Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saying "NO" When We Need To

By nature I am a pretty optimistic and hopeful person. And usually when I write, it is to share some form of value or worth in this horrible journey. (My fiancé in fact even named me "the girl who pukes rainbows" when we first became friends, for my annoying ability to always find silver linings). But I don't want to paint any illusions here. I'm most definitely NOT that person all of the time. It takes a LOT of work to look for the positives some days, and there are many days when I just say NO. And today folks, is one of those days.

I had a dream last night that I found my fiancé dead in a swimming pool (Which is entirely unrelated to how he actually died - halfway across the country - in a helicopter crash). Then, a few days pass in the dream, I come to his body and try to shake him awake - almost violently, I shake him - and his eyes start to respond. And he starts to try and breathe…. taking deeper and deeper breaths until he begins to come to. And at this moment I dive into his arms, and he wraps them around me tight - making me feel so small and safe like he always did. I can feel his head against mine, his short military style haircut against my left temple. And I tell him in disbelief "But you were dead! Your body has been dead for three days! How are you here?!" He just wraps me up tighter in his arms.

And then. I wake up.

I'm sorry, but I'm just going to say what we're all thinking every time we wake up from THAT kind of dream….


I mean, come ON, what was the point of that?! What fresh new hell is this that my brain is now inventing entirely new and creative ways for my fiancé to die, and THEN allowing him to come back to life JUST before I wake up to reality. I'd like a dream interpreter to even just TRY to tell me there is meaning in that. To which I would likely punch her in the face the moment she tried to. Ugh.

I've been trying to hold myself together for the past few weeks - and I gotta say, this dream finally pushed me over the edge. I've had so many GOOD things happening. I sold several prints of my photos, got a lead on working with an agency that will potentially place my photos in hotels and hospitals and such all over the country. Got a lead on submitting my writing and photography to Huffington Post for their blog team (fingers crossed!). And the biggest thing of all…. I just landed my very first ever solo photography exhibit. Like, someone wants to showcase my work, in an entire show, all by itself. Holy crap - this is one of the most amazing and terrifying things that's happened to me since I went skydiving for the first time back in 2009.

But with so much happening all at once, I've been extra stressed, too. Photo shoots, meetings, phone calls, along with other freelance work I do. It's the most busy I have been since he died honestly - and the way that has drained me has totally taken me by surprise. I've been depleted this week to that magic point… the point where the one and only thing that could relax and restore me would be - yup - talking to him. Or a simple back rub and a movie on the couch together. How could one person have such an incredible calming effect on me? Somehow him saying to relax and that it will be okay made me believe in a way I never quite have before. That's pretty amazing. And pretty crappy to now be without.

So for the past few weeks, I've been trying my best to get through the stress and excitement and newfound fears without my go-to guy. I've been trying to focus on my photography and keep myself calm… all the while with the underlying feelings of "He's not HERE to share this with" lurking. And lurking. And lurking. And then the stupid dream slammed into me and shook up ALL that lurking pain. I lost it this morning on the phone with my best friend, and the poor thing had to hear me just explode everything out to her on the other end of the line:

"I hate this stupid journey!
I hate that for every exciting, happy, joyful thing that happens in my life… I have a crash afterwards.
I hate that I always know the crash is just around the corner, and that no amount of expecting it makes it any better.
I hate that I used to feel so organized and now I feel like a total scatterbrain, and there's nothing I can do about that because my brain is different now. And I hate that wonder if people think I'm making an excuse when I say that.
I hate that I cannot just have my old life back, where my happiness was not completely enmeshed in the complicated pain of grief.
I hate that my journey is MY journey now, and not OUR journey." I really, really hate that.

Even though there are moments where I do feel he is guiding me and that we are still in this journey together… it is NOT the same as telling him "OH MY GOD, BABE. I AM GOING TO HAVE MY OWN PHOTO SHOW!!!" and seeing the look on his face, having him grab me in his arms and hug me, and then going out to a nice dinner to celebrate it all… and knowing that he is so proud that he goes around and tells every single person in his life all about my show. Telling anyone else on the planet that information is NOT the same - because they aren't my team mate. They aren't part of the "we". And no matter how exciting and incredible it is that I will have a show…. no matter how overwhelmed I am that the curator loves my work and wants me to show it exactly as I want to, no matter how GOOD it feels to be doing something I have always always dreamed of since I was a little girl… in the very next moment the joy swings right around and stabs me with the sharp end of "he's not here for this". I am really, REALLY tired of being stabbed by the back end of my joy.

