Someone asks me how I am.
I am exhausted. I have spent the week simply trying to keep my head above water in this raging sea of grief. The waves shove me around and currents drag me down. Many times my head dips beneath the surface. A heaviness constricts my chest making it impossible to breathe. So I thrash and kick until my head breaks through to open air. I take in as much oxygen I can while fighting against the pull of the sea. Then it happens over and over and over again so I am exhausted.
I am on edge. From Thanksgiving to the first week of January I must tiptoe through a field of emotional landmines. I never know exactly when or how they will be triggered but they are filled with sweet and bitter memories - with the smell of hospitals in winter - with banana popsicles - with corrupted lyrics to "Happy Birthday to You" - with the laughter and tears of someone I haven't seen in almost seven years - with millions of things that will tear me to pieces. For my protection, I keep my head down and my eyes glued the ground before me. I step oh so gingerly and I bury myself in every bit of armor I can get my hands on. Still in the end it won't be enough. Eventually a mine will be triggered; the memories will come pouring out; and no amount of armor can save me then. So I am on edge.
I am afraid. The pain is like a bird trapped inside me. It cries out in a muted wail that even I can't hear. It's desperate to be free so it slams into the walls of my body. It creates cracks in my form. I tightly wrap myself up in an attempt to hold myself together but the bird continues its assault and I don't know how much more I can take so I am afraid.
I am all of this and more than I can articulate but in answer to the question I simply put on a brittle smile and say I'm fine.
Because I'm fine is the socially acceptable answer and the truth will only make everyone uncomfortable. I don't want to be the person who brings the room down.
Because I want to be fine. I want to feel happy and celebrate the Christmas season. So I lie in the hopes that it will become the truth. I lie to keep the conversation going in a positive direction and I laugh heartily so that I will be distracted from the darkness draining me, if only for a second.
Because I feel guilty for not being fine. I know I am blessed and well loved. I have things to celebrate. I realize that the pain will pass. I will survive this and by mid January I won't have to fight to be happy. So I feel weak for letting it bring me down now.
Because my mouth has never been good at expressing what my heart feels so I'm fine is the easier answer. I have to think about my words and consider them carefully before I can get to the heart of the matter, which my brain won't allow me to do when I'm talking.
Since I can't vocalize the answer to the question honestly, I thought I would write it out because I need people to know I'm not fine. I could use some support and encouragement or just a hug. Then again, maybe all I am really look for is someone to say "How are you and if you say you're fine, I'm going to punch you in the face"
. . . or a text telling me I'm a rough and tough ;)