I am excoriated. I expect everyday to begin to feel better, and I suppose I have, by tiny increments. There are fewer crying jags, less foggy-headed staggering through each day. But most of the time, I can feel half my mind trying not to think about what happened in Connecticut, and the other half of my mind creeping over to it, compulsively probing the sore spot.
We had planned weeks ago to go away for our anniversary this weekend, and by Friday, I was dreading it. I didn’t want to leave my kids, and I foresaw only a miserable pageant of carefree escapism. But I knew canceling would be absurd. Why stay home? So I could continue to intermittently crawl under my desk and sob into my hands when blindsided by another detail on the radio news? To creep into my kids’ room after they were asleep and lie on the floor between their beds for an hour while nauseous waves of dread pass through me?
So, we went. And of course, it was good. I am not generally a fan of the kind of quotations that end up on inspirational posters, but Isak Dinesen’s line comes to me often: “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” It’s taking all three to keep me upright these days, and our two days in Maine gave me a heavy dose. Each day, I went out running by myself by the mostly deserted beaches. Running too fast, the mark of a heavy heart for me, I went slamming along the shoreline where the winter ocean and the winter wind were roaring so loud they obliterated all human sound. It happened that I reached the water just at the instant in a cold run when all the tiny capillaries in my clenched fingers simultaneously open and flood my hands with warmth. Sidelong, I watched the waves furl themselves into fists and pummel the rocks there and then recede.
It’s not relief I feel, or comfort on these runs. It’s an anesthesia of exhaustion, a hit of weariness and depletion that gets me through one more day, or half of one. Then I can go to sleep and hope not to wake up in the desolation of 3am, heart pounding and traitorous imagination manufacturing scenes that I have studiously avoided in the newspapers or on tv.
I have shielded my kids from all that too, including my own grief, and they are blissfully untroubled as they round into the straightaway to Christmas. I feel such a heightened intensity of love and gratitude for them, it’s just that it’s braided together with all this pain. It makes a thick rope–a cable of all the most intense emotions a human is capable of feeling. I have begun, like all of us, to haul myself up by it, hand over hand, with a eye toward nothing but the step immediately before me. How long it is, or where it may be anchored somewhere, or what it may pass along the way, I am trying not to concern myself over. And I am trying to open my eyes and see everyone else here too, gripping this same cord, gripping though our hands are raw.