May 6, 2017
Every time I’ve been confronted with it I’ve had to remind myself that I did my best, that I don’t regret my decision, and that it was, in fact, my own choice. I could have ignored what I’d been told and gone on. Mostly likely there would have never been a downside and nobody would know or care. It was my decision to act on what I learned. It was me who took action, me who gave up what I loved so much, me who paid the price both figuratively and literally, and me who has had to live with that choice. But far better to live with a difficult right choice than a selfish and easy wrong. I forget sometimes, simply because, to me, it was a moral absolute, that not everyone confronted with the choice I had would have done the same thing. But it was, in fact, a choice and it was my decision.
I had never thought about it consciously this way until I said it out loud to Bryan tonight, but it was, in many ways, similar to experiencing and grieving through the miscarriage I’d had several years before. Not similar in terms of what was lost, but similar in terms of phases. Grieving the loss and feeling it so acutely. Watching everyone else continue on with theirs while mine was now gone. Feeling like a part of me had died or been erased. Pretending to others, but especially to myself, that I was fine. Denying inwardly every day, over and over, how much I missed it. That same scramble right at first to try and hurry to move on and replace it with something else, even though nothing can really make it better but the long, hard haul of passing time. And now, that same secret hope that this new endeavor will, at least in some small way, help heal that wound that still secretly hangs open in a place where you hope no one will see or notice so much.
Perhaps one of the hardest things about those trials we didn’t expect and didn’t want is all the times afterward when we think we’ve gotten over it and moved past it and pressed on, only to suddenly be confronted with it–or with the memory of it–, too often without warning, in some new or different or small or big way that stands right in front of us, right in our path, right smack dab in the middle of our happy, regular lives, and requires us to stare it right in the face and choose how we’ll deal with it all over again.
And so today, right there in the middle of my path stood that same familiar THING. I got that instant and involuntary pit in my stomach.
“Notice me,” it said, “Feel bad about me. Let me shame you. Let me bring you down. Remember how good things were? All the things you’d hoped and dreamed and planned for? Remember?”
“Yes,” I said. “I see you.” And then I walked on.
It’s something that takes practice. And it’s practice that takes so much more than you ever wanted to give. But perhaps one of the small-but-significant gifts it leaves behind for you to keep is the strength to take control of the situation. To recognize that you don’t always have to give in to that feeling of self-pity and mourning. That you can look it right in the face, remember it, not deny what it meant to you, honor that, and then keep on the path and not let it define you. To let it paste on all the stickers it wants and then feel them fall right back off again as you continue on.
I share this today, not because it overwhelmed me or consumed my day, but because it didn’t. It didn’t win today. I didn’t let it. Slowly, years at a time, I am getting stronger.