Sometimes I just don’t see myself making it.
The thing about writing is it’s both a vast and open world of possibility and a small and confined space of honesty. There is no room in that bubble for the bullshit you may tell yourself throughout the day. The space constrictions simply don’t allow it. (There’s literally a sign at the entrance that says, “No bullshit from this point out.”) Therefore, I am going to be really honest here.
Sometimes I just don’t see myself making it.
That was the striking, terrifying, truthful, hurtful, raw, and somehow vibrant sentence that crammed itself inside my head like a rat squeezing through the bars of a sewer as my sister said this to me over the phone:
“You haven’t been the same in three years.” The unspoken part? We don’t know what to do with you anymore.
Thought 1: Kudos to her for opening up, embracing vulnerability, and uttering an honest, electrically-charged, and scary thing to utter.
Thought 2: What the fuck am I supposed to do with that information?
If you asked me in a completely non-threatening setting if I have changed since my best friend died three years ago, I would say, “Of course.” Because of course! Not only is it completely feasible that people change over the course of three whole years, but it’s also even more feasible that they should change after experiencing something as huge and monumental and life-altering as that.
So on the one hand, it came as no surprise at all to be told that I have changed. But on the other hand (which admittedly, tends to be the more oblivious and stubborn hand), I felt blind-sighted and shocked, as if this information was the most ridiculous observation a human being could possibly make.
I was transported back to a few months ago when someone close to me asked rather ignorantly, “When are you going to stop being so sensitive about all this?”
It felt like a similar attack, albeit one that came from a much more honest and innocent place. My sister wasn’t confused as to why I had changed; the reason is obvious. She didn’t beg me to change back. She just put the observation out there into the universe like the stone-cold and forever-sad fact that it is. I have changed.
After hanging up the phone, I struggled with this for some time. Was the change that apparent, externally? I mean, we’re no longer in those first struggling months. You know, the ones where you refuse 100% of your meals and you cry 98% of the time and you can’t go to a party and be drunk in the bathroom without suddenly losing your ability to breathe and then as you’re gasping for air while everyone’s outside playing flip cup and making out, you wonder what it felt like in his last moments of life. (Did it feel like this? Am I going to be with him soon?) Or maybe — I don’t know — standing outside of a Zara in Manhattan, having a panic attack for seemingly no reason other than the fact that the person you tethered so much of your heart to is no longer a materialized, fully-there person who lives and breathes and makes memories and whose organs work to keep him doing those things.
No. We’re way past that. We’re three years into this whole grieving process thing. So how can my sister still visibly see such a change?
I’m no longer perpetually in tears. I’m no longer inserting memories of him into every conversation possible.
You no longer look at me and see physical grieving. But yet, somehow, there is something very palpable, very visceral — that I wasn’t aware of — that the people closest to me could still see.
In a way, it too feels like a slap in the face, another failure. (Failure one was not being able to keep him alive.) Failure two is apparently being unable to “get back to normal.” Failing to keep everyone around me thinking I’m okay. Failing to live.
I talked to my friends; I told them how I felt. At one point I said simply, “I have no idea how else to be.”
And then I thought this: Sometimes I just don’t see myself making it.
Because the truth is, when I fall into those caved-in moments where I suddenly can’t breathe again and my heart aches for nothing more than to hear him laugh uncontrollably or to even yell at me again, I can think nothing but this:
I don’t want to be in a world where there is no Nick.
That’s the most primal, simplified, boiled-down version of the very complicated thing I am feeling that I can come up with. It’s like in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars when Isaac, who is blind, says he doesn’t want to see a world without Augustus Waters.
I never wanted to see, live in, and be a part of a world where there is no Nick. And every single day of my life, I live in resentment that this is the shitty fucking storyline I was given.
Who is the author anyway? And to which address can I direct my positively irate letters to?
So no, being completely honest, I don’t see myself getting out of this, making it out to the other side where maybe the grass is super fucking green and people are happy — and I’m included in that “people are happy” bit — and music that isn’t depressing plays and birds even probably chirp before 7 am. I can’t; I just can’t see it.
Sometimes I see the future of my life in this terrible cliche, this already-written book that once you read its ending, it just makes sense that I never could have been expected to keep going. I just couldn’t handle it. I never fell in love again. I never had kids. I never made it out of this gloomy, gut-wrenching space. I got stuck in it and just like it took him, it took me. And the letter will say, “I’m sorry to everyone but I just couldn’t live in a world where he wasn’t.”
Maybe that sounds suicidal. Worrisome. Horrifying. Maybe it makes my family and friends want to check on me constantly. Maybe it compels someone close to me to do something drastic. I don’t know if it’s any of those things; I don’t know what it is in that respect. But it is the truth.
Sometimes I don’t see myself making it. There it is, out there in the open. And if you too sometimes feel like you don’t see yourself making it, you should know that you’re not alone. There’s like, this whole alliance of us who are fighting demons with similar faces and motives and we’re like the ultimate squad, so move over Taylor Swift. We battle. We’re bloody. We’re scarred and bruised and sometimes it seems like the thing we’re fighting doesn’t have a face or a name — like it’s a wispy ghost that’s impossible to catch. That makes it harder to fight than anything else because every time we gain on it, cling to it, get it between our fingers, it slips away, evasive as smoke.
But we’re still here, right? Sometimes that’s enough of a mantra for me: I’m still here. And I’m okay.
Editor’s note: here’s the thing, anyone who loses someone and says they haven’t felt some variation of this is not being honest. I don’t make many sweeping statements on here, but this is one of them. This is a real one.