by Betsy Hicks
I am not a procrastinator. If a job needs to be done, I want to get it over as fast as possible, which made grieving so damn difficult. There was no fast solution. There was no checkbox to cross off at the end of the day.
I couldn’t say, “Yep it was a productive day! I cried 12,980 tears. If I can keep up the pace, I’ll be totally over this by Christmas!”
Since there was no reward for sobbing, I wanted to abandon lamenting as my daily accomplishment, so my life became about distraction and avoidance. There is a difference, and they work as a team.
Avoidance was tiptoeing past his closet, canceling engagements, and allowing letters and emails to stack up.
“Be gentle with yourself,” friends would beckon. “Wait until you’re ready,” they wisely advised, but avoidance was hard for me without the important tool of distraction. Without distractions, I would sit hollowed with the feeling of misery or worry.
At the beginning, distraction was about binge-watching Family Guy, riding my bike, and doing anything that sounded like fun. Soon it moved into going to work and figuring out how to handle my business. It was about finding ways to occupy my mind with thoughts that had no connection with my previous life.
I am not making this statement sarcastically, but I was blessed without the luxury of having the financial means to sit in a dark room and cry. I HAD to go make money, run a business, change the lightbulbs, and take out the garbage. This kept my mind moving.
Distraction only worked in small amounts in the beginning. The first month, I could manage a 30-minute comedy show and I could enjoy company for short periods of time. Then it built up. Within a matter of weeks I was going hours without crying and just shy of two months, I had to think, “Did I cry today?” Which by the way is the stupidest question one could ask herself because the mere thought would always make me cry.
After a couple of months, I was running out of distractions. Because of my lifestyle with John, I didn’t have a lot of single girlfriends. My friends had families and as much as I loved them, young children made me nervous. An additional barrier was that I lived isolated deep in the Santa Cruz mountains. Not exactly a hotbed of fun for singles. I needed to get out of the house, especially in the evening and so I decided to date. The comedy/tragedy/suspense of that soon to be revealed story helped me move on in so many ways, but misery was never fully absent.
Often I would ignore the pain in an attempt to function socially. I would push John out of my head and release myself to the freedom of a woman whose husband didn’t just die. I was tired of myself moping around and I became exasperated constantly thinking about him.
Once I found nuggets of fun, independence, and laughter, my highs were immense because of the contrast of the lows in the previous two months, but in turn, my lows became despairing because I had tasted the joy again. In other words, I’m guessing if I had stayed in the house crying each day, not living, not exploring, not learning who I was, then I would have been in an even state of heartbreak, and crashes would not be as painful.
But that’s not living.
With events on my calendar and new friendships forming, the agonizing dips slowed down, became less frequent, and became easier to crawl out of. I never made the declaration, “I’m better now!” I didn’t achieve or accomplish an objective. I simply used the most primal instinct of all. Run away from the fire.