Thursday, September 14, 2023

Stuck in the middle with you.

 From 2016 to 2022, I exchanged hundreds of texts with my brother. Maybe thousands. Probably thousands.

 

Most were very normal. 

What time will you be here?

Are you feeling better?

I can meet you here.

 

Some were more scary. Rantings at 2am about things that I can't even begin to talk about. Hurt and fears and paranoia, spilling out into words, words, words. So much sometimes that I would look at my phone in the morning and feel a sick sense of dread, wondering how I could talk him down from this...whatever "this" was today.

 

What I wouldn't give to wake up tomorrow and have that sick sense of dread.

 

Sometimes the texts were more loving. I realized a very long time ago that things were not okay with my brother, and (some time later) I realized that I could not fix anything. You cannot love, wish, or pray away mental health issues. It's simply not possible. My decision, instead, was to just love my brother for exactly who he was. Some days I didn't know who he would be, but whatever he showed up as, I was choosing love.

 So some days my texts said, "You aren't the mistakes you've made" or "You are my favorite brother" or just "Love you".


Love you. 

Love you and love you and love you.


My therapist told me that year one after someone dies is hard and terrible and really tough, but year two was usually worse.

And okay. It's not that I didn't believe her. She's very trustworthy. It's just...year one was SO BAD. I felt SO BAD. The first day of year two was SO BAD. I was falling apart, completely. 

And then I was okay.

Kind of okay.

I mean, not really okay, but I was functioning. 

Okay, mostly I was functioning.


I have had moments of love and laughter and light in 2023 and I cherish those. So I was okay, right?

In fact, I was pretty sure I was really good at grief. Like, ADVANCED. 


(I am not proud of this. My competitiveness is embarrassing)


One day I realized it was exactly 1.5 years since my brother died and I absolutely fell apart. Weeping. Aching. My soul hurt. My actual soul.


He's not coming back.


I mean, I knew this. I have known since the day he died that I would not see him again as long as I was on this Earth. My brain comprehended this reality, but when I thought about all the years I have left to live and that he would not be a part of them, something just broke in me. Just absolutely crumbled. 


That was about a month ago.


I am surviving.


I have had a lot to do lately, as I always do. I have been, more than usual, exhausted and overwhelmed. I feel needy and like a burden. Life often feels like a slog.

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I went to my Bootcamp. It was an insane workout, ridiculously challenging. There was a modification, but I'm stubborn and competitive and I didn't even consider the mod. I'll do 100 deadlifts and then I'll do 100 more and don't tell me I can't.

After the 100 deadlifts (not kidding about that) I started to falter a little bit. I took a breath, swung my arms around, and reached for my dumbells and suddenly, on the sound system:

Well, I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mindI left my body lying somewhere in the sands of timeBut I watched the world float to the dark side of the moonI feel there's nothing I can do, yeah
I watched the world float to the dark side of the moonAfter all I knew, it had to be something to do with youI really don't mind what happens now and thenAs long as you'll be my friend at the end
If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?If I'm alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman mightKryptonite
You called me strong, you called me weakBut still your secrets, I will keepYou took for granted all the times, I never let you downYou stumbled in and bumped your headIf not for me then you'd be deadI picked you up and put you back on solid ground
If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?If I'm alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman mightKryptonite
 
He loved Superman. 
He loved me too.
I kept his secrets.
A lot of them I still keep.
 
 
I went for a long walk, and I cried.  Alone in the quiet woods, I just let the tears fall.
 
I looked down at the wet, muddy path, and a little leaf fell in front of me.
 
This leaf.

 



I had a lot of things to do last night and I came home later than I like. I was putting away all of my groceries and my sweet dog,  Macie, needed a lot of attention.

It's a dog thing, I know, but Macie needs me to watch her eat her dinner. She needs me to praise her and tell her how good she is while she eats, Her anxiety is a bit of an issue, but I overlook it mostly and give her love. Just love. Unconditional love. She's was so damaged when she got to me and I decided when she arrived that no matter what I wouldn't contribute to her pain. 

Love you and love you and love you.

I was holding my phone as I usually am, and I guess somehow I was holding down the microphone button. I said to my dog, "I'm very proud of you!" and my phone searched for that phrase.

I glanced down at my phone, and there was a text message. From my brother.

My heart stopped for just a moment. Honestly for about the first six months after he died I checked my phone constantly, certain he would text me any moment. That this was all a joke. He was just somewhere I couldn't see him, but he wasn't, and couldn't, and certainly would never be gone.

"Oh," I said out loud, and I guess I said it in a way that was very alarming because Megan rushed to me and grabbed my hand, extremely concerned.

"My brother," I said. "My brother was very proud of me."


He was.


I hope he still is.

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