Lonely, yet not alone

There are always people around me. This is a pretty big town, it’s been that way for as long as I remember it – busy traffic, busy streets, everybody running somewhere and pushing you aside if you fail to keep up their pace. I was part of that pace once, running every day to fulfill that self-destructive personal mission of overachieving in every possible way. I surely pushed aside somebody myself being completely oblivious of that, with my mind obscured by the image of goals I was constantly setting up in front of me. Then I stopped running and started hiding, taken by that false primordial belief that my home is my shelter and that as long as I don’t leave it, nothing bad can happen. Conscious realization is one thing, instincts are something completely different. Unfortunately enough in my case, instincts always won because that’s how nature works. Fighting those instincts is one of the toughest tasks life can impose on you, but it’s not something you can give up on, because giving up on it would mean giving up on yourself. If you choose to live in these conditions, you have to be ready for a rough fight. So I started running once again, this time from all those anxiety provoking situations which is just about everything real life out there away from home consists of. I probably pushed some more people aside in those mad rushes to save myself from the invisible enemy, but those are moments that I surely don’t remember. Runs turned into fast walking and that’s pretty much where the progress stopped, until I had to live the tragic loss of my father. Maybe you thought that all that happened with him made me run again, but that’s not the case. Grief, just like any somewhat more serious body illness slows you down, tames you pace, makes you drag yourself, stop or even sit down and ponder, watching powerlessly the world around you. I guess it’s body’s way of protecting you from losing even those last tiny resources of energy left in your stores. Tears wash out tons of anger and anxiety related chemicals and give you that much needed natural sedation for a moment or two. When you walk slowly like that in the middle of the previously mentioned mad crowd, it’s only then that you really see how much those around don’t even notice your presence, let alone your problems. They push you, hurry you, walk past you, sometimes even address you a couple of bad words if you’re standing in their important way. They are around you, you’re not alone, but somehow you feel lonelier than ever.

It’s not much more different with acquaintances or those considered real life friends. I remember reading somewhere some time ago that the more time passes from the loss you experienced, the less and less frequently people will contact you. At first, your phone usually rings all the time, this person wants to know how it happened, than that person calls who heard from this person, then you inform somebody who cries and informs dozens of others and so on. You repeat the story over and over again, slowly ending up totally exhausted. In the coming days phone still rings, people check up on you. They usually offer help in general, but you usually never ask for anything. By the time you reach approximately two months from the tragic event, you realize that something is not right, that life is dominated by even more silence than usual. You look at the phone and that’s when you get it, it has virtually stopped ringing. Other people had just about enough of all that already old story and turned to other different life battles. They don’t call you, but you end up finding out about what’s going on in their lives – standing on a no man’s land of your own life, you observe other people’s weddings, birthdays, promotions, smiles, gestures of love, expressions of happiness. You can’t participate in all this, nor they need you around if you’re numbed by grief. Sometimes it seems to me that grief is considered a dangerous contagious disease, the further you go away from it or the less you talk about it, the stronger is the illusion that you’ll never catch it. I was walking the other day down the street and the woman who knows me was approaching me, holding her little son by the hand. The moment our eyes met, she gave me some strange look which was a mixture of pity and dislike and moved to the other side of the street, pushing her son to her right, away from me. I overheard her mother asking her why she did it, and she replied that it was because she didn’t know what to say to me. Hello would be just fine, there is no need for anything extra special. A bit more than a week ago there was a wedding we all should have attended as a family. When the word about my dad’s passing away was spread, we didn’t even receive the invitation any more, attending weddings is improper in my circumstances. My mom and me still mustered the strength to prepare and deliver the present all the same because we consider that person important, only to discover today that the present is still lying where we placed it, untouched and unopened. There were around 400 shiny happy people on that wedding, so indeed why should a present from two grief stricken women be taken into consideration on such a crowded event. The same happened with a birthday present I traditionally give every year to a friend – this person didn’t have time even for a small talk with me and didn’t even look at what I brought. I waited all evening with my cell phone in my hand for at least a short text message to know if the gift was liked, but there was none. I’ve always loved giving out presents to people especially when I nail what they truly like, but I guess that right now it’s all about my inability to spread happiness around me. There is this one line from our quite good TV show where a woman begs for love and the man replies: “How can you Sophia make me or anybody else happy, when you are so unhappy yourself?” Whatever the case is, the fact is that I feel lonelier and lonelier every day, sitting alone in my black clothes and with that black sorrow in my heart. Maybe it’s still too soon, the day after tomorrow it will be two months without dad. Or maybe I’ll never truly get used to it. Just like when Dr. Brennan talks with agent Booth at the end of one episode of Bones and asks him – How do you overcome a loss? He replies – You never really overcome it, you just survive.

