I'm Still Here
Not long after my dad died, I read A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles. In it, the author put into words the feeling that had been looming over my head the previous two years of my dads illness.=
“People talk about getting ‘back to normal’. You never go back to normal. The person you were before is gone. You just go on in a new place.”
It was so freeing. I didn’t have to go back to normal. I didn’t have to go back to who I was. In that moment, I had lost so much of myself I truly didn’t even know how I could ever find my way “back”. And in the same breath, I was desperate for glimpses of my former self.
Before the grief and trauma, things weren’t necessarily great. But I thought I had an idea of who I was. Although my days were often enveloped in the soft haze of depression - the kind which had the effect of making small tasks seem monumental - I was a sort of person that I felt mostly proud to be. I loved reading and making art. I pushed past my fears and took many solo trips that are still some of the best memories I’ve created. I knew how to focus. I could sit down and accomplish a task without my mind wandering away from me every few minutes. I loved learning about running my business and was regularly reading leadership books and attending classes to better myself. And when my dad’s cancer made itself known, everything sort of stopped.
In my experiences of grief and depression, I have found that they feel so incredibly similar that it’s almost impossible to spot the differences. I lost a full year of my life to dark rooms, the drone of my tv as background noise, and hot tears pouring off my cheeks into the glass of wine in my hand. I spent hours wondering how little I could be out of bed and in the world before it started to have a serious negative impact on my basic security and self care. I stopped putting any effort into growing my business, being a good leader, and learning to create better work. I stopped making art. I was terrified to travel for fear that my dad would take a turn for the worse and I would be too far away from home to make it back in time.
And through all of this, I kept up with my bi-weekly therapy appointments. I poured what little energy I had into finding clarity in my life. I learned what my values were. I removed myself from toxic relationships. I sorted out the parts of me that felt true and shed those that I had adopted as an armor through fear. I got back in touch with my intuition and let it guide me through the unknown. And when it was all said and done, I felt like a completely new person. And I was terrified.
When everything has changed, how do you know how to move forward? Was I still on a path that felt right for me? Should I Eat, Pray, Love my way through a year to discover who the new Malori might be? Is the person I was before this truly gone or are there pieces that survived the fire?
I will never go back to my old normal. And if I’m honest with myself, the only part of it I truly would wish back into my life is my dad. The woman I am today is someone I am proud to be. She is strong and brave and able to move through life with a grace that did not previously exist. But this morning when I sat down at my kitchen table and cracked open a book about becoming a better leader, I only made it a few pages before I started to cry. I felt flooded with relief that there are, in fact, some parts of me that survived. And now, they get to live alongside the parts of me that I fought so hard to gain. I will never go back to my old normal. But I am finally moving through a space where this normal feels pretty goddamn good.