A fellow widowed friend of mine recently brought my attention to this wonderful quote, said by the character Reddington, from the TV show The Blacklist. The quote is this:
“There is nothing that can take the pain away, but eventually you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares, and everyday when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think of, until one day, it will be the second thing.”
In reading that and soaking it in, I had one of those moments where my soul just cried: “YES!!! THAT’S IT!!!”, and then excitedly did a backflip, like Charlie Brown does in the comic strip, when he is on the pitchers mound, and the ball comes flying toward him. Suddenly his entire body is lifted up off of the mound, and all the articles of clothing he is wearing surround him in mid-air, as if he was so startled by the revelation of the baseball whirling toward him, that his entire wardrobe flew off his person in astonishment.
For the over two and a half years that I have been living with this tremendous loss, each morning, the fact that Don is and will forever be dead, has absolutely been the first thing on my mind. But it’s not even a thought, as much as it is an existence. I don’t have to think about it anymore. In the first few months, when I was still in shock – I would wake up in a daze, questioning what was real and what my life was. During that time, I would wake up confused and frazzled, and then the reality would hit like a house falling on top of my spine and knocking me to the ground before I even got out of bed, and everything would become clear. But now – my reality has been stamped into every labored breathe I take, and so when I wake up each morning, the “thought” of my loss isn’t a conscious one. It is simply there. In the same way that air is there, or trees, or the earth or the sky.
However, this idea of “one day, it will be the second thing” struck me in a different way. I am a performer, actor, comedian, director, and writer. I have always been involved in the theater and entertainment world, and my husband was not in this world himself, as he was a paramedic. But, he loved nothing more than to be with me in my world, to be alongside me, supporting me, cheering me on, smiling from the crowd, helping out with all the technical parts of the show backstage, getting involved however he could into my world. He would beam with pride after every show I did, and he would take me in his arms and hold me and say things like: “You were the best one up there”, or “You’re really amazing, you know that, Boo?” It was magic.
So, for the past two and a half plus years, since his death, I have continued from day one, to write and perform and direct and create comedy, because I dont know how to live any other way. And each and every single time I would finish a comedy show or a performance of some kind, the empty space where his voice and body and pride and smiles used to be, would shoot through me like a thousand little needles, pulsing into my veins. Friends and family and supporters would be there, telling me I was great and that I did a great job – but all I could see was that my husband wasn’t there anymore. It was always the first thing I thought of.
Until it was the second thing. Last night. Opening night for the Variety Show I have been directing for the past two months of my life. (The Red Stocking Revue Annual FundRaiser for CancerCare, in Port Washington, NY. Tickets and info can be found at www.redstockingrevue.org) Such hard work. A long and exhausting process of writing, creating, casting, coming up with a theme, and all the other things associated with putting on a big show. And last night was our big opening night. At the end of the show, right before the big finale, the director (me) gets up and says a few words to the audience, and then everyone bows as our Closing Finale song is sung (The Beatles “A Little Help from My Friends”), and then we go out to the lobby and mingle with the crowd. I did my speech, then stood in the wings of the stage, listening to my cast sing, and feeling proud of them and of all we had accomplished together. As they walked offstage and starting singing in the aisles of the theater/house, I was beaming with pride for them, and I felt satisfied and happy and renewed. I spoke with some audience members, then about 10 minutes later, went into the restroom. A woman approached me in there and said: “You’re the director, right? You should be so happy with the show. It was fantastic! And by the way, you have a beautiful singing voice. You should sing more in the show next year. Your voice is lovely.”
And it wasn’t until then, after she left, that I started to cry. Because instantly, Don came back to the forefront of my heart and mind, in that moment. Instantly, I recalled how we met in a Music Chat Room on AOL, how he owned 8 guitars and was always strumming them in our home, how I would sing and he would play and we would make cute little recordings together, how we were music – and music was us, and how much it hurt, and still hurts sometimes, to sing out loud without him. Without his music, it feels wrong to sing. It feels sad and hard, and each note is like a landmine I must step over. Singing has felt that way for a long time, until I agreed to sing in a little bit in this show, because they told me it was tradition for the director to throw themselves into a couple of scenes with short cameos. So I sang. A little bit. And last night, it felt good to sing. It didnt hurt and it didnt feel painful. It felt good.
And when everyone was applauding and we were finished with our show, the empty space where my husband would have been was not forgotten. It never will be. But it was filled up with so much love and energy and hope from all of those around me, and it permeated through the room and in the air, so that the loss wouldn’t have to eat me alive, only seconds after feeling euphoria.
Everytime I have done a show since his death, my immediate feeling when the show was over, was always loneliness. Extreme sadness. That feeeling of having to go home alone, and not having my person to share in the proud moment that was just achieved and felt.
But last night, I didnt feel that loneliness. It felt really good after the show, and I felt the happiness and the joy that happens when you are really satisfied with something. I felt the love that I gave to my cast, coming back at me like a boomerang, and it was a good thing. Maybe tonight will be different. Maybe I will again feel the loneliness, or maybe the space where he used to be will shine brighter in my emotions. But to know that sometimes, just sometimes – it can be the second thing – is like music to my ears.