[this week we return to our story - the girls are still just a few months old in the timeline]
Grief is a persistent opportunist. An extrovert that drives those it encounters into isolation. Try to overcome it and it will resist your efforts relentlessly.
It comes in waves. Grief can make you feel like you are trapped alone on an island, trying to escape as massive waves batter your mind and body. It leaves you broken and beaten, back where you started each time you try to progress.
Over the next few months, Grief would come and go as it pleased. A ghost that would haunt me throughout my days and nights. Interrupting my thoughts, disrupting my work, interfering with my life, halting my hopes and dreams, entering my consciousness uninvited. It was as if a door in my mind had been ripped from its hinges and the intruder had free reigns to overtake everything I held dear.
One of my little girls was born without a gene that has a significant impact on neurological development. Dr. Luke couldn't tell us what the future would look like. Juniper's condition was just too rare. There was nothing we could do but work hard to help her, wait and see.
But what did this mean for her? Would she walk in the park and hike the Incan trail? Would she play sports and climb Everest? Would she read books and graduate college? Would she ever tell me she loves me and run up and give me a hug when I get home? Would she study the world around her and become a scientist to replace her own missing genes? Or would she be confined to hospital beds and diapers?
What did this mean for me? Would I ever grow a long beard and live in a cabin in the backwoods of Oregon? Would I ever throw caution to the wind travel the world uninhibited? Would I go back to school and obtain a graduate degree? Would I have the time to write and paint, set myself free? Or would I be confined to care taking and poverty from medical bills?
Over the next few months (and perhaps even years ahead), my mind would be flooded with unanswered questions. It's one way the mind deals with Grief. Maybe it's a way to confuse the monster, keep it on its toes. Maybe it's a symptom of exhaustion from fighting the waves, sinking into depression and trying to find a way out.
Grief is supposed to have stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I feel like I went straight to depression, myself. Grief wasn't kind enough to grant me the pleasure of the first three defenses. Or maybe I had already gone through them without knowing it.
I sought out help immediately: went to a neuro-counselor, practiced mindfulness, got on some heavy meds, looked to my family and friends for support, vicariously lived through movies and social media accounts, went on introspective walks.
Despite my best efforts, Grief was always with me. I would be speaking with a healthcare client about wireless best practices, 2.4 Ghz co-channel interference and layer-3 captive portals, and suddenly Grief would visit me with its own agenda. It's own questions. And they wouldn't be about Signal to Noise Ratio or packet loss, they'd be about whether Juniper would have adult tantrums or whether she'd ever be able to sing along with me to Townes Van Zandt.
Grief was predictable in that I knew it would return, but never in terms of when. While I was walking with Coley, Townes and the girls trying to look happy, while I was onsite in front of a customer at work, while I was presenting a webinar, while I was trying to unwind with a movie or a video game, while I tried to rest or sleep.
Hopefully, my relationship with Grief would be one of those fast, intense relationships that would leave me devastated months down the road.
But with another chance at life.