Waves and Radiation

I’ve been waiting days to talk to my hubby about gravitational waves.  This past Sunday I woke him up jabbering about it, trying to understand it, hoping that if I repeated what I’d heard and read on NPR, it would make sense in my elementary-school-level-science brain.  I don’t pretend to have a scientific mind at all, but the idea of gravitational waves had me fascinated at 8:00am on a Sunday.  My husband mumbled something about wanting to go back to sleep and asked if we could please talk about it later when he’s fully awake.

That was days ago.

Time for scientific discussions is hard to find for two working adults with a 2-year-old tornado of a toddler.  Our conversations are brief and mostly revolve around his care.  The rest are delegated toward our other responsibilities.  Having a conversation about something as huge and as trite as gravitational waves seems like a luxury reserved for a date night, to be savored slowly like a gourmet decadent chocolate dessert.

As it was, we finally discussed it in between bedtime and our latest Hulu binge-watch session of Parks and Rec, during the washing of the dishes.

Lest you think this post is an attempt on my part to spout some kind of science lesson on a blog that is mostly about wrestling with loss, allow me to set your mind at ease.

Because in the middle of our discussion, in which we played the parts of two excited children sharing what we think we possibly understood about Einstein’s theory, my brain went elsewhere to my own black hole that is tearing a cosmic gash in the fabric of my universe.

Days pass and I stay busy.  So very busy.  I’m trying to reach some new goals in between reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and emphasizing the importance of learning shapes and colors to my dear sweet son.  I also have a job and friends and I don’t let myself think about grief and sadness because it slows me down at best, or stops me for days at worst.  It’s always there.  I just try not to get too close to it.  I stay on the outskirts, finding meaning and purpose and making sense of it from a safe distance.

Until something changes.  A hiccup, a trigger, or a series of choices all at once.  I find myself asking why.

Why am I here.  Doing this thing.

It could be anything.  Literally any stupid little thing, as insignificant as lingering outside for a moment to feel the breeze.  This time, it was something I had read about being a fan of a band.

I had written something similar myself a year and a half ago, but then I found myself reading someone else’s perspective, and I started thinking about it again in the background of my mind.  I even had a dream about it.  For days, I just thought about these gravitational waves and fangirling over a stupid band, and in my reality and my here-and-now, both seemed rather foolish from the perspective of a work-from-home mom who can’t even find 5 minutes to have a conversation with her husband that isn’t about Sesame Street.  Who gives a care about some band? I asked myself.

Oh, that’s right.  I do.  I did.  And it has become sort of a joke now, I guess, amongst my friends, in the way that when your friends know something about you, they use it to rib you.  And I usually just roll my eyes and roll with it, because I know I’ve set myself up.

But sometimes, in the harsh light of day, it’s a little embarrassing.  From a certain perspective, while harmless, it’s still foolishness.  And sometimes I think perhaps I’ve made myself into a spectacle, and I’m tempted to set the whole thing on fire and burn the fangirling to the ground.

Why am I here?

Why do any of us do anything?  We are made up of a million choices, the result of millions of decisions.  More if you want to go even further back.

But for me, everything about who I am now is orbiting around a single event in my universe, the waves of which I still feel and affect everything I do.

And as the spiral grows tighter, and my subconscious draws closer to the reason for my reasons, there at the heart of this orbit, pulling everything into a giant vacuum, is a quiet dark room with three people in it, and two of them are dying.  One of them is already dead.

It was almost 5 years ago, but it’s happening now.  It’s always there.  I just try not to get too close to it.  I stay on the outskirts, finding meaning and purpose and making sense of it from a safe distance.  Black holes spell death for celestial bodies.  At any moment, I risk getting pulled into oblivion.

But I choose not to let it define me, and by doing so I have relieved some of its power.  A universe expanding, I am constantly creating and building in all directions – even if some of them seem foolish.  It’s a blip on the radar, a moment in time, a band or a breeze.  It’s why I am here, but it’s not who I am.

I hope one day soon I will finally be at peace with all of this.  For now, I just try to avoid feeling alone at all costs.  I know I am not – I know there are some out there who are living with their own black hole, some of whom may even be reading these words – but truthfully, more often than not, the feeling of being alone pursues and haunts me, and it’s terrifying.

