I have lived through hard things.
On Thanksgiving day in 1997 my then-husband told me that he didn't love me. That he'd never loved me and he wanted a divorce. I was pregnant with Jonathan and Megan. He was hugely, unforgivably cruel to me during my pregnancy. I don't know how I survived that. I don't know how I survived the ensuing months. I don't know how I continued to get out of bed every morning.
I'm weak, remember? A snowflake, a bleeding heart. I'm not made for this world. I need to grow up and toughen up. I've heard it my whole life. Endlessly. People would spat, "You're so sensitive" as though that word was a slur. As though I was a mistake, a problem, just plain wrong.
I survived. My kids survived being born super early and being medically fragile. No walls built around them. They will be 25 in a few months. 25 years old in 2023. The year that gives us another chance.
There are so many other things, big and small, we've survived. A few years ago my husband was brutally assaulted for thirty dollars and a pizza. He was not left unscathed, but he survived. Our marriage survived (and thrived, maybe coincidentally, but I'll take it). So many years ago I fulfilled a life-long dream of becoming a published author, and survived the reality of what it really means- criticism, unkindness, and jealousy. I nearly lost my love for writing, but this, this horrible, anguishing year has required me to write again. To tell the stories that hurt my heart. To tell the truth in all it's ugly, naked horror.
This year, this worst, most horrible year of my life, is coming to an end tonight.
I want to send it to the fires of Hell.
I want to hang on to it and never let it go.
Both, at the same time.
Sometimes when I think about everything that has transpired in 2022, it literally takes my breath. I've cried endless oceans of tears. I cried this very morning, listening to my Bootcamp coach explain the workout. I've cried in work meetings, silently muting my line and switching my camera off. I've had to leave stores because I'll see someone out of the corner of my eye who reminds me of Chris, or a song will come on the radio and my heart cannot abide it.
I've dreamed of him, whole and alive and okay, so many times. I've woken up, angry and sobbing and broken, because I just want one more time. I've cried in my sleep. The nightmare is the truth about how he died. The monsters are real in this story and they take your brother away.
So many times, hundreds of thousands of times, I've quietly whispered to myself, "Okay. Okay. You are okay". Over and over again, reminding myself that I am here and I'm alive and although the pain in my chest never, ever goes away, I am still above the ground and even though sometimes that's all I can be, sometimes that's enough.
A huge part of me feels like 2022 can go away and never, ever be spoken of again.
My brother took his last breath in 2022, and oh my God, I don't want to leave it behind. Every page of the calendar that turns takes him further away from me, and I can't stand how much that hurts.
We are the same age now, which is horrible and also beautiful, because he was so many things to me. He was my big brother, but now we are the same. Sometimes I cry and the scar on my forehead turns bright red. He had the same scar when he died. It's a horrible connection, but I am desperate for those connections.
He was weird and sensitive and so am I. He cared about people the way I do. He loved people the way I do. He and I were more alike than I wanted us to be.
He had demons and monsters in his brain and so do I.
He fought. I know he did. He tried so hard.
I fight too. If people knew how hard I had to fight then no one would ever call me weak or a snowflake or sensitive ever again.
I'm glad they don't know though. I'm glad that people think I'm weak and pathetic instead of knowing the truth. The truth is awful and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
I had big goals and dreams for 2022 and they didn't happen. Point blank, period. All I did was survive.
2023 holds a lot of beautiful possibilities. Jason and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in July. I will see my work friends again, after three long years. The workout classes I teach are filling up, and I love helping people find joy in moving their bodies. My children are doing well. I have the sweetest, funniest little puppy dog in the world. I have friends who care about me. There is always joy in the pain, and this year has definitely taught me that.
I can't stop this year from coming. I can't stop time. I can't bring back my sweet, funny, sensitive, broken, beautiful brother.
All I can do is keep being honest.
Keep talking about this.
Honor his memory.
Boldly and honestly say I'm not okay.
Admit these weaknesses.
Sadness my eyelids get washed often thinking about Chris. I fight the demons too. I love you
You always write so beautifully.
peace, peace, peace--Jill
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