I am grateful for the hard things. It has taken me many miles, many pages, and many pens to realize this and the weight of those words, but I am.
My feet have a way of finding the space I need to be in. I have come back to the place where trauma happened, and this time, it was my decision to move and be here. Facebook reminds me of those days—four years ago now—and it’s hard to see those updates on the screen and be forced to remember, even for a second, all that happened. The hardest thing is that some of it, I allowed.
I remember where I was when my mom called me. I was in a one-bedroom apartment with our dog as the walls caved in around me. I remember how hard and how long that day had already been—working a job I hated, living a life that was mine, but that I felt stuck in, and extremely unhappy. As one life was gone, another created life was breaking right before me and the weight of both brought emotions that I can only describe as someone knocking your knees out so you are forced to stay near to the ground and not wanting to get back up, at least not for awhile.
Grief, despair, shock.
Anger, sadness, numbness.
All of those feelings cycled through me.
I had been working at a department store because I had to find some kind of job to get by in the new town I’d followed my boyfriend to. I felt like my soul was dying and my spirit with it, but wanted to tough it out with him and see if we could be all I envisioned in my stubborn unrelenting head. So, I took a job I wasn’t passionate about and volunteered at the local animal shelter and met new people and tried to put myself out there as much as I could, because that’s what I do when I’m in new places—I seek connections.
I ended up working on a campaign, and even though we ended up losing, I learned a lot—about politics and people and fundraising and that side of Montana. I say all that, but I know that he was my first priority, along with our dog, and I was far from living my best life.
I met good people, and that’s why, typing this now, I was able to come back to this small town after I left and lived a bit of the life I wanted for myself. Coming back was my decision, all mine, and there is beauty in that. I was able to foster love and relationships during a time in my life that was dark and a time that I don’t enjoy remembering, but am grateful for nonetheless.
My mom had called my boyfriend earlier that day and said she had some bad news. She asked him to be with me when she calls me later that day. When she called, she told me that my grandmother, my dad’s mother, had committed suicide.
My boyfriend stayed for a little while and I cried and fell apart, and then he left to go out drinking.
The decision was easy for me—the actual knowing that we were done. There was so much before this, so much good and so much bad and so much worse than bad, that the good never overweighted the bad. The bad just trumped and tore and made the good feel miniscule.
I was alone and yet in a relationship.
I remember feeling as if our home wasn’t mine, and crying because I had nowhere else to go. I remember feeling stuck and low. With every hurtful word and every argument and every time I was made to feel less, I grew stagnant and my heart grew tired.
And then my grandmother took a gun and shot herself, and I woke up.
They always say sometimes it takes a tragedy to make you want to live your best life, or to shake you awake, make you come alive again. For me, that is exactly how it went.
I hit an extreme low and then had to slowly rebuild and pick up the pieces of the broken mess I had been fully invested in and helped create. I had dug myself a hole so deep and then I had to crawl out.
I still can’t imagine what my grandmother was thinking or feeling when she decided to commit suicide. For a long time, that was the sticking point for me, besides not fully believing she was actually gone feeling guilty for all the things I didn’t get to say and all the times I should have visited and, most of all, that I wished I could apologize for the things I couldn’t let go of and couldn’t seem to forgive her for, even after she was gone.
It was not until I went to see a therapist and he asked me if I had considered that maybe she felt relief, did I start to think about it differently. Maybe she did. Maybe she was alright going and felt it was her time. I will never know, but I am choosing to believe that story.
Life is full of stories and we all tell ourselves things to get on with it and get through it.
I told myself she was ready and that she didn’t want to live in a nursing home, not being able to drive anymore. For her, living in any other way than being fully independent at the age of 92 was unacceptable. She did what she wanted.
It’s very rare for a woman to use a handgun, but that was my Nana—stubborn and, until her last moment, things had to be her way.
I remember one Christmas where I spent a few hours crying in the bathroom. She had commented that she was glad I was no longer with my African American boyfriend, the one I had dated for almost four years, because he was black and I was white. I remember feeling as though I’d been punched in the stomach so I fled. My mom came to find me and then my grandmother followed. It was a mess—all I’m left with is a blur of tears and words and apologies on one of the days in the year when there should only be love.
My grandmother’s decision to end her life impacted me in such a way that sometimes when I think of her, my eyes instantly fills with tears and my chest starts tightening. It is a loss I am not sure I’ll ever fully come to terms with. The fact that it coincided with another loss, one that I tried to fight for, was inconvenient but bound to happen—I’d known for a long time that I couldn’t fight for someone who was not ready and wanting or willing to change.
Wanting someone to live up to a potential we see in them is not love. If they don’t see it, or want it, it isn’t real and will never be realized.
I wish I could say that I am good at forgiving and forgetting, but I’m not. Him and I exchanged a few letters when I was abroad. If we hadn’t broken up, I wouldn’t have gone abroad and I do believe things happen for a certain reason and sometimes spur us into other things though which we grow. At least I know I did. And through it all, I learned that I still believe there are no “bad” people but many aren’t worth fighting for because their battles aren’t ours. We don’t have to carry their weight, that’s their job.
For him, I feel as though I fough until I got tired and drained and depressed. I allowed myself to be beaten down.
What frightens me, even now, is that I would have stayed. If my grandmother wouldn’t have made that decision, I wonder what I would have done and where I would be now.
I allowed another life to bring me down and make me feel small. I allowed someone with an addiction to bring me to a place where many nights I stayed awake waiting for him to come home, crying and praying. Praying for what? I don’t really know. Maybe for peace, surely for him to stop drinking and, above all, for him to be kind, own his apologies and not repeat his behaviors. I’d be a fool if I said that our relationship’s demise was all his fault. I could have been less nagging, less wanting, less pushy. All of those things. None of it really matters because blame won’t do any good. Not now, at least.
Addiction, suicide, depression, falling and getting back up—they are all parts of my story because of my own actions and the actions of people I love. But I’m the one who chooses where my feet land. I choose. And for that, I am and always will be grateful.
Author: Morgan Gemay Marks
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Holy Lay/Flickr