October 29, 2023

"Come Hither My Friend, Hope"

"How are you doing?"

It's an impossible question to answer if I'm trying to be simultaneously brief and honest. And, candidly, it's difficult to know how how accurate my answer will be; my self-awareness gauge has taken quite a hit and it seems very likely that my calibration is off. But I feel compelled to try. 

I think we are doing something resembling okay these days. It's been more than four months now since our world as we knew it was rocked to its foundations. Every day has been full of ups and downs. The Shadow still pops up from time to time, but with decreasing frequency. We still feel Chrissy's absence every day, and I'm sure we'll continue to do so forever, though the textures and tones of that feeling continue to change and evolve. The pace of life has picked up significantly, as it tends to do, and I hope my lack of posting here for the last several weeks has not caused undue worry for those checking for updates. Time, as always, is a precious commodity, and the nature of going from two parents to one means that I'm having to run a constant triage of life's necessary tasks, including self-care.

In that regard, you may take my recent lack of blog posts to be a very good sign. This outlet was, in the weeks following Chrissy's death, very much an emotional and spiritual pressure-relief valve, one that provided a very necessary place for me to put the feelings that were too intense for me to keep inside. The posts have slowed because I'm doing well enough that I'm no longer an emotional boiler threatening to take out a city block. 

A month or two ago I noticed a shift in my emotional state. For quite a while, I would have told you that I didn't want to feel better yet. And I don't think that was at all unhealthy, for the record. But I also would have told you that I knew I couldn't stay in that state indefinitely. Staying there too long would be unhealthy. And not only unhealthy, but it would do a disservice to myself, to my family, and to the memory of the woman who was a force of forward motion and was my constant partner and inspiration for the past 20 years. I'm not sure exactly when it happened or what triggered it, but at a certain point I noticed that "I don't want to feel better yet" became "I don't feel better yet, but I think I would like to feel just a little bit better now, please and thank you." 

A few weeks ago, a package arrived for me in the mail. I'd made a very small purchase from the website of one of my favorite contemporary artists, William Schaff (Side note, I have very recently been corresponding with William to commission a piece of artwork, and his kindness and thoughtfulness are every bit as noteworthy as his artistic talent). Included in this package was a vinyl sticker of one of his works. This image struck me immediately, and has echoed in my brain in the weeks since as a mantra of sorts:

An image of an exhausted-looking boxer, with a banner reading "BEGONE SADNESS, BEGONE WOE, AND COME HITHER MY FRIEND, HOPE"

I can now say truthfully--and I believe objectively--that not only am I now ready to feel better but in fact I do feel significantly better and more hopeful about the life that's yet to come. To be sure, the life ahead of our family has become something very different and more complex than what I had imagined just a few months ago, with an element of sorrow undeniably present. But where I recently could only see a beacon far in the distance across a gloomy fog, now I can begin to make out the faint trails of some of the possible paths that could lead to that beacon. Where before I only knew that we would arrive there eventually, I now have begun to figure out how we will get there. 

I think I'll leave it there for today. I had a completely different post planned when I sat down to write this, but I will get to that soon enough. Look forward to a post detailing a very long list of the joys we have been experiencing in the midst of our grief: joys of travel, laughter, wonder, gratitude, awe, fellowship, and comfort. And know that we continue to appreciate and covet all of the encouragement, prayer, practical help, and love that continues to be poured out on us. This hopeful post would not exist without y'all.

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