What’s Left Behind

So I’m settling into this amazing new life I made for myself. And, truly, I do wake up every day and come home from work in the evenings on the days I go into the city and think, “Oh my god, I pulled it off! I’m so overwhelmed with joy.” Well actually, I don’tthink that last part; I feel it—which is the point. Live a little less in the running dialogue in my head; live a little more in my body and out in the world. Participate in this thing called life by just being, seeing, feeling.

But in the calm that has taken over the space where my simmering unhappiness lived, I can hear something else.

My fury.

Now, three entire years plus ten whole months after my life started to flip itself upside down, now I feel the anger. More than three years since my parents disappeared and died in a way so confusing, fast and horrible that I still can’t really see it clearly. More than three years since I had to walk away from a job that I loved so, so much. More than three years since the entire media business started to turn inside out, erasing any sense of job security, in any job, as a possibility. More than three years since my boyfriend moved in and everything went wrong and our beautiful relationship turned into a long, painful waiting game of watching it slip through our fingers until we were both bloodied and empty of anything but regret. More than three years since my son went into a terrifying crisis, carrying so much awareness of life’s fragility that he fell apart under the weight of the truth of it all, a truth no child should ever have to carry.

And now I have the luxury of being pissed.

This is how I must look at it. I must realize that I had to get through so many layers of terror, of moving forward, of making plans, of beating down the obstacles, of being bright for my child, of believing that I would find a way to solve my financial struggles, of best face forward every day and many nights of what-the-fuck?, that yes, the anger had to wait.

And like everything else, it must be lived through.

I’ve been angry by turning inward. I’ve been being angry by being childish, by being the child I never was, by thumbing my nose at the rules and staying up too late and eating too much junk and being petulant about basic tasks. I’ve been angry by refusing to take care of myself, as if some Consolation-Prize Angel were going to show up and start cooking me meals and doing my workouts, and reward me for battening down the hatches when the hatches had to be battened. Where’s my gold star? Who gives me the trophy for succeeding at not completely falling apart? (That would be my parents, you see, but they’re not here to do that for me anymore. And that pisses me off.)

I need to be angry by just being angry. I need to allow myself the moments to pace my living room and be pissed. I need to cry hot tears of rage that I got pushed so far “off my track,” after 41 years of having lived life exactly as I had planned it out for myself. (Well, except for the divorce. But that’s another story.)

I need to have it all, so I can let it all go. Because otherwise, the anger will sneak in through the back door (as it has already begun) and create stories about my own failures and worthlessness, explaining to me that I feel bad because I am bad, whispering those thoughts in my ear at night so I wake up confused and sad, but completely unclear as to why.

Goddamn, but it is hard being a human being.

And also: goddamn, that was so so so so much really big, scary stuff all at once. I am on my knees and grateful (and yes, proud) that I found the way to get myself and my son through it, to this place where we feel the magic of life every day.

But also: the fury.

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. 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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21 Responses to What’s Left Behind

  1. D. A. Wolf says:

    I wonder if we distance ourselves from the fury so we can do what we must – whatever we must – to get through the difficulty of the challenges we’re swimming through. The anger comes when the crisis is more or less past. It’s not unlike the calm just after an accident, with the shock of it after.

    As for anger and bad habits, self-destructive habits – isn’t this very much the way of women? Men turn their anger outward. Women turn it in on ourselves. I have often wondered why we do this – I’ve spent a lifetime doing it myself, to myself. I wish for you to feel the full weight of being pissed – to write it, to scream it, to speak it, to walk it off – and not to turn it inward any longer.

    You’re in a good place. This, it seems to me, is the best possible sort of anger – and exactly the right (safe) time for it.


    • stacy says:

      Yes, I agree, that it might possibly be safe, maybe for the first time ever?, for me to have all my anger. And not just from the last three years. Or the last 10 years. But all the years I was so busy being big and strong and racing headlong into everything, feeling only my ambition. Since was, oh, let’s see now, maybe 7?

  2. Stephanie says:

    I can’t begin to feel your personal struggle, but I can completely relate to having your life shaken like a snowglobe with you trapped inside. Leaving a little bit of support of mine here for you today.

  3. Stacy! This post was important for me to read on a very personal level. What an amazing impact it had. After following the lead of your simple Twitter, I never expected to be walloped in such a way. Reading it, I realize I have been running along side the train of life and I need to jump back on. Too much all at once does that, for sure. And absolutely, we women turn the suffer inward, like hedgehogs hunkering down. But, at the same time, here we are. I love reading and feeling your joy that your journey has been fulfilled. I had a counselor once admonish, …to have respect for what got one through the night, because, after all, it got you through the night. At the same time, the train is leaving the station, and I want to be on board. Thank you for sharing. Much Love, Fondly, Robin

    • stacy says:

      Robin, thank you. This is, of course, what I love about writing: That it means something to me to write and share it, and then in turn means something to the people who read it. Best. Thing. Ever. xo

  4. I don’t know a lot of the backstory, but I’m so glad you’ve come to a place where you feel safe enough to be angry. Supportive thoughts headed your way.

  5. Alexandra says:

    You know what’s GD hard, S? Being without our parents. THAT is so GD hard and sad and frustrating and heart breaking.

