On Your Mark. Get Set. WHAT?

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!!!!!!

Me and Don, doing a 5k in NYC, 2010.

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 …..

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7 thoughts on “On Your Mark. Get Set. WHAT?

  1. I am a fan from afar, and have never experienced nor hope to never experience what you have and am going through. Your words are remarkable. I am a downer, always down on some dramatic nonsense that I feel is in my life. But your blogs make me realize my shit is nothing but shit! Yours is manure, mounds and mounds of it and I am truly as always sorry for your loss. I hope one day that manure won’t smell like shit, but in turn make things grow that is beautiful and fragrant! Keep writing; it is helping more people than just you. You are gifted with wit, intelligence and narrative that people want to say but don’t. So keep your head up (cliché I know) but spring is on its way and everything can start anew.

  2. Ugh, I’m so exhausted for you Kelley. I wish there was a rest stop or something along the way for you so you could sit and take a breather. Even for an hour, just to catch your breath or give your heart a minute to not beat and carry on so hard. I hope that, that moment comes sooner than later for you. I just bought some cuties if you want one, btw…just sayin…

  3. My feet hurt, Im cold and lonely. I miss him, I want him and there is no where to run to!Why do we keep going? damned if I know!. Thank you again Kelley. As always you nailed it :)

  4. I’m exhausted just imagining having to run an endless race without training for it, having the proper shoes, etc. Wish I could give you some water, but I’m hanging out with Misty in the crowd with a big sign.

  5. Hello,

    Please first everybody forgive any English mistake or weird word choice, I’m a native French speaker. And please also forgive the length… I just feel like the end doesn’t make sense without the start. I didn’t meant for it to be that long though, but it’s hard not to get ‘taken’ when I start speaking about him.

    I discovered your blog a few days ago (or weeks? I’m not quite sure…). Unfortunately it is not hard to guess in which circumstances…

    About a month ago my world shattered when my partner died suddenly.

    2 years ago I had met at my best friend’s twins’ birthday’s party her brother-in-law – older brother of her 8 year partner.

    We got along right away. He was just so special. Like an illustration for contrast and paradoxes. A very handsome man, he was an overheadline installer and had so much muscle that the first time I saw him standing up naked I thought to myself he looked like a living anatomical engraving. I saw him once turn a mattress over by one hand like it were a sheet of paper. But he often use feminine gender when talking about himself (yeah, French…), and doing completely random ‘girly’ things like counting calories of packages (though that didn’t preventing from eating it, it would just make him complain afterwards 😉 )
    He had the cutest face, but with so many scars from violent work and car accidents. And scars in his eyes, he had had an horrific childhood (witnessing their neighbor with whom his mother was cheating on his father come into their house, stab himself and crawl on the floor… having same neighbor finding them after they moved away and throw a grenade in their living room, which fortunately didn’t explode… add to this mental torture from his mother and the constant beating up of his little brother…) and his past 7 year relationship had ended very violently.

    When I met him he was working in a remote city but then phoned me everyday for hours. In the evening he was constantly drunk and high on something in the evening (at this time shrooms). But during daytime, he was the most interesting, intelligent and funny person I had ever met. It became serious between us, and he made it so he could work around my hometown full time (because of his work he was mainly working away). We moved in together, at first in sub-rented apartments, only 4 months after we had first met. He then completely quit shrooms (he had started stopping shortly after we met, I don’t remember if he explicitly said so, but it was obvious of course…). But there always remained an alcohol problem if I may use such an euphemism, which had been a long-time issue for him.

    His alcoholism had put us through a lot of rough times, but there is no point explaining. I never considered leaving him. I always said, and still do, I could bear the 1% of the time when it was horrible for the 99% remaining time which everything I had ever waited for. I never felt, and still doesn’t, like he had taken anything from me, while he was bringing me so much. He was just in so much pain. He was fighting so hard against his alcoholism, but it was just too deep, too strong, it had been a friend for too long.

