ONE YEAR IN / by Micaela

A friend who also lost a child once said that one year after was the darkest time in her life.  I couldn't fathom how any time could be worse than the immediate tangible loss of the days after Lula's last breath, but now I know exactly what she meant. The adrenaline that flushed my body in the aftermath mixed with grief like a surreal cocktail that made me drunk with a flourish of gratitude and earnestness.  It's a hazy vacation in a horrifying parallel universe where nothing seems like it's a part of your own life anymore.

In a year the buzz has worn off.  Now I am here and she is not.  The only experience that seems parallel to me is that of soldiers returning home from combat. It seems absurd to try to go back to a "normal" life, but there is nothing else to do.  I am no longer the same person, but there is no other play for me to act a part in than the one that was written as my day-to-day life before Lula.

In some ways there is nothing more overwhelming for me than the good intentions of other people.  I can sense the tightness, the gently prodding urgency from those who care about me to feel from me that I am OK so that they can be OK. A new job? Or grad school? Or maybe a new career?  Maybe a new baby?  I've had 3 different people ask me if I was pregnant within the last year.  Isn't that amazing?  That anyone could fathom that possibility just shows how wide the chasm is between where I am and where others would imagine I might be.

In the space of 2 1/2 years my world shrank from the world to my apartment and further still into myself.  I'm like Russian nesting dolls; there's a smaller me inside of every me and the more I open myself up the smaller and smaller I become. But what else it there to do?  Keep busy?  I will tell you that doesn't work.  That catches up with you when you have busied yourself into total distraction. 

I took a freelance job as a photo editor at a news magazine and thought I was doing fine until 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  I had to find the photos of twenty dead 6-year olds almost exactly one year after Lula died.  I white knuckled it through work every day that week and sobbed on the subway home every night.  I was still feeling what all those parents were feeling and knew how much worse it would get.  I barely made it through that job and haven't worked since. 

The literary device, "a willing suspension of disbelief", is defined by Wikipedia as this:

...the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, 
so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises.  These fictional 
premises may also lend to the engagement of the mind and perhaps
proposition of thoughts, ideas, art and theories.

Suspension of disbelief is often an essential element for a magic act or a circus sideshow act.
 For example, an audience is not expected to actually believe that
 a woman is cut in half or transforms into a gorilla in order to enjoy the performance.

Actually, I think we need this trick to get ourselves through day to day existence.  Once the illusion that you are assured a measure of safety, that the universe is somehow looking out for your well-being evaporates,  your whole story collapses.  How do you build on to anything after that? You are left with a minefield of your own making.  

I don't know what to say to all those who want me to be OK.  Right now I'm standing in a mine field trying to find a path and everyone is going to have to wait patiently until I map a way out.