When you run a race, you always know ahead of time when you will be finished. There is a pre-determined length in miles or kilometers that you will run. Or walk. Or crawl. 5k. 10k. Half-marathon. Marathon. 100-yard dash. Whatever it is, there is an ending in sight. That ending is real and it’s tangible, and there’s a big sign at the end that says FINISH, and maybe some pretty ribbon to break through as you raise your hands up in victory, and people cheering and saying with delight: “Congratulations! You did it!”
What if someone told you that starting right now, right this second, through no choice of your own, you would have to run in a race that had no finish line? No chance to go out and buy a fancy track-suit. Nobody applauding or even noticing your efforts. No friends holding up signs along the way or handing you water and orange wedges. None of that. Just, from this moment on, your life would be one, long, endless race that leads to nowhere, and there is no Finish Line. None. The race never ends. Well, okay. Let’s not get overdramatic here. The race ends when you die.
Would you ever purposely put yourself into any such kind of ridiculous race? No! Of course you wouldn’t. Nobody would. Youd have to be a crazy person to sign up for such lunacy.
But that’s grief. That’s widowhood. An endless race that leads to nowhere – a race that never ends. And when your husband dies in a flash, with no warning, like mine did – that is exactly what it feels like. From the first second that I was jarred awake by that ringing phone on July 13, 2011, it was a new life of: “GOOD MORNING! YOUR HUSBAND’S DEAD! READY? ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GO!!!!!!
It’s been almost 21 months now, and I’m exhausted. Every decision, every turn, every corner, every dilemma or problem or obstacle – these are all things I must face alone now. Without my other half to give his take on the situation. Without his help. And let me tell you – people stopped handing me water and orange wedges long ago. For them, the race was over awhile back. For me, it’s always there. Life is exhausting when you are living it without your teammate.
Something that I keep saying over and over again to my grief counselor, week after week, is this: “Everyone keeps telling me that Im doing really well. That I look ‘better’, or that I seem more ‘alive’, or that Im doing good things and progressing in all the right ways. So if Im doing everything ‘right’, why do I still feel like shit? WHY? Why doesn’t the pain ever lessen? I know it will never go away entirely, but why does it feel just as intense now as it did when it happened? Why doesnt what everyone else SEES, match the way that I actually FEEL? When will I not feel like shit everyday?”
She reminds me that it’s only been a short time – 21 months – and that it will take a very long time before I feel a little bit of release. She reminds me again that the level of pain is equal to the level of love we shared. She tries to comfort me with her words of hope and promise. My logical side understands all of this, and it makes a lot of sense. My heart will never comprehend any of it, and it makes no sense at all.
And so, with no answers about much of anything, and no real reasons why; feeling dehydrated, lethargic, and about to lose my mind; I just keep running. I suck at running. I have terrible feet and my shoes are old. Im overweight and Im breathing hard. I look like a complete jackass. WHERE THE HELL IS THAT FINISH LINE???
But there isn’t one. There never will be. But maybe one day – months or years or a decade from now – there will be more answers than questions.
Maybe one day – my ankles will adjust to the rocks in my shoes – and my knees won’t feel like they are on fire – and the pain won’t be so crushing.
No Finish Line. But another start.
Ready? On your mark. Get set. GO …..