    After being a (very) heavy drug consumer for many years (he had managed to withdraw from heroin by himself with no substitute), he had became a very occasional drug user. Didn’t bother me, because so have I been for the last 10 years myself. And by occasional, I mean very occasional, like once every couple of months we would buy a gram of amphetamine or cocaine, and just spend Friday evening high talking all night or watching documentaries on TV… Then sleep it off, go back to normal life. I know it might sound very weird but a few of our best times together have been when slightly high, just the 2 of us, out of time, forgetting everyday routine and talk about how much we were meant to meet (we had both been always visiting to the same household for 7 years…! and had actually met once years ago, but just for a second, and were both in other relationships at the time), and how happy we were that happened and how much we loved each other. We would talk about his alcoholism, I would reassure him even though it was not pleasant I would always stay with him, stand by him. Whenever we were together, just walking on the street, I always felt so strong. I felt so lucky, so blessed. He had made so much progress with his alcoholism, and overall is intake had been cut by 10 at least. He had started riding his bike for up to 40 km a day, going to the swimming pool, eating organic food… He was finally finishing to reimburse a debt he had contracted years ago which amounted to 20,000 euros at its worst. He was about to get hired by the SNCF (French train society), and so we were going to buy a house thanks to zero interest rate loans granted to SNCF employees. We were waiting until I find a job (I graduated in September 2013) to have kids. He could not wait to have kids, he had said once or twice and it was just obvious, he adored his nephew and had never gotten over his ex having an abortion without telling him.

    We had just came back from vacation in Spain – his first real vacation in 5 years because he would save all his money to pay off his debts and had been living in his truck for 2 years before he met me to save himself a rent and reimburse quicker, same truck we now know use to go week-ends and on this one long trip down the coast to Barcelona. Free. Together. Happy. It was such a wonderful time, we were so lucky all along the trip, with just everything – parking spots, foods, finding stuff we had lost, weather…)

    4 days after we came back. He had an appointment the next day at the police station as a standard procedure for his criminal record erasing (not actual crimes, just stupid stuff from a long time ago but the record needs to be blank to be a state employee). He got stressed. While I was sleeping, he went out wasted to buy amphetamine. He would be too long to explain details, but the guy pushed him away before he had a chance to try the product (he told me so when he came back home and awoke me, but the reason why the guy pushed him away only made sense after…), and had a bag of an unidentified white powder and 2 bottles and 2 pills of methadone. He said what’s that? I can’t read the label! I said what the hell, that’s methadone!! He said ‘Whaaaat??? What the hell! Fuck this, what the hell am I supposed to do with methadone? Well, whatever, I’ll just go see if I can sell it around tomorrow.’ Long story short, I may talk about it later but know it just feels to painful to realize how stupid I had been, but I found him the morning after lying on the sofa, looking oddly pale. I though he had caught a cold from the open window. He was snoring. Then I started cleaning the apartment and at some point found an empty package of methadone bottle in the trashcan, one package ‘had some weight’. I was so shocked I didn’t even thing one might be just an empty bottle… I thought well, he’ll just get up around noon.

    He had unfortunately a history of prescription drug poisoning even before I met him (not suicide attempts, because for instance he would take 2 boxes when he had more than 20… I think sometimes he was so unhappy he just wanted to sleep the pain away for a day or two). When I would tell him how scary it was it would just say ‘You can’t die with medication. I know, I’ve tried. You don’t just die like this, it’s impossible’. He thought he was invincible, and I’m so ashamed to admit so did we. Even when he was dying in the hospital his sister in law (my old friend) did not realize and thought he would just wake up the day after and get away with it after having scared all of us to death…

    Well, when I found him I became concerned and I started checking his heartbeat. Don’t ask me why. To me he would wake up soon, as certain as the sun rises. It was more like superstition, to feel I was useful or something, to showed him I cared even though he couldn’t see. And at some point… there was none.

    He heart was then restarted with adrenaline after I call emergency doctors and did cardiac massage, but we had to take him off life support the next day. All his organs were wrecked, there was no chance he would ever wake up. From the moment I arrived at the hospital they had been honest that even in the remote chances he wakes up, he would somewhere between disabled or a vegetable. They said the damage could not be only due to the lack of oxygen, and even if I had called right when I woke up it would have probably been too late. I tortured myself a lot over ‘probably’ before I remembered how pale he looked…

    People say a part of him lives in me. I feel it, but I also feel the huge part of me that died with him.

    What you write on your blog feels so right. I know some people will judge him the way he died. It was the first time he had taken methadone, and the last time too. He just got screwed twice. Once by a jerk who sold twice the deadly dose of methadone to a drunk guy, and once by himself who was to drunk to realize. I know some people used to judge him, judge us. On my way home from my family in law tonight, I was thinking some people might be stupid enough to say I get a new start. And I was thinking about what I would then answer ‘How can having both your legs cut at the beginning of a race be called a start?’

    Well, now I know I will answer ‘How can having both your legs cut at the beginning of a race with no finish line be called a start?’

    Thank you for your blog. So much truth is spoken here.

    • Wow. I dont even know what to say. Im speechless with your post. Im so very very sorry for everything you have been through. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story with me. xoxo …

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