The Fact Is: I am Okay.

There are times when I find my heart in someone else’s words.  When that’s the case, I don’t try to say it myself, because I just couldn’t say it better.

Meet: Brad.

Brad’s story and mine are nearly direct parallels: he lost his beautiful wife in October 2010, just weeks before I would encounter the same unbelievable heartache.  He is a single dad of two, chasing the same truths I am, fighting the same defeating lies I am.

He wrote to me shortly after Robb died, just to say, “You don’t know me, but our stories match.  And you won’t believe me, but you will survive this.  I’m two months ahead of you, and I’m still breathing.”

As I’m approaching three years on my own, Brad just passed this milestone as well. He wrote this piece, and his words are my own.  So I’m borrowing his.

(Thanks, B.)

***

I never wanted this feeling to come. I knew it would happen, but I wanted to believe it wouldn’t. Even though it doesn’t feel wrong, it sure sounds wrong. And even though I know it’s good, I want everyone to tell me it’s bad.

The fact is… I’m okay.  I’m okay that it’s been 3 years since Stephanie died.
I’m okay that I have hated so many moments since then.
I’m okay on this day — an anniversary of the most awful kind.
As I think about the future, I’m okay.
When I think about the past, I’m okay.
I’ve been through the fire, but God didn’t let me burn, and the scars are just a reminder that He heals all wounds.

But there’s a part of me that still wants it to hurt. There’s a part of me that wants to live with an open wound that gets poked and scraped in unbearable ways. It helps me to know that I haven’t forgotten her. It also makes me depend on God constantly. And frankly, it gives me something to complain about. In fact, it makes for a pretty good trump card when others are complaining about their own lives. (I can’t deny the fact that I’ve done it.)

People warned me this day would come. (Or, as they saw it, they were encouraging me that this day would come.) As I said back then, I had a love-hate relationship with time. I loved that it brought me closer to healing, but hated that it took me further from Stephanie. And even then, I could feel the healing brought by every moment that came and went.

I don’t want to be okay. But I’m glad that I am. And I doubt the day will ever come when that makes sense, let alone that I’ll be able to explain it to anyone.
So please forgive me if I’m not sure how to answer when you ask me how I’m doing. I still want to say, “This sucks! I hate it!” and burst into uncontrollable sobs. And there’s a part of my heart that will always feel that way and do exactly that. But don’t be too surprised that I can genuinely say, “I’m doing quite well, actually.”

It’s not a lie. It’s just an answer that seems brand new to me.

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It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas When I’m Sweating.

There’s a theory of ‘desensitizing,’ where a person slowly reintroduces themselves to the environment of a traumatic event, and they begin to see there’s no inherent danger, that maybe this can really be okay.

This is my plan. As much as it depends on me, I will enjoy this holiday season, the songs, the lights, the worship, the joy, the giving, and even the malls. It’s not taking me down this year. This year, I intend to celebrate. So I must start early, because if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that my heart will not be rushed.

We are two days into November, and Christmas is underway around here. I’ve tuned into Christmas playlists on the iPod, iTunes Radio, and Pandora. I have a new house that begs to be dressed from head to toe with new nail holes and hooks, and I don’t want to wait until December 15, have four million tasks I feel I ‘need’ to do, only cross off a few of them because I’m maxxed out in every way, cry for a few days while I remember how it was and how it isn’t now, and then take it all down December 27. Nope. We’re doing it big this year. Go big or go home. Let the holidays begin.

This whole idea seemed so much better last night – it was cold outside, it was nighttime (Isn’t everything more festive at nighttime?), and there was a certain charm to the post-Halloween exhale.

Today, we came home from Hobby Lobby with new stockings, a nutcracker, Santa hats (traditional for Tucker, zebra stripes for Tyler), blocks that spell Merry Christmas (even though I know some schmuck will think it’s oh-so clever and oh-so-never-thought-of to rearrange the blocks to say something nonsensical or inappropriate), two magazines filled with Christmas cookie recipes, a small tree for each of their bedrooms, and a tall and simple pre-lit tree for my writing studio.

Suddenly it was like 77 freaking degrees in my house, the sun was shining into all the windows, and I should feel encouraged by such balminess but it stole the spirit right out of all this red and green. Where are the frosty windows and chilly noses? I want to heat some wassail, not pour some lemonade. Still, I moved forward.

