everything was a complete blur of lights and distorted shapes- scraps of metal, severed bumpers, a license plate crumpled up like a piece of trash, orange shards of broken headlights… the smell of gas, fumes, burnt rubber.

I remember thinking how quiet it was. I can still hear the slight buzz of traffic off in the distance and the sound of fluids spewing out of our cars. The crunch of shattered glass underneath my feet seemed offensive as I made my way over to the side of the road.

I tried to take it all in, not even seeing the crowd of people gathering around me. I frantically began to call the only person I knew in Arlington. He didn’t answer. So I just sat there, methodically pulling cold blades of grass from the ground beneath me, my entire body violently shaking- either from shock or the relentless chill that blanketed the row of mutilated cars strewn out before me. All were now empty, save one.

The driver, his head, was distorted in a way that reminded me of a painting by Dalí, tilted back as if it was melting down his back. Blood poured out of every part of him. The boy directly behind him, the other one I hit, his head was thrown back too but facing away from me. I could see his left arm dangling out of the shattered window, blood pouring out of every part of him.

And I just sat there, watching, pulling cold, wet blades of grass out of the ground. I watched the policeman approach the car to access the damage. I watched the fire department arrive and begin to cut them out of the car. I watched them put the boys on the stretchers and push them into the ambulance. I watched the ambulance drive away.

I found out later that night that there was a third boy in the car. They didn’t even bother pulling him out.

I continued to sit there, waiting for him to call me back until someone finally realized it was me who was driving the other car.

Two hours later, after enduring question after question, I was asked the final one.

“Do you have anyone who can come pick you up?”

“No.”

“Can we give you a ride?”

“No. I’m okay, thanks. I can walk.”

The onsite counselor finally insisted on taking me home. She was understandably worried.

“Do you have anyone who can come over?”

“No.”

“What about friends or family you can call?”

“Um, yeah… I will try to call someone. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I mean, I’m still alive, right? I’ll be fine.”

I have this weird thing I do on planes. Sometimes I just can’t commit to watching a movie,  so I watch whatever the person next to me is watching. I can’t hear it, so I just kind of make up my own story and dialogue.

We were about an hour away from the Dallas/Ft.Worth airport, and I was in an absolute state of panic about what I had to deal with after we landed. So I watched his movie instead. I hated it. It was stupid. Just another story. One poor kid, trying to fight back, experiencing disappointment and heartbreak. Oh, and his girlfriend died. That was legitimately sad. But it happens. Death happens. He might as well learn how to deal with it.

It finally ended and the man took off his headphones. I looked at him and made some asinine comment about how trivial it all is.

“It’s life, man. It’s pain. It’s real”, he replied.

“I’m sorry, but no it’s not. It’s a movie. You want to hear real? I was in a car accident a month ago and the three boys I hit died. They all died”. That is pain. That is real.”

He closed his laptop and looked back up at me, straight in the eyes, his pain palpable.

“God, I am so sorry. He looked back down, and repeated, almost in a whisper, “I’m sorry. I know what you are feeling. I know because my wife and son were in a car accident. My wife and son, they both died in that car accident.”

I shut my mouth, and I cried. In a matter of seconds, my pain seemed insignificant and his was all that mattered.

Pain. When is it enough to be justified, to be real? I keep on hearing stories like this. About pain. Mine, yours, theirs- all of us wondering what the fuck we are supposed to do with it.

It seems to always be there, somewhere on the spectrum. But we need to live our lives, so we try to hide it, dismiss it, numb it, or hopefully heal it.

I’m not quite sure how to do that, exactly, heal it. I do know, however, how I won’t – by hiding it. dismissing it, or numbing it. I’ve tried those. They only feed it. They are what sustain it.

What I have finally come to terms with is this: all of our pain is justified, all of it is real. We all bleed the same. The source of our wounds may differ. The extent of the damage may vary, but in the end, the results are the same. We bleed and it hurts. And we have to find a way to transcend it if we are going to survive.

This is what I want for all of us. I just want us to figure out how to transcend it, to transform it into a beautiful scar that we can wear proudly, to inspire and share our wisdom.

But this won’t happen if we don’t give ourselves permission to feel it. To acknowledge that what is happening or has happened is terrible. To allow ourselves to feel sad and angry and resentful and, yes, like a victim.

Because we will all be victims of pain. But our pain doesn’t have to make us victims.

It just makes us real. It gives us depth and courage and resilience. It gives us the opportunity to gain perspective and to practice empathy, to evolve and grow and help others do the same.

I know if those three boys had lived, they would have given anything to have that opportunity, to feel all of it, to live.. fully and authentically.

So, that’s what I now have to do. I owe them that. If nothing else, I owe them that.


Eternal Sunshine

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.”        – Alexander Pope
I have been staring at this blank page for what seems like hours. I can’t stop thinking about a movie I saw over a decade ago. For those of you who have seen Eternal Sunshine, that should set the tone here.

