The Occasional Storm

It seems I never quite start a post at its beginning. You guys always get some sort of preamble, and well… today isn’t any different. I mean I hate to not be true to form. It would just be too confusing. I just gotta be me! So, here we go!

My goal this year is to write more, which isn’t to say I’ll post more – I just feel the need to blah on paper – to get some blahing out of my system. (FYI – “to blah” is a verb, and it’s also happens to be the best way to describe my writing (or talking) on any given day. I accept that.) It helps me process, especially when margarita-infused gab sessions are nowhere in the foreseeable future. Thus, more blahing in 2021 until someone gets me and my friends vaccines and a round of drinks. (Psst, could you also throw in some tortilla chips and creamy jalapeño? You’re a champ!)

I have a a group of readers (friends/family) who follow a particular part of my journey relating to the loss of my husband, Jay. It hasn’t always been a scenic road. There have been plenty of potholes and ruts, but as time has marched forward the roads have straightened (though not entirely) – the ride has grown smoother (though still bumpy) – the sunrises over yawning fields becoming more spectacular. Yet still, the occasional sudden storm threatens the trip.

So I give you guys an anecdote from last week – just a rest stop at a tacky Bucc-ee’s knock-off.

In September I reached out to the local police department to request the case file on Jay’s death. I wanted to know how the events had unfolded before I arrived on the scene that day – a more complete picture. I was denied. The police department ruled that the information contained in the file might embarrass the parties involved. I wish I had the words or ability to describe the look that played across my face as I puzzled over the mere idea. “They’re worried Jay could be embarrassed? Seriously?” Not to be tacky, but I kinda felt we were long passed the “embarrassed” stage on this one.

Thankfully in our state, the police department couldn’t flat-out deny my request without getting our State Attorney General to weigh in on the matter and bless it. Well, the long and short of it was: the AG came back and basically said, “Embarrassed? are you kidding? No, we don’t believe Jay would be embarrassed,” except they used a lot of more professional sounding words and cited state code. So, on Friday I received the official word that the the documents related to Jay’s case were now available to me view and I did.

My picture of that day is more complete.

It brought me a sense of closure – not peace, but closure. The kind where your best friend has to jump in and basically say, “ok, your feelings are absolutely valid – feel your feels, but how about we walk that back a bit and reframe” but using best-friends words – the kind where your edges smooth a bit, your jaw loosens and you remember that blinking is kind of nice. The kind where you stop and decide that christening your new fire pit by throwing in some newly discovered kindling may actually be a bad idea.

It reminded me of how great the officers on the scene were and how grateful I was (and still am) to them – all the things they did to take care of me – all of the ways they protected me. It reminded me of how terrible some people could be, which may (speaking completely hypothetically here of course) have caused a loud, visceral, and somewhat explosive outburst where I may (again, hypothetical – you have no proof) have wished someone a great deal of ill that I eventually backed off of when I remembered that they are actually living their worst life. “A pox on your house!! Oh wow! Looks like you already have a few in the works. I mean if you got this, champ, I guess we’re cool. You just keep rolling with the poxes. Seems kind of pointless to wish one on you at this point so I’ll be over here. Have a great day!”

At the end of the day, reading the report reminded me of how far I’ve come, and how far I still need to go. It reinforced the value of true friendship when it comes to coping with complex issues. Let’s face it, we all need that person who tells us when to pump the brakes. It also drove home how important it is to have real conversations. If you think someone may be in crisis, then ask. You’re not going to put an idea in their head.

That is my storm. The clouds are beginning to move off, but the rain hasn’t quite subsided. Thankfully, I have friends with umbrellas.

Four Years, Two Months & a Handful of Days

This is one of the rare posts that I’m not sharing on Social Media. I recognize that when I do, it’s with the intent to alert my family and friends that I’ve been writing again and I really need some “Likes” (watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix (it’s well-done) and then blame the platform developers for driving those addictive needs that I find difficult to wean myself away from).

Over the last month my posts have had a dual purpose – to raise awareness and to also raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I think both are important. However, I don’t need that today. If you feel like donating when I’m through, you can find the link.

Let’s Start

On any given day I feel ok. On any given day I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m surrounded with a solid support base. I’m handling disappointment better (a tremendous hurdle for me). To give you some idea of where I was: In the past if someone backed out of a plan, I’d be an emotional wreck. It could be as simple as, “I can’t make lunch” to “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have invited you on the Paris trip. You don’t mind if I uninvite you now, right? My bad!” Both were met with the same level of disappointment. Not going to Chuy’s for a margarita and super nachos was as heartbreaking as being uninvited from standing in the Louvre fighting for a spot to glimpse The Mona Lisa. Two things that absolutely should not be equal were equal to me, but I moved on – my sense of perspective began to normalize again. Now I can drink a Chuy’s margarita and fuss about being uninvited to Paris. Of course, I probably still can’t go to the Louvre without causing some sort of scene by trying to flip some art or kicking an unsuspecting French person who would be wholly undeserving of said kick, but yay progress. Am I right? (Hey, I said I got my perspective back in terms of “nachos don’t equal the Louvre.” I didn’t say I magically matured or that I was over having the invitation rescinded. Pro tip: Don’t make big offers to recently traumatized people then pull them back. It’s not a good look, and the reaction you get may not showcase them at their best.)

