Thursday, July 15, 2021

Tan Lines and Courage

I don’t know that I look particularly good in this picture. I’d just come back from a walk. I'm sweaty and 'flushed.' Still, anyone who is familiar with my pictures on Facebook will notice something unusual.
A friend of mine just posted pictures of herself walking (for exercise), and she had all this adorable exercise attire. I don’t have adorable exercise attire. Generally I wear some shorts and a tank top of some kind. That’s OK. Works for me.
I do, however, have olive complected skin, so getting lots of sun means getting very dark. I wanted to show my friend that. No cute exercise clothing - but tan lines. They count as cute, too, right?
Taking selfies is not unusual for me. But something in my pictures shifted several years ago. People noticed. They pointed it out. They teased me sometimes.
Here's the thing. It’s not that I don’t smile. That’s not it. And I certainly smile and laugh in real life. But, I haven't wanted to post pictures with those 'great big toothy' grins. I’ve posted a few, but just to prove a point. (Yes, I know how to smile with my mouth open.)
There’s a certain amount of guilt that survivors of suicide loss are always juggling. Even when we know it’s not our fault. Even when we know everybody else understands it’s not our fault. So, not always, but every once in a while I still struggle with this thing: I don't want anyone to think I am genuinely happy, in a world without my mother and without John. Their unhappiness took them away from the world. Am I allowed to be happy in the world that they left behind?
This has been a brutal few years. I don’t wish these kinds of circumstances on anybody. But, as always, there’s been so much good too. There is someone who I love so so much, and she got very sick this year. She was in the hospital, but I didn’t talk about it on Facebook. I didn’t talk about it much, at all. But inside I was holding my breath, in a way that hurt. Holding it in a way that can only be described as jagged around the edges.
I don’t know how to steel myself for loss. They don’t matter, the efforts at steeling. What we tell ourselves about being prepared. Long illness or sudden loss. No matter, there is always a tearing of the heart when people we love are pulled out from under us.
I understand now in a way that I never did before, that making it through this kind of pain is not about being stoic or strong. More than anything, it is about having the courage to face each day even though we feel so completely broken.
The person I loved who'd gotten sick a few months ago, pulled through. I could breathe again. So, in a roundabout way, this summer I do everything I can to get outside and breathe in as much light as possible.
Today, I thought about John. Anyone who knows him knows that he was ridiculous about getting out in the sun. He would go outside sometimes, close his eyes, and turn his face to the sun. He would just stand there, soaking it all in. The hotter it was, the better.
When I got back from my walk today, I had a moment of thinking that if John saw these tan lines, he'd be happy.
I took that picture so that I could say - I may not have cute exercise clothes, but I do have cute proof that I exercise. But, that's not what this post is actually about,
It turns out, it is a reminder that this world is not just full of loss. It is full of happy outcomes, breathtaking courage, and great big smiles too.
Try to get outside and get some sun, people. Sunshine is full of everything good, and that is what I hope for all of you. ❤
(PS - put some sunscreen on.) 😃

The post above was originally posted on my fb page on July 10, 2021. I also shared it with my fb suicide loss survivor groups. I received a lot of feedback in those groups. One example (that carries the theme of most of the feedback) was this:

"Thank you for this. I needed to hear that I might smile again one day."

Because the post resonated, I am publishing it on this blog, too. 
*Note - In the interest of transparency, note that the picture above has been filtered with a standard orton filter. The same photo was used in the Facebook post, but it had no filter. If you are interested in seeing the original post on FB, you can find it here: