I wasn’t a hermit, exactly, when Julianna was here, but I came close.
Work, grocery and toy acquisition took me out of the house almost every day, but the outside world felt distant, almost irrelevant. Everything real and important was contained within the walls of our home. We were cocooned in a soft, magical space where the wit matched the décor (sparkling). There were every-colored ponies, Julianna tigers and vaccines delivered with soft needles.
Cruelty existed only in the form of the disease that necessitated our cloister. It spun its web and counted down, but on every day except for her last, we were safe in our lovely cocoon. There was nowhere else I wanted to be.
When Julianna died, it – everything – was ripped open. The world hadn’t ended like I felt it ought, and I was in it again.
It was a shock. On the first airplane ride after she died, I heard a pair of passengers dismiss our flight attendant as “old” and “rough looking.” Apparently, it was funny.
“Really?” I thought. “Is this what it’s like out here?”
And I missed it even more, the world we had created, the one that followed the rules of a girl whose love flowed out of her heart, onto her shoulders and into the dozens of kisses she blew to me every day. How would I survive in this other world?
The answers didn’t come all at once. I put a bright pink streak in my hair — because she marked me. I had a necklace made, a snowflake with a little pink diamond center, and asked for a chain strong enough to last the rest of my life. Hair dye and bespoke jewelry were my armor against a harsh, bewildering world. Unconventional, perhaps, but I knew she would approve.
Finding a new life after monstrous loss has been a dance of stepping forward (to what?) and retreating, humbled and shattered. Compartmentalization can pass for courage, but it’s like treading water: it buys time but takes you nowhere. And you can’t do it forever.
Peace and purpose in a post-Julianna world have been hard-won, first coming in flashes, then in fleeting bits turned into stretches of time. I do best when I carry her with me and look for her everywhere. Yes, it keeps me closer to the pain, but I can’t have it both ways.
She’s gone – my God, she’s really gone…but she was glorious, and she was mine. How lucky was I?
Life outside the cocoon is still bewildering. She’s here, though. I just have to keep following her lead.
One more thing….
T-shirts like these are another piece of my armor.
I hadn’t planned on doing another set of shirts, but people keep asking — even if they don’t know the story behind it, they respond to the message.