My little guy is running a fever, and just wants to hang out on the couch. He snuggled up to me, digging his curly noggin into my chest.
“What happened to your pillows, mom?”
It was his 5-year-old way of commenting that certain parts of me are shrinking. I’ve been on this not-so-awesome eating plan called The Anxiety Diet, which mostly involves not eating. Or sleeping. Or breathing normally. It’s the worst way to lose weight.
Last week, dread was feeding my anxiety like trash into an incinerator. The hotter the fire burned, the more I ground my teeth, and avoided eating, and drank adult beverages. I wanted my pulse to slow down. I wanted the panicky feeling to go away. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to just stop feeling so much.
Today, I’ve consumed almost every carb in my house. Months-old tortilla chips? Good. Stale biscotti? Better. Trader Joe’s Lemon Squares? Why is the box suddenly empty? My appetite has returned with a vengeance. No worries, Little Man. The pillows will be back soon.
My jaw has unclenched. My forehead has unfurrowed. My heart is beating normally. Yes, my heart is still beating. Last week, Dread had convinced me I wouldn’t survive this week. Dread kept whispering that it was too much, that I just couldn’t, that I’m not able. What did I think would happen? That I’d become so overwhelmed with emotion that I’d stop functioning? That I’d be catatonic or psychotic? That Jesus Lord I will completely lose my shit and CPS will come take my kids and my husband will divorce me and I’ll have to be hospitalized indefinitely?
So far, none of that has happened. Kai’s Homecoming Day is still a few days off, and I know there will be difficult moments. There will be crying. There will be a few waves of grief that will smack down hard and pull away slowly. There will be moments I still have those terrible guilt/anger feelings that are nauseating. But they won’t last, and the sadness will subside.
Something released. For all the times in the last few weeks I heard, “You can’t, you’re not able, it’s too much,” my faith has reminded me this week, “You don’t have to be able.” It’s hard to explain to someone without faith that surrender doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It means I’ve turned outward, upward, rather than inward. It means I’ve relinquished the illusion of control. In the immortal words of Carrie Underwood, Jesus took the wheel. (Which is a very good thing, as my husband will tell you I’m the girl who makes all female drivers look bad.)
A stream of encouraging messages and emails has already started. This week, there will be people bringing us meals. There will be many people praying for us and with us. There will be people on both coasts thinking about us often and compassionately. There will be a group gathering at the beach in San Diego to remember Kai and hold my family close. People are setting up, making candles, preparing music, buying bags of marshmallows, helping with the little guy, doing whatever they can to make the gathering easy for my family.
And at the end of this week, I will wake up The Day After. Yes, I will wake up, still the mother of three, still surviving, still believing. I’ll still be a terrible driver, and I’ll still be missing my son. But I will know unequivocally that I survived this week because of faith, and friends, and family. And I will still be standing. Like a boss.