by Betsy Hicks
I could visualize the movie trailer:
Sad music plays as we fade in and see the widow trying to hold it together at the funeral while her friends offer condolences.
The widow curled up in a ball on her bed in her beautiful dress while she hears familiar voices enjoying the post-funeral gathering.
(Hmm the viewer thinks, this must be a sad movie)
Music tempo increases and becomes lively and jovial.
The widow’s friends are trying to convince her to find something that brings her joy…segueing into her purchase of a mountain bike. She then awkwardly falls directly on her side while trying to mount it.
(Nope, the viewer now thinks, it’s a comedy.)
A series of scenes follow as she pursues self-love through freeing herself from her business, packing up her belongings, and scrolling through the daily pictures on eHarmony.
But then it gets fuzzy. I don’t see my face. I don’t see his face. I just know there is this random guy, according to my psychic, that I fall in love with and we live happily ever after because that’s how all the good romantic comedies end. There are those few movies that end with the girl realizing she doesn’t need a guy to be happy (like Pocahontas), but this was my movie, dammit, and I wanted his strong arms, his loving voice, and his epic penis in my bed.
I knew that for a 90-minute movie to be decent, the writer had to sway the audience towards empathy. Let’s face it, if we don’t care about the heroine, then we don’t care about the ending, and the fastest way to create compassion is to make her look hopeless and a tad pathetic. That part I was succeeding at.
I made the firm decision to make my life-movie a comedy. Death is not usually funny, yet my husband’s passing was in the past and I could feel a great purpose waiting for me. I wasn’t living my life to entertain others or to have great material for a book. I was living it with humor solely for the reason that laughing feels good and it attracts the demographic I want in my audience.
Visualizing my unfolding life as the next obvious scene of romantic comedy allowed me to cope when I felt hopeless. I would sit and reflect about the comedy of my day. For instance, the day after Mitch (the alcoholic, bad salad dressing guy) broke up with me for his old girlfriend, it was timed rather poorly because a set of knives arrived at my office with a passionate love note attached.
“Um, Betsy, sorry to bother you, but you just got a package from Mitch,” my poor store manager gently told me.
“What?” I said confused, “But how?”
“Looks like he sent it before he knew he was going to break up with you,” he went on to say.
Sure enough, a beautiful set of knives arrived with a note expressing his love and passion.
Goddamn motherfucking knives! Could it be more apropos?
“At least you got a consolation prize,” my witty friend mentioned.
I would chuckle through the circumstances knowing it was nothing more than lightheartedness and part of the storyline.
Nights seemed endless in my memory-filled home, and I often heard the low bass, slow, depressing music accompanied by the distressed widow as she cries her way through another night on the couch and makes her way through the stack of Kleenex. This was the part of the movie that seemed like a good time to use the restroom or go buy some Raisinettes.
Four months in, I was past the coddling. Friends saw my dating as a sign that I was fine and had moved on, and in a sense, I had, but crippling grief was still very present at times. I recognized and genuinely understood, that it was natural to be sad and logically vital to allow myself to embrace the sorrow, but I wanted to delegate the task of cheering me up to someone other than me. Unfortunately, the timing was off. Right after John died, if I sent a text to anyone, they would immediately reply and offer comfort. By this time, unless I sounded very distressed, I usually got, “Let’s get together soon.” It wasn’t that they didn’t care about me; it was just now I was simply a friend with issues.
To me, grief was very lonely. It seemed ill-fitting to reach out purely to talk about my sadness. I certainly didn’t aspire to screw up their day. I had images of their phones ringing and my girlfriend rolling her eyes and saying to her husband, “Oh crap it’s Betsy again! I better take this.” While her husband pats her back and says, “You’re a good friend.”
As the shock of John’s death was beginning to feel normal to everyone else, that’s when it hit me the hardest. All of the attention I had received initially was wasted on my zombie double. She was the woman who showed up and went through the motions, but couldn’t listen or follow advice. By the time I was ready to receive encouragement, most people had moved on.
I had to take responsibility for my emotions. I recognized that I did have a choice, and the choice was how I viewed the circumstance. I could appreciate that my fate was not the result of a haphazard mistake or bestowed to me as a karmic punishment, but that it was paving the way for something greater.
I wanted to see the last scene of the movie. Where does she move to? Does she find a new career? Does she meet a great love? Does she ever manage to ride her bike without falling? Now that I felt the connection with John through both Kimber and my own intuition, I knew wholeheartedly that there was a happy ending, and rather than diving into fear, anger, or blame, I settled into impatience that during my high moments, smoothly transitioned to anticipation.
So there I sat like a member of the audience, curious and withdrawn on the couch at the end of another day munching through my popcorn and hoping that my movie will be worth the price of admission.