I tug the cord on the fan light, pull the weighted blanket on top of me, and after hours of distracting myself with a screen I’m left alone with my thoughts. With the tightness in my chest and the churning of my stomach, I lay staring at the ceiling. It’s 2am. Despite my efforts during the day to stay busy, with starting a foundation in his name, selling t-shirts, killing time with adult coloring books, I still have to face the feelings when I get in bed. How does one sleep with their life aflame? It has been six-weeks since Ra’Shaud, my fiancé, my almost husband, died.
If his death hasn’t already changed every ounce of my body, I’ve made it my mission to change the rest. I moved, I quit my job, I cut my hair. Who I was before, died in the water with Ra’Shaud and there is no coming back. Yet, simultaneously, I find myself holding on to small aspects of sameness. My refusal to change the color of my toe nail polish (the color he picked out) despite the fact that it is far past grown out. My desire to freeze time, and resist the global push for “going back to normal,” something I know my life will never be. No longer do I hold my world within a tight fist. There is room for both change and sameness. Both. And.
When an artist goes to paint their masterpiece, they choose their colors with intention. They control the paint brush. They give and they take away, therefore changing the work as they please. Before change was forced upon me, I thought I had been painted as the color green. Full of life and ever growing into the person I thought I needed to be, in order to live the life I so meticulously planned. I was sharp, curious, and fun. There were shades to me. Some days a majestic emerald, some days a sophisticated olive, on really good days, a lively lime. Ra’Shaud was a high-spirited yellow. His yellow could evolve with the situation he found himself in. It was equally a warm welcome, as it was a sign of caution, not to mess with the things, people, or places he cared for. The vibrant pops of color that used to be our relationship, a job I loved, the hope for a family, were supposed to increase our hue. Our colors were moving toward each other, but like a venn diagram, we were able to mix yet still hold onto our individual selves. Improving ourselves, subsequently improved our relationship.
Now, I am grey. I live in a world of grey and I have to listen to people tell me that the world will be colorful again. The loss of Ra’Shaud has re-shaded my life. The Artist erased too much, mixed too many shades and took my color. But they say He doesn’t make mistakes. He gives and He takes away.
I’ll never be green again, but in my short glimpses of hope I look across the color wheel in search of a new color, a new stage of life. Something to represent the path I’ve been stumbling through. I’ve learned that “grief stages” have been used in a way that do not represent the originator’s intended purpose. Psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross coined the model in 1969, but it was never intended to be a yellow brick road to “recovery”, but more like a game of Chutes and Ladders. Except, I’m the only player. Every turn is mine. There is no relief, as each morning is a new spin of the wheel. What shade of grey will I be today? Maybe today will be full of depression or bargaining. This is a long game. One you leave out on a side table, pieces in place, knowing you will return to it. Each picture I willingly look at, old text I read, or moment of silence I leave unfilled is a move forward of my pawn. It’s a clumsy dance of one step forward, two steps back. Oops sorry slide back to crying and banging on the floor.
These days, I tango between anger and denial. My color shifts between stone, and pewter. Iron, and cloud, and fog. The denial is painful as the truth is always there to snap me back.
“Why hasn’t he come back for me yet? This is so unlike him” I think.
“How dare you leave me here without you” I whisper, still fighting sleep.
Ra’Shaud’s love for me, the way he did everything with us, with me, in mind. The way he went the extra mile to protect me, to serve me. It doesn’t make sense. Surely by now, he would have figured out how to fix this. How to save me from this misery.
One night last week, when a mix of melatonin and a podcast, distracted my mind enough for sleep, I had a dream where he was just away, off at Officer Training School with the Marines again. I had the idea of just calling and asking him to come home. My anticipation grew as the phone rang, the tempo of my heart increased as I waited to hear “hey beautiful” on the other end. But that didn’t come. I woke up and had to once again remind myself that I am here, he is there, and it is permanent.
In the dream, I had power, and an ounce of control. I held the paint brush. Though in the real world I have none of that. I’m realizing that I never really did. The illusion of control is in fact, not control.
The winner’s square is far in the distance. Not that that matters. Is winning getting through the grief? Is winning finally getting to Heaven to see my guy? Is that the same thing? I’m not sure, but I don’t think my people will let me stay grey forever. The path to finding a new color is not for the faint of heart, and on most days I completely avoid the task, content with the fact that I’ll be grey forever. But on the “good days” I’ll rise to play the game. I’ll slide from anger to denial, climb a ladder from bargaining to depression. Have a short stay at acceptance until I find myself sliding right back to anger. After sliding and climbing around the rainbow colored game board, I will eventually land on the right one. Maybe I’ll find that I can be more than one color? Both. And.