I Am Not My Story. But My Story Is Me.
What people say or do elicits us all; maybe it’s something we see, hear or smell. My most recent moment was yesterday at the eye doctor. I hadn’t been in a while so I had to fill out all the paperwork. I stared at the paper and breathed deeply, my pen lingering over the words, telling myself they are just words. “Single, married, divorced, widowed”. Which box do I check and where do I fit in? I decided to only check “divorced”. There was a time when I checked both “divorced and widowed” but I was not in the mood for the head tilt.
Grief is a force of it’s own. Sometimes it feels like a light knock on my door and sometimes it feels like a brick being thrown at my heart. I know that grief ebbs and flows and after 6 years since Ben was killed in Afghanistan; I am even more aware of how I choose to cope with it all. He was my fiancé and our wedding on the beach was planned for when he came home from his deployment. We were not legally husband and wife yet embodied the essence of devotion, commitment and true love.
When the pain and sadness are present it’s almost impossible to put into words. So sometimes, it’s a challenge to walk through my “normal” life. The daily errands, grocery store and gym activities that require small talk are not always so easy. Don’t get me wrong; I am very social and love being around friends. I LOVE being with people, truly connecting soul to soul. My friendships are so incredibly nourishing, healing and fun! I also happen to be transparent; I’m not so great at wearing the masks. So if I see you and you ask how I am; maybe my eyes roll down or I say, “I’m ok”. If you ask more, you may hear about my experience at the eye doctor. Probably not what you were expecting in he produce aisle. I understand this topic is hard for people. But I promise you; I can’t give you my story; I am simply sharing my experiences verbally. A typical response when someone hears my story is, “I can’t imagine”. And my typical response is, “please don’t”. Some people ask specific questions and want to know how I found out or how he was killed. I see it in their faces when I share that it’s like you see in the movies; two men in uniform showed up at my door. We were living in an apartment at the time so when the concierge called to tell me two men from the Army were downstairs; I knew. I told them to wait so I could get my son (who had just started Kindergarten) into bed. We just came home from Shabbat services, placed items in a care package that we were sending to Ben in the morning and had a race of who could get into their pajamas fastest. In my gut, I knew the news behind the door and I knew that I had to get my son into bed. I sat in my closet, shaking until I knew that he was asleep so I could let the men into our home. That’s a snapshot; the beginning of the horror no one ever wants to experience.
My attempt to lighten the conversation usually leads to me sharing the gratitude that I experienced true love and that I know exactly how I want to live my life. This tends to be a heavy conversation but again, it’s my experience and people ask, so I answer with truth. I know how to “fake it ‘til you make it.” I can be at the dinner party, gym, school picnic, etc. and truly be in the joy of the moments. Yet, I am not quite sure where I “fit in”.
I began to filter my thoughts; which led me to a little more alone time. I want and CHOOSE to live with love, peace, joy, laughter and fun! The “dark” parts still show up but so does the light. What I am exploring in my alone time and with like-hearted people is the balance of it all. I am finding peace and self-awareness in my yoga practice, my love for running, in my solitude, in my work and time with friends and family. It’s from this place of self-love, acceptance, forgiveness and courage that I love my life. The love that Ben and I share is infinite. I miss Ben and yearn for what my family was “supposed to be”. And yes, my son and I have a different experience than the “normal” here. Doesn’t everyone? I am incredibly grateful for the family I have (biological and chosen); my heart is full. It truly takes a village. The journey within has led me to faith, hope and gratitude that continue to allow me to sparkle joy.
Every one of us has a story that is unique and profound; all our experiences weave together and are the result of each moment we experience in the now. I am conscious and feel it all: the dark and the light, the pain and the joy, the anxiety and the release, and the anger and acceptance. It is my intention to create space for others to be authentic, heard and accepted.
While you are not your story, your story is you.