When we were teenagers in New York, active in music and theater programs, my mom used to warn us about feeling let-down when a show came to a close. Ice cream helped a lot. That, and getting into another production.
This Christmas season, just over a year after my husband Ted’s death, I was surprised at how everything felt quite a bit easier than the previous year, when the pain of losing him had been so acute. Yes, I still miss him plenty. But this year, when my daughter Sally came up from Brooklyn several days before Christmas, the fun began immediately. Ted once remarked that he never heard me laugh so much as when I was with Sally. To be fair, there are a few others who can get me going to the point of wondering if I will, in fact, need to call 911. (Can someone actually die laughing?)
We buzzed through the hectic, wonderful week in good form, connecting with other family members and friends. I felt peaceful, even with tears. We sang carols at Ted’s grave in the dark on Christmas Eve, and I wondered if we’d be kicked out of the cemetery by some lurking security guard of my imagination. At home, we played a fast-paced trivia-type game Sally bought for me that left me with the question “Where did my brain go?”, which would be an apt title for it. We went to the movies, shopped, and took field trips to the refrigerator with complete “live for today” abandon. I do regret that part, just a bit, as I face the new year and all that resolution junk. Oh, well. Whatever.
I felt so good about this year’s experience that I wrote a long email to my former grief counselor. A model of hope and growth, I detailed how I got through the holidays in reasonable shape (other than the fit of my clothing…)
Then Tuesday morning came. We got up at what some people call early morning (aka the middle of the night, for me), and I drove her to the airport. I knew I would miss her company. But it didn’t hit me until later that day: the feeling of life in slow-motion, my head prodding me to physically move, to put dishes away, to unclench my jaw. The next morning brought that forgotten, familiar desire to stay in bed. I had to force-feed intentions to call friends, to make plans, to say yes instead of no.
The waves of loss and aloneness that have risen up have captured my attention – this unexpected piece of life that catches me when I’m not looking and threatens to overtake me.
The trick is to feel it…to let it be there…and still, somehow, keep the motion going.
If only it were as easy as signing up for another show.