Ever since my recent major meltdown, I had been doing fairly well. As you likely know, this is a relative term, and applies to my “new normal”. (I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I really dislike that expression. I was quite content with my “old normal” and never asked for an updated version.)
But after the uncontrollable crying jag that I. Just. Could. Not. Stop, I felt a bit lighter than I had in quite some time. It was a purge, similar to so many before it, yet so unlike anything else I’ve experienced to this point. Note that I’ve been at this long enough to know that the phrase “to this point” is required when referring to my moods, or how I’m feeling, or something I’m experiencing. Although at each of these moments, I may think they are the strongest, or my darkest, or the worst, I’ve learned there may be something deeper and darker and more disastrous lurking around the corner.
As a generally optimistic person, this dark cloud has been even more challenging to deal with. I’ve become extremely well acquainted with the term “cautiously optimistic”, although to me, that has always made it sound as though I’m not trusting that the sunshine will again return. Adding the caution seems to add weight and drag down what should be raised spirits. Much like the classic Rankin-Bass Christmas special when Donner puts mud on Rudolph’s nose so it won’t glow, tempering optimism with caution causes me to droop my head and slump my shoulders and give a heavy sigh.
It’s exhausting to anticipate when (not if) the next rainstorm will occur, and wonder if the emotional umbrella I have with me at that moment will be enough to keep me relatively protected.
I’ve noticed that I do have more “up” days than before, although the downs tend to hit me faster and harder, as well. It’s as if I am attached to a giant emotional rubber band. I’m able to go on about my day, crawl some distance before snapping back to the place of despair. The further I’m able to go, the higher I climb, the faster and more brutal the crash landing.
Although I understand grieving is “love with no place to go” (something I’ve read which makes so much sense to me), I believe that at some point, this rubber band will either get stretched so far with positive feelings that it either snaps, or becomes so worthless from overuse, I can simply step over its limp remains and leave it behind.
That’s not to say I won’t have dark days or even darker moments to come. I’m quite certain those will hit me for the rest of my life. This coming January will mark 20 years since my father passed, and there are still times that, seemingly out of the blue, I miss him terribly and tear up. So I know grief is not something to “get over” and that I will always miss my husband, and that’s perfectly understandable and acceptable. I loved him for so many years – still love him – and that love will not just go away. Because love is not something to just get over, either. What will make the loss easier to bear is having new places to share that love.
Much like Newton’s Law of Physics whereby every action has an equal and opposite reaction, each emotion has an equal and opposite emotion. If I am ever to fully live my life again, I need to deeply experience the highs, which inevitably will bring the lows. But to not expect to experience the down times, means that I can never fully hope to appreciate the up times, either.
With that in mind, perhaps the meltdown I mentioned was simply in preparation of a majorly joyful life moment that was to come. Later that same week, I received a text from our oldest daughter’s boyfriend asking if I was still awake. I responded something along the lines of “just barely”. His follow-up question inquired about my son and daughter still living at home, and when he learned they were also home and awake, he asked if we could all get together in the same room because he had something to discuss with us.
After joking around about how he was putting me out, I joined my kids and waited for his video call. When he called a few minutes later, he talked about how much he loved our daughter and that he wanted to propose, but was hoping to get our permission first. It was an extremely traditional question asked in an entirely unorthodox manner, but naturally, we said “yes” because J is a really nice young man who has been wonderful to – and for – our little girl.
It was a tearful, bittersweet moment all around as my husband’s absence was a palpable thing at that moment. Shortly after his death, J spoke to K about how he had wanted to ask my husband for his permission to marry her, but kept putting it off out of fear, and how he regretted it. He was concerned that he would never really know how A felt about the idea.
We know A loved him. Even when he was in the hospital, under light sedation, and unable to fully communicate properly, he expressed his approval. When he first came out of his coma and began interacting with us, the kids and I asked him questions about what he remembered. When questioned about whether or not he remembered K’s boyfriend, he gave an awkward smile and a shaky thumbs-up, which we all understood to mean that he not only remembered him, but endorsed the relationship.
Fast forward to a few days after J’s conversation when he finally popped the question to K. He had arranged for her friend to ask her for a “girl’s day out” with her children (K’s surrogate niece and nephew), where they made plans to wander around the local botanical gardens. What K didn’t know is that J had also made arrangements to arrive after them and cut through a different path to a small gazebo where he was waiting. When she arrived, he read a poem he had written, got down on one knee and presented her with a single red rose in which he had placed a diamond engagement ring, and asked her to marry him.
Of course she said “yes”, and then they danced in the gazebo to the song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (the story which has been a running theme in their relationship, and the reasoning behind the single red rose proposal… In fact, he presented her with her own “enchanted rose” he fashioned her as a gift for one special occasion earlier in their relationship). It was a magical moment, and one fitting of our Princess.
We are now in the early planning stages of a wedding (and I say “we” with my daughter’s permission). She has been including me in most of the decisions, although I’m doing my best to be supportive and not take over their day. I guide, give my opinions, but ultimately push her to do what’s right for her. No matter what decisions she makes on where to hold the wedding, whom to invite, what dress she should where, and on and on and on, we are all working on a new place for our love to go. As our family expands (hopefully with grandchildren for me in the not-too-distant future), we will slowly continue to heal, our hollow hearts will be filled again, and our love will bloom eternal.
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