For now, I just try to take a moment to reflect on things like gravitational waves.  Sometimes they are long and loud and sometimes they are ripples, but still felt, and if you look closely, you can see them in eyes, across faces, between the lines and beneath the surface, as we delicately balance destruction with expanding hope at the speed of light.

 

 

Lights and Strength

The darkest stretches of this journey have been punctuated by bright beacons of light.  They offer a warmly comforting glow.  Sometimes they illuminate a place where I can rest my heart, such as the listening ear of a compassionate friend.  Sometimes they are as blinding as the stage lights at a concert, a sacred space where music heals and lightens the burdens I carry.  But eventually, time marches on and they start to dim until they are nothing but the smoky remnants of an extinguished flame.  Then it’s time for me to march on, too.

It’s good to reflect on how far we’ve come.  Where our journey has taken us.  Having made it this far is proof we can make it through another day, another week, another month, another year.

Last night I sat down with some friends to talk about how I’m doing.  And as I openly shared my honest truth – that I’m surviving fabulously and even happy, but always struggling – I realized how strong I really am.  The word “strong” gets thrown around a lot, and its meaning is fluid.  For people (like me) who feel like they’re constantly scraping the bottom of their barrel, “strong” is never a word we would use to describe ourselves.  Truly, by tomorrow I might not feel strong at all.

But when I look back at the mountains I’ve climbed, and the person I used to be, I see nothing but strength.

As I proudly showed pictures of Wesley, and told them my son’s short life and how beautiful he was, the old me still inside beneath layers of change was shocked into silence.  This is the way it goes any time I decide to have courage and be bold, which, in the last few years, has been happening more often with less clumsiness, and more confidence.  It feels good to be at peace with myself, with who I am and what has happened to me.  For me, I have found that peace is synonymous with healing.  It doesn’t mean I hurt less.  If anything, it means I have learned to lean in to the hurt, to feel the pain and still have inner peace at the center of my core being.

There, in the center of my heart of hearts, is where I carry my own light.  And the same grief that tore me to pieces has somehow stitched me up with a gold and glistening thread of divine quality, a material that is nearly unbreakable in a physical way and indestructible in a spiritual one.

This is what it means to be strong, and this is what I find when I look in the mirror of grief and loss.  This shiny material is stitched through my whole being, and made me capable of doing things I thought I couldn’t do.

Never is this most clearly manifested in my sudden and surprising desire and ability to help others dealing with loss, specifically infant loss.  Once unable to even discuss my own feelings, now I help others process their own.  And as I’ve been able to do this, I find myself wanting to go beyond the people that I know personally and lead a group in some way, the details of which I am still exploring.  Regardless, this strength to help others is what drives me to offer help in any way I can, to anyone who needs it, and I am excited to explore this new facet of Who I’ve Become.

Instead of dreading another year without Wesley, I’m stretching forward to the coming days and months where I can use the lessons his absence has taught me to be a source of encouragement and strength to others, to be a good friend and a great mom and a pillar of faith in my community.  That’s not to say I won’t fail, but I hope the time between falling down and getting back up is less, and that the fall is softened by being kinder to myself with a more accurate assessment of my worth.

That’s the beauty of the journey, that we can look back and see how far we’ve come and see our worth stretched over miles and miles of darkness, an immeasurable brilliance that burns long after the lights go out.

So as I carve another notch for another year on this road, I tell myself I’m one year stronger, one year wiser, one year closer to the finish line.  If you told me at the beginning I would have come this far, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the part of the journey that is my reality now.  But that’s not really the point.  Sometimes the destination we have in our mind is blurry, unfocused, unrealized.  But we keep moving anyway.  We may struggle to cover a few inches on some days, while other days we can run miles, but any distance is good enough.  Any distance is evidence of the strength we already have.  The strength is in the struggle.

While I don’t really have any concrete goals for 2016 (other than The Same Goal I’ve Had Forever, aka ‘finish your book’), my plans for this year are more abstract and forgiving and less to do with me at all.  Help others.  Listen more.  Show hospitality.  Practice gratitude.  Be empathetic.  Show compassion.  Be courageous on behalf of someone else.

