The Undoing of X-Ray Vision

As I sat down this morning to take stock of the week, and search the corners of my mind for what to write about, I realized something kind of surprising, and pretty huge...

I’m not tired.

Holy crap, what? I’m NOT tired? What’s happening here? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for a nap by 4pm most days, but I’m not talking about that kind of tired. I mean the kind of tired you guys all understand - the heavy-tired of grief. That dull, dragging, languid, energy-sucking kind of tired that I seem to have been carrying around with me ever since he died that summer in 2012. Today, right now, this past month, even in the busiest of times, I’m not feeling that particular tired.

I don’t know what has changed, but something very big has. I think a number of various things have really. Mike and I both started seeing counselors a month or so ago, and no doubt that extra support is helping us both. For me, having that space weekly to care for myself with my counselor has definitely taken a load off of my shoulders. A little daily yoga seems to be helping still too. But honestly, not much else has actually changed, except how I am seeing it all. 

Up till now, there have just been so many layers of information going on all at once. I have been trying to bring this new life into focus, really hard. I think all the while, so many others things have been struggling for attention too, like transparent pieces of film stacked on each other.

That’s exactly how it feels, like layers of film. Like sometimes I’m trying to focus on my present life, but there are all these other layers just stuck there in front of me, and each sheet of film is sliding around a bit on the others, confusing everything, making it almost impossible to just be able to focus on the life I am in. They are like x-ray images of my worst fears… fear of loss, about missing home, resentment of change, unresolved things of the past, self doubts, and so much more, all piled in front of me.

So this shift that’s been happening… it feels like I’m calming down enough to finally, slowly, pick up each piece of film, examine it closely for the information I need to learn from it, and then gently move it over to the side. One by one, I feel like my present life is getting clearer and easier to understand and see. One by one, removing another layer of fear, or another piece of the past that hasn’t yet been dealt with. Not only is it getting easier to see just what is in front of me, the color of my life seems so much more vibrant without all the layers dulling it down.

I should mention, I don’t see my love for Drew or my parents or Texas or any of that as part of these film layers. Because the love, to me, is more like this invisible force that enhances all of my current life. The love is Technicolor. It’s HD. It only enhances. It’s all the pain and confusion and fear from the past that is stored in those layers of film.

Nothing else has changed about any of my circumstances lately. BUT... Unplanned stuff coming up is not throwing my into a tailspin of anger or resentment. The dog eating a shoe or going to the bathroom in the house is not making me seethe inside with resentment. Lately, with some of those extra layers of film out of the way, these things just are what they are - singular events that will pass and aren’t really worth getting worked up over. My whole viewpoint feels more positive. I am laughing more, and struggling less.

It makes so much sense now why everything has felt so hard. Why I’ve found so much frustration where I didn’t really need to. How even the smallest things in my new life can bother me so much. How I have felt so bitchy for reasons that don’t seem worth it. I’ve probably been trying to walk around this current life with about a hundred different layers of film in front of my face… it is no wonder I have been so tired for so long.

It’s impossible, I think, not to look at life through x-ray vision after death… to not filter everything new through our experience of death and have it cloud our lives for years and sometimes decades. It is a natural part of the grieving process to have to slog through all these layers of heaviness. The past few years have showed me that new times of grief and new layers of heaviness will come. That’s been the hardest thing to accept, because I want to believe I should have a “free pass” now after having been through so much. But that isn’t life. And there will be new losses, and new challenges, for all my days.

For a while since moving to Ohio, I don’t think I wanted to look at any of those complex layers. I just wanted to live a life, and not have to deal with grief or fear or any sort of struggle. I have tried hard to do just that, to ignore my grief, my fears, etc. Only it doesn't work that way. If you don't stop to examine them, the films just start to pile up - your dis-ease piles up. This year, it has felt like the films piled up to a point I could no longer see well enough to handle it. As depression set in several months ago, I knew it was time to start looking for some help with this stuff, and paying attention. There's no doubt in my mind that it's helping. 

I don’t know if those layers ever fully leave us or not. Maybe they are just moved to our peripheral, and sometimes new experiences of loss  - or even potentials for loss - cause them to pile up in front of us again, obscuring our vision as we try and sort through it all. But I do think that if we remember not to ignore our pain, or our fear, we can start to move the layers aside. Like real x-rays, after all, these layers are filled with valuable information to help us. And that’s when we’re able to let the love that remains for those we have lost color our current lives most beautifully. That's when the view gets clear, the weight becomes less, our energy resumes, and the love for them shines the brightest. 

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  • commented 2017-10-30 08:02:45 -0700
    Thank you for sharing this Teresa – you described it so well too, the flatness. It’s been about 5 1/5 years for me now, and I feel like the clarity started to come in a little bit better right around that year 4 for me too. It sure is a much longer process than we ever imagine, isn’t it? Much love to you!
  • commented 2017-10-30 07:54:52 -0700
    I love how you describe “the layers dulling everything else out”. I have often described my grief to my friends as “not being able to see in 3-D anymore, everything is just flat”. Interesting to know this may be a more common experience than I’ve realized. Also, how the “layers” add confusion and a basic dulling and disconnect. The lethargy and tiredness you describe take so much longer to “wear off “ than I would have ever imagined. I’m almost 3 months into my 4 year now. The edges are still fuzzy, but indeed a new “clarity “ is making its way into my psyche. So, while the 3-D of days of old may never quite be the same, new light and texture are coming into focus as some of the “layers” fall away.