Moonlight and Momentum

I drove home tonight and looked up at the moon. As I saw the moonshine cast upon the fresh snow making my path home sparkle, my heart felt heavy. My heart is always heavy these days. But as I noticed the moon, it became even weightier. I wondered if I would ever look at the moon with joy again. Now, when I see the moon I am taken back to that night. The night I drove to the hospital in the back of my Audi, with a policeman driving. I stared at the moon. We were following your ambulance. I hadn't cried yet at that point. Adrenaline was surging. When I'd seen you wheeled out of our front door, on a stretcher, they'd said you had a faint pulse. There was hope. I stared at the moon. My mind raced. I thought of so many things and somehow also nothing at all. I clutched something. I don't remember what it was. My purse? My phone? Your wallet? Kevin's hand? A stone? I don't know. But I know I was looking at the moon. I know I was praying to the moon.

Now, I go days without opening the blinds in our bedroom. I turn my back on beauty because it hurts my eyes. I still say my gratitude prayer, like we did nightly while we admired the view from our room – but I can't look anymore. I avert my eyes from the glittering citylights, the acres of pines, and the moonlit scape. The beauty taunts my heavy heart. Some nights I sleep in another room, distancing myself from the comfort of what it felt like to be so loved.

It's been four months since you left this Earth. It's been four months of daily tears, barely coping, chasing my tail in slow circles, and living in a womb of confusion. Not a day goes by when I don't walk into our bedroom and expect you to be sitting casually between the sheets. My ignorance irritates me, but I guess somehow I still live in disbelief. You would have a book in your hands and a tired, sly smile on your face. You would pat the mattress to your right – my spot. I'd bounce into bed and kiss your cheek, lovingly. Reaching over and flirtatiously removing the book from in between your hands, I'd dogear your page and set it down on your nightstand. As you laid down on your back, I'd slide on top of you. You'd reach over your left shoulder and flick off the light. The sounds of our love would be the last noises we'd make that night. The moon would cast silent flickers on our walls from between the slivers of blinds – the night's voyeur.

And yet, every time I walk into our bedroom, you are not there.

I know there is no set pace for grief. There is no seven-minute-mile that I can train for to speed up this pain. But, honestly, I think this is a process I don't want to speed up. Some days, I'm all grief. Head to toe, can't get out of bed, immoveable sadness. But most days, I'm all over the place – neither here nor there. Sometimes my arms are stretching forward but my feet are stuck in quicksand. Sometimes my body is full-speed ahead, but my heart is pumping backwards. Sometimes I dress myself up in a pretty package – sparkly paper, bright red lips, stiletto Louboutins, and a bow on my head – but the box is empty. I've never felt so off-kilter and I've never felt so slow.

I used to feel an emotion and know what it was I was experiencing. It's something we learn as infants. I get pricked, "Ow!" I feel pain. I see a smile, "Yay!" I feel joy. I am given a hug, "Aw!" I feel love. I am spooked, "Ah!" I feel fear. But now, my emotions are a snowball. I can no long decipher one emotion from another. I am hurt. I am not just upset, instead I feel all the feelings. I am given a wonderful gift. I do not feel just gratitude, instead I feel all the feelings. I drink three glasses of wine, now I really feel all the feelings. It's exhausting to not be able to pinpoint your own emotions. Particularly because you and I used to communicate so clearly about the way we felt, what we were experiencing, and why. Now, I know nothing. I just know I am sad, I feel gratitude, I feel love, I feel panic, I feel anger, I feel loss, I feel fucking everything. This is the first time in my life when there are days when I think, 'Damn. Can someone just give me a pill so I stop feeling so fucking much?!'

It's been four months. People ask me big questions. Where will you go from here? What's next for you? Today, I moved a pile of your stuff from the den to the studio. I saw your drum kit and I fell to the floor. I crawled to your throne and I pulled myself onto it. I sat behind your kit and listened to the sound it made when my tears hit the snare, then the tom, then the snare, and then the tom. As I sat, listening to my percussion beat of sadness, I struggled with frustration. I am used to moving with momentum. I'm used to accomplishing tasks with determination and pace. I'm used to answering the big questions with gusto and knowing. But now, in this place, I can't. I'm moving in slow motion and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I don't know anything. And I can't answer any questions, theirs or mine.

I moved three things today – a pile, a box, and a rug. And that was accomplishing a lot. Because with each movement comes reminders of what was and what will not be.

I moved the pile and had to confront the drum kit.

I moved the box and discovered what was inside – hundreds of old letters, notes, and cards. You had saved over two decades of correspondence. I got lost in your world. It made me sad because I wanted you to be able to be there with me, telling me the stories behind each letter. I read love notes from teenage girlfriends who I can't remember if you ever told me about. I wanted to read those love notes and hear your subtext. I wanted to hear about where those girls are now and smile because they loved you in a time before I knew I loved you. It makes me happy to know you were loved. I thought about the decades of love notes that I had planned to write to you and that you were supposed to save in those same boxes... and then more boxes because you would run out of space in the box you had. I saw all the letters your mom sent you. She wrote you at camp when you were a kid. She wrote you a poem when you graduated high school. She sent you birthday cards each year. She sent you letters just because. But now that you're gone, she can't write you anymore. I thought of all the boxes that would go unfilled.

