Statue of Limitations

A statue that represents my state of mind (and my hometown, too: Philadelphia).

It’s been a wild and wandering year, jam-packed with days of… something. I mean, I know I was doing *something* most of the last 365 days. But mostly I feel as if I were frozen in time, while the calendar pages whizzed off the wall one at a time like they do in old black-and-white movies.

Yes, I was grieving; yes, we all hear how that sounds like standing in a thick, dark pudding, while you flail your arms about, pretending that everything’s fine. Turns out that’s true, actually. So I suppose that up to 50 percent of my time could have been simply being in the black pudding and not even realizing it. It’s been shocking to me to see how many of the echoes of loss are purely internal; once I got past the six-month mark and was through most of the crying, I realized that grief was collecting in places in my body without even knowing it. And then some trigger event would happen—the impulse to call my parents on a Sunday night, or a new wave of panic about the open-endedness of my life—and I would finally descend into the tears and drop to my knees. And after that? Always felt better.

I am not sure if I will ever be good at experiencing my bad feelings as they happen; I have a finely tuned system for shunting terror and fear to the background before they actually even touch my conscious mind, which makes me a good friend to have if we were, say, in a war together or something. But it’s not really that great for daily life. As part of my aging process, I’m trying to realize life isn’t a war, nor is it a series of battles. It’s a collection of loosely related and random experiences strung together in some haphazard, accidental way, until our consciousness descends upon it and makes up a story about ourselves, our luck, our talents, our destiny. And this time, I’m trying to let my story carry me, instead of my writing it and then grinding myself down to make destiny unfold and bend to my will.

So it’s been a year, and I’m between the one-year anniversaries of my my father and mother’s deaths—June 2 and July 8, respectively; thank you for asking—and wondering when the statute of limitations on having my life turn inside out expires. Because I feel stuck, even though I know I haven’t been in one place (the writing I’ve done, the friends I’ve seen, the canoe trips I’ve taken, the meals I’ve cooked, they all count!). It’s like I’m a Statue of Limitations, standing here still holding a torch for the years in my life when I engaged in the delicious fantasy that I had it all figured out.

But there are no limitations to this open-ended inquiry, except those I put on it. So every day, I try to reframe this floating, undefined period in my life in more concrete terms: I’m trying to stay open, let my heart seek out options, let my brain make plans in 6 or 7 directions, and try to directly face my fears so they get smaller in size (fears always do that when you stare directly at them) and therefore can’t affect my decisions. And, above, all, I’m trying to gently teach myself to feel safe even when I don’t know where I’ll be living in a year, what I’ll be doing for a living, where my son will be going to school, whether my boyfriend and I will still be together, whether I’ll start that next book, start running again, start being comfortable in this place of flux where so many more of us are living these days.

All the decisions that lay in front of me aren’t any clearer than they were a year ago, but over the last two months, my sense of purpose has slowly returned, a warm glow somewhere in my chest that reminds me that the “me” in me is always safe and present and is simply waiting for my attention. I’m trying to use that glow as my guiding light, and not the torch of certainty I used to carry. I’m not sure of much, but I’m (pretty) sure that will lead me where I’m supposed to be next.

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses: a divorce and house disaster that led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece); a week after the book came out, my parents suddenly fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and, apparently, my career), my son went into crisis, my parents then rapidly died four weeks apart, and my boyfriend (who had moved in with me and my son just weeks before the book came out) began the painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolded on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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8 Responses to Statue of Limitations

  1. Lindsey says:

    The challenge of feeling safe in the flux and in the depths of uncertainty is very familiar to me … for years I’d lost touch with that glow, too, that “me” deep inside me. In fact it’s only been in the last couple of years that I think I’ve even realized I didn’t even KNOW her … and finding my way back there has been quite a road. That sounds so abstract and weird, but it’s also true. I’m so glad to have found your blog. xoxo

  2. Cathy says:

    I popped over here courtesy of Lindsey (@lemead). I know grief – I lost my mom almost 10 years ago and pretty much lost my dad at the same time. He’s here, but not here at the same time. More recently I lost my Uncle who’s been my only local relative for the past 20 years. I call it running in mud. I have no idea how I manage but I do – I just put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, one minute at a time. Who knows where I’ll end up but getting through each day is a start.

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. A year is a very short period of time. I still miss my mom, at times very intensely.

  3. Al Bacon says:

    I think sometimes we feel the loss of power, the drain on our emotions, and we forget that we still have all that we have learned, or not learned, to give us that strength to carry on. Too often too many of us use soft romantic music to comfort us in moments of sadness when instead we should be listening to “I will survive!”

  4. Pamela says:

    Hi,

    I came here because of Lindsey’s Twitter feed. I had no idea you were the author of THAT FABULOUS BOOK I LOVED SO MUCH!!! Jeez.

    I too never experience bad feelings as they happen. I always “feel fine” and then notice that I just ate 5 brownies. I have such a hard time with open-ended feelings. I just want to know when they’re going to end. That’s all.

    Thank you for sharing this and being so honest. You have had so much to deal with, it’s a wonder you are even functioning, much less writing beautiful, inspiring posts!

    • stacy says:

      So glad you loved my book. It always helps to hear the book was “real” ’cause it kind of got swallowed up in all that happened with my family. Oh, and I’m in the 5-brownies camp with you. ; )

  5. Another really lovely, moving post, Stacy. I wish I didn’t know where you were coming from; but unfortunately, I know all too well the many emotions / states you have described so beautifully. I love how this piece flows, somewhat free-form but still going somewhere definite, just in its own way. Like your life right now.

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