I’ve always had a solid internal clock. From my childhood through college, I religiously wore a watch. It was one of those clothing items that I felt naked without. When I got my first smart phone and that became the item that our entire society can’t live without, the watch got phased out. Maybe that’s why I am usually aware of the passing hours.
Tim would ask me a lot what time it was when we were out running errands or doing something where he wasn’t near his computer. I guess the first time I didn’t have my phone or watch near me, and I ball parked it. He checked, and I was within ten minutes of the actual time. Somehow, it became a test. “You’re always so close,” he said. It was/is a very uneventful super power I guess.
Those who have been through a traumatic loss know a bit about internal clocks. There’s a well known sensation shared among grievers. When a milestone is coming up, whether it’s an anniversary, birthday, or the date of the loss itself, many of us suffer anticipatory grief and dread before the date. For me at least, it’s a general sense of uneasiness. I am more frustrated, easily triggered, and melancholy without knowing exactly why. It used to be a lot worse. The first (and probably second) years every significant date would trigger the blahs. I’d feel off anywhere from days to weeks. The surprising part is, when the actual day of “doom” arrives, I am typically fine. No big deal. Except it is a big deal.
Our bodies hold trauma and memory. We’ve only tapped the tip of the iceberg on generational trauma (for the record, I am not comparing my loss to the generational trauma many compromised groups have had to go through). We live in the five senses, even the head cases like me who often disassociate and flit to somewhere far away. Our memories are constructed with a foundation of bricks made with the smell of strong Turkish coffee, chords of a favorite song, the feeling of a body next to yours dipping the mattress in the bed, and for me right now, the sound of rain pouring off the roof.
We had crazy storms in Austin last weekend. It’s unusual for it to rain for days here, but we had at least three of gray skies and fat droplets. Working in my living room, I watched the rain pouring off the corner of my roof like a waterfall. Slamming the concrete patio from my roof. Pooling in streams through the yard, carrying sticks and mulch and acorns, until it soaked into the ground and slicked under the fence and flowed to places I could not see.
Watching that, I say to myself, I haven’t seen this much rain since Memorial Day, 2015. And I’m there, back in the little blue house with the bad drainage. I’m standing on our tiny front porch, with the one loose board that’d kill you if you stepped wrong, watching it come down. Looking down at a pond collecting in my front yard. Worrying about the inches of water running through our rickety foundation (the one with no sub-flooring, held up with 2x4s).
May 2015 is when things started getting really bad for me at home. I’m not sure how much of it was felt or reflected on the blog. May was the wedding back home when all his friends asked me what was wrong. May was me crying to sleep many nights, half because I was upset at some argument and half because I hoped I could get his attention to try to figure out what was really wrong. May was at least one car accident. May was him telling me, distraught, that he hadn’t made anything of his life. May was me, terrified, that he actually believe it.
These things happened a long time ago. I do not think about them every day. But my body does not forget. My internal clock knows where we were when. As the seconds click on, it knows that I’m headed to another June 18th. On that occasion (I don’t call it an anniversary, which has too positive of a connotation), I’ll probably be just fine. It will be year 6. I’ll likely think how my life isn’t that much different from years 3, 4, and 5, only the constant acknowledgement of how vastly different it is from the first phase of my adulthood with him.
None of this eliminates the good things in my life right now, the joy I know I can feel. But I carry it all the time. And sometimes, maybe in the rain, I go back there and live it.