There are moments that the words don’t reach.
There is suffering to terrible to name.
You hold your child as tight as you can
and push away the unimaginable.
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down...
and learn to live with the unimaginable.
and learn to live with the unimaginable.
If you see her in the street, walking by herself, talking to herself, have pity.
She is working through the unimaginable.
--completely jacked-to-the-feminine version of It’s Quiet Uptown from Hamilton
So much of being a mom is diversion. From the time your kids are little you distract them from pain. A bump, or a scrape, or a shot at the doctor’s office, at least in my case, meant putting on a show, however big or small, so their focus could be elsewhere; meanwhile, I’d take up that pain, or deal with it, or direct someone else to deal with it, always putting my own emotion about the situation aside. I’m not a martyr, it’s just what moms do.
It was during Taylor week last year when I first said, out loud, “I want a divorce.” I had known it, but the words danced around me. It didn’t contaminate the week; I was in Georgia and had been talking through things with my brother. On a Saturday night, I looked up at the moon, turned to James, and said it.
Just in the last two weeks I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for the musical Hamilton and it is so, so good; I hear something new every day. Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, teaches their son, Philip, to play piano, and we hear them sing together in the song Take A Break. Later, in Stay Alive (Reprise), Eliza has arrived at a hospital (presumably; I’ve only listened, I haven’t seen the show) where Philip is about to die from an infection from a gunshot at a duel. It’s a short song, and she only sings for about 50 seconds, and it is the absolute most gut-wrenching yet accurately beautiful minute of the entire soundtrack for me. It perfectly encapsulates what a mother does: at first she wants to know what happened, and she’s angry; then she resigns to being with and comforting her son. He is apologizing for forgetting what she taught him, and she keeps the conversation light, begins to sing what they used to sing together during piano lessons. They sing together until he is no longer alive and she is left, still singing, still holding on to whatever she can. (And she’ll hold on to it forever.)
Being Brave has been pervasive for me, especially in the last year-plus. So has Being Lonely, though it takes different forms. Now, wearing Single Mom all over the place, I’m out of my mind with working. No one wants to hear how busy someone is, I get it. But my reality, my life, is that I work every day, MOST of every day. And Being Brave and Working both take up energy (and Being Lonely doesn’t replenish any of that energy). My life is interestingly more fractured and more complete at the same time. I’ve had to learn to let things go and admit I forget things and say I’m sorry and forgive—including forgiving myself—a whole lot. What’s interesting is how this process has alleviated fear which used to be so prevalent. I’m not afraid to be wrong, I know I’m going to be. I’m working on standing up for myself, and it’s coming along, especially during times when I realize no one else will stand up for me (not because someone wouldn’t, but because I’m the one who has to do it).
One of my biggest fears came to light a month or so ago; when I realized what had happened I worried I was slipping. I worried I was beginning to forget. When you lose a child you have only so much to hold on to; memories, maybe a song you sang together. In my case, I have dates (October 1st through October 6th), and the words I use when I speak about my kids. Forgetting is something you worry others will do (and they will), but not something you think you’ll do.
I was telling someone about Taylor. I said he’d be turning 14, which is false. He’d be turning 15 this year.
As anxiety began to attempt tighten its grip I relaxed; I wasn’t forgetting. I hadn’t forgotten. It’s okay. (I barely know how old I am.) It’s acceptable to want to say, “I’m sorry, Taylor,” and also give myself a break.
This isn’t going away. Losing Taylor was the most major fracture of my life, and the ripples began immediately and are still felt; they’ll always be there. I’ve worked through the complication of answering how many kids I have, but it’s still there. I saw soon and clearly how it is possible to be completely alone in the presence of others who should be your main support; I’ve worked that out, but it can apply to other situations, I suppose, and there’s a benefit to learning to rely upon yourself.
But sometimes I’m weary. I’m allowed to be weary. And I continue to allow that for myself during this week. There’s a unique isolation that comes with being divorced, and a devastating seclusion with having had a child pass away. The similarities between the two are heartbreaking.
As I stood in front of the flowers at Costco today, just staring blankly, arms at my sides, tears threatening to fall—bringing flowers to his grave isn’t going away, either—a woman who worked in that department approached me. I removed one of my earbuds to hear her ask, “Do you need anything?”
I said no, and thanked her, then later realized what I wanted my answer to be.
“Yeah. If you could get some of my friends in here to distract me from this, that would be great. I need a diversion from this pain.”
Not that they wouldn’t…but, really, they don’t have to, it's not their job. I just like having them by my side. This, the absorbing/facing, in place of diversion, is what I do this week. I’m the mom.
Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf…
Sept, huit neuf…