Last week was emotionally rough. Really rough.
It started out with hot beignets and a long walk around New Orleans’ French Quarter. It ended with a Thanksgiving spent with friends who generously invited us to share in their family celebration. But in between those highlights was news from home that was heart shattering.
My brother Jay, who was arrested almost two years ago for bank robbery, was finally sentenced. With that sentencing came answers to questions I’ve been avoiding asking for almost two years. Questions like “how long?” and “how bad?” The simplest answer I can give you here is very. Very long, very bad, very painful.
When I got the news, I immediately began looking for mental avenues to run down. I tried this isn’t fair and this can’t be happening, but I met dead ends at every turn. There was simply no escaping the reality that this is how things are, and that they are this way because of choices my little brother made.
With nowhere to hide, the pain settled into my chest. The ache of endless sorrow choked me, and I lay down beside Jared angry at the enormity of it all, angry at my own helplessness.
“There’s no silver lining,” I said. “There’s nothing good that can come of this, no positive spin or secret meaning we can’t see. It sucks from every direction.”
“I know,” said my husband.
“It hurts so damn bad, Jared. I want to take my heart out of my chest so it doesn’t hurt, and I’m furious that I can’t.”
“I know,” he said again.
“Just… love me, please.”
I don’t know what I was asking for exactly. I was just angry and sad and needing to ask someone to do something to help. I think a part of me wanted to ask for help only so that I could be angry at Jared when he couldn’t. I needed someone to carry part of the burden, someone besides a man in a cell hundreds of miles away who could no longer “help” either.
“OK,” Jared said.
He wrapped his arms around me, sliding one underneath me so that he could pull me closer and encircle me completely. He buried his face in my hair. He squeezed.
I found I could breathe a little more easily.
He wrapped his legs around mine and pulled me closer into his chest, shifting again so that his entire body seemed to curl around me. He squeezed.
I was reminded of being in labor. When you’re having contractions, especially in your back, the best way to ease the pain is to have someone push into it, to counter the pain basically with a force from the other direction. The harder Jared held me, the less I could feel the physical ache in my chest.
Of course, instead of pushing towards new life, we were just holding on in order to survive the first night of many.
And we did. I did.
I fell asleep not in a heap of tears, but in an embrace that was childlike in its intensity. I woke up to the same reality, but with oxygen at least in my lungs.
It’s been a few days and I’m still in awe of the power of what was essentially a really long hug. I realize it all sounds very ridiculous and more than a little melodramatic, but it was shocking in both its simplicity and effectiveness. I’ve found myself rethinking the way I see the world and how we handle the unsolvable.
I feel as if maybe I’ve stumbled upon some kind of tool, some type of answer, but I’m not exactly clear on how, when or where to use it.
The only thing I know for sure now is this:
And then love harder.