A year ago today, I lost one of my closest friends in a terrible car accident.
Last year, the world I had so carefully curated began to fall into pieces as I tried to grasp how my 25-year-old friend could be dead. The day I found out, our mutual friend and I both walked out of work and promptly drank so much we blacked out. Following the blackout was an anxiety attack, the numbness of disbelief, and the shock waves of pain that build from the center of your being and touch every sense of reality you have.
A year later I am still coming to terms with the loss, with her absence. I feel like I’ll bump into her on the street, or get a call in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think it was some horrific cosmic joke and we’ll be reunited momentarily. I can’t believe we had to say goodbye before we grew old together. We used to talk about having a huge farm one day; just two old bettys with dozens of exotic creatures running around. When you think you’re going to be friends with someone until the end of time, there is no sense of urgency.
Apart from just missing her desperately, there are issues surrounding timing and self-love that I just can’t shake. See, G. was supposed to leave the crippling challenges of New York and head to California. She was going to quit this useless job we shared, her family obligations, the everyday, and start something completely new. She was a gifted actress and singer and knew she just needed to be in the right place with the right people and she would make an impact. She was planning to leave at the end of summer, finally prepared to take the plunge. G. was shockingly beautiful, talented and brilliant, but she was also terribly sad and dealt with damaging self-worth issues that touched every part of her life.
Once I asked her if she ever woke up feeling heartbroken without knowing why, and she replied, “Yeah, every day.” I did my best to make her laugh, to make lightness when she was going through her most painful spells. Sometimes it worked brilliantly; sometimes it did nothing at all. We used to talk for hours about body issues and self-compassion. I would go on about our patriarchal consumer based society that reinforces the idea that we are never “enough.” She would talk about the traumas that shaped her, the guilt and shame that she couldn’t recover from. They are the same traumas that so many women share, but ones that she had always carried alone. We would spend months talking about coping mechanisms and healing and the seemingly impossible end game of feeling “okay.”
She died before she left to follow her dream, before she was able to love herself, before she could step into the woman everyone else was so awed by. This is not a meditation as to why terrible things happen to wonderful people, as there are more eloquent and expansive works out there that I can’t begin to touch. Instead, it is a realization that my heart is not just broken over a love I never expected to lose so soon; it is also broken over the dissolution of a dream, the dream that there will always be time to evolve into what we are meant to be. That we will grow old, we will mature into ourselves, and we’ll figure out how to sculpt our dreams along the way. The dream that there is always time.
Despite her own sadness, G. was devoted to bringing joy to everyone around her. She was love and kindness and creativity and light. She was a complete original. Her beauty and gifts were astonishing but it was her ability to love that was breathtaking. She loved in a way that terrifies most people. She loved without pretense or condition. She loved without hesitation or concern for the outcome of that intensity.
When she died, I walked through this colorless, tasteless, sterile world. You know, that particular disembodiment that only tragedy can bring. I kept moving, working, walking, chatting, and even smiling when the opportunity asked that of me. I would forget for a moment that I was mourning for my dear friend, and then it would start all over again. Months later, I began piecing together the fragments of my broken heart and learning how to feel again. I started writing through the pain. I found a job with soul. I sat down and asked my on-again, off-again partner to move across the country and be with me for real. The hope that we would be together “one day” was no longer enough. I knew with tragic certainty that “one day” might never come.
We might be scared as hell to leave town, quit that damn job, or ask for a love we are terrified we’re not ready for. But you know what? Fucking do it. Don’t do it to appease some clichéd version of, “Live every day like it’s your last.” Do it for the people in our lives that never got the chance to.
Leave, love, create.
Maybe if we can honor the stories that were cut short with our own brand of courage, there is room for grace in however long a life we’re given.