After all, no one will remember whether or not I lost X amount of pounds, or climbed Mt. Everest, or finally learned how to fold a fitted a sheet.

But people will always remember how you treat them.  Long after you are gone, your light still shines within them.

IMG_0860

The Darkened Shroud and The Bean Trees

A few months ago, a friend recommended a book to me called “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver.  After sitting untouched on the shelf for a month, my husband found it in a half-hearted search for something to read.  He blazed through it during our recent beach vacation, and then lent it to his mom, who also read it.  Suddenly the two of them were engaged in a secret discussion, and then invited me to share in the family book club so I could weigh in with my thoughts, too.

While not intended to be a review, this book catches one in a subtle trap of simple words and old fashioned Kentucky slang.  The story is warm yet heartbreaking, and perhaps no one realized just how much I would get lost in the warm glow of a “Southern tale taken West.”  Neither did anyone realize how much I would identify with Esperanza.

She’s a side character with very little dialogue, and throughout most of the story, the reader feels indifferent toward her, then irritated, even frustrated, until her pitiable state is revealed: her very young daughter was kidnapped in their home country of Guatemala, and she has no way of ever finding out her fate.  She takes on the role of a bereaved mother in extreme grief – panic attacks, PTSD, even attempted suicide, until finally the reader is left to believe she finally “freed” herself and found resolution through a turn of events involving the daughter of the main character, Taylor.

When I finished the book and thought I had finished crying, I found my husband in the kitchen one lazy Saturday morning.  We talked about the story, the significance of the “bean trees,” the Kentucky slang, and the characters that strangely reminded us of people we knew in real life.

“I saw myself in Esperanza,” I confessed.

“Yeah,” my husband said sadly.  “I did, too.”

This bothered me so much, I could hardly talk about the book anymore.

While this was a work of fiction, my reality is not a book I can close and put back on the shelf.  The panic attacks I have are real.  They are debilitating, and frustrating to those around me.  I’m the character in the story with all the burdens of baggage, from PTSD to social anxiety to just plain social awkwardness.  And while I’m glad to be alive, honestly there were times I wished I wasn’t.  Nobody should have to feel pain like this.  It’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  An incredibly lonely, isolating, darkened shroud.  An abyss.  A life in ruins.

But I don’t want to be a side character.  I want to be the protagonist.  I want to be the hero.

Some days it feels like a conscious choice, and on other days it feels like an impossible dream.  Lately it feels like loss defines me, written like a bio with my picture attached.  I’m tired of sympathy and pity, but I want do want support and encouragement.  I don’t want the rest of my life to already be buried in a grave.

So I rise up.  I fill my life with good things.  I chase every twinge of happiness, down to small whimsies.  I wrestle with self-pity and defeat it with helping others and showing support to those who are also trying to grow despite harsh conditions.  If nothing else, this darkened shroud is the place I go when I am called to show empathy, and thus it has become more sacred than ever.

Yet I still feel like I have to apologize for the way I stumble through the days, broken and tired and weeping and angry and bitter and haunted . . . and a mess.  “Sorry,” I think to myself in a self-conscious moment after I’ve done something incredibly vulnerable, “I’m just dealing with an unspeakable tragedy is all.”

But I think the most important lesson I’ve learned in the now almost four years, is that I must be patient and kind with myself.  I’m not a character, and this is not a story.  This is my reality, and as painfully harsh as it may seem, I’ve still got growing to do.

And if you’re here because you’re a survivor, or even a spectator, your presence is appreciated.  In the dark abyss of grief, every person with an open heart is like a light.

As long as there is light, I know I will never lose my way.

IMG_1043

This Gratitude

Life is so busy now, writing has become a lot like the friends I think about often but with whom I never get to spend time, lingering like you do when the connection is so strong you don’t actually want to leave.  I can’t linger in creativity like I used to, when there are deadlines and turn-around time at work, and naptimes that seem to shorten in duration every day.

Music is played in the background like an afterthought, not for studious consideration in the days before Toddler Life.  It’s hard to focus on the meaning of a lyric or a chorus when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder and making sure your kid doesn’t hurt himself while he moves dining room furniture around.

