“…and you say, Baby, have you got enough gas…oh yeah…”
- Prince. 1982
I traveled alone from Victoria, home to Vancouver, this week with only about a quarter of a tank of gas in my truck. I had considered filling it before I left the island but time was tight and I opted not to fill it until I was home. In a V8, a quarter of a tank lasts a long time! (I totally typed that as if I know a thing or two about motor vehicles. I do not actually know anything about a vehicle except how to drive one. Remember, I literally had never even washed a car until last March?! It is on my list to become savvier at things like checking oil, determining how long a quarter tank lasts in traffic, etc. It’s all incredibly uninteresting to me but, alas, necessary!)
I was right. The gas gauge barely seemed to move as I rolled off the ferry and so I confidently stopped to run a few errands and knew I could hit my local gas pump before I got to my house. As I approached the bridge though, despite the fact that it was nowhere near rush hour, it was pure gridlock. I glanced at the gas situation and saw the needle hovering over a big E. Despite my lack of knowledge around the workings of a car, I was pretty sure this E didn’t stand for any of my favourite E words like EXTRAORDINARY! EMPATH! ENERGY! ESSENTIAL OILS! ELEMENTS! E-TRANSFER or ESPRESSO!
Nope. It was E for EMPTY. Fuck.
As I sat in the traffic, I started to panic a bit. And then I started to panic quite a lot. I had no idea how far I could drive with the gas light on. And how did the traffic affect the amount of gas used? I am not a particularly panicky person anymore, but this really set me off. How could I be so dumb? And, most importantly, who could help calm me? If I got stuck on the bridge with an empty tank, who would I even call? In the past, whatever the situation was, I could always call or text Darcy and he’d tell me, simply, “It’s fine, Bear.” And it would always be fine. He was always right about this stuff.
Now, lots of times throughout my grief experience, I have been able to draw on his wisdom and calm and just hear his voice saying “it’s fine, Bear.” But today it wasn’t working. Today I couldn’t hear him. All I could hear was MYSELF berating MYSELF for not just filling up the damn tank. Idiot. And as I sat there in the traffic, beating myself up, I actually started to cry. I couldn’t sense his presence, soothing me or encouraging me. To make things worse, everywhere I looked were cars that were exactly like the one he drove. Like the one he drove up to Squamish on the day he died. All I could see and feel were reminders of his earthly absence. I felt like I was floating on a tiny raft on the vast open ocean with no rope to tether me to anything at all. It was aloneness. A big huge wave of aloneness with an added splash of ‘potential-empty-tank-blocking-traffic-on-a-bridge-with-noone-to-call-and-noone-to-care’.
I have never had a close relationship with either of my parents. They are good people and my mom, in particular, is a phenomenal grandma to our children… but they are not people that I rely on or connect with, emotionally. I am grateful for my brothers with whom I can share most things, but they are my siblings. Not my parents or partners. They are amazing companions that I have walked through this life with – but equally occupied with their own families and partners and careers, of course. And though they have been incredibly supportive since losing Darcy (they lost him too – he was their brother and their grief runs deep, like mine…) they aren’t here on earth JUST for ME. Darcy felt like he was here JUST for ME and our kids.
When I met Darcy and we began building our life together, he really took on a role that hadn’t been filled for decades. Not as a parent, obviously…but as my “person”. The person who thought of me at least a thousand and one times a day. The person who told me every little detail of his day. The person who I had all the inside jokes with. The person who lived to make me feel special and important and relied on me to show him his specialness too. The person who I texted or called about all the little AND big things, like how cute Summer looked at school drop off, or how proud Miller was after his math test…like how hard my day felt or how close I had come to an empty tank on the bridge during traffic. He was “home”. He was MY home. And I miss that feeling of stability in relationship SO much. Having someone who feels like “home”.
A couple good things came out of this near-empty-tank experience on the bridge. One is that (SPOILER ALERT!) I made it home, no problem and have vowed to not let the tank get below half full again until the trauma subsides!
The other thing that came from it is the realization that, as wonderful as it feels to be in partnership and to be connected to someone on earth whose world just revolves around you, and yours around them…we are, ultimately, individuals.
The night before Darcy died, he and I were having a great conversation about the importance of putting one’s self first. It is something that never came easy for him…nor for me. We were always in service to each other and the kids and our teams and friends and families before ourselves, and I was reminding him (and myself!) of the importance of self-love. We were talking about how unfulfilled he was in his work and I was encouraging him to make all his decisions, moving forward, based on what his heart wanted and not what he felt obliged to do. Not according to what he felt he was supposed to provide for the kids and me. It’s an abstract concept to those of us raised in the 70’s and 80’s, I know, but we were starting to see evidence of the importance of this idea in our lives. As our kids got older and we were searching for more purpose as individuals it seemed like an important step to focus on our own needs and desires. I don’t claim to have it all dialled, but I DO know for certain that when I put my needs first, I no longer feel resentful of the people that I serve and it frees up a lot of energy for me to pour INTO service. My tank gets filled UP. By me alone. And that feels good. It is empowering. It’s the kind of empowerment that leaves one feeling confident that they will manage whatever comes their way… even a near-empty tank on the bridge!
As an individual, I am a unique combination of biological, spiritual, and cosmic miracles! Individuals don’t just come to life without miracles occurring. Paths must cross, pheromones must embrace, combustion must occur, cells must multiply successfully, growth and development must ensue… a lot of things must go WELL to result in the creation of an individual human. And that collaboration of miracles alone makes us very worthy of this life and all that it brings. But we are also individuals who made that journey to arrive on earth alone. And we will leave this earth alone. As we exist, life is enhanced by our connection to the many people we encounter and engage with. It is beautiful to collaborate and be a mirror for others and learn and love, to celebrate and co-create! But we are, ultimately, not tethered to anything at all and the responsibility lies with US to find our “home” within our hearts through faith or whatever else keeps you on the road when your tank is almost on empty. Home is where OUR heart is. Right there, beating in our chests, a miracle in itself.
Our home can be “decorated” with the many beautiful souls that participate in our existence…for example, Darcy was like the coziest king-size bed with all the comfy throw pillows and quilts and my home isn’t the same without him…the amazing gaggle of goddesses that I hang out with are like a bright teal couch with gold accessories and they brighten my home like only the most sparkly, shiny things can…the wind chimes on my patio, always tinkling beautifully in the breeze, are my kids…a reminder that I am connected to the earth and the elements…they are the music to my ears, all day, every day. But only I am my home. And even without all these adornments, I still have a home. It is me.
Actual gaggle of goddesses that decorate my heart "home" and my real home with their light and gifts on the regular!
I believe that we hold ALL that we need to live, thrive, grow and heal right inside us. All the additional people that come into our lives, for however long, are there to enhance the experience…to teach us, and lead us, to challenge us and champion us…but ultimately, we are responsible to be our own “home”.
Some of my last words to Darcy were to the effect of “…at the end of the day, Bear, we only truly have ourselves. And that needs to be enough. You are enough.”
I’m glad I said those words to him. It feels complete. I hope he felt that too.
Turns out I made it over that bridge and now that I’m "home", my tank is full.
‘Til Next Time,
Heal and Be Healed.