Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Survived... A Look Back

Well, yesterday was The Big Anniversary, one whole year since Craig's accident. Before I tell you my thoughts on this, let me fill you in on what I did:

1. Slept in. I use the term 'slept' rather loosely. My knee injury flared up right when I went to bad so I was in agnoizing pain for hours and had a hell of a time falling asleep in the first place. So I refused to get out of bed at a sensible hour. I count this as sleeping in.

2. Drove out to Radium for the day. I love Radium. Craig loved Radium. We spent a lot of time there and there is nothing like the mountains to make me feel like I'm safe and at peace. The new boyfriend took great care of me, acting as my chauffeur for the day. Unfortunately the weather turned south about half an hour from Radium so we had to turn around and come home. That's about 5 hours without a pee break as he so gently reminded me... oops. But the mountains were still beautiful and I still had fun. One sidenote: I lost my ipod (curses!) so we were forced to listen to my cd collection which, because I have (had) an ipod, is rather sparse and rather old. I basically haven't bought a cd since high school. Lets just say, I had some horrendous taste in music back then. And technically still do. Because I rather enjoyed myself while he struggled to refrain from rolling his eyes and merely suffered in silence.

3. I had a nap. Only 40 minutes but it was GLORIOUS. To this day, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good couch nap.

4. Went out to dinner and a comedy show with some good friends. It was fun and funny, the perfect distraction.

Seems like kind of weird way to spend the one year anniversary, sure. But I have had so many bad days and weird anniversaries in the last year that I have learned a thing or two about how to handle them. There was Craig's birthday, our wedding anniversary, my birthday... and on and on and on. I have found that nothing sucks worse than spending it alone, that it hurts like hell when other people don't remember, and that the best you can do is to do whatever you feel like doing, whether that is crying all day, doing laundry, or taking an impromptu (and rather hazardous) drive out to another province.

The rather long drive did give me a lot of time for reflection (most of which I did out loud) and was a great way for me make note of what this year has meant.

Obviously, it started out as crappy as a year can start. March 16 of last year was the worst day of my life, hands down. And unfortunately, there were many, many days just as horrible that followed. There were dozens of days I thought I would never make it, thought I would literally die from heartache.

I found reserves of strength I was stunned to know I had. Tenacity I didn't think I possessed. Resiliance and an ability to pick myself up off the floor, grit my teeth, and fight my way back into the real world.

I discovered amazing and wonderful friendships with people who, despite being terrified, got into the trenches with me to help me through this. I met people who inspired and moved me, fellow widows and widowers who served as both cheerleaders and mentors on this journey for me (not to mention a daily sounding board for my ranting and raving and advice-begging).

Sadly, on the flipside, I also went through a string of secondary losses. People who disappeared or slid out of my life, some just not fitting anymore and others with no desire to be there. These hurt exactly as much as you'd think and were far too frequent. They say grief rewrites your address book and this couldn't be more true. The benefit here, if you can find one, is that the people in my life now are the people I truly love and who truly love me. The friendships are richer and more sacred.

I made some big moves. I quit my job and changed my career. I went back to school, travelled, changed homes and neighbourhoods, and even renovated my new house (ok, technically I just helped).

I forced myself to live way, way outside my comfort zone. I tried rollerblading (not so good for a girl without balance) and pool (I still suck). I even busted my knee trying snooba in the Dominican. In hindsight, maybe I'll try fewer new things this year.

I found an amazing man who joined me on this journey. New love and new plans that transformed me and gave me something I sorely needed: hope. And, of course, someone to laugh at all my lame jokes.

I have found a new way to live and a new life.

As hard as it has been, I have found ways to say goodbye to Craig, to miss him but live without him. I have found ways to survive.

I find my good days far outweigh my bad and this is a comforting thought. That nothing in this life is permanent, which is a a good thing rather than a bad one. Because while it means the people you love can disappear at any moment, leaving you broken and barely breathing, no situation is permanent, it only comes to pass, not to stay. You can pick up the pieces and move forward and eventually things will move forward with you.

So, Craig, I love you and miss you. I know you'd be proud of me and cheering me on through this past year. Thanks for nine wonderful years.

