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The Point of Separation

Six years in and my life has become a constant quest for balance. Every day beginning from a new, immutable point I must use to calculate the distance to "the brink". The brink being that tipping point into the dark, into the deep cavernous sludge of loss, my bottomless well of grief.

This may not sound like progress, but it is. Oh, but it is. Because when I started this journey, I was down inside that well, doggy paddling through the feelings, wondering if I had the stamina, if maybe it would be better to just give up. With time, I crawled my way out of that despair. Like, belly-first, shredded-nails, fuck-the-bits-I'm-scraping-off-leave-them-for-the-things-that-live-in-the-dark crawled. I spent the next few years sitting at the edge, legs dangling, trying to remember not to look down. I no longer skirt the crater. But I know it's there. And it knows I know. And that is a tenuous symmetry to maintain.

Which brings me back to my point on balance. Even with all the progress I've made, it's still survival. To be honest, I can't quite wrap my head around the math of that. I've come all this way, but when I turn around, the dark is right there, hot breath on my neck, eager-beaver eyes, juggling memories of those early, hellfire days like knives. The distance between the points may be vast, but the memory spans them like hopscotch. In other words, just knowing how low I can go, what bottoming out feels like, even if I haven't visited that nadir in ages, is enough to propel me on. Forever searching for the trail marker where I can actually sit, take a load off, relax.

It's a daily stratagem. How much can I reliably push myself today? How much work can I do? How much junk food can I eat? How much sleep can I lose? How much Netflix can I stream? How much news can I read? How much makeup can I wear? How much emotion can I feel? How much discomfort can I endure before it all comes back to haunt me? How functional can I be on any given day without breaking myself? Because if I go a smidge over that line, I am sunk. I am sinking. I am sliding back toward the well and the horror and the infinite fucking sadness Billy Corgan could never understand (I'm Gen X, you're going to have to bear with my references).

Before losing Evelyn, I used to be able to take myself over that line. I could overwork, undersleep, overeat, underdress. I could ride past my limits and sure, I might get tired or cranky or burnt out, but that didn't mean a big black hole could swallow me. That didn't mean I was giving the monster time to catch up. That didn't mean the drywall I've erected and am constantly patching between myself and the worst trauma of my life could come tumbling down effectively placing me "back there", standing at ground zero, staring at the ashes and wondering what happened to my life, wondering why go on.

I guess, in a way, I'm complaining that I can't abuse myself more. Which, on the surface, probably deserves as much exploration as the reason behind it. But, you know... Can I handle that deep dive today? Probably not. One swan-dive off the Mountains of Madness at a time, please. Because my fragile fucking reboot—Anna 2.0—melts down if you press too many buttons at once. It's just observation really. The Before versus The After. The Then and The Now. My brain trying to reconstruct the deconstruction like a bonobo playing the shell game. Where did the surplus go, Coco? Huh?

Why is the skin so thin in The After? This isn't rhetorical. I'm really asking. Can I build a callus? Will it ever feel like I can focus a little less on the care and keeping of me and a little more on just living? Will there come a day when I don't drink eight glasses of eight fluid ounces of water and I don't take all my vitamins and I don't eat thirty grams of fiber and I don't get seven hours of sleep and I don't keep my screen time in check and I don't avoid the hundred-and-one triggery grief pitfalls (don't look at the door to her room or the mug that was hers or the article about the pop singer whose video you watched together don't look don't look don't look) and it doesn't all add up to being threatened by my own doppelganger of doom? Like, maybe it just means I'm a little tired and a little constipated but am only one good nap and prune cocktail away from being fine.

Look, this is one of those posts that I'm not sure anyone will understand. I'm not even sure I understand. Sometimes I feel like I just get on here and word salad my sorrow across the screen like so much emotional vomit and readers are going to walk away scratching their heads and feeling distinctly like I've crossed a boundary they didn't know they had. There she goes, oversharing again. But Evelyn's birthday is tomorrow and the synapses are misfiring a bit.

I can't help but wonder what twenty-five-year-old Evelyn would be like. How long or short her hair would be. Where she'd be living. What she would have graduated with a degree in. What song she'd be singing from the kitchen as she begrudgingly put the dishes away. Would she have ever actually learned Spanish? Probably not. Would she still seethe when I asked her to do the smallest of chores? Would she finally hug her brother? She would definitely think this blog was nuts. And roll her eyes at me for being so melodramatic. You're just old, she would say. And she'd probably be right.

But I guess that's the issue. You can always count on your kids to keep you grounded. I've lost one of my rudders. My ship lilts now, a little to the left. It drifts in big, woebegone circles, returning to the same point again and again. The point when she was here, and we were happy. Together. The point of separation. When everything ended and began again. A little less shiny. A little more damaged. But still vividly, intensely in love with her.

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My beautiful friend, I want to assure you that your synapses are not misfiring, not at all. Every word made sense. Every word felt like the pluck of a string of another grieving heart ringing out to mine. I never ever want to compare my grief to yours, and yet all grief has similar qualities regardless of the source. I love you so much. You are magic. 🩷

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