In every store you visit the shelves are lined with colorful, foil wrapped chocolate bunnies. They stand neatly organized in the aisles, adorned with ribbons and bows. At first glance, these holiday treats catch your eye because they look shiny and decadent. But, things aren’t as they appear. We know the bunnies are hollow inside even though they look substantial. I am a lot like these chocolate Easter bunnies. I appear to have my life together. I look solid. But, the reality is that inside I feel empty.
This may come off as slightly dramatic, but it is the truth. After over 16 months, my life looks shiny and newly restored. Outwardly, things have remained stable and solid. In many ways I am a vision of widowed success. I returned to a good career, I still have the house, the car, and the kids. On the outside, the condition of my life looks good. Aside from Mike’s death, my life may even be enviable to some; but things are not as they appear. Like the aesthetically pleasing chocolate bunnies, I look to be well dressed and professionally presented; but, inside me there is something lacking. Inside of me, in my Soul, the landscape is sterile. I am hollow inside like the foil bunnies. On the inside of me there is ‘nothing’. Where there used to be unbridled joy there is now emptiness.
Now, most certainly, there is a dullness in my eyes that was not there before. There is an emptiness inside me that I don’t know how to fill. Before Mike died, I did not know that you could be swallowed alive by a sorrow that is born in the depths of your Soul. I ache for him and I am less engaged in my own life because of his death. Some moments, the intensity and rawness of my grief consumes me from the inside out. Thankfully, these gutting days are less frequent as time goes on.
Time has tamed the wildness of my grief. The edges of my shattered self are smoothing. My tears do not last as long anymore. My inconsolable sobbing has turned into quiet crying. And, now, my aching is somewhat refined – if that is even possible. With time, I am beginning to slowly digest the reality. He is dead. This is real.
Mike’s death altered me in ways I didn’t expect. Since he died, I feel like I participate in my life without enthusiasm. This is not acceptable to me. I want more. But, at this moment, I am not yet capable of living more fully. As I live without him, my heart is desperately trying to make sense of what my mind knows. This is my life now, but, 16 months and 11 days later, I still feel like I am without direction. I am searching for purpose and progress feels slow. I am growing restless though I know I will find my footing – eventually. Without a doubt, I know that I have the stuff to make it through this “mess”. But, I am impatient. I want to breath in life again. I do not want to live with this endless emptiness forever. And, I know that it’s up to me to change this. The future is in my hands. I need to play the cards I was dealt. And, I’m telling you, I plan to play the hell out of what I’ve been given.
Yet, despite my all in attitude and brave talk, a part of me is scared of the unknown. When I look in the mirror I don’t recognize myself anymore – my eyes look different. They don’t reflect back life the way they used to. I am changed. My tired eyes stare blanking at everything. It feels like my eyes are wide open, but shut at the same time. Now, I wander aimlessly through my day. At the grocery store, I stop and take a deep breath because the smell of fresh baked dinner rolls reminds me of him. The jugs of Clamato juice stare coldly at me as I pass by. The red roma tomato waves to me and the dusty russet potato calls my name. Sometimes the allure is too much and I stop and hold the gritty, dirt covered potato in my hand while I bite my bottom lip to keep my hot tears from streaming down my cheeks. Then, a few aisles later, in the frozen section, his meat pies, in their cardboard boxes, glare at me. Finally, as I am leaving the store, the bouquets of red roses coyly wink at me, then they whisk me back to him. I am aware that I can not let frozen meat pies and red roses control me if I am going to move boldly towards life. I have to get a hold of myself.
Since he died, I have created all sorts of new rituals and homespun attempts to soothe myself. Now, without thinking, I often look up at the sky, close my eyes and then proceed to talk to myself. As I speak, I encourage myself to “get it together”. After work, I’ve stood in countless parking lots looking upward, trying to “get my shit together” before I go home to ‘adult’ and parent my children. I feel like the poster child for a broken middle aged woman who is completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once. I yearn to be like the other women in the grocery store who are simply buying groceries, not day dreaming of a dead man while they stand in the produce aisle.
Because I am consumed with memories of a life that no longer exists I am becoming detached from people around me. I am aware of this, yet I think that it is necessary for the time being. I want to re-create my life and this involves going inward before I move forward. While I am detaching from others, I am growing closer to myself. This is a good thing. And, it is necessary for me to examine my heart before I commit to anything.
In the parking lot and in the produce aisle I have asked myself what I want to do with my life – these are some heavy questions. And, admittedly, these questions are too big to be pondered in either of these locations. But, nonetheless, what is important is that I have taken the time to ask myself these significant questions. I believe the answers will come, with time. Many a night, I have stood washing dishes, looking out into my backyard, asking myself what I want. At this point, I don’t have a well thought out plan, but I feel like I am getting close to knowing what I need to do.
At the heart of it, I believe that I have the capability to achieve whatever I want. The issue isn’t my ability – it is fear. Fear of more change. I feel scared to make a move without him. And, because of my fear, I lack the motivation necessary to make changes. I have no spark anymore; and, most days I am not even motivated to strike a match. I hate admitting this, but, right now, I lack the enthusiasm needed to create the momentum that is necessary to re-build my life. I am existing safely. But, thankfully, I am outgrowing the comfort of the limitations I have created for myself. In the early days, I was disappointed in myself because I was unhinged because of his death. But, as time has progressed, I am okay with this because I know that it is necessary for me to come undone, in order to move forward. I now understand that I need my toes to touch the bottom before I re-surface. I know that I will find the momentum to get me to where I need to be. I have always had grit. And, if I ever doubt my capability, I remind myself that once upon a time I was his. And, he loved me because I was solid. There is nothing hollow about me.
Wrapped in grit -not foil,