Some days are good. I wake up, get the kids to school, go to work, pick them up after school. Then I nag the boys to practice the piano and finish their homework. We have fun together sometimes. We drink hot chocolate, and watch movies, and play games, and wrestle in the big bean bags in the basement, and read together before bed. Many days are good.
But some days it is all I can do to keep from flying apart. Something sets off a trigger, and sadness and pain wash over me like a tidal wave. The intensity is the same as it was the day Mat died – higher because now I truly know what I have lost – but now there is no one grieving with me. For everyone else, it’s been 21 months. For me, my soul is being torn in half right now.
When this happens it helps to get it out, and then I do everything I can to pull myself back together. I have no choice – my kids have only one parent. Sometimes my outlet is screaming in the car where no one else can hear me. Sometimes it’s putting on my old running shoes and pounding up the hill next to my house – the best sledding hill for miles – hoping to trade physical pain for the emotional pain that feels so much worse. I run up the hill hoping to make myself throw up. No luck. Try again. Again. Again.
I’m listening to a song, a modern-day version of “Invictus” (a horrifying comparison on literary grounds, but better for playing on an iPod while running). It’s “The Fighter,” by Gym Class Heroes:
Until the referee rings the bell, until both your eyes start to swell,
Until the crowd goes home, what we gonna do y’all?
Give ‘em hell. Turn their heads, gonna live life ‘til we’re dead.
Give me scars, give me pain.
Then they’ll say to me (say to me, say to me),
There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter.
Here comes the fighter.
That’s what they’ll say to me (say to me, say to me),
This one’s a fighter.
Some days this motivates me to keep going. (It also makes me want to take up boxing.)
When I can’t get away to scream or cry or run it’s worse. Then I have to count backwards from 10,000 by seven. I’m not good at doing math in my head, so it requires a lot of concentration. This is key to distancing myself from the emotions that otherwise will not stay tamped down.
When you see me next, I will most likely be fine. I will be thinking the same thoughts you’re probably thinking. ‘What should I make for dinner?’ or ‘Is there any hope at all for the Red Sox next season?’ or ‘Hello, Mary Ellen, the eighties are calling. They want their mom jeans back.’
But if I look deep in concentration, and maybe I’m even moving my lips a little, then what I’m thinking is, “Seven thousand nine hundred and ninety eight, seven thousand nine hundred and ninety one, seven thousand nine hundred and eighty four …”