In less than 3 weeks, it will have been 3 years since Dave died on a heart-breakingly beautiful June day. It has been the most terrifying, wrenching, altering event of my life so far and I will spend the rest of my life dealing with it to some extent.
I’m beginning to understand just how much we learn to carry our grief rather than get over it. It’s not that it never fades in intensity. It does. It’s just that it’s not something I can finally set aside. It colors my every moment. It won’t always be in the forefront of my mind. It won’t always cripple me. It’s impact on me is permanent though. Like scar tissue.
I’m not sure how I’ll be able to handle my new partner getting sick, especially. I can imagine the fear being almost too much to bear.
The other day, I didn’t hear from him all day which is very rare. We usually text throughout the day and talk on the phone occasionally, too. Between my last text to him at 8:30 in the morning and 3:00 pm I didn’t hear from him. In that time I went a little insane. There is no other way to describe it. Someone with full access to sanity would have just called him. They might have said Are you okay? You’re usually so prompt with your communication. I got worried!. They might have not even noticed that they hadn’t heard from their person. When Dave was alive, I’d go all day at work not hearing from him and never once feel fearful.
But as I carried on with the activities of the day, I worried more and more. The rational voice inside me got harder and harder to hear. I knew what it was saying, but the roar of potential loss in my chest and stomach and inside my skull drowned it all out.
It was an act of will and strung-out stubborn neurotic-ness that kept me from calling. I wanted to react to a normal situation with a proportional reaction. I wanted to see if I could ride out the fear.
My body stored all the fear and panic, though, and by 3:00 I felt sick to my stomach and lightheaded with the beginnings of a throbbing headache. After finally hearing from him, finding out that he was fine and just got very busy, I collapsed at home with an epic migraine. Too sick to answer my phone, he called and called.
Finally, he came over, let himself in and found me on the floor of the bathroom in the dark. All I could do was whisper “migraine” and “can you bring me water?”. For the next several hours, he tended to me, bringing me the microwaveable heating pad over and over again, setting glasses of ginger ale and tea near my head, stroking my hair and staying near by for comfort. He stayed. He cared for me. I felt safe and loved. His dog curled up next to me and stayed there.
Later, when I felt better, I tried to explain how the fear manifests itself, but I struggled. He doesn’t think his people are dead if he doesn’t hear from them regularly. He just doesn’t. I do. I might always jump to that conclusion.
I could avoid that kind of fear by avoiding love. And then I’d miss out on love. It’s as simple as that. I could’ve avoided going through Dave’s death and then I’d have avoided having him in my life.
Just as unacceptable as missing out on having my current love in my life. I’m right back at having so much to lose. It’s a delicate and precarious place to be. I want to keep my grip loose. Too tight and I strangle that which I desire. I can’t hold anything tightly enough to keep it from leaving me. I have to let what happens happen. I have to live. Reach for it, but don’t cling to it as though survival depends on it.
It doesn’t, but my happiness depends on risking loss. I step into every moment of every day, risking loss. I want a life for myself and I don’t want to miss out on a second of it for fear of losing it all.
So, maybe I’ll get sick if I don’t hear from my love for several hours. Maybe I learn to carry that kind of fear. Adjust to it and welcome it as a sign that I’ve found myself back in a life that is brimming with love and possibility. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to carry it all and continue to risk.