Yesterday, I caught myself laughing, like really laughing. It felt strange but vaguely familiar. A glimpse of color. 

And then today happened. Today there is no color. Grey doesn’t count as a color.

I can recognize that a bad day isn’t cause for panic. Progress has been made. I think. But the severity of it, of this, when it starts to forge its way to the front. Nothing else can be seen or thought or felt.

In my defense, there are moments that are beyond serendipitous. A song I haven’t heard for a decade is now suddenly everywhere. No, it’s not a coincidence. On the favorite playlist of my local coffee shop. Okay, fair. But the hardware store. Really? Three people in three weeks have introduced themselves with the same name. 480 Facebook friends, a tribe I have been building for almost 40 years. Not one of them has his name. Not one.

Depending on the day, I find these coincidences either comical, or I find the rabbit hole. The dissent is quick, and anything but painless.

Now no place is safe. A friend suggests my favorite tapas bar. Oh shit, no, sorry. Okay, how about that place we love on Broadway? Fuck, right. Seventeenth street work? Wash Park? We went to a movie instead.

It’s not always like this. Until it is again. Someone next to me has cinnamon on their latte. The grocery store. Utter disaster. Thrift store. Nope. A fucking bubble gum wrapper. Fallout.

Yes, I have developed some effective coping mechanisms- some healthy, some not so much. But the prospect, the hope, of arriving at the other side intact, unscathed, seems almost laughable if not impossible right now.

Maybe the initial shock has worn off and now I am just acclimating to the resignation. Well this feels worse. The flashes of color and feelings that would normally presuppose happiness, or at least some sense of peace, are now juxtaposed against the prolonged darkness that looms over the relinquishing of hope for something that will never be and never was.

Never was. I close my eyes sometimes and try to imagine it. Eternal sunshine.

Would I do it? Would I erase the past 9 months if I could? The first 3 would go too. Even better, there would be no reason to waste the 6 months that followed trying to replicate them. All the time spent creating ‘us’, memorizing each other’s every thought, expression, scar, and curve would no longer be the justification for spending twice as long trying to fight for it and even longer trying to forget it. If I could get almost a year of my life back without ‘us’ ever happening. Would I?

I know, this is absurd and pointless. There is no ‘erasing company’ to speed up this forgetting process. And yes, I would consider it. And yes, that goes against everything I have been encouraging myself, and you, to do.  Find the gift. Take the lessons learned. Be grateful for the strength, insight, courage… all of the amazing attributes you gained because you went through fucking hell and survived.

All still apply. Just not today.

My dear friend sent me this quote this week. It physically hurt to read because it is absolutely true.

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”
 Fernando Pessoa

The same day, another dear friend forwarded me this article. I was only able to skim it, precisely because it was so not what I wanted to hear…because it is absolutely true.

“Love is rarely mutual, which is why when it is, magic explodes in the brilliance of stardust…For when a man falls in love with a woman [or a woman with a man], nothing can stand in the way. Not life, obstacles or even one’s ideas of readiness or worthiness. Nothing. Because as much as we’d like to think otherwise, there is no real reason that he’s not be beside you this evening, other than the fact that he’d rather be somewhere else.”  – Kate Rose

Stings doesn’t it? To the point that you start to cycle right back to the denial phase. It can’t be that he/she would rather be somewhere else, with someone else. It’s the circumstances, the timing, the whatever other possible reason you can come up with that will justify why he/she isn’t here.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not at the denial stage any longer. I am very clear that he does not want to be by my side. I’m not interested in denying it anymore. But I’m not ready to accept it either. I’m clinging to the absurd.

I want the sun to shine again. And that’s all I want to remember. Just the sun. Not the grey.

I guess this is what we do for awhile, a morbid dance of sorts. We can’t erase the memories, so we have to manipulate them a bit, maybe leave out the parts that still can’t be felt or insert a lens that will shift the focus, change the interpretation to something more manageable. 

Eventually, though, the reality of what really occurred will be very clear and we finally won’t want to manipulate anything. That is the hope, anyway. We will remember how we really felt when they were beside us. The feelings that we are still allowing to dominate our memories- joy, happiness, comfort- were so few and so fleeting.  They were almost always tainted with insecurity and an underlying fear of what we knew was to come. That is what we will remember. And that is why we will be with someone with whom we will experience what is truly love, in the moment, not in a memory.

So for the sake of progress, I’ll leave you with this.

If we had not endured the very worst, we would have settled for something other than the very best. He/she was not the one we have been summoning. A master at disguise, no question, but absurd, impossible, and absolutely necessary to pave the way for what is to come. And it won’t be painful, and it won’t be fleeting, and it most certainly will not be grey.

Read Kate Rose’s entire article here: If He Wanted to Be with You Then He Would Be: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/02/if-he-wanted-to-be-with-you-then-he-would-be