I have been escaping into the layers of my mind to find some resolution within my current circumstances because when I close my eyes, anything can become real if only I am to envision it. So I climb deep deep down into a golden meadow where seated in the middle is a little brick house. Each brick laid by my own two hands. A safe house. Brick by brick built to enclose the one’s I hold dearest.
The meadow is vast and speckled with red flowers. Red because red is his favorite color. The flowers grow abundantly. Over and over again. Taller and taller until him and I and everyone else who I want to protect are swallowed in their beauty. Hidden in their petals. Protected in their sent.
The sunlight dances and the wind sings in the meadow’s melodies that change with the passing times. But time here is not like time over there. Because time in the meadow is never ending. You do not have to be afraid of running out. Time is welcomed in the meadow and it to becomes an element of the choreographed dance of the sun and wind.
We dance. We sing. We laugh underneath the sun. Warmth radiates off of our cheeks. Red and rosy they become reflecting back on us the beauty of the flowers. We are not afraid. Here, we are never afraid.
When I open my eyes, the sharp sting of reality whips my cheeks as I take in the violent noise of my alarm. I am ejected from the world of safe havens built of brick houses and thrown into one in which time is limited. Time is ticking. Time is slowly running out. A world where the beeping of the alarm signals the panic to get up and get going and get at another day. And there is no way for me to communicate with this reality about the world it is missing, the world that exists deep inside my mind.
I want that world. The world of eternity. The world where Andy is still alive and where my mom is not sick and I don’t have an eating disorder and survivors didn’t exist because surviving wasn’t real because all anyone knew how to do was live. I want my reality to erode like a rocky shore. Let the waves cut at it. Let it fall away so I may unravel into a place of perfection and safety. Take me to the meadow with the little brick house where each person that I love I can stick inside and build a room around and ensure their safety.
But that world is a myth. It is a byproduct of my overly imaginative mind. The world of dreams and perfection and wonder and magic. The world we live in is real. So real that it will stab you in the chest every so often just to make sure you feel it. Stab. Stab. Stab.
During the day I put on my mask. The mask has a screen over the eyes that places me in the meadow. I wear the mask all the time because when I take it off I don’t know where I am or what day it is. When I take off the mask I get really scared and cold and confused because I am suddenly in a world that I don’t want to know. But that is the truth, isn’t it? That the world cannot be known. Reality cannot be understood. Especially when it entails the loss of someone so suddenly and so young. It will never be understood. So what, then? Do I just take off the mask and stand naked in the world with the cold and foreign winds freezing my tears to my raw cheeks? Either that or wear the mask. Live in a meadow. Build up more bricks. Dance in the wind and flirt with time. Until the sand in the timer runs dry and the fake façade I spent so much energy building slowly disintegrates and I am left as a shadow in a world full of solidity.
If I leave with a mask on I will fall away from what is true. The mask is what keeps me from the grief. It is the disconnect from the tragedy of loosing Andy of the uncertainty of my mom’s illness. Even if I choose to wear it, the grief will find me eventually. So I have taken it off and put it in the closet. Because it would be a disservice to Andy’s memory to pretend he wasn’t worth grieving over. But I need people to be patient with me for this very reason. Yes, I have taken off the mask and I am standing in the cold winds and I am sad and angry and hurting. The winds feel like knives cutting at every aspect of myself, the heart, the mind, the soul.
Some days just simply breathing is all I can manage to do. Some days I walk all the way to work and then can’t make it in the door because of the waterfall of tears flooding my eyes. Some days I can’t speak when I am in class because the kid across the room looks just like him. Other days it is okay. It is bearable. The grief is able to walk along side me instead of crushing me.
Without the mask I am leaving behind the meadow and the dreams of eternity that live in it. I am leaving it behind not because I don’t believe in heaven, but because I don’t believe I am there yet. I am leaving it behind so I may look at this world, this reality, these circumstances and begin to figure out how they are going to work with this crater that Andy’s death has left behind.
Without the mask, my mind is much more vulnerable, much more exposed and the grief is real. When grief is real, time is ruthless, and waves of emotion start to dictate my days. But I think that is acceptable. I think it is better to grieve than to stuff. I think that riding the waves is important. I think that not making it to work one day doesn’t constitute as a failure. I think that letting myself be sad is good. Grief has a purpose. It reminds me how much Andy mattered.