Reality and Fear…And Bathroom Mirrors

There is a resilience and invincibility that goes along with being forced to live and  survive your greatest fear. While you feel so exposed, fragile and vulnerable there is also this amazing army that assembles within your brain and fights off all the ridiculous and unfounded fears you once had. I’m still afraid of showing up at a party without pants but does that even happen anywhere other than dreams? And to be honest I feel naked most of the time despite my clothes because emotions and tears come at inconvenient times, like the middle of the grocery store when you see an elderly couple picking out bananas together.  Jason will never get to be an old man.  He will always be 31 while I wrinkle, gray and wither without my eternally handsome husband.

I used to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and I would purposefully keep my head straight down while walking past the mirror, and I would also keep my head down while washing my hands. I’ve watched enough horror films to know that the moment you look up, you not only see your own faint reflection, but the lurking shadow behind you, waiting to gut you with a hooked hand. Yes, I have carried this irrational fear since playing my first game of “Bloody Mary” at a slumber party when I was 10, and the fear was reinforced by movies like The Candy Man. I was 36 years old and I still avoided confronting the mirror at night even though Jason was sleeping only 4 feet away from me.

I was recently at a business dinner with people who were all meeting one another for the first time. As an ice-breaker game we went around the room and revealed things about ourselves such as the #1 item on our bucket list, the strangest item we’ve ever eaten and of course our biggest fear. I struggled with how I would answer some of these questions when it was my turn. Do I tell these strangers that my biggest fear had already been realized three months ago and that the fear of spiders, snakes, heights and homelessness paled by comparison? I didn’t want to be the jerk in the room and downplay their own insecurities while also being a buzz kill, so I said my biggest fear was my dog finally realizing I’m not nearly as amazing as he thinks I am.  I do have this fear but I know my Klaus and he would never think such an absurdity!  I supply his biscuits and peanut butter, not to mention an endless supply of tennis balls. How do you tell a room full of strangers that your husband recently died and nothing scares you anymore, even walking into a dark bathroom and facing yourself in the mirror with a potential shadow waiting to gut you like a fish?  The life situation as I now call it did come to light because the #1 item on my bucket list is creating a foundation to help raise awareness of sudden arrhythmia cardiac deaths (SADS) and to finish the race for Jason next April in Raleigh.  The #1 item was to visit New Zealand but that is when my bucket list was our bucket list.   Priorities change.

Two days after Jason died I woke in the middle of the night with not only the need to use the restroom but to also purge all the confusion and chaos taking up so much space in my already handicapped brain. A sudden and traumatic loss makes you forget everything and your mind becomes Swiss cheese, rotting and putrefying within your vibrating skull. I learned tonight from my counselor that the brain of someone going through complicated grief (when a healthy person dies suddenly without warning) is similar to that of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Brains have been scanned and the research is legit.  My craziness isn’t just “in my head” so to speak but truly eating away at my gray matter.  Anyway, I walked into the lightless bathroom and looked straight into the mirror. My own dead reflection frightened me more than anything. The days of keeping my head down and scrambling back to bed as quickly as possible had disappeared. I stood there in the darkness and waited patiently for the shadow to show himself because I wanted a fight! I wanted whatever ridiculous rusty hooked handed maniac or supernatural demon I had conceived in my dark imagination to show itself so I could tell it to fuck off, in very plain English.

Living through the traumatic death of someone who made your heart beat and the butterflies dance in your stomach, even after 6 years, allows you to feel invincible. I’ve since watched horror movies alone at night, crushed several spiders scurrying through the house, have eaten bread that was well past the expiration date (this is a big deal for me), and have not only looked but sought out the menacing shadow who hides in mirrors.

My new fear is losing my parents but I am a survivalist and when that day happens, I’ll go into the bathroom and once again tell the shadow to show himself because I’m not afraid of him anymore, and if anything I’ll make him regret the day he met me! I am a Spartan Warrior of Widowhood with a quest to destroy my fears one by one because the worst thing possible has already happened…


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