The anger comes at the most random of times. A sleeping Phoenix in the pit of my soul that lies temporarily dormant on a bed of my husband’s ashes, peacefully allowing me to function like a normal person. Then, out of nowhere, it rises up at such a rate that I can’t control its overtaking of my being.
This is not a Phoenix of renewal. This is a Phoenix that brings rage, the ugliness of the past, harsh words spoken by others I once trusted, images…that one particular image. I hate seeing him broken like that over and over again.
It tortures me. It raises my heart rate so the pounding of it is all I can hear in my ears. It shortens my breath to the point that I feel light headed. It strangles my vision and forces me to look through a small periscope, black and blurry around the edges, magnifying all of the things I work so hard to minimize for myself. It shows these things to me in 360 degree, high definition picture with surround sound. My hands shake as the feelings wash over me and my motor skills become slightly less stable. I hate everyone in these moments that brought me to this point, including myself.
Sometimes I forget that the darkness he once harbored and communed with during his life now lives, thriving, within me. Oddly…disturbingly…I feel closer to him when it takes over me. I can understand him. Feel the parts of him that his parasite brought with it when it took up residence in me. It feels like a piece of him is still with me. It is not necessarily the piece of him that was my favorite, but it is a piece of him none the less. I miss him so intensely and I will take what I can get.
It is a strange thing to look at yourself in the mirror, as I did on this particular morning, be forced to an anxious stillness with your hair dryer still in your hand on a morning that is no different from any other, and not recognize yourself. A complete stranger staring you in the eyes, mirroring your movements, breathing as deeply and as shallow as you are. It is a lot like Deja Vu. You know you have met this person somewhere along your path but you can’t quite put your finger on where or when. You recognize there person staring back at you on the other side of the mirror knows every crevice of who you are, every secret, every story of pain, every moment of pleasure and you feel naked in front of them. You search for a smile that doesn’t exist and just see an empty shell of a soul that has died a painful death. When the moment of misidentification passes and you are able to put your finger on how you know this person, you realize, disappointed and disillusioned, it is in fact yourself.
Yep. That’s me. Or at least some version of me. I don’t even know anymore.
I wasn’t able to put into words how this whole thing made me feel. It wasn’t until a friend finally recognized my plight and said to me, “Everyone else is mourning their past. But you…you are mourning your future and everything you thought would be. Losing a spouse is different. Nobody else can understand how that feels.”
Yes. Thank you. That’s just it. I lost my entire future. I had plans, dreams, a family, a life laid out in front of me built on intense love and promises. My husband was my world. I fell so hard and so fast for him that there was absolutely nothing that could have slowed the fall. He was everything to me. He was cultured, intelligent, unafraid, bold. He was everything I had sought after. I saw my life lay down before me, brick by single brick, secured into place with the mortar of his words. I let myself believe him, trust him, be vulnerable to him and he did not disappoint in the beginning. He held me close like I was the precious gem for which he too had searched the world. And searched the world he had. He looked at me like I could do no wrong. It was intoxicating and more fulfilling than anything I had ever imagined or ever laid hands on before. He was proud of me, showing me off to friends and family, holding me up like a beacon of white light that he showered in with such joy. He assured me with his touch and his gaze that I was his and he was mine. I was grateful every single second I called him my own.
As it turns out, he didn’t belong to me.
He didn’t even belong to himself.
He belonged to that darkness that would retreat now and again, allowing him to be free in the way a zookeeper opens the large metal door to the lion exhibit to let the wild animal out into the enclosure for people to gawk at. He was free to move about his space with the pretense that he was in his natural environment all the while being trapped inside of a glass cage that was small enough to drive any living being insane. He could see the outside but he couldn’t get there. He knew he was trapped but he let on, for the sake of the onlookers, that he was grateful for his feigned freedom. Watching him have his moments in the sun, on the outside of that large metal door that hid a dark and forboding bastille, was glorious. He stretched out and lazed about, enjoying what he knew would only be temporary delight. For as soon as the keeper decided he had enjoyed enough of this moment of freedom, he was called back into the darkness on the other side of the door and reminded that he was in no way actually free.
I was like a curious child standing above the enclosure, looking down at him with such admiration and becoming more and more desirous of experiencing his world with him. I let the overwhelmingly spontaneous urge to join him allow me to climb down into his cage, uninhibited. I knew it was dangerous but I had somehow lost the ability to be afraid or to be suspect due to his immense beauty and my utter idealism. I ignored the signs warning me of the impeding doom of making such a decision and jumped from the height of the retaining wall I had climbed over and blissfully ran to him.
