November 17th-18th of 2011 were the worst days of my life. When Cliff was convicted on all charges, I went to bed furious and sick at what I thought was a miscarriage of justice. The next day I discovered my emotional turmoil had been ill-informed - my husband confessed in front of our friends, our family, the jury, the lawyers, judge and news reporters that he had had a sexual relationship with a 16 year old while I was 8 months pregnant. My mother broke the news to me over the phone and I remember the feeling of the earth dropping out from underneath me and the sensation that all sound around me had ceased. Not only had I been betrayed, but I didn't even have the privilege of being told about the betrayal first. The local newspaper knew before I did.
The psychic wreckage was unfathomable. Not only was I dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, but I also had to come to terms with a broken family, single-motherhood, endangered job prospects and possible financial ruin. And the fact that anybody with an internet connection could know my deepest pain and private family tragedy and have an opinion about it. I've been seeing a therapist since October of 2010 and her help has been critical to my continued mental, spiritual and physical health. No one comes "standard" with the skills to cope with the level of devastation that I and my family underwent in November of 2011, and her counsel has helped me to navigate the apocalyptic-ruined landscape of what my life became last year. And this doesn't even factor in my father's cancer diagnosis only one week after Cliff's conviction.
The last year has been one sharp moment after another - Thanksgiving, my Birthday, Christmas, New Years, Cliff's Birthday, Valentine's Day, Gareth's Birthday, Mother's Day, our Wedding Anniversary, Father's Day, Fourth of July, Halloween - my progress through life resembling step after step after step through sharp glass. Every memory was a booby-trap; Every family gathering was a reminder of pain; Every visit to Cliff's prison a jarring journey. So you can imagine that I approached this last week and this Thanksgiving holiday with a certain amount of trepidation. I was afraid that I was about to become Alice and fall down the rabbit hole into a land not-so-wonderful. There be dragons here.
Except there wasn't any hole to fall into. I had a couple of fleeting moments when I shed tears (leaving Target and watching several episodes of Deep Space Nine), but mostly this terrible anniversary has lacked any power to bring me low. My counselor says that it is a sign that I am experiencing healing, that time has leached the poison of these days, that I am progressing normally through the process of grief. And I think that my decision to have an "Early Thanksgiving" with my family helped to strip the heaviness from this week. But my lack of debilitating remembering has been confusing for me, and mostly what I have been feeling during these days shadowed by dark memories is guilt.
Guilt that I am not wracked with bitter tears.
Guilt that I am not expansively angry at my unasked for fate.
Guilt that I have not desire to gaze out windows with melancholy brokenness, sighs spilling forth.
Guilt that I seemed to have healed (at least, in part) from what I thought was a mortal wound.
Is this guilt normal? It wraps around me, but I try to shake it off because I do not wish to return to those wretched first days when I stood stunned in my own emotional holocaust. I have no desire to cry so much that I leach my body of salt. I do not wish to experience the disassociative state which I lived in for so many months, months during which I could not accept that this TRULY WAS my life. I was blessed by the outpouring of love, gifts, money, cards, help, company, but I never EVER again want to suffer so deeply that my whole support system has to turn it's gaze inward to care solely for me. I want NONE of that. But I still feel guilt clinging hard onto my back and whispering into my ear "No tears? What's wrong with you?"
Facebook has been overtaken by a daily naming of "thanksgiving" by many of my friends, family, church members, etc. And I thought about joining in and decided against it in fear of becoming banal or trite about the good things in my life. And also, because the things I am thankful for are a bit...sharp.
I am thankful that I don't cry much anymore.
I am thankful that my son seems to be no worse for being raised by a single mom.
I am thankful that some days I am not overcome with anger or regret.
I am thankful that I have survived and that I am only plagued by nagging guilt instead of breathless grief.
I am thankful that my days ahead are now familiar territory, days of loneliness that I know the shape of.
I am thankful that my memories no longer hold me hostage.