Over these four years, I’ve made other positive steps. I’ve stopped crying regularly. I do still cry, sure, but it’s not with that same frequency or intensity. I miss my person and all that he was. That’s not going away.

In these four years, I’ve gotten a better handle on my anxiety attacks, which I mentioned in a previous post.

All decent steps forward.

Sure, I’m still mad that a condition of us being together was that I had to agree to never having children. I’m mad that I find myself alone having made that sacrifice. I’m mad that I’m old. I’m mad that I was abandoned. I mad that the prospects for someone finding me attractive are non-existent and I’m mad that I will never be touched lovingly again. All of that weighs on me. All of that hurts me to my core. All of that I have to work on.

But still, I’ve made progress. I work through and manage my issues on a daily basis – just like everyone else. And I feel ok most of the time.

On Friday I was on our bi-weekly lunch call – arguably my favorite “meeting” where I get to see all the faces I miss (and all of those faces seem to give me a certain amount of grief – hrmm, I may have questionable taste). During that call, I heard a knock at the door signaling my lunch had finally arrived. YAY! Warm sandwich and a cookie! My go-to for these lunches. I don’t know what it is, but the sub shop must sprinkle their turkey sandwiches with magic. They’re crazy delicious. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a gentleman standing there while another was leaving. Odd. He then handed me my sandwich while addressing me by my legal name. Weird. No one calls me that, and it seemed odd for the sandwich guy to even have that information. Are you…? (Umm… are you a stalker? Serial killer?) The gentleman then explained he was my postman. (I guess gone are the days of the easily identifiable polyester uniforms. I mean sure, good on them, those didn’t look comfy. No judgment. But on the other hand you kind of end up looking like my sandwich guy.) He handed me a certified letter and my lunch.

I took everything in and set it down. The letter was from my city, which usually means that the city is asking for participants in their annual water testing project. I’m usually up for that, so I opened it expecting to find the timeline and arrival of the collection bottles.

It turned out that the letter was not from their public utilities department, it was from the city’s police department. It stated that the police were in possession of my property – a claim I found both odd and completely incorrect. Unless someone stole something, the police department shouldn’t have any of my property. I wasn’t missing anything. Did someone take something from me? I searched my memory. Could I be so oblivious that I was missing something important enough for the police to reach out about? Maybe? I read further and the letter made no sense. You see, my brain wasn’t processing the words that described the item they had listed, and that’s because I’m unfamiliar weapons – their brands or their descriptions. It’s not my world. What this letter was telling me was that the police had the weapon Jay used to complete his suicide – four years, two months and a handful of days later. The last thing he held in his hand. The letter demanded I contact them immediately and either pick it up or have it destroyed. The last thing he held in his hand. The thing that he used to take his life. The thing I told them the day of Jay’s death to destroy. The letter said I had 60 days to act – like I’d done something wrong or negligent. I reeled.

I told myself I was ok. It was only a letter describing an object.

I was not ok.

I walked over to my laptop and slammed it shut. The cheerful voices continued to dance through the speakers. I popped it back open, found the “Leave” button for the meeting, and then collapsed on the floor wailing – something I haven’t done in years. All of the pain of Jay’s death pulsing out from my body in large inconsolable waves. I allowed myself to have that moment, and then I called my people – my brother-in-law, my bestfriend, and my step-mom – each pulled me back an inch at a time – each with an immediate action plan on how to address the situation. Finally, my friend Edward offered up, “Hey, at least the cops didn’t show up with a warrant to search your dungeon basement. Does your mom know me as the guy who lives down there whom you keep demanding to cover himself in lotion?” (Silence of the Lambs reference and ongoing inside joke.) I finally laughed again. (Note: I do not have a dungeon basement that Edward lives in. This is Texas. Edward lives in my crawlspace. We don’t have basements. Also, I’M KIDDING. No Edwards were harmed – he’s too funny to hurt.)

Another friend chatted with me the next night, and helped further define my path forward – my next step, which is: I’m going to contact the police department and suggest they work with their volunteer Victim’s Services group to engage them for this type of outreach. It shouldn’t be a form letter. What they did was ham-fisted at best, and this process desperately needs improvement.

All of this said to further put a spotlight on the aftermath of suicide. It is absolutely devastating to the survivors. It ravages those left behind, taking tolls on physical and mental health. And while survivors can and will rise back up again, and again – this snapshot into a single day of my experience points out that even when we feel our strongest, we will experience momentary set-backs – unforeseen things – things that sit closer to our tears.

And it’s why I come back time and time again to express the importance of the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and why I know you can make a difference – why you should make a difference – whether you’re advocating, educating or supporting with a donation. Be a part of that solution. Do it for me. Do it so future families won’t receive a letter four years, two months and a handful of days later and crumble to pieces. Do it so they never have to know that loss – that pain.

Me, I have a mission to make change. That’s my commitment.