One Question, many words

Most who know me have, at one point or another heard me utter the phrase “Words are my jam!” and yet largely for the last couple months, pen has not met paper in my world- at least not in an expressive sort of way. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts or ideas, and it’s not that I haven’t had the urge; I’ve just been lost in thought and caught up with life.

The events of the last few months, between current life happenings and reflecting on the past, have stirred a new found curiosity. Ah, that’s not quite accurate, it’s not new, I’m just giving it more concerted thought. I wish I could say that they’ve been clear or concise thoughts, but really it’s more like ideas and conjectures swirling about in this brainpan of mine.

A week or so ago, a friend and I were chatting about life and the way some things seem cyclical. She likened it to lessons needing to be learned, and spoke of how the same lesson can be presented in many different ways until it is finally grokked. She’d said something along the lines of “If you keep getting presented with the same thing, at some point, you have to ask yourself why.”

In principle, I agree with her, there are many things to be learned if we’re open to it, and sometimes even when we’re not. However that night, I was not in the best of headspaces. I’d just received word that an old friend had taken his life, leaving behind a slew of questions in the wake of his actions. Her words hit differently that night, considering this was nowhere near the first time I’d been presented with this type of situation, and yet, I knew I’d have no answers. In no way did she intend for my mind to fall down that rabbit hole, and I knew that, yet the swirling began.

I vowed to myself that I’d let myself feel my feels, to let them ebb and flow as they needed to. As someone who likes to attempt to keep things at an even keel, there was a level of uncertainty that came with this vow. What would it look like when the anger rose up, like I knew that it would? How would I allow myself to feel my feels at work, while still doing my job? Would people think I was crazy? Honestly, though the questions swirled, I didn’t really care. I had this deep knowing that those feelings, however they presented, needed to be expressed.

When the anger did hit, it hit hard! Have you ever had one of those days where you can’t even stand to be in your own company? Never would I have imagined driving up I-25 at 3:30 in the afternoon, windows down, blaring music and yelling at the top of my lungs until I couldn’t breathe, only to inhale and begin again… but I did. I wasn’t just yelling for that most recent loss, but for Ashleigh and Mike and Shannon and Dylan and Greg and Eric and Lindsey and Adam and Curtis and Bear and Zonk and Jason and… and… and it hurts my heart that I could keep listing names of those I’ve known and loved who left on their own accord. The next day I brought my punching bag and gloves to work, and worked out the lingering anger that way. It was exhausting and necessary.

It was in that exhausted place that I had another conversation with that same friend, with my voice scratchy and raw from the yelling the day before. She reiterated what I already knew, she hadn’t intended for me to take what she said to heart the way I did. She reminded me that their choices were in no way my fault. As our conversation progressed, she verbalized something I’ve wondered often over the past handful of years “I wonder why this keeps happening for you.” She wasn’t just referring to the suicides, but the amount of loss in general as we both knew I’d stopped counting at thirty since 2016. Up to that point, I’d not really come up with a decent answer for myself. She seemed to finally settle on the notion that my heart was big enough to handle it, though the thought and voicing it, made her cry. We hung up. More swirling.

I sat on my couch in the afternoon sun pondering what she’d said, “my heart was big enough to handle it”. It certainly didn’t feel that way at times. I felt my hand rest upon my collarbone, palm over my permanent reminder to follow my heart even when my head gets in the way. How many times over the last four and a half years had my hand unconsciously settled where it was now? Was I heeding that reminder, to follow my heart? Would the version of me that existed five years ago recognize the woman I am now? What had I learned? Maybe more important than what I had learned, of those lessons, what had I implemented?

My mind was a whirlwind of memories, flashes of hospital rooms and roadsides, broken glass, broken hearts, broken dreams, the sound of a late night phone calls and the heaviness on the other end, the rhythmic and all too familiar sounds of ventilators and patient monitors.

Suddenly it felt like someone slammed the breaks on my memories, and I was back in the townhouse on the kitchen floor, rocking back and forth sobbing- alone. It was in that moment, three-ish years ago, that I quit trying to fight against everything: against the loss and the heartache, the uncertainty and the needless strife caused by others, the what could have been done differently, heck I even quit trying to figure out the why. In that moment, I gave up whatever semblance I thought I had of control because clearly I had none. With a shaky breath, it was decided by somewhere deep inside of me, that whatever was thrown at me, I would stand to face it. I don’t know where that strength or resolve came from, and I literally had to pull myself up off the floor, but it was there and it has remained.

The whirlwind resumed, and words and phrases kept sticking out. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said that life is finite and fickle or that time is our most precious commodity. I’m sure those around me tire of hearing these same thoughts, and yet it’s important to be reminded. We never know when our last interaction with someone will be, and with that in mind, I try to make each encounter matter. I took the song lyric “I will not wait until the end for my applause for you my friend” to heart. I give thanks, I express appreciation, I try to show those in my life that they are valued every chance I get, because it may be the only chance I get.

My mind once again slowed, and settled on Sunday. Sunday was going to be the Celebration of Life for one of those I’d yelled for earlier in the week. I was going to need to get my mind right before then, so I could function at a “people level” or close to it.

I opened my eyes that I didn’t realize were closed, and was surrounded by darkness. “How fitting” was my first thought, before shaking my head at myself and noticing that it was long after sunset dark. Hours had disappeared, I headed towards bed.

Sunday morning in the rush of getting myself and my kids together for the Celebration of Life, my phone rang with a call from Wyoming. It was my dad, calling to inform me that he didn’t think my stepmom (bonus not step) would make it through the day. I gathered my children, shared the news, and headed out for the park. We did a butterfly release at the Celebration for Jason and as it turns out, while we were releasing butterflies here in Colorado as a symbol of transformation and love, my bonus mom Debbie was taking her final breaths. While Sunday was one of the most challenging days I’ve had in a while, I can still see the beauty there. When I have words, I will write about Debbie. For now just know if you happen to call me “Sweet Girl” or tuck my hair behind my ear, those actions will likely be met with tears.

Tuesday night, I met up with “Wiper Fluid Guy” to play some pool. I’ve had a hankering to do so since Lewis’s birthday in April, and I was welcoming of the opportunity to get out of my head. I knew the company would be wonderful and I was looking forward to learning a thing or two (which I did). At some point while we were playing, the recent losses came up. He asked me something I wasn’t expecting, that succinctly put my week long pondering into four simple words: “Why do you remain?”

I told him I had a whole lot of words, and none of them right then. All of this was bubbling, clamoring, trying to make an answer make sense. After having given voice to the thoughts, I still come to one solid answer to his question; I remain because I’m not done yet. There is more to love, more reminders to slow down to give, more to appreciate, more connections to be made. There is more for me to learn, chiefly how to receive the things I give so freely. Could it really be as simple as I’m not done loving?

With an inquiring mind,

S

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