“I don’t love you anymore. I’m leaving you.”
It’s a stinging at first, that starts in your chest and then takes hold there until it grows another appendage which grabs at the stomach and takes hold there too. For months. Like it’s never leaving. The way you imagine cancer behaves. Only it’s not cancer. It’s grief.
People tell you you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be better. “One year from today, I promise.” But you don’t want to hear that. You want to know that the world in which you live is safe. Like it has been for half your life. That there’s a him at the other end of the table. In the driver’s seat. Cutting down the Christmas tree. The him you love and have loved since your senior year in college. The father of your children. The one who walks through the door and has you smiling even when you’ve had a really bad day. Like today. The one who tells you everything’s going to be okay.
Only it’s not. Not for now, at least. And you don’t know when that now is going to be a then. You are in full adrenal fight or flight, only you can’t control one damn thing except your mind. And your mind is out of control. Telling you that there’s something vastly wrong with you. It’s your fault. You are going to be alone. You are going to lose your house. Your kids. Your mind.
And you know better. You know that you can powerfully choose your emotions. Even when it feels they are choosing you. You know that you can choose calm and love and grace and forgiveness and gratitude and all that high road stuff. Only you don’t want to. Not today. Today you want to bleed. You know you have to bleed. You know you have to feel it all if you are going to be okay one day. Are you going to be okay one day?
It comes in waves and you try to breathe. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Just breathe. And tell yourself, “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay I’m going to be okay.” But you really don’t feel okay. At all. And you don’t want to tell your friends. You’re embarrassed. You wished you lived in a huge city so you could go see every Woody Allen movie ever made and sit in dark movie theaters in the middle of the day and cry. But you have kids and you need to make them breakfast and make sure their notebooks are signed and field trip forms and parent teacher conference slips. And you have to make them lunch and hug them even when they tell you to leave them alone, and deliver them safely to school and watch as they cross the street with the crossing guard and wonder if there is just a little less spring in their step. Can you see it in their eyes? Are their happy childhoods over? Can you have a crossing guard lead you to the rest of your day? You really want a crossing guard.
And then you have to go to work. But you can’t work. So you play hooky. You find yourself on your treadmill walking as fast as you can and crying. You can’t focus on anything. Not even “The View.” Which used to be your guilty pleasure. Shhhh. Now you just want to wonder if you will ever lose the monster that lives in your heart and stomach to calm. Like it used to be. When you knew you were loved. And you believed in your future with this specific him.
I want you to know: you are not alone. It’s okay to bleed for now.
Laura Munson is the author of the “New York Times” best-selling memoir: “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.” (Putnam/Amy Einhorn) Now out in paperback. Lauramunson.com