On the outside, you might see me sitting on the couch working on my laptop. Sometimes I wear my headphones and will suddenly start singing and dancing while I work. Other times I am hunched over the Chicago Manual of Style trying to figure out how to reference something. You might see me reading a book or a magazine while I am curled up in bed. I might be making macaroni and cheese or a cup of tea. I might be on the floor in bridge pose stretching out my back. This is what you might see on the outside if you peeked in on me in the middle of the day.
This is what you would see on the surface. But what would it be like to look beyond this outer me?
As I looked through the pictures we took in Durango last weekend, I had a thought when looking at this photo of the cliff dwellings carved into the side of a mountain at Mesa Verde—looking at this photo is almost like peeking into my heart. All the emotions and memories and dreams that live in my heart live in a place like this.
When I was taking this picture, I heard someone from across the canyon call out to another person. I was amazed at the thought of how I could hear the person as though she was right next to me. I started to imagine how it would have been to call out to one another hundreds of years ago. How the seemingly quiet world of living on the side of a cliff was probably not all that quiet with thousands of people living throughout this canyon. The surface of something is never quite what it seems. I wondered about the loneliness people felt hundreds of years ago. When did these people decide to leave this place? Did somebody run back to pick up a lost belonging and turn around to find her family had left her? Only to then hear someone from across the canyon yell, “hurry up, we are just over here.”
Someone told me that the second year after you lose someone is the hardest. I remember nodding my head but thinking, “you have no idea what last year was like for me.” Today I am beginning to understand the truth of this statement. The first year you are simply trying to wrap your brain around the pain. And as humans, I think we are used to the idea that pain goes away. You break your arm, and then it heals. You fail, and then you get bounce back. So part of you is waiting for the pain to go away. But at some point, you begin to realize that this pain isn’t leaving. The person doesn’t come back. Ever. Sometimes I will just look at Jon and say, “my grandmother is totally dead.” This isn’t my sarcastic self talking. No, this is me reminding myself of the truth. I appreciate that time has a way of dulling things a bit and that she is with me and on and on and on. But I also know that my heart feels broken. And sometimes I am paralyzed for seconds at a time at the thought that this is how it will feel when I lose the next person. And then again with the next. My breath is cut off by this thought.
No one ever explained all this to me. Though I realize that maybe you can’t really understand it until you experience the loss of someone you love. Still, I wish I had even understood a tiny piece of it. Every day I am still a bit shocked about the depth of feeling I have now. How my understanding of life changed in one moment. And this isn’t melodramatic; it is just truth. My truth. Me.
At times, my heart does feel as empty and lonely as this cliff dwelling appears from across the canyon at first glance. However, I know that even through this emptiness a spirit is strong within these walls. These dwellings have been here for hundreds of years and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And even when they do crumble, the energy of the people who lived in these walls is everywhere. This is also true of my heart. Even in moments of grief I am not alone. Even when it seems as though no one knows my experience, I am not alone. The spirit of all those who came before me lives in me. The spirit of all those who are with me now lives in me. The energy that creates the future lives in me. I try to remind myself that even in the deep, wide feelings of grief, I am not alone.
And if there are moments when you don’t know what to do, you don’t know what to say, or you don’t know how to respond, remember: To really see me, is to move the outer stuff aside to take a peek across the canyon to look inside my heart. To really love me, is to call across the canyon to let me know you are there.
And I will remember that this is true with you too.