“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” – Edna St Vincent Millay
I’ve been sitting here for quite a while now finding it damn near impossible to write.
My original intention was to open this article with: “How are YOU doing?” and then to tell you, my lovely reader, to take a minute and actually think about the answer to this question, and then come back to this article, which was originally supposed to be about my sleep schedule (or lack thereof lol), and my love of the night time. Then I realized, I don’t actually know the answer to this question myself.
I’ve sat here for longer than I care to admit, and I still don’t know the answer to that question. I simply don’t know how I am. I’m here. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for so many things, yet I still honestly do not know how I am.
As most of you know, my world and the world had a monumental loss a couple of months ago. Grief is such a bizarre experience. I say that sentence out loud all the time. To comfort myself, to comfort others, to remind us all that there’s no timeline, there’s no path, there’s no right way, and there’s no knowing how that journey will be for you. The news has continually been filled with it for what feels like forever now, but especially as of late, it feels like it’s exceptionally, exhaustively overflowing with terrible crimes, disastrous accidents, and so much loss.
For me, this loss happened while I was working four jobs and interviewing at so many places it felt like a fifth full-time job. Every day, 2 of my 4 jobs were bartending, and everyday part of those jobs was to be plagued with the casual “How are you?” by the hundreds of customers that I came across a day. It was easier to say “I’m fine” when I wasn’t, because I clearly didn’t want to have to explain to hundreds of people every day that my best friend was murdered. So, I lied. Lying that many times a day does a number on your brain. It’s like a cacophony inside of a kaleidoscope, that you are trapped inside of, that you just want out.
I realize that was my MO most of my life through things that I wasn’t and shouldn’t have been fine with. Why? Because it’s easier than having to tell the truth. I’ve done it through death of loved ones, destructive relationships, abusive partners, sexual assault, toxic work environments, and of course lying is the go-to response to strangers, but it still does trick your brain into not processing the trauma you’re actually dealing with. If I keep saying I’m fine to that many people a day, my brain thinks well, maybe he is. But I never was.
On top of those four jobs, I was also interviewing as if my life depended on it. I will never forget the day after receiving the news, and having to set up my ring light in my bedroom and have two Zoom interviews aggressively lying about my mental state, and then go into one of my service industry jobs. It felt like torture, but it also felt like I wasn’t even honoring the loss that my world has had so violently taken from it. It felt disturbing. It felt cold. It felt dishonest, and I beat myself up for my ability to compartmentalize things and put on such a performance. However, it is how one’s heart, body, and soul survive. Grief is such a bizarre experience.
I didn’t take the time that I needed to take, because I thought I couldn’t afford to, but in the end, you realize the actual cost paid for that mentality is so much more detrimental. I cannot stress this enough, take your time. Apply that to anything and everything you can. Take your time. Apply it to love, to art, to pain, to grief, to eating, to napping, to breathing, to living. Take your time.
Then a crazy thing happened. After two weeks of lying to the world about how I was, I ended up getting the job that I can’t even say was a dream job, because it was even higher than I thought my dreams at that time were allowed to be. Yet because I had stifled my grief so severely, I wasn’t able to actually process it. When something wonderful happens during an extremely dark time in your life when you haven’t been allowing yourself to process the dark time, your brain begins collapsing on itself. It doesn’t know if you’re allowed to be happy, it makes the positive feelings feel selfish, and it makes the negative ones multiply. None of this makes sense, because the person or people you’re missing would want you to be happy. They would want you screaming from the rooftops, dancing in the streets, and they would be beaming with pride when they were the first person you told. Grief doesn’t want to allow that. Grief is such a bizarre experience.
I wish I could tell you it’s gotten easier for me, but that would be a lie, and if you can’t tell by now, I hate lying. The good, the bad, and the ugly is such a crazy world but it’s the exact world that we live in. I had the worst and the best things happen in such a short period of time that I’m only now beginning to process each of them, and I now welcome whatever those journeys become. I look forward to some healing.
This article might be verging on nonsensical, and I’m fine with that. I just want you to know that if you don’t know how you are right now, that you are not alone and that that is ok.
To not be afraid to dig and work on figuring out that answer. To know that sometimes it rains f^%king monsoons, but then sometimes a rainbow of sorts appears completely out of nowhere. To remember to check in with yourself if your job or life requires you to lie about how your heart is. Don’t let your brain play those tricks, and check-in with yourself if it is breaking. To permit yourself to feel the lowest of the lows, and the highest of the highs.
To look for and accept the beautiful signs from this universe that someone you lost is not entirely gone and is saying hi in their own way, while allowing yourself to hurt that they are no longer in your world the way you want them to be.
It’s pouring here in NYC today. Rain always makes me more comfortable crying. It’s like the world is crying with you, and reminding you that you are, in fact, never alone.
Grief is such a bizarre experience, and today, and every day, I really, really miss my friend.
“I’ll find you in the morning sun, And when the night is new. I’ll be looking at the moon, But I’ll be seeing you.” – Billie Holiday
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth ❤