The holidays. Yes, they’re extremely hard, but not in the ways I expected. My father died unexpectedly in October 2020, and that was the start of when my mind started to change. No matter how much I soothed myself, how often I tried to come to terms with his death, something in me had changed. When a parent, or when someone who has become fused into your life so definitely, is lost (through death or other means), then something inside changes. In a way, I think this is trust for life. You lose trust, lose faith that things are going to be okay, lose faith in the human-made notion that “things happen for a reason”.  The finality of death is a true shock to us human beings. All of the little things… small disagreements, behaviors of the person you lost, unsaid words, unforgiving actions from both sides… all of that comes to an end. You will never solve them, never get closure on things you, perhaps only in your subconscious, hoped would one day resolve themselves.

With my father, there were many things from my childhood that hurt me, but I’d come to terms with those and forgave him before he’d passed. My father was a difficult man, with a lot of anxiety and what I think was insecurity, but he was a good person, and he treated us well. My understanding of him was that he did the best for who he was. Of course it could have been better, but it could have been so much worse. He took us on tiny vacations, picked us up every week for fishing and lunch/dinners, celebrated every birthday and Christmas, and, especially in his older years, became very sweet and loving. I miss him terribly. I miss his texts and his over-reliance on emojis. I miss sharing random life events with him, and still get a prompt from my mind to shoot him a text whenever something fun or eventful pops up in my life. The permanence of loss, that those things are forever written in stone, complete, unevolving—that’s one of the hardest things one learns about true loss of a loved one. Their story is written. Another items I struggle with is the memories. They are all different now, as I expressed in the poem “Two Weeks”, each memory now has a disclaimer. Good memory or bad, each time I think of one, a little voice inevitably chimes in… “But he’s gone now.”

Last year when my ex and I went to look at Christmas lights, my anxiety grew to a level where I had to pull over the car. I told her I can’t do this, that it’s too hard. Not only was I thinking of my dad (who had only passed 2 months prior at that point) but the anxiety was doing a number on me. Anxiety is such a complex, conniving thing, utterly complex and devious, but it is also incredibly sophisticated. I consider myself a decently smart person, but most of the time I’m no match for how anxiety works, the web it weaves within that is knot-like and granular in its approach. This night, when anxiety was overhwhelming me, it wasn’t simply because I missed my dad. That would yield sadness for the most part, but my heart was racing, and my hands were shaking. Afterward, after a few days of thinking it over, I realized that the anxiety was there because I was supposed to be having fun. Looking at Christmas lights was supposed to be a positive experience, one to be enjoyed with my partner, a break from the sadness.

But I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t able to have fun, and further, I wasn’t able to express this to my ex, how complicated these feelings were, that I felt that I’d only disappoint because I simply couldn’t enjoy the experience at the level that was expected. In her defense, she was kind and understanding in the moment, but ultimately I can’t deny that grief played a part in the implosion of my marriage. It was too big for her, and due to the way her brain was wired, she didn’t have the patience to deal with it, and ended the marriage 10 months after my father died. But that’s not the point of this entry, if there is a point.

This year, I never expected my thoughts to be even more clouded, my life to be an even sadder place than it was one year ago, but here we are. I’ve come a long way in understanding myself, and yes, I’ve learned from the tragedy and trauma. That can be a smal commodity, and again one born mostly out of societal expectations: Good always comes from bad, everything happens for a reason, etc. I have a hard time believing those things. With the compound trauma I’ve experienced in the past two years, will I have learned about life, myself, and the behaviors of others? Most assuredly. But the thing is, I don’t think I really want to know those things, never asked to learn them, and question the benefits of knowledge vs naivety. Another phrase, one incongruent to those mentioned, is ignorance is bliss, and that’s a phrase I tend to believe in quite a bit more. I’ve been handed the most complicated riddle of my life, and my opponent on the other side of the board, is a formidable one, a shadow from which I only catch fleeting glimpses.

Time, however, will tell, and time is already beginning its glacial manner of healing. I can feel it, and after quite a bit more of its work, perhaps I’ll come to a different conclusion. Perhaps that conclusion will make me see that the true answer is not in others, but in myself. Stand alone, and stand in comfort. Time is the only thing that can rival trauma, the only thing clever enough to untie the knots that come with my level of confusion and despair. Or, if not untie it, to loosen it, to teach me the intricacies of the knot itself so that I might better understand, or at least to accept its presence. Perhaps when I achieve that feeling, that’s when I’ll begin to trust once again, both in other people, and in life itself.

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