For Better Or Worse

7 years ago today.

Facebook memories needs to come with a trigger warning.

Here is the realization I had this morning, while coordinating a virtual army of people to help me care for my children while I’m on my business trip this week: Life will never be the same.

I know that sounds trite and reductive – like, hi, obviously – but I mean it in a very literal way: It will never again feel like I’m just living. Simply doing my thing, for better or worse. Working, hanging with my kids, making breakfasts and lunches and dinners, enjoying some days a lot and enjoying other days less but always knowing more or less what to expect. Now I have rules and schedules and arrangements and expense spreadsheets to be questioned and revised and argued over, and everything – and I do mean everthing, every second of every day – feels like a battle.

I just want to live. You know?

When all this started, I think the idea of “something different” was exciting – more exciting than it should have been, but I suppose I was indulging my naiveté to make myself feel less frightened. Things weren’t good, I thought to myself. I may not know what’s coming, but I do know it won’t be what was. 

And now I’m here, in the “what was coming,” and it’s awful. Not everything, of course, and not always, but the constancy with which I’m reminded of what I once had and no longer do makes me feel like I’m standing in the middle of a paintball field. The hits just keep on coming.

I overhear my colleague talking about his kitchen remodel, and I remember screwing fancy new knobs onto cabinets that I’d painted myself. Those cabinets are hundreds of miles away now, and someone else’s things are stacked in them. I scroll through Instagram, and I see first one happy family photo, then twenty more. Each one reminds me of a photo I once posted myself.

Someone makes a dumb joke, and someone else laughs, and I wonder what it feels like to be that light. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to laugh at a joke again without the voice in the back of my head calling me out, reminding me that really, nothing is funny at all.

I’m on a set right now, which means I am technically – right this very minute – faking it big-time. I spend a lot of my life operating in the world of honest emotions, but there are some circumstances – like, say, when you’re being paid to show up and be perky – when you have to go to the bathroom, have your little cry, and then put away the feelings, patch up your makeup, and go be a damn professional.

I’m good at that, somewhat surprisingly. I’ve been in front of one camera or another for much of my professional life, and I tend to be able to turn it on fairly easily, no matter what else is going on in my head. But this is different, and this morning I cried in the makeup artist’s chair while she fanned my eyes to keep the lashes from dislodging.

What happened? A producer made a joke about his wife of 20 years, how he’s used to being told what to do, hahaha. And my heart broke, as it does. Over. And over. And over.

Let me say it again: I know that this is normal. I know that the road will smooth out, even if it takes years. I know all the things I’m supposed to be doing: self-care, meditation, therapy, eating right, being gentle with myself, remembering that healing takes time. And I’m trying to do those things, I swear, because I want to feel better. So badly.

But “feeling better” is merely a want, albeit a powerful one. Above even that is a simple need; a need that feels so primal I could scream.

I need for something – anything – to hold still. So I can breathe.

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