(Part of this entry is something I wrote earlier for the Sad Diaries) Saturday, I went to a BBQ. I had agreed and RSVPd for the party weeks ago, but the closer it came to the day, the more my anxiety over attending began to build. And when Saturday did finally arrive, I almost just didn't show up. I realized that this would be bad. First of all, you tell people you'll be there and then don't show, those people are going to worry. Secondly, it's rude. So, I resisted the urge to lock myself in the closet and shoved the anxiety ball down to the bottom of my stomach. At least I wouldn't be able to pig out with the anxiety ball taking up half my stomach space. I got in my car and gnawed off my lip while I drove out to the BBQ. I went.
I know you're thinking "Cindy, it's a party! It's fun! There's no anxiety in fun!". Normally, I would say you're right. In this case, I knew very few people there. I either had to be personable or sit in a corner like a wallflower. I had to interact and be sociable with people I didn't know and people who didn't know me. And this is where I get to part that created the most anxiety of all. I was the only single person there. It was a party of couples and families. I do not have either of these things and I'm not quite used to the idea that I don't. It made me vulnerable. I used to think I was OK with being vulnerable. I had no problem with it. I was even good at being vulnerable. I was always saying the things floating around in my head no matter what and knowing all along how vulnerable this made me to people who may judge me. What will people think? I always shrugged that question aside. People are going to think what they think. I can’t do anything about that. It wasn’t until Chris’s death that I realized that maybe I didn’t know what being vulnerable really meant. All of those years where I thought I was allowing myself to be vulnerable? Those were just years of allowing myself to just not care. Because now, I’m pretty sure I have an idea of what it means to be vulnerable.
Vulnerable: capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon open to moral attack, criticism, temptation (of a place) open to assault, difficult to defend
I am all of these things, but you know what made it worse? I am all of these things to myself. I am the one most likely to wound or hurt me. I am the one most likely to morally attack and criticize me. I am truly my own worse enemy. Losing Chris didn’t make me question the existence of God or if I was being cursed by a witch. It made me question myself. I went from being enough to not helping enough, not being sad enough, not being happy enough, not loving enough to just not enough. But you know what’s worse? What’s worse is that all of this made me vulnerable to myself and this was not a good feeling. I don’t like be naked and split open. I don’t like people seeing me sad or vulnerable.
But here’s the thing. Those definitions of vulnerable? I was all of those things before Chris’s death. We are all, all of those things all of the time. What makes now so different? Well, that’s simple. Chris is not here to be my back up or to support me. I put on a brave face, but it's more for me and the non-living. I know Chris is still out there somewhere, keeping an eye out. I also know that the one thing he worried most about while he was dying was me. He worried that I wouldn’t be all right. It was something he voiced to me on a number of occasions and every time I would reassure him that I would be just fine. What? Was I supposed to tell a dying man the truth? Tell him that I would be completely lost without him? Tell him my heart will be broken into a tiny million pieces? I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let him go knowing that he left me helpless and incapable. I can't be vulnerable now because I was too busy proving to Chris and myself that I could do this. I don't have time for vulnerability because I'm too busy learning to live this life without him in it.
And that's what I'm doing. I went to that BBQ. I sat with those couples and families. I laughed and joked and played with little kids. I ate a veggie burger and a really good cookie. I had a good time. But most importantly, I allowed myself to have a good time. Guilt free. So what if I'm a little bit more vulnerable without Chris around. That just means I have to be more brave. That just means I have to be ready for the attack. I like to think of it as Ninja training. I'm going to be one bad ass ninja someday.