Question: “How are you?”
Answer A, the most common one: “Oh, you know.”
Answer B: “Shitty.”
Answer C: I pretend I didn’t hear the question. I really do that. Because I don’t want to have The Conversation, and even if people are only asking out of habit, I’m not interested in lying. There are times that I let, “Fine.” fall out of my mouth when someone asks how I’m doing, and I regret it. It’s not true. I'm functioning fine. I get the necessary stuff done. But I'm not fine.
Another workable answer might be, “I have no idea.” Am I going to cry in a minute? Am I going to get frustrated and throw something? Am I going to go back to bed? I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can pull them off. I’m this lethargic, fragile thing on the verge of despondence or crying or screaming or slumping or I have no freaking idea.
I don’t want to write anything because I don’t want to propagate my depression. I’ve done a decent job highlighting what’s good, what there is to be grateful for, but I don’t feel a ton of that lately. I’m not bitter. I’m sure that will come soon. I am just so sad.
Gosh, but at the same time I’m not stupid. Or stupid enough to ignore the good of what’s right in front of me. I was sitting on the couch crying a couple hours ago, and there was a knock at my door, one of those incredibly well-timed knocks. It wasn’t just the cookies in hand that made me grateful—hell, delicious though they are, they’re so secondary to the kindness of a friend showing up at just the right time—it was the relief of being able to cry at a real person at that moment.
I get well-timed texts and emails from my people, known and unknown until now, telling me they’re thinking of me. It seems arrogant or assumptive, but I suspect that is happening a lot and I don’t know it—people thinking of and praying for me. Maybe I feel it? Or maybe I’ve just become so insufferably self-centered that I’ve deluded myself into thinking that my tragedy affected and continues to affect everyone else’s lives.
It means I’m touched though when people tell me how Jim’s death impacts them. It validates the pit of pain I’m still stuck in with no rise in sight, and also, I think it’s correct. Correct that people are changed. He was such a big personality. He had notable positive impact on really anyone who met him. I would be irked if his death was just something people felt sad about for a minute. It’s bigger than that and not just for me.
I am scared of forgetting. I am so scared I will forget what he felt like. Fretfully and with true trembling, I’m really damn scared. Over and over I listen to the couple recordings I have of his voice because I’m scared I’ll forget what he sounded like. Even with those recordings though I can’t find in my mind the exact sound of his voice when he answered my calls, “Hey baby!” I am scared of forgetting his habits. I sometimes have flashes of memory of something he did so often I can’t believe it wasn’t top of mind before. How can I forget his patterns? Time is going to pass and I am going to forget. I make notes. I try to capture what I can. I am so scared of forgetting all the things I loved about him.
On the wall just as you come in from the garage there is an 11x14 of my favorite of our wedding photos. The glass has fingerprints on Jim's half. My fingerprints. I touch that one as I walk by. I stop, run my fingers along his face, and sometimes I talk to him. Usually I just tell him, “I miss you so much.” Simple, accurate, inadequate.
I don’t like how I look in photos really ever. I’m not photogenic, and I’ve come to terms with it. I’d rather appear better in person than in photos anyhow. Point is, even though I don’t like what I look like in photos, when we decorated I hung quite a few pictures of us together throughout the house, because when I look at them I don’t see me. I see him. I look at the photos, I adore him, and then I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m in that picture too. Weird.” But euphoria, I think, makes people prettier. Being so deliriously in love has to have made me look better or—and this might make more sense to me—I know how happy I am in those photos and that makes me care less about what I look like when I notice that I’m in the picture too.
Seems when I’m in a crying phase—read: right this second—I put on makeup just to cry it off. I often don’t wipe the mascara stains from my cheeks. I don’t see many people these days so I don’t need to look presentable, and the people I do see generally expect that I’m going to be a mess. Also, I’m comforted by the honesty of looking as sad as I feel.
One of the kind gifts I received after Jim died was a Giving Key. It’s a key stamped with a word, and you keep or wear it until you find someone who needs the word on your key more than you do. Then if you’re ready you give it away. My key says Brave. When I received it I couldn’t think why I would need Brave. What does being brave have to do with losing your heart? I figured it out. It takes bravery to go out into the world when there is the risk you’re going to cry to strangers. It takes bravery to go back to things you did before. Walking out the door as a new widow requires a deep breath and mustered gumption because you’re an unfamiliar person, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to interact with things and people from Before. Brave is appropriate. For now I need Brave.