Sometimes it feels like everything that ever happened to me has compounded. As if the addition of all my life’s wins and losses doesn’t balance out; instead, it is more than its sum. And that this journey is one gigantic emotional roller coaster of highs and low.
Grief can loom larger, and more dramatically. There was the recent year of three dead cats, a hospitalization, and a divorce. And the one more than a decade ago when my brother fell off a mountain. And the years that followed, during which I struggled to come to terms with his death and why it had happened at all.
But the joy comes back, too, and often it’s as intense as anything. There were amazing years of playing in bands and the one when I got married. Adopting dogs was the best thing ever, and keeps giving. And, to think, I had a brother I loved so much that he provoked the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken — one that ended up including participation in bereavement writing groups, interviewing and researching extreme athletes, delving into the (scant) literature on sibling loss, and getting an entire graduate degree.
Lately, so many of these experiences wash up again, with another just behind it, gaining velocity and mass, and then another, cascading higher and stronger until I am pummeled by the crash of a tidal wave of life. I am full of so much happiness and pain that I have no idea how to respond, emotionally or otherwise. Other than to take a nap.
It feels enormous. All this life that I’m carrying. Yet it buoys me, too.
A lot of this feeling so much culminated in signing a book deal last year after nearly two years of pitching it. At last, I have tangible copies to hold in my hand, and, as of this week, my book, Were You Close?, is available for pre-order. That is newly thrilling and overwhelming.
I called it a “book” for years — when I was brave enough to shy away from the word “manuscript” — and this, I sincerely believe, helped me manifest making the intangible tangible. I have rarely been so singularly focused, or determined. Between its covers is equal parts love and loss, the complicated polarity that so often comes together in grief.
I feel so lucky and scared and proud and moved to be launching it. Along the way, many incomparable people steeped me in their knowledge and advice, delivered abundant doses of encouragement, and were generous beyond reason. I will forever be in their debt. Yet to create the book, I also had to experience the worst thing in my life to date, the death of my beloved sibling. In the words of my pal, Jeff, responding to news of the impending publication, “Congrats! I wish it was fiction.”
I just finished an astonishing title, Lost & Found, by Kathryn Schulz, who put in language better than I can this notion of carrying wildly disparate sensations: “Our chronic condition involves experiencing many things all at once—some of them intrinsically related, some of them compatible, some of them contradictory, and some of them having nothing to do with one another at all beyond being crowded together in our own awareness.”
I am especially crowded with sensation right now. It is the honor of my life to bring my brother to you on the page, and I miss him in a newly heightened way seeing his face on the cover. Holding all of this at once is wild.
If you read it, thank you times a million, in advance.