The cognitive awareness of his needs and anticipating his next move is so mentally draining, by the end of the day I have little energy for anything other than mindlessly checking Facebook status updates and scrolling through pictures on Instagram.  Writing stuff down – as much as I love engaging in the wordplay and emotional connection through art – just seems like another task.

But I’m not complaining.  I love this life, and if it means never writing another word, I will be okay.  Of course, nobody is asking that of me, but that’s just how much I enjoy what I do.  Being a mom trumps everything.  It’s an honor and a gift not afforded to just anyone.

I don’t go to shows like I used to, nor do I have the time for diligent attention to a certain beloved band’s activities, but the love that I have for music has been transferred and repotted like a houseplant I love to nurture.  Only now can I share it with the little person in my life who demands all my time and attention.  “Let’s enjoy this together,” I think, and I will put on music.  Let’s dance and learn to sing.  Let’s learn some new words and learn the lyrics.  Let’s nurture this love of music, because it is very well in your DNA – not just from me, but from generations before me and your dad – your grandparents, your great-grandparents, and so on.  This is your heritage only we can show you, so let’s start with the music I love and grow from there.

For reasons only he knows, the Airborne song “Missy” has been on repeat in our house.  Except, when he asks for it by name, it’s “Mimi.”  He likes the elongated notes of the lyrics “Just as long as I’m never aloooooone” and “I’d follow you even if it was wrooooonnng” and has started cutting his teeth literally and figuratively on those notes, attempting to sing them on key.  He loves the portion of the song from the All I Ever Wanted DVD with the girls’ choir singing along, and he lights up when Dad plays the song on the guitar for him and we all join in.

Of course, this isn’t the only song he likes, or the last (“Hey Jude” is another favorite, the ‘nah-nah-nahs’  being solidly in his vocabulary), but this song and this band, this is a love that we share together, as mother and son, and family.

Today he asked for “Mimi” just like he does every day, so I put on the DVD and we watched it together until he started rubbing his eyes.  I scooped him up and put him to bed, letting the DVD play with no audience until I returned to the living room to turn it off.  I have seen this show and this band now dozens of times, and these songs are as familiar to me like folk songs in the country of my heart, but I sat down anyway and watched for a moment since the need for me to look over my shoulder was sleeping soundly in the other room.

That pause in a parent’s life, when the dust settles for a moment and you can see the hands in front of you and your plans in the distance, as well as the life you’ve left behind, all came into focus in that moment watching Anna pull the bow across her viola during “This Losing.”

For as often as I’ve heard this song, the goosebumps still rise with the memories right behind them at the surface, of where I was four years ago when these songs were playing in the background like an afterthought.  When I was pregnant and living a distracted life, and expecting it to turn out differently.  Inside my body was a little person developing hair and teeth, limbs and hands, feet and fingers.  And ears.  In the background of my life, I was hearing this music, and so was he.  And though our time together was so excruciatingly brief, we, too, had shared this music together.  Mother and son.  Family.

I have a couple painful anniversaries on the horizon this summer.  Birth and death, and the heartbreak and pain that surrounds them as thick as fog.  But intertwined in these memorials are anniversaries of first shows and concerts, first-time meetings of band members who had no idea their kindness meant so much, and all the love and compassion and connection I’ve received through music.  Of going on and living a life with purpose, and now sharing that life and music with someone else.  I couldn’t be more grateful.  And it’s that gratitude that pulls me through the pain, like a bow on strings.

something i lost

I miss the little boy who would be here now.

I hate the memories I have surrounding his death.

But they are intertwined with the memories surrounding his birth.

So I clutch them like shards of glass.  They cut me open and make me bleed, but I cannot let them go.

I still feel the bitterness of Loss.  The loss of friends, relationships, laughter, and the person I used to be . . . all the things I lost when my baby died.

The weight of the loss is immeasurable.  “Losing a child” is a euphemism, a cop-out.  I lost an entire lifetime of memories.  I lost the rest of my life as I knew it when I was still pregnant.  I lost my innocence, my childlike joy.