But I neglected to explain the desensitization process to the boys. I forgot to tell them that this ‘whole process’ isn’t happening today. I don’t have a list or a plan, and there’s no system of attack. We’re just doing this and that, the pieces that feel new and manageable to me, so none of this feels overwhelming.

We’re not trudging up all the boxes from downstairs. We are not putting up the tree in the living room. We are not putting up the tree in the family room. We are not hanging tinsel and lights. We are doing a F-E-W things.

But out they came from the Christmas closet downstairs, with more and more things to add to the process, to clutter my house, and to remind me of a dozen past Christmases.

“No. No. No! Listen to me! We have to do this at my pace. That means as slow as I need to go, and I need to go s-l-o-w-l-y. Put the tree skirts away. And the nutcrackers And the outdoor lights. No. Put it away.”

And just like that, I’m the Scrooge, even though I’m the one who decided we will extend Christmas into 1/6 of the year.

So now I’m sitting in my bedroom. It’s blasted hot in here, plus I’m agitated and sweaty from the tasks I didn’t yet want to complete. Enough for one day. Clearly.

We shall continue our pre-celebration another day. And I may or may not do it while elves are at school, so I can take my time, make my decisions, do it my way, and then let them add frosting and ornaments to top it all off.

Good grief. Merry Christmas.

Sometimes I Don’t Miss Him

Sometimes, I don’t miss Robb.

(My love, I’m sorry for that sentence. It’s just that it’s true… I don’t always. You mattered and you matter; I loved you and I love you; and there are times when I don’t miss you and – always more shocking to me – I don’t feel sorry for not missing you.)

I don’t miss him when I’m in a social scene that he would have hated, when I know he would have looked at me from across the room and subtly lowered his eyelids to tell me he was tired and would I please, please, please wrap this thing up and begin my farewell tour.

I don’t miss him when I’ve had a great date or a fun conversation or a spark of interest in a man. Not quite surprisingly, that’s not something I want to tell him about. And sometimes, when I’m looking for silver linings, I think about the unexpected gift that is mine: I get to fall in love again. The butterflies, first kiss, hours of infatuated conversation, learning someone new – the stuff dreams are made of – I might get to do it again.

Sometimes I don’t miss him. But one thing I’ll never stop missing is his friendship.

I had a safe place beside him, guaranteed mine, always open if I was willing to slow down and settle in. Whenever I needed to find my place in the world, I turned to Robb. When a friend hurt my feelings, when insecurities ran rampant and I didn’t know where I belonged, I could turn to him. My hypersocial tendencies kept me running with a full calendar, and he was always glad to have me back.

Off my computer, away from texting. Unplugged, we called it.
I could close the door against the world, and I could know just where I fit, just where I belonged – his arms around me, his chin resting on the crown of my head. I could know the one who knew me.

You know what’s crazy? It’s the book deals and endorsements and speaking engagements that are making me a little fuzzy around the edges, wishing for boundaries while I wonder how big this might get. Who knew ‘dreams come true’ bring insecurity and careful footing? Who knew that when your world doubles in size, it’s even more comforting to have an extra snug and cozy spot at the end of the day?

Robb could hold me. Contain me. I could find my own boundaries, feel grounded and safe again. I miss the gracious silence that said, ‘Hey, I know you. This is where you belong.’

And tonight I miss that friendship.

A Letter to Tripp and Tyler

Dear Tripp and Tyler,

Your comedy saved my life.

When my husband died, my world became very small. I was asleep or at Starbucks. I couldn’t bear to be in my home, yet I was terrified to leave. Nights were the worst, because the trauma replayed whether I was awake or asleep. I couldn’t get away from any of it, and I couldn’t take a deep breath.

So, I lay under my covers with my Mac, and I escaped into YouTube. That’s actually a pretty overwhelming environment, so I stuck with one safe channel. I watched Don’t Be That Guy. Shoot Christians Say. Sh*t Nobody Says. Things You Can’t Do When You’re Not in a Pool. Things You Can’t Do When You’re Not a Dog. I watched Linda, who is merely a woman, in the temple workout. And for a few minutes, I was somewhere else. My mind could rest, and I couldn’t help but laugh. And I began to breathe.

I am so honored to write these words to you, that you may store them away and know they are true. You and Tyler are more than ‘the funny guys on YouTube.’ You brought laughter into my life when every light had gone out.

Thank you for the laughter.

Tricia