I'll never forget you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Tree In A Forest

I was reminded once again yesterday of just how much I have lost.

I was talking to someone about nicknames your friends have for you and I realized I don't have any nicknames anymore. He said it came from knowing someone since you were kids. Ah. It hit me - I don't have friends who have nicknames for me because the only friend I've had since I was a kid was Craig. And all my nicknames disappeared when he did.

It is such a strange feeling, having half your life wiped out like that. Imagine having that best friend you spent the last decade of your life with, who knows you better than anyone, who can read every gesture and facial expression, who has a thousand pet names and inside jokes that only the two of you share. Imagine that kind of closeness.

Then it is gone. Wiped out. Disappeared.

You cannot regain those moments or capture them in a story. You cannot recreate those years of your life with someone else. You cannot condense all those thousands of moments down into one perfect story. It all just disappears.

My life has become the proverbial tree in a forest - it fell but nobody was there to hear it since the one person who did hear it no longer exists. So did it really happen?

It doesn't really feel like it.

It feels like I have no history, no past, no shared story with anyone.

My history disappeared with the only other person who was there for it.

No wonder it feels like I barely exist these days.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meeting That One Person

It's only 10 days until The Big Anniversary and to say I'm obsessing would be a bit of an understatement. Everything makes me think about Craig right now. It's like going back in time 11 months and not being able to stop that tape from playing on a loop inside my brain.

I think about the whys, the hows, the what ifs. In grief group they mentioned making peace with the 'unanswerable questions' but I don't see how you ever could. Imagine that. Imagine a question there really has no answer. Just theories, one after another, each one as improbably and unprovable as the last. Now imagine you have thousands. And thousands and thousands and thousands. That's what it is like. But you can't help but ask all the questions anyway and try to figure out all the answers anyway.

I watched a movie this week (Love and Other Drugs... not bad, kinda sad). The whole movie made me think of Craig and me and our lives and how it all turned out. Here's a quote I loved:

"Sometimes the things you want the most don't happen and what you least expect, happens. I don't know. You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet that one person and your life is changed."

That's what it was like with Craig.

He was that person and it changed everything. Everything.

I used to be kind of a nerd. Ok, I still am. But I was good at school and did my homework and all that stuff. I was accepted into the advanced placement program at Western Canada High School. My parents thought it was too far from where we lived and so I opted for the same program at Father Lacombe. Catholic school, parents didn't approve. So I gave up and went to Forest Lawn as a last resort.

At that point, I stopped caring. I knew I wouldn't do much with schooling after, knew I couldn't get into any of the good programs I wanted, knew it would greatly affect my college/university options down the road. So I just stopped caring about school. I made friends who were fun instead of friends who were obsessed with grades and homework and being the top of the class. That's how I met Craig.

He was fun.

Fast forward 4 years and we get married. Fast forward five more years, and he is gone.

All those things that happened in between - my going to school, his going to school, my career, the fights, the arguments, the make-ups, buying a house, moving, moving, moving, family battles, infertility, Hawaii, beautiful moments, sad moments... so much crammed into such a short lifetime.

Now everything that has happened since. The heartache, the loneliness, fights with family and friends, quitting my job, lawsuits and court, pouring over letters and photos and all those unanswerable questions.

And all because I met one person who would change my whole life.

So overwhelming to realize that all those experiences and pain and joy and life could reduce down, collapsing in on itself, to one little choice my parents made that they probably didn't think too much about, that wasn't even a big deal at the time.

Did they have any idea that that one choice would lead to this entire life for me?

Of course not.

Did that other drive know that leaving work that day at that exact moment, and not one minute sooner or later, would change his life and the lives of so many other people forever?

Of course not.

Did Craig know that moving into that house would ultimately lead to his death one day? That had we lived in any other house on any other street in the city, he'd probably still be walking, talking and just fine?

Of course not.

The scary thing is, every decision we make could be utterly unimportant (as I believe most are) or the most important one you ever make.

You just don't get to know which it is until it's too late.

And you never know how things will turn out with the people in your life, who will be a central character or just a mere footnote.

They might be just a friend passing notes to you in the cafeteria but end up changing your whole life forever, over and over again.