In some ways, I feel as if I’ve lost my sanity.  I don’t try for a “normal” life anymore, and I have given up on ever feeling “normal.”  Nice-crazy is now what I hope to achieve.  I’m broken and strange, and a stranger to myself, but I can still be nice, and I hope that the language of kindness that I speak is enough to make up for what is lost in translation.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.  But it’s all I can offer right now.

I love this losing and this loss as much as I hate it, and I hope that someday the love will win the war over the hate.  But each day is a battle, and sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose.  Today I am losing.

On days like these, I sit by the side of the road on my journey of grief, and I wait for tomorrow.

I miss him, but I love the feeling of missing him, because it’s the same as loving him, and it’s that inextinguishable love as a mother that I know I will never, ever lose.

IMG_5546

 

I Carry You With Me Wherever I Go

Wesley and I in 2011.

with Wesley in 2011

I carry you with me wherever I go.

You’re the kind words I speak.  When I’m called upon to assist others, you’re the gentle tone I use.  You taught me how to use words softly, to build up and strengthen those who are small, and those who feel small.  You yourself were small, just a little bigger than my hand.  You taught me how to be gentle.

You’re the compassion I feel.  When I see others struggle with pain, disappointment, fear, death, sickness, or other problems, you’re my reason for offering to help.  You showed me a love greater than myself – the depths of which regularly become filled with love and concern for others.  You’re the place I go when I need to remember what it feels like.  You taught me how to have empathy.

You’re the courage I possess.  When I’m scared of the future, or when the fear of death creeps upon me, you make me feel brave, because you were brave.  You faced the unthinkable, but you still fought with everything you had.  And even though you succumbed, you bravely passed away.  You taught me how to be fearless.

You’re the faith in my heart.  When I have my doubts, the Hope of seeing you again is undeniable.  The knowledge of your condition in a sleeplike state is of great comfort to me.  I know you are not somewhere missing me, and neither are you gone forever.  You are simply waiting to wake up.  You are the reason I want to be there when you do.  You taught me how to have integrity.

You’re the love in everything I do.  When I’m holding your baby brother, there you are.  You are the soft caresses on a sleepy little head, and the kisses on little cheeks in the morning.  You are the patience in helping with first words, first steps, and all the accidents and messes that have been and are yet to come.  You are the love that shines through it all.  You are teaching me how to be a mother.

Of everyone I have ever met, it was the greatest privilege to have met you.

You have made me so much better than I would have been without you.

So I carry you with me wherever I go.

And when we meet again, I will be the very best person I could ever be.  The very best mother for you.

The Graveyard Near My House

I don’t enjoy singing in public.  Generally, I don’t enjoy anything that precipitates an anxiety attack.  Singing is like reading one’s words aloud as one writes them, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in front of an audience of one or one thousand – it makes me physically ill.  My throat closes, my chest tightens, and I gasp for air as if I am being suffocated.  I guess you would call it “stage fright,” though what frightens me the most is the way singing exposes a person’s soul to interpretation and criticism.

However, there was a time when I wasn’t so concerned with exposure.  As a child, I loved being onstage.  The spotlight felt warm, familiar, and blinding, like the sun at the beach.  In school I auditioned for the starring role in every production.  I joined chorus and involved myself in extracurricular activities related to theater and music.  One teacher told my mother that I was either going to be an actress or a writer, and both careers had her scared to death because probably neither would allow me to support myself financially.  But I had a passion for the stage and the pen that has transcended to adulthood.

After high school, I pursued a more reasonable career path, but turned singing into a hobby.  I paid for singing lessons and enjoyed learning how to train and strengthen my voice.  My instructor encouraged me to get involved with community theater, confident that I had both talent and skill, and I honestly felt her disappointment when my other goals and pursuits did not line up with the stage.  Eventually, I quit the lessons and life took over – marriage, moving, and the mundane day-to-day activities that left very little time for hobbies like singing or writing.

Since he was a 16-year-old bass player in a garage band, Hubby has been trying to get me to record something with him.  He doesn’t sing much, but he loves music, and playing the guitar is more than just a hobby for him – it’s a talent in his family that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Over the years we have acquired some equipment and practiced here and there, but the majority of time has been spent talking about it and never actually doing anything.  Other than a couple inebriated karaoke sessions at our local taco joint, my singing career – I mean hobby – had become stagnant.