    I love you. xo

    • stacy says:

      I love you, too, Alexandra. And yes, yes it is hard without them. For me it was hard with them, too! But I miss them terribly, every single day. Sending love and hugs, xo

  6. Rita says:

    “Goddamn, but it is hard being a human being.”

    I probably think this at least once a day. Some days, once an hour. In spite of having gone though a multitude of Really Hard Things and come through on the other side basically intact (not just intact: stronger), I have to keep constant watch on that back door. And THAT is what pisses me off on a regular basis. I want a bigger prize for having learned such hard lessons. I want to stop being on such vigilant guard. I want the lessons to be so deeply learned that I do not have to keep reminding myself, all time, of what I learned. I’m tired of pushing my weight against that damn door to keep it closed against the dirt and wind and rain and thieves that so regularly threaten to come through it.

    • stacy says:

      Rita, this is so beautifully written and deeply felt I want to plagiarize it. And I am so with you, all the way. That’s why we have to stick together. Remembering there’s a community of likeminded women pressing on that door next to you, behind you, around you, can hopefully make us all a little bit stronger.

  7. I read your memoir a few months ago and loved it, and very much enjoying keeping up with your new life. Thank you for sharing your life with the world, even when it’s hard — no, make that ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. Looking forward to another book!
    Jennifer in Boston

    • stacy says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! So glad you found me in my little bloggy pond here. And I am counting on those of you who are looking forward to my next book to be the ones who pull me through the hard work of it! : )

  8. Arnebya says:

    The hardness of being human, of remaining alive (that sounds morbid; it’s not an alarm, just how it came out) is crushing at times. Responsibilities, awareness, being nice. Being awake. Getting out of bed. Then having to do for others too? Making sure they don’t stink and have eaten? That shit is HARD. Often. I haven’t had a devastating loss since shortly after high school when my boyfriend was shot to death. I have no memory of how I handled that, of how I made it through. I think part of me worries so much about the “next” calamity and I catch myself holding my breath. The what ifs are so prevalent, so constant. I’m angry a lot but have no specific reason. I’m just angry in general (though I know too the source of a lot of it). And I agree. Sometimes you just need to feel the anger. Regardless, I’m glad you were able to climb through, you and your son, both of you intact (as I giggle because seriously? Is any of us intact after the continuing hardness that is simply being?) Boy, I’m rambling today.

    • stacy says:

      So honored to see you here. I’m such a fan of your writing. But yes, if we stop and THINK about how hard it is to carry our consciousness, we would all lie down and take our last breath. At least, that’s what I think most of the time. That’s why I just moved to the woods. I had to balance out all the fears and stresses with the freedom of joy for nothing more than just being outside with the trees all around me, reaching up the sky, not a care in the world except just being. xo

  9. Every time something knocks you down, you have a choice. Lie there; weep or wail, or – get pissed and get up and get on with what you have left. And if that is not much, well, we all started out that way. All toll, I have been married 55 years. I have buried two wonderful and loving husbands, my mom and dad, which almost did me in. Two sets of in-laws, and I thought I knew how to do this, how to make it all work. I built an invisible shield around my heart allowing me to hide from all the hurt, the anguish that tears you in two when you have to keep going, because all you want to do is run, find a place between middle earth and reality; not too far because you will be needed again to make sense of all the pain that just waiting around a bend to finish you off.
    Yes, I thought I could survive just about anything, but I was wrong. My second son died of renal failure due to his type one diabetes. We knew he was fragile, but prayed he could hold on until a double transplant could be found. He was just 49. There is nothing to compare with the grief of losing a child, except losing two. Last year my oldest son, 56, who had never been ill in his life, died from a horrible, painful cancer. For 11 months I sat by his side, most of that time in a hospital, trying with every breath I had to meet his need; to being as much laughter into his life, silly stuff, crazy antics, prayer, anything. I would leave his room and go outside and scream into the heavens, like a crazed animal, which, frankly I was. I wanted my child to live, to suffer less from the breath-robbing pain. I would have gladly traded my life for his, in a heart beat, but you can deal with the devil, I tried. He did not want to die in a hospital, so I brought him home. He and his wife stayed in my home. Hospice came, his brothers came, as did his children and grandchildren. There is no way to run and hide from the grief and heart-wrenching agony that walks hand in hand with a situations like this. But, you do go on. In time, bit by bit, sleepless night added to a thousand more, you do go on.
    I should delete all this. You certainly do not need any more sad stuff on your doorstep, but I mean it as a way to say we do not get to choose, our lives are all planned out for us before we are born, as least that is what I believe. All we can do is fight the storm, hold on as tightly as we can, and hopefully there will come a time when we can laugh in the wind.

    • stacy says:

      I’m so glad you didn’t delete. I loved hearing your story, and admire you for being a person who can stand and fight the storm. I’m so so heartbroken for your losses. I hope I don’t have to walk your path, but as you say, it is already written and what is coming for me I do not get to decide. I’m grateful for my life’s many losses, especially stacked one upon the other. It made me be quiet and listen and hear the truth about who I really am and what I really hope for in life, and for that I will always feel lucky. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Barbara.

  10. Whit says:

    I am a fan of you.

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