Technically speaking, I survived. For now. But it feels like standing in the middle of the field, after the war ended. You’re free to do whatever you want, but you have no idea how to live that new life. And you’re very much alone in all that, no matter how many people move around you in that reality.


4 thoughts on “Lonely, yet not alone

  1. OK. So, as an American I have perceived vaguely and from afar that Serbia is a hard, tough country. Your wedding story clarifies and confirms that vague impression. Yuck. Unbelievable. Be nice people. The fact that these ladies are in grief ought not make them pariahs. Soldier on Tanja and find your way, preferably in colorful clothing (when, of course, you feel it appropriate with respect to your grief for your father – but not when others feel it appropriate.)

    1. Serbia is a very complicated country, that’s the closest I can get to if I try to describe it well enough in short words. Centuries of foreign dominations and battles against them, so many changes of its borders, independent existence followed by joining other two nations to form a confederation, World Wars I and II, the formation of the big Yugoslavia, communism and socialism, the dissolution of Yugoslavia as it was known in the second part of the 20th century, bombings, regional instability, inner conflicts, battles again, changes to a smaller version of Yugoslavia, confederation with Montenegro and finally getting back to square one i.e. independent Serbia, running through transition towards capitalism imagining itself to be faster than Usain Bolt on a 100m track. It would take me hours to just tackle all these events and how they influenced Serbian people, but the fact is that no matter how hard this society tries to prove that it’s opening itself towards progressive, contemporary values, it’s still quite traditionally oriented, dominated by old rules and old practices where the man is the center of the universe and women can choose to either be behind the scenes or fight alone. When I think of it, I must say that this was not very visible in my home because my family is both dissipated all over ex Yugoslavia and the world, because I’m an only child so I counted for my parents just as much as any boy would and my father never had any problems with that, and because I’m a woman from a very big town who grew up on asphalt among people from all over this region who shared among them those so called urban values. While my dad was still here, we could close in our world if something outside was bothering us and that was totally enough, plus I spent my whole life studying, reading and watching things from all over the world which made me much less immersed into true provincial Serbian reality. Now, all of a sudden, it’s as if I tumbled down on the ground from a tree and I’m amazed how many incredible things are socially acceptable when it comes to people in certain situations. Sometimes it honestly feels that I have a plague or something, for some reason it wasn’t even appropriate for me to see the bride from that wedding (before or after it) let alone attend the wedding, as if I could pass on some bad luck or something. People are definitely very harsh and quite selfish with all those prejudices, but there is not much we can do about it. And definitely one have to experience it to believe it and understand how bad it can get. I’m trying to fight, but as I said, it’s very hard. As for the clothing, I’m totally not somebody who wears black, I had to buy black stuff to wear it now which explains everything, but it’s somehow the place where sadness takes you to. You don’t do it on purpose, it comes naturally. On the other hand, it would be highly socially unacceptable not to wear black in these circumstances, sort of a scandal I suppose, but I don’t care very much about what other people think. (Maybe it’s because I don’t have a PhD? 🙂 ) One way or the other, I don’t fit in here at all, I was talking with Judy the other day that it would be really nice to move some day. I’ll hopefully get back to my usual clothes at some point, and I promise that it will be my decision, regardless of what those around me decide to think. All the best as always, Tanja

    1. I will, I promise – God it would be so good to be free from this nightmare, free to breathe, live, dance, free from fears, sadness, rules, graveyards… I was sad because I had PD, but I had no idea how actually happy I was and how beautiful my life used to be. Let’s hope that things will get better with time. Take care, all the best!

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