In class yesterday, we watched a short video clip on the Darwin Beetle mating strategy.
The male makes his way to the top of the tree where the female awaits, only his journey isn't an easy one. He must fight his way to the top.
Slowly, he climbs the tree, jostling the other candidates. Gradually, intently, he pries them from the bark, lifts them above his head and over the side. A strength that isn't visible externally. A purpose he is forced to master, for the sake of survival.
The class always loves this clip.
Someone inevitably asks if the unfortunate souls who are cast off the side of the tree will die with the fall. Yesterday, someone answered for me.
"Their exoskeleton protects them."
I have had people tell me it's too hard.
They can't look at the pictures. Can't read about you. Their love for me makes it impossible to examine, how truly awful this is. Simply put, it is too difficult for them to entertain. As if this life were some horribly sad movie. As if it were that easy to walk away from.
And what I say is that I understand. And maybe I would have felt similarly, 396 days ago. Maybe I wouldn't begrudge them the luxury of looking away. "You're right. Let's see something else instead."
Only I don't understand.
Of course it's too hard. It was too hard that night, that morning. It is too hard now.
It's too hard when my chest tightens during the Pampers commercial, when my fingers, pathetic and shaking and heavy, attempt the Evite Response: "2 adults and 1 kid."
It's too hard to enter rooms we shared together. Innocent chairs and desks and sheets that were once privy to your existence, grazing a skin that housed you, and I must fill them. Daily. In your absence.
Every family dinner is too hard. Every celebration. Every car ride. Every season.
It's too hard to live without you. It's too hard to keep breathing. It's too hard and it's unfair and it's inconceivable, but I can't turn away. Can't ignore the enormity of this loss in every aspect of my life. In all of the big, protruding, obvious places and in all the tiny crevices. Can't decline the invitation. Can't scroll past. And they get that. I think.
What I want for them to know is that I love this pain. I welcome the "hard".
I want them to embrace it with me, to see that when I'm crying, white-knuckles flailing at the barren, desolate, nothingness that is often life without you, that this is when I am loving you most acutely. This is when I am closest to you. When you are most intensely mine.
I want them to acknowledge the fear, to see beyond it. To come running in these moments, hands grasping for mine in the darkness. I want them to feel how much I love you in every photograph, in every word. For them to meet you there with me.
So while it could potentially make for the more agreeable conversation, the easier transition, if I were to smile and politely agree.
"Of course, I understand."
"Turn away if you must."
Please know that these statements are as empty as your crib, my darling. For this shell that surrounds me now is just as they described. Too. Hard.
This same pain that slows the climb is also the love that cushions the fall, and I wouldn't trade one tear for a thousand smiling faces.
It is something you have given me. It is something I have earned.
It is something I wear proudly, necessarily.
It is something I'll never run from.