This is me baring my soul. It is me. Standing. Completely exposed. For all to see. This, in what is to be my most honest post, is a time for me to utter words I have not ever admitted out loud. Not to anyone. Not even really to me. But today, I am ready. Today, I am stronger than ever. And I am almost healed.
Have you ever found yourself stuck down in a deep, dark hole? Alone… And sad? So far down, you weren’t actually sure you’d ever be able to claw your way out? So deep in it, that you didn’t think happiness would ever find you? So dark, that life no longer felt worth living? I have.
I remember it as if it were just yesterday. My father was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed that was in our living room. He looked up at me and patted the bed next to him, beckoning me to come sit. I smiled and walked over, taking the spot next to him on his bed. He glanced over at me with what could only be described as mischief in his eyes… “What?” I asked. “I bet you never thought your father would be skinnier than you,” he said with a chuckle. Taken aback a bit, I looked at him and, even though I knew it was a lie, responded, “You’re not skinnier than me.” He lifted one eyebrow. “Wanna make a bet?” Then he nudged me with his elbow. “What?” “Lift your arm.” I picked up my arm that was closest to him, and glanced at him. “See if you can wrap your fingers around your upper arm and touch them.” I obliged. The gap between my thumb and middle finger was less than an inch. “Yeah… So?” I said, knowing full well what was coming next. Then he lifted his arm. “Now do mine.” Reluctantly, I wrapped my fingers around is bicep. My fingers met, overlapping so that my thumb covered the nail of my middle finger. A lump grew in my throat as I looked up and met my father’s gaze. “I win,” he said with a smile. I managed a small chuckle as the tears formed in my eyes.
The sound of a lawn mower broke the awkward silence that had suddenly blanketed the room. “The back yard is kind of a mess, huh?” I shrugged. “I guess. It’s no big deal though.” After a small pause he continued, “Well, I’d rather be cutting down weeds than pushing up daisies!” Then he laughed. I did too. But this time the tears couldn’t stay in. I quickly got up and left the room.
A few weeks later, in the wee hours of the morning, I lay awake in bed. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled my nostrils. I could hear the clanks of a spoon in a coffee cup, and the hushed tones of my aunt talking to my cousin. The time had arrived where 24 hour care was necessary. We rotated between staying by my father’s side, and getting some sleep. Though no one was really sleeping. We were all just waiting…….
“Something’s happening!” A panicked voice came from the living room. In seconds we were all there, standing around my father, as he took what would be his final breath. At first I had a deep sense of urgency… Like something needed to happen. “Who do we call?! What do we do?? MOM! Do something!” But my panic was met with calm. Like true matriarchs, my mother and aunt handled the situation with so much dignity and grace. The room fell silent, and I remember just staring off. It was finally over. We were finally done. And for a moment, I felt relief.
In the days that followed, we kept busy, as is the case with any family after someone passes. We were too distracted to actually let the reality of the situation sink in. I was numb. In complete shock. And to those around me, it’s likely that it seemed like I was fine… Even I thought I was fine. But I wasn’t. In the weeks that followed I found myself away from home, back at school, and falling apart. It seemed that just as everything else went back to ‘business as usual,’ I started to crumble. And no one around me understood.
Just a couple weeks into the school year, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in an anthropology class when my cell phone started ringing. I quickly sent it to voicemail and continued taking notes. After class, as I walked across campus, I listened to the voicemail that my mother had left me. “A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City. There isn’t much other information yet, but you might want to turn on the news.” I shrugged it off and continued walking to my apartment. When I arrived, my roommates were already there, eyes glue to the television. So I too sat and watched. With the rest of the world, I sat and watched as the World Trade Center was swallowed by smoke. I cried with everyone else, as I witnessed innocent victims choose death by jumping over death by fire. And I watched in complete terror and disbelief as the towers came crumbling down. What the fuck just happened??
I cried, just like everyone else did. And I was terrified, just like everyone else was. But deep inside of me, there was this feeling that I couldn’t really ignore. A terrible feeling that I wished would go away. But it wouldn’t… And I’m ashamed to admit it. I’m ashamed that in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 I felt, somehow… slighted. Like my father’s death had somehow been invalidated. Like my sorrow was no longer legitimate. In the face of a national tragedy, all of a sudden, my loss felt insignificant. I was already hiding inside myself… Struggling with how to handle my sorrow. But after the tragedy on 9/11, I sunk even deeper. I wrapped myself in darkness and just sat with myself. Alone. Sad. And completely misunderstood.
No one around me could reach me. No one could help lift me up. And as time wore on, I just kept sinking deeper, resulting in relationships and friendships disintegrating. Decisions were made at the hands of others, that left me feeling abandoned, betrayed, worthless, and unloved. I was completely alone, completely lost, and in utter despair. I reached my lowest low. A place where I’d sit… All alone… And wonder… “Would anyone even notice if I was no longer here? Would anyone even care?” Then I’d cry. All the time. I’d cry. Alone.
But my family and a couple close friends recognized my hurt and came to my rescue. And in time, I noticed things shifting inside me. I noticed that the losses I endured led to some amazing gains. It led to a strength I didn’t know I had. It created a new me. A better me. A stronger, more independent, empathetic and loving version of me. And over the years, I have come to realize that the circumstances that revolved around my father’s death were actually amazing gifts. But even as such, every year, in the window between the anniversary of my father’s death and 9/11, I find myself feeling low. I find old emotions bubbling up. And every year, I push them back down. Until this year. This year I have resolved my heart to finally heal. I’ve allowed myself to actually mourn all that I lost back in 2001. And it seems a huge weight is being lifted off of me.
I am amazing. I am worthy. And I am loved… Most importantly by me.
This is my truth. And I hope it helps you to seek yours. Because I promise you… If you do, you will find… The best is yet to come.