You'd think, eventually, this one event would stop coming back to haunt me. That after four years, my life would move on and resemble something close to normal. In some ways, I suppose it does. I know how to smile. I know how to laugh, and I laugh often. I know how to take pleasure in beautiful everyday things. I know how to sit silently and allow myself to seep into a moment, to expand that silence until I lose the center of myself, and I feel a great overwhelming sense of fulfillment.
I know when to let people take priority, and when I must prioritize myself. I know that a broken heart can't heal the world. A tired mind can't cope with a new day's struggles. Grief becomes a constant process of opening and closing. Recovering and spreading out, accepting our new life, inviting friends into our hearts, relearning how to love...and then closing, cutting off, dissolving into ourselves, still trapped by those deep-seated mental structures of trauma and loss.
These days, I feel a great need to retreat from my life.
I am not healed. At times, I don't think I ever will be. I have stopped striving for it. Life continues to roll on, and grief rolls with it. Sometimes that grief is hardly noticeable. Sometimes it is a wonderful thing, rich in poetry and a solid sense of satisfaction, knowing the personal and spiritual growth that comes from it. Through years of struggle, I've come to know myself. At least where my soul is concerned, I stand on solid ground. And yet always, there is a backlash. That backward sliding motion. Yearly events trigger it. Stress at work, fights between friends, between family, small everyday details. And I realize I am far from healed. I wonder, sometimes, if I am worse off than I was at the beginning.
How can I move on from grief when the loss of my parents continues to define my life? All of my stress comes from inheriting a house I was too young to care for. Navigating a harsh world with no safety net, no loving, nurturing arms to enfold me. Working too many jobs, losing out on those soul-searching years of our twenties when we're allowed to make mistakes. I cannot choose to give up, to take a break, to redirect or reorient myself to this life. A bad decision can cost me my home, my livelihood, my honor, my sense of self. I have too much to lose. Too much I am trying to hold onto. In this sense, God grants me no reprieve. I must carry on, nose to the grindstone, rolling through this world as grief rolls through me.
If I had one parent left, it would change everything. "Well, I may not have my mother, but at least I can turn to my father. At least I can spent Christmas with him. If I am upset, I can call him on the phone." But I don't even have that. And I am still so young. Twenty-five. And four years now, this same situation has defined my life, my struggles, my achievements. I can't move on when the problem is still in the present.
Now, today, it is hard to make a decision. Any decision. I can't even finish a thought. It is difficult to entertain the future. Too many possibilities. I cannot plan, or reply, or explain. I want to shut the door on the world. I need to block it all out. Every thought splits in many directions, chains of words, rivers of logic, and the mind cannot resolve them. I fumble for threads, but can't tie it all together.
God knows how often we fall. God knows our struggles and our failures. And today, in the face of grief, I am falling. Failing. Dear reader, I promised never to lie to you. This season has been a hard one. Four years into this struggle, and I thought it would be over by now, but a cold thought arises--perhaps it will always be there. Perhaps this valley is much larger, much deeper and wider, than I ever imagined.