Monday, December 01, 2014

I blink, as if at pain

We were on the train taking us from the terminal back to baggage claim, part of the post-Thanksgiving returning throngs clinging exhaustedly to subway straps and poles, the travel-induced blank faces, bodies jiggling back and forth like jello.

I looked out the window and caught my reflection, and was, as ever, surprised and dismayed by how tired and haggard and old I look.

Not just look.  Am.

I tried to give myself a break.  It's a reflection in a train window.  It's shitty flourescent light.  You've been traveling all day.  You aren't wearing make-up.  It was a rough week.

It was a rough week.

I knew it would be.  And I guess it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  But it was hard.  Emma's absence was an enormous presence that we all felt.

We tip-toed around it at first.  Not in the sense that we didn't talk about her, but we definitely skirted the fact that it was The First Major Holiday Without Her.

We did the things we normally do.  The house buzzed with decisions about which sides to make for dinner on Thursday.
Dad doesn't really like sweet potatoes - maybe instead of mashing them we could do roasted wedges? 
Trust me, you may not like Brussels sprouts, but these are sauteed with bacon - you're going to love them.
They're not powdered potatoes - they make them fresh at the store!  But it's one less thing to worry about.
Why don't my pie crusts ever look like yours?  No matter what I do, they don't roll out properly.
The kids had a great time playing with their cousins.  Zeke took to rolling down the big hill in my parents' front yard, and was constantly covered with mud.  We went to the park.

We did our annual Thanksgiving run in downtown D.C. benefiting So Others Might Eat.

And it was all lovely.  But there was this unshakable underlying tension.  Sadness permeated the week, as much as we love each other.  The air felt full of tiny shards of glass that cut our insides when we breathed.  The force of gravity felt stronger, pulling us down and making us feel heavier.

We dressed for dinner on Thursday afternoon, and sat down at the beautifully set table, laden with a gorgeous turkey and creamed spinach and my mom's awesome cranberry jello mold and rolls and stuffing and gravy and potatoes and wine.

Then we collectively looked around the table, took a deep breath, and burst into tears.

We were thankful to be together.  Thankful to be alive.  But it's been such a hard year.  We miss her so much.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was relieved to be going home and away from my family.  Back in Colorado, I can get some distance.  I can compartmentalize.  I can let the day-to-day chaos of my own life - work, kids, house, appointments, friends -- shield me from that sadness and those tiny shards of glass.

But it still shows in my face in that train window reflection.

My soon to be 45-year-old face, which looks saggy and old and ugly to me.  My soon-to-be 45-year-old body, which looks saggy and old and ugly to me.

I was telling a friend of mine recently that I'm so much more attractive in my head - it's always jarring to me when I see my aging self in the mirror.

People pooh-pooh it whenever I say it out loud (so I rarely say it out loud), but it's how I feel.  It matters to me.  It affects my confidence and self-image.

I want my old self back.  I want the self that had discipline and will-power when it came to diet and exercise.  But when the sadness and stress moved in, the discipline and will-power moved out.

I'm trying so hard to get it back.  Because maybe if I get that back, I can figure out how to be young again.


  1. Oh, Wendy. Big huge giant tremendous hugs to you, dear friend. You are in a very difficult, painful place. You'll get back to a happier one, and you will feel good about yourself and young again.

  2. Maude7:09 PM

    Yes, me too. All of it. Although sometimes I feel somewhere between pleased and grimly satisfied at how haggard I look because I've earned it. Don't know if that's perverse or positive. Thinking you a hug, feeling a little less lonely.

  3. I just wrote a long comment which is now gone so the brief recap is that you are beautiful inside and out. Hugs