Lizzie woke me up at about 4am today purring so loudly at the end of our bed, I decided to collect the sleek, lanky kitty that she’s become, ball her up against my chest and tip toe downstairs in the dark to start a pot of coffee. I can’t think of a better way to start a weekend after a hectic week than to add a few more very quiet hours to it on the front end.
So here I sit. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
It’s taken me almost five months to adjust to going back to something I thought I’d never do again — something that, at one point in time, caused me physical discomfort whenever I saw something that reminded me of the experience I’d had. That fear was so palpable, it has caused me and my family quite a bit of angst as I’ve worked through it over the summer, each day having to revisit it and wonder why it is we allow ourselves to get to that point with anything.
I’ve gone from intense anxiety, to choosing flight over fight, strange sensations of loss and grieving that were the most confounding of all I’ve experienced, anger so sharp I wanted to throw things and strike out, reluctant giving in, and finally, acceptance. It’s been quite the ride, and I’m not sure exactly what sustains me right now, but am thankful that I’m no longer terrified. In the long run, I made a promise, and I believe that is what is keeping me on track. I’ve chosen to throw in the towel a few times in my life in circumstances when many people would have stayed. I’ve rationalized it because I tell myself I’m worth it and that I shouldn’t have to do anything I am intensely opposed to.
And then the mental litany of comparisons begins: men and women are fighting in foreign countries and have had to leave their families behind; children are born into poverty and dependent on adults who shouldn’t have children because they can’t take care of themselves; lovely people discover they have incurable diseases and make the most of their lives in spite of that…
Who am I to say that I don’t appreciate what I have when I compare myself to them?
But I’m learning that it’s okay. I’m learning that I can be very thankful for what I have and that I can want more — that my wanting isn’t connected to tangible objects (regardless of how pleasant some of them are) like a new car or a piece of beautiful furniture. It’s more connected to who I believe I am, and what I want to become.
I crave it. It’s there just beyond my reach and has been for such a long time. It’s infuriating that others making choices for themselves give the impression that it’s so easy and I plod along wondering and questioning, requiring a complete standstill to even begin to see a fuzzy version of who I imagine is me out there in the distance.
This all sounds corny, doesn’t it?
Not too long ago, woman I barely knew died. Although she wasn’t well and hadn’t been in a long time, she had a resilient spirit and her big personality conveyed something otherwise about her intent to live even knowing that her life could end at any moment. And that’s what happened.
I’m sure that experience has bolstered me to some extent. I’ve found myself saying that if she could live the life she did considering all of her medical problems, then I should be able to get out of bed, get dressed, and use the knowledge and experience I spent 25 years developing. I can be purposeful about it. Pleasant. Constructive. Respectful.
And I can promise myself there will be an end to it because I truly believe that my life depends on it.
On the last day I saw the woman I mentioned, she thanked me and we embraced. Although she was struggling to even be there because she had just spent a difficult week in the hospital, her gaze was unwavering as she told me she was leaving and I knew she was going to die. Standing in front of her I realized she had finally given in and was leaving something behind that was very important to her while I — the recipient of what she was leaving– had given in and accepted that I would not be able to leave. It was my birthday.
So here I am. Relatively adjusted and thinking about the second half of my life. The half that will grow while I’m finishing what I promised to do. In the meantime, I’ll read and think about what James Hollis, Ph.D. has to say about it all — that I “will still need to pass through all the trials of life, that [I] am surrounded by distractions, and that [I am] undermined by fear and by powerfully repetitious history” but that like the knights who searched for the medieval Grail, “[my] journey is [my] journey, not someone else’s.”
And he expects me to respect myself.
So that’s the hard part.