I was driving my car, listening to music when I drove passed our old home. That is to say, the land where that home once existed. The house is gone and nothing remains but grass and some uneven earth that used to be the crawlspace. I’ve driven by it before. I’ve said my goodbyes to the life that was there. I’ve done ceremony and given tobacco there. I have moved forward from that chapter.
At least, I thought I had.
Grief is a weird thing, you know, because there is no road map for it. Every loss looks different and feels different. Every process of healing will take on its own lifeforce. Anyone who has experienced loss can tell you that the journey isn’t a linear one, nor a straight line, and it’s never ever predictable. And I guess that’s why I was sort of blindsided by the tears yesterday as I passed our old home, or, the land where that home once existed. I was sort of swept up in a feeling or a memory and the contrast between the world that was and the one that is now.
There are things that split our lives. The moments that we can point to where everything changed, or when some event or another changed us on a fundamental level. There are moments that divide our lives into the before and the after. Addiction is one of those things in my life, and unfortunately I was sick for a very long moment. I trace it back to the time around my father’s passing because that was the main thing I was trying to outrun for all those years. Now, though that event was the catalyst, addiction is the grand canyon that separates my before from my after.
It’s not just that some of the best days of my life were in that house. It’s not just that my daughter was little. It’s not just that we had space and community and laughter and time to be silly back then. It’s not just that I was in my twenties and the world was different and we had relative financial security. It’s not just that we, as a generation, still had a reason to hope. It is all these things, of course, but underneath it all there is something else. I miss me.
I miss the person I was in those days. I miss myself when I was passionate and motivated, I was achieving something. I was dedicated.
Moreover, I didn’t have these overwhelming moments of regret.
We were watching a show the other night and I became very stressed out during an action sequence. My husband joked that we could fast forward to the end where everything was okay and everything was happy again and we laughed. In my heart, I am exactly that person. I want everyone to be okay. I want a resolution. I want a tidy bow. In the before times I believed in this kind of world. I was the ultimate Disney kid. If things were hard it was okay because I knew in my heart that they couldn’t be hard forever. I knew in my heart that things were going to end up okay.
But I’ll be damned, as it turns out every story doesn’t get a happy ending.
That was devastating to me.
And thus began my struggle with acceptance. Holy hell has that been a fight. I didn’t even know it throughout most of my spiral of self-destruction but the majority of what I did was to avoid all of the things about life that weren’t turning out the way I thought they should. If I don’t look at a thing I don’t have to admit that it’s really there and that’s how I lived, day after day. And this can be applied to so many situations that were difficult or painful. Tough feelings came up and I opted out. I constantly found a way to be numb. I wasted a lot of time. I did a lot of damage.
See, I went into my emotional hidey hole to avoid the trauma I have from abandonment. I was trying to escape painful things that had happened. I’m a big feeler and there were just too many huge feelings to feel. It was like torture. I couldn’t do it.
But the kicker? Now that I’m on the other side of the divide I’m facing something entirely different and equally as difficult: painful things that I’ve done. The ways in which I tried to erase my pain actually wound up causing more pain in my own life and the lives of those around me. What kind of bullshit emotional trickery is this, anyway?
I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones.
Recently I had a conversation about acceptance that I’ve mentioned here before where I was told that accepting things as they are does not mean that you agree with them or that you like them. What a profoundly eye-opening idea this has been for me.
So, here I am. A quarter of a year. It’s been a long time since I could say that, and I don’t ever remember a time when I felt this confident and self-assured in my decision. There are moments of intense displeasure and I have come face to face with plenty of reality checks and even more of my demons, yet I’m still standing. I have stopped questioning how or why I am ready and have just accepted that I am.
When I drove by that house, or where it used to stand, I welled up inside because I miss the life I had. I miss the person I used to be before I truly knew sorrow the way I came to know it. But what’s more than that I cried because for most of the last decade I believed that I was dead inside. At the very least, I believed that the person I used to be had died along with my hopes and dreams.
Yesterday I celebrated 90 days and I cried because I can feel myself again.
Look, she’s messy. She’s raw and passionate and outspoken and unpredictable. She feels everything like a walking emotion. Some days she’ll cry at every commercial and clickbait video she sees. Some days are angry and some days are fun and uplifting and I literally never really know who she’s going to be. But you know what? She is me. In all her radiant humanness. And for possibly the first time in my life, I’m ready to be okay with me.
And even though it scares me, I find myself with a little spark inside of my tummy. It’s almost as though hope is returning. And I find myself thinking, maybe, just maybe, things will be okay after all. And if they’re not okay, maybe that’s just because the story isn’t over.