Friday, June 12, 2015

Chasing Normal: My Dichotomous Life

When I wake up in the morning, I hear her. Screaming, howling, wailing, “NO!! NO!! NOOOO!!!!!” She continues her protest through all my waking hours. This barrage comes from a pitiful figure who lays prostrate on the ground by my husband’s grave, her face pressed into the soil made damp by her tears. She is utterly defeated by an all-consuming grief. Locked in a state of disbelief and unmitigated devastation, she beats her chest as if to mold the fragments of her shattered heart back into a functioning organ. She is my Inner Widow, and she lives in the space somewhere between my head and heart.   

Meanwhile, in the real world, everyday life demands to be lived. No matter how miserable my Inner Widow is, my Outer Self – the me the world can see – has kids to raise and bills to pay. Outer Self is the part of me that walks and talks and even smiles and laughs. People I see frequently will cheerfully greet Outer Me, long since having shed the apprehensive, “So… how are you and the girls?” that was so prevalent in the weeks following Mike’s death. Their lives have returned to normal, and since I live much of my life with my game face on, they no longer worry about triggering my tears in the course of normal conversation. And that’s a good thing, because that means they treat Outer Me like a regular human being instead of a grief bomb that’s about to explode with tears and snot. Outer Me appreciates the gesture – it helps me figure out my new normal.  
Tangentially related, I hate jigsaw puzzles.
Ever since Mike began his surgical journey last year, and especially since his death, I have had people mistake my ability to function in society as a sign of great strength on my part. To that I say, pffft. See, the thing about fortitude is that everybody has it. Yes, even you. Unless you live in constant crisis mode from the time you’re born, it’s a latent quality. You only realize just how much you can handle when a crisis stirs your fortitude from its hiding place. If yours hasn’t been tested quite yet, you might be tempted to think that you’d live the rest of your life in the fetal position if you were in my shoes. And truth be told, I’ve had plenty of fetal position kind of days. But staying in the fetal position just isn’t an option. (re: kids to raise, bills to pay) 
Yes, even YOU!
In the five months since Mike died, I have been learning to separate Inner Widow from Outer Self. On most days I look just like a normal person who contributes to society. On the inside, however, Inner Widow continues to shriek and howl. Sometimes she gets so loud I can’t ignore her and therefore have to take a time out. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I write, sometimes I bury myself in a diversion so I don’t have to think or feel my own thoughts or feelings. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) But after a brief rendezvous with Inner Widow, I dust myself off, put my game face back on, and shove Outer Self back into the real world. Not because I want to. But because I have to. That’s just the way life works.    
Orange Man gets it.
I don’t expect Inner Widow to ever go away. As I’ve learned from others who speak the language of the bereaved, grief isn’t something that you get over – it’s something you learn to live with. My hope is that as time goes by and I get better practiced at letting Outer Self lead the way, Inner Widow will stop wailing all time and find moments of quiet reflection. Maybe she’ll pick her face up off the ground and look at the beautiful scenery around her. Even if her tears continue to flow, it would be nice if she could transition from absolute devastation to something less extreme. It’s exhausting to go through the motions every stinkin’ day when your insides don’t match what’s expected of your outsides. In the meantime, I’ll continue to muddle on through each day as it comes. That really is the only option.

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