I used to get completely wrapped up in politics. At times it consumed me. Mark and I were very much alike in that regard. We were among the many thousands of people that marched around the Wisconsin state capitol in protest with other union members when public workers were stripped of collective bargaining rights. We were proud of our beliefs and quite vocal about them. I’m certain both of our Facebook timelines for 2011 could attest to that.
I really don’t get wrapped up in politics anymore. Grief has changed me in endless ways and this is one of many. With the loss of Mark came a new me. Much like I now recall moments in my life and intrinsically classify each event as a memory from before Mark’s death or after Mark’s death, I have come to realize that this duality exists not just for my memories, but also for who I am now. The grief from the loss of Mark is not something that I will ever move beyond. I’ve endured it and absorbed it and in turn, it has changed me and shaped me into the person I am today. There is the “me” who came before and the “me” who came after.
Before I lost Mark, my life was a continuum in which there existed a fluid past, present and future and knowing this gave me a sense of comfort, that I most certainly took for granted and perhaps didn’t even recognize. It was a blissfully ignorant existence in that I had absolutely no idea how remarkably lucky I was to live with the blessing of a fairly predictable future…until there was the tragic event that completely fractured the succession of my life. It was that schism which sent me spiraling into survival mode. For me, a former Type-A-uber-planner, that meant that I had to approach life one single moment at a time. Doing so was completely foreign to me but it was the only way I could survive. The continuum of my life was explosively interrupted, fractured to the extent that the future seemed so painfully uncertain that I had to pretend that it didn’t even exist. Looking back was easy for me. The memories brought me comfort and solace and sharing them with others eased the sadness in my aching heart. Looking forward was terrifying, painful, nearly impossible. So I focused on the here and now. I asked myself,
What can I do today? What can I control? What brings me joy?
And then I built my new life around those answers.
The answer to those three simple questions wasn’t difficult. The answer was smiling right back at me every single day: My beautiful, strong, resilient, kind-hearted children who are full of joy and innocence and remind me everyday that I have the most important job in this world. I am their mom and today I can talk to them and listen to them and educate them and love them and snuggle with them and remind them that they are smart and kind and strong and beautiful and respectful and can be anything they want to be if they set their beautiful hearts on it and put their beautiful minds to it. This is what I can do today. This is what brings me endless joy.
My grief has changed me. Like many others were this morning, I was incredibly sad, scared for the future of our country, and heartbroken for the fate of our children. But I truly don’t get too wrapped up in politics anymore. I survive daily by focusing on the things that bring me joy and the things that I can control and letting go of the rest. Tomorrow is a new day and when I awaken the sun will be shining down upon us just like it was two days ago and the sky will still be blue. I will focus on teaching my children to be kind and to respect others no matter their differences. I will show them, that above all, love prevails. I will instill in them that we can lead by example, stand up for what is right and when life isn’t fair, we can keep moving forward and focus on what we can control. I will revel in their innocence, delight in their curiosity and rejoice in their laughter. I will keep moving forward one moment at a time and continue to embrace the hope that although the future is uncertain, the values we hold dear: love, integrity, honesty, and goodness, will prevail.
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
**Photo credit – Amelia Coffaro
Erin, thank you once again for sharing your thoughtful and heartfelt message! I have been stung by the events of the week yet feel inspired to look forward, hold onto that which I can influence and control. You have again provided a chance for me to reframe my thinking in a more positive and productive way.