Monday, March 17, 2014



I was stuck for ideas the other day in art class and the teacher was trying to help me brainstorm. Make it autobiographical, he said, in his cheery 20-something voice, about the movie poster I was assigned to create.

Autobiographical? I thought. Huh. Yeah. I began to sort through my life events. Lost my mom (and my dad, too, if we're talking about psychologically), then I had a trying childhood, full of sadness and pain. Then, my dad died too. Then I went to school, got a degree, got a job, got married. Then my husband died. No kids. No new job yet. No clear direction for school again. I'm a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

I know damn well I've survived a lot and in some ways triumphed. I also realized I define myself by loss. I didn't want to make my poster about loss, but defining your life by loss means not having much else to make your fictional autobiographical movie poster about. I don't want to define my life by the losses. I want to define it by all of it. The losses, the triumphs, the pain and the joy.

But right now the losses show up starkly  in my mind, leaving the rest to fade into blurry half-imagined memories. I know there were good days in my childhood, I just don't clearly remember them or feel them. I know there were good days in my marriage. Those I remember and feel. But they're still painful to recreate. They represent more loss. I lost all of it. My husband, my home, my job, my LIFE. Starting over is my life now. And there's beauty in that, yes. There's also so much fucking loss.

I know life is about loss and pain and rebuilding and getting your feet under you only to find that there was never a solid ground there anyway. I know life is about the good and the bad. I know the dark makes the light more beautiful. And maybe that's my story. Simply that I've been through hell and so I now know what makes life worth living. I know it's not money or status or degrees or a career. I know it's not facebook or tv or shopping or any of the millions of things we numb ourselves with. I know that it's only love that matters and that every moment really might be our last.

But how do I stop defining myself by loss? It's my experience. Loss. Lots of it. How do I move on, not using it as an excuse? How do I look back with a different filter? One that allows me to see the good and the bad, not just the bad? How do I look at the present moment without my loss filter?

I see it all as impermanent now. Those cats who've been by my side through it all? Who he adored? They're going to be gone one day. This home? This body? Gone. The ones I love? Gone. It's all about loss and I know it. You know it.

 That makes things more precious, yes, but the impermanence is rattling. It's chased me my whole life. I'm sick of its hot breath on the back of my neck. I'm sick of thinking of my life as one loss after another.

I'll be honest. When my teacher mentioned his idea, I thought for a moment how desperately I wanted to smile and say "Ooooh, I have so many great stories about my adventures and loves and accomplishments". I wanted to think back fondly on travels and children and love stories and funny moments. But all that came to mind was loss. It should be called loss I thought. The movie about loss.
Is this the black cloud of a minor depression I'm experiencing right now, coloring everything a shade of dull gray? A victim mentality? Should I just pull up my big girl britches and find the positives? Soldier on? Or should I maybe give a nod to this pain? Let it have its voice? Is there a point? Is there an end to this pain? What if I find that there's nothing on the other side of giving in to this pain, other than more pain? (As I'm rereading this, it occurs to me that maybe I should stop asking so many damn questions!)

All probably without answers. All probably projections of the place I'm in right now, emotionally. I'm feeling let down by life. I want to wake up tomorrow with a new past. Siblings and parents and extended family members with whom I had trips and picnics and birthday parties. Christmases, Easters, Fourth of Julys. Participation in life, instead of hiding from that which could hurt me. I can't have those things. I didn't live those things. All that I can do is make each moment now worth living. But I long for what I can't have. Don't we all?

So, I squeeze what I can out of each moment I'm given. I cling to the love I have been given. Those childhood friends whose houses were more home than mine. Those chosen family members who weren't around when I was a kid, but are even more precious because I've just recently found them. I think of the love Dave and I shared and the love I get to share now, with someone new. I think of the beauty I might get to experience if I might get lucky enough to bring a life into this world. I think of my chances to see beauty in the chaos. I see it more now. I see it when I used to be oblivious to it.


  1. Happiness was easy to come by in the before. Family get togethers of birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Now for me that is pretty much all gone. Happiness seams much harder to find and to satisfy ones self. We get to deal with it every day, not a day goes by of thinking of what I had, and now to live that different life to find peace and some happiness in the things we do. The world doesn't stop because of our loss, which makes me to live through pain and make a purpose in my life again..

    God's Peace..

  2. I used to really believe that a person could not measure happiness unless they have know pain. I used to be hopeful for the future even when my life was difficult and I felt alone. When I met my husband at 32 I felt like the life I always wanted was finally happening. I felt like I had a family and was safe for the first time in my life. I believed that things really did work out in the end. We only had two years together before he died. I realize the loss is still fresh but I don't believe I'll ever be happy again. At least not like I was with him. The only thing that has kept me going is the desire to make him proud of me. It's enough for now, but I hope I can find more to live for again someday.

    1. It just doesn't make sense that some of us have to experience that kind of loss. It's still early on for me (sort of) at almost 3 years, but I remember feeling the same way - that the only thing that kept me going was the desire to make him proud of me. I couldn't let him down. It's now much more about the desire to do it for me. But it's still hard and it's never not shocking how much energy it takes to get through this.

  3. I'd begun to work through my PTSD when my husband's cancer was diagnosed. I now accept that I'll never be able to do that. I'll never see any illness/injury as "just" a cold, flu, sprain etc. There is a boundary between me and anyone I might let "close" to me and I doubt I have it in me to let down that boundary again. I accept all relationships are transient now. I'm so tired of hurting. I want to feel real joy again, not just mixed with pain. I miss my husband so much more than I ever imagined I could miss someone again. It sucks.
    I am starting to want to do things again, but I am still very fearful. Yay PTSD. It's hard. I'll survive. As I always say, if the apocalypse came tomorrow, 3 things would survive...twinkies, cockroaches, and me. LOL So tired of just surviving though.

  4. I, like you, was working on my ptsd stuff around illness/injury equalling death right before Dave got sick. I don't know if I'll ever get past it either. I don't want to live with that kind of fear, though. Letting down the boundary between anyone else and me is harder than ever, too. When I do it, I suffer a lot of anxiety. My mind goes crazy thinking of the ways it might end in pain. My god, the ENERGY it requires to imagine that much disaster! Yes, we are survivors and YES it would be nice to rise above that and feel the lightness of doing more than surviving. Let go of the white knuckled grip I have.

  5. Yes, same here that "the only thing that kept me going was the desire to make him proud of me"!! I am planning to sign up Half Moon Bay Marathon this year, an event he was planning to sign up but got a heart attack during his Marathon training session last April. It would be a big challenge for an 52 years old lady who never run, but I just want to run for him, fulfill his wish and make him proud of me!!