“Nice sweater” and “ooh, I love your scarf” tossed back and forth, smiles attached , and I move on. Normally I’d stop, trade a story or two, catch up or chat for a few moments, but lately, I simply walk past.
Ghosts are in my eyes and I’m not always sure I want to expose them.
I used to wait for the obligatory “how are you?” when my answer was never just “fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” I would stand and be sincerely interested in the life of the person I was talking with.
But these days I shy away from the question itself. I walk away quickly, I no longer linger.
I know that empathy is being passed to me instead of the other way around and I’m exhausted with the effort I need to make, the gratefulness I have for the care I’m being given.
I’ve stalled trips to the restroom and avoided the cafeteria and common areas.
I do not want to have to answer the question.
In the early days of this loss, my mom had my stepdad visit her nail salon and various other places to deliver the news of Ben’s passing. She too feared the inevitable “what’s new?” Or “how are you today?” that would start every conversation with someone that knew her. So like a town crier, he brought the announcement to the masses and she could avoid the role of being the bearer of it.
I envied it.
I didn’t feel I had the luxury of this kind of preventative care. I had lost a brother, not a son(my child) so with big girl panties on; I sat in the chair to have my hair cut and shared my news as if I was breaking it to myself.
“My brother died, quite suddenly, during the Holidays. How was your Christmas?” Taking away the horror and sadness (pity) before it could even materialize.
I used to yearn for the connections to other people but right now, in this limbo of loss, I have lost my gift of words.
How are you?
I don’t know.
I don’t know how I am.
Is it too early to have happiness flood me for no reason? Or do people think I should I be past the worst part of this by now? (as evidenced by the speed at which everything happens in our lives these days. ) Is grief measured in days, months or years? Is it judged by amount of smiles or pools of tears?
All I know is that my brother is dead. Ben is never coming back and that notion crushes my soul more often than I expect. I have begun to think of days that I get out of bed, apply makeup and match my clothes as successes.
“I am LIVING!” I remind myself. “I am up and washed and dressed and that, for now, is enough.”
How are you?
I’ve taken to saying, “I have good days and bad days. Today…is a not a bad day.”