I’ve been filling in at the library I worked at when John died these last few weeks and it has been a good change of pace for me. It’s been good to see co-workers I didn’t realize I missed as much as I do, and to do work that feels important and feeds the greater good. All in all I’ve been happy that I’ve stepped back into the environment I abruptly left after John died, but it hasn’t been without it’s challenges or insights.
Because the public library is exactly that -public- I have found interacting with the patrons for whom I simply disappeared two years ago to be quite a challenge emotionally. When they have noticed me there they have stopped, smiled and exclaimed, “You’re back!” and then immediately ask me how I am doing? How is life been without John? They say things like, "You look well, or they say that I’m so strong, or so brave, and it reopens me to those types of hard interactions. Interactions that make me think to myself, 'this is exactly why I left two years ago, because I couldn’t answer the public questions. Couldn’t bear the sadness in their eyes when they looked at me, the kind condolences they gave that hurt my heart, the small talk about how to carry on, how to grieve, how to “be” in the world of “after.”
However, I know that I can can do it now, even thought it’s hard, I can do it but only because it’s been a long time between the initial impact of his death and where I am now. Because is has been two years, two long, really difficult years. I can now look at them and tell them how much I miss John, how life is different, how my children are and have been, how I’ve moved houses and most importantly for me recently, how much I realized I missed being in the library, with its’ family like space of caring, spats and everyone knowing everything about everybody, and wanting to help in their own way environment.
But it’s taken a long time to get here and it’s still really, really hard. It’s been two years now, it’s taken two years. I keep saying that because I am having hard time grasping the fact that it really has been this long. And even after this long, I find I still have to look slightly over a person’s shoulder or completely away when I discuss John’s death, when I tell them of any actual personal part of my grieving process or how I am, really, not just the platitudes that I’ve gotten so good at using. It’s still hard to let other’s see the pain that I know is so very apparent in my eyes, my facial expressions, or the tears that still brim in my eyes sometimes when I talk about John dying or his funeral.
The other thing that became really apparent last night when I worked is that time really has marched on with out me. Because I am an avid reader and I have worked in libraries for a decade or more now my life is viewed through and measured in many ways through books. Books I've read and loved, books that I have started and stopped, books that are phenomenas like Fifty Shades of Gray and the Twilight series that clutter up the library hold shelves and have people forming small impromptu groups to discuss. Books have been my avenue into the world at large all of my life, so last night when I was checking in books I was stopped still when four books came through that were new and by authors I really like. 'When did this come out?' I asked myself. Thinking it was the last few months I was disturbed and surprised that all of them had been published in 2013, nearly an entire years ago. A year of literature that I wasn’t even aware of because, honestly, I wasn’t aware of much in 2013 and really most of 2014 has been the same. It made me sad in some ways to know that so much of the world and life has been missed these last few years, had to be missed out on really, because it was all too much to bear any longer and I simply had to ‘drop-out’ of society. It's not just books either, I've missed out on most all things that society generally keeps up on. I can’t tell you about new television shows, or music or politics. It's hard to fathom it really, and I find myself asking over and over again, when did all this change happen? How did so much happen without me even having an inkling about it?
Of course I know when it happened, the day John died the world stopped. Or, more accurately as I am seeing it now, I stopped, the world did what it always does, it kept right on going. I’m the only one who stepped off society’s full forward only motion train and lived in a self built bubble of isolation for so long. And I don't regret it, not at all. I needed that isolation to process, to hear my heart cry and my soul keen for a great loss, for death and all that ended in my life when John died. I needed to simply be in that space of not acknowledging the outside world and it’s noise for awhile in order to begin to right myself back on my own axis before I could step back onto that fast moving train again, or more accurately get in line and watch it zip by, I’m not sure I’m fully ready to jump on the train again completely just yet.
My unreadiness to get completely on board was very apparent last night after I finished up at the library, because after last night I was exhausted. Not just physically but emotionally. I was exhausted from explaining where I’ve been to patrons over and over, I was exhausted from chit chat of co-workers and catching up with them (seriously so much has happened! babies born, weddings, divorces, graduations!). I was also exhausted from the realizations of books upon books I’ve missed out on and want to read. I was exhausted from seeing children who have grown and blossomed while I was away in the darkest of my grief days and could not expose myself the light of their world because it all simply hurt too much. I was weary of having stepped out into the world again, absolutely necessary to do, but exhausting as well.
I realized as I drove home that I was so ready for and looking forward to today, a day of isolation, of quiet. A day of limited distractions and stimulus. I was looking forward to sitting at my computer, beagle nearby, snow blowing softly outside-yeah it’s that time again here in the midwest- and simply being for a little while, gearing up my energy for stepping out into the library world again in a few days, a world I love, a world I belong in, but a world I realize I must tiptoe back into as I gently and slowly open up the door from my grief world into the regular world once again. “Slowly, slowly, slowly goes the sloth”, says Eric Carle, famous children’s author. Pondering his words makes me think how wise that sloth is, “yes, yes, "I say to myself, "slowly, slowly , slowly goes the widow too."