Breath By Breath

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I’ve put my daughter Emily to bed.  I’ve laid in bed with her until she’s drifted off and her breath is slow and steady and almost hypnotic.

All of a sudden I’m bawling my eyes out, shuddering silently next to her.  I don’t want to wake her, but it feels like I will never stop as my body shakes and tears gush down my cheeks.  I feel like someone is punching me in my face, in my gut.  I feel like someone is wrapping their hand around my throat.

My five year old purrs in her dreams, and the noise tethers me to this reality.

I take out my phone and text my best friend.  I beg her to never die.  She says something warm and then tells me a joke and next thing I know I’m shaking again, but this time in laughter.

That’s how life is these days.

My mood shifts as though I’m dancing on the edge of a blade.  One moment, I’ve got my shit together and the next I’m dissolving.

It’s been four months since E. died.  Almost five.  It seems an eternity and it seems no time at all.  I still just want to talk about her all the time.  Her voice is still right beneath the follicles of my hair.  And yet, despite the immediacy of her presence, she is farther away than ever.

Death is a fucking fucker and that is about as eloquent as I can get about it at the moment. Grief is an even fucking-er fucker.

Someone said to me last week that grief is love that has nowhere to go.  That’s a more graceful way of putting what I feel I guess.  This pent up surge of love and emotion that has no channel.

I go to E.’s grave every week and I talk to her.  I catch my voice rise and fall in the same cadence it would when she was alive with me.  We had this silly, journalistic way of talking to one another, reporting all of the mundane.

She remembered everything I told her, even the dumbest, most minor details like it was something super important.  She relished stories about my husband and kids.  You know, as a working mom, it does not take much to make me happy.  I’d tell her stuff like how touched I was that my husband stayed home with a sick kiddo or remembered to buy toilet paper on his way home from work, and she’d bring it up months later.  Like if I was annoyed with my husband, she would say something like, “But he’s really a thoughtful guy.  Remember the time he brought home the toilet paper and took Jack to the doctor?”

She made me feel so important.  So special.  So loved.  Who on earth is every going to give a tiny rat’s ass about my membership to the big box store and the lifetime supply of granola I acquired?

So I go to her grave and I talk to her.  I tell her everything.  I tell her what I’m wearing.  I tell her what I had for lunch.  I tell her about the unicorn Emily drew, and I tell her that Jack learned how to play the Star Wars theme on his trumpet.  I read her poems.  I play songs for her.

There’s a part of me that knows I’m just talking to myself, and it breaks my heart.

It makes me cry from so deep within myself, from a place that is still little and frightened, from a place that wants to stamp my foot and pound my fist against my thighs and demand that she come back her right this instant or else!

I keep thinking that any day now I’m going to feel better.

Sometimes I do feel better.  I’m not miserable.  I still find pleasure in life.

But lately everything feels so hard.  Work.  Motherhood.  Grief.  Marriage.

You may have noticed I haven’t written much lately, and when I have, it has been these morose little poems.  Ugh.  Yeah.  I’m sorry about that.

It’s like I just don’t have anything else in me.  I feel terrible for not writing more about my kids or all of the other random myriad of great stuff that goes on, but I sort of feel so drained that to sit down and write anything cohesive and thought out like I wrote two or three years ago would just be impossible.

It seems like all around me people are doing amazing stuff.  Friends are going to political events and getting involved in volunteer work.  Colleagues are reading up on the latest in clinical research and going to conferences to stay current.  People on Facebook are exercising and drinking protein shakes and hanging out in clubs.

I’m just over here like, “How the fuck do you all feel like it?”

I just want to go climb into my bed.

I want to lie still and daydream about being  a mermaid, about swimming far far away under the water and not hearing anything but the swishy splash of my own tail.

I’m so freaking tired.  It feels a monumental effort to breathe.  Everyone else is engaging in their cool hobbies and I can basically say, “Well, I managed to keep breathing all week.  It was hard and kind of painful, but I did it.  So, I’ve got that going for me.”

It’s sort of ironic that I want to duck under the water and swim away when I spend so much of my energy just trying to keep my head above water, but then I’ve always been a portrait in contradictions.

That right there would have given E. a good chuckle.

I miss E. so much, and I wish I could talk to her about this.  I wish I could tell her how tired I am and how sad, how desperately sad, every single breath feels.

But then there is the squishy pillow of my daughter’s cheek under my lips as I get up from her bed to leave her room.  I draw breath enough to whisper that I love her into her sleeping ear.  I draw another breath.  Then another.  And I know I’ll keep breathing, breath by breath, until maybe it doesn’t hurt quite as much.

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2 responses »

  1. You’re doing it, sweet lady. Even if it’s one agonizing breath at a time.

    And on a side note: get the hell out of here, you can’t write like you used to do!

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