Losing my mother when I was 22 taught me many things. One of those lessons continues to be that I am not entitled to anything. Just because I want something, would lay down my life for something, doesn’t mean anything to anyone other than me. It doesn’t turn back time, it doesn’t cure cancer. Death shows us the powerlessness of our wants. Losing the thing I wanted more than anything taught me that I am not entitled to anything that I want, have no reason to think I will ever get anything I want again, and am, frankly, naive to ever have thought otherwise.
So, to fill the gaping hole of powerlessness, I became driven. I would do everything in my power to prepare for every contingency. I would never let loose, I would never lose control, I would do all of the things I was supposed to do so that I couldn’t be taken by surprise again. I would give my 20’s to always having a full-time job, always having life insurance, health insurance, making safe bets, being reliable, never feeling that thing unlock in the back of my head that says that things will be ok, because nothing would ever be “ok” again. Certainly not by my old definition. I don’t know what it feels like to “let go”, to believe that things will be ok if I go on a weekend bender or don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from or … any number of things I saw people like aliens doing throughout their 20’s…and some into their 30’s and older.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to consider wanting again. I pressed my foot into the gas pedal for so long that now, my youth streaking behind me, I am far and beyond where I thought I’d ever be in so many realms, and now what? I’ve been so terrified it would be taken away, I didn’t stop to consider what I might want. If I say what I want out loud, I know I won’t get it. If I get it, I won’t keep it. If I keep it, I won’t deserve it. So I worry. And I don’t worry about things, I worry about people. I worry about my loved ones. I worry that, yet again, those I love will be ripped from me with no rhyme or reason.
What do I want?
I want you to be healthy. To live. To love. To be well. I want to be healthy, to live, to love, and be well, to see the world and enjoy my friends well into old age.
My friends are at the age where they’re beginning to lose their parents.
I used to have a friend, years ago. That friend helped me during the darkest hours after my mother died. That friend’s mother had died four months before my mother died, and I watched them, I held onto the line that they held, though I couldn’t see where they were, on the other end of it. All I knew is that they were further along the tunnel than I was, and that, if they were still going, I could keep going. Some days it was the only thing that kept me alive.
To my grieving friends, that is all I can offer you; I am on the other side of the tunnel. It does end. I promise. Beyond the point that you give up ever seeing daylight again, it will end. The other side doesn’t look the same. The world will never look the same again because you have changed, and everything will look different through your eyes from now on. But the world, and you, are still here. It is not much, this promise that you will survive, but it is something. I know this, because there were many days that the only thing that kept me going was knowing that someone else could make it further along, and out of the tunnel. That survival was possible.
And the thing that made me tenacious as hell was losing my mother when most of my friends still had grandparents, and knowing I wasn’t entitled to any of my many glorious moments with you amazing people. I’ve never taken those for granted, and treasure them above any travel memory I can conjure.
So. Again, to my grieving friends… when you are ready (and I really do recommend 30 days of not shoulding on yourself for even a moment), I wish you luck kicking the shit out of Option B.