Then when Wesley died, it was over.

Like so many things I used to enjoy, singing was something I thought I could no longer do.  Unlike mindless humming or the repetition of words in a song on the radio, real singing – the soul-exposing, heart-revealing expression of melodies that come from deep within – was an impossibility for a long time.

Likewise, and most disturbingly of all, Hubby stopped playing the guitar altogether.  He refused to even pick it up.  At one time, he even considered selling it, because even though it was my graduation gift to him, it became a sore sight in the living room.  Grief will do that to a person, and it is non-discriminatory.  Grief doesn’t care that you are a 4th+ generation musician.  It will blow the skill right out of your brain, and then beat you with it.

On the flip side, grief can also be harnessed and used to create art.  But this doesn’t always happen automatically or immediately.

It was during that terrible dark year following Wesley’s death and my miscarriage that I “discovered” The Airborne Toxic Event, and the song “The Graveyard Near The House” hit very, very close to home.  It felt like one of the many conversations we were having during those horrible months of accepting our reality and reeling from the nightmarish truth that our lives could end at any time, and what would happen then?

It is a love song for the realists, a fact which makes it quite possibly the most romantic song of them all.

It is also known to make me weep shamelessly at concerts.  Or in the privacy of my own home, when no one is around.  I have heard it literally thousands of times, and there are moments still when a certain line or note will hit me right between the ribs where I think I’ve so cleverly hidden and buried my fears, only to discover they are collecting at the surface, seeping and festering on an open wound.

When we finally reached the point of desperation readiness to start trying for another baby, we began filling the great abysmal unknown with negative pregnancy tests and the last pieces of what were once hopes and dreams.  We started having conversations about adoption, or selling everything and buying a couple motorcycles and never walking through the baby aisle of a department store ever again.

Infertility is a grief of its own, a vacuum of despair and humiliation that steals a person’s humanity.

We were already humbled within an inch of our lives when our son died.  Then came the miscarriage, and now I was having trouble getting pregnant a third time.  Meanwhile, our friends were having babies left and right, as we were slowly going insane.

So one day in the spring of 2013, I snapped.

“I want you to play me a song,” I told Hubby, and I handed him the guitar I got him when we were 18.

“No,” he said, pushing it away.  “I’m probably going to sell it, anyway.”

I bit my lip, ignoring the hurt I felt that he would sell his graduation present.  But this wasn’t personal – this was grief.  And like all issues I feel strongly about, I continued to push it until he finally relented.  I mean agreed.

“Just think of it as an art project,” I told him.  “Let’s use all that equipment we paid good money for.”

And then I pulled out the big guns.  “You always said you wanted to make music with me.”

Hubby can’t resist a challenge.

First, Hubby had to learn the song by watching live performances of “Graveyard” on YouTube.  This took him less than an hour.  Then we had practice sessions in our living room for a couple of weeks.  Lastly, he cleaned the dust off his effects pedal and microphone and we set a date to record it live.

We talked about various locations around town where we could film it, but nothing seemed feasible without an electrical outlet.  We had to think smaller.

Our filming date coincided with his parents’ camping trip, so out of convenience our location was chosen for us – the back deck of his parents’ house that overlooks the woods.  It’s a picturesque little backyard in the springtime, and it also afforded us the use of electricity and unlimited trips to the refrigerator, which ended up being a necessity.  We were unprepared for the amount of time this was going to take.

Hubby began setting up for the shoot, and then it hit me, what we were about to do.

I had baited him with talk of putting it on Facebook and YouTube without really considering my proposal: that other people would see it.  I was throwing myself under the bus to get my husband to play the guitar again, because one of us losing ourselves in this fight to survive was enough, but both of us was unacceptable.  And also I had gone a little bit insane.

But in a moment of clarity before the camera started rolling, I panicked as if I was stepping onstage.  It didn’t matter that the audience was an as yet undetermined amount of people – someone was guaranteed to see it, even if it was just my mother-in-law.  And in the months and years since Wesley, my social anxiety has grown into an out-of-control wildfire that threatens to consume me into staying inside and being a hermit for the rest of my days.

