It’s happened almost every night of this trip. I wake up feeling like I’m in the most familiar of places, warm and secure, when suddenly my eyes focus as best they can on something out of place in the dark of the room, or a part of my body feels like it’s being touched in a wrong way. This shift in sight or touch, suddenly pulls all feelings of safety and serenity out of my body, like I’m on the Mega Drop at that moment when the chairs are released from the locked position. I’m falling, hard, and I feel like I’m going to miss the safety net catch of hydraulics below. That original sense of ultimate comfort is now replaced with my heart beating out of my chest. I can feel my heart torquing trying to get all of the blood in and out of itself as quickly as possible. My eyes are now hot with my tears which have welled over onto my cheeks without my even blinking. These sensory realizations now give way to the whole of my body tensing up, instinctively knowing the next thing to come: my brain in its weakened state, is flooded with the entire history of my past 6 months, which this short time alone, in and of itself, is enough to put me in this state. The words summarizing my situation are spoken in my head “Jon died, you are alone now in this bed, you have to get up in a few short hours and get shit done.” No solace, no reprieve. Only more tears.
About two months in to my starting a cardio cycling class, I had an epiphany about why I loved it so much. Not only was it able to make me sweat to the level that I needed to feel my exercise, but it went much deeper. My one hour release of someone else telling me what to do and when to do it, and I being the ever-eager student to please my instructors is intoxicating. This is my dirty secret of pleasure, and it’s helping me deal with my grief. The whole of my life outside of this cycling class has and is spent being in charge of other people and managing often unthinkable family situations. No matter my wants, it’s been the needs of others that I have chosen to give my attention and my all. I have had little relief, it’s been all on me, and Jon’s spiraling death roll broke me. I say this with full acknowledgement in that I know everyone has problems, but the fact is that the specific trajectory of Jon and I in our past 15 of our 22 years together had nearly killed me, and it did kill Jon. Since his death, my kids and I remain depleted and have shifted into a phase of oppositional defiance to those years. Jon, Audra, Cole, and I had moved 5 times together for his work relocations. Jon’s chemo-brain and his constant awareness of his mortality had engrained skewed life lessons in my kids for an expectation not to fail and to do things only the right way. The largest of the open wounds with my kids involves the breaking of their trust by Jon and I, having kept his cancer a secret from them for three years until he chose to tell them in January 2016. Up front or delayed, the truth comes out. It always does.
I love New York. It’s an easy city to fall in love with because there is something for everyone. Frank Sinatra’s song “New York, New York” rings true in my mind. Being here this week for the second of Jon’s three ashes events has humbled me. Here I am surrounded by family and friends that have shown me and my kids unconditional love. This is an inheritance from Jon that means more to me than money or possessions. I am amazed at how my “family” keeps growing as reassurances from each person is received and reinforced by their actions. I have embraced them all and know Jon would be happy for us having this consolation. However, as I walked in the City yesterday, without my Jon as the knowing guide, I was scared because nothing was making any sense. I don’t have a feel for direction here, and I am afraid of getting lost. My kids, meanwhile, walk ahead of me like true New Yorkers and seem like they know their way around. I watch in awe of their persistence and resilience. ~Paula