Something I have had to recognise as part of this new life, are the hard lows that come after brief high moments. It seems like every time I have a good weekend or happy connection with people, there is some sort of low mood and depressing inner dialogue that is almost guaranteed to follow. Sometimes it is just a brief pang, but other times it’s like a punch to the gut. It can scream at you relentlessly about everything that you used to have that is now gone. It can be brutal… But it doesn’t stop me looking for those good times, I want to find the things that bring a smile to my face, the things that do make me happy. They are the things that keep me going…. The lows are just something I need to keep in mind for my mental health.
This week I was super excited to catch up with a friend that I haven’t seen in person for ages. She lives at the Sunshine Coast, so it’s hard to see each other as often as we would like. She is a school teacher and currently on holidays so was able to come and be part of our trivia team for the evening and then spend the night at my place. We went out for breakfast the next morning and had the loveliest time catching up and talking about all kinds of things. It was so comforting having a person with me, who gets it all completely and who I don’t have to pretend with in any way. We laughed and I cried (surprise!), we talked absolute rubbish and we planned our next catch up – something I am really looking forward to but am also nervous about because she has dubbed it a “Debaucherous” event …. But when she left to head home, I crashed. I was just so very, very sad. Having those times that feel great are incredibly bittersweet because they just highlight everything that is missing for me. I want to tell Claytie all about it and have him roll his eyes at my storytelling. I wanted him to laugh at the funny bits and comfort me for the things that hurt. I just want him to be here!
So that night was a giant pity party. It didn’t help that it was also the anniversary of the first time Claytie and I met 31 years ago. The anniversary of our relationship starting – a date that is not important on anyone else’s calendar, but hugely significant to me. It was one of those nights where the tears just start and just don’t stop. Where it is physically painful to just breathe. I know those moments are important to have and to acknowledge, they are all part of learning to live this new life, but god they are hard. I had a friend call me in the middle of the tears and snot show, checking in to see how I was going and that is hard too. My immediate response is to say that I am fine, which is a complete lie – and he knows that, he is on the same rollercoaster.
We are so conditioned to be fine that it is hard to verbalise when we are not. I am very good at being the shoulder for someone else, I am happy to be that person. I am not good accepting that sometimes I need a shoulder too. People as a rule (myself included) are not great at knowing what to do when you say that you are not ok. It makes things awkward and you end up being the one to offer them comfort. It’s really hard in this case too, when there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to make me feel better, when the tears just need to happen. The one thing I want is the only thing that I can’t have. All the tears in the world aren’t going to fix that and no-one can help, but it did feel really nice to have a friend in that moment and to know that he really truly understands what it feels like as well.
II have found that it has been the same thing with dating and relationships. There have been some really lovely moments for me since I started this whole process, fun outings and nice dinners, interesting conversations about all kinds of things, and one of my very favourites just sitting on a couch together, holding hands watching movies on tv. It just feels soo lovely and normal and easy – and really hard when its time to go home, especially when it is a new relationship and you are still unsure of what (if anything) it will become. It just serves as a reminder of what you used to have.
You don’t realise how many of the little things are missing when your person is gone. Its easy to see and imagine the big things, but you forget about the million little things that are so totally ingrained in your life that you don’t notice them. The random touches as you walk past, the smell of your person, the smart-alec comments about something on tv, scrunched up socks in their shoes, the noises they make as they drift off to sleep…. They are the things that will bring you to your knees every time. They are the things that make this loneliness the biggest thing you will ever have to accept, and you don’t really have a choice but to accept it.
It’s hard, this process of acclimatising to living with grief. It is everywhere and takes up every tiny bit of space in you. It makes it hard to allow yourself happy moments without some sort of misplaced guilt. I make a conscious choice everyday to find the good things around me. I am not going to let the lows swallow me, but I have to acknowledge their existence and I have to accept that they are going to happen. The hope that I need to have, is that there will be more happy times to counteract or balance the lows, that somewhere there is a middle ground that I can live with.