I swapped a rug that I didn't like with one I found in storage that I did like. And for the rest of the day, every time I walk through the room, I stop and wonder if you would like it there. I consider switching the old rug back just to keep the room how it was when you were here. I am living in your catacomb and I can't fathom leaving.

Change is inevitable, but it is taxing. Movement is unavoidable, but momentum is rare. Big questions loom, but there are no answers in sight.

I drove home tonight and looked up at the moon. It was a crescent shape. I noticed how it looked like a ladle that could hold anything and just let a slow drip spill out. I imagined you, as an mischievous angel, balancing yourself dexterously on its crescent ridges. You always loved to climb things. I tried to look at the moon with something other than disappointment, 'I prayed to you and you let me down...' I tried to look at the moon the way you and I looked at it when we admired the view from our bedroom window. But, I couldn't. I averted my eyes. It hurt, as if I had stared at the sun for too long. I'm simply not there yet. Instead, I am here, feeling it all.

A Walk

Today I took a walk. It was the same walk that I took about six months ago. I retraced my steps – something I've been avoiding doing often. I saw the same rocks. I saw the same creek. I saw the same path. I saw the same mountains. And yet everything was so different. The grass is now dormant. The ruddy trail has a different landscape. There are no prairie dogs. There are different stacks of cairns along the way. Everything is the same and yet so different.

As Kira and I walked the path six months back, I had noted the damage from the floods. This time as we walked the path, I again noticed the damage from the floods – but I also noticed the damage from my own flood. I walked along the creek and I came to the place where six months ago I saw the tracks of a mountain lion. I texted you about it right then, because it was just a day or two after you'd seen three mountain lions trotting across the road just meters away. Through our texts, we questioned if it was one of the same lions. Now a run in with a mountain lion seems very minor. Death trumps animal encounter.

I remember how complete I felt that day on that walk. Taking some time for myself, getting some exercise, making Kira happy, giving you some alone time. Now it's all alone time. Or is it? No matter how many bodies I surround myself with – I always feel alone. But when I'm alone, I can more connected. Why does that connection frighten me?

I have not gotten outside very much lately. I have stayed on the couch, under a blanket, in bed, hiding in the arms of a loved one, inebriated by music or drink or circumstance, behind the guise of social media or a screen – I have been numbing the pain. And that's okay. It's okay because I recognize what it is that I'm doing. The path that I'm choosing. I'm understanding that I have a need to hurt in a different way, disguise the pain, mistake it as something else. But I still feel it always. Even when I dam up the path, the grief breaks through powerfully and floods my spirit with sorrow. So when I stepped outdoors today and into solitude – as I walked on that path, traveling through time to that place six months ago and then back again – I felt the weight of my grief. I sat with the reality of my grief. Grief comes in many forms: It feels. It stings. It burns. It loiters. It numbs. If you experienced the symptoms of grief without being aware of your issue, you would certainly call your doctor to find out what's wrong.

As I walked, I realized I felt angry at the beauty of nature. I wondered if the dead grass along the way would feel the same way, if it could feel. I felt angry at the sun for warming my skin – for allowing me to be in a t-shirt in 70° weather in February. Something that would usually make me so happy, except today it made me sad. I felt angry at the brook for allowing water to run so peacefully from here to there. Here to where? I listen to the sound of it gently babbling over rocks around sticks and warming under the heat of the warm sun. I felt angry at Kira for each excited step, moving swiftly like a champion. I felt envious of what I can only imagine is her ability to forget, even just for a bit.

A couple years ago my friend Leah told me that when things got hard she often reminded herself to 'look up'. So as I walked along the path today, instead of looking down at my next rocky step, I looked up. I saw the splendor of the mountains, the grace of the horizon, the rays of the sun, the swing of the trees. I saw life. And when I saw life around me, it infused the life within me. I was forced to sip it in with each breath. My insides warmed just a bit. But maybe a bit is all I can handle.

There are so many ways to numb pain. Hiding under a blanket. Oversleeping. Overworking. Staying too busy. A screen. A drink. A pill. A puff. A line. A dip. And yet what do those quick fixes do except create a bottleneck in the brook which needs to flow? Create a bottleneck in the tears that need to fall? My teacher Baron says, "In order to heal, you must feel". Getting on that path today showed me a bit of light. It took me away from the buzz of distraction and numbing agents, and back into the space of remembering. Remembering my grief in its heaviness. Remembering the non-linear nature of this beast. Remembering the memories of the last time I walked there, when it seemed much smoother. It reminded me that I can be with the stillness – that the stillness breaks up the clutter in my mind. It gives me space for thoughts, memories, breath, and grief: the loiterer that it is. Sometimes life in the shadows is ok, but we need to step into the sun to feel the warmth.