Nevertheless, I was fed up with life.  I had all but given up.  What difference would it make, really, if I put a stupid video of me making a fool out of myself on the Internet?  Even if it was truly awful, no one could have made me feel worse about myself than I already felt.

Besides, if nothing else, Hubby can play the guitar, and he looks good playing the guitar.  So it couldn’t be all bad.  Could it?

We spent hours doing take after take.  A dog would start barking, and we would have to stop.  A plane would fly overhead, and ruin our audio.  And I kept having waves of anxiety that threatened to steal my breath and voice and made my skin tingle.  The left side of my face eventually went numb.  But we kept going until we finally hit our stride and got a decent take.

The sun was setting on our way home.  A full day of playing the guitar and singing, to make up for the years of silence in our marriage where there should have been music.

Hubby spent a week editing the video. I suggested we add a black-and-white filter, as a tribute to the band’s video. I watched it one time, all the while resisting the urge to criticize myself out of existence.  Again, what did it matter?  I was already becoming a ghost in my own life, wasting away from grief and desperation.  Who really gives a crap, anyway?  Not me.

I declared it “not terrible” and we put it online.  And then I tried to forget about it, like I do everything that requires some kind of soul-exposure.  Even blogging.  Even this blog post. 

Over time, I’ve tried not to think about it. I never watched it again, and I refuse to listen to the audio recording. I can’t take it, and I can’t even really explain why. I think it has something to do with the fear of my own severe, harsh, and sometimes unfounded criticism that I only use on myself being realized, and then I will truly never sing or write or do anything creative ever again. And it doesn’t matter that a few people saw it and actually liked it, or were inspired by it to do something creative themselves, or were just glad we had done something that didn’t involve sobbing over our pain. If I were to watch it again, it’s like singing in public, except it was a year and a half ago, but the anxiety is still hanging around.

The only reason I started thinking about it again was because Hubby was tagged by some of his old band mates in some viral social medial survey in which they requested to know his Top Favorite 20 Songs Of All Time. Amongst other respectable choices, there was “The Graveyard Near The House.”

“Really?” I said. “‘Graveyard’ made the cut?” Because I’m surprised when Hubby mentions in any capacity the band that has taken over his wife, and is sometimes met with affection, other times with annoyance. I always forget that he was the one who introduced me to them, not the other way around.

“Yes, of course ‘Graveyard,'” he replied like I should have known better. “Those are just some of the best lyrics ever written.”

And then out of the blue, I suddenly remembered I sung that song in the public forum that is YouTube.

“Hey, remember when we did our ‘Graveyard’ video?”

“Yes.”

I paused to remember the person I was in that video – that desperate, grieving shell of a person.

“Why did we do that?”

Now it was Hubby’s turn to pause. He thought for a moment and then simply said, “Because we had to.”

He is right. We had to. We had to do something. Even if it was just a makeshift, homespun little music video covering an obscure song that isn’t even on the radio. Even if no one will watch it, or think it is anything great, or even if they think it’s awful. We had to do it. Whether it’s because we were at the very end of our rope emotionally, mentally, and physically and we just had to put something out there into the void . . . or we risked losing the last of the charred remains of an empire that was our past selves if we didn’t cultivate and nurture our creative roots. We had to do it.

And it had to be this song, because there isn’t another love song for realists out there – the people who openly discuss the devastation and downright absurdity of death in the same breath they acknowledge that love is worth it, no matter the outcome. Win, lose, or die . . . in the end, it’s better to love, whether the person is your spouse, the unborn children you’re hoping for, or the dead child you miss so much it hurts. This is our soul-exposing, heart-revealing truth. In the end, love wins.

Since then, Hubby has picked up the guitar more, and has even written his own songs. We even learned a few more Airborne songs, and other songs that were fun to play.

It’s a slow process of rebuilding the people like the ones we used to be. And although I will probably never sing onstage in public again, it’s nice to know that the soul-exposing, heart-revealing person I used to be is not completely gone forever, and might be salvageable after all.

Here is our video. It’s not anything special. It’s probably not even really that great. But we had to do it.