So thanks dream. And grief. For totally wreaking havoc on me pointlessly this past week… so I could lose my shit and feel completely ungrateful for all good in my life. I hate that part of the journey too - not being able to feel grateful for what I do still have. Especially because I know I do have a lot. But dammit, today I'm not grateful. Maybe tomorrow I will be, surely in a few days I will. But today, I'm just freaking sad and in pain and I'm just going to take a day off from trying to "make something" of this stupid journey. Some days you just have to say NO. So today, I'm sitting my ass down, crossing my arms, and I'm not taking another damn step forward until I feel like it. I'm betting someone else out there is having one of those days too. Maybe we'll say yes to trying tomorrow, but for today, if you need to say no, I am SO in your corner.


  1. Sarah, I had a very similar experience recently! My husband actually died in a drowning accident, but last week I had a dream that he is terminally sick and he is waiting for me at home. Then I come home and he dies. I had the same "what was that about" reaction, and of course it made me really sad. So I actually asked my therapist for a dream analysis, and she thought it could be that a part of my old self is dying while a new me is forming. As I am planning some big transitions in my immediate life that includes major career decisions and a big move, she thought it's a reflection of all that and not necessarily a bad thing. I wasn't sure I bought her explanation, but after reading your post today I am definitely thinking about it again.

    1. Hi Asha, your comment really made me think too. I've been going through a lot of transitions myself and with all these new experiences I think it is stirring up my subconscious again, confusing it once more as to why he's not here. I don't know.. I try not to see things as bad or negative but man sometimes it can be tough!

      Hang in there, I'm wishing you lots of strength with all the new transitions coming your way. You got this!

  2. Yes!!!! YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A-FREAKIN-MEN!!!!!!!!!!! "stabbed by the back end of my joy" YES!!!!!!

    1. Haha i love you!! I've been saying that phrase ALL WEEK now lol its really sticking it seems!

  3. Sarah, I'm sitting in Chicago O'Hare crying. My dream a couple of nights ago was of a body on fire and I was trying to push it off a cliff. I awoke without having pushed it off. I keep trying to go forward into my new life and sometimes I just cannot seem to keep going. And I cannot simply quit for very long. It's a constant struggle.
    For today, though, I think I'll take a leaf from your book and just say "NO!" to being positive for the next few hours at least!

    1. Thank you so much Spunky - sometimes i find that just allowing myself to say no gives room for me to WANT to try that day too. Sometimes not lol, but sometimes it does help. I really hope you're doing alright this weekend. Much love!

  4. Oh man...Sarah I can relate. I've always been the "things happen for reasons and try to learn and grow from it..." kind of girl. I have a few good days to only be gutted all over again. Frankly it's exhausting and every cell in my being is tired. I am very realistic about the next few years. There is a criminal case and civil suit against the a-hole who killed my husband. The criminal case gets postponed every month. It could take years for it to get resolved. I've been as proactive as I can be trying to rebuild my life, but I'm terrified that any progress I make will render useless once it's all over and end up back at the start line of this nightmare. Yes, there are many days I sit still and give up. I think we have reserved the right to do this every now and is a bullshit journey.

  5. The instant calm you describe sounds like he was your soulmate. I am so sorry for your loss of that! The thing that I have in abundance, as a blessing and a curse, is time. As Kelley Lynn can share with you, just a few days ago I wrote about how I needed touch so badly that I was afraid of going bonkers. (Kelley, THANK YOU!!) My brain created a theme that was so strong that when the dream was cut short one night by a noisy neighbor, it continued the next night, just to make sure I got my "fix". In short, I woke up after being in a very comforting embrace. I used to have your reaction. In fact I had it the first, interrupted night. I was grumpy about wanting more all day. Maybe because I am alone with far too much time to be introspective, I talked to myself about how wonderful it was to have people embrace me- - even in a dream. I used my conscious mind and my language to try to reinforce the positive. I love your phrase "stabbed by the back end of my joy". I only offer my experience, humbly, so that maybe, after you have rested, you might try it and it may bring you comfort. You are right. The back and forth as our minds try to sort out our new realities sucks. -Snowygirl

    1. Hi Snowygirl,
      Thank you so much for writing and for reading. All i can suppose is we must be soul mates because I do still feel him very strongly around me much of the time - even to the point of hearing messages from him. Those things are all wonderful but boy you're right - nothing replaced the real physical stuff!

      I've had many dream visits from him that were beautiful and left me feeling happy and calmed when I woke… i so know what you mean. Those really are such blessings. I think this dream took me so by surprise because I've never had one in which he was dead and came back to life in front of my eyes like that. Usually he's either dead or alive lol there's no transitioning. strange. Thanks so much for your kind words and support!