If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I don’t generally write about current events. I’m not sure I mentioned the election or any other political topic, even in passing. Similarly, I tend to gloss over the holidays, as well.
It’s not exactly intentional, and it’s barely a conscious decision. But as anyone who has suffered a loss knows, your world becomes quite restricted in many ways. Initially, this is a reactionary defense mechanism where everything shuts down so you can focus merely on survival. Getting through from one day to the next seems like a major accomplishment and anything that isn’t directly related to your existence gets pushed aside. Heck, even some of the important things get overlooked.
Life is seen through a pinhole of focus because it seems the only way to keep moving is to look only at what’s in front of you.
As time goes on and your viewpoint expands, it is still sometimes necessary to block out a portion of the world in a continued effort to move forward. There is a great deal of negativity in the world and I have always been like a sponge, soaking up the emotions of those around me.
It’s a large part of why I generally keep my circle of friends relatively small, and one of the reasons I enjoy being outdoors – I seek beauty and serenity in nature. So by limiting the time and energy I spend fixating on the news (and anti-news) stories, I am protecting myself from the melancholy that would ultimately ensue. There’s enough gloom in the world without me adding even more to it than I already do.
So knowing this tendency of mine, you may be surprised that I’m going to talk a little bit about the death of Tom Petty. Although the Vegas shooting is obviously the “bigger” story, it is Petty’s passing that more greatly affected me personally.
“Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground”
I’ve been somewhat on edge, as I mentioned in my last post, and been doing a lot of self-examination as to why. I’ve come to the conclusion that my looming 50th birthday is causing some anxiety. Not because I feel old. Not because I fear aging. And not even because AARP sent me a membership card and invitation to join two weeks early.
I’m anxious because I feel as though I should have accomplished more by this point of my life. I’m feeling lost because I won’t be spending the birthday with A, and I hate it. And I’m uneasy because at the core of it all, there is this underlying feeling that my husband never reached his 51st birthday and I can’t help but wonder if the same fate awaits me. Although 50 is just a number, I am dreading it like no other birthday before.
So with all these thoughts whirling through my head, the notifications on my phone detailing the progression of events with Tom Petty really affected me. I was having mini flashbacks – the cardiac arrest, life support, and finally, the notice that he passed. It was all too reminiscent of my own story, and I can’t help but feel so much compassion for his widow. I’ve been there. I get it.
And though our stories are obviously not identical (I did, after all, have two weeks to work through all the feelings that came with a sudden illness. And I also had some good, lucid days in the midst of it all where I got to see a glimpse of my husband and it’s doubtful his wife did), the parts that are similar are enough to cause this heightened sensitivity to the whole thing.
These triggers, the things that seemingly come out of nowhere to knock me on my emotional ass, can sometimes be dealt with. Or planned for. Or avoided altogether. But there are other times where they knock the breath from my lungs and immediately cause the tears to fall.
If I’m watching a TV show or movie that specifically deals with death (such as This is Us or Me Before You), I can usually steel myself for the emotions I’m sure to experience. Other times, they sneak up on me and I end up having to remind myself to take deep breaths and ride it out. I recently watched Passengers with Lady A and there was a scene that brought back flashes of memory of me hefting A out of the restaurant chair where he first seized. It was all I could do to get through the end of the movie without completely breaking down.
Again, my nerves are raw and these events have simply pulled the hair trigger of my emotional firearm. I know this is just another phase I have to go through… another challenge to overcome. And I know I will. I’ve never backed down from a challenge. And I won’t start now.
I will stand my ground, and I won’t back down. Although it was admittedly easier knowing A was always right beside me, I’ll have to rely on the belief that he is still here with me, in my corner, supporting me every step of the way.
In any case, rest easy, Mr. Petty. Say hello to A for me…
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