For a short period, my life with him as a wildling was everything I’d hoped it would be. It was exciting and filled with the purring affection of my newfound love. There were, in retrospect, a few times that I got a little too close for his comfort and he would warn me with a low growl that came from the depths of a place I never fathomed but I ignored these exhortations, telling myself I was safe. I would pull my hand back ever so slightly and wait for him to be comfortable again with my proximity. Like any wild animal who had been domesticated, he would realize that he had scared me and would make up for it by coming even closer to me than before and setting my worries at ease. I would lapse into his affection as if nothing of concern had happened.
Then, out of nowhere, it did happen. The keeper rang the bell and the big door to the dark trap opened, enlivening his Pavlovian senses. He unleashed a fury on me I had not seen coming. He grabbed a hold of me, snatched me up and ran with me, full speed to meet his keeper as the door slammed closed behind us. When we crossed the threshold into the darkness, he dove full force into the ether, releasing me as he disappeared into the abyss. I was left teetering on the edge, trying to keep my balance and not let myself fall with him. My want to go with him and my need to stay where I was fought a tumultuous battle that ended with the compromise of my whole internal being diving in after him while my physical self stayed put, emptied from the inside out. The pain from the ripping apart of my self was intense. It delivered such a blow that I collapsed, my extremities still dangling dangerously off the edge of the proverbial cliff over which he had just dived head first.
I knew he was gone.
I could feel that I was too. This shell of who I was remained in tact, but just barely. It was vacant. I had lost myself and every hope I had ever allowed to embrace me. My future was gone and there I sat, static and void. It was so dark that I didn’t know which way led me to safety and which way led me to him. At times they felt the same even though I knew his way out was not a way I would choose for myself. He was much more courageous in his final moment than I could ever be and I knew it. Instead of trying to find my way out, I just sat down, unable to move, and let my hollow shell be filled with the darkness that had filled him before he took his leave.
This shell is what stood in front of me, glaring at me from the other side of the mirror as I stood there contemplating who or what I was now. She taunted me. Pitied me. Angered me. She sent my mind and body into a state that I would wish on not one single person.
How does one begin to recover from this? How do I go about finding the new version of myself when I don’t know who I am or what I want anymore? When you think you have everything figured out along with everything you want in life and then it is all stolen from you in such a violating way, how do you go about pursuing anything with joy again? I can’t imagine a day where I am able to trust the words and promises of another, let alone allow myself to love or be loved again. It is a lonely and daunting position in which to stand and looking forward, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the blinding gray of my world, everything is blurry and I am clueless as to how I even put one foot in front of the other. He should be here with me, next to me, holding me the way he used to with his hand around the back of my head, pressing my head against his chest.
God, I loved listening to his heart beat.
Now all I am left with is the tormenting sound of my own heart beating so loudly inside of my chest that it is all I can hear. It pounds with such fury that I’m sure at times it is going to beat itself right through my ribs and out of my skin, bursting into a million pieces before it hits the floor with fatalistic gratitude, just like he did the night that he pulled that trigger.
He may have been the one who succeeded at his own suicide but, unfortunately, he is not the only one who is left for dead.
“Just breathe, my gurl,” he would always say to me.
Breathe. Just breathe.
Its good advice.
I wish I were able to see the movement of his lips and hear the inflection of his voice as he said those words to me.
As I am able to calm down and find the steady rhythm of my breath again, hands becoming more still be the minute, mind and body slowing to a sense of normalcy, I can feel the Phoenix inside of me lowering itself back into position and finding a comfortable spot to lie again amongst his ashes. The only hope I have to cling on to at this point is the hope that one day, hopefully sooner than later, the Phoenix that takes flight will in fact be the one of renewal as opposed to anger and I will be able to find the ability to put my left foot in front of my right, repeatedly, until I am able to maintain a constant pace, slow as it may be, towards being a new version of myself. That slow gait will hopefully turn into a jog which will evolve into a full sprint. Baton in hand, I will pass it to the renewed version of myself who is awaiting with anticipation to eventually cross the finish line where I can stop running, breathe deeply and walk it off.
When the moment of panic passes, I can breathe again.
“Just finish drying your hair,” I say to myself out loud as I try to overcome that panic which sat in for no particular reason. I straighten my stance, stare at myself in the mirror and just keep going.
Forward is my only option.