I haven’t written for a while, mostly because I’ve been struggling to adequately explain how I am feeling and because, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve spent a lot of time in avoidance mode.
Last week while in Costa Rica I decided to do some things for myself. First, I booked an 80 minute massage. I’ve only had one of them in my life and that was a relaxing couples massage with Christine. I didn’t know what to order and thought ‘Deep Muscle’ sounded like the right one. It wasn’t.
If you’ve never received a deep muscle massage but want a similar experience, just ask someone to alternate between beating you with a broomstick and tickling you with a feather for an hour.
Anyways, as I lay there I decided to think about Christine (like I think about anything else), but not in regards to how I feel, more about how I should frame my thoughts about her. I made a decision to stop thinking about what I could have done differently, and stop dwelling on how I feel. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s a step.
As soon as I made this agreement with myself a warm sensation overcame me and Christine’s face came into my mind. She was smiling and radiant and beautiful. I felt calmer. I felt better.
The next day I got up early. The local team was taking me on an ATV tour. We rode them up muddy hillsides, through the jungle, along cliff tops, across shallow rivers and through the surf on a white sand beach.
I was speeding through the river, water fishtailing behind me, smiling like an idiot, when I thought to myself ‘I am so lucky’… ‘Oh, right’.
This is an issue. I have a moment of happiness. A moment where I’m not dwelling on Christine or her loss, and then I reflect on the happiness and ‘poof’ gone. It’s like my soul is telling me I’m not allowed to be happy.
We finished the ATV ride with a beer on the beach. The plan was to make the short drive to the beach resort town of Jaco for lunch. This had been the plan for weeks, but when we got in the car one of the guys changed his mind.
Him: Let’s go to Playa Hermosa instead. I know a good restaurant there.
Playa Hermosa was the beach Christine and I stayed at when we visited. I just knew in that moment we were headed to the same place she an I had eaten. Panic spiked.
No, that’s not true. It wasn’t panic. A better term would be ‘pre-panic’. It’s something I’ve been experiencing a lot. Anxiety caused by the fear that I will enter a trigger event. I haven’t had one of those since Maine, but I am regularly nervous of it happening again.
I was right, we pulled into the same place… and it was OK. Totally OK. I mean, it was reflective. I thought a lot. I walked the beach where we walked, looked out over the same horizon. I shared stories about our trip with my team members, the things Christine and I did. It was OK. It was good.
I told her goodbye.
That night as I was reflecting, trying to remember good times I found it was almost impossible to think of specific events that could be classified as ‘good times’. It was difficult. I realized just like bad times, I needed a trigger to bring them up. I went to Ireland, I remembered our trip. I went to Costa Rica, I remembered the adventures we had.
This sucks. This really sucks. Why didn’t I do a better job of storing these away for the future?
The answer is obvious of course. I thought there would be more. When you have unlimited money, why worry about saving?
So instead I started thinking about her in general terms. Her smile, her face, those freaking moles on either side of her nose I loved so much. Her laugh. For people that met her that laugh stood out. It was so pretty, so loud, so passionate. Then I remembered her other laugh. The one that was the most real. When she was surprised by hilarity she would have this loud raucous bark. We classified it as her crazy homeless woman laugh.
Thinking about that made me smile. Then by the time I got back to my room I was sad because I couldn’t have those things anymore.
I spent the remainder of my time in Costa Rica staying busy. During the day I worked hard, met with everyone I could. At nights I’d talk to friends, any friends that would help distract me from her. It was nice talking to them, it was distracting. I stayed up until exhaustion took me.
On my way home I was getting on the plane in Atlanta and I realized I had never looked back at her Facebook profile. There is a great place to see happy memories, I thought.
I started scrolling. I made it back to May and then started reading all the things people had said about her following her death. It’s so much fun when you realize you’re crying around a bunch of strangers and you’re pretty sure they’ve noticed.
I was watching the Alabama/Georgia game on the flight and there was a Chick-Fil-A commercial. It’s one of those ones where the guy comes back from service abroad and surprises his family. He was in their cow outfit getting pictures with his wife and kids. They had no idea it was him in the suit. Then he takes off the head and reveals himself.
The look on his wife’s face, seeing him again, the joy and confusion and whatever else. It’s exactly how I would look if I saw her again.
I totally lost it. I actually barked. Who the hell cries during a Chick-Fil-A commercial? Me, that’s who.
When I got home I said hi to the kids, hung out with them until they went to bed and then went to the bar. Weird stuff happened. Not going to go into it, but it was weird.
I stuck around talking to some people I’ve met there until they called last call.
Sunday was another Get up, Get dressed, Get moving day. Made it through. I was up that night, thinking about happy memories. Trying to remember any specifics I could. Then I had a thought.
What if the specifics are difficult to recall because almost all of our time together was happy?
And then I went to sleep.